There is a very public struggle going on between older and younger feminists and it is centered, as it has been before, on the candidacy of Hillary Clinton. Against my own better judgment, I have a few things to say about Hillary’s problems.
First, you don’t send out two over 80 women to admonish young women about their values and perspectives or to repeat what they have said 100 times before. I am older and I have heard these comments more times than even I care to recall. Not to be ageist, but I know many older persons who tell the same joke every time they get the chance and expect a hearty laugh. I'm sure it remains funny to them. In fact, this distaste is not unrelated to the fact one of these individuals was a longtime member of my own family and I, as a child, was forced to hear these comments over and over. I and many others find this tendency quite irritating. It becomes unpleasant to hear the same comments so many times that they begin to lack any meaning.
Secondly, is this the best way to communicate with young women and men? Would any of us asked for political advice from our grandparents? If so, then these are the voters who will heed the sage advice of Gloria Steinem and Madeline Albright. I get what they mean because In am close to their age and have heard them make these comments innumerable times. I know that I would not have nor did I frequently agree with my own parents’ values because they lived in a different universe than I did. Where are the young women and men who can speak to the young voters?
Hillary should be speaking directly to their concerns, which are very different from what ours were back in the day. They are accustomed to seeing female university students, doctors, lawyers, engineers and professors. They do not see this as a problem to be cured in the same way that we, of anther generation, did. A female president is not their only answer. They want the best president possible and, so much the better, if she is female.Also they are attracted to an idealist, not a pragmatist, to rousing rhetoric and not to hard earned experience.
Additionally, the gender binary is not necessarily any more the belief system of younger voters. Gender has dissolved into multiplicity with everything from gender fluidity to transgender being supported and understood by younger people. Voting for a woman instead of a man does not have the same meaning that it did decades ago.
Why is Hillary not appealing to groups such as He for She, men who support women’s equality, rather than making her election into a women’s issue. It is, in many ways, a women's issue, but today there are many, many male feminists who support the equality of women and oppose the patriarchy.
Hillary lacks the charisma of an Obama or even a Bill Clinton, so she must substitute a transparency and sincerity for which she has not been known. She has done what she had to do to get to where she is and some of these choices are backfiring on her. It is not too late to update those choices. The country has become an oligarchy. This must be addressed. Constituents are gay and straight, transgender and gender fluid, black, brown and white. All these issues must be addressed.
Finally, with little explanation, she chose to stay married to a man who is known to be “a dog,” as they say. This is not a choice that is respected by many younger women or men, much less older ones. She is seen as running with him, as a representative of the Clintons. This does not help her either. She needs to run as her own person and use him very sparingly.
Her friends and her generation have been loyal to her. She has a chance to appeal to other generations, but she must act swiftly and transparently and on her own, not as an extension of her husband or of the oligarchy. I think she can do it. There is still time. But will she?