Gender and the Primary: How Bernie Sanders Lost my Vote
Hillary Clinton supporters are lately accused of voting with our vaginas by our Democrats-in-arms, Bernie Sanders supporters. Leaving aside the fun I’ve had imagining how I’d accomplish this, or the amusement I’ve derived from t-shirts designed by my daughter that agree to this proposition asserting that our vaginas are brilliant, for me, this assertion misses the mark.
From observation I can deduce that my gender plays a big part in my endorsement of HRC because I clearly see that my male peers are less enthusiastic about her candidacy than my female friends. However, my endorsement of HRC feels no different than my endorsement of many male Democratic candidates. I guarantee that Sarah Palin’s candidacy was deeply disturbing to me. I would not endorse her for much of anything besides Saturday Night Live comedy muse. Similarly, I was disappointed with Gore’s selection of the conservative Lieberman as his running mate despite the fact that Lieberman and I are both Jews.
On further reflection I feel that my gender has more to do with my opposition to BS than it does to my support for HRC. Sanders brings to mind all the SDS ideologues that consigned me to mimeographing and were never interested in any ideas I might have. I got to chair a large rally as window dressing because most women were at a day care rally and my male colleagues wanted to showcase my support of their rally. I attended the SDS sponsored meeting because I felt that the US presence in Cambodia threatened the lives of women and children more than a lack of government sponsored day care. I’m not sure I would make the same choice today, but I can count that one-day when I was let out of the secretarial pool.
It was from those years that I developed a disdain for ideology over humanity. I was told that a Marxist murderer was a more valuable member of the revolution than a bourgeois doctor who saved lives. I couldn’t agree with this line of thinking and drifted away from SDS, though I continued to work for progressive causes such as the Suffolk County Nuclear Freeze (which I was asked to chair but declined for financial reasons), the closing of the Shoreham Nuclear Power Plant and Amnesty International. I was part of a consortium that visited members of Congress to stop the Iraq War.
Do I sound like a Bernie supporter? I’m not. His narrow-minded focus on ideology returns me to male adolescent thinking that I needed to escape. (The Steve Stills lines that come to mind is, “You are living a reality I left years ago and why? It nearly killed me.”) His emphasis on punishing evildoers, like the governor of Michigan over the Flint water atrocity and Wall Street leave me cold. As a woman who has raised children and run a household I have learned that punishment is not the most affective way to teach values. I appreciate Clinton’s roll up our sleeves stance. She immediately tried to help in Flint.
Interestingly, recent studies have indicated that women now score higher on IQ tests in the United States and other industrialized countries. Women have hearing and smell that are both more acute than men’s. However, women continually experience men dismissing our perceptions and ideas and men explaining to us why their experiences are superior. Indeed, I have been lectured to about feminism by the men in my circle. In daily life one husband told me there was not an intruder in our apartment and sent me to find someone climbing in our bedroom window. Another husband told me that I was imagining things when I became convinced that an animal had invaded our basement. Five opossums were living there. This same husband told me I was crazy because I deduced that a small section of the downhill route near our home had been repaved with slicker tar until a newspaper article affirmed my perception. Women, who often perceive more subtle affects, are routinely told we are crazy, lazy, silly, or simply misinformed.
I feel shut out of the conversation and lectured to by a patriarchal autocrat when I listen to Bernie speak. It is not a reaction to his gender. I don’t feel this when Obama speaks or when Al Franken speaks. The hectoring, know-it-all tone Bernie rains down on me reminds me of all the gender oppression I have ever suffered. So does his failure to prioritize the fate of Planned Parenthood and paid parental leave. His support of the gun industry and his questionable record on immigration have the same effect. Filling the top ten positions in his campaign with men certainly doesn’t promise a Sanders presidency that give fair treatment to women.
Although I come from a family in which The Theory of the Leisure Class was the most prominent book on our bookshelf, and I share many of Sanders’ analyses of the evils of income inequity and greed, I can’t call him my ally.
The distortions of his campaign and the bullying tactics of his campaign staff are exactly what I’ve been fighting for the past 45 years. A good friend and a kind man recently advised me to emotionally detach from the primary race. This was good advice, but I don’t think this thoughtful guy fully understands that I feel personally attacked by the climate created by Bernie Bro’s, the campaign staff and Sanders himself. These attacks don’t make me angry and self-righteous. They make me feel vulnerable and unsafe.
I must campaign for a world in which I feel I can safely operate and continue to be effective in supporting my family. I am not part of the 1% by any means. I need Wall Street because although I’ve worked for 30 years at the same job, unlike Sanders, I don’t have a pension, just an IRA. I want a world in which I am heard and my concerns are not brushed aside because they are not central to the ideological narrative of his campaign. And more importantly, I feel that issues of health and safety, including safety from guns, are at least as important as money and income distribution. I don’t want the collapse of institutions just when my own children are struggling to establish lives, and I don’t want the poor and homeless to be threatened by massive social upheaval. I may be wrong, but I suspect that these feelings have everything to do with my gender. I also feel that Bernie’s seeming disregard for my concerns has everything to do with the patriarchal manner in which he interprets his gender.