Ms. Mudflap

An Open Letter Re: Feministing’s Election Coverage & Endorsements

On the day of the New York primary, we want to make some things about Feministing’s approach to the election clear.

Feministing is not endorsing anyone in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. In fact, we have no intention of making political endorsements at all in the foreseeable future.

This publication is proud to host the work of a diverse group of young writers, and our priority lies in supporting them in expressing their ideas as well as possible. Feminism is not a monolith and neither is Feministing; our writers have a range of views on the election, as we do on most issues. We do hold shared values as a feminist organization, but those are fluid, part of an ongoing conversation among our crew members, and not easily divided along candidate lines. We intend to continue our long-standing record of uplifting young feminist voices, including to demand and create more thoughtful and productive discourse in media, through this election cycle and beyond.

Feministing is more than a publication – we work to help actively create feminist change. We question the value of endorsing candidates when it is our role to hold them accountable and move them on issues we care about. While our writers are free to express their own views, as an organization we believe we can best influence the election by not throwing our support behind a specific candidate. In this regard, we have been inspired by Black Lives Matter’s decision not to endorse candidates, a position that has helped the movement for black lives pressure politicians to speak to their issues and continue to hold them accountable. We have watched with great admiration as #ByeAnita organizers effectively pushed their target out of office without endorsing her opponent, putting them in an even more powerful position to influence the next state’s attorney.

We also choose not to center our election coverage exclusively on presidential candidates. We know the importance of state-level races and legislation — from the erosion of abortion access to the attacks on trans rights — and will continue to work to prioritize these stories that are often pushed to the side in presidential election years. In the coming months, we’re interested in highlighting other politicians in state and local races, including women of color, who are not getting as much air time as the presidential candidates. And we are interested in helping to contextualize the election in the broader global landscape, making connections between the right wing in Europe and global xenophobia and Islamophobia and political problems we are seeing in the US.

Among our crew there is a diversity of engagement and faith in the election cycle, and we want our publication to be able to reflect that. For many of us, our spirits are dampened by this presidential election, despite our coverage of previous races. Many of us do not feel spoken to as young, politically engaged feminists. We care deeply about how the US president will affect the lives of people in this country and around the world. But we are unimpressed by press coverage of salacious antics on the Republican side; stale takes on Clinton and Sanders; and the sexism that pervades the discussion around this election. We are committed to uplifting the voices of young feminists in part so they can raise the level of discourse and inject their issues into the election.

Specific criticism of one candidate by any of our writers should never be read as endorsement of another by the individual or publication. While pointing out a specific problem with a candidate, we don’t want to have to rehash all the problems with another candidate. We must be able to make vital critiques without them being taken as an unqualified position on an entirely different politician. I mean, shit — we contain multitudes.

We have noticed in particular that criticism of Hillary Clinton is considered anathema at a feminist publication, and often even read to mean we are endorsing Bernie Sanders. The assumption that we, as feminists, must support a woman candidate is sexist and incredibly reductive, and there is a distinct sense of ageism in criticism of our young writers for expressing critical opinions of Clinton. On the flip side, we’ve found that criticism of Sanders is often read as an endorsement of Clinton, one characterized as “blindly” supporting her just because she’s a woman, an equally sexist charge. We reserve the right to be critical of everyone. And, just as we have in election years past, we remain committed to calling out sexism in politics – against any and every woman candidate – at the same time that we look critically at the impact of politicians’ positions on women more broadly.

Feministing will remain a platform for a range of young feminist voices through this election and beyond, one that encourages critical thinking and taking action to create real change. Non-endorsement for us means being able to continue our work, uncompromised and unafraid, to move feminism and the media forward.


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