Dear Second Wave Feminists,
I grew up the daughter of a strong, proud, hippie. She has especially shone bright after the passing of my father, who was a strong liberal but overbearing presence that often held her back from expressing herself at her core. Her mother before her was a housewife and a strong Catholic, but she believed in equal rights, was not homophobic, respected other cultures and ran the house which included balancing the finances. My paternal grandmother raised three children on her own after two of her husbands passed away. She had always been the breadwinner of the family despite whether or not there was a man in her life, even in the 60s when it was uncommon for women. She raised a family of strong children, including a woman who also supported her family as the primary breadwinner. My aunts by marriage are also tremendously strong women, as well as my godmother, a professor of Womens’ Studies at Eckerd College. My godmother physically introduced me to Dorothy Pitman Hughes and Gloria Steinem.
I have grown up with nothing but strong women. Even those whose strength I have questioned at times, primarily my maternal grandmother, I now understand the importance and the quiet struggle that they fought for themselves, their gender, and their family. I understand the desperate desire to see a woman in office as POTUS. I truly, truly get it.
That being said, you are breaking my heart.
When Gloria Steinem suggested that the only reason women are voting for Bernie Sanders is because “that’s where the boys are,” I was not outraged. I was hurt. I was actually moved to tears.
I remember a Gloria, who, not even ten years ago, took my hand in hers after a panel at Eckerd College. I had just left the hospital for a ruptured ovarian cyst right before I headed to the women’s liberation panel which featured Gloria Steinem, Dorothy Pitman Hughes, Amy Richards, and Jennifer Baumgartner. My godmother, the head of the Women’s Studies department, had invited my mother and I to the event as her guests. There was no way in hell I was going to miss it, even if I had to drag an entire hospital bed with me!
After the panel, I had the opportunity to say hello to everyone. Gloria saw my hospital bracelet and immediately expressed concern, asking if I was all right and if I needed to sit down. I told her that I was okay, and she took my hand in hers and squeezed it, looking into my eyes. I smiled and told her about my relation to Carolyn, who had organized the event. “You know, Carolyn is one of the original feminists. She’s been doing this for almost as long as I have. I’m glad you’re here. You’re safe with us.” I had to hold back tears. I felt like I was being welcomed into an emotional womb of safety, headed by women whom had been familiar to me my entire life.
I know that you have issued a public apology, Gloria. The damage was still done and you cannot erase what was said. I feel like, beyond a doubt, your true feelings about the new generation of feminists were exposed. It’s true. We’re not like you. We have taken your ideas and built upon them. When Madeline Albright said, “There’s a special place in hell for women who do not support other women,” I agreed. The irony was that it was in defiance of her support of Hilary Clinton, who has continuously voted in ways which are especially harmful to single mothers, people of color, and especially the intersection of the two.
If you ask me, Elizabeth Warren does not seem particularly boy-crazy. In fact, neither are any of the queer, lesbian, and even heterosexual women that I know who are supporters of other candidates. It feels like this is no longer a question of who the best candidate is, but a matter of the aging of second wave feminists. Perhaps it really comes down to the fact that they are watching a ticking clock and hoping to see a woman get elected before they pass away. Gloria Steinem is 81 years old. Madeleine Albright is 78 years old. Hillary Clinton is 68 years old.
What I would like to know is where was this support and outrage from white, second-wave feminists when Sandra Bland was murdered? Where were y’all when a young intern had been seduced by an older, white man in power? Which other struggles were missed because established, white, second-wave feminists did not use their platform and power to bring national attention to issues which are often pushed aside or willfully swept under the rug. If you are going to prosthelytize and act as a white savior, do some damn saving.
Instead of jumping to the aid of a person simply because they identify as a woman, maybe you should truly look into their policies and voting history. Suggesting that women should just vote for another woman is sexist in and of itself – not an example of misandry, but an example of the lack of faith in other women to make complicated decisions. Let me and the rest of the millennial third wavers choose because we are intelligent, empathetic folks who are capable of choosing candidates based on facts rather than being guilted into it by older women who no longer have our best interests in mind. It truly feels that this has become a matter of being desperate to see a woman in the POTUS seat before they pass away. I promise you, your work was not all for nought, even if Hillary Clinton does not get elected. Thank goodness not every single female politician out there is ready to jump on the white feminism bandwagon.
Maybe Elizabeth Warren will save a seat for me in our special place in hell.
Your Disappointed, Third-Wave Daughter-In-Struggle (Laurel)