Staff Editorial: Hypocritical Feminism

This past week, Madeline Albright and Gloria Steinem, supporters of Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential campaign, reprimanded young female voters who favor Senator Bernie Sanders. Albright spoke at a Clinton rally and stated that “There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help each other!” In a talk show interview with Bill Maher, Steinem said that women are less politically active when young and only become more so as they “lose power” when they age, so as a result, they are simply following the men and attempting to impress men, who are generally supporting Sanders.

Steinem also stated in the Maher interview that she believes young women are supporting Bernie Sanders because, “When you’re young, you’re thinking: ‘Where are the boys? The boys are with Bernie.’” The S&B believes it is both surprising and hypocritical that Steinem, as a well-known feminist, would discredit the political opinions of young female voters, underestimating the independent, critical thinking that has gone into their politics.

In this manner, she does not acknowledge the multitude of factors that are taken into consideration when anyone, not just a young woman, decides who to support in a presidential campaign. Instead, she is implying that young men are basing their political decisions on factors more legitimate than young women are.

Additionally, when Steinem said, “Women get more radical as they get older because they lose power as they age.” This implies that the more radical stance to take on the presidential race would be in support of a female candidate, because she and older female voters are most in support of Clinton.

Steinem’s statements are navigating within a narrow definition of what it means to be a feminist, one based purely on identity politics. It is undercutting the power women have gained as voters and activists to say that a woman must vote for a woman to help other women and not think complexly and critically based on many political values to decide which candidate they will support. Steinem, in these statements, shows that although she identifies as a female feminist, she is not innocent of undermining other women.

Women who are Sanders supporters can still identify as feminists—these positions are not mutually exclusive. Comments that reprimand young women for not supporting Clinton because she is a woman reduce Clinton’s platform to her identity as a woman. Clinton is more than just a woman, she is an experienced politician and policymaker. This is the foundation upon which she should be able to win the election.

Both Steinem’s and Albright’s comments essentially question the “feminist-ness” of young females who are not backing Clinton. One of the most important things about current day feminism is that every woman can have their own definition of what being a woman and being feminist means to them. Their remarks reflect a desperation for votes from young female voters by guilt instead of earning their votes.

In light of these comments, Clinton stood by Albright. “Well good grief, we’re getting offended by everything these days,” Clinton said. “Honest to goodness, I mean, people can’t say anything without offending somebody. She has a life experience that I respect. I admire her greatly. And I think what she was trying to do—what she’s done in every setting I’ve ever seen her in going back 20 plus years—was to remind young women, particularly, that, you know, this struggle, which many of us have been part of, is not over, and don’t be in any way lulled by the progress we’ve made.” Clinton’s response fails to address the hypocrisy present in the argument that women must support other women (and thus support Clinton) when argued through the shaming of women and undermining the reasoning behind their political views. Women should support Clinton if they see her as the presidential candidate most in line with their own political values. And women should support other women who have considered the candidates and come to a different conclusion.