Gender trumps all? Vote-shaming, slut-shaming not so far apart

February 10, 2016
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Hillary Clinton, with her husband, former President Bill Clinton, speaks to supporters at her final New Hampshire primary night rally in Hooksett, New Hampshire, February 9, 2016. REUTERS/Adrees Latif

If you want to lose young women, just scold them. That will offend them every time. And it’s precisely what two stalwart, old-school feminist icons did over the past weekend when each chastised younger female voters for not lining up behind former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination for president.

“A lot of you younger women think it’s done,” former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said of the fight for equality. “It’s not done. There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help each other!”

Former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright (L) introduces Democratic U.S. presidential candidate Hillary Clinton during a campaign stop at Rundlett Middle School in Concord, New Hampshire February 6, 2016. REUTERS/Adrees Latif

Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright (L) introduces Hillary Clinton during a campaign stop in Concord, New Hampshire, February 6, 2016. REUTERS/Adrees Latif

On HBO’s Real Time with Bill Maher, Gloria Steinem seconded the motion, adding some girly retro quip about young women jumping on Senator Bernie Sanders’ bandwagon because that’s where the boys are.

I cringed when I heard them. It’s so not cool — as well as being downright counter-productive — for older women to try to shame younger women. Nothing is worse than that shaming business, the attempt to make you feel embarrassed, less than creepy in your skin. That is often the lot of women, of whatever age. We live in a culture that shames us all the time. We’re too sexy, not sexy enough. We’re sell-outs. We’re impure. The truth is: Vote-shaming and slut-shaming are, alas, part of the same continuum.

The young women I talked with were all offended by this. Even those who say they might end up voting for Clinton.

“You cannot tell a young woman to vote for her gender simply for that reason,” my 28-year-old niece Martine Moore told me, “because that objectifies her again. You’re telling her, ‘Don’t use your brain, don’t listen to the issues and that gender trumps all.’ That’s condescending and we hate it.”

The Clinton family and the family dog Buddy walks across the White House South Lawn to a helicopter for a short flight to Andrews Air Force Base in this August 18, 1998 file photo. U.S. Senator Hillary Clinton (D-NY), in her soon to be published book "Living History," said that when Bill Clinton told her of the relationship with Monica Lewinsky, "I could hardly breathe. Gulping for air, I started crying and yelling at him." Simon & Schuster paid $8 million for Clinton's inside look at eight tumultuous White House years. REUTERS/Blake Sell/Files HK/SV

The Clinton family and the family dog Buddy walks across the White House South Lawn to a helicopter, August 18, 1998. REUTERS/Blake Sell

I get it. The sad thing is that no one has fought off shame as well, and indomitably, as Clinton. If I respect her for one thing above all, it is that.

All along her complicated path — living with a man who cheated on her even in the White House — she refused to accept the classic “female role” of the shamed, humiliated spouse. She refused to be pitied, to slink away. Even when there was a clamor for her to ditch her philandering mate — from various pundits and, I suspect, from some of her friends — Clinton put her head down and went back to work defining her own life and legacy.

Those who write off that survivor’s instinct as pure brute ambition suffer from a limited imagination. To survive what she has, to refuse to be called down, to be shamed, is for anyone — but especially for a woman, especially one in the public eye — a remarkable act of courage. Keep that head held high.

Which is why playing the shame game with younger women is so troubling. Granted, the offending remarks were made by proxies, not by the candidate herself. So the saddest thing was watching her, standing by Albright, when the latter let fly.

Clinton’s face lit up with sheer gratitude. Finally, that face said, with a whooping smile, someone is sticking up for me. Someone is telling young female Sanders voters who I am and where I come from and why, oh why, they should be with me.

Then, within the spin of the news cycle, she basically had to apologize for Albright’s remarks.

Audience members cheer as U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks at a campaign rally in Portsmouth, New Hampshire February 6, 2016.  REUTERS/Brian Snyder

Audience members cheer as U.S. Hillary Clinton speaks at a campaign rally in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, February 6, 2016. REUTERS/Brian Snyder

It must sting fiercely: Not being able to capture the hearts of young women.

This is the second time out when Clinton has had to vie with a male rival who somehow has superior claim on the notion of a ground-breaking candidacy. There she was marching along in 2007, and up comes Senator Barack Obama and the young swoon to him: America’s first black president. We can wait for the woman.

Now she’s back in the primary fray and up surges another male with revolutionary cred. No accident that Sanders uses the word “revolution” over and over to steal her thunder and the loyalties of the young. Déjà vu all over again. Nationally, she is still beating Sanders among women, 48 percent to his 38 percent, but women under 45 are disproportionately for him. He just beat her handily in New Hampshire, capturing the women’s vote, 53 percent to Clinton’s 46 percent, including an impressive 69 percent of women under 45, and 82 percent of female primary voters under 30.

I am finding it painful to watch, Clinton’s big, bright tired face in full battle mode, a flicker of incredulity (and irritation and maybe hurt, if you can see it in there) in her eyes as she realizes that, once again, she is not the passion choice. Last time, she didn’t play the gender card. This time, she is trying to play it, with some success, but not nearly as much as she had hoped.

President Clinton and First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton talk at the signing ceremony September 26 of a bill that requires health insurers to allow new mothers to stay in hospital for at least 48 hours after childbirth.

President Bill Clinton and First Lady Hillary Clinton at a bill signing ceremony, September 26, 1996. REUTERS/Win McNamee

The young women I talked with don’t care about her personal life and compromises — most shrug at the name Monica Lewinsky — but they do care that she seems old hat, a compromised and plodding pragmatist versus an old but fervent Vermont leftie.

There is no question — and this is where Albright was absolutely right — that many young women do suffer from historical amnesia. We are at a time when abortion rights are being whittled away, when sexual assault on campus is an epidemic and when the leading Republican contender has called women “bimbos” and “fat pigs.”

The problem with Clinton’s campaign is that she is only half playing the women card. She needs a more compelling narrative if she is going to play it. She’d have to go big, stir up some gender passion. Better yet, she should go around and listen to and try to enlist every young woman beyond her daughter Chelsea and Lena Dunham — hard-working women of every background — she can find, gather them around her, put them on campaign buses, ignite their sense of destiny, of excitement, of outrage at the extant sexism that surrounds them. She needs to listen to them — not shame them. Then make their stories part of her story.

She is already talking about making changes in her campaign. But it is time for a major campaign reboot. Get out of the name-calling mud with Sanders (or Donald Trump). When asked about taking major speaking fees or Wall Street money, just tell it like it is: You want to run this country and to do that you need money. Simple. No apologies, no defensiveness. Time to get back on offense.

There is about Clinton an almost Shakespearean sense of destiny. The sense that yes, indeed, she is a woman of formidable gifts and probably the most qualified of all the candidates running. For a reminder, re-watch the House Select Committee on Benghazi hearing. (You don’t need to watch all 11 hours of her testimony.) Then, for a contrast, re-watch Sarah Palin’s endorsement of Trump.

Given Clinton’s lifetime of public service, her grinding tenacity, her ability to get up off the floor and fight again, given even all the complicated bargains she has made, wouldn’t it be fitting — or just — for her indeed to be the first woman president of the United States? I would like that to happen on my watch.

I am not immune to the gender shivers. I am prime baby-boomer material. If Clinton doesn’t make it, the first woman president could well come from a younger generation — and very possibly from the other side of the aisle, perhaps a pro-life, Christian conservative (cue: South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley). Which is why Albright’s feisty bit about there being a place in hell for women who don’t support other women is palpably wrong.

It matters which woman and what she stands for. That’s what young women are saying. Time to listen to them — not shame them. Time to try to get them back on board.

38 comments

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The problem with young women is that they still enjoy the automatic attention of men and they haven’t yet recognized the effects of sexism on their lives. They feel confident and free, most not aware of the struggle many of them will face. The author is right though, chastising them will do no good.

Posted by distancematters | Report as abusive

You need to be a Trump to get away with this and these folks are no Trump.

Posted by Mottjr | Report as abusive

“You need money” is fine except she has not spent one dime of the $100 million in bribes on her campaign. It’s all still in her personal bank account. Nice try.

Posted by RVM2 | Report as abusive

Thanks for a thoughtful article.

Posted by CanyonLiveOak | Report as abusive

Postings are not getting posted, heavy handed, pro-Sec. Clinton is a problem for a news organization.

Posted by ac789962 | Report as abusive

Can confirm ac789962, comments critical of Hillary Clinton are getting deleted.

Posted by Shamrock21 | Report as abusive

Thoughtful article. And shaming young women is a lot like the pre-feminist lives to which the older generation of women revolted. Ironic.

But more than that, when Hillary and her minions pull hard on the gender card, they turn off men who would otherwise consider her a viable candidate. I was receptive to her last Summer. When she bashes my gender to incite women voters, she loses more than she might gain. Sanders won the male vote by 30 points. Is that because they voted for a man because he is, or is that because she bashed young women and all men trying to pull the gender card? Beating up on youth and men is not the way to win. When will she, Madeleleine, Gloria and the gang of female Senator Shills for Hillary get that?

Posted by Swi888er | Report as abusive

Very well said. And I believe sloppy work from the the Clinton organization.

Posted by Radfo | Report as abusive

Fact is, most women WILL vote the same way as their boyfriends and spouses vote. Sorry.

Posted by Whipsplash | Report as abusive

It’s disgraceful to delete comments concerning valid criticisms of how Hillary is funding her run for the presidency while allowing posts about how easily manipulated young women are.

Shame on you, Reuters. You’re supposed to be an objective source of journalism, not an arm of the Clinton campaign.

Posted by Shamrock21 | Report as abusive

“The problem with young women” is that they have to put up with misogyny from other women who think they should vote for someone exclusively based on which type of gonads the candidate happens to have, and are willing to dismiss young women as if they were just lust-driven mindless automata.

Posted by Bob147 | Report as abusive

Great article.

The young women of TODAY are not the battleaxes of yesteryear: Gloria Steinem, Hillary Clinton, Madeline Albright.

They see resolution as the means to equality and problem solving.

Hillary and her generation only see revolution as the means where women replace the men at top and put them down to the bottom.

The young women of today are much smarter than that.

Posted by IDeeMerk | Report as abusive

The posts of young women are not being received by the censor.
Only the posts of the 65 and older women.

Posted by IDeeMerk | Report as abusive

Huma is to Hillary as Hillary was to Madeline

Posted by IDeeMerk | Report as abusive

Marilyn DeLuca, of Londonderry, New Hampshire, also said Sanders is “the only candidate out there” with integrity. And she wasn’t exactly enthralled by Madeleine Albright and Gloria Steinem’s goofy arguments that women are obligated to back Clinton.

“They’re irrelevant,” DeLuca said. “Their time has come and gone.”

“I have two daughters in their twenties,” she added, “and they were so angry when they heard that.”

Posted by IDeeMerk | Report as abusive

I wonder if there’s “a special place in hell” for people who would disqualify a person simply because of that person’s sex?

Posted by Bob147 | Report as abusive

Clinton is her own worst problem. She is a demonstrated politician – she will do and say anything she things will help her cause comma at that moment. tomorrow is a different moment and we get a different story.

Posted by Breadie | Report as abusive

I imagine that if “there is a special place in hell for women who do not help each other” that implies that Ms. Albright approves of men helping each other in an effort to escape that special place in hell for men who do not help each other. What a sick logic to get a vote. What is next vote based on hair colour?

Posted by ghassanOne | Report as abusive

I guess I never thought that my vote was supposed to go to the candidate “most like me.” I prefer to vote for the candidate that THINKS the most like me. They don’t have to be the same gender, gender preference, ethnicity or religion, as long as they appear to have the most in common with my personal opinions.

Posted by shootmyownfood | Report as abusive

Whipsplash – I don’t know what kind of women you know, but my votes have never been influence by anything other than my own personal research, knowledge and opinions. In fact, when I was married, I never discussed my votes with my husband, and I don’t know how he voted, either.

Posted by shootmyownfood | Report as abusive

distancematters | It would appear you think that young women ALL enjoy the “automatic attention” of men. Sorry, but I must disillusion you. Unattractive young women (and men) do NOT enjoy the automatic attention of the opposite sex, and many of them still feel confident and free. However, that said, I don’t see why Hillary doesn’t have to court young female voters in exactly the same way she courts those in all other demographics. They are either interested, or they are not.

Posted by shootmyownfood | Report as abusive

distancematters | It would appear you think that young women ALL enjoy the “automatic attention” of men. Sorry, but I must disillusion you. Unattractive young women (and men) do NOT enjoy the automatic attention of the opposite sex, and many of them still feel confident and free. However, that said, I don’t see why Hillary doesn’t have to court young female voters in exactly the same way she courts those in all other demographics. They are either interested, or they are not.

Posted by shootmyownfood | Report as abusive

This is such nonsense — the reason many young people (not just women) prefer Sanders is because he’s not a war hawk who will endanger the entire world with a belligerent attitude toward Iran and Russia. Clinton supports all wars and militarism — and there’s a special place in hell for women who bomb other women.

Posted by cautious123 | Report as abusive

You never posted my comment either.. Waaahhhhhhh :)

Posted by Flicker | Report as abusive

Sounds very liberal to me.

Posted by christianview | Report as abusive

The only special place in Hell for women would be the seat between those two because they probably already have their reservations there.

Posted by SR37212 | Report as abusive

Millennials are smart with sound moral basis that resonate well with Mr -Sanders/Trump/RandP – who have the courage to bring the root-cause of corruption at-large by the establishment set forth in motion starting with Reagan and continued to-date, in the form of free-trade and (il)legal immigration authorizations that have depleted the local jobs, competitiveness and the future of next generation. This change is the natural goodness of our self-correcting system. Regrettably, the path of Mrs.Clinton seems to be continuation of incremental fixes and throwing more unemployment goodies and such that neither addresses the free-trade nor immigration issues that were at the root-cause of the hardship borne by the millennials.

Posted by Mottjr | Report as abusive

Can you imagine any company who would hire a corrupt almost 70 year old habitual liar, Hillary Clinton, who is under FBI investigation as their CEO…because she’s a woman…with the following resume’?
• In 1974, she was fired from the Watergate staff “…because she was a liar, she was an unethical, dishonest lawyer, she conspired to violate the Constitution, the rules of the House, the rules of the Committee, and the rules of Confidentiality.” High praise from her Democratic supervisor.
• As First Lady, Pulitzer Prize columnist Bill Safire said: “Americans of all political persuasion are coming to the sad realization that our First Lady…is a congenital liar…She is in the longtime habit of lying…or suborning lying in her aides and friends.”
• From her protectors at the CIA, FBI and Secret Service she was considered ill-tempered, violent, loud-mouth, hateful and abusive…all documented in various published books…too raw to print here. The crew of “Marine One” helicopter nicknamed the craft, “Broomstick ONE”, in her honor.
• Her accomplishment includes a failed, costly, attempt at healthcare reform…the recommended appointment of Janet Reno as Attorney General…the appointments of former law partners Web Hubbell (who went to prison), Vince Foster (who supposedly committed suicide), and William Kennedy (who was forced to resign from Treasury).
• Does “Travel Gate” or “File Gate” or “Bimbo Gate” ring a bell? Does the stealing of White House furniture, china and artwork cause any concern? She may not have been broke when she and Bill left the White House, but they both were morally bankrupt.
• She couldn’t stop there. Currently, we have been inundated, ad nauseam, with “Video-gate”, “E-mail-gate” and “Foundation-gate.”
• Obama and Loretta Lynch will assure us that there will be an “FBI-gate” as well.

Posted by Yvo_Kerwar | Report as abusive

Bernie has great ideas, Hillary would stand a better chance to enact them. Both are headed in the same direction. Bernie was unknown a year ago, why, no big movement, 25 years in congress. Hillary was worth what the market would bear, you paid for Bernie’s vacation. Vote with your head and/or heart. Trumproof Ticket Needed

Posted by Amwatching2c | Report as abusive

The gender card already seems to be trumped by economic and anti-establishment self-interests and ideas about one’s future. An economic downturn seems more likely before the election, with increased job insecurity and debt fears and entrapment in limited hopes for the majority. And the 1 pct have much at stake when threatened by “socialists” that look like “terrorists” to them. Like the baby boomers in the 70s, there will be a lot to learn about how society and politics really happens.

Posted by Neurochuck | Report as abusive

So women should vote for women….because they’re women.

And yet, if some guys said that men should vote for men because they’re men that would be sexist.

Posted by captwasabi | Report as abusive

There is no natural conflict between woman and men. Anyone who says otherwise is part of an unnatural problem that they helped create.

Posted by Jimbo2000 | Report as abusive

Hillary Clinton has done nothing in life but make a lucky match back in college. That she tolerated Bill, even helped him humiliate one woman after another, that she spread lies about the women who reported her creepy husband is proof that she is no feminist role model

Anyone woman who votes for Hillary has no respect for herself

Posted by TatianaRomanova | Report as abusive

Excellent commentary. I’m 55 and even I was offended by Madeline Albright’s comment. Women, particularly young women (and men for that matter), do actually vote based on issues that matter to them. Give the younger generation a little credit. They are far more likely to judge someone based on the ‘content of their character’ then the color if their skin, their gender, religion or sexual orientation. Isn’t that what all equality movements have worked towards? If they see Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders as equals, then choose one over the other based on issues, isn’t that the goal of equality?

Posted by JeanineC | Report as abusive

REuters the cowardly censors who cannot handle the truth. Bunch of fags and lezzies.

Posted by UgoneHearMe | Report as abusive

@shootmyownfood, Take a little pole of married women you know and learn a little something. You’ll find that my statement was rock solid.

Posted by Whipsplash | Report as abusive

How about Huma’s treatment of the Clinton supporter she violently shoved out of the way?

Thank god that Huma is showing the true colors of the Clinton campaign.

#NoHumaNoHillary2016

Posted by GetReel | Report as abusive

This author shows that she is a total liberal. The way she talks about a pro-life, Christian conservative woman, she sounds disgusted with the idea. Actually, this is exactly the type of president we need.

Posted by edwlh | Report as abusive