After reading the latest in a series of condescending editorials by women accusing others of their gender of betrayal or ignorance because we aren't all supporting Hillary Clinton, I finally feel like I have to speak out.
I have held my peace out of respect for feminists, especially older feminists, to whom Clinton represents not just a female candidacy, but the triumph of women over the many hurdles and obstacles they've overcome throughout years of discrimination and frustration in a male-dominated world. I don't share the disappointment they feel, but I understand it. And so I've been respectful and said nothing.
But as the newest of these articles trickles out and encourages a certain segment of women to disregard and disdain party unity in the name of feminism--well, I have to say something now. The bitter pill these women are trying to peddle as feminism is not the feminism that I was taught by my mother and the wonderful women-and men--in my life. It is not positive. It is a negative force that needs to be addressed and challenged.
I said nothing when Madeleine Albright made the comment, "I also think it is important for women to help one another. I have a saying: There is a special place in hell for women who don't." I understand that she is a much older woman, with a very different experience of life as a woman, and what it means to be marginalized because of your sex. As a younger woman, I was furious that a woman would suggest, even indirectly, that because I was not voting for Hillary there was a special place in hell for me--but I held my tongue anyway.
Then Gloria Steinhem wrote her editorial piece for the New York Times, and said:
What worries me is that some women, perhaps especially younger ones, hope to deny or escape the sexual caste system; thus Iowa women over 50 and 60, who disproportionately supported Senator Clinton, proved once again that women are the one group that grows more radical with age.
And still I didn't speak up. I felt sorry for Steinhem, that she couldn't or wouldn't see the progress that women have made, and wouldn't be able to understand that younger women no longer blame a "sexual caste system" or let such an idea hold them back from achieving whatever they want to. I even felt sorry for her though she stuck up for Bill Clinton at a time when I, as a feminist, was furious at him and at his wife for staying by his side.
Plenty of others have spoken out in favor of Barack Obama and/or for party unity, and the putting aside of the divisive coalitions that we Dems so often "cling" to, including one of my heroines, Kate Michelman, former president of NARAL. Michelman spoke for me, and for many women like me, when she said:
During these past many years, we have lost the sense of what we could do together, who we could be, what was possible.
And Barack Obama is the one changing that.
With him, greatness is again within reach.
Ellen Malcolm certainly angered me greatly when she said, "for the younger women who still believe women can do anything, Hillary is a champion," implying that younger women like me, voting for Obama, must have lost faith in themselves and in feminism. You know what, Ellen? I do believe women can do anything. And that's why I haven't needed to put my faith in a woman candidate--because I have faith in women everywhere, and myself, to hold our own.
But this latest article? Yet another one that seems to insinuate that if you like Barack Obama, you hate women. Oh,and by the way, yet another article making reference to the Hillary Nutcracker Doll and the "bros vs. hos" t-shirts. Never mind that these were concocted YEARS ago by Republicans, not by Obama supporters.
That garbage seemed recycle from another editorial from just a few days ago by Marie Cocco, that complained about the same thing.
Then the author quotes this person:
Paula Horwitz, 84, of Pittsburgh, said some younger women "just don't understand. They'll elect a man, and the men will keep on telling the women what to do."
And finally--the last straw for me--this one:
To feminist writer Linda Hirshman, Clinton's likely defeat signals a harsh reality that future female candidates will need to consider.
"It shows how fragile the loyalty and commitment of women to a female candidate is. That's a pretty scary thing," says Hirshman. "She can count on the female electorate to divide badly and not be reliable."
And now I'm pissed. Incredibly pissed. And I'm speaking out.
Guess what, angry Hillary supporters? I'm a woman, and I support Barack Obama. And not because I hate Hillary, or hate women, or hate myself, or am too young to understand the legacy of feminism and women in this country.
I have been a feminist ALL OF MY LIFE. When I was just a tiny kid, my favorite story was the one from the Free to Be You and Me record with Marlo Thomas--remember that, anyone?--the one about Atalanta, the beautiful princess who refused to marry a prince because she was smarter and faster than any of them. I taught my little sister about feminism and self-respect, telling her stories about Elizabeth Cady Stanton before she was old enough to read. I proudly called myself a feminist when Time declared that feminism was dead. In high school I demanded that my history teacher include a chapter about the early suffragists in our American history course. I admired my mother and my grandmother, who went to college and had careers, and I vowed to do them one better by going to graduate school. I quit jobs where I felt I was treated in a sexist manner, and finally got one where a big part of what I do is helping to make working women's lives better. I married a man who is my equal in every way, and who by the way does the dishes, cleans the house, and shops for groceries with me. I have been blessed in my luck and my upbringing, but I have also fought hard for what I have and my belief that women can do anything a man can do helped me through everything I have and have been in life.
And guess what? From the first moment he announced his candidacy, I have supported Barack Obama for President.
No, I don't think I'm a traitor. I don't think I've betrayed my sex. I'm not ignorant of history, or the struggles women have had to go through in this country to achieve what they've achieved. And you know what? I believe that women in this country struggled and fought for my right to vote so that I COULD VOTE FOR WHOMEVER I CHOOSE. For the best candidate. For the person that would be best for women, best for men, and best for the country that I love and that has given me every opportunity in the world.
And that candidate, for me, is Barack Obama.
See, I don't believe that feminism is about being better than men. I don't believe it's about exclusivity, or about helping only women to advance. I believe that feminism is about making sure that women have the same opportunities and doors open to them that men do. And I believe that Hillary has had, as the wife of a former president and an Ivy League grad, more doors open to her than most women OR men in this country ever will.
So please--quit trying to tell me that sexism is the reason that Hillary's campaign has derailed. Or that the many women supporting Obama hate other women, or don't understand feminism, or just don't care about helping other women. Don't tell me that Hillary's failure will be the failure of all women. Don't tell me there's a special place in hell for me because I've exercised the right to vote that women fought for, in order to vote for who I choose. Because if that right to vote only exists to make me forever beholden to the person who possesses the same reproductive organs that I do--then what is the point of that vote in the first place? What was the point of all that fighting, all that suffering, all that women went through for equality in the first place?
If I voted for Hillary--even though I believe that Barack Obama is the better candidate, the candidate who shares my values, the candidate that can produce real change in this country, and the candidate that can beat John McCain in the fall and help downticket Dems nationwide--if I voted for Hillary anyway, because she is a women and so am I--well, then, I would be betraying feminism.
And that is something I will never, never do.
UPDATE: Wow, thank you!!!! I was so mad I just kind of dashed this off to relieve my feelings--and came back and saw it was on the Rec list-my first time, too!! Thanks so much for all the positive comments--I'm glad to know that I'm not alone in feeling disappointed in the negative effect these recent editorials have had on the good name of feminism.
Since I'm updating, I also just want to add a comment that my husband just made: some Hillary supporters/columnists seem to forget that not all feminists are female--and that narrowing the definition to women simply limits the scope of the debate and downplays the role that men have played in furthering equality of the sexes, too.
UPDATE 3: Holy crap! I just got back a bit ago and I can't believe how many comments are on here--thank you all so much for the feedback, and I wish I could respond to all. I do want to clarify an issue. Quite a few of the dissenting comments seemed to misunderstand my target, and I apologize here if I wasn't clear. I never meant to imply that all, or even many, Hillary supporters felt this way. I deeply respect Hillary's supporters, and I sympathize with them and the disappointment they must feel now. The target of my wrath was the Hillary-supporting folks, like Gloria Steinem and Erica Jong, who've said condescending things about young women and have implied that by not supporting Hillary, we're betraying our gender and the cause of feminism. I never meant to imply that all Hillary supporters felt this way. Sorry if it came off that way...it was a little rushed and impassioned.