As the democratic race for the presidential nomination heats up between former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Vermont senator Bernie Sanders, so too have tensions between their supporters. This has made deciding who I want to vote for in the primary even more difficult because I believe both Clinton and Sanders would make strong presidents.
But I can tell you I will base my decision on their policies, not on their genders.
Gloria Steinem, a women’s rights activist, and Madeline Albright, a former secretary of state, feel differently.
Albright, when speaking at a Clinton New Hampshire rally on Feb. 6 about how a Hillary presidency would help the continuing fight for women’s rights, said there is, “a special place in hell for women who don’t help each other.”
Judging by Clinton’s laughter and the response from the audience, Albright’s comments were meant to be taken as a joke. Yet, there is a difference between not helping women and choosing not to vote for Clinton. Women should support each other by calling out sexist comments or volunteering for feminist organizations. It’s possible to be a feminist and feel like a different presidential candidate would make the country better.
Steinem’s comments, however, were more problematic than Albright’s. In an interview with talk-show host Bill Maher, Steinem attempted to explain why younger women are choosing to vote for Sanders.
“Men tend to get more conservative because they gain power as they age,” Steinem said, according to Yahoo.com. “Women get more radical because they lose power as they age. They’re going to get more activist as they grow older. And when you’re younger, you think, ‘Where are the boys? The boys are with Bernie.’”
This statement is insulting to young women everywhere because it claims they do not understand the importance of the feminist movement. Young women like Emma Watson and Malala Yousafzai or Annie Clark and Andrea Pino, the founders of the organization End Rape on Campus, prove Steinem wrong. Not to mention, Steinem perpetuates the sexist idea that women only think about getting guys—an idea Steinem should be squashing. Steinem later apologized on Facebook for her comments, but in doing so she rejected everything she said on the talk show, suggesting she was just changing her mind because of the backlash she received.
I completely understand why Steinem and Albright want a female president. I do too. It would be empowering for women across the country and the world to have a female commander in chief. But that cannot be the only reason one votes for Clinton. Imagine if Republican presidential candidate Carly Fiorina were the only woman in the race. Am I supposed to vote for her just so a woman can be president, even if I disagree with her policy?
Steinem wants Clinton to be president because, at 81, Steinem may not get to see many more elections. This isn’t meant to be mean and say Steinem is going to die soon. This is how many older women feel, according to a recent NPR article. NPR chronicled how younger women feel they will see a female president someday, so they don’t need to vote for Clinton, while older women are worried they are running out of time to see that day. After all Steinem has done to fight for women’s rights, it’s understandable that she’ll say anything just to see a female in the Oval Office. It would be the culmination of all she’s worked for.
But having a female president won’t make sexism go away, just like having a black president didn’t make racism go away. Steinem and others who want a woman president need to look at the bigger picture. Which candidate will do more to promote equality between the genders? That’s a question I can’t answer, but saying women should vote for Clinton because she has two X chromosomes won’t advance the feminist cause. It will turn people away from it.