For Shame

I have great respect for Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. So I was disappointed to hear Albright recently said this when campaigning for Hillary Clinton in New Hampshire:

“We can tell our story of how we climbed the ladder, and a lot of you younger women think it’s done. It’s not done. There is a special place in hell for women who don’t help each other!”

She has said a version of this many times before. And generally, I agree with the sentiment that the world is a better place when women support each other.

But of course, by saving a special place in hell for women who support a different presidential candidate, one could argue that Secretary Albright is, herself, not helping other women.

It’s a vicious circle.



Secretary Clinton, when defending Albright’s comments, said:

“We are still living with a double standard,” she said. “I know it. Every woman I know knows it, whether you’re in the media as a woman, or you’re in the professions or business or politics. I don’t know anything other to do than just keep forging through it, and just keep taking the slings and arrows that come with being a woman in the arena.”

I agree with Clinton’s statement. I also refuse to believe shame is a useful tactic in public discourse.

Gloria Steinem also managed to offend just about everyone I know and the feminism that she supposedly stands for when she explained female support for Bernie Sanders instead of Hillary Clinton with this quip on the Bill Maher show.

“When you’re young, you’re thinking: ‘Where are the boys? The boys are with Bernie,’ ” Ms. Steinem said.

Is she for real? Does she really believe the only reason young women would support Bernie Sanders is because he’s got the cute boys at his rally?!

She later apologized, but the idea that a feminist icon would accuse a generation of young women of not being serious about politics because they support a different candidate than she does? It boggles the mind.

There is clearly a generational divide at work in this issue. And as a Gen Xer, this is not the first time I’ve felt pulled between the two generations on either side of me. I get the desperation of the feminist Baby Boomers. They feel Hillary is their last, best chance to elect a woman to the Presidency. And they remember, and they have experienced more sexism and a more horribly patriarchal world than I or my younger sisters can imagine.

I also bristle at the idea that the women I look up to–the ones on whose shoulders I stand–would try to use shame–a tool of patriarchy and oppression–to bring me and my younger, Millenial sisters in line.

I remain undecided in this election cycle. My hesitation about Hillary is not because I want her to be more “likable” as some people have said to me.

As Elizabeth Winkler wrote about likability:

“Perhaps the problem is that we still find female ambition vaguely distasteful. Intellectually, most Americans believe women are capable leaders; certainly, we know it’s what we’re supposed to believe. But emotionally, Americans still find the image of women in power hard to swallow, hence the higher bar for proving competence. And women’s struggle to gain power looks especially unseemly…”

I think my undecided status is generational. Secretary Clinton is 68. Senator Sanders is 74. If they were pastors of churches, we’d be waiting for them to retire so a new generation could lead. (I know there are younger people seeking the Republican nomination, but as long as they all continue to believe women should not have the ability to make their own health decisions for their own bodies, refuse to consider meaningful legislation to reduce gun violence, refuse to consider diplomatic solutions to international disputes, and refuse to acknowledge that people need more (not less) access to medical care, none of them will get my vote.)

What I trust Secretary Albright, Ms Steinem, and even Secretary Clinton are figuring out by now is that shaming people is no way to invite them to join you in seeking solutions and building a better future. Women can do better. And quite frankly, in this patriarchal world, women have to do better.


8 thoughts on “For Shame

  1. I don’t like shame but unfortunately what they said about the world is right on spot. Young women ignore that at their peril (I know because I did it).


      • I’m sure there is. I’m not sure there’s a better way to get the message heard by a lot of people, though, as the mainstream media cover exactly zero positive news about feminism, period. “Feminist” is a pejorative for the mainstream outlets. And I know a lot of women I’ve worked with who are nodding along with Hilary, Gloria, Madeleine, and all, as am I.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. So…I’m a Millennial and a Feminist. I’m a capital F-Feminist–because my father believes women should be treated equally, and my younger brother agrees. (My mom is a rock star when it comes to teaching and living out her Feminism too. She deserves equal credit.)
    I completely agree with Marci. Shame is not helpful. Tell the story. Be honest about the criticism and sexism faced along the way. For example, I attended a college that did not accept women when my mother was applying to schools, and I carried that truth with me throughout my education. My time on campus mattered more, because I knew my mother didn’t have the same opportunity, and I knew there were/are women around the world who were not granted the same chance for a stellar education.
    There are ways we as women can build each other up while encouraging a more nuanced understanding of the path to justice and equality.


  3. Spot on. Well said.

    How can one bright, intellectual, confident woman suggest that he younger female peers choose their vote based on being “boy crazy”. There are nearly a million ways to look at that with confusion and disbelief. Thank you for sensitive approach to a very personal topic.


  4. I’m not younger! And I choose my vote based on whose views and platforms seem most closely in line with my moral and social justice compass. It is not Hilary and it is not Republican. It saddens me that my initial support of Hillary in 2008 came to a considered decision on my part that she is not the right female to be the first female president.


  5. I posted this on Facebook earlier this week.

    Ok. This “old feminist”😏feels the need to chime in here:

    I add my voice to the protest from our younger generation against supporting Clinton only because she is a woman.

    This is the direction feminism should be taking in its evolution. Clear the table of the archaic approach towards male or female dominated politics. Look to the issues and support the PERSON who works best for the future of our children and grandchildren. Continue the 21st century chapter in the book of women’s rights which didn’t begin with Steinem, Clinton or Albright, by the way. It began long before in the hearts and angry minds and the hard work of our grandmothers’ grandmothers and yes, even a wonderful few of our grandfathers’ grandfathers. Now is the time for a equality minded, compassionate and gutsy PERSON to step up the pace of equity in education, pay, career achievement….Issues need to direct the pace and the skill, experience and philosophy of the candidates must top the criteria for decision making. It’s time for an open, intelligent and compassionate dialogue between leaders who recognize the value of gender and racial and economic diversity. Not to simply vote in those leaders who look like us.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s