By Deb Conklin
The Presidential Primary race between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders is, allegedly, pitting women against women. While women Baby Boomers are, mostly, supporting Clinton, Millennial women are overwhelmingly supporting Sanders. And, according to the corporate media, the older generation finds this shocking. They make much of Madeline Albright’s statement “Hillary Clinton will always be there for you. And just remember, there’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help each other.” And the Web is full of articles on the conflict between generations.
- Why the female generational divide for Hillary Clinton?
- Hillary’s Woman Problem
- My Gen X Hillary problem: I know why we don’t “like” Clinton
Sadly, women are letting the media frame this alleged conflict. And so, yet again, women are being pitted against women to our detriment, and the patriarchy is entertained. There is a real issue being played out in this ‘conflict’, one that has eaten at the heart of the feminist movement in every generation, and it is this: Does being a feminist require one to support a woman over a man just because she is a woman?
When the question is posed that way, most of us see that the answer must be no. But patriarchy will do its best to keep us from posing the question that clearly. Instead, the question will be about a millennial generation that does not sufficiently value the importance of electing the first woman to the US presidency. Or (historically) it will be about women who do not vote for/hire/promote other women. And the classic challenge: women jurors still are harder on women defendants than men jurors.
Are there still gender biases at work in our culture? Absolutely. But if we are ever going to overcome the oppression of patriarchy, we women must reject the temptation to attack one another, and refuse to give the media ammunition to keep us divided. We have to rise above the media hype and insist TOGETHER that the gender of the candidate is not the sole criteria – or even the most important one. A vote for Sara Palin, just for one example, can never be considered a feminist action. The criteria must be, how does this candidate support or fail to support issues that matter in the real, lived lives of women?
What Millennials understand, and many Boomers seem to not understand is that the economy is, and always will be, a feminist issue. As long as we have wide disparities between rich and poor, women and children (along with people of color) will make up a disproportionate portion of the poor. The neo-liberal agenda successfully pursued by Bill Clinton has aggravated this disparity and has been devastating to women, children and families. And Hillary has done virtually nothing to distance herself from that agenda. This is unfortunate, because the Health Reform that Hillary Clinton worked and fought for during Bill Clinton’s first term was much better than the Affordable Care Act brought to us by Obama. Yet, she has distanced herself from that work.
If candidate Clinton wants the vote of feminists – of whatever generation – she needs to stop appealing to some misplaced notion of gender solidarity and speak out – clearly and unequivocally – on issues that truly matter to the status and equality of women. If she does that, she might become one of the greatest feminist activists in the 21st Century, as well as the first female president. If she does not, she will never be president.