One of Patriarchy’s favorite games (and the reasons for this are obvious) is “Let’s Pit the Women Against Each Other.” A classic of this genre is “Let’s Pit Women Who Work Outside the Home Against Women Who Work at Home.” Another classic is “Let’s Pit White Feminists Against All African American Women.” Still another version, and you can see it played out in comments whenever a Rubenesque woman posts a picture of herself on social media, is “Let’s Pit the Thin Women Against the Fat Women.” There are endless variations: “Let’s Pit Lesbians Against Straight Women,” “Let’s Pit Infertile Women Against Women Who’ve Had Abortions,” “Let’s Pit Women With College Degrees Against All the Other Women,” and “Let’s Pit Christian Women Against Women from Other Religions.” You can probably think of other examples and, please, post them in Comments.
When Hillary Clinton, a very serious contender, runs for the presidency of the United States, Patriarchy loves to play a special version of this game. This game is “Let’s Pit Second Wave Feminists from Hillary’s Generation Against Younger Women.” And I’m going to say, right up front, I’m a Sixty-Year-Old Second Wave Feminist and damn proud of it. If all they ever carve on my gravestone (the one that I don’t really want to have since I want my ashes scattered at Bull Run among the bluebells) is: “She Was Born a Feminist and She Died A Feminist,” that will be enough for me. But this post is addressed to my sister Second Wave Feminists and it’s an heartfelt plea for us to stop getting trapped by this Patriarchal game. Sadly, even those of us used to dealing with the media have allowed Patriarchy to use us in these games.
And, as I so often do, I see this through the lens of framing.
When Ms. Clinton ran the first time, Geraldine Ferraro, who ran as Walter Mondale’s Vice President and was considered, by many, to be the first realistic female candidate for Vice President, got caught up in Patriarchy’s game. Ms. Ferraro said that now-President Obama benefitted from being an African American man in his contest with Ms. Clinton. The media jumped and Ms. Clinton’s campaign suffered.
This time around, Patriarchy’s been playing the game just as effectively. Former Secretary of State, Madeline Albright, who is pushing 80 and quivering when she holds a microphone, admonished younger women (who think that “it’s already been done”) that there’s a “special place in hell for women who don’t help each other,” and this, as was intended, was played as old women v. young women. Feminist icon, Gloria Steinem, allowed Patriarchy’s beloved bad boy, Bill Maher, to trap her in this game. When Mr. Maher asked why Ms. Clinton isn’t doing better with young women, Steinem bought into his assumption and said that young women will get more radical as they age, because women lose power as they get older.
Of course, Patriarchy never asks why mature men don’t support Mr. Sanders, nor does Patriarchy put Mr. Sanders’ supporters on the spot, asking them to explain why they won’t support a woman.
Dear My (Older) Sisters: Please Stop Letting Them Do This To Us.
Look there is a simple answer to every question that attempts to pit Ms. Clinton’s supporters against other (often younger) women. Take notes because here it is:
“I support Ms. Clinton. Almost never has America had such an experienced, tested, and well-rounded candidate for president. If you want to see her perform under fire, go watch the eleven-hour grilling that she took from hostile Republicans, determined to destroy her candidacy, concerning Benghazi. Ms. Clinton brings exceptional credentials to the Oval Office, credentials that NO other candidate, Republican or Democrat, can match. I know many young women who are excited to see a woman finally, after more than two hundred years, make a serious run for the White House. And I know many women who, regardless of Ms. Clinton’s gender, believe Ms. Clinton to be the best, most experienced, most realistic candidate for the White House. And why is it, Questioner, that you need older women and younger women to engage in a dispute over this?”
Period. The end. Move on.
If we could (and I did) burn our bras, apply for jobs we never expected to get, stand up to clients that called us “lady lawyers,” and refuse to be called “Miss” or “Mrs.,” I think we can refuse to play Patriarchy’s games.
Picture found here.