Over the preceding months, many Hillary Clinton supporters, and the Secretary’s far reaching political machine, have attempted to frame her as the only Presidential candidate who’s truly concerned with women and LGBT issues. According to this narrative, her main rival for the Democrat nomination, Bernie Sanders, is just an antiquated, one issue candidate who doesn’t represent the ‘broad coalition’ Hillary does…
Well, folks that have closely followed the career of Sanders, and the social democratic ideals he represent, understand that this narrative couldn’t be farther from the truth. Not only has Sanders fought for substantive change, in terms of empowering women and LBGT people, only his campaign represents a real challenge to the unjust and unequal status quo. After all, when you’re tied to corporate interests that punt socioeconomic rights around the globe on a daily basis, are you really all that progressive? Has Donald Trump been known to rant?
Well, recently Verso published False Choices: The Faux Feminism of Hillary Rodham Clinton, which features essays from prominent feminist writers, who have taken issue with the notion Clinton is a “feminist icon.” The good folks at Alternet recently published an excerpt from the book, which in this case, was authored by Liza Featherstone. Here is some of what the accomplished journalist had to say about Clinton, and Sanders:
Senator Bernie Sanders, the only American politician of national stature who calls himself a socialist, is at the time of this writing still running a visible and popular primary challenge to Clinton. He is better than Clinton not only on economic issues, but also on reproductive choice and gay rights. Yet our liberal chattering classes frame the choice between Sanders and Clinton as a choice between democratic socialism and feminism—and the two are assumed to be incompatible. At a feminist bookstore event in late October 2015, Gloria Steinem repeated her enthusiasm for Clinton and noted pityingly that Sanders was an “old-fashioned socialist.” She liked him for it but added, “He’s not my candidate.” Salon’s Amanda Marcotte did her best to portray Bernie Sanders as the favored candidate of creepy misogynists on Reddit, and dubbed his supporters a “he-man woman haters club,” ignoring the thousands of women showing up at his events around the country and the 44 percent of female New Hampshire Democratic primary voters who intended to vote for him, according to a December 2015 poll (just one percentage point behind his far more famous rival).
We thus see in Clinton’s campaign a new, troubling era in which feminism, now a proper media subject, is used rhetorically as a cudgel against any sort of left politics which might actually help the vast majority of women. We saw this recently in the UK as well, with the liberal campaign against democratic socialist Jeremy Corbyn in 2015 denouncing him for being little more than an old white man, even though his female challengers were politically far to his right.
Why should socialism and feminism be incompatible? This persistent framing shows how horribly both feminism and the left have failed to make the case that for the vast majority of the world’s women, liberation requires socialism, or something much like it.
Not all the contributors to this book support Bernie Sanders in his campaign, and almost surely, each of them would find fault with him, especially on foreign policy. But there is no doubt that most women have more to gain even from Sanders’s watered-down social democracy than from the ruthless neoliberalism that Clinton represents. As they compose the majority of college students, women stand to gain immeasurably from making college tuition debt-free, as Sanders advocates, far more than from the tepid tinkering on the issue in Clinton’s platform. Sanders’s attention to living wages and the creation of decently paying jobs and single payer health care, as well as his focus on economic inequality, has the potential to speak to almost everyone, but women especially, since women make up the majority of low-wage workers and head the majority of households below the poverty line. Gender and economic justice are deeply intertwined, and it is embarrassing how easily Americans get distracted from this fact. Sanders’ platform also has plenty to say on gendered matters like abortion rights and equal pay—he even mentions the storied Equal rights Amendment, subject of a decades-long feminist battle for ratification.
Yes indeedy, and here’s hoping more Hillary boosters, particularly those in California, will see the light before that state’s primary goes down.