Why moms and daughters split over Hillary Clinton

Former US Secretaries of State Hillary Clinton (L) and Madeleine Albright listen to a speaker after Clinton received the 2013 Lantos Human Rights Prize during a ceremony on Capitol Hill in Washington on December 6, 2013.   AFP PHOTO/Nicholas KAMM        (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
Women to back Clinton, avoid 'special place in Hell'
02:20 - Source: CNN

Editor’s Note: Dasha Burns is a writer and works as a strategist and creative content producer at Oliver Global, a consulting agency where she focuses on leveraging media and digital technology for global development. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

Story highlights

Dasha Burns: Dust-up over feminists chastising young women cool to Clinton backfires like a mother-daughter spat

She says despite Sanders' appealing idealism, young women should know election's importance, Clinton must show she hears them

CNN  — 

An intergenerational clash within the feminist movement is playing out online and in the media. Surprisingly, two of the most iconic feminist leaders are the cause of the latest controversy: Gloria Steinem and Madeleine Albright. In trying to convince young women to vote for Hillary Clinton, they’ve instead incited a backlash.

At a rally for Clinton over the weekend, former Secretary of State Albright said that women who didn’t help other women went to “a special place in hell.” And on Friday, Steinem told Bill Maher that young women were breaking for Bernie Sanders, in part, because “when you’re young, you’re thinking, ‘Where are the boys?’ The boys are with Bernie. …”

Dasha Burns

The tone-deaf comments did not go over well with young women.

If you read some of this conversation out loud, it sounds like a textbook mother-daughter spat. Frustrated with her daughter’s decisions, Mom thinks she knows what’s best and tries hard to get through to her. Daughter lashes out, feeling patronized and lectured. Both parties feel like they aren’t being heard and resort to saying some things out of frustration they don’t really mean.

But this is not a family feud – it’s a national election – and it can’t end in slamming bedroom doors. And in this case, young women do have a voice (it’s called a vote) and it’s going to be heard whether Clinton likes it or not. It’s just short of an embarrassment that feminism in the Democratic Party has come to this – where some feel like they must resort to essentially parenting and chastising their younger peers.

Our votes are equal no matter our age. And in such a tight battle, every one will matter. Simplifying the decision to gender and attributing young women’s support of Sanders to a prowl for boys is not the way to get these important voters on your side.

Having said that, it’s time for some #realtalk. While young voters are educated and engaged, they are also newer to politics. They don’t have the perspective that experiencing many election cycles may bring.

Whenever I talk politics with other millennials, the most cited reason for supporting a candidate is alignment of ideals. And to put it simply, a big part of Sanders’ appeal to young people is that he echoes their eagerness for a political revolution. He is more militant and radical than Clinton on issues that matter to millennials, like college tuition, student debt and health care.

And this demographic loves that – myself included. Frankly, my ideals line up with his more than Clinton’s.

The problem is, this focus on ideals and the exceptional excitement and volatility of this primary season is overshadowing some painful political realities. This is an important election, the result of which will affect all generations, but will have a particularly profound effect on issues that matter to millennials. And it is especially important for women. We risk not only losing the chance to push women’s empowerment forward, but actually having our progress stopped … and reversed.

If you’re a young woman, you should vote for the candidate of your choice and not be chastised for it. But before you do, you should take a few steps back and look beyond the primaries to the general election: The Republican Party just might wise up and choose an electable candidate. Think about our country’s demographics and what that means for undecided moderates and independents.

Now think beyond the general election. Think about what it would take to pass some of the radically liberal legislation Sanders proposes in a polarized and gridlocked Congress that has for years now tried to squash even Obama’s moderate initiatives – and has been largely successful.

And finally, do think about both the symbolic and real-world impact of a woman holding the highest office. This shouldn’t determine the choice, but it’s important to consider. The fight for gender equality is not over – don’t kid yourself. And a female president with a history of fighting for equal rights will fight for you.

Clinton cannot take for granted that women will cast their votes based on shared anatomy. Her campaign has made the mistake of looking too far ahead to the general election and assuming that at some point, something will click and voters will “come to their senses.”

And as much as she may rely on her mom/grandma identity to appeal to voters, young women don’t need another mother. They need to feel heard. They need to know the person they vote for understands the unique challenges they face – ones that may differ significantly from the battles fought in past waves of feminism. If Clinton wants these voters on her side, she’ll have to do more than scold them into it.

While Clinton has been overstressing the long game, young women haven’t stressed it enough. I’ll be the cool aunt here and say it’s in the interest of both to meet in the middle. Because if they don’t, both risk being silenced by a leader from the other side with no interest in a woman’s voice at all.

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