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  • Thu, 13, Feb, 2020 - 5:00:AM

OPINION: Why I believe Bernie Sanders is the feminist choice

Senator Bernie Sanders' speaks at UNC-Chapel Hill's Bell Tower Amphitheater on September 19, 2019 / Jackson Lanier / Wikimedia Commons

NOTE: Villainesse does not make political endorsements, either local or international. The following is the opinion of the author.

To the surprise of just about everyone, other than Bernie Sanders supporters, Bernie Sanders is doing quite well this U.S election season. He did quite well last time too, igniting a progressive movement that inspired Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to run for public office – and become one of the most popular members of the Congress, as well as a global icon.

I first heard of Bernie Sanders at the same time most of us outside of the U.S did – in 2015. I was excited by Hillary Clinton’s decision to run, even though, as a queer person, I was flummoxed by her staunch opposition to marriage equality up until 2013. Still, I thought, most Democrats only came around recently, and even if she was one of the very last, she was at least on board now.

When I then discovered Bernie Sanders had supported queer liberation since the 1970s, and officially came out for marriage equality in 2009, my allegiances transferred to him.

That wasn’t the only issue where I preferred his stance, of course. While both candidates supported a woman’s right to choose, for instance, Clinton used the pro-choice mantra ‘safe, legal and rare’, whereas Sanders had attended rallies in the 1980s demanding ‘abortion without apology’. And in 1972 (!) wrote, “It strikes me as incredible that politicians think that they have the right to tell a woman what she can or cannot do with her body, […] especially […] where we have a legislature which is almost completely dominated by men.”

Sanders wished to raise the U.S minimum wage to $15, while Clinton preferred $12. Sanders proposed cancelling all student debt and making healthcare universal. Clinton essentially called such promises lofty. To use an out-of-context Elizabeth Warren quote: I don’t understand why anybody goes to all the trouble of running for President of the United States just to talk about what we really can’t do and shouldn’t fight for.

I was all in for Sanders.

It took me by surprise, then, to see the contempt he received from some (but certainly not all) feminists. Obviously, I had immense empathy for those who wanted to see a woman become President of the United States – so did I! But my loyalties lay with the women and girls who would be affected by the next administration – and in my view, it was in a Sanders administration where they came out tops.

I still believe that to be the case, so let me count the ways.

By raising the minimum wage to at least $15, millions of working women would be taken off so-called starvation wages.

Medicare For All, which is inclusive of abortion and gender transition services, would mean that no more women or trans folks would go into crushing debt because they got sick or needed healthcare. And, crucially, that no more women or trans folks would die because they didn’t have health insurance.

With free public college, hundreds of thousands – and potentially millions – more women and girls would have access to higher education.

By halting deportations and developing a humane policy for those seeking asylum –

By immediately reauthorising the Violence Against Women Act –

By adopting the Paycheck Fairness Act –

You get the picture. Bernie Sanders is a feminist candidate to his core.

Says comedian Kate Willett, in a moving piece for Elle, “I used to think supporting Sanders would also somehow make me less of a feminist. Now I know that couldn’t be further from the truth—my feminism needs to fight for women who don’t have $500 a month to spend on health insurance premiums, […] for women who can’t leave an abusive marriage because her insurance is tied to her husband’s job. In 2016, I thought Bernie was prioritizing economic issues over women’s issues—now I understand that they’re connected.”

With a Democratic primary as crowded as 2020’s, there are, of course, other candidates I respect. I have a lot of time for Andrew Yang, I admire Tulsi Gabbard’s rebellious nature, and I respect Elizabeth Warren. Despite some messy snafus, I still rate Elizabeth Warren as my second-favourite candidate. But I prefer Sanders’ vision. Sanders’ 2016 presidential run ignited a progressive movement that has profoundly altered what we’ve come to expect from our political leaders. Would Labour have proposed a three years’ free tertiary policy if Bernie Sanders hadn’t made college debt a mainstream political issue? Maybe. Maybe not. Would Simon Bridges have so brazenly called Jacinda Ardern the Part-Time Prime Minister if Donald Trump hadn’t so dramatically altered our political discourse? Who’s to say? But, like it or not, the international political scene affects us profoundly. I want to live in a world shaped by a progressive visionary.

So call me a Bro, or a Babe, or a Brat. I call myself a feminist, and I’m all in for Bernie.

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  • Bernie Sanders /
  • Politics /
  • American Politics /
  • Feminism /
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