I have always shied away from the term “millennial” (mostly because of the way that it seems to undermine the struggles of growing up with the economy of the early 2000s and how it generalizes an entire generation of people), but it’s important to discuss Hillary Clinton’s relationship with “millennial” aged women voters. Clinton is a candidate who has claimed that she has been an advocate of women’s rights for her entire adult life, and that is certainly true (see: Fourth Women’s Conference in Beijing (1995)), so then why are millennial aged women so hesitant to embrace her?
Nearly 61% of women from the ages of 18-29 have supported Bernie Sanders in the 2016 election. This statistic is quite startling when considering that young women have consistently polled that their biggest concerns are things like defeating police brutality, closing the wage gap, and more preventative gun control measures (all issues that Clinton generally does well with). Feminist icons like Gloria Steinem have reasoned that young women are realizing that “the boys are with Bernie” and choosing not to back Clinton for that reason. As a young feminist, it was really important for me to condemn Steinem’s statement (however, she has apologized and I’ve been able to recognize that apology). My interpretation of feminism is all about giving women the ability to choose what they want for themselves, even when that means supporting Bernie over Hillary.
The generational split between feminists has manifested in the political divide between Sanders supporters and Clinton supporters. As a young woman who supports Hillary Clinton, I’ve been able to see this divide firsthand. Few of my peers, even those who identify as feminists, support Hillary Clinton. Many of them are sick of the “political insider” backstory or have just found Bernie’s health care plan (something I find to be vague and unrealistic) more appealing than Clinton’s proposed legislation.
Women aged 40+ support Clinton in overwhelming numbers, with polls often reported numbers upward of 55%. This generational split presents itself with differences in each age group’s “sense of urgency”. Although both groups of women hope to see a woman as President at sometime in their life, that timeline is a lot shorter for older women. These women, usually 40+, have been working for their entire lives to make things better for American women. They have lived through years and years of misogyny and a lack of supportive government legislation. They’ve spent nearly a lifetime trying to make the road a little easier for younger women. These young women haven’t had to live through these types of struggles and have now prioritized choosing a president who has advocated for the “youth voice” over one who has paved the path and broken the glass ceilings necessary for young women to be able to reach their fullest potential. Regardless of whether one supports Clinton or Sanders in this primary, feminism will not be as productive until this generational gap is repaired and women unite under the message of fighting for a woman’s right to choose what she wants for herself.
Written by: Prathusha Yeruva, Oakland/Macomb MI NOW intern