Clinton’s campaign strategy, especially when it came to appealing to white women, indicates that she and her staffers didn’t quite grasp these dynamics. Her campaign employed a candy-colored brand of female empowerment seemingly based on the assumption that white women’s political priorities are influenced by the pop culture they consume. White working-class women weren’t going to vote for Clinton just because Lady Gaga, Katy Perry, Lena Dunham, and Sheryl Sandberg were.
These celebrity overtures were out of step with the priorities and concerns of white working-class women. How can you “lean in,” as Sandberg implores working women to do, when it’ll cost you your minimum-wage job? And if you can’t afford HBO, how likely is it you even know who Lena Dunham is, much less care about her political opinions?
Yet Clinton’s campaign relied heavily on these endorsement gimmicks. It saturated its messaging with the same superficial celebrity feminism that anoints everyone from Taylor Swift to Madeline Albright as role models for would-be girl bosses. It assumed that this branding, and Clinton’s bid to make history, would be enough to attract the white women she needed to win. Not only did this tactic fail in that regard, but it alienated some queer women, women of color, and even millennials.