Generations, politics and feminism collide: Teitel
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Feb 10, 2016  |  Vote 0    0

Generations, politics and feminism collide: Teitel

In the eyes of some of the world’s most esteemed feminist leaders, Hillary Clinton is to the Democratic presidential nomination what Leonardo DiCaprio is to the Academy Awards: an “about-time,” shoe-in. Any other opinion, it seems, is heresy

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Anna Maria Tremonti, host of CBC radio’s The Current, moderated a debate this week between two very different American political volunteers: Karen Murphy a 53-year-old Hillary Clinton supporter and Anoa Changa, a 34-year-old Bernie Sanders supporter.

The women don’t know each other, but their heated on-air exchange, marked by interruptions and impatience from both sides, sounded less like a civilargument about public policy, than it did a squabble at a Thanksgiving dinner table between a cranky grandmother and her rebelof a granddaughter. (Tremonti was the aunt from Canada who seemed to regret that she brought up politics in the first place).

The fly in the ointment was generational feminism. Second-wave feminists of Murphy’s ilk, whose ideology originated in the ’60s, tend to support Clinton because they long to see a woman — any woman — in the White House. But fourth-wave feminists — especially those in the millennial demographic — are skeptical of an establishment candidate whose double X chromosomes don’t change the fact that she is a champion for the status quo.

And so we now see endorsement from many millennial women for self-avowed socialist Sanders, who supported gay rights decades before Clinton did, who knows no villain more villainous than income disparity, and who, let’s face it, probably emerged from the womb a world-weary septuagenarian in a baggy suit. Sanders — or Bernie as he is now known, having achieved “Cher” status — is a staunch advocate for the poor and middle class, a position that resonates with a modern feminist movement fixated on “intersectionality” (the intersection of class and race in politics).

Old-guard feminists such as Gloria Steinem, who is uncompromising in her support of Clinton, appear to deeply resent this reality. In fact, in the eyes of some of the world’s most esteemed feminist leaders, Hillary Clinton is to the Democratic presidential nomination what Leonardo DiCaprio is to the Academy Awards: an “about-time,” shoe-in. Any other opinion, it seems, is heresy.

Just ask former U.S. secretary of state Madeleine Albright, who said at a Clinton event last week: “Hillary Clinton will always be there for you. And just remember, there’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help each other.”

What’s so ironic about this feminist flame-war, in which the old guard accuses its younger cohort of turning its back on the only viable female candidate for president, is that it is precisely because of advances made by establishment feminists like Albright and Steinem that modern feminists can reject a woman candidate and vote with their heads rather than their hearts.

Albright and Steinem see Clinton as a symbol, but symbols are no longer any match for candidates who, while male, advocate platforms (Bernie’s case, a $15 minimum wage) that are likely far more beneficial for women. It’s a ringing testament to the success of feminism that women can now comfortably dismiss female candidates who don’t share their philosophies.

If a snap federal election were called in Canada tomorrow, would we expect women to support Rona Ambrose or Elizabeth May over Justin Trudeau or Tom Mulcair, simply because the former pair are women. We would not. This lack of a knee-jerk expectation isn’t a sign of treachery or End of Days for feminism, but of progress.

Clearly, Albright and Steinem don’t see it this way, possibly because the desire by second wave feminists to see Clinton in power at all costs isn’t really about progress at all, but mortality. Aging feminists like Steinem and Albright very understandably want to see a woman in the white house before they die. I would, too. A win for Clinton would be a kind of culmination of their life’s work.

But for millennial feminists who have decades of voting ahead of them — and who came of age when the United States elected its first black president — the possibility of a female president appears not just likely within their lifetime, but inevitable. So why should they be expected to settle for a status quo candidate like Clinton, to lay all their chips on the table for a woman they mistrust, whose politics are a watered-down version of her more progressive male rival’s?

They shouldn’t. And, for the good of women everywhere, they won’t.

Toronto Star

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