I know it’s a pretty bold proclamation. Fire and brimstone don’t sound like the makings of a very idyllic environment, and the screams of sinners would be hard to ignore even with noise-canceling headphones. But considering the requirements I would have to meet in order to get into Heaven, choosing Hell actually seems like a more preferable option despite the possibility of living in eternal agony.
According to former Secretary of State Madeline Albright, “there is a special place in Hell for women who don’t help other women.” Albright spoke these damning words in support of Hillary Clinton at a presidential rally in New Hampshire this past February, garnering applause and a sly chuckle from the candidate herself. While an ensuing media firestorm forced Albright to admit that it wasn’t the best arrangement of words she could have chosen, her message was pretty clear: women who would vote for a male candidate over a female candidate are making an ignorant political decision.
Excuse me for one moment—I thought that a primary goal of feminism was to create a society where gender did not affect a person’s opportunities and abilities. But Mrs. Clinton deserves my undying devotion simply because she has a vagina? Excuse me?
Albright’s flippant comment may not seem like it deserves this much flak, but it actually points to a major conundrum cropping up in the 2016 presidential race: women, especially young women, just aren’t crazy about Clinton. Since 1980, women have significantly outnumbered men when it comes to voting in a presidential race. In 2012, 1 million more women between the ages of 18-24 turned out to vote than men of the same age, and nearly 4 million more women between the ages of 25-44 voted than their male counterparts. That’s pretty damn significant. Young women are clearly a major force in politics, and Albright’s bungled catchphrase alluded to the fear that young women are costing Clinton the nomination.
A rolling poll from Reuters tallies female youth support for Clinton at just 28 percent, whereas opponent Bernie Sanders takes a whopping 61 percent. These numbers are terrifying to Clinton who, at the very start of her campaign, appeared to be relying on some sort of inevitable feminist army to elect her into office. Problem is, feminism has evolved far past her narrow-minded definition of the word. Young women today are demanding intersectionality and holding Clinton accountable for the racist, imperialist, LGBTQ-phobic actions of her past, and despite getting on board with hot-button topics, her voting record simply doesn’t demonstrate a continual fight for justice as Sanders’ does.
However, the savvy of millennial women has been frequently challenged by the media and by self-identifying feminist icons who, for young women, represent a harmful and outdated feminist identity. A few months ago on the TV show Real Time with Bill Maher, Gloria Steinem commented that young women gravitate towards Sanders because “when you’re young, you’re thinking, where are the boys? The boys are with Bernie.” The implication that young women base their political decisions on what will get them more attention from men is disgusting. Apart from being wildly heteronormative, Steinem asserts that young women aren’t voting for Clinton because they are somehow made irrational by their age. I hate to break it to you Gloria, but perhaps young women just think you and your other white feminist demigods are irrelevant.
Let me pause for a moment and clarify the phrase “white feminist.” This phrase is often misconstrued as some sort of racist epithet aimed at white people when really it’s just a descriptor for someone with a conception of feminism that excludes intersectional issues. Most of feminist history can be labeled as “white feminist” because it systematically ignored the oppression of women who were not white and wealthy (i.e. women of color, poor women, LGBTQ women, disabled women) and prevented their grievances from being addressed. Clinton’s political record epitomizes a white feminist viewpoint, such as her support of devastating military involvement in the Middle East, her flip-flopping on gay rights, and her support for violent War on Drugs policies. So when I consider my options, I can either vote for a white feminist simply because we share similar anatomy, or I can stand by my principles and go to Hell.
In an apology editorial that appeared in the New York Times, Albright stated that she only made the Hell comment because she feels “in a society where women often feel pressured to tear one another down, our saving grace lies in our willingness to lift one another up.” Excuse me once again, but Albright’s comment did nothing to lift women up. It just pointed to the growing frustration among aging white feminists that young women can think critically about politics on their own: the same young women who are rallying behind an inclusive form of feminism and will vote for a candidate that understands oppression as systemic and multi-layered. These are the women who are lifting each other up, not Albright or Clinton or Steinem.
I’m a 21-year-old woman, and I’m voting for Sanders. Does this make me a sinner? Perhaps. But if Satan is an intersectional feminist, then I’m down to rot in Hell.