With just weeks remaining until the first-in-the-nation caucus, Quinnipiac University polls released last week indicate that Sanders has more support than Clinton for the first time in Iowa, with 49 percent support compared to Clinton’s 44. Still, however, Clinton strongly appeals to female voters, with a sixteen point lead over Sanders.
Women have been waiting a long time to see a woman in the white house, a reality Clinton is fully embracing during her race, as she’s made gender issues central parts of her campaign. At her kickoff rally in June, Clinton quipped, “Well, I may not be the youngest candidate in this race, but I will be the youngest woman president in the history of the United States.”
Though the former first lady managed to lock down a majority of female voters in Iowa, her stance with women as a whole seems to be unclear. While are thrilled at the possibility of Clinton taking over the White House, a strong vocal minority isn’t concerned so much with making history as they are with choosing candidates who align with their values. Surprisingly, young feminists are putting identity politics aside, instead opting to support Bernie Sanders.
Feminist voters have been put in a unique and uncomfortable position. Symbolically, seeing a female commander in chief is an exciting concept, but as many have noted, Clinton might not be the right woman for the job.
Despite co-opting feminism, perhaps most notably in an interview with Lena Dunham, Clinton’s vision of the feminist movement is hardly revolutionary. Fourth wave feminist voters seem unimpressed by Clinton’s definition of a feminist as “someone who believes in equal rights,” deeming it a shallow representation of their revolutionary movement. Sanders, who has been a long time advocate for the rights of women and minorities, both in the U.S. and abroad, appeals to their core beliefs, valuing the importance of intersectionality and identity politics.
In an interview with The Washington Post, Kelli Boyle, a feminist supporting Sanders’ campaign, referenced Clinton’s questionable campaign donors JPMorgan Chase and Goldman Sachs, stating,
“How can you label yourself a representative of change if you’re funded by exactly what is holding our country back? How can you claim to be a massive advocate for the middle class when your campaign is entirely funded by corporate America and the wealthiest of the wealthy?” later adding, “I was trying to stay on Hillary’s side, but the more I watched and the more I read, I started thinking ‘Oh crap. [Sanders is] awesome.”
In a similar vein, Sylva Stoel, an 18 year old student who runs the twitter account @QueenFeminist, believes that Sanders’ economic vision aligns more closely with her own ideals, stating,
“I used to think I should stand with hillary, it was tough to give that up…[Sanders is] a socialist, and I think capitalism is a driving force behind all kinds of oppression, including sexism.”
For these young women, it’s hard to articulate what qualifies Clinton as a passable candidate beyond her identity as a woman.
For others, abandoning Clinton is met with feelings of guilt. As Elizabeth Fiske, a sophomore at the University of New Hampshire, tells NPR,
“Right now I am torn between Bernie and Hillary. I think he has a lot of good ideas, but at the same time I feel kind of guilty for not supporting Hillary because she is a woman…but at the same time, I feel like it shouldn’t matter and I should support the politics and not the gender or the identity.”
Others outliers have taken this sentiment a step further, arguing that women should support not only Clinton, but Carly Fiorina as well. Lara Brown, who served in the U.S. Department of Education under President Bill Clinton and now serves as the director of the Political Management Program at George Washington University, argues that a showdown between two women would upend stereotypes, breaking through the political glass ceiling more easily than if just Clinton were to make it to the ballot come November.
But Clinton herself maintains that women shouldn’t vote for her based solely on her gender identity. in an interview with Time, Clinton mused, “People need to hold women’s policies up to light and determine what their answers to problems would be before deciding to support them.”
For some women voting in the 2016 election, Clinton’s sentiment means putting policy before chromosomes, choosing the candidate who best exemplifies their core values, even if it comes at the expense of making history.