Nureen Khadr is a senior international studies major.
For as long as I’ve been able to put a word to my ideas about gender equity, I have been an intersectional feminist. Yet as a constituent leaning towards giving my vote to Senator Bernie Sanders, the validity of my claim to feminism has been a topic of debate in this presidential election cycle. Because I am not voting for Hillary Clinton, I have been accused that I can’t be a feminist. What Hillary Clinton and her feminist endorsers do not realize is that their feminism is one-dimensional and my feminism is not theirs to define. In fact, my views on feminism are quite different.
My feminism aligns with the picture that Bernie Sanders’ platform paints for me. My feminism envisions a future America that is economically redistributed. It looks forward to the day my children understand that their higher education is a right and not a privilege. It believes in taxes actually being allocated to benefit those that pay them. It believes in free access to health care services and preserving the environment we continuously take advantage of. It prioritizes the undeniable costs of these policies over the costs of war.
Hillary Clinton is a feminist that praises a man like Henry Kissinger, who supports the military industrial complex and has been accused of committing war crimes while in office. She is also a feminist that explicitly said in 2000 that she would have supported the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) had she been in the Senate in 1996. She is a feminist that has consistently accepted money from large banks that caused working Americans to lose their homes and jobs with the unemployment rate almost doubling in the three years that followed, and a significant drop in median household incomes. Her feminism is in support of warfare like the Iraq war, and it turns a blind eye to the plight of women of color who are victims of her imperialist foreign policy. Her feminism, and that of her endorsers, seem to exclude women that do not share in it. Her campaign reached a petty point when Madeleine Albright and Gloria Steinem implied that you’re are either with them or against women, and that a young woman voting for Bernie is only trying to impress her office crush.
Since when did feminism become an exclusively female fight? Why can’t Sanders and his male supporters be just as feminist in their ideology and moral beliefs? Is feminism not simply about globally and socially conscious individuals working to eliminate sexism and gender-based oppression? Feminist ethics are about understanding how gender operates within our moral systems, and opposing institutionalized oppression built on power systems that allow for social inequity among humans. It brings to light how these oppressive systems operate and allow for people to be treated as less than human. It questions the hierarchy of power in our society that exists to benefit those in positions of power.
Many women in the country are intoxicated by the potential of having a female president in office for the first time. They worry this might be the closest we’ll get to a candidate with such momentum for another few election cycles. In my eyes, Sanders has employed feminist ideology far more throughout his voting record than Clinton has. One only needs to look to how he has been a consistent and successful legislator and politician in office for the past 35 years, not to mention his years as a young college activist and ally on the front lines of the civil rights movement. He has been a lifetime supporter of marriage rights. He voted against wars in Libya, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria. He voted to uphold the Glass-Steagall Act in hopes of regulating Wall Street. He proposed a carbon tax that Clinton vehemently opposed. He does not shy away from discussions surrounding race, like the excessive incarceration of black men and the prison industrial complex that profits off their imprisonment. And in regards to women, he and Clinton do not differ on the domestic issues that include reproductive rights, reformation of family leave, and more.
If having a woman president is all about the blind, unconditional support of an inconsistent candidate, then the truth is, I see more of myself in Bernie than I do in Hillary. He was born to immigrant parents, raised in a faith tradition that draws many similarities in practice to mine, and shares my views on social justice. If Hillary Clinton becomes the democratic nominee for the 2016 elections, I guess I’ll have to settle, because clearly real change is too hard.