The hugs from John Kasich and even Hillary Clinton offered a small bit of authentic humanity to relentlessly packaged presidential campaigns. However, this grab at ersatz identity in the middle of the MSNBC townhall last night by Bernie Sanders exposes the more mundane lack of authenticity seen on the trail. When asked by a woman how “a white male” like Sanders could understand the “intersectional identities” faced by minorities, Sanders responded that he’s actually an honorary woman.
Transcript included for full context:
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Good evening. Thank you, Senator Bernie Sanders. My question is, do you consider yourself a feminist? If so, how do you, as a white male, understand the intersectional identities that people of color face, especially when entering high positions of power within business or government?
SANDERS: I consider myself a strong feminist. And, in fact, Gloria Steinem — everybody knows Gloria is one of the leading feminists in America — made me an honorary woman many, many years ago. (LAUGHTER) I don’t know exactly what that meant, but I accepted it when she came to campaign for me.
Look, right now in this country, women are making 79 cents on the dollar compared to men. Minority women, women of color, are making substantially less. African-American women are making 54 cents on the dollar.This is absurd. This has nothing to do with economics and it’s everything to do with sexism. I will fight as hard as I can. And I’ve worked with Harry Reid. We have tried desperately to pass pay equity for women. I will continue that fight.
That’s interesting, because Steinem herself blasted women, and in particular younger women, who support Sanders. She dismissed them as going “where the boys are” in this interview with Bill Maher two weeks ago, which is … another way of saying their voting with their anatomy, I suppose:
At that time, Steinem was questioning the identity of actual women supporting Sanders, let alone his status as an “honorary woman.” The next day, Steinem apologized and said she’d “misspoke”:
The activist and founder of Ms.Magazine, who supports Hillary Clinton, said Friday that women become more politically active as they get older, but “when you’re young, you’re thinking, ‘Where are the boys? The boys are with Bernie,’” she said.
Steinem said she “misspoke” when she made the comment onReal Time with Bill Maher after being asked why she thought Clinton wasn’t doing better with young women. She apologized “for what’s been misinterpreted as implying young women aren’t serious in their politics.”
That’s not a misinterpretation. Steinem rather clearly argued that younger women are more concerned with dating than with political principle, which is not just unserious but somewhat sexist as well. (Besides, in my experience, the boys go where the girls are, but YMMV.)
So far Steinem has not weighed in on the Honorary Woman status she bestowed on Bernie, but the pro-abortion group NARAL certainly has:
Abortion-rights group NARAL Pro-Choice America slammed Sanders, saying that he failed to demonstrate that he had earned his “honorary woman” title.
“Bernie is a good man, and being a woman means understanding that we need equal pay but that equal pay doesn’t buy us much if we can’t plan our families,” NARAL President Ilyse Hogue said in a statement. “Being a woman means knowing that undoing Citizens United doesn’t secure our fundamental freedoms and restore abortion access under assault daily by anti-choice forces in this country.
“Being a woman means understanding that no man ever had to say ‘Hey guys, let’s stand together, and vote for a man’ because the status quo in this country has supported that for over two hundred years,” she added. “Even as an ‘honorary woman,’ Bernie Sanders doesn’t quite get it.”
Even beyond all of that, Sanders’ citation of Steinem seems particularly impolitic. She’s not just supporting Hillary Clinton, she had recently attacked Sanders’ supporters for gender betrayal. Why would Sanders elevate her to the Ultimate Arbiter of Womynhood less than two weeks later, especially in response to a question about “intersectional identities” and his own status as an old white dude?