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Washington Post Resurrects Discussion About Younger Women Who Don’t Vote for Female Politicians

Washington Post Resurrects Discussion About Younger Women Who Don’t Vote for Female Politicians

I saw this article in the Washington Post this morning and just rolled my eyes.  If I have any hope for the new year (or, indeed, the new decade), it’s that we stop having conversations about the so-called “generational divide” within feminism, and especially that we just stop talking about who voted for Hillary Clinton – whether it’s to castigate young women for abandoning their sisters or scorn older women who ignored the fact that Obama is a feminist too.  The election is over, folks.  This discussion ended almost two years ago.  That particular horse is very dead.

The important lesson, I think, is that in 2010, we need to shift the conversation away from the generational issue, and even from discussions of gender alone (does anyone remember Gloria Steinem’s op-ed from just about two years ago, in which she declared that “women are never the front-runners”?  Unproductive and infuriating much?).  And the more important question is not why young women didn’t vote for Clinton (if that’s indeed the case), but why young women are not themselves running for office.

If anything, looking back on the 2008 primary season, the media cashed in on this perceived divide in a big way, playing up the idea that Obama was the candidate for the youthful generation, and that Clinton represented everything that was scary about second-wave feminism (just watch Media Matters and the Women’s Media Center’s video “Sexism Sells, But We’re Not Buying it” and you can relive some of the most horrifying moments from that election season).  The depiction of Hillary Clinton during the election cycle was problematic and a little terrifying, but it had less to do with a generational divide and more to do with the way the media treats female candidates generally.

Young women who voted for Obama may well have done so because they felt feminism was obsolete.  But that is less a problem with young women, and more of a problem with the state of the movement as a whole.  And if, as many young women felt, Obama was a better candidate for them – he was, after all, endorsed by NARAL – then they should have been able to vote for him without feeling that they were casting aside “the dreams of a generation and a movement.”  Yes, it would be great to have a woman as president.  But clearly, Clinton didn’t resonate with a lot of people, and instead of playing the blame game two years later, we need to be looking to the future.

How can we encourage more women to run for office?  How can we stop the ridiculous depictions of women in the media?  How can we erase the double standards for female behavior?  How can we recast our cultural models of what leadership looks like so that women can easily fit them?  These are the questions that feminists of all ages should be asking – and we should be looking back to 2008 to learn lessons, not point fingers. 

As this WaPo article points out, feminism does have an image problem.  But we’re not going to make feminism seem more relevant or inclusive by emphasizing these generational divides, and blaming any age group for all of feminism’s problems.  And for goodness’ sake, we can start by refusing to reduce “young women” and “older women” to single categories.  The media loves internal strife – but we, as feminists, can stop playing into their hands.

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Photo courtesy of Marcn's Flickr Photostream.

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94 comments

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10:28PM PST on Feb 24, 2010

Women need to stop pandering to men and develop more self-esteem. The plastic surgery and fashion industries divert women from furthering and bettering themselves (intellectually, not physically !) by playing on their perceived inadequacies.

STOP WITH THE IMPLANTS AND COLLAGEN-FILLED LIPS. Get a degree instead ! The planet and its animals will thank you for it.

5:55AM PST on Jan 2, 2010

THANK YOU

9:24PM PST on Dec 31, 2009

* June K. says
* Dec 31, 2009 4:11 PM
Let's stop arguing about the past and see how we can come together to improve the future for all women.

I just wish you whould see that if you do all you pointed out you would be improve the future for all the people male and female

4:11PM PST on Dec 31, 2009

"Can't you be a feminist and still vote based on a candidate's character and political agenda rather than on their gendre? When a woman votes for a woman candidate just because she's female, that's just as sexist as men voting only for male candidates. It's their politics that matter, not their sex!"

Yes, Kay I thought that was the whole point of the article. However, can you be a feminist and not demand that female candidates are treated fairly?

Her questions are, "How can we encourage more women to run for office? How can we stop the ridiculous depictions of women in the media? How can we erase the double standards for female behavior? " Can you be a feminist if you don't try to change these? The article wants to get us away from pointing fingers "instead of playing the blame game two years later, we need to be looking to the future." Let's stop arguing about the past and see how we can come together to improve the future for all women.

2:29PM PST on Dec 31, 2009

Can't you be a feminist and still vote based on a candidate's character and political agenda rather than on their gendre? When a woman votes for a woman candidate just because she's female, that's just as sexist as men voting only for male candidates. It's their politics that matter, not their sex!

1:34PM PST on Dec 31, 2009

I think part of the reason Palin is said to have "set the feminist movement back" is because she's an idiot. When a man is an idiot, everyone just says, "Hey look, he's an idiot." When a woman is an idiot (a woman in a position of power, that is) people say, "Hey look, women are idiots."

5:22PM PST on Dec 30, 2009

I use to work for a political party over here in the UK and have in a small way (putting leaflets in door etc) help 5 women to win their seats, all of them have be the best person at that time, but it is true younger women don't vote for female politicians, when I asked them why, most said that did not know why a woman would wish to be a politician as its a man's job.
Ladys you need to start to talk to the younger girls on why you need encourage more women to run for office. For we not have a better world till you do!

4:46PM PST on Dec 30, 2009

"I try to vote for the person who best represents me. Just because I'm female doesn't mean I should vote for a female. As a progressive I would vote for Kucinich, Sanders, or Franken before I would vote for a Hillary, Mary Landrieu, Olympia Snowe.
Note: Obama may or may not be a feminist, but he's done absolutely nothing for the worker. That's what I am: a WORKER."

You sound like an idealist, but I hope you are a realist to. I think the idealists sunk our ship when the helped elect GW. If you know your candidate isn't going to win and do a protest vote that allows the worst candidate to win - I think that is being irresponsible.

Do you think McCain would treat workers better? I don't but maybe you could change my mind. He lost me when he chose Palin.

1:39PM PST on Dec 30, 2009

Question - Why is Sarah Palin qualified as having set the feminist movement back?

2:44PM PST on Dec 29, 2009

Maria G. What a condescending, biased, chavinistic, and feminist statement.

Statements and attitudes like yours are the reason why this world is such a bad condition. Men have been making simular statements for years. Whites have been making similar statements for years. Humans have been making similar statements.

One entity or species is not superior or inferior to another; they are simply different. Your need to feel superior usually mask not wanting to be inferior.

How about looking for the good in each regardless of race, gender, or social position. If you make statements like I want to be equal; means that you think you aren't capable to begin with.

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