Eight years ago, I read an essay by Gloria Steinem urging young women to vote for Hillary Clinton. At the time, young people overwhelmingly supported Barack Obama. Steinem wrote something along the lines of: If young women knew better, they’d vote for Hillary. If they’d been around forty years ago and really understood the women’s movement, they’d be making the right choice.
It made me angry. I was an Obama supporter. I liked his message. I didn’t like the way Clinton ran her primary campaign. And I wasn’t going to vote for someone just because she was a woman—wasn’t that the opposite of equality? Talking down to people is never a good idea, especially if you’re trying to persuade them, and Gloria Steinem should have known that. If anything, she alienated me from the women’s movement. For a time.
This election season, I filled out one of those questionnaires about government policy that supposedly matches you with the candidate you’re most aligned with. I am in 99% agreement with Bernie Sanders. I like him. And yet, I think I’ll vote for Clinton. Why?
It’s a serious question. I’ve been a bit stumped. Admittedly, I’ve paid little attention outside of the headlines this campaign season. Something about hearing or reading the name, “Trump,” in almost every campaign story has turned me off. I decided awhile ago to ignore it all until it started to really matter.
Yet, one thing has been clear to me: I feel a strong urge to vote for Hillary. What has happened in the last eight years to change my mind?
Sure, Clinton has gained even more experience. This didn’t use to matter to me as much. I think probably eight years and two children later, with a 40th birthday looming, I now value life and work experience all the more. But Sanders is experienced, too. They’re both intelligent and capable public servants.
It’s not about the issues—I’ve never been a one-issue person. I won’t cut off my nose to spite my face, and both Clinton and Sanders represent my basic ideals. I might be in 99% agreement with Sanders, but I’m in 97% agreement with Clinton. I do think Clinton has a stronger chance of putting her policies into place, of “getting things done,” as they say.
As far as I can tell, my affinity toward Clinton these eight years later comes down to two things:
- Someone close to me was raped.
- I had a daughter.
I now see the world differently. The women’s movement used to be intellectual for me. Now it’s personal.
I have new eyes, so when they see women ignored or shamed because they were raped, it stays with me. I have new ears, so when they hear a man talk to me about house maintenance issues like I’m a kindergartner and then ask me, “Can you remember what I said so you can tell your husband when he gets home?,” I file that away in my brain.
I can remember. Oh, yes I can.
The world hasn’t changed; I have. Women are still objectified, vilified, paid less, patronized, underestimated, raped, assaulted, and beaten simply because they are women. We are still told to “Be quiet” and “Be nice.” It is still assumed that having boys means you’ll have an energetic household but having girls means you’ll have a quiet one. A woman news anchor can still be called a bimbo by a presidential candidate and people will adore him. I still have to fold my body in and look around me when I walk alone at night, anywhere. The world hasn’t changed—now it all just means more to me.
Actually, let me be honest. It means more to me sometimes. But other times—when, for instance, a man gives me a proverbial pat on the head and tells me, “You’re alright, kid,” after he finds out I know how to use a shovel to dig a trench, I feel pride mixed with my anger. A part of me still likes those pats on the head.
Electing a woman has become a priority for me and I’m not ashamed to say it. Too often, I think, women cower to the finger-pointers and respond with, “I support her because she’s qualified, not because she’s a woman.” Why can’t it be both?
Now, would Sanders help women? Sure. Maybe. I can’t know for sure. Does Clinton being a woman mean she’ll always do right by women? Sure. Maybe. I can’t know for sure.
But I do know that figureheads are important. I do know it’s high time we elect a qualified, dedicated woman to the top office. And I do know I don’t want my daughter to like having her head patted—not by a handyman, not even by Gloria Steinem.
So the bigger question isn’t, Why not Bernie? The bigger questions are: What took me so long to put a woman first and what is the women’s movement going to do to recruit my daughter, not alienate her?