Hey, Gloria Steinem: My Ballot, My Choice

gloria steinem bernie sanders feminism
ICYMI, if you're voting for anyone but Hillary Clinton in this election, you are not a feminist. This, from two of the most iconic "feminists" in the country: Madeleine Albright, the first female US Secretary of State, and Gloria Steinem, aka Queen Feminist. Not only are you not a feminist, but if you support Bernie Sanders, you're brainless and boy crazy (so says Steinem) and you're going straight to hell (so says Albright). That's right. If you don't support the "right" presidential candidate, you're stupid, slutty, and sinister. Sounds an awful lot like something a man would say (circa 1920).


But it's 2016. And it was a man who reacted with surprise to such an idea. On Friday, Real Time host Bill Maher asked Gloria Steinem why Hillary Clinton isn't doing better with young women. (According to a USA Today/Rock the Vote poll, Democratic and independent millennial women prefer Bernie Sanders to Clinton in droves.) Steinem said:

Women are more for [Hillary Clinton] than men are ... First of all, women get more radical as we get older, because we experience ... Not to over-generalize, but ... Men tend to get more conservative because they gain power as they age, women get more radical because they lose power as they age. And when you're young, you're thinking, where are the boys? The boys are with Bernie ... 

Maher, who's not known for his track record on women's issues, joked:

Now if I said that -- 'Yeah, they're for Bernie 'cause that's where the boys are' -- you'd swat me.

The Internet came out swinging. The response to Steinem's demeaning "where the boys are" comment was fast and furious and, to the relief of some, she posted this apology to her Facebook page: 


In a case of talk-show Interruptus, I misspoke on the Bill Maher show recently, and apologize for what's been...

Posted by Gloria Steinem on Sunday, 7 February 2016


For many, though, her apology was more PR spin "sorry not sorry" than sincere regret. Indeed, even after her apology, the New York Times aligned her with Madeleine Albright -- Gloria Steinem and Madeleine Albright Scold Young Women Backing Bernie Sanders -- who made this statement at a rally for Hillary Clinton in New Hampshire:

We can tell our story of how we climbed the ladder, and a lot of you younger women think it’s done. It’s not done. And you have to help. Hillary Clinton will always be there for you. And just remember, there’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help each other!

There's a special place in hell for women who don't help each other.


The use of the word "scold" in the New York Times headline should not go unnoticed. It rings of paternalism -- and it's fitting (and sadly ironic). Steinem's and Albright's comments were not only moralistic, sanctimonious, and patronizing (Good girls vote for Hillary! Sluts vote for Bernie!), they're a tad mean girl, too.

Telling a woman what to think and shaming her for her beliefs is inherently anti-feminist. The point is not that we all agree, but that we respect each other as being intelligent enough to make decisions for ourselves. This can be the decision to have an abortion -- or not. The decision to be a stay-at-home mom -- or not. The decision to change your last name if you marry -- or not. Feminism is about choice. It's about putting power into the hands of individual women so that they can make choices as they see fit. Women fought long and hard for the right to vote. They didn't fight for the right to be told who to vote for. 

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If the only way we can hang with the feminist squad is by voting for a woman, then shouldn't that be true, regardless of the female candidate and the seat up for grabs? If Carly Fiorina were the only woman in the presidential race, would we all be anti-feminist if we didn't hop on her campaign bus? Hillary Clinton supporters would say no, of course not. Carly Fiorina is anti-choice, in favor of the Keystone Pipeline, against paid maternity leave. How could we possibly vote for her?

Exactly. What a candidate stands for is far more important than whether he or she wears a jockstrap or a bra (or not, entirely up to her). Just as there are clear differences on the issues between Carly Fiorna and Hillary Clinton, there are clear differences on the issues between Clinton and Bernie Sanders. Every woman should be able to vote based on the issues that are important to her -- without fear of being sent to a special place in hell. As Susan Sarandon so aptly put it, "I don't vote with my vagina." 

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The idea that it's anti-feminist to vote for a male candidate when there's a female candidate on the ballot is absurd. As is the notion that you need two X chromosomes to be a feminist. Gloria Steinem used to know that. In 1996, NOW and Steinem endorsed Bernie Sanders for state representative of Vermont over a female opponent. At the event, a former state senator told the audience that "a feminist is a person who challenges the power structure of our country" and "Bernie Sanders is that kind of feminist." When Steinem spoke, she said, "I'm only here today to make Bernie Sanders an honorary woman."

Even sadder than the ugly ALL CAPS rift that's being created between Sanders and Clinton supporters, is this new battle being waged among feminists. And the lines are being drawn between young and old: Albright is 78, Steinem, 81, and the women they are chastising are between 18 and 34. That's disheartening too. We should be mentoring not mothering. When President Barack Obama spoke to African leaders on the importance of educating the girls in their countries, he said, "The single best indicator of whether a nation will succeed is how it treats its women." I'd go one step further and say, the single best indicator of whether a nation will succeed is how its women treat each other.

Whether you're "with her" or you're feelin' the Bern (I'll see you in hell), the choice is yours -- and yours alone -- to make.


Image via Brock Miller/Splash News/Corbis

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