Hillary, Gloria, and the Vagina Litmus Test

They may be on opposite ends of the political spectrum, Gloria Steinem and Michael Barone seem to be in agreement that young women’s lack of support for Hillary Clinton in the Iowa caucuses indicates that they are in denial about the pervasive sexism in American society.
Barone:

Today’s young women voters are different. They were not raised by mothers who told them they had a duty to stay home with their children. They were raised by mothers who told them they had all sorts of choices they could choose. And mothers who, in some cases, made their own choices which the girls resented — divorce, spending lots of time at the office. These young women don’t react defensively to antichoice politicians and don’t feel a need to be liberated from restraints that were never urged on them.

Steinem:

What worries me is that some women, perhaps especially younger ones, hope to deny or escape the sexual caste system; thus Iowa women over 50 and 60, who disproportionately supported Senator Clinton, proved once again that women are the one group that grows more radical with age.

So if I choose not to vote for Hillary Clinton, it’s because I’ve never been restrained by sexism in my daily life? Or because I’m in denial about the barriers to women’s success in politics? Did either of these people even talk to younger women about how they decided which candidate to support? I’m pretty sure Steinem would be able to get young women to return her phone calls. (Barone? Guess I’m not certain…)


I don’t believe it’s anti-woman, anti-feminist, or, hell, even post-feminist (whatever that means) to refuse the vagina litmus test and support the candidate I believe would make the best president — regardless of gender. And I know lots of women, of all ages, for whom a candidate’s gender is not of utmost importance. Let’s be fair — Obama didn’t just beat Clinton among young women in Iowa. He came out ahead among caucus-going women age 60 and younger.
But it is true that Obama bested Clinton by much greater margins among young women. And there’s definitely an age gap in women’s support for Clinton. That gap exists among feminists, too. I’ll admit it: Many older feminists’ rhetoric on Hillary Clinton is a total turn-off to me. I cringe after reading quotes like this one from the figureheads of institutional feminism:

“It’s about this one vote, which was not to invade Iraq but to authorize the President to wage war. I can’t understand how this can be held up against a lifetime of important political work,” says NOW president Kim Gandy.

Ugh. It seems like such a narrow view of feminism — the same one Steinem seems to be espousing in her op-ed when she says older women who support Hillary are more radical. But to me, and many other younger feminists, it’s far more radical to embrace a feminism that’s inextricable from my anti-war, pro-gay rights, anti-racist beliefs.
I don’t have a feminist obligation to vote for Hillary Clinton, or donate money to her campaign, or show up at her rallies. My obligation is to support her right to compete on an equal playing field. To decry the disgusting amount of sexism she faces every day. (We’ve done so again and again and again.) And then to vote for another candidate if I feel he would make a better president. That, too, is a feminist act.
(Cross-posted to TAPPED.)

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49 Comments

  1. Posted January 8, 2008 at 6:05 pm | Permalink

    This is a great post. I had to read that same little extract about women growing more radical with age about ten times. Come again? It’s a smart op-ed, and it would have been so much more effective had she refrained from sharing with readers who she’s voting for—and, as you so appropriately mention here, had she actually talked to younger women. I hardly think it’s a radical act to vote for Hillary.

  2. EllenV
    Posted January 8, 2008 at 6:09 pm | Permalink

    As a self-identified radical, I find it questionable to call voting in a two-party election a “radical” act at all. While I myself vote simply for its symbolic value, I refuse to vote for a Democrat or Republican just because they are the most “realistic” candidate. Want to do something really radical? How about challenging the fact that we only have 2 options every election? How about recognizing that neither Democrats nor Republicans challenge the fundamental governmental and economic structures that thrive from sexism and racism?

  3. Webbess
    Posted January 8, 2008 at 6:09 pm | Permalink

    Thank you so much for posting this. I haven’t been too crazy about Hillary for a long time, and I felt guilty about it- mainly because of NOW’s endorsement and the words of people like Steinem. I brought it up at my college feminist group, and we took a collective online quiz to see which candidates matched closest to our views- and it turned out Dennis Kucinich and John Edwards were closest.

  4. wunderwoman
    Posted January 8, 2008 at 6:16 pm | Permalink

    My grandmother wants to vote for Hillary because she wants to see a woman in the White House before she dies. I have a feeling there are plenty of older women out there (60+) who feel the same way. Hell, I want to see a woman president before I die, but frankly I don’t think this is the woman I’d want it to be. So is this radicalism in older women or just, to be frank, simplified pro-vagina selfishness that wants to see *any* woman president (or at least, this particular one) now rather than the *best* woman president later?
    (I hope that made sense.)

  5. hopeisawakingdream
    Posted January 8, 2008 at 6:23 pm | Permalink

    I just finished reading the Gloria Steinem piece and I am glad this was posted. In addition to criticizing young women for their lack of enthusiasm about Hillary Clinton, Steinem subtly pits racism vs. sexism. I think the younger generation is much more likely to realize the intersections of isms and realize that one is not necessarily more challenging than another. I do, of course, abhor the blatent misogyny Clinton endures that would not be tolerated if it were racist rhetoric. However, implying that one prejudice is somehow worse than another is divisive and prevents change. The isms must be addressed together because they are inextricably linked.

  6. lyra27
    Posted January 8, 2008 at 6:25 pm | Permalink

    I’m always torn by these arguments. If you were talking about a Republican woman, and not Clinton, I think I would feel less torn. I would probably not vote for a female Republican candidate just to get a woman into office, especially if she were anti-choice and/or anti-gay. But — we’re not talking about a Republican. We’re talking about Clinton, who I don’t see as drastically different compared with Obama and Edwards. So for me — yes, gender breaks the tie. I don’t think that’s anything to run away from. Social change comes about by legislation/policymaking, but it also comes by expanding the franchise itself. I think that is a HUGE consideration. The next president may only have 4-8 years effect on the policy & legislation of this country, but the franchise-expanding effects could last much, much longer. This is all true of Obama too, which does complicate the choice. But this debate in itself reminds me how near the end of the first wave, some feminists focused only on getting the vote — tunnel vision to get us there and worry about the rest later. Other feminists looked around for everything else that needed fixing TODAY. Do we still need both types? Yes, I think we definitely do. And are both points valid? Absolutely. I guess what I wonder though is — if Hillary does not get the nomination this year, when do we get another shot at this? I think we all know — it could be decades. So I guess everyone has to weigh the pros and cons in their own minds — and see what happens. But I don’t condemn 2nd wavers for admitting that Clinton’s gender matters — in this sexist country, how in the world could it not?

  7. betty
    Posted January 8, 2008 at 7:36 pm | Permalink

    People tend to only notice what is in their immediate radius.
    It really reflects badly on younger women who say that older women support Clinton because they have some wacky, wistful feeling. They can’t get the ancient 90′s out of their head (while Obama quotes leaders of the 60′s) There couldn’t be a rational reason at all according to the Kewl.
    Or maybe you’re falling prey to the oldest trap in the book for women: the “with me, it’ll be different.” You know, the baby boomer generation thought they’d stay in touch with the “kids” and here you are hatin’ on them. Ok, I’ll say some of you. And hating on older women is a feminist problem amongst women. There is a sexual caste system and the higher you go up executively, the more it exists. Just because you don’t notice in your immediate area of 1 to 5 to 10 years job experience — what do you think you’ll face in your fifties and sixties going for executive positions against men with stay at home wives and that “manly” leadership quality.
    It IS true that the percentage of women who are “radical feminists” grows as they get older.
    Women enter the work force with most professions have around about equal salary, the disparity grows the longer they are in a profession.
    Younger women are valued sexually and don’t experience as many problems with sexism as they do when they get older and have to share child care, compete for increasingly competitive jobs with men as they move up, and deal with disparties in health care, societal attention, etc, etc, yes, many do become more feminist.
    When I write that young women don’t face as much sexism as older women, you may think, OMG, what are you talking about, I face sexism? Yes. I don’t disagree, but it does get worse with age.
    Funny, you’ll find more radicals that have experienced early marriage and child care in my experience. When you have to get in a position to negotiate for competitive resources of a man for family time or head to head for a job or face the pressures of supporting a household financially in a sexist culture that tend to promote men, something clicks in your mind.
    Actually, there are studies that confirm this trend. So Gloria is not just pulling this out of her ass to annoy you personally. She didn’t say that there are no radical feminist that are young, but the number grows as women get older and face more devalue pressures.
    Hey…maybe…just maybe… Gloria has some cred in the area of feminist studies. I don’t know, I heard she was involved with it or something.

  8. rileystclair
    Posted January 8, 2008 at 7:41 pm | Permalink

    great post, ann. i agree with you 110% and i’m sick of being made to feel (mostly by some older feminists) that i’m somehow deserting the cause in deciding to back obama. i don’t have anything personally against senator clinton and i think she is very smart and capable and i respect that. i just think we have better choices and that has nothing to do with what any candidate is packing below the waist.

  9. Posted January 8, 2008 at 7:43 pm | Permalink

    Steinem subtly pits racism vs. sexism
    Not so subtly, I thought, and an African-American History professor at my college immediately discussed (in the lunchroom, while dining) on why race is “more of an issue,” because of the article.
    As an 18 year-old voter on a college campus that is positively ga-ga for Obama, I’d tell Steinem that women, just like our Y-chromosomed classmates, love the “Whoabama” feeling, love the message of change and the, to sound like a grandmother, “hipness.”
    Steinem’s powerful article today clarified what we’d all been seeing: some third-wavers who find ourselves (not without questions) add odds with our second-wave role models, and trying to balance defending a powerful woman in society (i.e. I defend the sexist media coverage of Hillary “tearing up” much the way I would defend any woman) versus voting for a candidate whom we really seek to bring–campaign lit buzzword time!–change.

  10. Mina
    Posted January 8, 2008 at 8:41 pm | Permalink

    “Did either of these people even talk to younger women about how they decided which candidate to support?”
    …or about how much history they know? You don’t need to *be* an 80-year-old woman to know something about the sexism today’s 80-year-old women faced when they were younger!
    “Younger women are valued sexually and don’t experience as many problems with sexism as they do when they get older and have to share child care, compete for increasingly competitive jobs with men as they move up, and deal with disparties in health care, societal attention, etc, etc, yes, many do become more feminist.”
    BTW, *some* young women are valued sexually at age 25. *Some* young women will end up having to share child care at age 40.
    Not all.
    For example, what if someone’s already considered ugly at age 25 and ends up childless at age 40 (after men deem her too ugly to have sex with and employers consider her too ugly for jobs that would let her afford adoption fees)?

  11. harlemjd
    Posted January 8, 2008 at 8:43 pm | Permalink

    bethora -
    yeah, I didn’t think it was subtle either. And I guess Gloria thinks racism doesn’t affect women, cause we’re all white.

  12. JMS10
    Posted January 8, 2008 at 9:02 pm | Permalink

    Ann- First off, I agree with you wholeheartedly.
    I don’t think voting for someone strictly based on their sex is radical, I don’t even think it is
    smart. I was a Hillary supporter. She is good on many of the issues I champion, she is experienced, she is confident, and she is a woman and has the potential to change the political landscape of the United States forever.
    Recently, however, I’ve started changing my mind about Hillary Clinton. I don’t view this change as something age induced or even as my “denial of the sexual caste system” but rather as a part of the political process and my engagement in it.
    Believe me, I question if Hardball’s portrayal of Clinton as a hard nosed, self-centered, husband-coat tail-riding feminist impacts my decision making.
    But then, right when I almost lose myself to Chris Matthews wit and charm, I do get “radical” and question why it is that Hillary Clinton decided to use ABC’s “The View” as a forum to reinforce the stereotype that a main difference between her and her male counterparts is the amount of time it takes her to get ready. Or you might call it “radical” when I question Hillary’s use of President Bill Clinton on the campaign trail and wonder if she plans to utilize him during her presidency in such a public forum? But I think the most “radical” might be my disappointment in how she attempted to cut her fellow candidate down by showing disrespect and unsportsmanlike behavior when she interrupted Barack Obama during a debate question over his cabinet choices.
    I am engaged in the political process, I am watching and I am listening. Quite frankly I’m insulted, disappointed, and a little shocked that Steinem, of all people, would ask feminists to support a candidate strictly based on that candidate’s sex.
    I was hoping for a woman to be elected president, and still am. I’m just questioning if Hillary Clinton is the best choice. Does that make me un-feminist? I don’t think so.

  13. betty
    Posted January 8, 2008 at 9:46 pm | Permalink

    “a little shocked that Steinem, of all people, would ask feminists to support a candidate strictly based on that candidate’s sex.”
    She doesn’t. But, in this case, she’s found plenty of reason to do so and it resonates with her. The title is about the shaming of women frontrunners too. Let’s not add to it. Why not Google Gloria’s writing on politics?
    The discussion here makes her point.
    BTW — on this
    “BTW, *some* young women are valued sexually at age 25. *Some* young women will end up having to share child care at age 40.
    The point is society values younger women sexually more. This makes my point. Take a broader view. Denial is not attractive…ok, I kid. But to say, hey, I know one example, denies the general trend. We can work for change.
    And the point about women becoming more radical as they get older is true. It is generalized through the population, though. Men become more conservative. Generally. If the women here are already radical, imagine them at sixty!

  14. a_human
    Posted January 8, 2008 at 9:48 pm | Permalink

    I would love to see a woman president, and I am sympathetic, but Hillary is a horrible candidate on the issues and I will not vote for her even if she gets nominated.

  15. neurogyrl
    Posted January 8, 2008 at 10:25 pm | Permalink

    “And I guess Gloria thinks racism doesn’t affect women, cause we’re all white.”
    I can’t vote for anyone based on sex or race. I’m a black woman, and I would love to see a black person or a woman elected president. I just can’t vote for someone based on that characteristic alone. I have a lot of hope for this election, so I am making my choice based on policy. Gloria Steinem is wrong here. I don’t think that I can elude the sex caste system. I’m well aware of it even as a young woman. However, I shouldn’t have to use an election to decide which is more important, my blackness or being female.

  16. Kathryn
    Posted January 8, 2008 at 10:34 pm | Permalink

    I’m so glad this issue has finally been brought up on Feministing! As a longtime Obama supporter, I cringe every time I hear a woman say that she is voting for Hillary only because she wants to see a woman president. My brand of feminism has always been about equality of the sexes (genders?), rather than lifting men up as above women. I am as disgusted as the next feminist over the ridiculous sexist coverage of Hillary and her campaign, but that doesn’t mean I have to vote for her.

  17. alyson2009
    Posted January 8, 2008 at 10:37 pm | Permalink

    I really appreciated this post because this is something that I have been struggling with. My biggest concern with having a female president is that I think that no matter what she does as president, either good or bad, but particularly bad, will be “because she is a woman.” Whereas a male president’s bad politics are credited to him as a person, a female president’s bad politics would be considered evidence that a woman cannot be president. I think that would seriously harm the chances of another woman getting elected any time soon. I really hate to say it, but any woman I vote for has to be practically flawless for this reason. She has to have the ability to overcome that kind of criticism, and unfortunately I don’t think that Senator Clinton does.

  18. LlesbianLlama
    Posted January 8, 2008 at 10:42 pm | Permalink

    “As a self-identified radical, I find it questionable to call voting in a two-party election a “radical” act at all.”
    AMEN.
    As a self-identified radical I am kind of skeptical of really anything Gloria Steinem says. She is so ridiculously moderate, and she has been a huge force in mainstreaming the feminist movement, which I have a huge problem with. I saw her speak this past semester, and I was distinctly unimpressed. To have HER criticize young woman voters on not being radical is comical to me.
    You know, she might have even an inkling of a point if she means to imply that younger women are as a group less radical than the generation before them. That might be true. I am not necessarily in a knowledgeable enough position to judge on that specific subject, but it seems to be a trend. Especially with the “I’m NOT a feminist” phenomenon.
    Her reasoning for this conclusion, however, is grasping at straws. As someone who refuses to support Hillary Clinton [to the point of being actually Anti-Hillary Clinton], I am pretty offended that it makes me LESS radical to not vote for her. Has Steinem ever even looked at Clinton’s platform? I don’t see the logic in calling her a radical. She isn’t a radical candidate and she doesn’t have radical political ideas; being a woman doesn’t make her radical, and it doesn’t make her automatically a woman-friendly candidate or public figure.

  19. alby
    Posted January 8, 2008 at 10:54 pm | Permalink

    So, let me get this straight. Ann assumes Steinam has not talked to young voters…why? Because she mentions none by name? If that made sense, I can’t imagine Ann has spoken to many either.
    For those of you who clearly have not RTFA, Steinam also quite explicitly connects racism and sexism as intertwined and pervasive problems. You all are responding to Ann’s incorrect conclusions about what the subtext of Steinam’s NYT piece implied.
    As a young participant in the political process, I don’t know who will ultimately get my vote. I do know that Steinam’s article was dead-on when it comes to the disproportionate and discriminatory treatment of Ms. Clinton in the media. Seems kind of like the disdain many of you either have or assume younger women have for the older women who support her.

  20. jochre
    Posted January 8, 2008 at 11:22 pm | Permalink

    I’m an “older” feminist who does feel a slight chill at times from the younger feminists — but I’m 10 years younger than Steinem, and not voting for Hillary in the primaries.
    However, I don’t find either her or Obama progressive enough for my taste (Edwards, please!)
    It seems to me that older women may well want to vote for the first woman president (and also may have memories of a better life — and country — under the male President Clinton.)
    But, I also think part of the Obama wave is the kewl kids dying to be hip enough to elect the first African American as President.
    Kewl girls as well, and I can’t imagine the kewl guys feeling the same energy about electing the first woman.

  21. Jane Minty
    Posted January 9, 2008 at 12:07 am | Permalink

    One thing I’ve noticed among Democrats is, some who aren’t supporting Clinton sound frighteningly similar to conservatives in HOW they negatively criticize her. You rarely, if ever hear those who aren’t voting for Obama or Edwards (and the others) say, “WELL, I just don’t LIKE him.” The non-support of Clinton is much more passionately bitter than of the male Democrats.
    And please don’t give me the whole, “they’re just more likable” speech. I’m sure any Democrat we can manage to get in the White House will do a fine job (which makes the “I won’t vote for Hilary even if she gets the nomination” argument totally ridiculous).
    I guess I’m still smarting from waking up in 2004 to see that by some freak occurrence, we’d manage to elect the current bonehead for a second term.

  22. theimperialprincess
    Posted January 9, 2008 at 1:08 am | Permalink

    I can tell you this:
    I WILL NEVER SEND ANOTHER DIME TO EMILY’S LIST
    And that really pisses me off because I sent them money the first year they started.
    I don’t know what the fuck wave I’m in, second, third, wahever (I’m 38) but as a radical abortion rights supporter I never imagined that my money would be used to bolster a candidate I don’t trust and don’t agree with on a lot of her policy decisions in an attempt to defeat a candidate I BELIEVE IN and who I have yet to find a policy decision of his that makes me quesy and who is an ethnic minority (a big bonus in my book), just because she has a pussy!
    When I found that Emily’s list POURED money into Iowa to help Clinton beat Obama I blew a gasket! They should have stayed the hell away from that race and they know it.
    I heard Steiniem give a speech she’s apparently given many times (I think it was also mentioned in the episode of The L Word that she appeared in) about how feminism will not gain the power and momentum it needs to make real change until women give money to the cause every week, and month when we pay the bills. And I think she is absolutely right. And I am so ready to write that check.
    But there is no way in hell I’d trust her or NOW or the Ms. Foundation with it.
    In my opinion they just don’t fucking get it. About the only writer I can stand to ready in Ms. anymore is a black woman who is some sort of political pundit and who they give one only one freakin page to while relegating her to the back of the book. She writes about education, the federal budget, the deficit, healthcare, jobs, underemployment, etc. At least she spends some time addressing all the other issues that are important to me and at least she freaking gets it!
    Gloria and her possey seem to be myopically focused on abortion rights, AIDS, and rights for wealthy, mainstream, white lesbians with a small nod to some brave little colored people that live 5K miles away from the US. Yes, these are great and important issues that need our support but I can’t devote 90% of my time and money to them when I’m torn between my own kids who are sick and ignorant and my need to chase money because the dollar is going down the toilet and the Social Security/Federal Deficit timebomb is ticking faster and faster! (fulfilling work seems to be a fairyland I’ve heard of but can’t believe exists) Not to mention that one small hiccup from Dame Fate would sick my family below the middle class ocean surface we’ve only now managed to break through after years of drowning. I won’t even start on the brave little (literally, children) colored people right here in the US who are starving, neglected and abused because they rarely rate a whole entire article from the founding editor.
    You guys gave me some serious hope when you announced the changes on the feministing blog. In addition to regularly donating to the RIGHT cause, I think the next big breakthrough in feminism will come from some sort of social networking facilitated by the internet.
    In the wave during the ‘60’s the real engine of the ideas for deep change to the modern western world came from consciences raising groups. I was too young to participate but I sorta remember them from childhood and my mother dabbled in them.
    Think of it. Women of every stripe all coming together to talk about everything in their lives to find solutions and support from one another no matter how difficult or extreme or radical. To try those things in their personal lives while at the same time working to change the laws and the way the entire society is organized.
    Imagine what we could do!

  23. Smith
    Posted January 9, 2008 at 7:16 am | Permalink

    I think Steinem is right to suggest that increasing numbers of young women deny the presence of sexual discrimation or sexist power structures, in part because less young women experience direct sexism or direct exclusion because of their gender. This is not to say that sexism does not still exist, nor is it to deny that there are still many women who suffer at the hands of sexist institutions or assumptions. Nor does Steinem say that there are no young women feminists — perhaps feministing readers are not actually the women she has in mind. But as a literature professor I find more and more young women entering the classroom believing that the battle for gender equality has been won and that to define oneself as a feminist is to dwell in the past. I can’t imagine most feministing readers disagreeing with Steinem’s analysis that sexual inequality is still a huge issue, or that most women — though by no means all — now run up against the consequences of that inequality later in life. My (mainly white, mainly middle-class students) have all got to university — it’s not until they enter the workplace that many begin to realise not all doors are open to them. Nor do many of them realise until much later that the opportunities and privileges they had are not, in fact, available to all. So yes, I would agree, there is a trend for women to become more radical as they get older, and with good reason.
    The question of whether women voters should vote for a female candidate is a separate one. But to the posters who say they would vote for a woman, just not this woman, I’d say: there is no other woman, and that’s the point. There are still very few women in positions of real political power, and a (democrat!) female president of the US would be a tremendously empowering example for young women and a challenging example for sexist f**ks everywhere. I don’t think that is a trivial motivation behind voting for a woman, nor one that is necessarily less important than stated policy (especially since, as The Onion points out, most voters will be deciding who to vote for on the basis of bullsh*t, rather than issues). And yes, as some posters point out, Clinton is bound to face criticism based on her sexual identity — she already has — but the way to deal with that is to fight it as and when it comes.

  24. Posted January 9, 2008 at 9:40 am | Permalink

    God, the more I hear about Gloria Steinem the more I can’t stand her. Apparently it hasn’t crossed her mind that young women voters may actually examine a candidate’s POLICIES when deciding who to vote for, and not automatically vote for the only woman running because she’s a woman.
    I don’t agree with some of Clinton’s policies. That doesn’t mean I am not affected by sexism in my daily life, or that I am in denial that sexism affects me.
    What an idiotic, ignorant statement. I expected better of Steinem.

  25. Posted January 9, 2008 at 9:47 am | Permalink

    It’s sad and confusing to me that second-wave feminists continue to show resentment toward the younger generations of women whose futures they fought for. Trying to guilt trip other women into voting for Hillary is using the worst sort of passive-aggressive tactics women are prone to when they feel powerless. I want second-wave feminists to respect the fact that younger women have savvy minds and may dislike Hillary for a host of good reasons, not least Hillary’s statement in the 2000 senate debates that she could support a ban on late-term abortions. This is a single issue that affects younger women disproportionately and is reason enough for me to doubt Hillary’s ability to stand up to conservatives.

  26. JenInChicago
    Posted January 9, 2008 at 10:37 am | Permalink

    Here’s my conundrum. Like many people here, I would prefer not to support Hillary’s choice on the war, for example. I appreciate Obama’s rhetoric; I’m from Chicago and have great respect for what he has done here; I love his message. I think he’s more electable.
    But I start to close ranks when I see Senator Clinton treated the way she’s been treated. And I don’t see any way to protest that treatment — any way that people will listen to — other than insisting on voting for her. Nothing less will push back enough.
    I also fear that, because her treatment has been so awful and has evidently been deemed acceptable, it will stop the rise of other, less combative women candidates. They will look at the process and the unfair treatment received by a woman (much of it simply because she is a woman) and they could very well decide to find some other way to serve. This helps no one — no one.
    Unfortunately what I really want in life is a way to get both Obama’s gift for inspiration and unification, and Senator Clinton’s experience. (I would also love to throw in some of Edwards’s raw anger and commitment to the little guy.) But if I have to choose between two candidates who seem quite similar, and if by making that choice I can shut up some of the media who continue to think women don’t count — I will close ranks.

  27. BWrites
    Posted January 9, 2008 at 10:39 am | Permalink

    Iowa women over 50 and 60, who disproportionately supported Senator Clinton, proved once again that women are the one group that grows more radical with age.

    And yet there’s nothing ‘radical’ about banning late-term abortions, supporting George Bush’s drive to go to Iraq, or riding the coattails of an immensely popular two-term president.
    And while Steinem says that racism and sexism are intertwined and need to be fought together, she once again doesn’t seem to think women of color exist, or applaud progress against racism as laudable.

    What worries me is that some women, perhaps especially younger ones, hope to deny or escape the sexual caste system…

    I think we do hope to escape it– I think we hope that, someday, everyone can escape it.

  28. Posted January 9, 2008 at 10:57 am | Permalink

    “Today’s young women voters are different. They were not raised by mothers who told them they had a duty to stay home with their children. They were raised by mothers who told them they had all sorts of choices they could choose.”
    This actually starts off great, if only it would have been taken to it’s logical conclusion. That, because of this, these young women will actually make informed choices about who they feel would make a good president instead of happily voting for who they’re told to.

  29. Jane Minty
    Posted January 9, 2008 at 12:41 pm | Permalink

    It’s sad and confusing to me that second-wave feminists continue to show resentment toward the younger generations of women whose futures they fought for.
    That’s not what’s she’s saying. I’m 35, so am still young enough (hopefully) to be idealistic enough but old enough to have experienced much discrimination based on my gender in the damnest places. Before such incidents, I had wrongly assumed I wouldn’t encounter such situations. To me she’s saying, “enjoy what we fought for, but don’t let your defense down.”
    Here’s my conundrum. Like many people here, I would prefer not to support Hillary’s choice on the war, for example. I appreciate Obama’s rhetoric; I’m from Chicago and have great respect for what he has done here; I love his message. I think he’s more electable.
    I’m curious as to why you find him more, “electable.” Don’t get me wrong…I do like his message. For instance, I too would like to do away with lobbyists with the wave of a wand. But I fear a showdown of Obama-McCain and the possible consequences. It would feel too much like the Nader hangover of 2004.
    Clinton’s moderate stance on some issues seems to make her more “electable,” if you’re considering the views of most of the country.

  30. electricfortune
    Posted January 9, 2008 at 12:50 pm | Permalink

    One main point that I haven’t seen in the media is: Many feminists would like the first woman president to be someone who earned the position of her own accord, rather than by riding her husband’s coattails!
    Also frustrating, Marie Wilson wrote an article implying that women who don’t vote for Clinton are internally oppressing themselves. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/marie-wilson/the-day-after-iowa-what-_b_79847.htmlressing themselves.

  31. EG
    Posted January 9, 2008 at 1:00 pm | Permalink

    Many feminists would like the first woman president to be someone who earned the position of her own accord, rather than by riding her husband’s coattails!
    I understand that point of view, but I strongly disagree with it for two reasons. One is practical: how long would we have to wait for that to happen? Given the institutionalized sexism of this country, and how long it has taken for any woman to be in the position to make a serious run at the presidency, how long would we have to wait if we started getting picky about how she gets there? It also strikes me as a bit hypocritical. Almost all the men who make serious political careers do so because of or with the serious help of their families–their families of origin as well as the families they marry into. Why shouldn’t a woman?
    But ultimately I disagree with this position because I think it’s incorrect. Hillary did not “ride her husband’s coattails.” I am convinced that she has been a major reason for his political success. She’s very, very intelligent, and very canny, and has been deeply involved in her husband’s career. His success has been in part due to her strategizing and her work, and I suspect that that’s a large part of the reason for their marriage. Honestly, for a woman with serious political ambitions in the 1960s, attaching herself to charismatic man and working to get him in power was probably the most effective move she could have made. He benefitted from it, and so did she.

  32. Jane Minty
    Posted January 9, 2008 at 1:00 pm | Permalink

    One main point that I haven’t seen in the media is: Many feminists would like the first woman president to be someone who earned the position of her own accord, rather than by riding her husband’s coattails!
    Yeah, but how is this any different from the Bushes, or the Kennedys??

  33. JenInChicago
    Posted January 9, 2008 at 1:01 pm | Permalink

    I think Obama is more electable because of the unalloyed positivity of his message. He really is selling hope. Is the hope realistic? Is it just a bill of goods? I’m not sure the average person really asks these questions; many respond quite viscerally to Obama’s spectacular rhetoric. (His Iowa speech had me in tears.)
    Senator Clinton is all about “This country is a mess and it’s going to be a big job to clean it up, and not just anyone can do it.” Not as much fun to vote for; not as inspiring.
    I am just SO SICK of incompetence. Don’t even get me started on Bush’s hadnling of Katrina, his fiscal irresponsibility: he just plain runs the country badly. I really feel like I’m raining on everyone’s parade by having reservations about Obama’s experience. I don’t think people would come out in droves to support Senator Clinton in the same way. But I also don’t think most people in this country really want to face the mess we’re in.

  34. Jane Minty
    Posted January 9, 2008 at 1:10 pm | Permalink

    I think Obama is more electable because of the unalloyed positivity of his message. He really is selling hope. Is the hope realistic? Is it just a bill of goods?
    I suspect she isn’t sugar-coating her message because she was in proximity to the office for two terms, and might have a certain perspective.

  35. Jane Minty
    Posted January 9, 2008 at 1:34 pm | Permalink

    It just occurred to me exactly why I support Clinton. Obama and Edwards are the sales/brainstorming team, throwing out all kinds of very inspirational ideas at the weekly company meeting. Clinton is the project manager, and filters these ideas through available company resources and determines what’s actually feasible.
    No one is completely happy, but each campaign is still successful.

  36. Posted January 9, 2008 at 3:13 pm | Permalink

    It took me a whole day to find the words to blog about Steinem’s article, because I found it so maddening.
    The op-ed piece suggests that sexism trumps racism, which is offensive to me as a black woman. It completely marginalizes feminists of color and denies our experiences as women and ethnic minorities. Clearly, Ms. Steinem is not very aware of her own priviledge. Lastly, the op-ed seems to advocate limiting women’s choices in the presidential election. Because there is a woman on the ballot, my choice is apparently preordained. Of course, there are black folks who would suggest that I owe my loyalty to Obama because he is black. Both ideas are ridiculous.
    I prefer to take advantage of my hard-won right to vote for the candidate I feel will best run this country…gender and race be damned.

  37. velcrobuttons
    Posted January 9, 2008 at 3:23 pm | Permalink

    Ann – “my obligation is to support her right to compete on an equal playing field.” Yes. Steinam missed that when she said that black men were ‘given’ the right to vote before women of any race. What she misses is that nobody was ‘given’ the right to vote – they had to fight for it. Women abolitionists chose to prioritize emancipation because they believed it was necessary for creating a level playing field, for themselves as well as others. Ignoring that history creates the kind of situation where all our stakes seem to stand on one election, and where a loss in this one vote means the loss of everything, when really we’ve got centuries behind us and so much more to do than just vote for one preferred candidate.

  38. EG
    Posted January 9, 2008 at 3:43 pm | Permalink

    Yes, Tami. That is one ugly bit of rhetoric that Steinem’s invoking. Which is a shame, because she’s certainly smart enough to have learned from past mistakes, and setting white women into competition with black men has never benefitted blacks or women, and has particularly screwed black women.

  39. beigelights
    Posted January 9, 2008 at 4:38 pm | Permalink

    Please note the following quote from the controversial Steinem piece:
    “The caste systems of sex and race are interdependent and can only be uprooted together. That’s why Senators Clinton and Obama have to be careful not to let a healthy debate turn into the kind of hostility that the news media love. Both will need a coalition of outsiders to win a general election. The abolition and suffrage movements progressed when united and were damaged by division; we should remember that.”
    Am I missing something, or is she not pitting racism against sexism at all?

  40. Posted January 9, 2008 at 5:09 pm | Permalink

    Beigelights, the quote you shared seems an after thought since earlier in the article Steinem wrote that “gender is probably the most restricting force in American life.” As velcrobuttons points out, she also makes the false statement that black men were able to vote a half century before women. This statement ignores the violent and racist Reconstruction and Jim Crow eras, where black people, particularly in the South, were kept from the ballot box by local laws and threat of physical violence and death. Gloria Steinem was 18 during the 1952 presidential election and free to vote. My paternal grandfather, a black man in Mississippi, was 53-years-old and was not free to vote, despite the 15th Amendment. There is also the fact that the article is written with white feminists as the default target. Steinem speaks of women voting for Clinton out of loyalty, ignoring that some feminists are both women AND ethnic minorities.

  41. dhsredhead
    Posted January 10, 2008 at 12:06 am | Permalink

    Ugh. When will they stop using young people as an excuse? Maybe some young women just don’t like Hilary Clinton. It doesn’t mean we just don’t get sexism. I personally don’t like Obama but it’s not because I don’t get what kind of struggles have occurred and do occur for people of color. Or like just because young people aren’t voting for Edwards, should we assume it’s because we don’t get his struggles as a middle class white male?

  42. Gopher
    Posted January 10, 2008 at 2:45 am | Permalink

    I didnt feel Glorias comments were very negative. I found her statements to be illuminating a element of why some young women may overlook Clinton for president. Some younger women may be flippant about the issue of sexism because they dont see the bigger picture of how men are to women as they get older to complete a proper perspective.

  43. Gopher
    Posted January 10, 2008 at 3:00 am | Permalink

    Apparently it hasn’t crossed her mind that young women voters may actually examine a candidate’s POLICIES when deciding who to vote for, and not automatically vote for the only woman running because she’s a woman.
    I dont think she was against women choosing not to vote for Clinton due to differing views on politics. I think she was explaining why some young women may overlook Clinton due to sociological forces rather than even looking at her politics-in short, judging her superficially. I’m 23 and I’ve seen plenty of my peers claim they dont like Clinton, without explanation. I’ve also seen them claim they think shes ‘too masculine,’ ‘calculating,’ ect. I see her statement as more about explaining the sociological forces of young women in todays world who lived differently than their mothers generation. I think she was saying younger women have the convenience of denying sexism in todays culture and speculating how that might influence ones vote.

  44. Gopher
    Posted January 10, 2008 at 3:16 am | Permalink

    Whereas a male president’s bad politics are credited to him as a person, a female president’s bad politics would be considered evidence that a woman cannot be president. I think that would seriously harm the chances of another woman getting elected any time soon.’
    Unfortunetly. How do we change this? How can so many men (and women who follow their line of thinking)be so sexist? Is it their upbringing? Biological? This is simply unacceptable.
    I really hate to say it, but any woman I vote for has to be practically flawless for this reason. She has to have the ability to overcome that kind of criticism, and unfortunately I don’t think that Senator Clinton does.
    You will never see a flawless politician. All you will succeed in doing is holding unattainable standards torwards women which will judge the women harsher than male politicians and circulate sexism. For any president there should be a certain standard held, but not one where we are speculative about whether she can do the job because of her gender.
    I think shes handled enough criticism as a women, and no one should tolerate that.

  45. Synonymous
    Posted January 10, 2008 at 8:55 am | Permalink

    Race is more important than sex
    See, this is the kind of argument that fuels the sexist coverage of Clinton. So many media outlets – from the mainstream network coverage to Salon and Huffington Post – can see themselves as perfectly enlightened and progressive while still evaluating Clinton’s fitness to lead based on the cut of her pantsuits or judging her moments of anger or sentimentality by a double standard. Equal treatment of women is a backseat priority – a distraction from “real” issues. (Had those college boys showed up at an Obama rally with racist chants and bedsheets, I doubt those outlets would have hesitated on calling them on their bullshit. Racism and sexism, as Steinem asserts, should not be in competition for “more serious social ill”, but only one seems to be treated as a legitimate problem in today’s progressive movement.)
    I don’t like Obama for pure policy reasons. There’s a large group of Obama supporters that are incapable of *understanding* that – if you don’t choose Obama, you must be voting purely on gender or have something wrong with you. He’s inspired the same intolerant, unblinking lamb-of-God adulation that Bush received from the religious right, and that scares the hell out of me. To write off Clinton supporters with this label is extraordinarily hypocritical.

  46. Kmari1222
    Posted January 10, 2008 at 10:52 am | Permalink

    Fuck. since when can anyone tell me who I’m supposed to vote for? Isn’t choice a key to feminism? I want the damn choice to vote, and to vote for whoever I want to.
    Now we’re being told if we don’t vote for clinton we’re bad women, and if we do then we’re only voting because she’s a woman.
    How about this: We all vote for whoever the hell we want.

  47. electricfortune
    Posted January 10, 2008 at 11:55 am | Permalink

    Jane Minty–well put points!
    It seems Steinem hasn’t really learned from the critiques of the feminist movement as not concerned enough with the intersections of race and gender. She does call for collaboration rather than competition, but after talking about gender as being the biggest setback. She contradicts herself and doesn’t seem to really get it amid that contradiction!
    I don’t see any way someone could argue that gender’s a bigger setback than race! Her example that black men got the vote before women is not sufficient evidence. For example, many, many more black men are in jail in the U.S. than women. Is this not a significant counter example of the massive injustices men of color face? This is in no way quantifiable anyway.

  48. electricfortune
    Posted January 10, 2008 at 12:01 pm | Permalink

    Oops, I meant to say well-put points to Tami. See her comment below if you missed it:
    It took me a whole day to find the words to blog about Steinem’s article, because I found it so maddening.
    The op-ed piece suggests that sexism trumps racism, which is offensive to me as a black woman. It completely marginalizes feminists of color and denies our experiences as women and ethnic minorities. Clearly, Ms. Steinem is not very aware of her own priviledge. Lastly, the op-ed seems to advocate limiting women’s choices in the presidential election. Because there is a woman on the ballot, my choice is apparently preordained. Of course, there are black folks who would suggest that I owe my loyalty to Obama because he is black. Both ideas are ridiculous.
    I prefer to take advantage of my hard-won right to vote for the candidate I feel will best run this country…gender and race be damned.

  49. smartorange
    Posted January 10, 2008 at 12:49 pm | Permalink

    I think this is a time when 5 years from now you will all be thinking, wow we really blew it.
    “But to me, and many other younger feminists, it’s far more radical to embrace a feminism that’s inextricable from my anti-war, pro-gay rights, anti-racist beliefs. ”
    Let’s take this statement first. If you were solely anti-war then you would be voting for John Edwards or Ron Paul. I don’t think Hillary or Obama are pro-war, but niether has the record to really push the point home. Pro Gay rights, well that would mean you would not vote for Edwards, he doesn’t even support thier right to have a civil union. Anti racists, are you insinuating that Hillary is racist? Do you have proof?
    The fact that Hillary and Obama have the same voting record in the senate doesn’t help to differentiate them.
    Personally, I like Hillary’s economic plan, its similar to a particular plan that balanced the budget and got rid of the national deficit in the 90′s.
    My point is though, everyone is vague on why they like Obama. I never see them break down what he plans to do. He gets a pass from having to do that. Also, even if there are differences in his point of view and his supposters, his supporters still like hime. Like somehow being a man, automatically means he’s for all the things you are evening if you have slight disagreements with his politics. However, if you have a slight disagreement with Hillary, then you hate her all the way. No wiggle room for her. That is SEXIST and its coming from the so called feminists.
    Until you can tell me how Hillary is pro war, anti choice, anti gay, or racist, because her record would indicate otherwise.
    So now the issue IS back to why you would vote for Obama over Hillary?
    I do think there are a lot of women out there and on this blog that hate Hillary for irrational reasons. That is sexism to me. Like eating your own so to speak.
    Anyway, the more I think about it the more angry I get.

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