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(Image: Women for Bernie)

Young Women For Sanders Not to Be Underestimated

Donna Smith

Normally, I would just stay silent if Gloria Steinem said something with which I did not agree.  I admire her so much.  She has shown so much courage on behalf of women's issues throughout the years that it is a bit absurd for someone such as me to even consider challenging any comment she makes regarding women.

So when I read that she thinks young women who support Bernie Sanders for president are doing so because they want attention from boys, I was angry.  The young women I have met in Iowa, in Colorado, in Arizona, and in Maryland who are supporting Bernie certainly do not appear to be seeking male attention or favor.  That sort of diminishment of any woman's decision to support Bernie seems beneath us all in terms of the sort of discourse the Democratic presidential race has provided thus far.  

When I read Gloria's comment, I thought of the young women I met in Iowa who supported Bernie because of his record on climate issues.  Those young women were clear-eyed and intelligent, not boy-hungry, attention seekers.  I thought of the young women at the Fight for 15 rally who sewed together onesies to illustrate how difficult it is for single mothers to afford basic living expenses when they don't earn a living wage.  Those young women were strong and passionate about Bernie being the only candidate (Martin O'Malley was still in the race at that time) who has stated his support for a $15/hour minimum wage. I thought of the young woman and her children who stopped to chat about Bernie and his support of free college and improved and expanded Medicare for all.  What a huge difference those issues would make in her life and in the lives of her children.

It is not helpful to anyone for Gloria to make those kinds of comments about women who support Bernie -- young or not.  Now that I am in my 60s, I have well earned the right to support the candidates for public office that I believe best represent my views on the issues that matter to me.   I have labored against a system that has oppressed me for many years, and I am ready for systemic change. I believe Bernie Sanders offers the best hope for the change I want to see during my lifetime, and that is what I heard from younger women too.

In 2009, I was named the National Organization for Women "Woman of Action" for my work on single-payer healthcare reform.   So I have the greatest respect for my sisters and brothers who join me in support of women's rights. Gloria may know some young women who want attention from boys and perhaps find that sufficient reason to support Bernie Sanders' presidential bid.   I am not saying she is lying.  What I am saying is that it was a really odd comment coming from a woman who has lived her life lifting women up and demanding that as equals to men we have the right to our own minds and bodies. Presumably that includes the right to our own political decisions as well.

When we get through this presidential primary season on the Democratic side, I want us to present the best possible platform for all people.  Right now as I observe this presidential race,  Bernie's positions on critical issues for working class women like me offer the best hope that lives may be transformed in ways that give all of us the best chance to achieve our potential.

At the risk of offending a woman I admire so much, I stand undaunted, and I stand in support of Bernie Sanders. 


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Donna Smith

Donna Smith

Donna Smith is the former executive director of Progressive Democrats of America and currently a Medicare for All campaign surrogate for Sen. Bernie Sanders.

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