Two quick facts: I identify as a woman. I support Hillary Clinton. Now that is established, allow me to explain why this is apparently a problem.
Without fail every time I wear my Hillary shirt, someone tries to assert that I am voting for her because she is a woman. Most of these assertions come from self-identified progressives, which is a new experience for me as I find myself also identifying with this political/social group. So you have to imagine how bizarre it is to hear that a group who strives for feminist principles can have a sub-group that asserts something so antithetical of those values.
What irks me the most about this allegation is the levels of assumption and condensation the statement implies. At the basest level, there is the conjecture that women have this flock mentality that makes our default to follow and submit to the nearest woman, which is ridiculous. Saying that I was merely voting for Hillary because she was a woman would also imply I am equally likely to vote for Carly Fiorina. If this assertion were correct, I just don’t know how, with my estrogen fogged brain, I could manage such a decision. I suppose I would just have to make sure I have a coin to flip when I vote.
But then there are the “nuanced” claims. “Well, you obviously want to vote Democrat, but between Bernie and Hillary, you just want to see a woman in office” or something along those lines. Here is where you move from making egregious claims about women’s voting habits as a whole and now focus on my personal voting preferences as a woman. When this statement is offered up, you are essentially saying, “Hey, so I get that you want to vote Democrat because that is how you lean, but you are incapable of looking into and examining policy initiatives, voting records, and other major factors and instead vote with your vagina.” Now if you would clarify for me, is my incapability to consider other factors besides gender and party affiliation due to me being a woman, stupid, or lazy?
The main justification that I receive when I challenge people on this is, “But it does happen! It is a real problem!” I won’t contend that it can’t happen. I am sure some people do vote for factors that aren’t rooted in policy or platforms. But allow me to provide a bit of exposition here: if it was a rampant problem, our representative pool would look a lot differently than it does. White women have the highest voter turnout of every gender and race in every election since 1980, be it a presidential or non-presidential election year. Women of every race and ethnicity outstrip the male turnout for those same elections, sometimes in excess of ten million more votes. If women solely voted along gender lines, every woman who has run for office since 1980 should have won her election and we all know that isn’t the case.
I remember back in the 2008 race how angry progressives were when conservatives said people where only voting for Barack Obama because he was black. People honed in quickly on how insulting, condescending, assumptive, and just plain wrong that claim was. And they were right. It is important to have diversity in politics and voting for candidates that can provide that diversity is obviously a way to achieve that, but saying that is the only reason people vote for certain candidates takes away agency from the voter to thoughtfully cast a ballot. Assuming that people just vote along fixed factors would imply that there is no need to watch debates, read the news, or delve into old Senate transcripts online at 2 am; rather, people just need to show up to vote. Or not, since all votes can be predetermined.
I don’t know about you, but that doesn’t sound satisfactory to me. If you are really curious on why a person votes for a specific candidate or policy, ask them. Make political and social issues the dialogue they need to be rather than the series of assumptions they are often reduced to.