Progressive feminists are still reeling from the 2016 election cycle, when corporate democrats failed at being champions of women’s rights. They elected one of the most unpopular political candidates in history to represent their party, and lost to a man who openly admitted to sexually assaulting women.
The Democratic National Committee set Bernie Sanders up for failure, even though he was the better feminist in the race. Why? Simple—he didn’t represent the interests of wealthy donors, and he wasn’t a woman. Does that sound pro-feminist to you?
Feminism, at its core, is the belief that every person should have equal rights, regardless of gender identity, race, sexual orientation, and socioeconomic status. It’s the belief that you can accomplish anything, regardless of gender. It’s the belief that doing what’s right for one gender, or one race, or one class, will benefit all people. Our global society is a complicated, intricate place, and feminism is a multi-faceted issue that should always encompass every aspect of a woman’s life. It is intersectional.
At the core of Senator Sanders’ platform was one common issue: unequal opportunity. The poor and middle-class citizens of this country no longer have the opportunity to “work their way to the top” and live the American Dream—the rich are getting richer, the poor are getting poorer, and middle class jobs are disappearing; Bernie was a champion for a $15/hour minimum wage long before Secretary Clinton.
Children born into poor families can study just as hard as children born into rich families, but they do not have an equal opportunity to receive a quality college education; Bernie had a feasible plan to make public college tuition-free, and Secretary Clinton could not say the same.
The impoverished don’t have the opportunity to receive the same high-quality healthcare as a wealthy CEO; Bernie wanted universal healthcare, instead of fixing a broken Obamacare system.
The LGBT community does not have the opportunity to exist in peace and happiness without discrimination; Bernie never floundered on his support for the LGBT community in his three decades in public office, while Clinton openly opposed gay marriage until 2013.
We don’t have the opportunity, as American citizens, to decide an election without the influence of corporate interests; Bernie was stronger on Wall Street. He can hardly make it through a five-minute television interview without mentioning the influence of money in politics and how it is causing more socioeconomic inequality.
Those same corporate interests, by the way, are what makes some democrats neoliberal—faux progressives who are socially liberal, out of convenience, but are heavily influenced by money. That money buys votes to benefit entities like Wall Street and the fossil fuel industry. Unfortunately, Hillary Clinton and many other democrats fall into this category, and legitimizes conservative accusations of corruption among the Democrats. So, independents who supported Bernie jumped ship.
To me, the feminist choice seemed clear, so I was shocked and disappointed to find out just how hypocritical some feminists became during the primary. Renowned feminists Gloria Steinem and Madeleine Albright were quick to bash Bernie and his young female supporters, blaming raging hormones and saying, “there’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help each other,” respectively. I heard, “I like Bernie’s policies, but I really want to see the first woman elected into office,” at least a dozen times.
As it turned out, unfortunately, the woman in the race was not the person best suited to represent the Democratic Party. Many liberals are blaming her loss on misogynists in general, but to say that is the only reason would be a lie. Her voting record, questionable progressivism, flip-flops, and campaign littered in controversies lost her the election in the end. She never gained the trust of some feminists for not being consistent, and we shouldn’t lend our trust to other neoliberals of any gender.
When will some self-proclaimed feminists realize that endorsing a woman, for the sake of being a woman, is anti-feminist? When will they realize that this feeds into the stigma that feminism is about man-bashing and female superiority?
As Democrats look toward 2018 and 2020 to regain control of Congress and the White House, feminists need to stand behind the best feminist in the race, and acknowledge some of those feminists might be men. Voters need to look at each candidate’s record of supporting progressive policies on education, income inequality, money in politics, and combating institutional racism. We need to embrace those topics as feminist issues, as they impact all women, in addition to supporting women-centric issues like reproductive healthcare. Not all feminists are women, and feminists don’t exist to only help women. With a consistent platform of embracing equality for all genders, the feminist movement will fuel itself.
Edited by Lydia McMullen-Laird