Supporters of Sen. Bernie Sanders at a campaign rally at Great Bay Community College in Portsmouth, N.H., on Sunday. (Photo: Hunter Walker/Yahoo News)
PORTSMOUTH, N.H. — Many women who showed up at a presidential campaign rally for Sen. Bernie Sanders, D-Vt., at Great Bay Community College on Sunday said they were insulted and “offended” by supporters of Hillary Clinton who have suggested it is somehow anti-feminist to back Sanders instead of Clinton’s quest to become the first female president.
Jane Sanders, the senator’s wife, had a succinct response when Yahoo News asked her opinion of those who suggest it’s sexist to support Sanders instead of Clinton.
“I think it’s ridiculous. He’s the…” she began before trailing off. “It’s crazy.”
Cokie Giles, a registered nurse from Bangor, Maine, who traveled to neighboring New Hampshire for the rally, said she does not appreciate being “herded along just because I’m a woman.”
“Well, I don’t want to think that I have to vote for a woman, being a woman, because there’s a woman running. They have to be who I would look at as … my best choice,” Giles said. “I’m not trashing Hillary. I’m just saying Bernie is the better of the choices. And I will get a chance to vote for a female president. I would like to see a female president, and there’s plenty out there that I would be very happy to do.”
Two high profile feminist Clinton supporters, former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and women’s rights activist Gloria Steinem, have made headlines with recent comments about female Sanders supporters.
At a New Hampshire rally for Clinton on Saturday, Albright declared, “There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help each other!” Steinem made her comments in an interview with talk show host Bill Maher on Friday, suggesting some young women were backing Sanders in an effort to meet men.
“When you’re young, you’re thinking, ‘Where are the boys? The boys are with Bernie,’” Steinem said.
Steinem subsequently apologized for the remark in a Facebook post published on Sunday, calling it “a case of talk-show Interruptus.”
Clinton addressed Albright’s comment in an interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press Sunday. She described it as “a lighthearted but very pointed remark” from a woman who “knows what a struggle it has been.”
“Well, good grief, we’re getting offended by everything these days. … Honest to goodness, I mean, people can’t say anything without offending somebody. She has a life experience that I respect. I admire her greatly,” Clinton said of Albright. “I think what she was trying to do — what she’s done in every setting I’ve ever seen her in going back 20-plus years — was to remind young women, particularly, that you know, this struggle, which many of us have been part of, is not over, and don’t be in any way lulled by the progress we’ve made.”
Clinton did not discuss Steinem’s comments on “Meet the Press.”
Steinem went undercover as a Playboy bunny in 1963. Her subsequent article about the experience helped establish her as a media star, who would go on to found Ms. Magazine in 1971.
Some of the women who attended the Sanders rally on Sunday had harsh words for Albright and Steinem. Eileen Frazier, an attorney who came to the event from Massachusetts, described Albright’s remark as “unbelievable.”
“Shame on Albright,” Frazier said.
Frazier seemed even more incensed about Steinem’s comments, which she deemed “insulting.”
“You mean women don’t have a brain, Gloria? I’m for Bernie because Bernie represents the people, not special interests. I certainly would never vote for Hillary just because she’s a woman. That’s insulting to my intellect,” Frazier explained, adding, “I’m an attorney. … I have a brain and I’m choosing the better candidate. I wasn’t a Playboy bunny.”
Frazier said she is backing Sanders because he is “consistent.” She also cited his opposition to the Iraq War and his support for civil rights and gay rights.
“He supports women. He has not brought the Democratic Party to the right like she has,” Frazier said of Clinton.
Lindsey Larson, a 22-year-old who lives in Newmarket, N.H., and attends Great Bay Community College, called Albright and Steinem’s remarks “a load of hooey.”
“Honestly, as a feminist, I would rather vote for a candidate who stands for feminist values than vote for someone just because they’re a woman. And I honestly don’t believe in most of the things Hillary says and I don’t think she’s trustworthy, which is why I’m voting for Bernie Sanders,” said Larson. “I do stand with a lot of things he says. He fights for equality of all people and of all genders, whereas Hillary … until recent years was adamantly against LGBT rights. And as a gay woman, I cannot support that, so I’m all Bernie.”
Maggie Towne, a 42-year-old Massachusetts resident who works at a financial services company, was at the Sanders rally with her two young children and said she was “offended” by Albright and Steinem.
“I won’t vote gender just as I wouldn’t vote for a man because he’s a man. So I appreciate so many things about Hillary Clinton. I have tremendous respect for her. If she is the Democratic candidate in the election, I’m going to vote for her and support her 100 percent,” Towne said. “But for now, I want to support Bernie, and I believe in what Bernie’s saying, most strongly in regards to campaign finance reform and just having the basics to raise a family. You know, our concerns are health care and education, and so for us, it just seems like what Bernie’s saying is something that we want to support. … We want to be part of the revolution.”
A poll conducted last month showed that Sanders outperforms Clinton among women ages 18 to 34. Despite this, his campaign has been dogged by accusations that it is fostering a community of “Bernie Bros” who launch sexist online attacks against women who don’t support his presidential bid. Sanders addressed the so-called “Bernie Bros” in an interview with CNN on Sunday, declaring that he doesn’t want “anybody who is supporting me that is doing the sexist things.”
At his event on Sunday, Sanders also included nods toward feminism in his speech. At one point, after criticizing naysayers who said the civil rights movement was unrealistic, Sanders said the “same thing” happened with feminism and praised women who “stood up with their male allies and said, ‘You know what? We will not be second-class citizens. We will do the jobs that we want.’” Later on in the speech, Sanders referred to the push to get women equal pay after he declared, “Wages in this country are too damn low.”
“And when we talk about equitable wages, I would hope that every man in this room will stand with the women in the fight for pay equity for women,” Sanders said.
Several of the people who spoke with Yahoo News at the event also disputed the idea that older women don’t back Sanders. Frazier, the attorney from Massachusetts, gave her age as “over 50” and said many of the women she knows are backing Sanders.
“They’re trying to say that Bernie only has young women,” Frazier said. “Every older woman I know my age, in their 50s, supports Bernie.”
Frazier was accompanied at the rally by her 13-year-old niece. The girl declined to give her name and did not want to be interviewed, but she did offer some insight into how her young friends feel about the Democratic primary.
“They normally support Bernie Sanders. I only know one friend that supports Hillary Clinton,” she said with a laugh.