See what he does there? Sanders focuses the fight against capitalism and offers a kernel of hope that eventually this action will help women move beyond oppression. Hello, late 1960s New Left mission: the dismissal of female subjugation as an unimportant concern with emphasis on the more important fight against capitalism! This is by far Sanders’s most recycled talking point since becoming a politician and he is stumping with it again.
New Left culture was the epitome of Bro Culture before we had a term for it. Bernie Sanders is just a holdover from those chauvinistic halcyon days. The reality is, he hasn’t adapted much since he was a young man lamenting his lack of access to easy sex on campus in early ‘60s. He hasn’t grown all that much from the dejected radical deconstructing rape fantasies while blaming misandry for ruined sexual relationships in his early 30s. 20 years ago, just like today, he suggested that women in politics are there because they are symbolic figures who are elected by other women out of sexist sisterhood. He still dismisses his female peers as empty symbols or inauthentic in comparison to himself.
The reality is I don’t know how I am going to vote, but I would rather not support a man who has a history of pointing out that “women’s issues” are essentially a distraction from more important issues, as Sanders has done in every election prior to this campaign. Bernie Sanders has routinely suggested that female peers who prioritize women’s issues do so at the cost of a larger, “more important” revolution of unspecified goals and are, in a sense, selfish and underming for doing so. Sanders, however, in certain venues where being a feminist has cache, has recently touted his feminist stance as someone who has made “a commitment to fight for women’s rights” (again, see the New Left argument about how only men can fight against capitalism and help the oppressed along the way). Sanders, nevertheless, attempts to downplay ‘the woman issue’ regarding gender and the presidency: “We want to see women hold more political offices. But I also would hope that, in these enormously difficult times, where it is absolutely imperative that we stand up to the billionaire class, bring our people together, to fight for a progressive agenda, that all people — women — look at that candidate who has the record to do that.” This is almost verbatim the same argument he made against Madeline Kunin 30 years ago (see Catherine Alison Hill’s thesis presented in May 1989 for primary documentation).