Today in New Hampshire I expect Bernie Sanders to win an overwhelming majority of the votes of young women. As a libertarian, I believe that voting for Sanders, whose proposals could add up to $18 trillion in debt, is a terrible decision. But as a woman, I can’t fault them for wanting to send a message to the Hillary Clinton school of feminism and its followers.
Clinton’s entire campaign seems to rest on two biographical points: her résumé and her gender. The assumption was that women would come out in droves to make history by electing her America’s first woman President. When it became clear that women under 35 had other ideas, she brought out the heavy artillery.
Unfortunately, it’s not working. Some in Clinton’s camp appear to have no idea how clueless they sound. Most recently, former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and feminist icon Gloria Steinem gave voice to their frustration with young women declining to anoint Clinton.
“We can tell our story of how we climbed the ladder, and a lot of you younger women think it’s done,” Albright said in her introduction of Clinton at a New Hampshire rally. “It’s not done. There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help each other!” I like the idea of women sticking together, but by this logic Albright would be compelled to support Carly Fiorina — a woman whose presidency is a terrifying prospect no matter your party affiliation. Albright defended her remarks to TIME, saying her remarks were taken out of context and that she has repeatedly used the place-in-hell quote.
At least Albright didn’t belittle the motives of young women supporting Sanders. Steinem suggested to Bill Maher that female supporters were flocking to the Vermont Senator out of a desire to chase men — the so-called Bernie bros, as they’ve been nicknamed. Maher — not exactly known for his own friendliness toward women — recoiled, telling her, “If I said that … you’d swat me.” Steinem apologized for her remarks two days later.
Apparently, feminism in 2016, as defined by Albright and Steinem, does not include the freedom to make your own choices. And that’s where they part ways with their millennial counterparts. To the younger generation, there are still policy battles to be won, notably on equal pay, but feminism’s fundamental fight is for personal freedom. Women deserve every right enjoyed by all citizens under the Constitution — nothing more, nothing less.
Young women will gladly — and, I suspect, easily — elect a woman President as soon as they find one they admire. Feminism taught women to be strong, stand up for themselves, think for themselves and not let anyone push them around — and that’s exactly why we are seeing backlash against the assumption women will blindly fall in line.
While I couldn’t be more grateful for most of what Steinem accomplished, I can’t follow her lead on the subject of Hillary Clinton. I think women have an obligation to elect not just any woman but the right woman. That woman is not Hillary Clinton.
It’s perfectly acceptable for Steinem and Albright to stump on behalf of Hillary Clinton. I’ve worked in politics. I get it. But as the battle for real equality continues, they’d be doing their own legacies a disservice if they let their advocacy for one woman blind them to the heartfelt concerns of so many others.