Gloria Steinem looking for boys, 1996
“There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help each other.”
Thus spake Madeleine Albright, former Secretary of State to Bill Clinton, with Hillary Clinton laughing gleefully by her side. The “women who don’t help each other” she was talking about were the very, very many women supporting Senator Bernie Sanders for the presidency instead of Mrs. Clinton. Essentially, Albright’s (and presumably Hillary’s) message was that if a woman dares to not vote for Clinton, she can go to hell.
Meanwhile, Gloria Steinem made comments on behalf of Clinton in which she said that the main reason young women are supporting Bernie Sanders is to meet boys. How disappointing it is to hear that sort of condescending bullshit from one of the guiding lights of feminism. In a single breath, she denies the political agency of millions of women to make their own informed decisions, and infantilizes them as acting emotionally rather than rationally simply because they aren’t falling in line and showing the proper obeisance to her candidate.
After an online shitstorm of outrage over her comments, Steinem is backpedaling in a clumsy bit of damage control and trying to play it off as a joke. But this isn’t the first time she’s made such condescending (matronizing?) comments about women who don’t support Hillary. A while back, she implied that women weren’t supporting Clinton because when they looked at the Clintons, it subconsciously reminded them of issues they had in their own marriages and that made them uncomfortable.
So, to Gloria Steinem, if you’re a woman and you don’t support her friend Hillary, it absolutely must be because you’re either immature and horny (if you’re one of the women under 45 who support Bernie Sanders 2:1) or driven to neurotic distraction by your marital difficulties (presumably if you’re a woman old enough to be assumed immune to your glandular drives). It can’t possibly be because you’re intelligent and have looked at the candidates, their policies, and their comportment as leaders and come to your own rational conclusions.
It’s an odd form of empowerment that demands obeisance and subservience.
Mother Jones recently ran an article titled “That Time Bernie Sanders Said He Was a Bigger Feminist Than His Female Opponent,” referring to the 1986 gubernatorial election in which Sanders was running against the incumbent, Madeleine Kunin. The writer plays on the reflexive outrage of such male presumption, and Sanders lost that race, but ironically ten years later in a congressional race against another female candidate:
“…feminist writer Gloria Steinem traveled to Vermont to endorse Sanders, joking that she’d come to make the congressman ‘an honorary woman.’ Another speaker, a female state senator, emphasized Sanders’ feminist credentials. ‘As we know, to be a feminist a person does not have to be a woman,’ she said. ‘A feminist is a person who challenges the power structure of this country…Bernie Sanders is that kind of feminist.'”
That senator, her decisions no doubt driven by neurosis or puberty, is surely going to hell.
Recently, I saw a woman post this in a discussion on Facebook:
“Don’t let anybody – ANYBODY – tell you not to vote based on gender. We’ve elected presidents of this country for 250 years based on gender. The white men (and women with Stockholm Syndrome) telling you otherwise, are guilty of supporting yet another white man because, whether they are conscious of their internalized biases or not, they aren’t truly ready for a women in charge. It is clear as day that Hillary is vastly more qualified for the job. Period. Truth be told: there will never be the ‘right’ women for these people.”
Now, first thing, I’m not going to tell you not to vote based on gender, or whatever other criteria you choose. That’s your right, and frankly, all things being equal, I’d vote for the female candidate in a heartbeat because I do, genuinely, think having a woman president is a damned important milestone we need to hit, and soon. If I thought, based on their records and policy and what I’ve been able to gauge of their character, that Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton were roughly equivalent, the gender factor would probably be the factor that swung me to vote for Hillary. But I don’t see them as equal at all, so I can’t commit to her just because she’s sort of okay in the usual corporate Democrat way, and also a woman.
And that’s me. You may be different, that’s fine, that’s the very nature of our sort-of-in-a-way democratic system. You decide based on what you want to decide on, I’ll do likewise, and we’ll argue about it and then settle it at the polls.
But read that quote up there again. This is, actually, from a professional writer,* a very smart woman, but a woman so blinded by her own viewpoint that she’s not even capable of granting respect to other women who decide to support the opposing candidate based on whatever criteria they decide. If you don’t support Hillary as a male voter, plainly that’s just sexism, of course, but if you’re a woman and don’t support her, it’s because you’re a victim of Stockholm Syndrome and “internalized biases” you’re not conscious of. If you aren’t willing to support the woman candidate JUST BECAUSE, then she is willing to deny you the very agency of your own thoughts and observations and decisions.
I find that fairly despicable.
Vote how you want. If gender is the only thing that matters to you, knock yourself out. But really, do you have to be such an asshole about it?
*( WHOOPS: I was wrong, she’s not a writer. She’s — get this — an actual Wall Street executive who used to be with Morgan Stanley. Consider the source…?)
Then there’s this, from the very smart and gifted Rebecca Traister in an article in Elle:
“[Hillary’s]…been tepid in her support of abortion rights; she has cozied up to Wall Street and big banks, drawing huge speaking fees and donations from the financial institutions that the next president should aggressively regulate. In the Senate, she deployed dismaying rhetoric against immigration rights, once describing herself as ‘adamantly against illegal immigrants,’ and it took her…way too long to support gay marriage.”
Yet the entire article is about how Traister, despite huge reservations about Hillary, will vote for Hillary anyway because Hillary is a woman.
I’m sympathetic. I look forward to seeing the first female POTUS, too, and as a white guy I’m forced to admit that such a milestone is by definition much more important to many women than it is to me. That doesn’t mean, however, that it is not important to me, nor that I am a misogynist for not supporting Clinton (an accusation I’ve suffered through already from devout Clinton supporters). What it means is that I’m aware of the big flaws in Clinton that the writer herself acknowledges, as well as others, and I’m able to rationally compare what she has to offer to what Bernie Sanders has to offer.
Again, if I were doing a “Plus-side/Minus-side” chart of the two candidates, I’d put “Is a woman” on the plus side for Hillary, and “Is a white guy” on the minus side for Bernie just because I do want our culture to hit that milestone. Unfortunately for Hillary, my chart wouldn’t stop there, though it seems to for many of her supporters.
“There will be sexism, veiled and direct, from the right and the left,” Traister writes. “Democratic women will feel screwed by their friends all over again, as I did in August when I saw a poll showing Clinton ahead of her Democratic challenger Bernie Sanders by a mere 6 points with the party’s men and 44 points with its women: a 38-percentage-point gender gap that seemed to speak volumes about how much men on the left care about women’s leadership…”
I’d say that it speaks more to the fact of how much some women on the left care more about having a woman in office than they do about actual policy. Yet even with women, Clinton isn’t an overwhelming choice: her support among Democratic women, which was nearly universal when she started this campaign, has plummeted to ridiculous levels; twice as many women under 45 support Bernie Sanders as support her, and even a third of women her own age support him. So the strong majority of Democratic women clearly aren’t ignoring matters of candidate history and policy in the name of gender, and it’s a lot harder to accuse them of veiled misogyny. (Which is why they’re resorting to accusations of neurosis and immaturity.)
There’s a woman in my Facebook feed who I don’t know personally but whose work as a writer I have great respect for, and I see her post often about how great Hillary is, about how progressive she is, about how naive it is to think that Bernie (or anybody) can stand up to the wonderful Hillary Clinton. But, for me, everything she posts is tainted by the first comment on the matter I saw her post in which she showed anger at Sanders supporters and said something to the effect of “If these assholes keep us from getting a woman president and we just get another fucking white guy, I’m going to kick some asses.”
I support Bernie Sanders not just because he has been an unmatched progressive warrior for decades, not just because he is a man of unflinching integrity, not just because he stands solidly against the corrupt power of huge corporations and Wall Street rather than coddling them and taking their money, not just because he doesn’t coldly calculate every stance he takes based on polling and focus groups, not just because he’s not the safe choice of entrenched party power, and most definitely not at all because he’s a man. I support Bernie Sanders because I see in him an opportunity all-too-rare to actually make a huge difference in our government and our country. An opportunity for positive change on a New Deal scale.
Fortunately, more and more of my fellow voters, men and women, are seeing that in him too. Some may proclaim they’ll see us in hell…I see it more as we’re trying to get to America.