Telling women to vote for other women, just because they are women, is patronising in the extreme.
How we choose to engage with politics, and who we choose to vote for is about so much more than just gender.
It’s about policy and politics and passion, and trying to decide who is the best advocate for women’s rights.
Sometimes, that person is a woman, and sometimes they are not.
There are plenty of women in politics who I don’t agree with. Who support ideas and policies that I would never support, who put forward positions that I believe harm women more than they help them.
A vote for those women is not a vote I would ever cast.
So I was pretty frustrated when I saw that Madeleine Albright had used her own old line, “There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help each other,” stumping for Hillary Clinton in New Hampshire on the weekend.
Not because I don’t support Clinton’s bid for the presidency, but because voting for a woman is not the only way that women can support each other.
Albright was talking about young women, who the polling says are breaking for Bernie Sanders in the Democratic primaries.
She thinks they don’t realise how revolutionary a female President of the United States would be.
“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,” she said.
I am not convinced that Albright’s argument was simply “young women should vote for Hillary because vagina”. I think it was more nuanced than that. I think she was saying “this fight has been going on for a really long time, and Hillary Clinton is in it, she’s always been in it, and she will always be in it”.
Clinton is a woman who supports other women. Who fights for abortion access and equal rights and fair pay.
She is a longstanding advocate for women, and she has the support in this election of Planned Parenthood and NARAL Pro-Choice (a pro-choice advocacy group).
In their statement announcing they were endorsing Clinton, NARAL said:
“Decisions made in the next several years will determine how women and families fare in the United States for decades to come.
“We need not just a worthy ally, but a champion with a demonstrated record of fighting for reproductive freedom and economic justice.
“Hillary Clinton is that champion. She has spent her entire life leading on equal opportunity for women and families—as a private citizen, First Lady, United States Senator, and Secretary of State.”
Gloria Steinem too has attracted quite a bit of criticism for a recent comment that young women were supporting Sanders because that’s what “the boys” are doing.
She has since backtracked, writing in a Facebook post that she apologised “for what’s been misinterpreted as implying young women aren’t serious in their politics”.
“Young women are active, mad as hell about what’s happening to them, graduating in debt, but averaging a million dollars less over their lifetimes to pay it back. Whether they gravitate to Bernie or Hillary, young women are activist and feminist in greater numbers than ever before,” she wrote.
Steinem is right. Young women are activist, feminist and engaged. And they are not homogenous.
Lots of you have asked for more details on my trip with the @hillaryclinton campaign and my reasons for supporting her in the primary. I hope that my blog post on HRC’s feed provides both, and it will be the link in my bio til the primaries: https://www.hillaryclinton.com/feed/road-hillary-travelogue/
They are smart enough to know that picking a candidate for high office is about so much more than just gender.
And that’s why they don’t all support Clinton.
They’ve made a choice that reflects their values, they’ve picked the candidate they believe best represents them.
I am not going to tell any woman how she should be voting based on the gender of candidates.
A feminist female president of the United States? Amazing. I would like to see that, and I would like to see that soon. But you’ll not find me arguing that any woman would be better than any man. And I’m not going to buy into discussions that end up pitting women against each other in an attempt at feminist-cred-one-upmanship.
Let women decide for themselves who to vote for, and trust that they are smart enough to make a decision that reflects their values and beliefs.
Because anything else is selling women (and Hillary Clinton) short.