An article in the National Journal explores why many young feminists aren’t gushing over Hillary Clinton and her 2016 presidential bid. The main problem boils down to the fairly contemporary concept of intersectionality:
As the feminism of [Betty] Friedan and second-wave stalwarts like Gloria Steinem moved into the mainstream, some began to criticize it as a movement tailored to white women of means. Who, they asked, would clean the homes and care for the children of Friedan’s liberated middle-class housewives? Where was their liberation? Such questions fed into a larger critique of second-wave feminism: that it saw white American women’s concerns as representing those of all women.
In 1989, a term emerged for a feminist philosophy that would include women of color and other marginalized groups: “intersectionality.” . . . First coined by legal scholar and professor Kimberlé Crenshaw, the word refers to the connections (the “intersections”) between different systems of oppression—not just sexism, but also racism, homophobia, transphobia, and classism. It’s a recognition that a black woman, for instance, is not affected independently by racism and sexism—those forms of discrimination are inextricably linked, which makes her experience sexism differently from a white woman and racism differently from a black man.
And, according to many young feminists, Hillary Clinton doesn’t get this. She is a “girl power” feminist who is hopelessly entrenched in her rich, white, Western world.
But here’s the obnoxious thing. These young feminists are still going to vote for her. They’re just not very enthusiastic about it. Which really annoys me.
Dare I say a very similar thing happened with Barack Obama? He self-identifies as black. His skin is dark, I guess. But he was raised by white people in a white world. He went to a white university. He’s part of a white ruling political class. His identity with black Americans feels to me like a posture nearly one hundred percent of the time. I’ve seen plenty of white people who understand and have embraced black culture much more naturally and seamlessly than Obama has ever seemed to. But voting for Obama was an historic opportunity to right a bunch of symbolic wrongs with a superficial totem of our progressive advancement.
Unfortunately, Hillary Clinton might very well benefit from that same need to right wrongs symbolically rather than significantly. She’s a woman. She claims to identify with women. Does she actually understand what anyone in this country goes through? Does she have any real chance to do anything about it? Any more than another politician? No. She really doesn’t. In every effective way, Hillary Clinton is no different than any other Democratic candidate. Or any political candidate. Or any other member of the rich liberal elite. She knows how to posture. She knows how to leverage superficial earmarks of belonging in order to get people on her side. Like Obama, she’s actually not very good at it. But she’s apparently good enough for people to pinch their noses and swallow the pill.
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