Why Young Feminists Are Shying Away From Hillary Clinton

Last Updated: January 28, 2016
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Hillary Clinton in Hampton, NH
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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.  

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  • Ladislav Din

    Interesting. The article claims that Hillary “maintains that women shouldn’t vote for her based solely on her gender identity” Really? She may that explicitly, but she makes constant references to her gender, breaking the glass ceiling, need for longer “breaks” during the debate, her “victim status” throughout her life because she is female.

    As the article emphasizes Hillary said in a Time interview: “People need to hold women’s policies up to light and determine what their answers to problems would be before deciding to support them.”

    Again, interesting. But Hillary’s policies and promises aren’t the issue, it’s whether she can be believed when she states them, trusted to implement them, and has the good judgment to refine and implement them well. Most Americans (59+ percent) just don’t believe Hillary is honest and trustworthy. She’s lost the benefit of the doubt. She can propose, promise and pander all she chooses. She’s not going to win over many thinking voters who have even and ounce of integrity, irrespective of age, gender, or politics.

    • Danika

      Great points! I do think that now that Clinton is sweating a little bit after recent poll numbers that she would absolutely love if she acquired women’s votes. I think she’s learning the hard way that young people, and especially young women who have feminist leanings are going to make her earn it, which is something she hasn’t yet done.

      • The real issue is not even her despite her mistake of trying to pander to bratty feminist millenials.Young feminists don’t have anything of real substance to Mae. Hilary “earn” their their trust for.

        There is no female oppression in the United States today. The battle has already been won time to move on and grow up.

  • Henry Winsworth

    I’m a feminist myself, and I would LOVE to have more women in positions of power. Not only is it fair, but women’s views and issues often take a backseat because of a deplorable lack of women in power.
    With that said, Hillary Clinton i ABSOLUTELY NOT the woman to have in power for women.
    why? because she doesn’t give ONE LICK about women’s issues! She says what they want to hear for her votes, then disagrees with expanding their medical care, disagrees with making education more accessible for them, disagrees with ensuring equal pay by law!

    How any feminist could look at her stances and think she was with them is beyond me.

    • What are “women’s issues” specifically?

    • Also, we don’t acutually need more women in positions of power. Whoever is interested in a particular field will enter. No one is stopping us from entering these types of fields. What specifically needs to be expanded on medical care for women? How is education not already accessible to women??

  • And those same feminist voters have been duped to think any politician can rescue them from their delusion.

    If you want a politician to cater to you with so called women’s problems in the United states, you have been brainwashed with feminist victimhood propaganda. There is no female oppression in the United States.

    Speaking as a millennial woman myself, millennial feminists are naive, gullible, infantile, self entitled, self centered, morally disturbing, and narcissitic.

    Hilary should have NEVER tried to pander to these bratty and narcissitic voters who believe they are the biggest victims on the planet through some victimhood contest and that the world revolves around ther delicate feelings.

    The battle for women has already been won in the U.S. Time to MOVE ON and GROW UP.