Fallacy of binding feminism to gender

Female Attendees listen as Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speak during a campaign stop, Monday, Feb. 8, 2016, at Manchester Community College in Manchester, N.H. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

This past weekend, a wave of cognitive dissonance set over as I watched a long time hero, a champion for women and women’s rights shame women for not supporting Hillary Clinton simply based on gender. Gloria Steinem, on “Real Time with Bill Maher,” implied that young women who are supporting Bernie Sanders were simply doing so to meet young men.

Voting a woman into office is not a feminist act per se. Being a woman and being a feminist are not mutually exclusive.
— Angela Blackshleger

Ms. Steinem stated, “When you’re young, you’re thinking: ‘Where are the boys? The boys are with Bernie.’”

Madeline Albright, the first female Secretary of State, when introducing Clinton at a New Hampshire rally proclaimed, “We can tell our story of how we climbed the ladder, and a lot of you younger women think it’s done. It’s not done. There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help each other!” according to the New York Times.

Albright went further to state that women are increasingly judgmental toward each other and fail to acknowledge how hard a woman like Clinton had to work to get where she is. However, both Albright and Steinem have yet to acknowledge the independence and acumen of young women. This clashing of different waves of feminism has shown a clear generational divide, which can also be attributed to the vastly different social climates that women from politically conflicting demographics face. By definition, we know that feminism calls for equality between genders, but to campaign for a gender divide is counterproductive.

As millennial women took to social media with their comments, Angela Blackshleger was reported by the LA Times to post, “Voting a woman into office is not a feminist act per se. Being a woman and being a feminist are not mutually exclusive.”

Betty Friedan and Gloria Steinem made headway for the second wave of feminism that held more legislative focus. It brought focus to expanding women’s roles, vied for equal pay for equal work, the right to govern our own bodies and to end sexism and discrimination. The third wave of feminism lacks the strong legislative agenda from the previous. While still pursuing legal injustices, it focuses more on gender and gender roles in an academic sense, perhaps lending more to social change rather than legislative. While I believe that the legislative agenda needs more focus in terms of defeating sexism and discrimination, I don’t believe that having female anatomy is necessary to bring this change.

Young women are not simply looking for a candidate based on gender and work ethic, especially with the rise of other social and economic problems that are affecting our generation. There is still an unfortunate number of people working full time yet remaining below the poverty line in our country. More and more students are graduating with an increasing burden of debt in our country, despite forgoing private colleges for public, state universities. The incarceration rate in our country remains one of the highest in the world, while those incarcerated increasingly fit a racially motivated profile. We are feeling the beginning of the environmental consequences of our industrial actions over the past few decades. I have heard college seniors speak of their future careers as if they were already 30 years into the job with no end in sight.

The lack of support for Hillary does not connote the lack of feminism nor solidarity in our masses. As David Axelrod, former campaign manager for Barack Obama in 2008, tweeted, “When the exact same problems crop up in separate campaigns, with different staff, at what point do the principals say, ‘Hey, maybe it’s US?’”

This move by Steinem and Albright was done days before the New Hampshire Primary as Clinton may be feeling anxious over the poll numbers, especially given the fraction of which her and Bernie ended the Iowa Caucus. However, this move may have hurt Clinton’s campaign and polarized the remaining young women towards Bernie if any were in a gray area between both candidates. This tasteless move ignores intersectionality, as Clinton’s campaign so often has granted her brand of upper-class white feminism. By attempting to take away our credibility by dismissing millennial women as boy-crazy and ignorant, Steinem and Albright may have paved the path to alienating a key demographic.

To both Albright and Steinem, give yourselves some credit. For all the hard work you’ve done, being the role models you are to women, understand that you’ve created women who are independent and able to critically think for themselves. The reason why young women are supporting Bernie Sanders is not because of lack of solidarity nor is it to “find men”, but maybe entertain the idea that we believe he’s the better candidate?


Jesseba Fernando is a staff columnist for The Daily Campus opinion section. She can be reached via email at jesseba.fernando@uconn.edu.