By Alyssa Sanford
This past week, Gloria Steinem — the celebrated women’s rights activist and journalist — visited the College to deliver a lecture. I can’t decide if this was poor or impeccable timing, given how often Steinem has been making headlines lately.
We all know the controversy by now: In early February, former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and Steinem spoke at a rally for Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton ahead of the New Hampshire primary. The duo essentially said that any young woman who is supporting Sen. Bernie Sanders instead of Clinton is not a true feminist. This, coming from two well-regarded feminists in our nation’s recent history, is dangerous.
“There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help each other!” Albright reportedly said, according to the New York Times.
In an interview with Bill Maher, Steinem suggested that young women are voting for Sanders because they’re hoping to attract male attention: “When you’re young, you’re thinking: ‘Where are the boys? The boys are with Bernie,’” she said, according to the same New York Times article.
Steinem has since apologized for these controversial remarks, but women are still objecting to Steinem. The backlash has gotten to the point that the clothing company Lands’ End had to pull a featured interview with Steinem from their upcoming spring catalog.
I respect Steinem and all that she’s done to advance women’s rights since the 1960s. As a feminist, I certainly can’t begrudge her the right to speak out in favor of women supporting other women in politics. I believe it’s time to put a woman in the White House, too.
But I object to being told that it’s my duty as a young woman and a feminist to vote for a woman, just because it’s politically expedient.
At that rally in New Hampshire a few weeks ago, Steinem, Albright and Clinton advocated for an outdated brand of feminism. They asked women to rally behind a female politician for the sake of female empowerment.
To me, that’s not feminism. That’s tokenism.
I’m still undecided about who I’m going to vote for in November, but I know that whoever I do choose to support, it will be the candidate who is most qualified to be president. It won’t be because he or she represents an underrepresented class of people.
I resent the implication that all young feminists are obliged to vote for Clinton because she’s a woman. Personally, I feel that feminism is about giving women the freedom to make choices without having to explain themselves. If young female voters want to support Sanders or Rubio or a third-party candidate, it’s ultimately their decision. If they rally behind Clinton because they believe she is the best candidate, that’s perfectly acceptable, too.
I won’t be guilted into voting one way or another. Even though they’re from a bygone era of feminism, I think Steinem’s words are pertinent here: “A feminist is anyone who recognizes the equality and full humanity of women and men.”