Dear Madam Secretary,
I was born in 1985, just a few years before your husband’s inauguration as President. I essentially grew up seeing you as a high-profile political figure at the national level. I am sure that you are assuming that I, as an avowed feminist, will put my support completely behind you in the current election. I’m the fan base you think you have in the bag, right? You don’t have to actually work for the votes of women. We’ll vote for you because you’re one of us. Here’s why you’re wrong.
I grew up in a small, mostly working-class town. By the time I was about to graduate high school, I and everyone I knew had been approached by military recruiters. Beyond promising us glory, money, and lucrative opportunities that most of us would never see, they made a point of remarking to us that the military was the best, and probably only, real-world chance any of us would ever have to get out and build a better life. More than a few of the people I knew back then took the bait, and among those who did, the ones that came back from Iraq broken or in bags were far from the minority. You voted for that war.
In 2008, I was working two jobs. One was at a rent-to-own furniture store, in the accounts department, where my job performance was measured in the percentage of accounts I could bring up to date. The other was working for my grandparents’ real estate business. That summer, they offered to pay for me to get my real estate broker’s license and do my provisional period under them. The market crashed while I was in the class, and my hopes of following in the family business along with it. Meanwhile, you took 21 million dollars in contributions from employees of the real estate, finance, and insurance agencies for your presidential campaign that same year, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, and voted in favor of bailing out the banks whose risky practices put me out of both my jobs.
Your plan for health care is to keep the Affordable Care Act mostly untouched. As a person with chronic health issues, I need more from my health care than simply free birth control. I need to know that I’m not coming out of my pocket for premiums while I’m out of work, and for copays both at the doctor’s office and at the pharmacy that I can’t afford. While the ACA has helped considerably, I’m still paying $1k per year that I simply don’t have in medical expenses (down from $300+ per month before it), and that’s just for routine care, assuming there are no major expenses. My emergency room visit last summer for a possible concussion wasn’t covered, because in the rush to get treatment for a head injury, I couldn’t call for permission first. It ran me up several thousand dollars in medical debt that I will most likely never be able to pay off. I need a single payer system, because even at the very lowest cost tier that’s out there, I’m still paying out far more than I can afford.
Your plan for “debt free” college talks about “families doing their part by making an affordable and realistic family contribution” (quoted directly from your website). That gives absolutely zero help to people like me, whose families have never contributed one thin dime to their education, and couldn’t if they wanted to. The reality is that poor families don’t have money to contribute to their children’s education, and that many people don’t have family support at all. Your plan adds a new barrier to education for people raised in poverty, or by abusive parents, or who are estranged from their parents–essentially, for the people who most need those barriers removed.
You talk about the “end of the era of mass incarceration,” which has disproportionately affected poor people and people of color. What you fail to mention is that not only did your husband’s policies contribute heavily to the creation of the mass incarceration and for-profit prison system, but you were one of that omnibus bill’s greatest public supporters. You assume we’ve forgotten, but I remember watching you on TV about it. My parents always had news going in our house, and I watched you help build this structure that has destroyed so many lives. I want this country to recover from the disastrous effects of the current criminal justice system, which you helped build.
You talk a great game now about your support for LGBT rights, but you didn’t come out in support of gay marriage until three years after it gained majority support in the polls, and nine years after the first ruling making it legal. You were a supporter of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell as well as the Defense of Marriage Act, so your support for LGBT causes is too little, too late, and is so glaringly political in nature that I simply don’t buy it. Senator Sanders, on the other hand, voted against DOMA in 1996, at a time when not one single state had a law allowing same sex marriage.
Equal pay for equal work is very important, as is a woman’s right to choose. They are non-negotiable for me, and if Senator Sanders had not stood up as strongly as he has for them, you might have a chance of getting my vote. When it’s not an issue where you disagree, however, you have to earn support another way, and you haven’t.
I know you’re facing a tremendous amount of sexism and gender bias in this election. That isn’t a question. It also does not entitle you to my vote. Your feminism is strictly for straight white women with money, and I’m not interested in a feminism that isn’t more inclusive than that. I’ll settle for you if I have to, but right now, I’m interested in making sure I don’t have to.
Women aren’t just voting on what you think are “women’s issues.” There’s more to who we are than just our gender, and if you’re not seeing us as thinking people, dealing with the complexity of everyday life, then I think that you might have some internalized sexism to deal with yourself. Please look to that, and while you’re at it, google the word “intersectionality.”
A Female Voter