Sexism not why Hillary Clinton struggles with Millennials

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Sexism not why Hillary Clinton struggles with Millennials

By Jessie Webster

At an event in New Hampshire last Saturday, Madeleine Albright scolded women who have not yet pledged their support for Clinton by warning that “there’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help each other.”

The hell Albright is undoubtedly referring to is reserved for the growing number of young women who are supporting Bernie Sanders, the senator from Vermont, who is currently Clinton’s only remaining rival for the Democratic party’s nomination.

According to a Wall Street Journal poll of Democratic voters in New Hampshire last week, 64 percent of women under the age of 45 supported Sanders, as opposed to 35 percent who supported Clinton. In Iowa, women 29 years old and younger voted for Sanders by a margin of nearly six to one.

Lackluster results from female Millennial voters have forced the Clinton campaign to bring out the big guns in recent weeks, such as legendary women’s rights activist and feminist icon Gloria Steinem, who has been a public supporter of Clinton for years.

During an appearance on Real Time with Bill Maher, Steinem suggested that young women who are supporting Sanders over Clinton are doing so in an effort to be more popular with men.

“They’re going to get more activist as they get older,” Steinem said. “And when you’re young, you’re thinking, ‘Where are the boys?’ The boys are with Bernie.”

Sexism is a real, rampant problem that must be addressed not only in politics, but in issues of everyday life as well. No one understands that more than Albright, Steinem or Clinton, who have all spent their entire lives fighting for women everywhere to be given the same rights as men.

However, in just 25 words, Steinem’s suggestion that any woman who is not a supporter of Clinton is somehow against women in general illustrated a major problem with bringing the overarching issue of sexism into a political campaign.

When faced with such a lack of support from young female voters, Clinton supporters waiting until now to accuse female Bernie supporters of not being true feminists sounds inauthentic, almost as if they are relying on the accusation to mask the real problem with Clinton’s connection to young females: a difference in political opinion.

Furthermore, when accusing a group of voters of sexism is used as an insult to deflect issues of differing political viewpoints, the severity of the actual consequences of the word lose its meaning.

There’s a reason why accusing Sanders supporters of favoring communism or suggesting that all conservatives are racist does not elicit the same levels of outrage that it once would.

Eventually, people come to realize that blanket statements such as these are inaccurate, impossible to prove and more often than not serve as a political smoke and mirrors ploy to get the public riled up about a particular political agenda.

Julia Digenan, a sophomore at the University, believes that Albright and Steinem’s comments about female Sanders supporters illustrates a key difference between first wave feminists and modern feminists.

“I don’t think being a feminist means you automatically need to vote for a female candidate or support women,” Digenan said. “That’s speaking to such a specific area of feminism that doesn’t apply to everyone. There are non-heterosexual women who are voting for Bernie that probably aren’t in it for the boys.”

In a way, Albright and Steinem and Clinton herself have done so much for feminism, that their time old mantra of women sticking together at all costs has become outdated. Modern feminists support each other, but they also support their right to make decisions independent of gender.

“The point of feminism is letting women to have the power to do what they want,” said Kendall Pietrzak, also a sophomore at the University. “I think the problem with Hillary Clinton’s campaign is that she’s expecting us to vote for her even if we don’t want to just because she’s a woman, but feminists today reject a lot of those notions.”

If Clinton wants to attract young female voters, she should focus on giving them reasons to support her. While Steinem’s words likely don’t match up with Clinton’s personal beliefs, her assumptions about the motives of young women certainly aren’t going to help Clinton rebound after a significant loss in the New Hampshire primary.

Suggesting that young women are incapable of thinking independently of men goes against the very foundation of what feminism works so hard to disprove.

Jessie is a junior in Media.?

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Correction: A previous version of this column incorrectly stated that the opening quote from Madeleine Albright was originally stated by Taylor Swift. In reality, Albright originally coined the term and Swift has said it as a reference to Albright in recent years. The Daily Illini regrets the error.