Feminism is not about Hillary Clinton
However much we may be at loggerheads right now, surely Democrats can agree on this much: Hillary Clinton was trounced on Tuesday. Indeed, she was so thoroughly trounced that she tweeted her concession at 8:05 pm — all of which frankly suggests that as ugly as the politics have been thus far, they're going to get a lot uglier from here on out.
Which in turn suggests that I'll probably be called a bad feminist again for failing to sign my first-born over to the Clinton campaign.
To be clear: I'm a Democrat — dyed-in-the-wool, cradle-to-grave. Come November, I'll do what I always do: I'll vote (because you should always vote), and I'll vote for the Democrat. I can't even pretend that it'll make any difference who the nominee is, because it really won't. Clinton or Sanders — my ballot will be all Ds, all the way down.
Furthermore, I'm the kind of woman upon whom Clinton is supposed to have a lock: white, middle-aged, upper middle-class, over-educated. If I were to wear pantsuits and take off my glasses, I'd probably even look like her. I was born (and this is true) in Clinton's hometown, and there's a real possibility that she crossed paths with my father, a history teacher at her high school.
Guess what though? I'm not exactly fired up about her. I probably prefer Clinton to Sanders, if only because I think she actually stands a chance in the general, but neither candidate is my political dream date. For one thing, it's pretty clear that Clinton is fundamentally to the right of me on a number of issues (for the sake of comparison, it might help to know that Barack Obama is fundamentally to the right of me on a few things, too).
But I'm not here to talk about that. I'm here to talk about being a feminist.
Madeleine Albright recently repeated her long-held position that "there's a special place in hell for women who don't help other women," suggesting that maybe young feminists need a good talking-to — but Albright is far from alone in trying to hold women to that standard, in this campaign or in any other. Remember the PUMAs?
From pundits to cultural figures to politicians (to feminist icons), it's assumed that if you're a woman and a woman's on the ballot, her very woman-ness is going to swing your vote (remember John McCain's choice for veep?). And if you self-identify as a feminist? You'll probably be tithing your paychecks to that woman's campaign. I mean, right? What Would A Feminist Do?
My lord, it's so unutterably dumb.
Feminism, as the old saying goes, is the radical notion that women are people. Or, if we're to quote the American Heritage dictionary sitting next to this feminist's desk, it's "[a] belief in the social, political, and economic equality of women." It's a sociologically comprehensive worldview that shapes and informs every day of my life. It is not — it is not — giving unquestioning aid to women qua women.
Unquestioning aid to women qua women would have me canvassing for the recently decamped Carly Fiorina, palling around with Michelle Malkin, and knocking back communion wine with nuns who fight tooth and nail to avoid complying with the Affordable Care Act — all women who, in this feminist's opinion, are Very Bad For Women Indeed.
But by virtue of being people, I contend that these women and all other women have the right to be as fully human and multi-faceted as any other people. No one (outside of the occasional angry Men's Rights activist) demands that men vote for men. Why is the other 50 percent of humanity supposed to be entirely undifferentiated?
Let me tell you what's feminist: "Feminist" is enabling women to make their own choices. It's choosing to not pile on to centuries' worth of harangues about how Respectable Women should behave. It's supporting women in the face of misogyny, and then holding them to account when we find their actions deplorable (here I may or may not be thinking about Megyn Kelly).
I've been a feminist since before I knew there was a word for it. I marched for the Equal Rights Amendment when I was 14, was a rape crisis counselor in my 20s, and have advocated loudly for abortion rights my entire life. Until 2008, I didn't believe I'd see a woman in the Oval Office in my lifetime, so I won't (as the kids say) front: If Hillary Clinton is sworn in as our 45th president, I will weep. Probably copiously.
This is because I'm a person, capable of all manner of complex thoughts, concerns, and priorities, simultaneously. Feminism means acknowledging women's humanity, and fighting to give women (of all colors, ethnicities, classes, and sexualities) the same opportunities and respect that men have been afforded throughout human history.
It most emphatically does not mean wearing a "HillYes" button — and don't you dare try to tell me otherwise.