All over the media people wonder why Hillary Clinton does not receive support from young women of the millennial generation. I will tell you why.
Young women look at Hillary Clinton as a candidate, rather than another step closer to gender equality and as a historical milestone. As they should.
Consider Madeleine Albright, the first female secretary of state, who highlighted a rift between generations of feminists when she said “there’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help each other.” She was using the language of the sixties as a call to arms, but it was widely rejected by the nation as a misguided foray into identity politics and Albright was forced to retreat.
The war that older women are fighting is a war of nostalgia – younger women don’t know what they’re talking about, because the world we live in has evolved. As millennials, we view ourselves as being liberated.
We view our paths as being open. We see an abundance of opportunity. I don’t think I’m going to hell if I don’t play the identity politics game.
Voting for Clinton singularly based on her gender, a prime example of identity politics, goes against every fiber of my personal definition of what it is to be a feminist and what it means to have gender equality.
Women should want to be great because they are great. Not because they’re being judged by alternative standards. I, as a 22-year-old woman, want to be treated the same way middle-aged white men are treated.
I want a female presidential candidate to be judged on her qualifications, policy ideas, actions, and the inspiration and insight offered by her speeches. Not for her gender and what significant impact her role in American history will have on the women’s movement. Getting a woman into the White House would be wonderful, but the monumental achievement is attaining equality.
The millennial generation’s feminist battle is far from the ones fought by the generations before us. We now face substantially more subtle forms of discrimination rather than the blatant forms of the past. We have never been personally denied the right to vote, an education, or admittance to a field of work.
In other words, voting for Hillary Clinton based on her gender is sexism.
While I acknowledge the historical significance of Clinton as the first woman to become the party nominee during a presidential election, I find it hard to be excited about something that, in my mind, should have happened decades ago.
We grew up knowing we can be anything we want if we work hard enough to get there, thanks to the women before us who paved the way. Feminism today is seen in social media, the internet, female celebrities like Beyoncé or Oprah, a fight for reproductive rights, workplace equality, the TV show “Girls,” etc. It focuses on intersectionality, the idea that oppression or social inequality functions within a framework of overlapping identities, the personal experience, and is more inclusive.
The gender inequality we face now as Fourth Wave feminists, the phase that started about a decade ago, is often represented in numbers. Women are said to earn 77 cents on the dollar compared to men. 20% of members of Congress are women. 5% of CEOs of Fortune 500 companies are women. We are the minority in a corporate world, and it is harder for us to get there, but we have the opportunity.
To those women who say they do not identify with feminism, consider this: Wikipedia explains the purpose of the movement as being “to define, establish, and achieve equal political, economic, personal, and social rights for women.” If you say you do not identify with feminism, you are saying you do not want to be treated equally.
When Bill Clinton’s alleged affairs and accusations of sexual assault and rape surfaced, Hillary actively discredited the claims of rape, name-called and undermined women who claimed to have consensual sex with Bill, despite her statement: “Every survivor of sexual assault deserves to be heard, believed and supported.”
Then there is the question of how far she would have come had she not married Bill Clinton. While Hillary would be the first woman president, she would be breaking the glass ceiling with a short jump off the shoulders of her husband, not by having climbed there from the bottom as a self-made woman. Yes, this would still represent a breakthrough, but it would be one that is neither inspiring nor feminist.
Also casting doubt on Clinton as the symbol of feminist breakthrough is her political history. When she was invited by the Waltons, her family friends, to be the first woman on the board of Walmart from 1986-1992, there is no evidence to show that she attempted in any way to address the obvious pay gap. The lawsuit Betty Dukes versus Walmart Stores is the largest sex discrimination case in history showing that women were paid less than men in all positions and received promotions to management at lower rates. Despite this evident sexism, Clinton remained faithful to Walmart and received funds from the owner towards her presidential campaign.
Finally, Hillary Clinton is a product of “Second Wave” feminism, otherwise known as the Liberation Movement. Second Wave feminism lasted from the 1960’s-90’s and focused on passing the Equal Rights Amendment to the Constitution to guarantee social equality, regardless of sex.
Clinton’s brand of feminism, one based on identity politics, is outdated. Clinton assumes that the young women in America will also subscribe to identity politics and vote for her out of some feminist obligation. She is not alone in that assumption. It is the assumption of her generation and her party.
My argument is not to discredit Clinton’s campaign, but to discredit the idea that voting for Hillary Clinton is a contribution to feminist victory. 96 years ago women won the right to vote. But 96 years after the ratification of the nineteenth amendment, it is safe to say that there have been drastic changes in the way women view feminism.
As young women, we are not being guided as to whether or not we vote for Clinton because she represents a brand of feminism that is no longer relevant today. Perhaps a rebirth of feminism has taken hold with millennial women. However, it may also be that so much has been achieved regarding the rights of women that women my age just don’t care.