What does it mean to be a “feminist” candidate? This question is even more poignant given the fact there are two women currently running for president—one for each party. Add into that a Democratic Socialist who leans (mostly) far left, and trying to figure who to support gets rather confusing for feminists.. There’s no feminist committee or god who reaches down and definitively says that one candidate is the “feminist candidate.” Instead, individual women and organizations all separately evaluate the candidates and decide which one they think will be the best champion for women, men, and equality.
The Huffington Post says Bernie Sanders is the feminist candidate because of his economic policies and consistent record. He never refers to himself as a feminist, but maintains that he advocates for all women across the board. On the other hand, Hillary Clinton is a strong self-avowed feminist. According to Time Magazine, the former Secretary of State maintains the importance of ensuring domestic women have equal opportunity and pay while the empowerment of all women around the globe is central to our global policy. But out in right field there’s Carly Fiorina, who believes feminism is about women working hard to overcome issues.
No matter who you pick, the other camps will vehemently denounce your choice. According to the opposition, your candidate of choice will hurt women in general. While of course it is vital to the American democratic process that we engage in productive discourse, the definition of a feminist candidate in this sense places an obligation on voters to choose a cause, rather than a candidate. Instead of allowing the voter to come up with their own idea of what it means to empower women, a predetermined definition and set of standards is pushed on them.
While it’s true there are actions that are feminist within themselves—like asking for equal wages—other methods for achieving equality are up for debate. In other words, the end goals for the candidates are all the same: let women have full equality with men. But the methods of achieving it differ. Feminism means allowing all women to look at the different methods and seeing what she thinks is best. Men and women do not get to talk down to women and lecture them because they think they know better. They are allowed to disagree, not patronize.
Women make up a little over half of US population, according to the 2014 US Census. For this reason, it is vital that the next president of the United States properly and effectively advocates for women. According to intersectional feminism, the next president should ensure that all different types of women around the world—regardless of race, class, and sexuality—should have equal opportunity. The voters may disagree which candidate best fits this bill. Disagreement in the United State is a beautiful productive thing—and fostering this discourse is part of why we must reject any notion of one singular “feminist” candidate.