It’s the most frustrating tiiiiiime of the yeeeeeaar!
That’s right, y’all: it’s yet another election cycle in the US! As a confirmed political junkie, I find myself entranced (and sometimes nauseated) by the grandstanding, hot air and pageantry that comes along with it. But as a feminist, the election cycle can be particularly depressing, because being treated like a ‘special interest group’ despite being 50.8% of the population is actually a pretty crappy feeling.
However, this cycle is particularly exciting because we actually have more than one woman candidate running for office! That’s right, we got TWO, count ’em, TWO WHOLE WOMAN CANDIDATES! MISSION ACCOMPLISHED! WE KICKED THE PATRIARCHY RIGHT IN THE DICK! THE GLASS CEILING HAS BEEN SMASHED!
Well, not exactly. Although this is the most amount of women candidates in a presidential election in recent memory (perhaps ever), there’s 4 other male Democratic candidates and I don’t even know how many male Republican candidates– far from total parity. And the numbers aren’t much better in gubernatorial and municipal elections. Cancel the balloon drop.
But we’ll come back to that grim sexist reality later! Every election, when someone from a minority is running, other people of that same minority are asked: do you support your fellow ____? Why? Why not? Aren’t you a bad ____ for not supporting someone from your background?
Well, I’m here today to tell you whether or not you’re a bad whatever for not supporting the VAST field of female presidential candidates this election! This can also be used to check against woman candidates in any election level, anywhere.
(To be clear, we’re sticking with candidates from the major parties, because if we got into single-issue and small party candidates, we’d be here for at least another 20-some minutes. Sorry, Green and Libertarian peeps.)
Let’s start with the ladies themselves, one of each two-party flavor:
Hillary Clinton, Democrat: Seven Sisters-educated former first lady, senator and Secretary of State- what hasn’t she done
besides get the full and unwavering support of her party? While her liberal cred is unquestionable, she does come with a lot of baggage and a scandal or two. Plus, the Right will NOT shut up with the Hitler-y jokes.
Carly Fiorina, Republican: former HP CEO and an accomplished businesswoman, she’s the first woman to run a Fortune top 20 company and lone woman member of the Republican Candidate Clown Car. She’s known for not letting that Planned Parenthood video thing go
even though she cannot prove its existence.
If you like one of these ladies, great! You get a gold star and can skip the next couple of paragraphs. But if you’re just not sure and wondering if you’re somehow betraying all womankind for not actively working toward a woman’s election to the highest office of the land and most powerful position on earth- that’s okay too. Calm down.
Here’s my recommendation: go over the reasons why you don’t like the candidate in question. In interrogating your reasons, watch out for a couple of things, like if you keep finding yourself using certain words or stereotypes, such as:
- Any name-calling, like that one time someone called Hillary a “she-devil” among many other things; ‘bitchy,’ ‘unladylike’
- “She seems emotionless/cold/too emotional”
- “I hate her fashion choices”
- Any preoccupation on what impact her job would have on being a mother or wife
- ANYTHING menstrual cycle-related
I could go on for a while. And don’t just say “I don’t know why I don’t like her! She just rubs me the wrong way!” All of the things I just listed are bullshit, but that one’s the bullshittiest.
Here’s a good rule of thumb: if you can’t apply these stereotypes to a male candidate in a way that makes sense, STOP IT. These tropes are traditionally used to denigrate women running for office on any level, and it’s harming woman candidates. A lot of our judgments about people are insidiously gendered without us even thinking about it- thanks, Patriarchy! (If you need more examples, Name It Change It, a watchdog group devoted to tracking media sexism against women candidates, has a handy little guide here.)
If you can find non-gendered reasons why you don’t like someone (‘I just don’t agree with her positions on _____’, ‘She said some things in the debate that make me question her judgment/readiness,’ ‘I don’t like the fact that her campaign puts out attack ads’), then congrats! You have successfully critiqued your candidate without having to resort to tired attacks on her gender.
Once you’ve got your reasoning straight, go and sin no more. If you hear people using some of the bullshit I put in bullet points above to attack a woman candidate, CALL THEM OUT. If people ask you why you don’t support Ms. Candidate, explain in a way that, if pronouns or names weren’t used, an observer wouldn’t be able to discern the candidate’s gender. If someone tries to call you out for not supporting women or solidarity or some shit, just shrug and say that just because you share a gender with someone doesn’t mean you have to agree with everything they say. And then segue into why you’re feeling the Bern, how Lincoln Chaffee has brought out your inner love of the metric system, or how Donald Trump will hasten the downfall of capitalism and the realization of socialism… Well, a comrade can dream, can’t she*?
And IF someone has the cojones to imply that you doesn’t support women candidates because female cattiness or some shit, OR say the equally obnoxious “You’re only supporting her because you’re a woman!”, then you have my permission, and the permission of the feminist community at large, to tear their head off and stuff Clinton/Fiorina bumper stickers down their throat.
The fact of the matter is that women aren’t a hive mind and don’t vote as a monolithic block. I’m still exploring which candidates I like best and I haven’t decided on the democratic candidate that I will ultimately support come Super Tuesday, and that’s OKAY. It’s what you’re supposed to do as a voter. The things that are important to me in a candidate aren’t 1. MUST BE A WOMAN, and to be honest, yours shouldn’t be either. If you’re supporting a woman candidate JUST because they’re a woman, you’re doing yourself and your candidate a huge disservice. Take the time to read through the platforms of each candidate- I know, it sounds boring, but you’ll thank yourself later. It’s essential to make sure you’re educated so you can make an informed choice.
So, my verdict: as long as your reasoning is sound (IE, isn’t sexist), you aren’t a bad feminist/woman/person for not being gung-ho about a woman candidate. What’s important is educating yourself and elevating the discourse. And if you’re interested on reading up on some of the difficulties that women candidates face, I’ve included some links below with more information. Happy reading, and happy voting!
- Name It, Change It’s Guide to Gender Neutral Coverage of Women Candidates and Politicians
- Political Parity’s Research on Women Candidates
- Check out groups that give to women candidates, like the Women’s Campaign Fund and Emily’s List.
- Want to learn more about Clinton and Fiorina as candidates? Check out their respective websites.
*JK; accelerationism is definitely not a good idea.