One of the best things about the current election is the way feminism is front and center. And the worst thing about the current election is the way feminism is front and center. In a move that would surely make Leslie Knope eat all of the waffles, both Madeline Goddamn Albright and Gloria Effing Steinem trotted out the “if women aren’t supporting Hillary, it’s because they’re mean/ bad/ distracted in some other way.” It’s a total garbage argument, and everybody involved deserves better.
Let’s start with the not cool thing from the goddamn first female Secretary of State at a New Hampshire rally for Hillary on Saturday:
“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!”
Because if it’s a statement made by Taylor Swift in a fight with Amy Poehler and Tina Fey, it must be a sound argument.
Look, I get it. Regardless of how you feel about her policies, Hillary is the highest profile woman in politics, and has dealt with a lot of sexist bullshit because of it. And her career has made it easier for other women to strive for a similar one. But in addition to the fact that that doesn’t mean women owe her anything, it’s also just not true that women should support women unconditionally. In fact, I am absolutely not going to hell because I refuse to help Sarah Palin.
Also sticking her foot in her mouth? Feminist leader Gloria Steinem. Which is also a total pain in the ass. She was on Bill Maher last Friday and had a lot of things to say. The quote that most people are understandably upset about is her assertion that female Bernie supporters are just looking for dates:
“When you’re young, you’re thinking, ‘Where are the boys? The boys are with Bernie.’”
Because really, goddamnit? Don’t do that. Don’t do that shit. Don’t argue that women are capable making their own decisions and that if they make a decision with which you disagree it’s because they’re blinded by other factors. And more to the point, maybe don’t try to push the argument that the only real reason someone should support Hillary is because she’s a woman. Reducing all of her accomplishments and experiences (and her accomplishments in the face of all of the sexist experiences) to “identifies as the same gender as you” is insulting to her and to the voters. We actually are capable of understanding nuance and the idea that there is no one-size-fits-all answer for a lot of things.
And Steinem actually fully realizes that. How do I know? Her response when Maher asks if he can tell her she looks great was:
“At my age, I figure that what used to be conformist is now revolutionary.”
Really? You mean that because of the way society often marginalizes older women, you’ve come to the conclusion that being attractive is actually a blow against the patriarchy? You’ve gathered new information and experiences and decided that what’s most important now isn’t the thing that was most important back then? And that aspects of being an individual mean some things will be important to you in ways that aren’t important to others? That sounds about right. And it sound like what feminism is supposed to be about.
Or maybe you’re just doing it for the boys.
Steinem has since walked back most of the statement in a Facebook post.
Which I guess is maybe the best example of how ingrained patriarchal sexism really is in this country. A woman who has spent roughly 60 years being a feminist, helped formed some aspects of feminist theory, and who clearly understands that actually, women are capable of higher-level reasoning was still able to quickly dismiss outside viewpoints using incredibly sexist logic. Good thing feminism is becoming a national discussion because we’ve still got a lot of shit to talk about.