Gloria Steinem, who supports former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination, recently made controversial statements (or misstatements) in which she suggested that young women who support Bernie Sanders are doing so not out of well-considered political judgment but because they are thinking “‘Where are the boys? The boys are with Bernie.’”
Steinem serves as one of eight Honorary Chairs of Democratic Socialists of America (along with Cornel West, Barbara Ehrenreich, Frances Fox Piven and others) based on her work for DSA in the 1980s and ‘90s and one of its predecessor organizations, Democratic Socialist Organizing Committee. While we appreciate Steinem's pioneering work in the feminist movement and view her as a major figure in the history of feminism, we were very disappointed by her disparaging comments about female Bernie supporters, many of whom are active DSA members. Her views do not reflect those of the DSA leadership.
The National Political Committee of Democratic Socialists of America views Steinem's remarks as demeaning toward the many dedicated female activists (young and old) who are active in the Sanders campaign because they recognize that Senator Sanders' political program supports feminist and democratic aims more so than the platform of Hillary Clinton.
DSA members individually may and will vote as they choose, but DSA as an organization is actively supporting the Sanders movement. Senator Sanders is fully committed to publicly funded childcare, paid parental leave and a truly universal health care system. Senator Clinton has rejected these feminist policies. She also backed her husband's welfare reform legislation, which had extremely negative effects on the lives of millions of low-income women and children. We find these facts to run counter to the argument that she is the only feminist choice.
Steinem now claims that her remarks were “misinterpreted,” but it is disturbing that these remarks, along with other recent complaints raised by Clinton supporters about women who back Sanders, emerge just as polls show that Senator Sanders is the choice of a majority of young women voters. Young women -- as well as people of all ages -- are supporting the Sanders campaign because they believe in the politics it represents, and we share the anger of those whose motives were questioned by Steinem’s ill-considered remarks.
Suppose for example an honorary chair had some sort of conservative epiphany and decided that Senator Ted Cruz was the embodiment of that chair’s political ideals.
In this example, our putative honorary chair has endorsed the senator for President, bringing along the attachment of the DSA as a chair to endorsing the senator. (For the sake of argument, we can assume the Tea Party has never heard of the DSA.)
Not having a mechanism to oust an honorary chair if that chair takes a substantially different position from the DSA is problematic.
Although I am a new member of DSA, I am a member of other organisations (such as the VFW). I assure you they have the constitutional means to oust a member that “goes off the rails.”
That said, while Gloria Steinem is an icon of the women’s rights movement, her tone-deaf statement (to this male) sounds as though she is discounting the ability of younger female voters to make up their own minds about which candidate they support (they are only there for the dating prospects seems to be awfully condescending). Moreover, her apology to me seemed more like a non-pology (apologising for how her comment sounded rather than what it represented).
It seems to me there ought be a mechanism to oust a person as an honorary member just as there is a mechanism to oust any other board member if that member takes a substantially different position to what the organisation represents.
If you think Steinem’s comments constitute malfeasance, let the NPC know.
The obvious follow up question to said statement:
Why is she still an honorary chair?
As an active DSA member I feel this is something that must be asked and addressed. How can one be a “honorary chair” of a democratic organization if one does not share views of the leadership or said organization as a whole?
Common sense really…