I’m a Fourth Wave Feminist Supporting Hillary Clinton and You Should Be Too
The 2016 presidential election has been an exciting one. It has been fun to follow in the news and fun to joke about, thanks in part to the Republican Party’s 200 candidates. It has been exciting for me, a Millennial, because it’s only the second presidential election in which I’m able to vote. I voted for Obama in 2012 because he was already there and it was what all the cool kids were talking about. He said things that I agreed with, but it wasn’t a big deal for me.
This election is a big deal, because Hillary Clinton is running for president and has a very real chance of being elected as the first female president of the United States. For some reason, counter to the Obama campaign supported strongly by the ‘first black president’ momentum, women, especially young women, are not supporting Hillary Clinton.
You don’t have to support Hillary Clinton because you’re a woman. She is the first person to tell you that. You may be conservative, and vehemently disagree with everything she stands for. You may be well educated, politically aware, and align yourself with Bernie Sanders. Maybe Bernie Sanders is your grandfather and it would be sick af to visit him in the White House and probably have somebody cook for you.
But why, in contrast to 2008 when Obama easily won the African American vote, do most women and feminists not jump to support Hillary Clinton, a feminist who has been fighting for advancement of women since before many of us were born? And why, as a young woman supporting Hillary, do I feel like I have to justify myself and continuously remind people that I am not voting for her “just because she’s a woman”?
You know why.
Second Wave Feminism was ongoing throughout the 1960s and 1970s and dealt with things like women in the workforce and reproductive rights. The FDA approved the birth control pill in 1960, but it would be five years before SCOTUS would rule that married couples have the right to the pill, and another seven after that before birth control becomes a right for all women, regardless of marital status. Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique was published in 1963 and turned the world upside down. For years, women were oppressed by social norms, but felt dissatisfied with their lives as homemakers. The Feminine Mystique publicized this feeling of discontent and let women know they were not alone.
Hillary Clinton has been shattering glass ceilings since day one. She went to Wellesley College and advocated for social justice. After graduating in 1969, she went to Yale Law School. Yale University, FYI, went co-ed in 1969. Hillary focused on legally supporting children and families in Massachusetts and then in Arkansas. After marrying Bill Clinton, Hillary continued to work and use her law degree, at a time when social norms still dictated that women stay at home and take care of their families.
Bill Clinton ran for president in 1992, with Hillary dividing the country during the campaign and during his presidency. She was a controversial First Lady, being the first with a law degree and a career woman. Although she was a wife and mother, she did not fit the social expectations for those roles. Hillary was responsible for a healthcare bill in the early 1990s that would have provided universal healthcare provided by employers, had it been successful. After the bill was declared dead, Hillary stepped back and behaved more as was expected of a traditional First Lady.
If you’re paying attention to the timeline, don’t forget that she continued to advocate for women, because it was only a year later that she famously said, “Human rights are women’s rights and women’s rights are human rights.”
In 2000, Hillary Clinton became the first female senator from New York and the first First Lady to hold public office. In 2008 she ran for president unsuccessfully, but was then asked by President Obama to serve as Secretary of State. Hillary is one of thirty women to be appointed to the presidents’ cabinets and one of three to be Secretary of State.
Hillary Clinton is an accomplished woman, arguably the most qualified candidate, and a leading feminist of our time, and yet many young women who identify as feminists do not think highly of her as a person or president.
One reason for this is that the media continues to vilify Hillary for her gender. Hillary Clinton is a strong candidate for president because of her years of public service and work in the federal government, but this also means she has been in the media for as long as we can remember. Despite our awareness and our declared feminism, it’s hard for Millennials especially to overcome the media’s prejudice against Hillary because it’s been happening for our whole lives. I was born in 1993, the same year that the health care bill failed, at least partially because of Hillary’s role as a politically active First Lady. In 2008 when Amy Poehler parodied Hillary Clinton on SNL, I was just old enough to pay attention. I’ve seen her appearance judged over her accomplishments again and again. Hillary Clinton has been a joke in the media for my entire life, which is a very big hurtle to jump in a campaign.
Another reason is because, just like feminists before us, we forget about the accomplishments of our predecessors. It was difficult for a woman growing up in the 1970s to remember and understand the effort behind something as simple and natural as women’s suffrage. It was difficult in the 1990s to remember and understand the effort behind something as simple and natural as women having careers and access to reproductive health care. And it is difficult today to remember and understand the effort behind what Hillary Clinton has done as a leader for women everywhere.
First Lady Michelle Obama is incredibly well liked, even more so than her husband. Michelle Obama has a law degree and is a powerful woman who advocates for children. As a society we are not only comfortable with this, but we admire it. Hillary Clinton, a decade earlier, smashed that ceiling so that Michelle Obama, and women everywhere, could rise.
It is easy for Millennials to believe the critics that call Hillary a “part of the establishment” or “not progressive enough” because Hillary has been a figure in politics for our whole lives. Despite the incredible challenges she has faced because of her gender, it’s hard for us to recognize that women are less welcome in politics, thanks to her significant role there. She was so successful, just like the First and Second Wave Feminists, that we forget to appreciate the incredible sacrifice she has made, and we take for granted that women belong in government.
You don’t have to vote for Hillary Clinton because she is a woman and a feminist and you are a woman and a feminist. You don’t have to do anything; this is America. But when it comes time for the election, appreciate the efforts of First Wave Feminists who spent their lives fighting for your right to be educated and to vote, appreciate the efforts of Second Wave Feminists who spent their lives fighting for your right to work and to have control over your body, and appreciate the efforts of Hillary Clinton, who has spent so much of her life fighting for your right to be represented or represent in your government that you now consider her a part of the establishment.