I’ve never really been enthusiastic about politics because most politicians tend to have a hidden agenda and ulterior motives in leadership. But the 2016 presidential election will be the first time I’m able to vote for a US President, so I’ve been taking my duty as a citizen very seriously and doing research to make sure I make an educated choice. As a liberal, I have two Democratic candidates to consider: Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton.
This past week, I’ve noticed that news headlines have been reporting a positive outlook for Sanders, while Clinton is losing traction: Hillary Clinton’s Team is Weary as Bernie Sanders Finds Footing in Iowa, Could Bernie Sanders Knock Queen Hillary off the 2016 Throne, Bernie Sanders Gains on Clinton in Early State Polls.
As a Bernie Sanders supporter, I was initially excited to hear that people are getting behind his campaign. Many of my views (actually about 95% according to ISideWith.com) align with Sanders’, so I was happy to see that many Americans want a President who is Pro-choice, supports gay marriage, and is willing to reduce American military influence abroad. I didn’t get to fully embrace this happiness, though, before my feminist conscience kicked in. Despite the good things Bernie Sanders wants to do for this country, I felt that something was wrong with me for being excited about the defeat of a woman by an old white man–it just screams patriarchal. I should want Hillary to come out on top and win it all for the sake of feminism and girl power… but I like Bernie better.
Am I a bad feminist because I don’t want to vote a woman into the White House? Do I owe Hillary my vote because I am a feminist? Is the feminist community responsible for getting a woman into office, because she has some feminist values? These are questions that I have been battling with while deciding who to vote for in 2016.
Let me make this clear: I do not dislike Hillary Clinton. She is an intelligent and powerful woman who has worked for all she has earned in a male-dominated industry. I know that she has and will continue to face sexism, just as President Obama has faced racism, during her career–that saddens me and is one of the reasons I want, desperately, for a woman to get in the White House. Having a “First Gentleman,” saying “Mrs.” President, and adding feminine touches to the Oval Office are exactly what America needs to break down gender stereotypes and double standards. But at what cost?
As a black feminist, I’m not going to bat for a woman that only cares about black people when it’s popular (i.e: Ferguson 2014 and Baltimore 2015). For years, Hillary’s corporate feminist agenda has neglected people of color–both men and women. In addition, as Secretary of State, she consistently made bad calls that will have lasting effects on our relationships abroad.
My strong judgement of Hillary Clinton’s potential as president is based on the fact that she’s worked in the White House and has been in the public eye for much longer than Bernie Sanders. She was the First Lady, a U.S Senator, and Secretary of State. I’ve known her name and have seen her legacy throughout my life. Bernie Sanders, though, is a fairly new name to me. This new face, however stereotypical-old-white-male it may be, is a symbol of hope for a new leader to bring America into a new age of progress. I’m sure he’s no saint and, like most politicians, he may not follow through on all his promises. But, I have faith in him and being a feminist doesn’t negate that.
Feminism doesn’t come with an obligation to agree with every woman. This is a common misconception that even I can fall prey to. In order to balance out the unfairness against women, I often go out of my way to lift us up. While this is beneficial when I believe in someone’s vision and they are deserving of my support, my desire to uplift can backfire. Just because a political candidate, artist, or business owner happens to be a woman does not mean that I have to support them because of their gender. I would love to support them if they are qualified and able to do their job exceptionally, but feminism is not an excuse to accept or praise mediocrity in women. Instead, it acknowledges that the accomplishments of women are just as important as those of men. It views the statements of a man equal to those of a woman. It judges female and male candidates without sexist biases.
From a feminist standpoint, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders are on an equal playing field; the most fit candidate will win.
Over the next year, I am sure that I will change my mind back and forth, and back again over who to vote for in Primaries. I may even end up voting for Hillary Clinton, but right now I’m standing by Bernie Sanders. And I’m not going to feel bad about it.
Feminism isn’t about always choosing the woman over the man–it’s about having the same expectations and giving the same respect. If I voted for Hillary just because she’s a woman, I’d be doing her a disservice. She doesn’t need pity feminist votes because she is more than capable of competing fairly with a male candidate. If she wins, I hope it is because America feels like she deserves it and will be the best leader of our nation. Anything else would be insulting to her both her intelligence and power.