During the 2008 presidential campaign, I was a freshman at Fordham University and an avid Hillary Clinton supporter in the Democratic primary. While I did not get up and shout this from the rooftops of my dorm room in Manhattan, I did proudly display stickers on my backpack and was happy to tell people whom I was voting for when asked. I was deeply offended when many people expressed the following sentiments to me:
“Are you just voting for her because she is a woman?” Yes, even though I am a political science major, I know nothing about politics. And when I participated in the Young Democrats in high school, I was secretly a diehard Republican.
“You should read up on the issues.” Because, of course, an eighteen year old woman is too stupid to pick up a newspaper.
“Just so you know, electing a woman is not going to solve all the problems of gender inequality.” Sorry. I totally mistook Hillary Clinton for the second coming of Jesus Christ.
“You should vote for the best candidate instead of voting for someone because you want to see a woman president.” Yes, because there is just no way a woman could actually BE the best candidate. No way, not when there are men running.
Some of my rejoinders are sarcastic, but I think my point is clear. So, this year, I am making a few simple requests.
1. Please do not accuse me of supporting Hillary Clinton just because she is a woman.
You can disagree with me, and you can even actively campaign against Hillary Clinton. However, please respect that I am an informed and intelligent woman. I would not vote for a woman who does not share the same concerns as I do or who holds policy positions that differ drastically from my own.
2. If you are going to criticize Hillary Clinton, please criticize her on something that is actually relevant.
Keep your comments about clothing, weight, hair style, and appearance to yourself. Not only are such comments rude and demeaning, but they contribute nothing to your argument that I should vote for your preferred candidate. Women are not sex objects.
3. Before reacting negatively to a particular comment or speech, please honestly ask yourself “Would I feel the same way if this had been said or done by man?”
Would you think a man was unable to cope with the stress of the presidency if he were to show emotion? http://www.thenation.com/blog/hillary-shows-feeling-slammed
Would you call a man bossy or a bitch for being a demanding leader or for being assertive in a debate?
I am not saying that women cannot abuse their power, but women and men should be held to the same standards.
4. Please do not say something along the lines of “I’m sorry, but I’m voting for …..”
Don’t apologize. I am not angry with you for not supporting Hillary Clinton and I do not think you are sexist. As theologian Emilie Townes states, “refusing to critique is a sign of devaluing and disrespect or worse- ignorance.” If you can tell me that you are not voting for Hillary because you disagree with some of the actions she took as Secretary of State, or differ with her certain political issues, all without using misogynist language, it shows that you take a woman seriously as a presidential candidate. It also shows that you recognize my intelligence, strength, and maturity as a woman voter. My two favorite topics are politics and religion (the two things you are not supposed to talk about at the dinner table), I can handle a debate!
5. Do not tell other women they are supposed to vote for Hillary or else they are traitors.
What women are SUPPOSED to do is making an opinion based on their own values, beliefs, and concerns. Telling a woman she needs to vote for a woman in order to be a feminist defeats the entire purpose of feminism.
6. Do not say that sexism is a thing of the past just because we have a female running for president.
The election of Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012 were celebratory moments, but racism still persists. There is still work to be done. Similarly, if we elect Hillary Clinton in 2016, it will signal that some more progress has been made, but it will not be a panacea for all the struggles women still face in our country. We all still need to examine our own biases and listen to those who have been and continue to be marginalized on the basis of race, gender, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, or physical disability.
Disagreements, even among persons of the same political party, are inevitable as election season gets into gear. We need not shy away from expressing our honest opinions, but let us please do so without using misogynistic, racist, or heterosexist language. To the person who disagrees with you, say “I disagree with you. I feel differently, here is why….” instead of “You’re an idiot.” In the end, let’s face it, none of us (not even Hillary Clinton, although I admire her greatly) has all of the correct answers!