The primaries are in full swing for the 2016 election cycle and Democratic candidates are fighting tooth and nail for women voters. In Iowa, women 29 and younger voted for Sen. Bernie Sanders, by a stunning margin of roughly 6 to 1. No amount of Katy Perry performances, Lena Dunham campaign sweaters or selfies with the Kardashian-West clan can help her win young women voters. Unfortunately, this gap prompted Clinton supporters Gloria Steinem and Madeline Albright to chide young women and make demeaning comments about their personal political choices. Oh, let me count the ways in which I have problems with all of this.
Condescending Campaign Tactics
Young women voters actually have many issues they care about. This generation was rocked hard by the economic collapse of 2008 and bread and butter issues are incredibly important to them. Many young women believe that Sen. Sanders’s proposed policies will have a better impact on their pocketbooks.
Parading out Lena Dunham because Girls is popular with that demographic or dragging out Katy Perry in lieu of trying to make an honest connection with young women voters on important issues is condescending. It fundamentally insults the intelligence of these young women.
Denial of Intersectionality
The rigid definition of Clinton, Steinem and Albright’s feminism not only alienates many women, it also rejects them outright. It refuses to acknowledge how intersectionality plays a role in many women’s political decisions and instead requires lockstep allegiance to their doctrine. Class, race and religion are as important as gender to other women, if not more in certain cases.
This intersectionality impacts how women see the issues and candidates. It is utterly insane for the Clinton camp to imply that being a woman trumps all other impactful identities. Does this mean that an African-American woman Democrat who voted for Obama in 2008 betrayed her gender and the feminist cause? Think about that. This is a reason that Clinton’s generation of feminism fails to resonate with younger women. The many identities that represent the individual as a whole are important.
Feminism is About Choice
Feminism to millennial women is ultimately about choice. It is the ability to live your life the way you choose. Women have the right to, and should be encouraged to, vote for the candidate that most represents their political beliefs and vision of leadership.
If a woman wants to vote for someone other than a female candidate because they represent her better, that is okay. Oh, and surprise, even voting for GOP candidates is fine. Maybe the woman is a small business owner or maybe she’s Catholic and pro-life. That’s her business.
It is fundamentally a disservice to all women to actively seek to limit political choices through public shaming and insults. This freedom, and the support of that freedom, is the cornerstone of women’s equality. Men do not do this to each other. I may not agree with another woman’s political stances, but it is her right to have them. I don’t know her life or what she has been through. And I for sure would never try to restrict her personal political choices.
Shelby Williams is the Managing Director of Empowered Women and currently resides in Washington, D.C. She’s passionate about supporting girls and women to seize opportunities and realize their full potential. In her spare time, Shelby enjoys nerding-out over non-fiction books and exploring the District’s booming restaurant scene.