In November, Americans will have the opportunity to break with tradition and elect the first female president. According to the USA Today’s presidential poll tracker, Clinton has a 4.4% lead against Bernie Sanders. Clinton has more White House experience than Sanders, having been the First Lady from 1993 to 2001 and Secretary of State from 2009 to 2013. Yet, these credentials alone won’t secure her place as President, or the Democrat nominee. Hillary Clinton began her campaign assuming that she would have the vote of every woman in the United States, but are feminists obliged to support her?
Technically, everyone who advocates for gender equality is a feminist since the definition of feminism is advocacy for women’s rights on the basis of equality. The idea that feminists have to vote for a female candidate is wrong, because no one votes for a male candidate just because he’s a man; we scrutinize his past, experience, and policies. Also, Hillary Clinton wouldn’t be able to make significant changes to women’s standing in society. Hot topics for feminists include the pay gap and slut shaming. Studies have shown that women make 77 cents for every dollar a man would make in the same job, yet the Equal Pay Act of 1963 mandates that employers equally pay men and women. Therefore, the government has done all it can do until tangible evidence materializes that specific companies have been discriminating against women because of their gender, and nothing else. Similarly, the government cannot control the way its citizens think about women. No president, male or female, can pass a law that bans Americans from slut shaming or believing that women shouldn’t have rights.
In 2008 and 2012, Americans voted for Barack Obama, the country’s first African-American president. Many Americans thought that he would ease rising racial tension, but, instead, more racial problems have come to light in recent years. No one should feel forced to vote for Hillary Clinton just because she’s a woman. Having a female president doesn’t automatically mean that all gender equality problems, of which most solutions are rooted in social change, not legal, will be solved.
Feminists have always fought to give women a choice, from feminists in the early 1900s fighting for a say in their country’s leader, to modern feminists fighting to keep abortions legal. So, a feminist should be able to make the choice to vote for a male candidate, not because they don’t believe in the advancement of women, but simply because they agree with their policies. One might think that electing a female president will decrease sexism, which is a serious problem, but voting for Hillary is not the way to fix it.
Written by: Katie Schupp (’18)
Photography by: Gage Skidmore https://www.flickr.com/photos/gageskidmore/25861563482