Snow provided by Mother Nature combined with threats of eternal damnation from former secretary of state Madeleine Albright were not sufficient to prevent Democratic women from deserting Hillary Clinton in droves this Tuesday to deliver a smashing victory to avuncular socialist Bernie Sanders in the New Hampshire primary.
Any woman who has ever had a mother could have warned Ms. Albright that the guilt trip ploy wasn’t going to work to reel in errant daughters. When Ms. Albright said, “There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help each other!” at a Clinton rally the Saturday before the primary, you immediately knew two things: Ms. Albright was not referencing Republican hopeful Carly Fiorina (who has since exited the race), and she wasn’t above a little emotional blackmail to get the last politically active feminist of a certain generation (mine) over the finish line and into the White House.
The minute I heard Ms. Albright’s words, I remembered a bumper sticker on a car my sister once saw. It said, “My mother is a travel agent—specializing in guilt trips.” Guilt trips may induce angst, and they may, initially, produce results, but most of us eventually rebel. Indeed, “You owe me!” is not the most enticing rationale when seeking votes (or anything else, for that matter) from women (or men). In this instance it spawned jokes, with women left and right volunteering to go to hell rather than vote for Ms. Clinton.
While Ms. Albright sought to bully women voters, poor Gloria Steinem, 81, in her plea on behalf of Ms. Clinton, indicated that she thinks the world is still stuck in her Playboy Bunny days. She said on Real Time with Bill Maher that women who support Bernie Sanders over Clinton are doing it to meet boys. “When you’re young, you’re thinking, ‘Where are the boys?’ The boys are with Bernie,” Steinem declared.
The word “sexist” has been tossed about to explain what Steinem, who later apologized (sort of), said. But there is a better term: woefully out of touch. Raise your hand if you know one young woman who makes her political decisions based on where the boys are? And is Steinem implying, as she seems to be doing, gender warfare—boys with Bernie, women with Hillary?
What’s wrong with Albright’s and Steinem’s pitches is that they refuse to recognize that the feminist movement has triumphed. Instead of rejoicing that women are making up their minds without reference to gender, they are angry. There’s also a bit of deviousness: they want their long-time friend to win the presidency and believe a little bullying might do the trick. Nobody ever said that the feminist movement is not cliquish.
At age 78, instead of savoring the resounding successes of feminism, which truly did expand professional options for women, Albright is trying to claim credit for the achievements of her generation, while at the same time portraying these very achievements as precariously built on sand. It’s as if she’s living in an eternal seventies consciousness-raising session. “We tell our story about how we climbed the ladder, and a lot of you younger women don’t think you have to—it’s been done. It’s not done,” Albright has been quoted saying.
“I think because life is better, thanks to people like Hillary and me,” she told TIME magazine. “I have to tell you when I went for my first job when I was 22 years old, they said, ‘So what are you going to do, honey?’ I’m not sure that young women get that now,” she said. (Memo to Albright: They don’t.) Albright continued:
So it has taken a lot of work now. So what concerns me most of all is that we don’t go backwards. Because if you listen to things, people are saying things that are very anti-women in terms of decisions that we have to make about our lives. And I think we all have to remember that no matter what age we are, that things can always go back.
The anti-women rhetoric to which she refers likely relates at least in large part to the issue of abortion, on which there can be honest disagreement outside the world of Steinem, Albright, and Clinton. Some of us would say that the feminist movement took a vicious turn at its inception with regard to men and abortion, but nobody can deny that women have more opportunities today than ever before. Women outnumber men on college campuses and, if you factor in college majors and choices women make, the wage gap—the guns-and-religion to which feminists cling—all but disappears. And it should be noted that, despite the status of women when they started their careers, Albright, Clinton, and Steinem have done well.
It is unfortunate that the matriarchs can’t take a bow and appreciate the opportunities women enjoy. But that would not help their friend Hillary, and if questions about her competence and character can be swept aside through gender blackmail, they’ll be glad to oblige. There’s only one problem: as New Hampshire’s primary results showed, it doesn’t seem to be working.