I'm a woman voting for Bernie Sanders – and yes I'm still a feminist

Feb 9, 2016 at 9:45 a.m. ET
Image: Credit: Andrew Burton / Staff

Everyone assumes I'm voting for Hillary Clinton in the primary. "Guess you're pretty super psyched about Hizzle for Prizzle!" they'd say if people I knew talk this way. (Mercifully, they do not.) When they find out I'm not, they either look completely horrified as though I might be voting for Trump or only slightly less disgusted that I'm merely a traitor to my sex.

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Recently on a Meet the Press segment with Chuck Todd, Hillary Clinton weighed in on former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright's comment that, "There's a special place in hell for women who don't help each other." Since Albright was at a Clinton rally when she delivered this prescription, the inference was that women who don't support Clinton belong in hell (in a special section, along with various Real Housewives and genocidal tyrants, presumably).

When asked if she understood why people might be offended, Clinton said, "Good grief, we're getting offended about everything these days! People can't say anything without offending somebody."

Well, people can say all kinds of things without offending this body, and I don't even mind being told I belong in hell for one reason or another. Just not that one.

I always have and always will support girls and women. All over the world they're ignored, killed, raped, mutilated, put-down, told to shut-up, mocked, molested, groped, battered, beaten and dismissed. Both overtly and insidiously, sexism and misogyny touch all women's lives, and it's our duty and honor to inspire, support and lift up our gender everywhere and in every way. I will always support women, but I won't always vote for one. Because that would be stupid.

Voting for someone because of his or her reproductive organs is wrong no matter which side of the aisle you're on, groom's or bride's. It's no different than choosing the candidate with the penis. Besides, I vote with my brain, not my vag, and my brain — yes, my feminist brain — has decided to vote for Bernie Sanders. Sure, I want to see a woman as President one day, but right now we need a Bernie.

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America's democracy is broken. Our politics and policies are heavily weighted in favor of the rich and powerful, with big business, billionaires, banks and, too often, bigots, running the show. Candidates are bought and sold, or at the very least are afraid to take stands for fear it might mean alienating large swaths of voters. This hurts everyone, and last time I looked, women were half of everyone.

I know Clinton is smart and savvy, and can TCB. But that’s kind of what I'm afraid of. She can take care of business like nobody's business, but that business is business as usual. I know she'd be grand at the game, but I'm looking for a game-changer. That's why I’m backing Bern.

Ovaries in the oval office do not a revolution make. We saw the race barrier dissolved when Obama was elected, but not racism, and sadly our broken political system made it difficult to get as much done as he and his supporters would have liked. A Clinton victory may be a gender milestone, but what will the impact be on millions of single mothers struggling to make ends meet or teenage girls who want to go to college?

"Who can be more of an outsider than a woman president?" Hillary said on The Today Show not long ago. I don't think being a woman makes you an automatic outsider. In fact, Clinton's strength as a candidate would be that she does know the players and the ins and outs. She can craftily execute incremental change as a Beltway insider. There's wisdom to going with this strategy, but American politics is so broken, and the people are suffering, and I'm impatient. I refuse to settle for small steps when giant ones are called for. I'm not ready to abandon hope, to give up on revolutionary change.

Bernie Sanders doesn't do what's expedient or popular. He does what he thinks is right, and for decades he's fought for civil rights, equality and economic justice. He's an idealist who doesn't want to win the game — he wants to dismantle it, and that's what engages me.

Both Clinton and Sanders have good records, and let me be clear: I'm not anti-Clinton, I'm pro-Sanders. I'm pro-change, pro-BS slayage, pro-empathy and calling the big bad biz boys — and girls — to task. Feminism is common sense; it's what's right and fair, and that's the side Sanders has always fought on, whether it was popular or not. I feel like he's got my back, and America's.

But who my choice is is beside the point. The point is that I be allowed to make a choice, without being looked at as a traitor, or hearing, as Gloria Steinem remarked, that I made my decision because "that's where the boys are." I get that Steinem is stumping for Clinton, but to suggest that the reason young women might choose Sanders is to ingratiate themselves to men is shocking coming from anyone, much less a feminist icon. (Frankly, I'd expect that coming from an apologist for a male candidate — "Young guys are voting for Hillary to get laid.")

I'd just like Steinem, and all the women supporting Clinton, to allow that I have a brain, experience, perspective and candidate criteria that are valid and rational. We can agree to disagree without undermining my commitment to feminism or implying my electoral choices are not based on who I think will be the best candidate — for people, for the country and for women. I want Clinton supporters to know that I will joyfully vote for Ms. Clinton in the general election, because I agree she is an incredibly strong, smart candidate who genuinely cares about women. I want them to understand I do like Hillary Clinton — I just like Bernie Sanders more.

And that's OK.

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