The Price of Abandoning Women by Venessa Bowers

Recently I was reminded of a quote by former Secretary of State, Madeliene Albright when she said, “There is a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women.” I’ve been thinking about it a lot in several contexts, but one in particular is pressing on American women: Should I vote for the person who has come the closest to being the first female president of the United States. According to the New York Times article dated February 7, 2016, Albright admonished young women voters who were supporting Bernie Sanders and repeated the original quote in relation to the boarder fight for women’s equality that is underway with this campaign: “We can tell our story of how we climbed the ladder, and a lot of you younger women think it’s done. It’s not done. There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help each other!”

Now…hold on just a second. When I read the first quote, I totally get it. Truly. And I think about the women who actively blocked my progress as I entered the workforce 25 years ago. I can agree that there at least should be a special place in hell for those women. However, as a woman who believes that “hell” is a social construction that we create ourselves in this life, that doesn’t hold much water for me. I read and interpret the original quote as this: women who have climbed the ladder should not kick it out from other women trying to get a foothold. Young women are trying to get a foothold and older women who rebuke, admonish, shame, and “mother them” into thinking the way THEY think are simply not helping this younger generation.

To be sure, Albright is not wrong when she says women need to understand that the fight for equal rights is not over. It may not be over during the lifetimes of the young women she addressed. But where she is, in my humble opinion, incorrect, is in saying that young women don’t get that there is a fight. They certainly do get it. Go talk to them. And more importantly? Go LISTEN to them. As women of a certain age, and Ms. Albright has me beat there, we must seek to understand the perspectives of younger women and educate and nurture them to a place of critical thinking and that must include a critical examination of the first female candidate for president. In this educational construct, we too must learn from the voices of other women. We build this reality together.

For the sake of transparency, I’m a feminist. Believe that. I am on the ground daily working with women to uplift, make space for, educate, honor, and support them. That’s doesn’t make me wonderful. It simply means I remember. I remember what it was like to be 18 years old. I know what I needed and didn’t get so I make a daily commitment to not do to other women what was done to me. That said, I am not huge fan of Mrs. Clinton. Here’s why: Her personal life is way too political – while I agree that any woman has the right to stay in a marriage, it is not necessarily a good example to stay in the marriage for political reasons. I’ll tell you this, if I had her education, privilege, and money, even in the 1990s, I’d have stood up tall and walked away from a man that could not keep his marriage vows and cared little about what his indiscretions could do to me emotionally. As a matter of fact, if that happened to me today and I certainly still don’t have what she has, there would be divorce papers on the dining room table. Why? Because commitment matters. Trust matters. Open humiliation is abusive and guess what – women have had enough of that mess!

Next, Ms. Clinton certainly does not speak for me. She doesn’t have the same priorities as I do and that’s ok. I don’t have to support everything about her. I appreciate her fight for equal pay, health care reform, children, and the myriad of other causes she has championed. But I do not like her. I do not have the same kind of hope in her that I had when Barak Obama was running for president eight years ago. She does not inspire me. Also, I believe that had Mr. Sanders not bungled the communication on his democratic socialist position, he’d have beaten her out of the nomination. His vision is much more inline with my own. To me, that he’s a man wasn’t the point. That he shared my goals is certainly the point.

But I digress. Firmly, I believe that the special place in hell that Albright references is more aptly applied to women who have power over other women and continue to marginalize them. It’s great to tell me to get out the vote for Clinton as my “duty” because she has the same body parts as I do. And that, my friends is simply bullsh!t. That is a position no different that the white male faction of our country denigrating her to the same damn body parts. Now come on. We don’t like it when men marginalize us, we cannot use the same tool to try to uplift us. How is that feminism?

The brilliant, late poet Audre Lorde once said “that master’s tools will never (emphasis mine) dismantle the master’s house.” Think about that. If women want to unite, and (wo)man, do we ever need to unite, we cannot use the same rhetorical shifts that have been used since the founding of our country. This position plays right into the hands of the republican nominee and allows space for him to say things like Clinton can play the “woman” card. I don’t know about you, but I’ve never been issued the “woman card” and this is certainly not a damn poker game. This is about people’s lives. And as voters, we need to take that seriously.

Here’s why I am voting for Clinton – I cannot live in a country in which Donald Trump could be president. He has demonstrated time and again his bigotry, misogyny, homophobia, xenophobia, isolationism, racisms, violent rhetoric, sexual assault and exploitation of women, and plain stupidity about how the world works for real folk who didn’t inherit a fortune. While Clinton doesn’t speak for me; Trump would seek to marginalize me back to the 1950s. For me, the choice is clear. I may not gain anything from a Clinton presidency, but I certainly won’t lose my right to dignity because of it.

So, older women, stop trying to talk younger women out of their own thinking because it scares you. Seriously make some space for them in this dialogue – and it MUST be a dialogue. Middle aged women (like me) bridge the gap between these feminist waves. Reach back and forward to get your arms around these women who are different than you and love them fiercely. Young women, read, watch, stand up. Ask your questions. Challenge us old ladies. Stand your ground until YOU decide to bend. And all women, listen a little more closely to the voices of our sisters. WE need to stand together on principle rather than personality. We need to have each other’s sixes. We cannot abandon each other because of socially constructed differences. The price of a Trump presidency is far too great for any of us to pay.

Now is the time. Get to the polls and honor the women who fought to get us a right that we’ve not even had for a century (19th Amendment to the Constitution, which granted women the right to vote occurred in 1920). This matters. Now, maybe more than ever, your voice MUST be raised. Because unless you agree that a man like the Republican nominee has the right to “grab us by the p***y” simply because he has power, your choice is clear. If you can’t wrap your head around voting FOR her, at least get around voting AGAINST him.

Let’s do this. For each other.


1 comment so far

  1. Jayne Polen on

    Once again I must say BRAVO!

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