#ImWithHer Isn’t Feminism (Yet)

It would be historic to have a woman in the White House. A really big deal. But the assertion that feminists should vote for Hillary Clinton because she is a woman is reductionist at best. It distills modern feminism into an issue of descriptive representation, and suggests that women should prioritize Clinton’s gender in determining their vote. Comments like Madeline Albright’s, “there’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help each other,” and Gloria Steinem’s “…when you’re young you’re thinking…where are the boys? The boys are with Bernie,” further underline this fact.

These comments conflate descriptive representation, the “extent to which a representative resembles those being represented,” with substantive representation, the action a representative takes on behalf of those they represent. Today, when a female Democrat runs, liberal feminist voters can argue that voting for her is a feminist issue, and vice versa for female Republicans. But the idea that feminists ‘should’ vote for Hillary Clinton only really makes sense if she’s more likely to fight for the vast array of modern feminist issues — healthcare, affordable college tuition, income equality, transfeminism, and immigration — than say, Bernie Sanders.

And I’m not sure that she is.

Let’s take income inequality as an example: income inequality has a disproportionate effect on women who make up half the workforce but earn just 77 cents to the male dollar. Bernie Sanders, despite his idealism or maybe because of it, represents more meaningful advocacy for income equality than Hillary Clinton. For all her talk about equal pay she’s proposed a lower minimum wage than Sanders, and still has close ties to Wall Street.

Sanders also supports free college tuition, which, although likely unviable, would support the majority of women who earn less than their male counterparts and thus have a harder time paying back student loans.

If Clinton is elected, let’s caution ourselves not to get too caught up in the celebration of feminist progress. Much like Obama’s election didn’t herald the end of racism in this country (and in fact, Trump’s campaign has seen it evolve), Clinton’s election won’t necessitate equality for women, particularly those of lower socioeconomic status. We can’t allow the election of someone who looks and smells like progress to stop us from demanding change, and requiring substantive representation in the form of legislative action.