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.