Conflicting femminism in the USA elections

By: Lilian Barkley, Intern World YWCA 

 

This is the first year I will be eligible to vote in a presidential election, and I’m conflicted. I, along with many young feminists, am torn between voting for Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders.

Maybe it’s because I’m not constantly surrounded by media coverage of the elections; my friends aren’t questioning me about my political affiliation. I’m able to be slightly more objective, and after the Iowa and New Hampshire caucuses, I started paying more attention to media coverage of the Democratic race.

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Hillary Clinton, USA President Candidate

Clinton’s Iowa win by 0.3 percent led to immediate tension – noted feminists Gloria Steinem and Madeleine Albright criticized young women for backing Sanders. This was exacerbated by the Feb. 5 Democratic debate where Clinton called Sanders’ campaign against her an “artful smear.”

In a way, it’s understandable why she would seemingly lose patience. Her attempts at gaining young voters, the same demographic that helped elect President Obama, have only resulted in driving away young adults. Sanders’ supporters, on the other hand, are campaigning for him on dating apps. He is the “cool grandpa” with crazy hair and socialist ideals, while she is seen as a strict grandma who is too involved with the political machine.

However, her involvement in Washington D.C. politics – as First Lady, New York Senator and Secretary of State – also makes her highly qualified for the presidency. She has played up her age by discussing the joys of being a grandmother. These attributes have helped gain the support of older female voters who cannot seem to understand why young feminists would not vote for a female president.

Part of the moral issue for young women is voting with their head or heart. Clinton’s long-term involvement on Capitol Hill has weighed her down in scandals ranging from her husband’s infidelity, where she was criticized for staying by his side, to sending government-related emails from a private server. But, she has also been criticized for years for having “cankles,” being too loud and wearing imperfect hairstyles, which makes it seem like part of the backlash is simply because she is a woman.

Sanders is notably scandal-free and has refrained from using funding from a Super Political Action Committee. His promises of free healthcare, free higher education and accountability from government appeals to a generation mired in student loan debt and disillusioned about politics. This also seems to be part of the reason why Clinton’s outreach to young voters seems more like pandering. As a man, he is afforded certain privileges – his crazy hair and loud, unwielding behavior is seen as part of his charm.

Whomever women choose to vote for, it should not be based on gender only and, more importantly, women shouldn’t be attacking each other based on this – tearing other women down isn’t good for anyone. It’s not very feminist to say that just because Sanders is a man, he can’t also be a good feminist.

I, for one, would be pleased with either candidate – anyone is better than Trump.

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