Being a feminist can be hard. There are so many people telling you how you’re supposed to act, what you’re supposed to think, and who you’re supposed listen to. You want to be radical, but not too radical. You hunger for change, but change happens slowly, and sometimes it feels like that change will never happen at all.
As the upcoming 2016 election nears, people are trying to tell feminists the “proper” way to vote. There’s pressure from friends, family, random strangers on the internet–I know all about it. I’ve lived most of my life hearing about the horrible nature of all conservatives from my father and the disgusting tendencies of all liberals from my uncles, and it has always been hard finding my own path. Voting is already difficult, but add in the idea that feminists must vote for women, and we’ve got a problem. Call me crazy, but I thought voting was a personal decision.
For the first time in history, something incredible has happened: both Democrats and Republicans have impressive women vying for the presidency. It’s exciting and new, and both women have interesting platforms. Hillary Clinton (D) is using her history in politics, equal rights advocacy, and healthcare advocacy to gain voter attention, while adding in somewhat traditional liberal ideas. Carly Fiorina (R) is running with a strong background in business. She is focusing on political and educational accountability and believes innovation is the answer to many of America’s struggles.
Assuming the title of Feminist, others will, undoubtedly, expect you to vote for one of the women candidates. Because obviously.
However, it’s important to remember that you can be an advocate for equal rights without automatically voting for Clinton or Fiorina. Yes, Hillary Clinton and Carly Fiorina are women, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they have women’s best interests at heart every time they make a decision.
Roxane Gay, author of Bad Feminist, spoke about putting feminists on pedestals. She said, “we demand perfection from feminists because we are still fighting for so much. [But] we go far beyond reasonable constructive criticism to dissecting any woman’s feminism and tearing it apart until there’s nothing left.” In telling feminists they need to vote for one of two women, otherwise they aren’t really feminists, we limit the ability of so many men and women who believe in equal rights to impact the world with their votes. Sometimes, choosing a woman to run a country can be the best way to fight for feminism. And, sometimes, choosing a man can be the best way to fight for feminism.
I have personally struggled with this idea throughout the race so far. I am a woman. I am a feminist. I want to see a woman in the White House. But I also want to vote for the candidate whose ideas I agree with most, who has my best interests at heart, and who will be the best president and advocate for me and the rest of America. And, it may be shocking, but that doesn’t necessarily mean I will be voting for a woman.
I’ve realized that the best thing I can do to fight for women’s rights when it comes to voting is to make an educated decision about who I’m voting for. In fact, without studying each candidate’s platforms carefully, I would have assumed that Donald Trump wanted to defund Planned Parenthood and Carly Fiorina, as a woman who needs health care, didn’t, but in actuality, their positions are reversed.
Now remember, I’m not saying Donald Trump is the best candidate for feminism. He may be (though I really, really don’t think so.) What I am saying is that it’s time to do our research and really get to know the candidates, hopefully without pandering and biases. And most importantly, it’s about time we realized that it is absolutely okay to be a feminist and vote for a man.
One day there will be a female president. That’s for sure. That woman could be elected in 2016, or she could be elected in 2020. What’s important is this: your vote matters, so do your research, check the candidates, and see who will be the best person for the job based on her or his viewpoints, not based on the incorrect idea that all feminists must vote for a woman president.
Don’t know which candidate best represents you? Here are some links to help you find the right candidate for your vote!