In 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.
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:
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:
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: Mysteries of the Goddess 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.