Women do not owe Clinton their loyalty

We shouldn’t expect women to vote for a certain candidate on account of their gender alone.

Alia Jeraj

I am known in my family for being fairly outspoken about my opinions, especially those regarding gender inequalities. Over the past year, I’ve gotten quite a few calls from my relatives excitedly asking, “Are you supporting Hillary?”
 
 
My answer tends to leave them disappointed.
 
 
I’m honestly not yet sure who will get my vote for the presidency this year. It could be Sen. Bernie Sanders, Dr. Jill Stein of the Green Party or former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. However, I find it frustrating that so many people assume that I will support any particular female candidate simply because she, too, identifies as a woman. 
 
 
I felt even more frustrated when two of my feminist icons made similar claims on my loyalty as a voter. Shortly before Clinton lost the New Hampshire primary to Sanders, who captured the vast majority of votes from women aged 18 to 29, Madeline Albright — our very first female Secretary of State — boldly repeated her famous phrase, “There is a special place in hell for women who don’t help each other.”
 
 
This remark came on the tails of an even more obnoxious statement from feminist activist Gloria Steinem. During a talk show interview with comedian Bill Maher, Steinem said, “[Young women] are going to get more activist as they get older,” implying a vote for Sanders is not an activist choice. She continued, “And when you’re young, you’re thinking, ‘Where are the boys?’ The boys are with Bernie.”
 
 
Upon receiving enormous backlash from the public, Steinem posted on Facebook, “I misspoke … and apologize for what’s been misinterpreted as implying young women aren’t serious in their politics.”
 
 
I find it deeply upsetting that neither of these women, for both of whom I developed a deep respect during my studies of feminist theories, understand the reasons why younger, progressive and activist women might choose Sanders as their candidate — his stances on college debt or health care, for example, make him appealing. 
 
 
I’m convinced that neither Steinem nor Albright bases her politics on gender identities alone. Both have criticized other women presidential candidates, from Gov. Sarah Palin to Carly Fiorina. 
 
 
In fact, Albright took offense when Palin used her “special place in hell” phrase, saying, “Though I am flattered that Gov. Palin has chosen to cite me as a source of wisdom, what I said had nothing to do with politics.” Perhaps Steinem would call this change a marker of Albright’s radicalization with age. 
 
 
Steinem, for her part, has made no condescending remarks about women who supported Donald Trump over Fiorina, and my family never dared to suggest I might support either Fiorina or Palin. 
 
 
Steinem, Albright and my family alike have shown they can distinguish between the policies which support and empower women and the candidates who do the same. It’s time for them to extend these insights to Democratic candidates and to stop expecting progressive women to vote for Clinton simply because of her gender identity. 
 
 
Alia Jeraj welcomes comments at [email protected].