The debate about whether women should support women because they’re women has been simmering ever since Hillary Clinton announced her candidacy, polarizing feminists and/or strong women everywhere. In one camp is the venerable Madeleine Albright who just this weekend repeated this oft-offered opinion, at a Clinton rally in New Hampshire: “There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t support other women.” There was much applause.
Now I know politicians and their supporters share their more extreme views when surrounded by their base. I give to you Sarah Palin waxing kooky on her beliefs at faith-based event when she was on McCain’s ticket. But that prompts me to ask: Am I compelled to support Palin and also Carly Fiorina and also Michele Bachmann because they are women?
Women fought hard for the right to vote. Women in public office still fight hard to get there. It’s no more right-minded to vote for a woman simply because she’s a woman than it is for a man to disregard that candidate simply because she’s a woman. Candidates earn our votes because they’re the best choice, regardless of gender—or race or age or faith, for that matter.
Also this weekend, Gloria Steinem stepped in and stepped in it, during a conversation with Bill Maher that started off in a smart and informed way. For instance, she had interesting things to say about why women get more progressive-thinking when they age—because they tend to lose thier power. (Interesting, not sure the theory holds entirely, but something to think about.)
But then she said a really, really stupid thing to explain why polls show young women prefer Bernie Sanders over Clinton two to one: …because that’s “where the boys are,” per Steinem.
Making things worse, she followed up with a non-apology on her Facebook page, blaming “talk show interruptus” for having “misspoke,” with words that are now being “misinterpreted as implying young women aren’t serious in their politics.”
She said what she said and in no way did an admittedly pushy and interrupting Maher force those words out of her. To date, her Facebook post has nearly 17,000 comments, mostly calling her out for the insult and then her equally insulting explanation for why she said it and what she meant.
When I was watching all this on Morning Joe, especially thrilled by Mica and Cokie arguing about what this all means, my husband stepped in with his opinion that “women get so bitchy when they turn on each other.” And that capped off a morning of dubious feminism, offhanded misogyny and just straight up are-you-trying-to-make-me-craziness.
All before 7 a.m.