Millennial Women Are Speaking Out Against Clinton's Feminism

February 9th 2016

Lucy Tiven

The 2016 Presidential race isn't just a battle between Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders. It's also a clash between warring interpretations of feminism.

Feminist icons Madeleine Albright and Gloria Steinem have publicly chastised young female supporters of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and drew attention to a growing feminist generation gap. For many Millennial feminists, issues like income inequality and intersectional feminism are more important than the cosmetic achievement of putting a woman in office.

Steinem Bill Maher

The generational gap.

"When you’re young, you’re thinking: ‘Where are the boys? The boys are with Bernie,’" Steinem told Bill Maher, while Albright directed a version of her famous “special place in hell for women who don’t help other women" quote at female Sanders supporters. These comments and the backlash that followed spotlight a generational rift among feminist Democratic voters that has surfaced during election season.

Albright Clinton

Many young women found Steinem and Albright's implication that young women would only support Sanders out of boy-crazy political naivety or feminist disloyalty an offensive one. Young feminists have shared the real reasons they're "feeling the Bern" on Twitter.

"Shame on Gloria Steinem and Madeleine Albright for implying that we as women should be voting for a candidate based solely on gender,” Zoe Trimboli, a 23-year-old feminist and Sanders supporter in Vermont, wrote on Facebook. “I can tell you that shaming me and essentially calling me misinformed and stupid is NOT the way to win my vote."

Many women who support Sanders are attracted by the Former Vermont Senator's anti-establishment platform and economic vision, and equate Clinton with the elite political establishment.

"I've spent my entire Millennial life watching the Democratic Party claw its way up the ass of corporate America. There's no persuading me that the Democratic establishment — from where it sits now — has the capacity to represent me, or my values," Holly Wood wrote in an op-ed on The Village Voice.

"If anything concerns me at this pivotal moment, it's not the revolutionary tremors of the youth. Given the Great American Trash Fire we have inherited, this rebellion strikes me as exceedingly reasonable," Wood asserts. "If I am alarmed, it is by the profound languor of the comfortable. What fresh hell must we find ourselves in before those who've appointed themselves to lead our thoughts admit that we are in flames?" Other young women's concerns echo Wood's anti-capitalist critique.

"He’s a socialist, and I think capitalism is a driving force behind all kinds of oppression, including sexism," Sylva Stoel, a 17-year-old Sanders supporter told the Washington Post. "He’s not backed by huge corporations, like Hillary."

Stoel runs the Twitter account @QueenFeminist, which has more than 24,600 followers and will turn 18 in October 2016. "I used to think I should stand with Hillary," She said. "It was tough to give that up."

The Clintons and their feminist agenda faced similar accusations during Bill Clinton's presidency and the infamous 1998 Clinton-Lewinsky scandal.


Lisa Schiffren, a former speechwriter for Dan Quayle, alleged that Clintonian feminism and Clinton's supporters' willingness to throw Lewinsky and other women under the bus was indicative of classism.

"Clearly this is a bunch of Wellesley girls saying that Wellesley girls and Yale graduates are worth fighting for," she said, "and high-school grads and hairdressers and lounge singers can be destroyed.”

Feminist Agendas Collided During Bill Clinton's Presidency.

This isn't the first time opposing feminist agendas have come face-to-face in the Democratic party or surrounding the Clintons. Marjorie Williams observed a disturbing trend in feminist denial and hypocrisy following sexual misconduct allegations against Bill Clinton that led up to and culminated in the 1998 Lewinsky scandal.

"It’s interesting to note that feminist investment in Clinton has grown over time, even as the allegations about his sexual behavior have increased," Williams wrote on Vanity Fair. Williams accused Clinton of "gas lighting" his way through the presidency by using feminist legislative victories and his marriage to an avowed feminist to deflect criticism.

She asserted that feminist organizations' valuation of Bill Clinton's legislative agenda led them to ignore his anti-feminist behavior and ethical shortcomings:

"It’s plain enough why feminists want to keep Clinton in office. He is pro-choice; he signed into law the Family and Medical Leave Act, which had been vetoed twice by a Republican president; he favors affirmative action, which benefits women more than any ethnic group in the country; he has made child care a policy priority this year. According to the Center for the American Woman and Politics, Clinton has appointed 10 of the 21 women who have served in Cabinet-level positions, including the first woman ever to be secretary of state or attorney general. And he appointed Ruth Bader Ginsburg to the Supreme Court."

Williams said that "the wall of silence" echoed by high-profile feminists and feminist institutions was indicative of the movement's absorption into the agenda of the Democratic political elite.

“He’s married to a woman who’s at least his equal, whom he clearly likes and respects," Gloria Steinem told Williams, jumping to Clinton's defense.

Millennial Women Are Speaking Out Against Clinton's Brand of Feminism.

Steinem apologized for her comment on Sunday and Clinton continued to trumpet an aspirational, feminist message "of rising, of knocking down barriers, of moving toward a more perfect union” at a Sunday campaign appearance with Albright. But her allegiance with institutional feminism hasn't swayed some Millennial voters and feminist advocates.

steinem apology

Albright doubled-down on her endorsement of Clinton on Monday.

“I think because life is better, thanks to people like Hillary and me,” She said. “So what concerns me most of all is that we don’t go backwards. Because if you listen to things, people are saying things that are very anti-women in terms of decisions that we have to make about our lives. And I think we all have to remember that no matter what age we are, that things can always go back.”

Millennial feminist Sarah Grey voiced her dissent against the feminist fore bearers in an open letter to Steinem. She writes:

"Your “joke” came as young women are constantly being told we have to support Clinton because she’s a woman, as though having women in leadership equals an automatic feminist paradise. (You know, like Thatcher’s Britain!) “There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help each other,” Madeleine Albright said—yes, the same Madeleine Albright who, as Secretary of State, famously claimed that the deaths of half a million Iraqi children were “worth it.” When critics suggested someone should tell Albright there are women in Iraq, Clinton all but rolled her eyes: “Good grief, we’re getting offended by everything these days!” she said. “People can’t say anything without offending somebody.”"

In Iowa, female Sanders supporters under 29 outnumbered those of Clinton by an impressive margin of approximately 6 to 1.

Amanda Hansell, a young Sanders supporter in New Hampshire, told BuzzFeed, “I consider myself a feminist. I consider myself a supporter of Hillary Clinton running a campaign. I’m also voting for Bernie Sanders.” Hansell supported Clinton until eight months ago, when she switched over to team Sanders. Stoel explained why she's voting Sanders rather than Clinton in August Twitter posts.

“This institutional feminism that exists within the Democratic Party doubts the intelligence of the Millennial feminist,” political commentator and Sanders supporter Nomiki Konst said on CNN on Sunday. “I worked under Hillary Clinton when I was 15 and 16 years old. I am very aware of her record and I admire it and I know my friends are purely aware of her record.”

Though the latest Fox national poll, released August 14, shows Clinton with more than double Sanders’s support among women, recent New Hampshire polls show that the state's young female voters are feeling the Bern.

"Although Clinton garnered higher support among women than among men in all other age groups, among the under-30s, there was no gender gap at all," CNN reports.