Two recent comments by famous feminists have underscored the inevitable and predicted the foregone: The feminist era of Hillary Clinton, Gloria Steinem and Madeleine Albright has come to a close.
These three icons of second-wave feminism have reached a pinnacle of sorts, along with the bittersweet recognition that they are sorely out of touch with younger women. The world they helped change has produced a new generation no longer as concerned with the issues that animated their mothers and grandmothers.
Adding possible injury to insult, liberal millennial women are tilting toward Bernie Sanders rather than she who would be the United States’ first female president.
Albright and Steinem, speaking on different days in different environments, offered comments that are by now familiar: “There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help each other,” said Albright, who was the first female U.S. secretary of state.
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And,“When you’re young you’re thinking, ‘Where are the boys?' The boys are with Bernie,” said Steinem, iconic leader of the ‘60s feminist movement.
Much bestirring followed on social media: How dare Steinem insinuate that young women are just chasing boys? And how dare Albright curse young women for failing to support Clinton!
They have a point. But they’re missing the bigger point that had these women not paved the way for women in the workforce and elsewhere, these same young women would be following the boys in hopes of inserting an “R” between the “M” and the “S” in their titles.
This is the irony, isn’t it? Of all people to suggest that girls just wanna have fun with boys: Though it’s not necessarily untrue, Steinem has lived a life based on quite the opposite premise.
Albright’s comment is a well-known trope of the former secretary’s. Now 78, she might have imagined that her audience – at a Clinton rally – would have been familiar with it and responded with laughter, as had so often been the case.
Whether some of the young women preferring Sanders are also interested in boys, a not-dishonorable distraction, was probably a weak stab at humor, for which Steinem, 81, has apologized. Also, she was talking to Bill Maher on his show, hardly the forum for solemn pronouncements.
The more likely explanation is that young liberal women, like their male counterparts, are attracted to him because he’s promising a dream in which the rich have less and the poor have more.
Socialism has always appealed to the young, the cure for which is responsibility. That Sanders never outgrew his own socialist-rebellious tendencies is vaguely interesting, but not his best recommendation for commander in chief, among other presidential duties.
Clinton, ever the adult, may be doomed by her own sober “momliness.” To whom do children run to when Mom is no fun? She isn’t helped by the two elder women in the room.
What is obvious, if bittersweet, is that Steinem and Albright, and possibly Clinton by association, have passed the baton, if without realizing it. Through their temerity and hard work, they’ve created a world in which their original purposes have become obsolete through acceptance.
Millennial womenand those afterward have never known a world in which they were not treated to daily doses of go-girl power. They really can have it all, including the choice to not vote for a woman just because she’s a woman because, after all, this would be sexist.
And no one would want that.