“I’m not going to support Hillary just because she’s a woman,” young, intelligent women proudly declare on college campuses across the nation. They tout their Pro-Bernie placards, shirts and general merchandise as they declare that it is “sexist” to vote for Hillary for the sole reason that she is a woman. One must still wonder, “Are the reasons she is not supported by a grand majority of democrats rooted in misogyny?” While there have been severely gendered attacks on Hillary, misogyny simply cannot be to blame for Hillary’s unpopularity.
Hillary is an experienced, accomplished leader who has served as First Lady of the United States, Senator of New York and Secretary of State in her illustrious political career. She is no stranger to harsh criticism. As First Lady, her single- payer health care proposal drew vicious attacks from Republicans and the media. Scandal seems to have followed her ever since, from the Benghazi incident as Secretary of State to her email scandal.
It is true that the attacks on Hillary have definitely been steeped in sexism. Critics have called her cold, stiff and harsh, which are words frequently used against women in positions of power and authority to denote their “lack of traditional femininity.” Portraying them as emotionless and power hungry is a tool by the media commonly used to dehumanize ambitious women.
The media is also known to mock Hillary on her frequent use of pant suits, which suggests that there is a perception that her appearance should be more feminized, once again tying her down to her gender. Harper’s Bazaar compiled a gallery of 35 outfit suggestions for Hillary and titled it “Dressing Mrs. President.” The article pokes fun at her pantsuits, reading, “Clinton could stick to her beloved pantsuits, using them the way men rely on dark suits. How many does she have in her closet by now? Twenty? Fifty? Has she moved into the triple digits? Is there some senior adviser with a Singer stitching them up in a back room? After a while, we’ll get used to seeing her in three-button buttercup- yellow blazers or five-button periwinkle ones.”
Interestingly enough, Hillary Clinton tried to separate herself from her womanhood in her 2008 run. According to Newsweek, “Back then, advisers steered her away from playing up her gender. They crafted an image of “manly” strength.” However, Clinton is more outspoken about her gender in this current 2016 electoral race. She decisively mentions her gender as what makes her stand out among the other candidates (and previous presidents,) claiming, “I can’t think of anything more of an outsider than electing the first woman president,” and inferring that her presidency would be great for women as a whole, saying, during a Democratic debate, “Finally fathers will be able to say to their daughters, ‘You, too, can grow up to be president.’” Ironically, this has almost backfired, as pundits and voters alike are quick to dispel the notion of “voting for Hillary because she is a woman.” Even women themselves would rather she earn women’s votes through specific policies that would help all women, instead of just expecting their vote on the basis of womanhood.
In response to the perceived lack of support from young women for Hillary, Madeleine Albright, former US Secretary of State, and Gloria Steinem, famous women’s rights’ activist, had some choice words to say. Albright declared, “There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women,” in a New Hampshire rally for Clinton on Saturday. Gloria Steinem, in an interview with Bill Maher on Friday, spoke of young girls, “When you’re young, you’re thinking: ‘Where are the boys?’ The boys are with Bernie.” The implication that young women were misinformed about politics and were only motivated politically by “boys” definitely didn’t bode well with many young feminists. Such a suggestion was ironically sexist and very patronizing and certainly isn’t helping Hillary Clinton’s case for support from young women.
However, internalized misogyny cannot be assumed to be the cause of the lack of support for Hillary. There is a definite generational gap between Hillary Clinton’s and Bernie Sanders’ supporters: younger voters are much more taken by Bernie Sanders, while older voters tend to gravitate more towards Hillary Clinton. For one, Bernie Sanders’ promise of a “political revolution” excites and invigorates a young generation who are significantly more progressive than their parents. Hillary Clinton is a symbol of “mainstream politics,” an establishment candidate who’s been in the field for almost “too” long. The youth are aching for a change, something, or someone, fresh and new. Barack Obama was supposed to be that change, but his presidency delivered less than expected. Hillary Clinton’s campaign slogan of “getting things done” just doesn’t seem to resonate with them. They ideologically agree with Bernie’s idealism over Hillary’s pragmatism.
It’s almost dismissive to suggest that the biggest problem people can have with Hillary is that she is a woman. Some of the common criticisms of Hillary have nothing to do with her being a woman at all, but rather with her perceived warmongering, her dishonesty and the idea that she has too strong ties with Wall Street and big business. Democrats looking for economic equality would not findthatwithHillary,andwouldbemore disposed to follow Bernie. Furthermore, some would argue that Bernie has a better record on other issues, such as on racial and gender inequality. Bernie Sanders participated in the civil rights movement, in marches and sit-ins. He is also not as hawk-ish as Hillary Clinton, whose foreign policy has, in the past, hurt women in the Middle-East.
Hillary is unpopular because she simply cannot relate to many idealistic young people and her forced attempts to do so only worsen matters. Bernie, on the other hand, appears to just “get” the youth and is very sympathetic to the social issues that we care about, from the environment to student debt from college loans. There is a certain “genuineness” that people, young and old alike, really appreciate in Bernie.
Indeed, there is no denying that Hillary is an establishment candidate. She is from the “Clinton dynasty,” and she has a great deal of political experience, which could actually be her downfall. Although Bernie Sanders has been in the government for quite some time as well, he’s always been a “radical” socialist and is strongly against “the corporate machine” of Wall Street and Big Banks/ Business, which makes him markedly different from most other politicians in Washington.
With an electorate that is as frustrated with Washington as it is today, voters are seeking political change they’ve been promised since Obama’s election in 2008. The American people are undeniably tired of the status quo. Unfortunately for Hillary Clinton, she is just that.