Dear Gloria: The Feminist Candidate I Can Believe In Must Be Unbossed and Unbought by Carol P. Christ

Carol Molivos by Andrea Sarris 2In the past week, founder of Ms. Magazine Gloria Steinem, whom I have always greatly admired, stated that young women are supporting Bernie Sanders because his campaign is where the boys are. She has since recanted the comment, but I suspect she still believes that feminists ought to be supporting Hillary. I have written Gloria an open letter.

Dear Gloria,

Like you, I am no longer a young woman. Like you, I am a lifelong feminist activist. But, unlike you, I am not supporting Hillary Clinton. I am supporting Bernie Sanders because of–not in spite of–my feminist principles. I came into the feminist movement through the antiwar, antipoverty, and civil rights movements. My feminism cannot be reduced to the single issue of women’s rights. I believe that feminism can and must be intersectional and inclusive of issues of class and race. For me it must also include an analysis of the relationship between patriarchy and war, which I have discussed in a series of blogs on Feminism and Religion that I hope you will read.

I believe the future of the United States (and the world) requires us to dismantle the system in which the 1% owns more of the world’s resources than the rest of us combined. As you and I both know, poor women of color are at the bottom of this system, both in the United States and worldwide. As you and I both know, there are reasons to seriously doubt if democracy can function in a political system in which the 1% can buy candidates and fund voter suppression.

In 1972, like you, Gloria, I supported and voted for Shirley Chisholm for President. Of course you remember that her campaign slogan was “Unbossed and Unbought.” Chisholm ran a grass-roots campaign. Her campaign brochure stated:

Her support comes from the millions of Americans who shun the political clubhouses but believe that our political system can survive.

No special interest groups will contribute to her campaign. So the success of her candidacy depends upon people like you.

The unbossed and the unbought.

Shirley Chisholm is no longer with us, so we cannot know which candidate she would be supporting in this campaign, but to me it is clear that the candidate who can claim to be unbossed and unbought is Bernie Sanders. Hillary Clinton can claim all she wants that the big money interests that have donated lavishly to her campaign and to the Clinton Foundation will not influence her presidency. This claim just does not have the ring of truth for me. Hillary can speak all she wants about ending poverty and revitalizing the middle class, but can she do that without standing up to Wall Street by refusing to take its money?

I am also supporting Bernie Sanders because it would be very difficult for me to vote for a candidate for President who voted for the Iraq War in 2003. I followed the events that led up to this war closely. To me it was obvious that the war was being orchestrated by Vice President Dick Cheney and his cronies in the military-industrial complex. Why wasn’t this obvious to Hillary? I was listening to Mohamed El Baradi, the Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency of the United Nations who stated that there was no credible information to support the claim of the Bush administration that Iraq had a nuclear weapons program. Why didn’t Hillary listen to him instead of Cheney?

The US-led war with Iraq did nothing to create peace. It has increased rather than decreased the suffering of the Iraqi people. It has contributed greatly to the destabilization of the Middle East. It is one of the causes of the current war in Syria. I supported Barack Obama in 2008 because he, unlike Hillary Clinton, opposed the Iraq War. Bernie Sanders voted against the Iraq War. Hillary Clinton has said she regrets her vote. However she continues to take a “tough line” on foreign policy. As Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton was known for advocating military intervention when other advisers of the President were not. Bob and Barbara Dreyfuss argue that we ought to be worried about a possible Clinton presidency because she is both a hawk and a militarist.

In her time, Shirley Chisholm was not afraid to state that the US military was engaged in an unjust war. She fought to limit military spending and the power of the military industrial complex. Her campaign brochure stated that she:

Supports withdrawal of all American military influence from southeast Asia.

Co-sponsored legislation to repeal the draft and establish a volunteer army.

Has voted against all money bills for the military and will continue to do so until priorities are reversed.

She has voted against MIRV and ABM.

She is against aid to undemocratic nations such as Greece and Spain.

Like you, Gloria, I hope to see a woman President in my lifetime. Like you Gloria, I understand the symbolic value that having a woman as President could make in the lives and aspirations of women in our country and around the world. Like you and like Hillary, I see the fight for women’s rights as a fight for human rights. However, I believe that the fight for women’s rights is inseparable from the fight to dismantle intertwined powers of the 1% and the military industrial complex. That is why as a feminist I intend to vote for Bernie Sanders. He is not a woman, but he is a firm supporter of women’s rights, the right to choose, equal pay, family leave, and a host of other issues of concern to women. If Barbara Lee were running for President I would happily vote for her! Like Shirley Chisholm was, she is a woman and a feminist candidate I can believe in.

In closing, let me say that I understand that reasonable feminists can disagree on which Democratic candidate to support in the primaries. I hope you understand that too.

Yours in sisterhood,


Carol P. Christ is author or editor of eight books in Women and Religion and is one of the Foremothers of the Women’s Spirituality Movement. She leads the Goddess Pilgrimage to Crete in Spring and Fall: Early Bird Special until February 15. Follow Carol on Twitter @CarolP.Christ, Facebook Goddess Pilgrimage, and Facebook Carol P. Christ.  Carol speaks in depth about the Goddess Pilgrimage to Crete in an illustrated interview with Kaalii Cargill. Photo of Carol by Andrea Sarris.

A Serpentine Path Cover with snakeskin backgroundA Serpentine Path: Mysteries of the GoddessGoddess and God in the World final cover design will be published by Far Press in the spring of 2016. A journey from despair to the joy of life.

Goddess and God in the World: Conversations in Embodied Theology with Judith Plaskow will be published by Fortress Press in June 2016. Exploring the connections of theology and autobiography and alternatives to the transcendent, omnipotent male God.

Author: Carol P. Christ

Carol P. Christ is a leading feminist historian of religion and theologian who leads the Goddess Pilgrimage to Crete, a life transforming tour for women.

37 thoughts on “Dear Gloria: The Feminist Candidate I Can Believe In Must Be Unbossed and Unbought by Carol P. Christ”

  1. Thank you, Carol. You have said with more context and history than I have at my command, what I too believe. Like you, I hope to join with others in helping Bernie Sanders remake American democracy. Like you, I fully appreciate the symbolic power of seeing a woman elected President. But I will not cast my vote for Hillary Clinton simply because I want to see a woman elected President. Bernie Sanders asks the questions no other politician is asking: questions like why aren’t the criminals in the C-Suite on Wall Street in jail? Unbossed and unbought. If only we could believe that of more of our elected representatives. Bernie Sanders is what he has always been. And now I have the vocabulary to describe what I like about him..thanks again! Dawn Morais


  2. Although I watch the race from distant shores, I am also hoping the Clinton does not get to lead. I too remember the tragic fiasco that was the war in Iraq in 2003 – and Madeleine Albright speaking of the women and children being ‘collateral damage’. Any candidate that has e.g. Monsanto behind them as fund donors is hugely suspect. Bernie Sanders will I hope get the Democratic vote. Thank you for clearly articulating the reasons why certain people should not get the vote, irrespective of gender …

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thanks Carol. I agree, but I am also hoping Bernie Sanders will take on Elizabeth Warren as his VP. Both are unbossed and unbought. And if Bernie won the election, he would also become the first Jewish president and I like that breakthrough in inclusiveness. I can’t imagine a more liberating and hopeful ticket than Sanders and Warren together.


  4. Did you actually send this letter? I also voted for Shirley Chisholm. I support Bernie Sanders today, but if Hillary Clinton wins the nomination, I will vote for her against any Republican.


    1. Didn’t vote for Ms. Chisholm, but I too expect to vote for HRC over any Republican.

      As the late Lane Kirkland of the AFL-CIO once noted, a working man voting for a Republican is like a chicken voting for Col. Sanders.


      1. I agree, Barbara. Bernie certainly embodies my values to a greater extent than Hilary. But if she gets the nomination — which I believe is likely — I will support her without hesitation in the face of the fascist, right-wing Republicans who will be on the other side. John, I’ll be no chicken voting for Col. Sanders (great quote).


  5. Thank you for clarifying my thoughts on so many reasons why I prefer Bernie. I can add only one thing more: Truthiness. Bernie’s got it.


  6. Thank you Carol. Have you posted this letter to Gloria?
    So many feminists I know are males, I no longer consider gender indicative. My friend John is certainly more of a feminist than Margaret Thatcher.


    1. Excellent letter, Carol! I am very happy to see this, and I think hearing from long-time feminists on this issue is essential. In 2008, I was similarly uncomfortable with the (seemingly unquestioning) support for Hillary over Barack by some of our iconic feminist leaders–leaders whom I know were also against the Iraq War and crony capitalism and their devastating effects on women.

      I completely agree that, like Gloria and you, I would like to see a woman President in our lifetimes. But it is also extremely important that the first woman President is not one who supports the same old policies of the patriarchy. Here’s an insightful recent article that succinctly outlines Hillary Clinton’s trajectory through time and why she can’t be counted upon to change things in truly progressive ways now:

      I was really hoping for Elizabeth Warren to run, and if she had, I would have been staunchly behind her! But I think Bernie embodies many of her principles, and I am definitely supporting him now. Carol, I really think you should post this directly to Gloria. If she doesn’t already know who you are, she should, and I also imagine she would be very interested in this excellent blog and all the cogent ideas expressed herein.


    2. Oh, I believe she knows who you are . . . your voice has been around a long time. Thank you for the letter.


  7. The election is a long way off. Who is president is not so important as the active citizenship of every woman and man on this list. The president is only one person and Congress is an important factor in what she or he can do. So no matter who gets the Democratic nomination and no matter who wins the presidency, each of us in needed to make the world better for young women and men. I will vote for sure and it may be for Sanders or Clinton-whoever is available
    and better than the Republican option. But the details of each of their campaigns is not so important as what we do as active feminists to reclaim the earth from patriarchy. Have at it, sisters!


  8. Reblogged this on Everyday Voices and commented:
    She’s far too polite in my view, but this about sums it up.

    “I am supporting Bernie Sanders because of–not in spite of–my feminist principles. I came into the feminist movement through the antiwar, antipoverty, and civil rights movements. My feminism cannot be reduced to the single issue of women’s rights. I believe that feminism can and must be intersectional and inclusive of issues of class and race.”

    “Hillary Clinton can claim all she wants that the big money interests that have donated lavishly to her campaign and to the Clinton Foundation will not influence her presidency. This claim just does not have the ring of truth for me. Hillary can speak all she wants about ending poverty and revitalizing the middle class, but can she do that without standing up to Wall Street by refusing to take its money?”

    Like Bernie Sanders says, big monied interest groups do not donate because they are feeling generous and do not know what to do with all that extra money.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Thank you for clarifying some of these issues for me, Carol. What struck me is that Chisolm also referred to her supporters as “the unbossed and the unbought.” I wonder how many of us–if we’re really being honest–would see ourselves this way today. Have our institutions bought our silence? Are we speaking truth to power? Has the erosion of unions and job opportunities led some of us to believe that we have to yield to our “bosses” to make a living?


    1. Good question Elise. It is also true that if we are employed by seminaries, there are books that cannot be taught and questions that cannot be asked. Even in universities freedom of thought is curtailed by the institutional ethos and in subtle and not so subtle ways by the Western canon of great works, which still determines which kinds of research, writing, and teaching will be rewarded.


  10. Reblogged this on morriganconstance and commented:
    I don’t know a lot about US politics, but what Carol Christ says here resonates for me. On watching media reports from far away here in Australia, I didn’t think I could be supporting Hilary Clinton for her militaristic position, something I have found cause for concern for many years. And yet my doubt has also been about trust in a militaristic media; were they representing her accurately? Pacifism informs my radical lesbian feminism so I found Carol Christ’s words here affirming.


  11. Down under in Australia, I have always found the militaristic policies of Hilary Clinton of great concern. Your words, Carol Christ, clarify my concerns perfectly. :) And I am a new advocate of unbossed and unbought. I had not heard that expression before – happy to confess my ignorance. :)


  12. One thing that concerns me about Bernie is that I don’t know how/if he’d be able to implement the changes he favors. I’m in favor of everything he says. I just question whether he has a viable plan to actually make the changes. I think Hillary’s plan of “slow and steady wins the race” is more realistic. She has done more to support women here and abroad than almost anyone. I would do almost anything to be sure that the Republicans don’t win this race, and the “socialism” card will be played by them, big time, if he wins the nomination. That worries me…a lot.


    1. Yes, good point, Katharine. “Slow and steady wins the race.” I don’t like Hillary’s support of militarism. But then, being in the public eye always involves a “give and take” that at a certain level, I find repugnant. As much as I like Bernie, I think Hillary (because of her “seasoned” ways) has a better chance of finding a way forward that benefits “the people.” Wish that were not the case.


  13. Brava, Carol! A responsible interpretation and reporting while sound bites expertly move Clinton forward. I will vote for her if Bernie doesn’t win but I too have many concerns about her militarism and links to capitalism as the way of the world —


  14. Carol, I very much appreciate your thorough response here. There are intelligent reasons to vote for HRC, but feminist loyalty is not one of them IMO. I personally see Sanders as the more feminist candidate. Thanks for your excellent thoughts.


  15. Great post. It is refreshing to hear a voice in Feminism today that speaks to facts, rather than propaganda. Unfortunately it seems like it is not the voice of today’s new feminists.

    I find Christina Hoff Sommers to be an interesting speaker for the same reason. It seems to me that she encourages understanding the facts. I know she has many detractors and I am curious as to your opinion on her.

    It seems rare these days to find those who can disagree with a view point and yet still engage in real dialogue about the issues, rather than devolving into hurt feelings and adolescent behaviour.



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