Gloria Steinem’s Statements are a Perfect Example of “White Feminism” Surrounding Hillary Clinton

Featured image pulled from Gloria Steinem’s official website.

Women are more for [Clinton] than men are. Men tend to get more conservative because they gain power as they age, women get more radical because they lose power as they age.

They’re going to get more activist as they grow older. And when you’re younger, you think: ‘Where are the boys? The boys are with Bernie.’

Obviously, this quote has been rehashed over and over in the past few days, mostly pointing out how it’s sexist and extremely misogynistic to accuse younger women of voting based on attracting men. (Which, can we stop for a moment and consider how odd of a concept this is? They don’t know who you’re voting for. Nobody really does.)

Madeline Albright was even worse, being quoted as saying that there’s a “special place in hell for women who don’t help other women,” as if they should vote for Hillary Clinton just based on the fact that she identifies as a woman.

Supporters have gone back and forth on social media, with feminist groups responding that they’re #NotHereForBoys and Bernie Sanders posting pictures of the women leading his campaign.

But is Hillary Clinton a feminist that really cares about the issues of all women, or is she a “white feminist” – an adjective here that doesn’t refer to her race, but to the fact that her brand of feminism caters to the white, straight, Christian, able-bodied upper class? I would argue that she is, and it’s unfortunately not a difficult argument to make given the advent of social media and how her campaign has been using it.

In 2008, Hillary Clinton launched a smear campaign against then-senator Obama based on his race and religion, not realizing that the smear campaign would backfire back on them. It was a perfect example of a lack of self-awareness, in that the Clintons were guilty of the same sort of racist profiling that the Republicans were. You can make an argument that this itself is sufficient to brand her as a white feminist, but there’s more.

Up until 2008, she’s had a long history of being against gay marriage rights. The rights of LGBT people fall under intersectional feminism. Here’s a video of her in 2004, speaking on gay marriage rights, next to one of her ad campaigns released recently.

I mean, you can make a pretty fair argument that this is at the very least disingenuous, but this is a perfect example of how media is shaping the public discourse and making it easier to spot white feminists. I can find and pull up both of those videos easily and embed them, side by side, for examination.

Relevant to the featured image of Gloria Steinem and partially inspired by it, I decided to look up Hillary’s history on abortion as an experiment (as her opinion on abortion isn’t as in the public eye as many of her other talking points), and I found a reference dating back to before the 2008 election that documented her entire history of stated positions on abortion and examines them over time. Basically, she wants to make them “safe and rare,” which sounds good at first glance. The collection does pull up examples of white feminism, which includes the Cairo document that states that abortion shouldn’t be used for family planning. It also includes some of her language that arguably states that she doesn’t seem to want to normalize and stigmatize abortion, even though she wants it legal.

There’s also the Wikipedia page, which isn’t as an in-depth but covers all of her political positions. She supported an increase in the work requirement for welfare, which disproportionately affects the working poor and disabled people. She also believes that only AMAB (assigned male at birth) persons should be eligible for the draft, and that AFAB (assigned female at birth) persons shouldn’t have to register. This leaves transgender women vulnerable to forced enlistment and violence. She also disbelieves in the separation of faith and practice in regards to faith-based government programs, which leaves many people who are the targets of mainstream Christianity vulnerable.

But why is this important? Doesn’t this just amount to nit-picking?

White feminism is a huge threat to the mainstream movement of feminism as a whole, and white-washing a political movement to have it become more acceptable to the mainstream disenfranchises vulnerable groups. On a social media aspect, the fact that this issues can be documented and addressed (both by critics and by politicians) during campaign season is super important. Bernie Sanders has been doing much better than Hillary Clinton in regards to certain demographics and I believe this is a result of good social marketing.


2 thoughts on “Gloria Steinem’s Statements are a Perfect Example of “White Feminism” Surrounding Hillary Clinton

  1. Well, context matters. Steinem’s statement was spoken during an interview on Real Time with Bill Maher (hello…comedy show about news topics) during which he never stopped flirting with her. I saw the show live. Albright’s got no excuse except for being out of touch with the current state of women’s rights.

    Context also matters when you consider that Steinem is 81, and Albright, 78. They represent the 2nd wave of feminism, and a central goal of that movement in that era was to elect “a woman as President”. I first heard a version of the phrase Albright uttered over 40 years ago! In that time and place it had a very different resonance than now. Today, the statement is blatantly sexist, and it doesn’t play with young voters who already saw Sarah Palin run as a “token”, and now see Carly Fiorina, an opponent of women’s reproductive rights, campaigning.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Context definitely matters, along with perspective. I remember attending my first feminist conference, and feeling the disconnect – the strong, tangible disconnect – between the second and third wave feminists present.

      I feel as though the response around it is super important to consider even if the original statement was made in jest (although how much you can separate reality from comedy is arguable), especially since it’s affecting campaigning.

      Liked by 2 people

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