You're Voting for Who?!
With Hillary Clinton currently leading over Bernie Sanders by 11.7% according to the Huffington Post, a woman has never been more poised to become the democratic nominee, and subsequently, president.
As this is the closest in the nation’s history a woman has been to being called “Madam President,” it can be considered a large stride for the women’s movement. But what so many feminist millennials are trying to express is that the right candidate and the right feminist exists outside of gender. The right choice lies in the issues.
For Shayda Sales and Anne McBride, rising sophomores at The George Washington University, the candidate that best embodies the issues they are passionate about is Bernie Sanders, Clinton’s male opponent.
“I was initially pretty ready to support Hillary,” McBride said, “But I decided to read more about the candidates to see what she was up against. I started reading Bernie’s policies and every single one I agreed with, whereas for Hillary I knew I would be making a few compromises. For example, I know she is backed by large Super PACs and large money interests, so we didn’t always see eye to eye. But Bernie I really, truly felt I could get behind and it was something to be hopeful for, in a world of hopeless politics.”
Specific policy stances that McBride and Sales found most compelling of Sanders are his opinions on economic inequality, minimum wage, and the criminal justice system. Sanders has advocated for the breaking up of banks, an ending of the restrictions barring trans people from housing, the increase to livable, $15 wages, and an overhaul to remove mass incarceration since his decision to run for president in 2015. Both women find these stances to be incredibly progressive, and incredibly feminist.
“When it comes to real issues that women are facing today, Bernie is advocating for those real issues,” Sales argued. “He’s advocating to reform the criminal justice system. He’s advocating for trans women. He’s protecting lower income women by raising the minimum raise to $15 -- a living wage. The issues he’s arguing for I truly believe will help protect the more marginalized people in society.”
What makes Sanders’s advocacy “feminist” stems from the increasingly popular movement of intersectionality.
Intersectionality is a feminist stance designed to incorporate the marginalized women and men who do not meet the mold of traditional, “white” feminism -- or feminism built around the lives of older, white, middle class women. Those marginalized include women of color, trans women, queer women, disabled women, lower class women, etc. Or as Sales puts it, women like her.
“Acknowledging those different types of identity as playing into and affecting gender I think is super important. A lot of the way feminism is handled can be very damaging to women. Being from the Middle East affects my womanhood. Ignoring things like that kind of makes me feel like I’m blocked from that conversation and I don’t really have a place to enter it because I am not the stereotype of what feminism is,” Sales remarked.
Gloria Steinem recently had to retract a statement that exemplified white feminism and the way it diminishes proper, political discourse. In contrast to the women’s beliefs that Sanders is the prime, feminist candidate, Steinem claimed that Millennial girls are young -- and when you are young and female, you go where the men go. In this case, she claims the men go to Bernie Sanders.
“That’s not fair to me,” McBride contests. “I genuinely have thoughts about his policies and I’m not there for the guys. I would absolutely love to see a female president; it would make me the happiest person. It’d be a great day for the United States. But I don’t want that to be the only reason I’m voting for a candidate, and if I can find a candidate I believe will support “women’s issues” more directly with what I believe, then I’m going to pick that candidate. For me that candidate was Bernie.”
These comments, which the women view to be problematic and largely sexist, do not just draw assumptions on young women. They also draw assumptions on young men.
Gidon Feen is a rising senior at The George Washington University, and the outreach & special events coordinator for the student organization, GW for Hillary. Feen began supporting Clinton two years ago after interning in the White House.
“I’d been following her [Hillary] as Secretary of State, and I was just in awe of her and everything that she does,” Feen said.
He, along with with Luca Di Domenico, a fellow student and Clinton supporter, are both self-proclaimed feminists.
“It’s not “as a male,’” Di Domenico explained, when asked on his views as a male feminist. “For everyone, I feel like it [feminism] should be the same thing. As a human, being a feminist is someone who believes men and women should be given the same, basic human rights...in terms of wages, in terms of respect on the street. We have to compensate for years of inequality.”
That being said, they are not voting for Clinton because she is a woman.
“It depends on the views,” Di Domenico conceded.
“When I started supporting Hillary, it wasn’t necessarily for the sole reason of her being a woman or because she would bring different judgement as a woman, but it was because of her judgement as Hillary Clinton that I went in,” Feen said.
But just as female Sanders supporters have faced backlash for their decisions, so too have male Clinton supporters.
Feen had been campaigning for Clinton in Iowa when he tweeted a selfie on himself on the trail -- a selfie that would ultimately be retweeted by the candidate herself. After a short burst of excitement, the negative tweets directed at Feen started to pour in.
“I definitely saw things like “Oh, she’s a woman, she’s not fit to lead,” or “Oh Hillary has no judgement factor, she belongs in the kitchen,” Feen said.
Di Domenico, meanwhile, has dealt with comments that more directly address his status as a male.
“I get a lot of, “If you want to defend women’s rights don’t you think it’s kind of the women’s job to do that?” which I just laugh at, because even though it’s about women, it doesn’t mean women should be the only one’s fighting for it,” he said.
But despite the negativity both the men and women have experienced, others have hope.
Jodie Evans, co-founder and co-director of CODEPINK -- a feminist activist group -- and producer of Oscar-nominated documentary “The Most Dangerous Man in America,” finds Millennials like McBride, Sales, Feen, and Di Domenico and their feminist power to ground-breaking.
“It’s not about it’s “your turn,” it’s about we’ve got a fucking world to change,” Evans, 62, explained. “It’s not about putting the last woman who had power on top, it’s about the issues we feel are important. Millennials just get it.”