Why Gloria Steinem should be no ones role model...
February 9, 2016 6:44 AM   Subscribe

 
I posted this in the other thread, but I think it's really good. Feminism’s Generation Gap: They might have been trying to shame women who support Sanders, but they ended up insulting Clinton’s fans, too. Steinem and Albright fell victim to the same demeaning logic that the most misogynist pro-Sanders trolls have endorsed, resting on the theory that women vote with their vaginas. Yes, women can perpetuate sexism—internalized misogyny is real, and it’s one of the reasons why an ornery pro-gun socialist has emerged as a credible contender for the Democratic presidential nomination. But it’s not the explanation behind every young woman who’s ended up in the Sanders camp. Clinton’s gender is a perfectly legitimate reason to support her. That doesn’t mean it automatically outweighs the rest of her platform.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 6:47 AM on February 9, 2016 [24 favorites]


Yet the women at the top don’t seem aware of how much racial and economic justice intersect with feminism every day.

QFT. It's becoming abundantly clear that a lot of the feminist icons of yore have not kept up with the changes of modern feminism. It's more than a little embarrassing, frankly.
posted by Kitteh at 6:48 AM on February 9, 2016 [55 favorites]


How on earth could someone not know that shaming young people is not the way to win them over? Especially in such a condescending way.
posted by maggiemaggie at 6:54 AM on February 9, 2016 [12 favorites]


Man or woman, the idea seems to be that the person sounding off believes herself important enough that others need to listen to her advice. Newspaper editorials do this too. Bill Clinton and Barbara Bush tell us what we need to do but that we seem to accept. Not so with aging feminist icons. Why is this?
posted by Postroad at 6:56 AM on February 9, 2016 [6 favorites]


For the record, if you were wanting to meet boys I don't think a Sanders rally is the way to go. I've been to several and at 45 am often one of the younger men in there. The gender ratio is also a bit skewed, since I think only about a third of the people were women, so while this may improve your odds considerably, unless you are really into older gents you would probably do better with tindr.
posted by cjorgensen at 7:01 AM on February 9, 2016 [2 favorites]


My Mom and I had a long discussion about this yesterday. I find myself particularly disappointed in Steinem because we had gone to a speech that she had given four years ago, where she was specifically promoting intersectional feminism to an audience of older white women who needed to hear it. It was great. So to see someone who delved deep into intersectionality in a lecture four years ago do this is even more disappointing.

My Mom made the point though that she has apologized and we should allow her (and all of our idols) the ability to make mistakes and learn from them. Mom pointed out that a lot of the problems in current political discourse are from candidates not being allowed to evolve and learn. She also pointed out that both of us were holding Steinem to a higher standard than we would hold other figures, particularly male ones.

And my Mom is by far the biggest Bernie supporter in my family, for additional context.
posted by JustKeepSwimming at 7:02 AM on February 9, 2016 [67 favorites]


It's becoming abundantly clear that a lot of the feminist icons of yore have not kept up with the changes of modern feminism. It's more than a little embarrassing, frankly.

I think this is a huge, huge peril for any political person (look at Theodore Adorno!) but it's a particular risk in non-conservative circles, because if you're conservative, there's sort of a built in "things were better back before all these poor/female/queer/POC folks started talking" perspective - you don't discredit yourself as a conservative by refusing to listen to marginalized people.

Part of it is structural - it's very easy to spend most of your social and/or activist time with your age cohort, and you tend not to experience the issues that younger people do, and you end up without the texture of their experiences. (For instance, I'm old enough that I basically got my current gig before the recession; my experience of work is totally different from a younger person.)

Part of it is, I think, a knock-on effect of how obsessed our culture is with youth - as you age, especially if you're female/read as female, you experience so much disregard that it's easy to assume that actual live young people have it easy merely because they're young. But our culture's valorization of youth has nothing to do with valuing actual young people; our culture is to youth as pro-life birth obsession is to actual, living children who need things.

I don't think this is unique to feminism at all; it's pretty standard for left, progressive and radical intellectuals. But it's disturbing when folks who should be aware of this history, which is a long one, don't try to take it into account and do better. There are definitely writers and activists who've stayed present in the present even as they've gotten older, and who have advocated for young people's concerns based on contact with actual young people.
posted by Frowner at 7:06 AM on February 9, 2016 [47 favorites]


One of the most powerful advantages of being wealthy and successful is that you can build a refuge for yourself from constantly having to react to externalities. But of course this almost immediately removes yourself from the reality that most people are living in. You end up interacting almost exclusively with other wealthy, successful people and it becomes hard to remember that this is going to determine your values. We see this again and again with our heroes.
posted by selfnoise at 7:06 AM on February 9, 2016 [22 favorites]


I think this is a huge, huge peril for any political person (look at Theodore Adorno!)

You mean his cranky and reactionary aesthetic theory?
posted by thelonius at 7:07 AM on February 9, 2016 [2 favorites]


Reading this response and others from younger women -- the kids are alright. They are perfectly capable of taking it from here, thanks.
posted by Capt. Renault at 7:09 AM on February 9, 2016 [14 favorites]


Gloria Steinem should be "no one's" role model? So because she made a hell of a dumb mistake and because she's part of a larger movement that suffers from the same structural racism that poisons the rest of the society in which we live, we throw her away now? I am able to live and work as a full human being because of her, people who counted her as a role model, and a movement propelled by her, and it's her example that helps encourage me to work harder and better so that all of us might someday be treated as lives that matter. We don't need to toss people out of our personal pantheons in some sort of ritual purification, we need to ADD more and different role models and voices.

She was more than wrong on this issue, she has been wrong many times in the past, she is a human being at the tip top of the socioeconomic period in the midst of a racist and sexist society and "there is no creature whose inward being is so strong that it is not greatly determined by what lies outside it," but don't tell ME she's no one's role model.
posted by sallybrown at 7:11 AM on February 9, 2016 [112 favorites]


I had just finished reading this New Yorker profile of Steinem when she made those statements about young women. While I think that it was a dumb way of trying to gain support for Clinton, and somewhat insulting, I don't see why we should tear her down so completely. The piece by Grey ends on a pretty weak note, and it feels like it was written from a place of anger or frustration. There is an "all or nothing" attitude to a lot of media commentary on feminism and I think it is divisive and does not promote the conversation, just the attitude that there is only one way to be a feminist.
posted by arachnidette at 7:13 AM on February 9, 2016 [18 favorites]


You mean his cranky and reactionary aesthetic theory?

No, because I find the Frankfurt School interesting as a product of the midcentury left - I'm not always sure that people who are blanket-critical of the Frankfurt School have necessarily read very much beyond Adorno's admittedly wrong ideas about jazz. I really like "The Stars Down To Earth" and "The Jargon of Authenticity" for instance . I mean his hostility to student movements in the sixties - and admittedly, a lot of those students were assholes to him, but he had the experience and knowledge to be better than he was.
posted by Frowner at 7:13 AM on February 9, 2016 [7 favorites]


I mean his hostility to student movements in the sixties

Thanks: that is news to me. I do not know much about Adorno except that he seems to be highly esteemed by critical theory people.
posted by thelonius at 7:15 AM on February 9, 2016


All of your faves are problematic, especially the feminist ones.

Still really disappointing to see Steinem say something so thoughtless, though.
posted by tobascodagama at 7:19 AM on February 9, 2016 [3 favorites]


I'm not saying we should discard Steinem at all; I'm saying that older feminist icons need to realize that it's not and it can't be just about white feminism anymore. One of the best things that has ever happened to my personal worldview was discovering the amazing voices of feminists of colour in the past few years. (And trans feminist voices, and fat feminist voices, and etc...) Steinem's remarks about female Bernie supporters was remarkably tone deaf (and honestly her apology still feels like a bit of a non-apology to me) but truly it was nothing compared to the shit that came out of Madeline Albright's mouth.
posted by Kitteh at 7:20 AM on February 9, 2016 [19 favorites]


Cut the hand-wringing bullshit about losing allies or whatever. Nobody is kicking Steinem out of the Cool Feminist Club. She said something incredibly bone-headed, and she got called out, end of story.
posted by tobascodagama at 7:21 AM on February 9, 2016 [31 favorites]


I'm saying that older feminist icons need to realize that it's not and it can't be just about white feminism anymore.

And it can't be heterosexual or cisgender exclusive anymore, either.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 7:22 AM on February 9, 2016 [13 favorites]


Regarding the "following boys" thing -- I think her comments are a sad reflection of a time when women had much less of an opportunity of independent economic survival. She's 84--a lot has changed since she was born in 1932(!).

In 1964, women got certificates at Harvard Business school for "putting hubby through." Now their MBA program is 42% women. It's an enormous change.

Gloria Steinem grew up in a different time, that was much sadder and smaller for women, and I think it's worth being compassionate about that.

It was a jerkish comment, of course, but I think too much has been made of it at this point, especially given her age and the context.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 7:23 AM on February 9, 2016 [27 favorites]


She was more than wrong on this issue, she has been wrong many times in the past, she is a human being at the tip top of the socioeconomic period in the midst of a racist and sexist society and "there is no creature whose inward being is so strong that it is not greatly determined by what lies outside it," but don't tell ME she's no one's role model.

In fact, it's possible some of the dismay over her comments are coming from her indeed being some people's role model, and then she said this and they're all feeling betrayed.

(Got into a Facebook discussion over this and I said it was kind of like that moment in Return Of The King when Frodo's made it to Mount Doom and he's standing on the edge of the cliff over the pool of lava, but then after a long moment staring into it he turns around and says to Sam that "no, the Ring is mine.")
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:27 AM on February 9, 2016 [20 favorites]


I think my easiest to accomplish retirement plan would be to sell popcorn whenever this happens, given the way that there's nothing a liberal hates more than a liberal they mostly agree with.
posted by eriko at 7:29 AM on February 9, 2016 [11 favorites]


dude, it's not that, it's that she said some really obnoxious and shitty things.

I personally think, at least with the "boys" comment, that some sympathy and perspective is in order. But don't act like it's a fucking goof just because it doesn't matter to you personally.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 7:32 AM on February 9, 2016 [18 favorites]


And the circle of true liberals draws tighter.

It looks to me like folks in this thread are mostly saying she's a hero and a role model who made a mistake. And even over in the primary thread, I think that people have for the most parts cooled their jets.

We can disagree about tactics and priorities and feasibility and the optics of things without kicking people out of the tent. Liberalism is supposed to be about making decisions together and bringing a diversity of perspectives to the table. Is that always going to happen perfectly? Nope. The discourse on the Left, though, is still light years ahead of the other side where women, minorities, working-class folks and immigrants are still being told, in no uncertain terms, to sit down, shut up, and bend over.*

*how one bends over while sitting down is left as an exercise to the reader
posted by tivalasvegas at 7:32 AM on February 9, 2016 [12 favorites]


The strength of the reaction is at least in part due to the many smaller slights young women/women of color/queer women still put up with when they try to participate in many feminist organzations' decision-making or activism. They do take it more personally, feeling it's bad enough to hear shit like this from a sexist society, we should not be getting it from inside our own movement.

And even the often-regrettable Naomi Wolf called out this dynamic in Fire With Fire--in 1994. This is not a new issue.

I saw a good piece yesterday on the Maher interview that pointed out that Steinem also yukked along with him about a transphobic joke, and yeah, it upset me. She should know better. She may be 82 but she's not senile.

But no worries. I'm not voting based on what Gloria Steinem tells me to do. Or Madeline Albright. I will listen, but like a lot of feminists, I've moved on and I'm using my perfectly good lady brain to judge the candidates on their merits as much as anyone can.
posted by emjaybee at 7:35 AM on February 9, 2016 [20 favorites]


also, the transphobic stuff was way way beyond "not agreeing with" or "slightly less liberal." To pretend like it's a Monty-Python-esque farcical non-difference is bullshit.

It matters when you use rude and transphobic language. It's personally hurtful to a lot of people, and it fosters a culture that is often hostile and dangerous to trans people. It's not okay and it's not "oh look at that circular firing squad."

If anything Bill Maher needs more of a circular firing squad. Dude is gross on a constant basis and needs much more active criticism than he gets. He was the one instigating it and he shouldn't be let off the hook.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 7:35 AM on February 9, 2016 [40 favorites]


[Couple comments deleted. If you want to talk New Hampshire or Trump v Sanders, head over here instead.]
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 7:36 AM on February 9, 2016 [1 favorite]


internet fraud detective squad, station number 9, I don't think you can give a pass to someone still so in the public eye and on social media just because they are old.

It's like saying, "Oh, that silly ole Scalia, being all racist and stuff."
posted by ReluctantViking at 7:37 AM on February 9, 2016 [2 favorites]


When will the left start to focus on real class-based action and solidarity? The answer after these commercials.
posted by fraxil at 7:40 AM on February 9, 2016 [2 favorites]


Roqaya Chamseddine has a new post up as well: On The Superficial Defense Of Hillary Clinton:

And so it must be asked: What lives hold value, and why are they valued over others? What policies are you willing to misrepresent, or excuse? For example, Enlow [author of that all-caps Hillary defense] recently aimed her fury against those who she alleges are going to offer their vote to a GOP candidate, just to spite Hillary Clinton if she receives the Democratic nomination. She tweeted:
“…the most upsetting comments I’ve gotten repeatedly and in large numbers are those saying they’ll vote GOP if Bernie doesn’t get the vote […] Really? You’ll roll back protections for trans people? You’ll eradicate reproductive health measures? You’ll support a giant goddamn wall?”
This tiring use of marginalized communities in order to castigate political opponents and mislead audiences has become procedural. The “giant goddamn wall” she decries was supported by Hillary Clinton, and not just once, but on numerous occasions. During a town hall campaign event in November 2015, Clinton was asked by a member of the audience what she thought about border security, and her boastful response was that she “voted numerous times [as] a senator to spend money to build a barrier to try to prevent illegal immigrants from coming in.”

posted by mediareport at 7:41 AM on February 9, 2016 [7 favorites]


she's not senile but she literally grew up when you needed a man to survive, as in, you couldn't have your own bank account. you couldn't really go to professional school. the options were very limited. going "where the boys [were]" was a survival mechanism. women had to do it, and they did it. that was reality. in some ways, it still is.

sexism. affects. everybody. including women. we end up with stupid sexist beliefs, too. some because they're prevalent in our culture, and some because the material and economic conditions we face force us to compromise with our oppressor in order to survive. and those thing we're taught, and those compromises, leave marks.

we need to find some sympathy for women who have been brutalized by sexism and have stupid beliefs as a result. especially when (as I think is the case with Steinem) they seem to be trying to work to counter those beliefs. and yes, I think at the point where you're in your 80s, some leeway for being a little bit out-of-touch is warranted. I certainly hope I'm afforded the same leeway by my granddaughters when I assume they are getting married because they want to have a baby, or something like that. they'll probably politely remind me that things are different now, and try not to be too insulted. because I grew up in the world I grew up in. and it left marks.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 7:42 AM on February 9, 2016 [32 favorites]


Yeah there is a point when being a refreshing cut-the-crap provocateur or whatever does cross the line to "nope, you're just a bigoted asshole, we already hear enough of this shit" and Bill Maher crossed that threshold (official name: Daniel Patrick Moynihan Line Of Gross Bigotry) some years ago.
posted by tivalasvegas at 7:43 AM on February 9, 2016 [6 favorites]


also, the transphobic stuff was way way beyond "not agreeing with" or "slightly less liberal." To pretend like it's a Monty-Python-esque farcical non-difference is bullshit.

I think it's important to remember that there are people who are older who are not transphobic or homophobic, etc. It is possible to be 82 and not laugh at that joke; in fact, it's possible to be 82, not be totally up on all the trans-inclusive jargon and tumblr stuff and not totally get all the aspects of trans-inclusion, but still be basically non-transphobic and not laugh at that joke. My dad wouldn't laugh at that joke, and although he's not 82, he's also a retirement-aged guy who has learned and grown about trans issues in the last few years.
posted by Frowner at 7:43 AM on February 9, 2016 [21 favorites]


"Girls are going to Bernie Sanders rallies because all the boys are there" sounds like something you'd hear on Rush Limbaugh's show.
posted by The Card Cheat at 7:47 AM on February 9, 2016 [7 favorites]


(Also it's a mean joke, and you don't really have to be especially familiar with trans issues to know it's a mean joke - you're getting at someone for their body,which we all know is unkind and you're talking about their genitals, which is something that is pretty taboo and widely held to be offensive. Personally, I am put off by anyone making mean jokes about bodies, even if the bodies belong to people I dislike, and - with some occasional exceptions for satire against the powerful - do not think that it is a feminist approach.)
posted by Frowner at 7:54 AM on February 9, 2016 [22 favorites]


If anything Bill Maher needs more of a circular firing squad. Dude is gross on a constant basis and needs much more active criticism than he gets. He was the one instigating it and he shouldn't be let off the hook.

I was gonna ask, "Who's even taking him seriously at this point?"

But, well, folks like Steinem are still going on his show. So.

Maher himself is so far up his own ass, I don't think there's any hope of changing his mind on anything. If folks who decided to appear on a show hosted by such a well-known bigot started getting dragged for it, though... That seems appropriate.
posted by tobascodagama at 7:54 AM on February 9, 2016 [2 favorites]


Look, this shit pissed me off when Obama ran and all the older women I worked with looked at me like I was a traitor for supporting the man. The whole "women must support other women" mantra is fine when we are talking about not questioning other women's right to choose or supporting our sisters' businesses or education, but when you tell me that the sole reason I should support a candidate is because she's got an innie instead of an outie, then I'm done.

Should we back Carly? She's a chick. How about back in the day when Phyllis Schlafly ran? Should we have backed her because her bits match mine?

Seriously, it's the 21st century and there is no reason for Stienham or Allbright to suggest that support for Clinton has to be driven by one's gender. Point to her record, point to her consistent support for women's issues, point to her work on health care as First Lady, point to all her actual work that she's done. Then tell me she's a good candidate who supports the same issues that I do as liberal woman. There's enough evidence to back that. Don't tell me that I have to support her. Don't pull out some shit about a moral imperative to support her. This is what we've been fighting for since day one, the right and the ability to be taken on our records. To have a woman be considered for a position based on the work she's done and the work we think she might be able to do. Not because she's a woman. It's offensive, reductive, and contrary to the entire concept of feminism.

Entertainingly, I actually do back Clinton this time around. She's a bit too hawkish for my personal preference, but I just have some issues with Bernie. The article's right, this talk from Stienham and Allbright hurt Clinton more than it helped. And it's just unnecessary.
posted by teleri025 at 7:57 AM on February 9, 2016 [16 favorites]


Reading this response and others from younger women -- the kids are alright. They are perfectly capable of taking it from here, thanks.
Yeah, no. Our society really hates old women. Old women deal with stuff that young women don't, and that stuff will be ignored if old women are ignored. Steinem said a stupid, stupid thing, but I am not going to get behind the idea that young feminists can "take it from here" and we should kick older feminists out of the movement. I would, in fact, argue that age is an intersectional category as well, especially if you're talking about women.

Steinem has always been a pretty polarizing figure though, and I wouldn't say that she's ever been my feminist role model. She was an important popularizer but never really a deep thinker, and she's made a lot of missteps over the years.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 7:58 AM on February 9, 2016 [65 favorites]


I think it's important to remember that there are people who are older who are not transphobic or homophobic, etc. It is possible to be 82 and not laugh at that joke; in fact, it's possible to be 82, not be totally up on all the trans-inclusive jargon and tumblr stuff and not totally get all the aspects of trans-inclusion, but still be basically non-transphobic and not laugh at that joke. My dad wouldn't laugh at that joke, and although he's not 82, he's also a retirement-aged guy who has learned and grown about trans issues in the last few years.

I can't tell if you're assuming that I was defending that? I'm not and I don't think you have to be up on the tumblr or whatever not to say transphobic things. In fact, I was making the opposite point. If you got that, great. But your inclusion of a sort of straw-man version of my argument about Steinem's sexist comment sort of indicates to me that you didn't get that, so...?

My comment about her age is specific and contextual, and is about the way she grew up and what she's likely experienced, as a woman, who is both a victim of sexism and a vessel for it (as we all are).

And I can't say that I think it's fair for men especially to give her shit for her sexist comment. It's very easy for them to say they'd be better in her shoes, I'm sure.

And please, please, PLEASE mentally separate my feelings about her sexist comments from my feelings about her transphobic laughter at Bill Maher's shitty jokes, ok? Many people in this thread (and in the greater discourse) are very focused on her sexist comments, and I responded to that. Regarding the transphobic interaction between her and Maher, as I discussed at length above, I think the transphobic stuff is hurtful and serious. I would never try to tell anyone how to talk about transphobia or how they should feel about it. It's not my place and I don't have the requisite knowledge.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 7:59 AM on February 9, 2016 [4 favorites]


and we should kick older feminists out of the movement.

We should kick them out if they don't support women of color or trans women. Absolutely we should.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 8:00 AM on February 9, 2016 [13 favorites]


I remember watching Berkeley in the Sixties and being floored and a bit delghted when Susan Griffin said she started going to demos
because of a boy.

Definitely a reason to go to the demo, especially when young, and when the demos take up all your free time it is your entire social network.

Not something you admit on TV when you are seen as s spokesperson for a movement... But it is certainly part of the dynamic. Probably something people home about behind the scnes though.
posted by chapps at 8:02 AM on February 9, 2016


also, I'm going to step out of this thread. I find it extremely frustrating when people basically assume that if someone doesn't agree with them about one thing then they are inevitably going to be on the wrong side of whatever other issue. It's maddening, and I don't really feel like making tons of corrections of obvious mis-reads is a good use of my time. If you're going to bother responding to a comment, bother to read it first.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 8:03 AM on February 9, 2016 [10 favorites]


What gets me about her comments, as a young woman and a feminist, is that... well, okay, if you want me to write off Steinem as a product of her time and as someone who has calcified and hasn't adjusted to basic changes in intersectionality that have happened over the last decade, I can do that. I can think of her as someone who did great things before I was born and was nevertheless imperfect. I can listen to her fuck up and roll my eyes affectionately, because she was a leader once but she isn't one for my generation. Okay. It seems more contemptuous to do that than I think she probably deserves, but I can do it.

Or you can have me listen to her as someone who is supposed to be a role model now, who is supposed to be worth listening to now, and she can make those mistakes. And I can react with fury when she scorns me on a personal level--once on behalf of my age, and twice because she clearly is assuming in that quote that millenial feminists are mostly straight, which I'm not (I am in no way interested in men, fuck you), and thrice because she's assuming that because my politics are not currently the same as hers, my choices must be suspect because I am thinking with my fucking clit. That's a pretty alienating thing to say about me and my generation of women.

I don't have the visceral reactions to Steinem and Albright and Clinton that older women do. That's a product of my age and the context I've grown up as a feminist in. I am happy to listen to older women explain to me the merits of listening now, but I need to believe that the politics actually being advanced now will do things for the causes I care about. (And for me, honestly, the things I care about most strongly revolve around domestic change rather than international change. I want the USA to focus its considerable efforts at home right now, to improving itself rather than fighting wars elsewhere.)

Comments like this are not doing that. I hear and acknowledge the wars that older women have fought. I see the sexism that Clinton herself has dealt with, and I'm terribly impressed with her as a person and with her resume. She's tough as nails. But I need to make my decisions based on what these candidates are trying to do and say now.
posted by sciatrix at 8:04 AM on February 9, 2016 [28 favorites]


[A few comments deleted. Insulting other people in the thread, either for being young or old, isn't a good way to have this conversation.]
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 8:08 AM on February 9, 2016 [2 favorites]


Not something you admit on TV when you are seen as s spokesperson for a movement... But it is certainly part of the dynamic.

There's a distinct difference between saying "Here's why I did it" and "Here's why other people are doing it", especially when you're framing the former as a confession that you're not proud of.
posted by Etrigan at 8:11 AM on February 9, 2016 [4 favorites]


We should kick them out if they don't support women of color or trans women. Absolutely we should.

Does Gloria Steinem not support women of color or trans women? Here's what she had to say about black feminists recently (I believe last year):

I thought they invented the feminist movement. I’ve learned feminism disproportionately from black women. I realize that things being what they are, the white middle-class part of the movement got reported more, but if you look at the numbers and the very first poll of women responding to feminist issues, African American women were twice as likely to support feminism and feminist issues than white women.


And here's what she said regarding the trans experience in 2013:

So now I want to be unequivocal in my words: I believe that transgender people, including those who have transitioned, are living out real, authentic lives. Those lives should be celebrated, not questioned. Their health care decisions should be theirs and theirs alone to make. And what I wrote decades ago does not reflect what we know today as we move away from only the binary boxes of “masculine” or “feminine” and begin to live along the full human continuum of identity and expression.

I’m grateful for this opportunity to say that I’m sorry and sad if any words floating out there from the past seem to suggest anything other than support, past and present. As feminists know, power over our own minds and bodies comes first.


And here's her response to her own comments on Bill Maher:

In a case of talk-show Interruptus, I misspoke on the Bill Maher show recently, and apologize for what's been misinterpreted as implying young women aren't serious in their politics. What I had just said on the same show was the opposite: young women are active, mad as hell about what's happening to them, graduating in debt, but averaging a million dollars less over their lifetimes to pay it back. Whether they gravitate to Bernie or Hillary, young women are activist and feminist in greater numbers than ever before.
posted by maxsparber at 8:21 AM on February 9, 2016 [30 favorites]


"Our society really hates old women. Old women deal with stuff that young women don't, and that stuff will be ignored if old women are ignored."

Absolutely this is true. Without question.

The original remarks were pretty condescending and belittling. I am saying only that young feminists do not deserve that at all, and that many of the responses I've seen, such as the one in this post, demonstrate their capability. If someone does not believe in or see that capability, then yes, they shouldn't be directing them.
posted by Capt. Renault at 8:28 AM on February 9, 2016 [2 favorites]


It seems like her trouble is that she says great things when giving a speech and crappy things when speaking off-the-cuff. Then she has to go back and apologize. That's a problem.

In the end, though, Steinem doesn't get to define feminism. The media knows her as the go-to, because it's run by dudes her age, but there are others out there who can speak also. Maybe it's time for her to let them do more of the talking when the media comes looking for a spokesperson.
posted by emjaybee at 8:30 AM on February 9, 2016 [7 favorites]


I never could stand Gloria Steinem supposedly speaking for me as a woman of her generation, and I am not surprised she has put foot in mouth about younger women. Were I British I would not have supported Margaret Thatcher just because she is female. I would never support Sarah Palin although she shares my gender. I prefer Bernie to Hillary (whether he can win the general election is another story) because his political beliefs are more in line with mine. That's all. I imagine many younger feminist women feel the same way. I have not seen female candidates as a group as more progressive than male candidates. I am not any more impressed with that right to life woman in the Republican clown car than with any of the males.
posted by mermayd at 8:34 AM on February 9, 2016 [5 favorites]


I am so afraid all this invective in the primary is going to lead to a GOP victory through people staying home for the election. And seriously, whether you're a Steinem feminist or a Millennial feminist or a Don't Call Me a Feminist Feminist or, frankly, Not a Feminist but a Person who Believes Government Should not Spread Hate/Disenfranchisement/Oppression toward any Type of Human, you need to do everything you can to keep Cruz, Rubio, Bush or GOD FORBID Trump away from the White House.
posted by crush-onastick at 8:42 AM on February 9, 2016 [9 favorites]


Steinem is 81. Find an 81 year-old that is hip to the latest trends in technology, social media, gaming, etc. and I'll give you a hundred bucks via paypal.

She did her thing in the 60's and 70's, and has been, pretty much, an historical figure since then.

Still looking for that positive article about Hillary. It's elusive, even from the left.
posted by Chuffy at 8:46 AM on February 9, 2016 [1 favorite]


Find an 81 year-old that is hip to the latest trends in technology, social media, gaming, etc. and I'll give you a hundred bucks via paypal.

Bernie Sanders, according to a Facebook meme I saw
posted by shakespeherian at 8:57 AM on February 9, 2016 [13 favorites]


It comes down, in a basic kind of way, to respect. If you want me to respect someone, I have to hold them accountable for the ways in which they fail. If you want me to accept someone's flaws and failures without holding them accountable--and snarling "that was not okay and you of all people should have known better" is holding them accountable--well, that's not a respectful position for me to hold, and I can't hold those two things in my head at once without serious cognitive dissonance.

I am standing here, waiting for people on the campaign to tell me why Secretary Clinton's campaign will do better at achieving the goals I care about than Senator Sanders' campaign will. What I'm seeing is that the insults are getting passed around the social feeds of women my age--because they're new, and they really piss us off, and they cut deeply from someone with the feminist credibility that Steinem has. But I'm not seeing the more intersectional things she has to say bruited about. I'm not seeing Clinton supporters listen to the things that I care about or explain why Secretary Clinton is highly motivated to work on these things without steeping them in a whole lot of condescension and scolding.

Maybe she is doing these things! Maybe her campaign is working very hard on them! But that's not the message that I, as a young feminist who has social networks skewed towards other people my age, am getting. And I prioritize listening to older leftists, especially queer folks and feminist women, a lot! But I'm not hearing respectful attempts to engage with me and mine on behalf of people who are stumping for Secretary Clinton. I'm primed to listen, but what is actually going around that I'm hearing is insults about my choices instead of a positive reason to make a different choice.

Am I looking in the wrong places? Maybe! Are multiple people stumping for the Clinton campaign fucking this up pretty dramatically right now? Well, yeah. I keep looking for reasons to change my mind--I've got to be missing something, right?--and every piece I've seen has a strong whiff of "you young whippersnappers, you don't know what Secretary Clinton has done to make it this far, she's PAID HER DUES." Well, yeah. I respect her very strongly for that. But that's not enough to sway me, and I think the Clinton campaign needs to take a very, very hard look at the message they are sending out and revise if they want to gather support from young women--because this stuff keeps getting publicized, and as Chuffy points out genuinely pro-Clinton-on-her-own-merits stuff does not. And she has a lot of merits!

Actually, you know what, this is a piece which is pro-Sec. Clinton which is not insulting even though it makes a strong case. More like this, goddammit. Less of the smearing stuff. This piece, this is excellent, and if we didn't have two politics threads rolling I'd say this would make a better framing for an FPP on Secretary Clinton.
posted by sciatrix at 8:57 AM on February 9, 2016 [29 favorites]


For what it's worth, here's Shelby Knox on Steinem's apology. Knox is a youngish (I think she's now 29) feminist who came to prominence when PBS aired a documentary about her fight against abstinence-only education when she was a 15-year-old living in Lubbock, Texas. Steinem let Knox live in her guest room rent-free for two years when Knox was trying to figure out how to make a living as a feminist activist.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 8:59 AM on February 9, 2016 [7 favorites]


After eons of "women CAN'T do this and women SHOULD do that" and after centuries of pushing back against those beliefs, being told that we as women SHOULD do something by the very women who pushed back on all of that is mind-boggling at the very least and insulting/manipulative at its worst.
posted by kimberussell at 8:59 AM on February 9, 2016 [2 favorites]


I struggle a bit with Hillary Clinton the candidate as well, but this non-referenced sentence in the article caught me off-guard: "Clinton proudly claims war criminal Henry Kissinger as her foreign-policy inspiration and mentor."

What is the deal with that? Any advocate of Kissinger, no matter what might be in their pants gets a Yuge side-eye from me, despite the general idea all other things seeming equal platform-wise, I'd prefer to vote for a woman or a minority, just because enough with the white men already. Supporters aside, I've been through Sander's platform, and I've been through Clinton's platform, and I am not going to be scolded into voting for one or the other by anyone. I'd like to see some sourcing (by the author) on the Kissinger statement, because it's meant to be a very damning accusation.

We've long-since known that Maher was a self-aggrandizing clown who plays for eyeballs to advertisers, and I wish that the collective left would give him the cold shoulder, starting yesterday. I am not going to pontificate on Steinham's record/errors since she may have been goaded into this, taken out of context, made a poor choice of words, whatever, or maybe not. I would say that her record probably speaks for itself, and so does Maher's.
posted by Devils Rancher at 9:00 AM on February 9, 2016 [4 favorites]


I think everyone's feeling a little on edge right now since it's an election year, and stakes are high. A lot of folks feel very strongly about the candidate they support and that's good, but it's kind of leading to a lot of "with me or against me" as people take inventory and start drawing border lines.

It does seem especially divisive and angry this year, a marked difference from 2008.
posted by FJT at 9:00 AM on February 9, 2016 [2 favorites]


It does seem especially divisive and angry this year, a marked difference from 2008.
You and I have very different recollections of 2008.

On the other hand, if this is going to become another long, long, long discussion of how evil everyone thinks Hillary Clinton is, then I'm out.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 9:02 AM on February 9, 2016 [18 favorites]


[I said it above, but if people want a thread for generalized election discussion eg about Clinton's record, head on over to the caucus thread.]
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 9:04 AM on February 9, 2016


There's a lot of things to say about Maher that are both nasty and true, but "plays for eyeballs to advertisers" only seems to be the first one. He's not on a commercial network.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 9:11 AM on February 9, 2016 [1 favorite]


Yeah, Etrigan, you are right, and her comments are not comparable to discussing your own silly moments.

Steinem was doing the classic false argument set up: assign stupid beliefs to people in order to argue against them. And she was wrong.

I guess the whole thing is bringing up a bunch of semi-related ideas about generation gaps and activism which I find interesting.

I spent yesterday railing against the stupidity and thoughtlessness of the remarks Steinem made (and don't even get me started on Albright), and remembering what it was like to be dismissed as a young activist ... and then I think how as I get older I feel dismissed more and more and in different ways. Sometimes it is younger activist men (and some women) who like to inform me about some big social issue they have just become aware of and I am laughing to myself that not only was I working away at that 20 years ago, I was unaware that others were there 20 years before me...

I imagine saying things like Steinem's remark in a short hand, to people who know what I mean... "ah to be young and excited about the big social movement, and the solutions all seem so easy and obvious, and all your friends are there, and you have energy to go to every meeting and march, and you meet a lefty SNAG guy and he is awesome and into you". The year I was 19, I was at a demonstration every Saturday (from the Oka crisis to Take Back the Night to the start of the Iraq War round 1) and it was a jumble of activist drive and commitment to justice and "what are you going to wear to the demo". It was my entire social life, it was everything, and I think fondly back on that. On the idealism, but also the people and the crushes, and oh, how we dismissed the experience of those who were older.

I do think there is a generation gap in activism, and I think it goes two ways.

However, if I were from the US I would vote for Sanders and I am not a Hilary fan.
posted by chapps at 9:26 AM on February 9, 2016 [5 favorites]


Well, okay. How do we bridge it? One problem, I think, is that people don't always come to progressive/feminist politics by merit of having been raised in them. I certainly didn't, and it's not as if I have infinite time and energy to learn about recent progressive political history--least of all by merit of being 25 and having, y'know, a career. (I'm neglecting it right now in favor of posting here and on Twitter, but I do have one.)

Of course there's going to be some holes in my context, especially because in many ways my feminism is strongly influenced by the feminism of my peers. Even what academic feminist education I have--a single collegiate course--was both a) explicitly intersectional and b) included points where I and other classmates pushed back on a different aspect of intersectionality from the main axes of academic consideration. Most of it's grassroots from conversing with my peers, which include more people my age than not.

So how do you get communities of discussion with different age biases to talk to each other?
posted by sciatrix at 9:36 AM on February 9, 2016 [4 favorites]


He's not on a commercial network.

Okay, I am an old-- Politically Incorrect was on Comedy Central -- a couple centuries ago. But while HBO may not air commercials, they are certainly a for-profit venture, with an interest in attracting eyeballs. I don't know what their revenue stream looks like, but I'd guess viewership numbers matter.
posted by Devils Rancher at 9:36 AM on February 9, 2016 [2 favorites]


Still looking for that positive article about Hillary. It's elusive, even from the left.

I'm finding Sady Doyle's recent piece on the progressive movement and sexism to be a good counterpoint here.
posted by NoxAeternum at 9:37 AM on February 9, 2016 [6 favorites]


Of course there's going to be some holes in my context, especially because in many ways my feminism is strongly influenced by the feminism of my peers.

As an Old (especially in activist years, where anyone over thirty is an ancient of days), I have to say that it's not the "oh, you don't know about Important Aspect of The Past" thing; it's when younger people don't know and are really patronizing.

I'd also say, first, that these are problems sometimes, not all the time. And they don't justify being rude, patronizing or controlling, in any case.

I am not bothered by the whole "I just discovered feminism! I am so excited! Let me tell you about it as if it started last week!" thing, because enthusiasm is nice. It's the many, many times that I am treated like I'm stupid - like I don't know anything about current or past politics. It's the many times when people are clearly not listening to what I say, but instead filling in some kind of "here is what I expect a forty-year-old to believe, and I expect them to believe something conservative and retrograde", and I can tell they're doing this by the fact that they respond to things that I do not believe and did not say or imply. It's the times at events where everyone except me is handed the flyer for the next rally. It's the times that people patiently ask me "so, is this your first demonstration, welcome" questions. It's the times that people expect me to act like a stereotypical mom to the group.

The assumption that my politics simply must be terrible because I'm not twenty-five is particularly galling.

What's doubly hilarious is that I'm pretty young-looking for my age, so if it's the weekend and I'm dressed like a Young, this stuff doesn't happen. I have one particular winter coat, though, that is so intensely respectable (vintage, long and very warm) that it increases the patronization by about 50%.

And then, of course, there's the various nasty remarks about older women that I hear when I'm in disguise as a Young, and the way that the oldest member of a class I run is routinely patronized by some of the younger participants. What I notice there is a persistent situation where the younger women appear to believe that the discrimination and other bad stuff that the older woman suffered somehow reflects a flaw in her character, and is something that they will never have to deal with.

On the other hand, working with younger people has made it really clear how vital it is that movements have leaders of all ages. Just because you've experienced a lot doesn't mean that your analysis is particularly great, for one thing, and as I've gotten older I've realized that while having a lot of memory of activist stuff is great in some ways, it can also cloud your thinking from sheer quantity, become overwhelming or cause despair.
posted by Frowner at 9:54 AM on February 9, 2016 [45 favorites]


Also, on the "young person doesn't know a Thing from the 1980s" front: that just means that I can dazzle you with weird political facts, which I really enjoy doing.
posted by Frowner at 10:03 AM on February 9, 2016 [3 favorites]


And one more, then I'll stop: there's a useful tension in projects between "I have seen that tried five times over the past twenty years and it never works" and "but conditions have changed; for Reasons, it could work now". Sometimes things I think of as terrible ideas, based on genuine experience, may no longer be terrible ideas, and I observe that for many in my age cohort, it can be easy to forget that.
posted by Frowner at 10:05 AM on February 9, 2016 [16 favorites]


I do think there is a generation gap in activism, and I think it goes two ways.

Oh, heavens, so much this. I work at a small court reform/access to justice/policy advocacy nonprofit. I've been out of law school for 15 years now. Our boards and volunteers are primarily people who graduated within 5 years of me, but there are many who graduated law school around when I was born and some who are only five years out. Despite the fervent belief of the older folks, and despite the intensity of the younger folks, it's so hard to get them to agree on how to approach projects and which projects to prioritize. It's hard to get the younger people to have the patience to listen to why and how we have tried That Thing They Are Passionately Advocating for 30 years and We Know it's a Non-Starter Until This Other Thing Happens (and sometimes, This Other Thing is just US all dying off and Them getting into positions of power). It's hard to get the older people to accept that their knowledge of What Has Come Before Does Not Apply in This Context.

Part of it is that the Older People see only what has not changed and miss the forest of the new environment for the trees which have always been there. So, they discount the younger ideas sometimes. But the Younger People really don't understand how gains can camouflage losses or how the wrong priority can sink reform. That's a thing you learn from experience, which--no matter how smart, how committed and how studied the younger people are--you get only from years of fighting the fight. So, they discount the older wisdom sometimes.
posted by crush-onastick at 10:05 AM on February 9, 2016 [8 favorites]


Wonder what Rebecca West would think of all this.
posted by Sheydem-tants at 10:16 AM on February 9, 2016


Steinem has previously raised my hackles my implying that women can't ever choose to be sex workers, and if they do, well, they're just, like, stupid or self-hating or something.

Now she seems to think something similar about women who don't support her chosen candidate. Especially reading her not-really-apology, she seems to have no respect for the idea that people, including women, can look at facts, think, make their own decisions, and disagree with her.

For all the good Steinem and her ilk did, I don't think we need a feminism that says that at the end of the day, women can't really think for themselves.
posted by andrewpcone at 10:18 AM on February 9, 2016 [7 favorites]


I am weirded out by a dude speaking authoritatively about what feminisms we do and don't need, personally.
posted by sciatrix at 10:34 AM on February 9, 2016 [28 favorites]


>I'm finding Sady Doyle's recent piece on the progressive movement and sexism to be a good counterpoint here.

How is that a good counterpoint? It's just more of the same: insinuation with no direct quotes or evidence. Oh and of course she throws Bernie bros in at the end for good measure. You know who's not smiling and never has been? Poor women with no access to healthcare. Poor single mothers who can't get by on minimum wage, and have to choose between keeping the lights on and food for the next week.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 10:36 AM on February 9, 2016 [4 favorites]


I am weirded out by a dude speaking authoritatively about what feminisms we do and don't need, personally.

Honestly I'm pretty much weirded out by guys having a strong opinion on inter-feminist discussions in general. I'm not in the "men cannot be feminists" camp but I am pretty much in the "when women are talking about feminism, men can shut up any time now" camp.

Also I want to get in line behind Frowner's comment. We olds have a lot to learn from the young, but there are things they could learn from us too.
posted by immlass at 10:42 AM on February 9, 2016 [17 favorites]


You know who's not smiling and never has been? Poor women with no access to healthcare. Poor single mothers who can't get by on minimum wage, and have to choose between keeping the lights on and food for the next week.

Those poor women are also getting screwed by restrictions on their reproductive health, which is just as much an economic issue as those you mention. Not to mention the wage gap, which is incredibly pernicious.
posted by NoxAeternum at 10:49 AM on February 9, 2016 [3 favorites]


And there is no indication whatsoever that Sanders would do anything to jeopardize their reproductive rights - he's just as committed as Hillary Clinton is, down to calling for repealing the Hyde amendment. He also supports equal pay for equal work and has repeatedly said he would prioritize it. Increasing the minimum wage to $15 would disproportionately increase women's wages, something Clinton has been unwilling to support.

On Hillary Clinton: having a female president is not more important than helping poor American women

posted by dialetheia at 10:54 AM on February 9, 2016 [9 favorites]


"Young women just don't get it" by Barbara Res for the Baltimore Sun: But I shake my head and ask myself, why can't they just go with Hillary because she is a woman?
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 10:58 AM on February 9, 2016


In fairness, I should say that I am a transmasculine person who has not transitioned (does that make any sense?) and am usually read as a butch queer woman, go by my birth name which is generally a women's name, etc. So I feel like I'm in this weird space, feminism-wise, where I've grown up living as a woman, participating in feminist things as a woman, and Stuff About Women And Feminism is likely to be super, super important to me unless/until I actually transition (not that I'd, like, stop caring about feminism - but being read as male will inevitably mean moving toward male privilege even though experiencing some trans-specific issues). So I'm coming to it from a weird position of Not Exactly A Woman, And Yet I Do Not Live As A Man, and I guess I should name that.
posted by Frowner at 11:02 AM on February 9, 2016 [10 favorites]


I've said a lot about Clinton v. Sanders and young women in the Iowa Caucus thread, so I won't repeat all of that here. But I think part of the issue here with Steinem and the young/old divide and Sanders/Clinton is about scripted vs nonscripted. Our current pop culture is saturated with scripted moments - Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, "reality" tv shows, campaign speeches, etc -- it's hard to find people being nonscripted ("authentic"). So, we search for those off the cuff moments - the "talk show interruptus" or the town hall where the candidates might get unusual questions. Anyone can script on-message tweets or articles. But what do the candidates (or their supporters) actually think in their heart of hearts? We can never truly know, but the positions and statements they fall back on when they are unscripted can give us insight. So, some say "she made a mistake, she apologized, it was one bad statement in an otherwise good interview, get over it" while others say "the 'mistake' was heteronormative, transphobic, and dismissive - someone who doesn't have those feelings *somewhere* wouldn't have made those comments." The latter statement is where I tend to fall.

And that doesn't mean Steinem needs to go away forever or anything. But, there are a lot of people who won't fall back on transphobic/heteronormative tropes when they're put on the spot. And I'd rather listen to their voices.
posted by melissasaurus at 11:04 AM on February 9, 2016 [6 favorites]


cjorgensen: "For the record, if you were wanting to meet boys I don't think a Sanders rally is the way to go. I've been to several and at 45 am often one of the younger men in there. The gender ratio is also a bit skewed, since I think only about a third of the people were women, so while this may improve your odds considerably, unless you are really into older gents you would probably do better with tindr."

Ya don't say!
posted by symbioid at 11:11 AM on February 9, 2016 [1 favorite]


statements they fall back on when they are unscripted can give us insight.

I agree ... I also wonder if this was scripted? I think they may have calculated that the "support a woman for president because we need more women in politics" has some weight with women, and it causes worry about "being a good enough feminist" with may swing some. It looks like a miscalculation but maybe not?
posted by chapps at 11:12 AM on February 9, 2016


It seems to me that this is one of those things that Bernie would have previously called the media on, for being a stupid, inconsequential distraction from the issues, but seems reluctant to do in this instance.

It also inevitably has sexist overtones to it. How could it not, when we simply aren't seeing Sanders full history -- let alone the statements of his surrogates -- being hyperfixated on and vetted for microaggressions. Do we go through everything that Cornel West says? Jello Biafra? Michael Moore? No..?! And even if we did, would this smear by association crap be valid, or just stupid, and not worthy of us?

The only people we *know* who profit from our choice of making these non-issues into issues is Big Media, who is always glad to troll us for a few thousand more pageviews, and the GOP.
posted by markkraft at 11:14 AM on February 9, 2016 [5 favorites]


"Young women just don't get it" by Barbara Res for the Baltimore Sun: But I shake my head and ask myself, why can't they just go with Hillary because she is a woman?

That is one weird article.

I think it's reasonable to argue, "young people should understand that it's more important to elect Clinton so the Supreme Court doesn't ruin everything for the next thirty years than to nominate Sanders so he can lose in a principled manner". I remember back when we were all convinced - convinced! - that Bush versus Gore made no difference, it was all the same corporate stuff. And we were wrong, not because Gore would have been so great, but because Bush really was awful and set us on a particularly awful course. It was easy for me, with relatively little political experience as an adult under my belt, to underestimate how bad things could actually get.

What's funny about her argument is that she's saying that we have to elect a woman because only a woman will really get women's issues, but then she says "most progress for women has been made because of the Supreme Court", and yet there weren't any women justices until 1981, after Roe v Wade and many other important decisions. Women justices have done a lot, but it's certainly not true that women's progress hasn't been advanced by men in the courts.
posted by Frowner at 11:19 AM on February 9, 2016 [13 favorites]


But I shake my head and ask myself, why can't they just go with Hillary because she is a woman?

Because asking a woman to abandon the choices she has made and the individual wishes she has and follow a certain course of action simply because of her gender is a sexist thing to ask, no matter who's doing the asking.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:21 AM on February 9, 2016 [8 favorites]


Still looking for that positive article about Hillary. It's elusive, even from the left.

Every aspect of her and her life has been picked apart for literally decades. I'm guessing if you're not seeing articles making the case for Hillary (and I disagree that there are none), it's likely because there is a presumption of some level of prior knowledge with Hillary, whether that's fair or not.

I mean, for the most part, I align more with Bernie's talking points than I do Hillary's, but there are a few reasons I generally support Hillary. One, because I remember how great and idealistic Obama sounded in 2008, and how he hasn't, in many ways, lived up to that promise. I'm not an Obama criticizer, I think he's done a good job. I just don't think it's possible to govern as president without moving to the center. I just don't. I know some people disagree with me. I think if Bernie were to be elected (an outcome I would be very happy with), we would see more of the same and a couple years down the road we'll be having threads full of people bitching about Bernie for abandoning his promises, just as we have with Obama. The idea that the GOP will suddenly alight to a magical state of bipartisanship if Bernie became president is a fantasy. Because the reps still have to go home to their rightwing constituents, in their gerrymandered districts, and look like they're doing whatever the extremist base wants them to do to get reelected.

Also, the whole thing about voting for Hillary just because she's a woman rubs me a little bit the wrong way and, I think, really discredits her supporters by making them look like idiots, much in the way that Steinem did with her comment about Bernie supporters that we all seem pretty united in condemning. I mean, I'm sure there are people who may be voting for her based on that one single issue, just as there are anti-Hillary people who are voting for Bernie, a Republican or no one based purely on a hatred of Hillary.

Bernie and Hillary have pretty similar voting records and a majority of their positions overlap. Believing as I do, that any Democrat elected as president will have to move to the center at least a little, put them at about evens for me. I don't think they're the same, I just don't think that a Hillary presidency or a Bernie presidency will be effectively all that different from each other.

This is where my consideration of her as a woman comes into play. Because I strongly believe that representation matters. And it matters a lot:

Consider that my six-year-old daughter, Sally, has never known a white presidency. She has spent her entire life under a black president. It’s what she knows, and what seems normal to her. The same is true for millions of kids across the country, and that matters. Consider, for a moment, that a Clinton presidency could mean my daughter would be halfway through high school before experiencing a white male presidency. After 43 white male presidents in a row, that would be nothing short of incredible.

We know that representation shapes children’s perceptions of what they achieve. It’s the reason we work to present girls with role models in business and in STEM fields. It’s the reason we ask for movies with female leads. Having a female president would shape girls’ perceptions of what they can be, and how high they can reach. It would tell them that even the highest echelons of power are open to them, if they are willing to reach. It wouldn’t make getting there easy, by any means, but it would put it within the realm of what they consider possible.


It not only shapes the perceptions of kids, it shapes the perceptions of adults. Diverse and broad representation of marginalized groups changes implicit bias. This is a huge deal to me and everyone else who has to deal with it day in and day out. And if Hillary is willing to stand front and center and take the tidal wave of really gross sexist shit that she has for decades and will continue to get; so that the world gets a powerful, persistent, visible example of a woman in power; which will in turn slowly shape our cultural mindsets about what women can achieve; then I am 100% willing to let her do it. Because I already have to take it on the chin all the time, and I neither asked for it nor do I want it. She's asking for it. She's willing to take it, knowing that representation of women in all levels of society makes a difference in how society views women. And that kind of change affects women's lives directly. That may not be her prime motivation, but the result is the same. She wants to do that voluntarily? Then fuck yeah. Go to town, lady.
posted by triggerfinger at 11:23 AM on February 9, 2016 [41 favorites]


"What's funny about her argument is that she's saying that we have to elect a woman because only a woman will really get women's issues, but then she says "most progress for women has been made because of the Supreme Court", and yet there weren't any women justices until 1981, after Roe v Wade and many other important decisions. Women justices have done a lot, but it's certainly not true that women's progress hasn't been advanced by men in the courts."

Does this parse well, if converted to a slightly different argument? I'm not so sure.

"Whatls funny about his argument is that he's saying that we need to elect a black president, because only a black person can really understand black issues . . . but then he says "most progress for blacks has only been made because of _______", and yet there weren't any black _____ until _____"

This, to me, seems like suggesting that powerful white leaders gave blacks their equality, and therefore blacks in higher office aren't needed thousands of yesterdays ago.

I think it's great and just fine for blacks and women and latinos and asians to say we need blacks and women and latinos and asians at the highest levels of government, NOW. You might not feel the need or even see the need, but that just means that this argument isn't for you. When you judge it as if it is, well... that's problematic.
posted by markkraft at 11:28 AM on February 9, 2016 [3 favorites]


And there is no indication whatsoever that Sanders would do anything to jeopardize their reproductive rights - he's just as committed as Hillary Clinton is

Except he isn't, as Doyle points out:

When asked to consider the differences between Kunin and her Republican opponent (who was also running against her; Sanders was a third-party candidate in those days) he called them “Tweedledee and Tweedledum.”
So that was the answer. Feminism didn’t matter. Her record of fighting for women’s equality, and of working to secure women both legal protection from discrimination and representation in their own government — well, that was all “women’s issues,” not real progressivism. In his view, there was no difference between a feminist ERA supporter and a Republican. In fact, Kunin’s actual gender politics were totally erased, so as to argue that her supporters were guilty of the “sexism” of voting for her “because she was a woman.” Because, in the end, that was all she was. Just “a woman.” Not a progressive. Not a feminist. Not even herself. Just female.


This is why I found his complaints about the Planned Parenthood endorsement to be questionable - yes, he had the same voting record, but beyond that, he doesn't have the same record as Clinton did on advocacy.

If you want to say he's supporting the same issues now, okay. But no, he has not been "just as committed".
posted by NoxAeternum at 11:28 AM on February 9, 2016 [9 favorites]


I think a Jewish president would be pretty incredible too.
posted by maxsparber at 11:29 AM on February 9, 2016 [12 favorites]


Steinem's remarks didn't shock me, as I expect this kind of language and blanket-judgments from long-term activists. This isn't even anything limited to feminism; I'm thinking of activists across the political spectrum.

I actually have more problems with the essay itself, and it's assumption that intersectionality marks a growing chasm between your brand of feminism and the intersectional feminism that young activists have been leading the charge on. This discussion has been going on at least since the socialist movements of the 19th century, and was absolutely a hot topic of discussion, albeit with different terminology, in the 80s when I was in college.
posted by kanewai at 11:36 AM on February 9, 2016 [5 favorites]


I am not as old as Steinem, but I am old enough to remember a couple of previous generational splits in feminism and I'm worried because they went really poorly for us, politically.
posted by clew at 11:37 AM on February 9, 2016 [3 favorites]


Meant to add: I remember these exact same types of arguments when Geraldine Ferraro was nominated. I was at a rally where an older feminist activist told younger women they had a duty to vote for Mondale/Ferraro, and all I remember of the rest of the evening was sitting quietly at a table while feminist friends worked through their anger. They were pissed.
posted by kanewai at 11:41 AM on February 9, 2016 [3 favorites]


What's funny about her argument is that she's saying that we have to elect a woman because only a woman will really get women's issues, but then she says "most progress for women has been made because of the Supreme Court", and yet there weren't any women justices until 1981, after Roe v Wade and many other important decisions. Women justices have done a lot, but it's certainly not true that women's progress hasn't been advanced by men in the courts.

I would give credit for that advancement to the woman who selected the plaintiffs, wrote the briefs, and argued the cases on which those white male justices ruled, because she engineered a deliberate and genius long term strategy using unconventional gender discrimination plaintiffs to appeal to those white male justices, and was then able to deliver the decisive blow herself, having been recently appointed to the Court when she was assigned the majority opinion in United States v. Virginia by a more senior Justice who was also not a white man and who could have taken the opinion (and the glory) for herself, but chose not to (speaking of role models, and speaking of women supporting other women).
posted by sallybrown at 11:42 AM on February 9, 2016 [7 favorites]


As much as I'm dismayed by Steinem's regrettable statement, I wasn't too thrilled about Sanders referring to Planned Parenthood as 'the establishment', thereby not recognizing that access to birth control can be an economic issue as well and not just a pet issue for women. I don't know the full context of Steinem's statement, and assuming reflexive support for a woman regardless of politics is ridiculous (especially post-Thatcher), but perhaps that incident inspired some hyperbolic sarcastic dismissal of Sanders. I can't stand Clinton, but Sanders statement almost had me switching sides I was so pissed.
posted by GospelofWesleyWillis at 11:43 AM on February 9, 2016 [5 favorites]


Does this parse well, if converted to a slightly different argument? I'm not so sure.

Well, first, I think it's really not a good idea to reason by analogy on the "but what if we said it about Black issues" model - that seems to go off the rails really easily.

Second, the article is literally talking about policy issues. She's saying simultaneously that we need a woman president to advance on women's issues because only a woman will be motivated AND that women's advancement so far has come primarily from the supreme court, which has mostly been male. Those things can't both be true. I don't think either of them is true, actually - women's advancement has come, fundamentally, from woman-led organizing and from women taking advantage of larger social forces. Politicians and justices are swayed by cultural changes and political power, which is why Nixon looks so "left" now. Nixon didn't "give" us the EPA; political and cultural activism over time gave us the EPA.
posted by Frowner at 11:43 AM on February 9, 2016 [3 favorites]


I think a Jewish president would be pretty incredible too.
Jews are about 2% of the American population, and women are over 50%. To me, as a Jewish woman, the fact that we've never had a woman president seems more significant than the fact that we've never had a Jewish one.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 11:47 AM on February 9, 2016 [13 favorites]


I wasn't too thrilled about Sanders referring to Planned Parenthood as 'the establishment'

For context, a lot of women, myself included, were very angry that Planned Parenthood endorsed in a primary election, which it has never done before. Many of us were even more angry that they did it unilaterally, not by allowing their members to vote, especially given their deep ties to Clinton (plus, the daughter of PP’s president, Lily Adams, is Hillary Clinton’s Iowa communications director).
posted by dialetheia at 11:49 AM on February 9, 2016 [11 favorites]


Jews are about 2% of the American population, and women are over 50%. To me, as a Jewish woman, the fact that we've never had a woman president seems more significant than the fact that we've never had a Jewish one.

I'm not particularly sure this is a debate that needs to be had.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 11:50 AM on February 9, 2016 [4 favorites]


I'm in the weird position of actually basically agreeing with what Steinem said.

At least among me and my friends, sexism feels much more personal, brutal and intense now that we're in our mid-late 30s, hitting that glass ceiling, trying to balance work and kids, having an ever-growing collection of appalling experiences. We were all feminists in our early 20s but now 10-15 years later we all feel like our younger selves really just had no idea how bad it really is.

WRT to "that's where the boys are" I don't think Steinem meant it literally, I think she meant it's the cool position for young women to have bc it's the cool position for young men to have, and we live in a sexist world, so they get to dictate what's cool, and they decided he's the cool candidate. That's obviously quite a bit of interpretation on my part so who knows, maybe she was just wrong there.

But it drives me crazy to see feminists support Sanders because he actively denies the existence of racism and sexism -- he says that's all secondary to economic injustice. Like, his position on abortion is "it should be legal" (which fine, minimum bar) but also "there should be fewer of them which will happen if reduce economic inequality." And... that's it.

He's to the left of Hillary on economic inequality, but far far to the right of her on racial and gendered injustice.
posted by pocketfullofrye at 11:51 AM on February 9, 2016 [18 favorites]


He's to the left of Hillary on economic inequality, but far far to the right of her on racial and gendered injustice.

Cite? Because I believe this is 100% not true.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 11:53 AM on February 9, 2016 [10 favorites]


i>"the article is literally talking about policy issues. She's saying simultaneously that we need a woman president to advance on women's issues because only a woman will be motivated"

So, if a progressive supporter were to say we needed a progressive for the same reasons, even though they might admit that most of the progress towards progressive goals in Washington hasn't come from progressives, at least as defined by the current crop of progressives...

Again, as you say, those things can't both be true.

I think when talking about any minority and the need for them to have representation at the highest level, well... sometimes they can absolutely be true arguments, in the sense that it's hard to even talk about equality until it can be visibly shown that we've advanced beyond the white male only club.
posted by markkraft at 11:54 AM on February 9, 2016


he actively denies the existence of racism and sexism

This is ludicrously untrue. Bernie Sanders has been an advocate against racism and sexism his entire career, as is patently obvious from his lifelong record protesting for Civil Rights and his speeches and voting record against racist, sexist Clinton policies like welfare reform and anti-crime legislation.
posted by dialetheia at 11:57 AM on February 9, 2016 [20 favorites]


"far to the right of her on racial and gendered injustice"

I would point out one thing I discovered today, which was that at least in Vermont back when his opinion mattered, and when both Democrats and Vermont Progressives were being very direct in their general support for LGBT equality, Bernie Sanders was viewed by the Vermont media as being "wishy-washy", and basically sitting on the fence, letting the courts and Vermont public opinion figure out for him how he should feel about gay marriage.

"This week we were no more successful getting a straight answer. All we did get was a carefully crafted non-statement statement via e-mail from Washington D.C. And Bernie’s statement wins him the Vermont congressional delegation’s Wishy-Washy Award hands down."
posted by markkraft at 12:01 PM on February 9, 2016 [3 favorites]


And Clinton, who just came around in 2013, is so much better on those issues? As a queer woman, no way. I was also really outraged recently by her emails expressing outrage at using non-gendered language (parent 1, parent 2) instead of mother and father on State Dept forms.
posted by dialetheia at 12:04 PM on February 9, 2016 [11 favorites]



He's to the left of Hillary on economic inequality, but far far to the right of her on racial and gendered injustice.

Cite? Because I believe this is 100% not true.


Off the top of my head:
Clinton has been specifically advocating for women her entire career. She made a speech about womens’ rights in Beijing 20 years ago and last year released a 50 page paper on the the status of women with about a bajillion things in between.


You ask Sanders what he means when he says he’s a feminist and he says 1.abortion should be legal, 2. people should have family and medical leave, and 3. the minimum wage should be $15. I mean, come on.

Also did you see how he dealt with BLM/Sandra Bland?
posted by pocketfullofrye at 12:04 PM on February 9, 2016 [5 favorites]


When asked to consider the differences between Kunin and her Republican opponent (who was also running against her; Sanders was a third-party candidate in those days) he called them “Tweedledee and Tweedledum.” So that was the answer. Feminism didn’t matter. Her record of fighting for women’s equality, and of working to secure women both legal protection from discrimination and representation in their own government — well, that was all “women’s issues,” not real progressivism. In his view, there was no difference between a feminist ERA supporter and a Republican. In fact, Kunin’s actual gender politics were totally erased, so as to argue that her supporters were guilty of the “sexism” of voting for her “because she was a woman.” Because, in the end, that was all she was. Just “a woman.” Not a progressive. Not a feminist. Not even herself. Just female.

What a horrible, unsubstantiated smear. You know Hillary is in trouble when her supporters have to go to these dishonest lengths to try and make Sanders look unappealing to women voters. What a joke. Too bad that Doyle can't be arssed to give us the full quotes (if there are any) in context instead of chopping them up and regurgitating them in such a way as to insinuate that Sanders doesn't value women's issues. Embarrassing really.

If you want to say he's supporting the same issues now, okay. But no, he has not been "just as supportive".

CITE?

Bernie Sanders Talks About Women’s Economic Rights in This 1988 Video

Voting record on abortion and reproductive rights

It seems that Doyle is a hack, among others, who will say whatever it takes to get Hillary the nomination regardless of the factual veracity of said statements.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 12:05 PM on February 9, 2016 [8 favorites]


Bernie Sanders Standing Up For Gay Rights And LGBT Equality In 1995 I know this isn't the election thread, but Sanders is ahead of Clinton by a lot on LGBT and race issues. It's not close.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 12:07 PM on February 9, 2016 [8 favorites]


Sorry, I'm just not impressed by the fact that Sanders isn't actively trying to make abortion illegal and has the radical belief that women shouldn't be paid less than men.
posted by pocketfullofrye at 12:08 PM on February 9, 2016 [4 favorites]


So about generational divides among feminists......
posted by sciatrix at 12:08 PM on February 9, 2016 [11 favorites]


[Maybe let's nudge this back toward Steinem, and the election stuff can go over on one of the now-two caucus threads.]
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 12:08 PM on February 9, 2016 [6 favorites]


New election thread is over here
posted by futz at 12:09 PM on February 9, 2016 [1 favorite]


I guess my point is, as a not very young, queer woman , I don't think that Hillary, or that school of feminism, works for me, or those I know.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 12:10 PM on February 9, 2016 [5 favorites]


Also did you see how he dealt with BLM/Sandra Bland?

By repeatedly saying her name as he promised her family, including at the debates, and coming up with a superior criminal justice platform to Hillary Clinton's? Yes, I did. I was actually quite impressed. His outreach with Killer Mike, Cornel West, and Nina Turner has also been really neat to see.

Sorry, I'm just not impressed by the fact that Sanders isn't actively trying to make abortion illegal and has the radical belief that women shouldn't be paid less than men.

He's been a vociferous advocate for reproductive rights and has a 100% voting record as assessed by Planned Parenthood, just like Hillary Clinton.
posted by dialetheia at 12:10 PM on February 9, 2016 [10 favorites]


Maybe it's just me, but I feel uncomfortable when people use "glass ceiling" nowadays (and I say this as a career-focus, ambitious woman). I understand the etymology of the phrase, but to me it dogwhistles a white-upper-middle-class-focused feminism, a feminism that thinks leaning in is the best and only answer for advancing womens rights. I know Clinton's views are more nuanced than that reading, but I just really don't like that phrase.
posted by melissasaurus at 12:15 PM on February 9, 2016 [7 favorites]


Do you not think the glass ceiling exists? If you do believe it exists what do you think would be a better thing to call ilt?
posted by pocketfullofrye at 12:17 PM on February 9, 2016 [7 favorites]


Getting back to the intersectional feminism divide, I don't consider anyone who spoke this way about single mothers and welfare recipients to be anywhere near adequate on intersectional issues. Welfare reform was one of the most racist, sexist policies enacted in the last 25 years and both Clintons should be ashamed of their support for it (hell, it was one of Bill's key legislative "achievements"). Here's what she had to say about it in 2002: "Now that we’ve said these people are no longer deadbeats—they’re actually out there being productive—how do we keep them there?" This rhetoric is even more appalling: "One day, Rhonda Costa’s daughter came home from school and announced, ‘Mommy, I’m tired of seeing you sitting around the house doing nothing.’ That’s the day Rhonda decided to get off welfare." How dare she imply that poor single moms are not only 'doing nothing,' but that their children are ashamed of them?

When she talks about supporting women, I know she only means certain women. She certainly doesn't mean impoverished single mothers, who she sold out and put down.
posted by dialetheia at 12:21 PM on February 9, 2016 [21 favorites]


Sure, it exists. But focusing of "shattering that ultimate glass ceiling" doesn't really play for me. All I think is, "yes, because wealthy, well-connected, white women have such a hard time [eyeroll]." Which is not to say that wealthy, well-connected, white women do not experience sexism - they absolutely do. I think it just misses the fact that, for many - most - women, the ceiling is not even made out of glass, it's opaque.
posted by melissasaurus at 12:22 PM on February 9, 2016 [12 favorites]


So, if a progressive supporter were to say we needed a progressive for the same reasons, even though they might admit that most of the progress towards progressive goals in Washington hasn't come from progressives, at least as defined by the current crop of progressives...

Again, you're making an analogy that doesn't shed a lot of light. Gender identity is complicated, but it's not "chosen" the way political affiliation is chosen. If someone is a progressive advocating for progressive policies, it's not out of loyalty to progressives-as-a-class, or out of the belief that progressives are disadvantaged because of their political identity. If someone gets tired of being politically progressive, they can stop. Etc, etc.

To clarify: Margaret Thatcher had no choice about being a woman, but she had a choice about being a conservative. Margaret Thatcher was a woman but not a feminist. Margaret Thatcher experienced sexism, plenty of it, from her own party and from her critics. Margaret Thatcher made things harder and worse for women, globally and at home. Margaret Thatcher's election may have shown that it's possible for a woman to be PM, but it doesn't show that electing a woman advances women. If someone told me that they wanted to advance women's interests and that's why they were voting for Zombie Thatcher, I'd think they were deluded.

That's not what's in play here, but the point is that there's no logic in the idea that "she's a woman, therefore she will do more for women's rights than a man". Talk about empty representation!
posted by Frowner at 1:30 PM on February 9, 2016 [12 favorites]


Meant to add: I remember these exact same types of arguments when Geraldine Ferraro was nominated. I was at a rally where an older feminist activist told younger women they had a duty to vote for Mondale/Ferraro, and all I remember of the rest of the evening was sitting quietly at a table while feminist friends worked through their anger. They were pissed.

Well, in fairness, the alternative was voting republican. The Republicans have been waging a war against woman (reproductive rights, equal pay, sex education, etc, etc). So in a way, I'd have to agree that anyone that calls themselves a feminist (regardless of gender) has a duty to vote accordingly.

Obviously it's absurd to have the position that you must support a candidate because of their gender if you want to be a good feminist. Otherwise, there would be widespread support for Fiorina; and there isn't, and there shouldn't be.
posted by el io at 1:55 PM on February 9, 2016


And that was the argument made in support of Sarah Palin--well, if we're supposed to vote Hillary Clinton because she's a woman, now you have to respect Palin because she's one!

Which is, of course, both a gross misstatement of feminist support for Hillary Clinton and a weird misunderstanding of why representation matters, although I'm having difficulty explaining that latter belief.

Someone above mentioned how children in the 2nd grade right now have only ever known an African-American president and how, if Hillary is elected, they will be moving to middle school (or high school, if she wins a second term) before we can possibly revert to the status quo of all white men, all the time. That representation in and of itself is a goal can be viewed solely as an academic feminist principle--one grounded in logic and one making cognitive sense (that showing generic person as woman matters, as does pushing to get specific positions of authority occupied by women) but one which is fragile in the real world. See the Margaret Thatcher example.

So you have to balance, constantly. Is Hillary Clinton or Gloria Steinem or Beyonce a perfect feminist? No, of course not. But will we gain if we put this one person into a position of being--for now because this is still a fundamentally patriarchal and inequitable nation--the representation of what happens when you let women lead (whether they are leading as a politician, an activist or a culture-maker)? If the answer is yes, then you have to ask whether you are doing your cause harm in not working to put that person into place, even if there are drawbacks, because for every step forward since the 70's, we have, in fact, lost a lot of ground.

Or, at least, that's one way of looking at it.
posted by crush-onastick at 3:14 PM on February 9, 2016 [8 favorites]


I'm just wondering, has anyone commenting in this thread ever read anything by Gloria Steinem? She is incredibly funny, incisive, and shrewd. I mean, in addition to being one of the most effective civil rights leaders of the past half-century. I am at a loss to think of any leader who has accomplished as much being treated in the manner that she has been.
posted by Ralston McTodd at 3:15 PM on February 9, 2016 [6 favorites]


But will we gain if we put this one person into a position of being--for now because this is still a fundamentally patriarchal and inequitable nation--the representation of what happens when you let women lead

Who is "we" here, though? Like I said, as a poor woman, I have ample evidence that Hillary Clinton doesn't consider me to be part of "we" - and I would much rather fight for a $15 minimum wage and health care to help poor women improve their circumstances than for a rich white lady to get a little more power. Those absolutely are feminist issues. When women are economically marginalized, they can't make decisions in their own self-interest. They can't leave abusive husbands. They can't support their children. They have to work three jobs just to cover childcare. Economic issues are absolutely feminist issues.
posted by dialetheia at 3:29 PM on February 9, 2016 [10 favorites]


You know if you want to just come out and say directly that you support Hillary because it's an important step to elect a female president and god knows when you'll next get the chance, I do respect that. She's not, in fact Margaret Thatcher. But looking at the candidates positions and records I find this

He's to the left of Hillary on economic inequality, but far far to the right of her on racial and gendered injustice

not just an unconvincing statement but a rather mystifying one.
posted by atoxyl at 3:33 PM on February 9, 2016 [10 favorites]


I meant We as All Voters who Vote from an Position of Concern for Women's Issues. But if you look at elections as just an expression of power structures continuing to dominate over minority voices, then We would not include marginalized voices. And then the calculus and balancing act changes again.
posted by crush-onastick at 3:34 PM on February 9, 2016


As far as the way they've addressed race and gender issues in their campaigns I think both have made some blunders (and yes I remember Sanders had his own regarding Planned Parenthood) and both have worked to establish a firmer footing.
posted by atoxyl at 3:40 PM on February 9, 2016 [3 favorites]


I meant We as All Voters who Vote from an Position of Concern for Women's Issues.

Sure, but that just leads to the question of which issues are "women's issues" - and I would argue that Clinton feminism collapses "women's issues" down to reproductive freedom and equal pay only, while bypassing many other issues which are just as important if not more important to women who are not privileged enough to have their concerns taken seriously by the Democratic party (see also: welfare reform). If we had single-payer health care, poor women wouldn't need to rely on Planned Parenthood for their most basic health care needs. If we had a $15 minimum wage, poor women could afford good child care and not have to work 60+ hours a week just to make ends meet. If we had free college education just like high school, poor women wouldn't have to work multiple jobs or go into crippling debt to help send their children to college.
posted by dialetheia at 3:44 PM on February 9, 2016 [5 favorites]


You know Gloria Steinem worked for the CIA sabotaging left wing student organizations, right? Ain't so surprising that she'd lecture about intersectionality one day, while ignoring economic inequality another.
posted by jeffburdges at 6:11 PM on February 9, 2016 [1 favorite]


I've noted that both someone in Sanders' office and Sanders himself have made it clear that sexist comments about HRC are Not Cool....unlike Obama 8 years ago.
posted by brujita at 7:32 PM on February 9, 2016 [1 favorite]


At one point the CIA had very close ties with the US National Student Association and funded a conference organized by the Canadian Union of Students at one point through the student front group. It became public and completely blew up in the UBC student press[PDF]. It seems a lot of people claimed they has no idea about CIA ties to the finding they received. This CIA funding group sounds like to he group Stienem worked for.
posted by chapps at 11:01 PM on February 9, 2016


I'm just wondering, has anyone commenting in this thread ever read anything by Gloria Steinem? She is incredibly funny, incisive, and shrewd.

I have, most recently the book that she's been promoting. She is powerfully good with words and has played the campaigning game for a very long time. Which doubles my disappointment that she's backpedaling using a "I was misinterpreted" defense. But she apologized (sort of) and while I've forgiven, forgetting is harder.
posted by kimberussell at 4:19 AM on February 10, 2016 [5 favorites]


Is the breathless "she was in the CIA and isn't a real feminist!" thing the newest smear tactic? That's a lovely one.
posted by palomar at 5:12 AM on February 10, 2016 [1 favorite]


Here is some more about student activism, Gloria Steinem and the CIA. It's not an attractive story, but I don't think it particularly undercuts her avowed feminist positions (it's not as if she claims to be a marxist feminist or an anarchist, etc) and honestly, it sounds as though quite a few people who have gone on to decent, non-CIA-related political work were in that particular milieu. I am pretty sure that her liberalism is just regular liberal feminism, not a CIA plot.

This is just me spitballing, too, but I think that it's a lot easier now to say "oh, people were so paranoid about communism, it was ridiculous, why would anyone have been anti-communist except out of evil authoritarianism", but I think that it is possible to have been a principled (though wrong) person working on anti-communist projects (which seems to have been her deal) in the post-Stalin era. I'm not saying "hey, it's fine to work for the CIA", I'm just saying that I get the sense, reading memoirs, that a lot of people went through a sort of liberal-anti-communist-hooray-JFK phase in their youth around that time, based on badly contextualized information about the USSR.

Also, to continue spitballing: There's nothing that's really a giant contradiction between "it's okay to destabilize USSR-organized youth movements" and centrist liberal feminism. I think that it's very easy to assume that "feminism" implies a lot of stuff that it does not - like if you're a feminist activist you must necessarily be at the very least a social democrat, probably a soft socialist, or sympathetic to socialism, and you must understand the Cold War as a conflict between two imperialist powers rather than as a conflict between the good guys and the commies. I think that at the grassroots, that's broadly true, but Steinem has never been a grassroots feminist. I think that's something that weakens left movements when we try to get people into positions of power - the ideas that are "in the air" at the grassroots level are not "in the air" among people at the top.

In short, if you like Steinem's feminism, I don't think that there's any reason that a short stint with the CIA discredits her.

Also, for pete's sake, if you think that any major insider US political figure has gotten power without very unsavory ties, well, that's pretty silly. If you like Obama (who is about as good a president as we're likely to get in this sad age), blaming Steinem for a bit of time in a CIA front organization is inconsistent. If the worst we had to contend with, politically, was delegations going to global youth conferences to harangue youth from other places, we'd be living in basically post-revolutionary conditions.
posted by Frowner at 5:59 AM on February 10, 2016 [11 favorites]


I think Sarah Grey said it best with "fewer and fewer [of us] are willing to believe that imperial feminism is the best we can do."

There was nothing wrong with NASA using the Cold War to advance the space program, except their funding got hammered when it ended. There was similarly nothing wrong with Steinem's feminism profiting from the American empire back then. Intersectionalism now points out that ignoring issues like economic inequality, war crimes, etc. when the empire finds them inconvenient actually harms feminism in the long run.

As a concrete example, Islamic feminism is harmed by a cooing about feminism while blowing up families, wedding parties, etc. And ending the drone wars would definitely give western ideas more purchase.
posted by jeffburdges at 10:34 AM on February 10, 2016 [1 favorite]


As a concrete example, Islamic feminism is harmed by a cooing about feminism while blowing up families, wedding parties, etc.
Just out of curiosity, is "cooing" a word you generally use about men's political speech?
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 10:53 AM on February 10, 2016 [12 favorites]




"She's saying simultaneously that we need a woman president to advance on women's issues because only a woman will be motivated AND that women's advancement so far has come primarily from the supreme court, which has mostly been male. Those things can't both be true."

As a rhetorical note, irrespective of the virtues of the underlying argument, this is not inherently contradictory without the assumption that with more women in positions of power no more progress would have been made. As for representationalism and Thatcher, it might also be worth noting that there have been quite a few other female heads of state/government, and that there's an argument that e.g. Indira Gandhi and Golda Meir did more to advance feminism than comparable male leaders. (But how much Western definitions of feminism are even applicable may be an open question.)
posted by klangklangston at 11:33 AM on February 10, 2016 [1 favorite]


Why Everyone's Wrong About Gloria Steinem's Controversial Comment by Jill Filipovic. "We still live in a world where 'guy-approved' ends up meaning 'cool.'"
posted by Ralston McTodd at 3:56 PM on February 10, 2016 [3 favorites]


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