Recently, feminist icon Gloria Steinem and the first woman Secretary of State Madeline Albright have both come out critiquing young women who do not support Hillary Clinton’s White House bid. They believe that the young women who support the Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders are not doing their part for the struggle for women’s equality.
Part of what they are saying is certainly true: there is no woman on earth more qualified to be president than Hillary Clinton. If one wants to accomplish what was once a pipe dream, to elect a female president in the deeply sexist United States, then Clinton is by far the best candidate—though my home state of Massachusetts’ firebrand Junior Senator Elizabeth Warren could also be argued for.
At an event for Clinton, Albright said “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!”
Steinem expressed a similar sentiment in a much more inflammatory way. While speaking to the ever-smug Bill Maher, Steinem suggested that young women support Sanders because “the boys are with Bernie.” Steinem later released an apology for implying that young women are not serious about their politics.
It is not as though a Sanders administration would not be a big step forward for women. Sanders has one of the strongest voting records in favor of women’s rights in congress right now. Bernie is against the wage gap, for a woman’s right to choose and is a champion of paid family leave. Clinton also has a similarly strong record when it comes to women’s rights, so I do not think that these issues really come in to play when determining which candidate is more suitable to be the nominee.
While gender does play a role in many issues, and the prospect of a woman president is a good thing in and of itself, that does not mean that gender means more than a candidate’s platform. What both Steinem and Albright do not acknowledge is what I see as the two greatest differences between the Senator from Vermont and the former Secretary of State: their views on climate change and war.
Clinton’s record over her whole career is clearly more hawkish then Sanders’ is. Whether it was voting for the war in Iraq or her handling of negotiations in Libya, Clinton does not shy away from military intervention. Therefore, regardless of gender, any pacifist or anti-war voter would obviously lean more towards Sanders.
When asked what the biggest threat to national security was at the first Democratic Debate, Sanders said climate change, whereas Clinton’s record when it comes to the climate is very flip-floppy at best. In this case again, regardless of gender, if a voter cares deeply about environmental issues, then that voter would naturally lean towards Sanders.
I think Albright and Steinem should give more credit to progressive women. While their point about Clinton’s unparalleled—by any man or woman—experience and qualifications are very important and should be deeply considered before casting a vote in the primary, the flat-out dismissal of backing Sanders is not fair.
While I am not a woman, I cannot pretend that there is not a part of me that wants to cast a vote for Clinton because she has gotten closer to the White House than any other woman. I also think it is important to remember how hard it was for her to get there.
While Clinton certainly is the establishment candidate that Sanders paints her to be, she certainly was not when she was just starting her political career. She became the stateswoman she is by being one of the most brilliant people in Washington for decades. So while I hold Clinton in the highest esteem, I simply support Sanders’ platform and agree more with his vision for our country than I do hers.
I suppose in the end, I will not be able to resist checking off the super mensch Sanders on the ballot, but I certainly will not have any mixed feelings when Hillary is likely sworn in as our President.