That’s my new t-shirt line: “All ‘ism’s Matter” printed on 100% Fair Trade cotton by union workers who all get the same pay, male or female, and are offered healthy vegan options at lunch that never include dolphin. Now, an “ism” may not necessarily have the letters i-s-m at the end of it to qualify for ism status. Homophobia, for example, is a nomenclature that works where options such as “anti-gayism” or “Irrational fear based on something my father told me in 1971-ism” are more clunky. The rescue of pets doesn’t have an ‘ism’, although I believe ‘rescuism’ is a very good idea.
But to my larger point: The emerging “Black Lives Matter” movement was a very specific, properly articulated and timely response to a very specific event occurring in our society right now and that was the loss of African American lives to the (let’s face it) racism of some police interactions. An “ism”, by my lights, implies that somehow we have come to identify a problem over the course of time and decided that it most certainly must be exposed and confronted because, well, it’s wrong. Sexism, for example, is wrong. However, properly identifying it and properly reacting to incidents or events of sexism can be much more subjective than one might think, as Hillary Clinton’s campaign is discovering.
As can be the case whenever deploying labels, I’ve already strayed a bit here. If what I’m observing is accurate, the Clinton campaign’s problem is not as much with sexism as it is with the perceived definition of and – if I can go there – requirements of feminism.
There has been a kerfuffle over whether or not younger female voters who are currently supporting and working for the campaign of Bernie Sanders are somehow guilty of betraying feminism and feminist history by abandoning Hillary Clinton; that they “aren’t serious in their politics” as Gloria Steinem put it in a Facebook apology for remarks made earlier on TV that young females involved in politics are with Sander’s camp because “The boys are with Bernie.” Boys they might date.
Steinem’s assertions were still twisting in the wind when former Secretary of State Madeline Albright, albeit good naturedly, asserted at a Clinton rally that “Young women have to support Hillary Clinton. And remember that there’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help each other.” Last week, anyhow, Clinton didn’t have to say “Vote for me because I’m a woman.” She had plenty of others doing it for her.
The blowback from those very same younger women supporting and working for Bernie Sanders was, for the most part, a polite ‘thanks but no thanks’ for the lecture and hectoring on feminism. Or, to work this into my theme, they might have been saying “Feminism matters, but so does my right to vote my conscience-ism.”
It seemed as though many of us were caught just a wee bit surprised by the wave of “Black Lives Matter” because we had somehow come to think of both ourselves and our country as “post-racial.” “Cops shooting and beating people because of their race? Wasn’t that decades ago?” Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty, sayeth libertyism fan Thomas Jefferson. And so, it is not surprising that on the potential eve of America having its first female president two well-known women who have done so much for feminism would feel justified in invoking feminism to put Hillary over the goal line.
With such things as the continuing discrepancies between male and female salaries, maybe we’re not quite to the place where older veterans of the fray can relax and not feel compelled to say to younger women, “You have to do this. You have to play team here.” But, isn’t allowing younger women to make their own choices in their lives part of the gestalt of feminism?
Post-feminist? Maybe not. Post-sexist? I would advise channel flipping through the television delivered on your cable, assuming that to be some sort of social barometer. One minute you’ll be watching the new Samantha Bee show, then flip… and its AMC’s Festival of Horror Movies featuring young women of all nationalities being murdered while wearing a brassiere.
Again, my thesis: All ism’s Matter. I do delight in being around friends of my generation and a woman will cite a man’s sexism in something he’s just said. Often there’s a gentle shrug of shoulders and an apology, and then the conversation moves on. But the conversation did stop for a moment, anyhow. Maybe that’s not “progress” you can take to the bank, but that’s how change sometimes manifests itself. My view is that men and women can find comfort in voting for Hillary Clinton because of her vast experience, proven toughness, and long record on many issues that still need addressing. If it satisfies the goals of some other battle to vote for her, great. But please, don’t tell the young daughters of my friends what they are required to think.