To be a woman voting in 2016 is to be a woman scrutinized. Acknowledge that gender is a factor in your voting decision and you're attacked as foolish. Choose to vote without gender in mind and you are ignorant.
Pundits continue to debate the generational divide, and speculate as to why Hillary Clinton is not inspiring the support of younger women.
But remarkably, in this ongoing and increasingly heated discussion, an important voice has been notably absent. That's the voice of the women who are being debated!
Have reporters and pundits been so busy speculating what women are thinking that they forgot to ask women themselves?
One of the motivating visions for Milk is to provide a place for women to share their perspectives. In our opinion, our media is too full of people telling women what to do/think/eat/dress/vote and at the same time explaining that assumption about women to the rest of the world.
The conversation around this election is one of the better examples of this. We've read many stories about why women are or are not supporting Hillary and read about other women (and men) telling women why they should or should not feel something.
Madeleine Albright and Gloria Steinem both berated young women for not supporting Clinton and then later walked back their comments.
In the last week we heard from more women trying to explain and categorize the perspective of other women on the election.
Both articles made a point that young women are not seeing sexism the way previous generations did, as they are equal or exceeding men in school and university and grabbing their first jobs at the same rate. But it is later in their careers when that sexism and glass ceilings will still emerge, young women just haven't seen it yet and that's why they're not supporting Hillary, the writers suggest.
Since the conversation of late is centered around the generational divide. We decided to start our conversation on Milk there and organized the opinions by age.
We found that for a woman voting in 2016 of all ages, the issue of gender in this election is exciting, complicated, and irrelevant.
A head and heart divide, 22:
I have read a lot of different articles about why we should support Hillary and why shaming Bernie supporters is anti-feminist. I heard Madeleine Albright's and Gloria Steinem's comments. As a millennial woman, I naturally rely on the Internet for finding information to shape my opinions. So much information is circulating on social media, feminist blogs, and online newspapers, that it is hard to know what to think. Living in a culture where we rely so much on social commentary, it's almost impossible to think for yourself.
When you've committed yourself to a movement such as the feminist movement, you are committed to abiding by a certain rhetoric. If you critique that rhetoric, you are at risk of being ostracized within that movement. It's easier to read blogs like Jezebel to tell you what to think as a young feminist, than it is to purely formulate your own thoughts. With all of the information and commentary we consume every day, I think it's impossible to have a completely objective, unbiased stance. You will be influenced.
I'm having an inner battle within myself. While I want to say I support Hillary, I do not feel the same passion and excitement that I felt when I supported Obama. There are things I don't like about Hillary, but I do see her being realistic about enacting real change. But to be honest, I want to be a Bernie supporter. My head wants Hillary and my heart wants Bernie. Bernie says all the right things and really makes me feel the same feeling I had when I heard Obama talk about hope and change. But I also acknowledge I have the privilege of being a young woman who does not have to worry about a pay gap or getting that well-deserved promotion to executive for another 10 or 15 years. I believe Hillary can truly address the issues that affect women long-term, but I think Bernie is on the same page. I do care about descriptive representation, but I also care about substantive representation. I think a big reason I feel so much pressure to support Hillary is because she is a very qualified woman. She has been working to get this position for many years, and has the resume to prove it. Plus I really do want to see a woman in the Oval Office. But I do have reservations.
Thinking about issues first, 22:
When I think about who I will support in the upcoming election it's not so much about the gender or age of the candidates but instead what they are pledging to fight for. I think young women today are less inclined to have blind support for the female candidate because the issues in this election are far more nuanced then that. To put it frankly, when I talk about politics with my other 22 year old girlfriends we aren't talking about the excitement of the a female president. We are excited by the idea of having someone, anyone in the White House who can make a difference in the broken system that is American politics and address the issues that are most important to us.
All feminists are created equal (sort of), 24:
I don’t think this conversation should be, or is actually about, who we can trust legislatively to uphold women’s rights. We all know that both these people will do that, and with Bernie or Hillary in office, we are more or less politically safe. But here’s the thing: there is a difference between saying yes to women’s rights, and asking for women’s rights in the first place. It’s my understanding that Bernie has always said yes (and that’s great!), but Hillary has actively, asked. Because guess what, only as a woman, would it occur to you to do so. And that’s just the way it is.
It’s why Civil Rights movements are always led by those needing the rights. All kinds of people participate, but the leaders, well the stakes are infinitely higher, aren’t they? And that makes you fight differently, doesn’t it?
Read more of Laura's post All Feminists Are Created Equal - sort of
Looking forward, 25:
As a woman in my mid-twenties, I completely understand why Sanders' agenda appeals to the modern young modern female voter. Many of 'our' issues are not tied to those of women in our generations past. We are more concerned with our own social and financial welfare, because we are the first generation of women that truly do not see family, or a significant-other, as an entity that can support or provide for us...we are to provide for ourselves.
While we are the first generation of women to be brought up feeling like 'the sky is the limit' for us academically and professionally, we are also the ones that have the most to lose in our future professional achievements by not holding dear traditional feminist values. Hillary's feminist core fought through times where you had to choose between a career and motherhood, and women were not seen as viable candidates for CEO's and political leaders. I believe this mentality is so important to the continued progression of women in the work-place. For me- voting for Hilary is not just a vote for my mother and grandmother, but for me as a future mother and grandmother.
The next, next wave, 26:
We are a new generation of women who support a modern idea of feminism. What an idea!! For me, both articles shed light on a disconnect that I haven't really put much thought towards. If you voiced a supportive opinion of gender equality and all of its accompaniments - then you were a feminist. You were for women. But maybe, just maybe, 'equality' isn't a stagnant term. Maybe it's a fluid movement. We are often expected to fit the mold of a woman - simply because we are women. However, if this recent trend in voting makes one thing clear, it is that there is no mold. There is only a group of concerned, passionate, politically charged women who are exercising their right to vote - and think for themselves.
It's not that simple, 28:
I understand why there are these articles, and I appreciate their statistics and views, but the country needs to focus on the best and most qualified candidate (be it Hillary or not).
I'd like to think men are not voting for men simply because they are men, but we're not helping the problem if we vote for women because we are women. I would love more than anything for a woman to be president. BUT, hiring a woman to be president (or just constantly talking about it) simply on the premise of her being a woman is only furthering the "feminist stereotype" that we are fighting every day.
Because She's A Woman, 29:
I'm voting for Hillary because she's a woman. But does that make my opinion not valid? It's an educated and informed one. It's not any female candidate I'd like. It's the candidate who will fight for women's issues for those in offices and in fast food chains, at home and abroad, a candidate who declared women's rights are human rights.
I want a president who has qualities more often found in women. Empathy, thoughtfulness, problem solving, holistic thinking, compassion, and the ability to build relationships and bring people together. These are the traits our country badly needs. These are traits I see Hillary exemplify over and over again.
In my adult life I've also come to find a president is as much a symbolic figurehead as anything else; a person inspires the nation with speeches but also just by being in that big house. Now that old white men are no longer the majority of this country, I don't believe our country should only have the option to be led by one.
I supported Obama in 2008 and was hopeful everything would change with him in office. I saw the reality of enacting change with a congress set on blocking it all. Ideas are thrilling in campaign season, but I'm voting for a candidate who has proven she can get things done.
A critical media, 30:
I'm getting tired of the criticism that Hillary is "inauthentic." This charge is paternalistic and fraught with gendered assumptions. This accusation is based on the assumption that pundits somehow understand Hillary's authentic self better than voters. It implies that she shouldn't be dynamic based on changing contexts or audiences, which is a key skill for all leaders. Calling her inauthentic is another way of saying that she is fooling us, that she doesn't deserve the success that she has earned over a lifetime dedicated to public service. It is belittling to her, and to her supporters. Hillary is an authentic, thoughtful, compassionate leader. I am proud to support her.
I'm impressed, 30:
Even for as strong and amazing as women are, society wears on us. Internal battles between your brain, heart, and body are implicitly tainted with social pressures and constructions. A fight with your employer to not dismiss your talents because you are of child bearing age or, god forbid, already a mother is implicitly and explicitly fraught with social ideologies. Either way, society gnaws at our identity and can tear us apart inside.
That's why it's all the more impressive that a female politician like Hillary Clinton is where she is today. There is no doubt that it is not without some sacrifice or another. But she has stayed strong through so much, and as a result is not just a token women running for office but one of the most qualified candidates across gender to date.
Read more of Molly's post in She's Stronger Because She's a Woman
Issues first, 32:
I want a president who is pushing for a better and more inclusive America. I want a president who gets that the structure of our families and economies are changing and that we need to be creative about how we support the changing face of America. A president that values all people, including women, racial and religious minorities, immigrants and refugees, and LGBT persons. I want a president that supports marriage equality and finds it unthinkable to undermine women’s ability to control their reproductive health. I want a president who understands that the world is a very complicated and nuanced place and that America needs to collaborate with other global actors. I want a president who is a role model, who is smart, ambitious and pragmatic.
Like many, I would love to see a badass woman break the presidential glass ceiling; I’m upset how our society has created often mutually exclusive expectations good leaders and good women; it’s no surprise that the strong female leader is considered “unlikable” by many.
However, I’m also upset by the expectation of certain feminist leaders that I should vote for Hillary because she’s a women. This undermines Hillary’s serious credentials as a candidate. I am evaluating Hillary the way that I want to be evaluated as a woman in a predominately male dominated industry… by my experiences, merits and potential.
It matters, 31:
I would be lying if I said that, in the case of this election cycle, that gender doesn’t matter. The symbol that a female elected president would be, is important to me. But I also know that I can’t simply look at gender and past platforms, experience and passion. It causes me to be terribly conflict. But, I can’t look past the fact that a female POTUS would be a big symbol of progress. Similar to Obama becoming the first black president, my own mayor Naheed Nenshi as the first muslim mayor, I believe North America could do with another strong woman in a very visible leadership position. The more we see, the more it becomes normalized.
Read more of Sabrina's thoughts in her post It Matters
Not my party, 35:
Dr. Kate Cronin-Furman and Dr. Mira Rapp-Hooper wrote a very compelling piece for Vox this week about “Late Breaking Sexism” that explored why young women aren’t necessarily supporting Hillary Clinton. They made some good points about the perceived gender equality women in their 20s experience and supports them as still being feminists even if they aren’t supporting the female candidate. After all, feminism does not need to be defined in the way it always has, and younger women are free to define feminism for themselves, right?
It was fascinating, then, that following the statement “Young women don’t owe Clinton their votes”, Drs. Cronin-Furman and Rapp-Hooper went on to tell them they are free to choose their candidate – just not their political party.
“Democrats are lucky this year to have a choice of two thoughtful candidates, both of whom are infinitely superior on women's issues to the candidates crowding the Republican field.”
As a woman, I’m tired of being told what my issues are. I am interested in more than reproductive rights. I care about more than my maternity leave or equal pay. These are important issues, for sure, but so are economic development and international relations. I’m worried about our debt, how we’re treating our allies, the strength of our national security. I’m allowed to care about these things, and because of them support a Republican candidate. I’m allowed to do that and still be a feminist.
If we are truly going to encourage women to make their own decisions, we need to stop defining the parameters in which they make them. Assuming women will and should vote based on so-called “women’s issues” puts women in yet another box from which we need to free ourselves.
It's irrelevent, 59:
NEVER should anyone be elected because of race, gender, religion, etc. Because Hillary Clinton is a woman, is not a good reason to vote for her for president. That does not guarantee she would be an alliance for women.
When voting for a leader, one should take into account character traits and experience. Is the person one of integrity? Can I trust them to be honest? Will they thoughtfully think events through for the best outcome for all? During their campaign - Do they believe what they say? Or are they saying what they think people want to hear so they can get elected? Does it sound reasonable what they are proclaiming to change? Who will pay for these changes?
I am voting for a leader.
It's about her, 59:
I’m both energized and slightly enraged today by the chatter around Hillary Clinton’s campaign to be our first female President. In considering a candidate I look for intellect, for compassion, for experience, for humor, for empathy, for social skills, for oratory skills, for diplomatic skills. Will I vote for Hillary because she’s a woman? No. Is it a negative? No.
Is it a positive? Yes. Will I vote for Hillary because she has the qualities I’m looking for in a President? Yes.
Read more of Ellie's thoughts in her post The Most Qualified Candidate
Changing times, 60:
Perhaps I have matured and grown as I have watched my own daughters grapple with their individual definitions of feminism, but I would never once expect that either of my girls would choose to vote for Hilary just because she would then be declared America's first "female" president. Instead, I am convinced that their education and upbringing would encourage them to vote based on politics and platform instead of gender, or at least I would hope so. Isn't it just as sexist to vote for Clinton just because she's a woman as it is be to vote for Sanders just because he's not a woman?
I have optimism that this generation of millennials will make the right decisions. New wave feminism is not dead. At the polls, these young women will make the right decision about who best will support their issues and not be swayed by gender alone. That is why younger women aren't excited about electing a "woman" president, they are excited to elect a president who finally supports women.
Read more about her thoughts in her post Times Are Changing.
It's time, 61:
As an "almost contemporary" of Hillary Clinton's, I've watched her for a number of years and have appreciated the causes that she has fought for; defending children, health care reform and her gutsy move to champion Human Rights in Beijing. Other than her Senate seat, she has always been in a supporting role (supporting Bill as first lady and supporting President Obama as Secretary of State, so perhaps her agenda had to reflect their policies). I see her as having a great deal of knowledge and wisdom and that she is highly qualified for the job of President. While she has succeeded in a man's world, she understands what it is to be an outsider....to be a workhorse more than a show horse.
I don't think you can separate her gender from who she is. I support her candidacy either way, though from a symbolic standpoint (and for our children and grandchildren) , it is time for a woman to be president.
It's about winning, 71:
I feel that both nominees for the Democratic candidacy genuinely care about female rights and have our best interests in mind. But more importantly to me is the huge set back for women this country would experience if the Republicans won the presidential contest. This is a fact!!! And because of that, I'm looking very closely at which Democratic candidate can win the election. For me, it's not thinking about "the first woman in the White House" or "the first socialist in the White House" ; it's about who can beat the vile Republican candidate, any of whom would do more harm for women then either Democratic candidate would do favorably for women.
A long wait, 89:
I am a woman, eighty nine years old and, I must admit, already tired of all the campaigning that is going on. I will certainly vote for Hillary, assuming she is the Democratic candidate, not because she is a woman, but because she is truly qualified. I wish the Clintons were less involved in some questionable matters, but I still feel she is much the best qualified, so I will look beyond their past mistakes. It would make me very proud to have a woman president, but my endorsement is not based on Hillary's gender.
Read more opinions on gender in this election.