All posts edited by Madeline Ricchiuto.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Madeleine Albright, Gloria Steinem, and The Problem with White Feminism

Photograph: Agrees Latif/Reuters
It shouldn't depress me as much as it does, but I'm somehow always more disappointed when people who share my name do stupid things. Madeleine Albright and Gloria Steinem stepped up this week to talk about feminism and how it relates to Democratic hopeful Hillary Clinton. Which is something that needs to be said, for all that Senator Bernie Sanders the sort of guy who practices what he preaches, he also has the benefit of being able to do so. Because he is a
white man, he has privileges others don't.

Where Senator Sanders and Republican hopeful Donald Trump can yell when they become passionate about a topic, Senator Clinton can't. She took a few moments longer than her male colleagues to get back on stage after a break during a debate, with a comment about the line for the women's bathroom, and was seen by some as "disgusting" for daring to remind the world that women pee too.

Senator Sanders even came out and criticized his own supporters for their comments about Clinton: "anyone who is supporting me who does the sexist things - we don't want them." Essentially saying that no one, not even Senator Bernie Sanders, wants the BernieBros.

That said, you can respect what Senator Clinton is trying to do, you can respect how much harder it is for her and fellow candidate Carly Fiorina than their male competitors, and still disagree with their politics.

However, that seems to have escaped Former Secretary of State Albright when she appeared on stage supporting Senator Clinton and went on to say that "there's a special place in hell for women who don't help each other." Albright's said this before, but the connotation this time is that no woman should vote for a candidate who isn't a woman. As if the fact that both Clinton and Fiorina are women surmounts any other obstacles one could have in voting for either candidate: Clinton's emails, Fiorina saying that Roe v Wade ought to be overturned, Benghazi, Fiorina's track record as CEO of HP, Clinton's voting record, Fiorina's tendency to ambush children for an anti-abortion rally.

The list of objections you could have to either of these candidates is seemingly endless. And none of those objections should be ignored simply because both Fiorina and Clinton are women.

On a similar note of "White Feminist Icons Being Terrible This Week" Gloria Steinem's "Where are the boys? The boys are with Bernie" comment has earned her quite a bit of ire from young women who happen to support Senator Sanders over Senator Clinton in the Democratic race. Steinem did take to Facebook to issue an apology, but it has the same tone we've come to expect from these apologies. Its a classic "sorry not sorry" about how we should be proud of young women for being politically active and celebrate that, but not at all contradicting her implication that young women only think of how to gain favor with men. Which, for a feminist icon, is a pretty damning sentence. How much more sexist could you get than saying that young women will do whatever the boys want?

All this does is further highlight the gap between White Feminists and the rest of the world. Because Feminism is not about voting for women just because they are women. Nor is it telling young women what they should do with their votes, or even, with themselves as a whole. For Madeleine Albright and Gloria Steinem to treat young women with this kind of condescension, well, its patronizing. It also hints at what lies at the heart of White Feminism - racist, classist, homophobic, transphobic selfishness.

For White Feminists, women get more radical as they get older and get pushed out of power, women should band together under the common cause of being women - bar all else. Its the sort of feminism that gives us a Suffragette movie without any mention or sighting of suffragettes who don't fit the straight, white, always-fashionable mold. Its the sort of feminism that can stand on a stage and support a woman who helped found the Prison Pipeline in 1994*, who takes money from Wall Street backers but refuses to explain why they want to hear from her, who uses her personal email to correspond as Secretary of State, who was against gay marriage until 2013.

We women do not exist in a vacuum, many women are not white, are not straight, are not rich, and can see Hillary Clinton only as a supporter of a system that would seek to suppress them.

That does not invalidate them from being feminists. It only prevents them from joining that exclusive club, White Feminism.

And who really needs that? No one. No one needs the feminism preached at us by Gloria Steinem, by Madeleine Albright, by Hillary "I'm not Establishment because I'm a Woman" Clinton.

We do need a woman President, but we need one we can be proud of. And for me, that woman is not Hillary Clinton. If she is for you, go right ahead and vote my friend, just don't condemn me for not following.

* President Bill Clinton's 1994 Crime Bill disproportionately incarcerated people of color, and since Senator Clinton is basing much of her experience on her husband's presidency, she must also take accountability for the mistakes made under his administration.