Why Millennial Women Side with Sanders

February 18, 2016

Story by Allyson Cartwright

[embed]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OEGzR1anIDw[/embed]

Bernie Sanders made history on Tuesday, Feb. 9, when he won the New Hampshire Democratic Primary. The first Jewish winner of a presidential primary also won the most votes in New Hampshire Democratic Primary history. Sanders won more than just the primary though; surprisingly he won among young female voters. Eighty-three percent of 18 to 29 year-old women who voted in the New Hampshire primary voted for Sanders.

Logically one could predict that female Democratic voters would support a female Democratic nominee. Also, one would think that younger voters would side with the younger candidate. So, why then is a 74-year-old man resonating so much with millennial women? This is a question Clinton is surely asking herself.

One criticism that Clinton’s campaign has faced is that young women are pushing back against her guilt trip. Her campaign has relied on suggesting that a vote for Clinton is a vote for women everywhere and that to not support Clinton is sexist. “I think Hillary is using some of her celebrity/political supporters to make women feel guilty for supporting a white male for president,” said Olivia Raines, a College student and Sanders supporter, “I think Hillary is exploiting the feminist movement and telling women that the only way our cause can be advanced is with a woman in the White House, which is simply untrue.”

Famous feminists who support Clinton have received this criticism recently. First woman Secretary of State Madeleine Albright introduced Clinton at a rally in Portsmouth, NH saying to remember, “There is a special place in hell for women who don't help each other.” Albright’s comment was followed by laughter and clapping by Clinton. Her comment in this context is problematic as it suggests that a woman not voting for Clinton should go to hell.

Iconic feminist activist Gloria Steinem also offended some millennial women after an appearance on “Real Time with Bill Maher”. In the interview Maher asked Steinem why Democratic women are not more supportive of Clinton and Steinem responded, “When you're young, you're thinking: ‘Where are the boys? The boys are with Bernie.’” Steinem’s comment surprised Maher who said that if a man had expressed that idea then he would be slapped by feminists.

The older generations of feminists are seeing Clinton superficially by judging her based on gender alone. “While I would love to see a woman in the White House more than anything, I think older women that support Clinton are jumping on the first real chance to have a woman as president that has presented its self,” said Raines, “To me, Hillary seems no different than any male Democrat that has run for President, and I think Sanders is the only candidate that can and wants to bring about revolutionary change.”

The change that millennial women want to see is fairly cohesive with what millennial men want to see, which it seems older feminists do not understand. Today, the values of the millennial men and women coincide more than previous generations. “I have a lot of anxiety about paying off my student loans and affording graduate school, and when I have to compete with a generation of men that will, on average, make $1 million more in income than me over their lifetime, of course I support Sander’s proposal of making public universities free,” said Raines. She added, “I also think he [Sanders] resonates equally with young men and women because we are, as a unit, more aware of issues such as climate change and what that could mean for our futures, or the injustice of our prison system, or the threat to Planned Parenthood and the detrimental consequences that will have for women’s health.”

The equation of a vote for Clinton is a vote for womankind is oversimplified. Just because Clinton is herself a woman does not guarantee anymore progress for women than if Sanders were to win the presidency. It is sexist to think that women should vote for Clinton because she is also a woman and I think it is regressive for feminists like Steinem and Albright to encourage that. To coax women to vote for Clinton based on her gender alone is undermining of women’s right to express their opinion, values, and aspirations for the country. And unfortunately for Clinton, Sanders is the candidate that is embodying the values and national aspirations of many millennial women.

Contribute a Story!

Have an idea for Iris? Send it to us!