By Emily Moran
Elm Staff Writer
Throughout her campaign, Hillary Clinton has tried (perhaps a bit too hard) to appeal to young voters, especially women. It seems that the more her campaign attempts to win young women’s votes, the more the target demographic tends to distance themselves from the presidential candidate. According to Politico, 82 percent of women under the age of 30 support Clinton’s rival for the presidency, Sen. Bernie Sanders. Due to Sanders’s rising poll numbers, and recent win in the New Hampshire primary, Clinton has resorted to attacking Sanders and his criticisms of her policy plans in order to gain votes.
Feminist icons, most notably Gloria Steinem and Madeline Albright, have voiced their support for Clinton. This has also backfired quite a bit as many found their comments toward women that don’t support Clinton to be incredibly insulting. For instance, Albright in an effort to persuade (or guilt) young women into voting for Clinton, solely based on her gender announced, “There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help each other!” Shortly before making this bold statement, Albright also said that young women simply don’t realize the struggle it took for a woman to even be considered as a presidential candidate, thus giving a reason to vote for Clinton. Gloria Steinem also made waves recently when she remarked to “Real Time” host Bill Maher that the main reason that young women were strongly supporting Sanders was because that was a good way to meet boys, which could not be further from the truth. Like Albright, Steinem also faced major backlash for this comment, and many young women were extremely offended by this uninformed accusation. I, and many women like me, believe that Steinem blatantly dismissed the strong, sound and informed reasons that young women support Sanders as either weak, frivolous, or simply nonexistent. It is especially interesting to me that Steinem, who is credited for helping to start the second-wave feminist movement in the 1960s, chose to insult young women in this manner. It seems to me that a feminist icon should be the last person to suggest that women would support a presidential candidate simply to meet or impress boys, but the fact that she has speaks volumes about not only herself, but the other (often older) feminists that support Clinton’s campaign.
Clinton’s type of feminism, as well as that of the notable women who support her, obviously fails to resonate with younger women. Clinton has been criticized heavily for being a “white feminist,” meaning that she has a tendency to only advocate feminism and woman’s rights without taking other factors into account, like race, disability, sexuality, or gender identity. Essentially, she’s an advocate for women’s rights when the women in questions resemble herself – white, middle to upper-class, able-bodied, straight, and cisgender women. Clinton has also proven to be notoriously inconsistent with her views regarding issues such as marriage equality. For instance, until as recently as 2007 Clinton has been shown voicing her support for traditional marriage, as opposed to marriage equality. On the other hand, Sanders has throughout his political career shown constant and unwavering support to people of color, LGBT+ people, disabled people, and women and the issues that would affect them. A huge reason why young feminists are rallying behind Sanders is because of his advocating for the rights of not just white women, but for women of color, people of color in general, and those in the LGBT+ community.
For Clinton’s supporters to dismiss the legitimate criticisms that young women have of the presidential candidate’s policy plans speaks volumes about how much these two generations differ. While older, second-wave feminists seem to be concerned solely with Clinton’s gender and seeing women representing the United States government, younger, third-wave feminists are taking a lot more into account than just gender when deciding on a candidate. While Clinton seems to rely solely on her gender as a selling point to potential voters, Sanders is actually speaking about the issues that affect young people as well as marginalized people in the United States. So there are obviously a lot more reasons for more young women gravitating towards Sanders than just to gain the approval of other guys.