Clinton, Sanders and the Fight for Feminism
This post is off the topic of my usual blog (and again North American-centric) but it is one that I have recently given great thought to and thought that I should address my feelings about it here. Mind you, I write as a straight, white male and attempt to tread lightly when talking about sensitive topics such as this as I do not claim to write on behalf of women but on behalf of myself as an ally to their overall cause.
I sit here typing on my computer at 2 AM, frustrated and a little befuddled. Frustrated with posts that say that if one does not support Hillary Clinton, they are not true feminists. This is the rhetoric that has been spouted by important women like famed feminist thinker, Gloria Steinem, and former Secretary of State, Madeline Albright. Steinem suggested that younger women were supporting Bernie because “that’s where all the boys are.” Not only does this undermine the intellectual capacity of young women but is also a bit sexist in my view. Anyways, I thought to myself, “hmm I consider myself a feminist but I support Bernie. What does that mean when it comes to women’s issues? Is there something that, as a man I am missing here? Yes, I want a woman to be president and supporting a man when he is against a woman does feel a little wrong, but in the specific context of this election, is it wrong?”
These are all the questions I posed to myself upon scrolling through my Facebook newsfeed and reading this article by progressive blogger Sady Doyle. There are great points on the gendered scrutinizing of women in politics and the sexism they face, misogynist perceptions which Hillary definitely struggles against, but although sympathetic to many of Doyle’s points, I disagreed with her argument that Hillary is the most qualified candidate in the race. However the issue of feminism in this election is, in my mind, an issue that requires a lot of thought. I encourage you to read the article so you can come to your own conclusions on the issue but here are my own thoughts on the article as well as on supporting Sanders versus Clinton as someone who identifies as a feminist. I also posted the following reaction to the article above to my Facebook:
I think the article touches on many important issues about opposition to Hillary and the progressive movement in general. The progressive movement is still not fully inclusive of women and feminism, and is still occupied mainly by men. This is obviously a pressing problem that the movement still needs to work out.
In terms of sexism against Hillary this campaign, Sady Doyle even called me out on my own stereotypes. I caught myself comparing Hillary to Margaret Thatcher the other day, and I definitely think that for the most part this is an unfair comparison, as Doyle says. Was it a lazy and gendered comparison by me? Subconsciously, it probably was. However, I don’t think Doyle was calling out people who claim to be feminists who vote for Bernie in her article. Rather, I think she was responding to people who claim that one might vote for Hillary because “she is just a woman”. Hillary has qualifications that are often overlooked by this simplified comparison. I hope that I understood the article in this respect.
But their are many reasons I don’t support Hillary as a left-leaning feminist (but also as a straight White male). I think many of her positions are deeply troubling. For me and many others, feminism is not only about confronting patriarchy, but also combatting the different forms of oppression that reinforce it, like capitalism, imperialism, etc. In that regard, her often hawkish form of foreign policy (such as her support of drone strikes and the Iraq War), her support of a deeply neo-liberal society, and her neglect and sometimes active repression of workers rights (including her questionable position on the TPP, her past positions such as on the Executive Board of Wal-Mart, her Wall Street donors), her defence of a surveillance state, and her questionable and politically expedient positions on issues like gay marriage and abortion, are again deeply troubling to me as a feminist and for someone who wants to see real change in the US. I admire Hillary Clinton for being a strong female Secretary of State in an overly-male, sexist bureaucracy, but that respect is not enough for me to sideline the points of difference I have listed.
Maybe Bernie and some of his supporters do sometimes fall into the sexist tropes that Doyle discusses in her article, but I believe his policies overall would better dismantle some of the sexism that exists in American society, in more powerful ways than Hillary’s proposed platforms. Perhaps with Elizabeth Warren as a potential VP, the elements of sexism in Bernie’s campaign could be contained.
I would love to hear what you all as readers think about my comment and your views on the issue.