Femme Fataling the Vote

AMY MROTEK | OPINION COLUMNIST

I don’t have particular sympathies for self-righteous groupthink, for collectivism whose currency is pretension and artificial indignation cashed in for a cause. It’s a fancy-schmancy way of stating I don’t like when people run away with their victimhood. Yes, there are injustices in the world. There are loopholes for some acting as sinkholes for others, double standards and identity barriers and all sorts of glass ceilings sneering from the sky. You’re hopelessly naïve–or purposefully ignorant–if you think everyone gets an equal shot to be put in the game, coach.

It’s also why the current political rigmarole seen in this year’s presidential campaign has been a farce unlike any before. And the comments made on Feb. 6 by feminist activist Gloria Steinem and Madeleine Albright, the first female secretary of state in U.S. history, telling young women it is their “duty” to vote for Hilary Clinton and that female voters are only interested in Senator Bernie Sanders because “the boys are with Bernie” are about as politically infuriating as it gets.

Why would they make such statements? In an attempt at female solidarity, at encouraging women to support one another, to lift each other up rather than be their own biggest foes, the two made remarks that fell into the anti-intellectual camp of an us-against-them narrative. If you’re female, you must vote for Hilary, not any of these rotten men folk. It’s as simple as that.

The problem is it’s not. It never, ever should be.

These women are iconic figures whose voices lend a feminist punch to academic and social spheres worldwide. Yet when those feminist voices make comments undermining their own equality clause, something has gone terribly awry.

This isn’t to say relatability never factors into elections. People often vote with their guts and support figureheads they identify with and believe are looking out for things that specifically and personally touch them. The Sanders fandom’s has such enthusiasm you’d think he was part demigod, a socialist superman with enough millennials drooling at his heels to form an ocean (a clean, one, too, with none of that off-shore drilling and plenty of icebergs for polar bears). His platform resonates with a generation uniquely uncertain about its economic and environmental future.

Likewise, the Clinton demographic favors an established liberal agenda, a Goldielocks-type alternative to Sander’s revolution, toeing a more digestible party palette. It appeals to those forty-and-above who may scoff at single-payer systems and too-progressive ideologies that could further divide an already seismically gridlocked Congress.

Such is the framework in the Democratic dugout, two players coming up to bat with radically different swings. Yet what makes Steinem’s and Albright’s comments so sticky are their intellectual implications: The issues don’t matter, the stances don’t matter, the candidates track records, backgrounds and financiers don’t matter. All that matters is if they’re swinging around a sausage or carrying a bun.

Please, please, please, good women of the voting world, think deeply if this is the flavor of feminism you want on people’s tongues. If equality has confused itself with belittling the brainpower of XX chromosomes everywhere into subservience to the sex and social consciousness means following genetic lines.

Women should empower one another and be active at every level of electoral processes. Women should not be doing these things only to wear badges of self-righteous assurance or to point fingers of shame at those deemed traitors. And we certainly should not be so quick to toss aside Steinem and Albright’s words as careless or even misconstrued by the media machine.

Words have muscle. Muscles work best when they have been properly cared for, no matter if they’re male or female.

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