Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Dear second-wavers who keep saying feminists have to vote for Clinton:

Fuck you, and please stop hurting our movement by framing it as a gender war. Don't get me wrong. I would love to see a woman in the White House, and I would be pleased to see Hillary Clinton in the White House. I support Obama because of his better foreign policy stance, his in-depth knowledge of domestic issues like farm policy, and his profound star power (which will be valuable in the general election and in office). Claiming that I am not a feminist because I am supporting a man is so deeply problematic I hardly know where to start.

Supporting Obama does not imply the belief that we live in a postfeminist world in which candidates run without gender. That assumes an insulting level of naivete on the part of young feminists. It implies that someone's genitalia determine her political stance. Isn't stepping beyond that determinism, I don't know, the point of feminism in the first place? Ann Coulter, while a woman, has a stance almost diametrically opposed to mainstream feminist view on almost every issue. Should I vote for her simply to prove a woman can become president?

Supporting Obama does not imply that I am uncomfortable with women in power, any more than supporting Clinton would imply that I am uncomfortable with men in power. That is just silly. The essentialism that produces that line of thought boils Clinton down to an objectified stand-in for her gender.

Supporting Obama doesn't make us afraid to be feminists. It makes us wary of anyone who tells us that feminism is as simple as being pro-choice, pro-equality, and pro-women-in-male-dominated-workplaces. It makes us hesitant to believe that feminism stops at women's liberation, that there isn't a tremendous amount of work to be done reparing the damage patriarchy does to men as well. It makes us reject the notion that feminism is about a SCUM-manifesto-style gender war in which every contest between a man and a women is a battle.

Whether or not we support Clinton isn't the same as whether or not we see her as a walking vagina we need to get into the White House, and it's insulting to Clinton's supporters to say so. It means we evaluate policy issues and electability issues, and make political decisions based on those evaluations.

So I never thought I'd say this, but fuck you, Gloria Steinem, and get out of the way while the rest of us try to repair the political damage you've done.


P.S. It's worth pointing out that I don't mean to direct this to all second-wavers, or even imply that this "gender war" is a viewpoint that the mainstream second wave espoused. It is a viewpoint that can be traced back to submovements of the second wave, though, and it's a viewpoint that increasingly frustrates the third wave.

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