Sunday, February 7, 2016

How Gloria Steinem Broke My Heart by Samantha Montano

This is a friend’s beautiful response to this Gloria Steinem interview. I couldn’t word it better myself, so here it is:

This is the story about how Gloria Steinem broke my heart. 

In early 2014 I put an “I’m Ready for Hillary” sticker on my laptop. Living in Fargo made this a controversial act. A memorable moment was an old man that walked up to me in a coffee shop and said, “are you also ready for Jesus?” Though I’m not entirely sure what that means I do know that it was an act of aggression that I would not haveexperienced if I had an “I’m Ready for Joe Biden” sticker on my computer. The thing is I really was ready for Hillary. I have a lot of respect for Obama but he wasn’t able to keep his promises… mostly for reasons that weren’t his fault. I was ready, and the country, was ready for someone else, some new blood, to take over and try to work through the shit show on capitol hill. And here’s the other thing… I was ready for a woman president.

Being a feminist is central to who I am and seeing a woman in the White House would undeniably be a big deal… no matter (god forbid) President Fiorina, President Rodham-Clinton, or (pleaseee) President Warren. A woman in the White House matters for the same reasons that a black man in the White House matters. Having a minority be the leader of the most powerful (rolls eyes) country in the world matters. The argument is often made that for little girls growing up, seeing that a woman can be President signals to them that one day they too can be president. But more than that it signals to them that they can be leaders. That is important. I grew up surrounded by female role models and it never once occurred to me that I could be president. It matters. But it’s not just what a woman president would mean to young girls is what it would mean to men. Arguably it would signal that women are powerful and capable of holding the most important (rolls eyes) job in the world. That women deserve and demand respect. That we don’t just get a seat at the table, we get the head seat.

Now, two years later, I’ve had to stop and think about why I was so ready for Hillary. Was it because I agreed with her politics? Or was it because I was looking for a female democrat to take over? Here’s what I realized… I don’t agree with her politics. In the same way that I rarely actually agree with Obama’s politics. Barack and Hillary are in impossible positions. I don’t envy either one. They are trying to work WITHIN a system that is both stacked against them as individuals AND against the vast majority of Americans. I give them both credit for trying to work this system, I do. I couldn’t have done it.

But then Bernie wandered outside the state of Vermont and things changed. He took the principles of the Occupy movement and put them in action. HELLO… all of you who supported Occupy 5 years ago but had the same, reasonable critique as I, WHAT ARE Y’ALL EVEN DOING? What was the plan, guys? We watched our guaranteed financial futures crash in 2008. But more than that, those of us that understood the implications of 2008 on the rest of THE WORLD. All of us that watched as the individuals that were responsible were handed billions of dollars instead of locked behind bars. Bernie is the answer to the previously “failed” occupy movement. He’s the “action” that was missing from the parks.

Please don’t let your dreams of a woman president (a dream that I truly, truly share) stop you from voting to the person that (yes, partly because he is a fucking man) has the chance to MAYBE, just MAYBE put the spirit of Occupy into the federal government. To maybe, just maybe, make a dent in the system that has destroyed all semblance of a middle class and has further pushed the poor into the ground. To maybe, just maybe, break up the banks and institute regulations that can prevent another 2008. When I’m asked to choose between having a woman president and having a chance at stopping the economic policies that are strangling not just the United States but the world’s economy… come on? Is that even a choice?

And yes, I 100% believe that the only reason Bernie Sanders has gotten this much play is because he is a man. If his female equivalent, Elizabeth Warren had run, Iowa would not have been 50/50. That sucks. That’s bullshit. I hate that. It’s not fair. It’s the patriarchy at work. I get that. I understand that. That pisses me off. But voting for Hillary Clinton doesn’t change that.

Despite his gender, Bernie is a feminist and he has been as far back as there seem to be records. I know that having a president who is a feminist and a president who is a woman are two VERY different things. I get that. But here’s the thing. Am I supposed to vote for the candidate who creates policies that benefit people (including women) or the candidate who creates policies that benefit corporations? Because that’s what this is simplified down to.

Since the Iowa Caucus, I have seen article after article, Facebook post after Facebook post, that specifically call out women, with a particular emphasis on women feminists, for supporting Bernie Sanders. These articles have said that it is sexist, even anti-feminist to support Bernie Sanders. Though annoyed I largely ignored these articles because they were written by individuals who in my opinion did not have an understanding of the economy and policy landscape. And, who apparently do not interpret feminism the way I interpret feminism.

But on Friday someone said something that made me pause. My sHero, Gloria Steinem, said some very uncharacteristic things on Bill Maher. I really need to emphasize here that Gloria Steinem is my guiding light when it comes to feminism. An intersectional feminist from her beginning, her unwavering battle against the patriarchy is nearly unprecedented. I would wager she has done more for feminism than any other single human being in history. The biggest compliment I can giver her is that she is who I’ve looked to teach me how to teach my sister the ways of feminism. The fact that I had to call my 12 year old sister today and try to explain what Gloria said really really sucked.

So, when Steinem went on Bill Maher and said that my generation of feminists are “following the men” I truly felt that I had entered the goddamn twilight zone. WAS SHE TAKEN OVER BY AN ALIEN?! (this is still a seemingly plausible explanation as far as I’m concerned)

Following the boys? What boys? All the boys in my life are the ones following me over to Sanders.

Moreover, it is precisely because I’m a feminist voter that I’m voting for Bernie. I’ve said this before but Bernie’s ideology regarding economic equality, health care, anti-war, etc. are ALL objectively better for women. Which is better? That young girls grow up knowing that they can be president as they suffer malnutrition, can’t afford to continue their education, handle the impacts of climate change, and can’t afford healthcare? Or, perhaps is it better for little girls that we make sure they are well fed so they can go to school and learn, to ensure that they have the financial ability to go to college (if they want) so that they can earn an education that sends them into a workforce with the tools they need to smash glass ceilings. A world where maybe women won’t be disproportionately impacted by climate change, where women don’t just have the right to birth control and abortions but a world where ALL women can ACTUALLY AFFORD IT. And, a world that when these girls look outside of our country they won’t see our government bombing other girls, just like them, across the world.

You do you but as far as I’m concerned you can keep your trickle down feminism. When you raise a generation of girls on policies that treat genders equally you will create a generation of women where there won’t be one female presidential candidate, (well, okay fine, two female presidential candidates) but 50. Top down approaches to feminism aren’t working, sorry Sheryl, but a bottom up approach, even when it is headed up by a man might just get us somewhere.

None of this is to say that Hillary Clinton is not a feminist or doesn’t care about women. She does. She has silently and sometimes not so silently defended, praised, and protected women all over the world. There is a wonderful video of Meryl Streep explaining this if you google it. Her “Women’s rights are human rights”, though not genius was novel and was pivotal in many ways. But she’s also supported and in some cases has been responsible for policies and decisions that have hurt and killed women. Two words: Iraq War. I critique her use of war (or whatever they’re calling it now a days) in the same way I critique Obama for it, GW Bush, Bill Clinton, the other Bush and every other president before them that have made military decisions not to protect Americans or to help individuals who are otherwise helpless (i.e., genocide) but for reasons that benefit the economy and corporate interests. But I’m not blind. I get the gender issue here.

The patriarchy is the reason that Hillary Clinton is the only woman who has even come close to the Office of the President. It is sexist that people judge Hillary Clinton on the actions of her husband. It is misogynistic that we talk her pantsuits. And perhaps it is sexist to call her an establishment insider when her mere presence in the establishment pits her against the establishment. And yes, maybe Hillary wants to be as liberal as Bernie, she’s a really smart woman so that wouldn’t surprise me but guess what, you don’t get to be as liberal as Bernie, you don’t get to say the shit that he can say when you’re a woman because you won’t get elected President of the United States. That is bullshit. That is sexist bullshit.

But y’all, this is the problem with “the patriarchy”… this is why we want to end the patriarchy. And this brings me back to my main point… Which candidate’s policies will do more to dismantle the patriarchy?

I know that if Bernie is elected president he will not be able to do even 1/3 of what he wants to do. I learned that lesson when Obama took office. But Bernie winning signals that there are enough people in this country who understand that neoliberal ideology is murderous and that there is another away to run this country. And that chance, however small it may be is enough for me to not vote for Hillary.

Because Gloria, I’m not “following the boys”, I’m following the principles YOU taught me - anti-war, economic equality, environmental equity… YOU are the one who taught us these things. You taught us to think for ourselves and follow our principles and stand up to the corporate and establishment elite. YOU are the one who told us to dismantle the patriarchy. Don’t you see that that’s what WE, the young women who grew up listening to you, are doing?

You always say that women grow more radical with age. But thanks to YOU millions of women, including myself are starting out more radical. Can you imagine what we will do by the time we’re your age? That is in large part thanks to you…

**(Two points before y’all come for me: 1. I already voted in the primary so don’t bother trying to switch my vote. 2. In a general election I will obviously vote for Hillary because I’m not a goddamn idiot that is willing to risk a goddamn lunatic taking office.) 

Thank you Samantha for letting me share your post. 

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