Bernie Sanders is the most feminist candidate, but white feminism is his biggest threat

Katie Fustich
Feb 20 · 5 min read
Scene from a 2016 Bernie Sanders campaign rally

The year was 2016 — one of the darkest known to modern man. I, an impressionable young woman of 23, was living in the city of Los Angeles and attempting to squeeze myself into the mold of the happy and tan I saw all around me. I struggled, feeling an insincerity to the openness that California alleged. Perhaps I had believed too deeply in the Fox News version of California as a haven for stoners and socialists and defectors from society.

Yet, if there was one thing I did have in common with those around me, it was a virulent support of then-presidential nominee Hillary Clinton. Each time a black-and-white PSA detailing the triumphs of her years as a scrappy young politician made its way across my television screen, I felt a tear appear in the corner of my eye and a song play in my heart: a woman! A woman president! Could it really be? I knew little about her concrete policies and plans for her time in office (did she actually have any?), but I knew that at age six I had once asked my grandpa if there could ever be a woman president, and despite his answer to the contrary — here was a real chance.

I saw no problems with my own narrow-minded view, and in fact defended my right to support Clinton based on her sex. While not the primary component of my support, I felt it would be no less than revolutionary for a woman to hold the highest political office in the land.

Naturally, supporting Clinton on this basis led me down a parallel path of disavowing the “Bernie Bro” left and right. For reasons more social than political, I identified Bernie Sanders and his followers as the sole obstacle to Clinton’s otherwise imminent success (and subsequent liberation of all genders, no doubt). Ah yes, what a classic example, I thought, of a random, scraggly man feeling entitled enough to usurp a woman and keep her from her rightful prize.

Needless to say, my political consciousness has evolved greatly since that period. In many ways, that evolution can be directly attributed to the conversations about socialism and social democracy that Sanders’ 2016 campaign paved the way to bring into the mainstream.

Thus, while it is embarrassing to recall my one-dimensional support of Clinton and willful ignorance of the larger picture of D.C. politics for the sake of my own identity, I feel it is necessary. Yesterday, Bernie Sanders announced his intent to seek the Presidency of the United States once more, and in the mere hours since, I have looked around and seen so many reflections of myself from this earlier period in my life, and fear them.

Almost instantly, social media streams have been filled with white women proclaiming the evils of Bernie Sanders; popular media personalities feeling oh-so-sly with themselves for Tweeting things about the “preparations” they are making for the onslaught of Bernie Bros against the feminist cause, and Elizabeth Warren acolytes in the comments crying out “yas kween” in response.

Others continue to aggressively push the agenda that Bernie Sanders’ base is white and male, despite a wealth of data indicating his support among people of color, young people, women, and all cross-sections of these identity points. Perhaps people don’t care to notice because his campaign does not rely on pandering to these identities with some “hot sauce in my bag” bullshit that seems to be a favorite of the white women criticizing him.

The most critical fact that any woman must consider as the 2020 election approaches, is the fact that of any candidate, male or female, Sanders’ agenda is undoubtedly, and by far, the most pro-woman. Alas, being a woman does not make you pro-woman, and, even in left-leaning cases, can often subconsciously work against your own feminist views via internalized misogyny. However, advocating for issues such as Medicare for all, free post-secondary education, the closure of the wage gap, a universal $15 minimum wage, and a Green New Deal do, indeed, provide a path towards a better life for any woman of any background living in the United States.

If a female candidate with comparable policies were to emerge, of course I would seriously consider supporting that candidate (ah, but what a world to have two whole mainstream Social Democrats running for office…). At this time, the clearest path to a feminist future is embodied in the campaign of Bernie Sanders, and that is an irrefutable fact. No, he is far from a perfect individual and I will happily recount my disagreements with his political record (such as his support of FOSTA/SESTA, which every other current candidate also supported). Yet, unlike every other candidate, Sanders represents something greater than himself. He openly acknowledges that his base is the force behind his campaign, not Super PAC donations, not elbow-rubbing, and not amorphous policies kept in the dark behind a veneer of inspirational lingo.

Women, I implore you not to make the same mistakes I did in blinding myself to the realities a candidate’s beliefs and core person simply on the basis of their sex. I long for a future in which female leaders will be responsible for shaping our society — but a Harris or a Warren is merely a stepping stone into a future of the same capitalist policies that have repressed women for so long, and only allowed a select few to squirm through the cracks at the expense of being a “capitalist to my bones.”

Many women, and women of color especially, are already taking up the important work of exposing the idea that only white men would put their stock in a candidate like Sanders. Last night, in response to such critiques, women filled the #JustAnotherBernieBro hashtag with images of themselves, their families, their lives, their friends — all refuting the idea that the core of the Sanders campaign is comprised of a certain type of individual.

White women, implore you to drop your defenses and truly explore the potential effects that a successful Sanders campaign could have on your life and the lives of the women you love. I understand the instinct is to let your defenses rise and stand your ground — it is something we are conditioned to do in so many other aspects of our lives. Yet, I truly hope we can come together and acknowledge that we are in an entirely new political period than we were three years ago. The stakes are higher, but our power is greater. We must use that power to help shape this campaign to meet our needs, not exhaust that energy in battle with other women.

If you can’t get with these realities, then perhaps you should divert your time and energy to another individual who is extremely popular among white women.

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