I am a young woman, a feminist, and I support Bernie Sanders for President of the United States. Up until this past weekend, I did not see anything contradictory in this statement. However, two feminist icons, Madeleine Albright and Gloria Steinem have recently made statements implying that my position is both a betrayal of my gender and my identification as a feminist.
In the past few days, Albright and Steinem have shamed young female feminists for not supporting Hillary Clinton in her bid for the presidency. "There's a special place in hell for women who don't help each other!" Ms. Albright declared at a rally for Clinton in New Hampshire. Mrs. Clinton, apparently in agreement, grinned proudly at these words.
Ms. Steinem is also frustrated with the young women who have abandoned Clinton to support Sanders. Last Friday, she told Bill Maher that younger women were selling out by supporting Bernie Sanders, a sad phenomenon that can apparently be explained by young people's desire to impress the opposite sex: "When you're young, you're thinking: 'Where are the boys? The boys are with Bernie," she said glibly. While Ms. Steinem has since apologized, her words still sting.
The depth of my disappointment in both Steinem and Albright is immeasurable. These are two fiercely intelligent women who stood up for women's rights, who rose to preeminent positions in society, and served as towering role models for many young women like myself. The reason I am upset though, is not because I find their comments flippant, dismissive, and shallow (even though I do). I am upset because both Albright and Steinem are betraying their own ideals and definitions of feminism in their desperate attempt to vote a woman into the White House.
Gloria Steinem once said, "A gender-equal society would be one where the word 'gender' does not exist: where everyone can be themselves." Madeline Albright has echoed this sentiment in her many pronouncements encouraging women to speak up, to be strong in their convictions, to be themselves.
Gender-relations are not perfect in this country, but they've come a long way. Thanks in part to the work of revolutionary feminists like Steinem and Albright, I speak my mind with my male friends, unafraid to make unpopular statements or to take a strong stand. We are slowly but surely working our way toward the world that Steinem and Albright imagined when they struggled for gender equality. Voting for Hillary Clinton because she is a woman is not a step forward, but a step backward.
As a feminist, I truly believe in the equality of men and women. I believe that, man or woman, black or white, the person I vote for as President of the United States should share my views on issues that are important to me: economics, foreign policy, gender-equality, and wealth inequality. It so happens that my views align far more with Bernie Sanders than with Hillary Clinton. Do I betray my gender and my identity because I am able to think freely enough to make this decision?
Steinem and Albright have done women a great disservice in their political-shaming. A strong feminist supports whomever she pleases for President of the United States. She does not vote for Hillary Clinton because she is a woman,; she votes for Hillary Clinton if she thinks she is the right person for the job. While Hillary Clinton has been fond of relying on her gender as proof of her progressiveness, I find this tactic cheap and more importantly, anti-feminist. Female tribalism does not merely devalue the intelligence of men, but of women as well.
If I ran for President of the United States, I would want people to vote for me based on my views, my experience, my approach to debates and negotiation, and not because I happen to have been born a certain sex. I am a woman, but I am also a human being. This is what Steinem and Albright have taught me in their admirable fight for gender-equality.
Whether I support Bernie Sanders or Hillary Clinton is ultimately unimportant; what is important is my right and ability to choose in the first place. Of all people, Steinem and Albright should have understood this.