Why young women are less enthusiastic about Hillary: One account

The following is from a column in the NY Times by a 32 year old female lawyer, Jill Filipovic. Her account makes sense to me, in part because I’ve seen a similar account in another context. Bright young female scientists will often, some analyses have said, not realize how gender biased their field is until around the time they go up for tenure.  By then the exclusion of women is much more obvious, in part because they are becoming victims.

A number of people are quoted in the article, and it seems to me some wise things are said. The whole thing is very worth reading, but some snippets may give you the sense of a major argument in “Why Sexism at the Office Makes Women Love Hillary Clinton:”

Even for women active in feminist causes in college, as I was a dozen years ago, [some time in employment] can be a rude awakening. As a young lawyer, one of the first things I noticed about department meetings at my law firm was not just the dearth of female partners, but that one of the few female partners always seemed to be in charge of ordering lunch. I listened as some of my male colleagues opined on the need to marry a woman who would stay home with the children — that wasn’t sexist, they insisted, because it wasn’t that they thought only women should stay home; it was just that somebody had to, and the years in which they planned on having children would be crucial ones for their own careers.

I saw that the older white, male partners who mentored the younger white, male associates were able to work long days and excel professionally precisely because their stay-at-home wives took care of everything else; I saw that virtually none of the female partners had a similar setup.

In jobs that followed, managers would remark that they wanted “more women” and proceed to reject qualified candidates. (Similar dynamics took place with minority candidates.) There were always reasons — not the right cultural fit, not the right experience, a phenomenon of unintentional sexism now well documented in controlled studies. I watched as men with little or irrelevant experience were hired and promoted, because they had such great ideas, or they fit in better. “We want a woman,” the conclusion seemed to be, “just not this woman.”

A telling anecdote:

“A lot of the women I was friends with in college would have never called themselves feminists, but now that we’ve been in the workplace for 10 years, a lot has changed and they’re becoming more radical,” said Aminatou Sow, a digital strategist and a founder of a support network for women in technology called Tech LadyMafia. They realize, she said, “that the work world and the world at large remains a place that’s built by men and for men.”

That’s part of what makes Mrs. Clinton’s candidacy so compelling for Ms. Sow. “I pray to God that one day we can field a female Bernie Sanders candidate, some disheveled lady yelling, and the country will seriously consider her,” she said. “But nothing in our culture indicates to me that that’s remotely possible right now.”

16 thoughts on “Why young women are less enthusiastic about Hillary: One account

  1. I know I’m weird on this but I do think this should be considered.

    I did terribly in school until I got to college: I was ‘not academically oriented’. If I had my druthers then (though not now retrospectively!) I’d have taken up a blue-collar trade: construction, auto mechanics, appliance repair, etc. I like physical work that gets me physically tired, where I can move around and get dirty, and I love, love, love mucking around with machinery. I’m very good at it too: much better than I could ever be at philosophy.

    But women can’t get those blue-collar jobs. They couldn’t when I was coming up and still can’t. This doesn’t seriously bother most NYTimes readers or, I suspect, readers of this blog, but it bothers me—and, more importantly impacts on most women, who aren’t in the college grad/professional job market.

    I go to the local tow-lot and see a crude, handwritten sign advertising for tow-truck drivers—no experience necessary—and think: I couldn’t get that job. I’m having work done on my house dealing with painters, roofers, carpenters, etc. and I always think: I couldn’t have gotten any of those jobs. I only got the wake-up call after high school graduation when it came home to me that if I didn’t go to college and get the best possible grades I’d have to do pink-collar shit work: caring, catering, cashiering or clerical work. So I got on the stick and performed—not because I was ambitious but because I wanted to avoid pink-collar work. For me it was very little carrot and lots of stick: when I got tenure I xeroxed my tenure letter 20 times over, secreted copies all over the house, and framed one copy with the comment super-imposed in red-marker: ‘Safe from the typing pool forever!’. I got a college degree was to avoid being a secretary. If I were a guy I would never have bothered going to college, much less getting a PhD.

    So that’s my sad story and sorry for rambling. The point is: 2/3 of adult American women are not college graduates. Horizontal sex segregation in the sector of the job market where they compete remains almost total and that perpetuates wage gaps: non-elite women are de facto restricted to a narrow range of pink-collar occupations where overcrowding suppresses wages. Elite women don’t pay attention because, unlike me, most have never looked at a sign advertising for tow-truck drivers and wished they could have gotten that job or were terrified that they’d have to spend the better part of most days for most of their adult life scanning groceries. I just wish, wish, wish feminists would exert more time and energy addressing horizontal sex segregation—particularly for non-college-grad jobs.

    ‘Millennial’ women are deluded: life still sucks for women.

  2. I loved this article. It really resonated with me. And I *get* why younger feminists are as engaged with Hillary and don’t see how many of the complaints about her (like about her “authenticity”) come from a gendered place. But like I work to understand why she doesn’t resonate with them, I’d like to see a little more effort to understand why she resonates with older feminists. I hate the battle lines that have been drawn in feminism.

  3. I can attest to the truth of the first part of this: “Bright young female scientists will often, some analyses have said, not realize how gender biased their field is until around the time they go up for tenure. By then the exclusion of women is much more obvious, in part because they are becoming victims.” Replace “scientists” with “philosophers,” and that is true of me.


    Look, no one of a liberal bent would support Carly Fiorina, right? So, we all admit that a person’s policies and experience matter, right? So, a FEMINIST – yes, a feminist that is radical who believes that women like Hillary get a raw deal – can DISAGREE with those who support Hillary, right? And the reason that they disagree is because they think that Bernie’s policies and experience are more what the country needs right now?

    Sorry to yell. But I am really getting angry at the implication that I am LESS OF A FEMINIST because I support Bernie. But go ahead, keep putting down young women and older women like me who want to support Bernie. Because that is what the feminist movement needs, more division and fewer younger women on board.

    I am so angry I could spit. Can those of you making these arguments take a moment for self-reflection and consider the radical possibility that some feminist women’s support for Bernie might actually be well-thought out and principled? Shocking, I know. But please consider it.

  4. angry, do read the original article. I think the author goes to some lengths to say that younger women (and presumably other women who do not support HRC) are addressing different concerns from different perspectives. There’s no attempt to say they/you are somehow lesser. I wish I had stressed this.

  5. I did read the original article. I think you are missing my point, which is that someone (like me) can have the perspective of an older woman, recognizing that she (like many women) has not been treated fairly because of her gender and STILL want to support Bernie over Hillary. And that we should not assume that younger women simply “don’t have the experience” to understand why they ought to support Hillary. That is condescending.

    The article is overly simplistic.

  6. I go to the local tow-lot and see a crude, handwritten sign advertising for tow-truck drivers—no experience necessary—and think: I couldn’t get that job.

    ‘Safe from the typing pool forever!’. I got a college degree was to avoid being a secretary.

    If I were a guy I would never have bothered going to college, much less getting a PhD.

    Comment: your horizons are typically more limited as a tow truck driver than a secretary.

  7. In response to Harriet, I have never wanted a blue collar job–no aptitude or interest really–but I certainly have noticed the lack of women in them and I know many people who are blue collar workers and they would not even consider a woman seriously. So I completely agree that the trades are a significant place of exclusion for women, far more than the academy is right now. And I don’t think that we are paying sufficient attention to this in our feminist work.
    That said, I also think that in part women are not brought up to want to enter these trades and that is one reason that they have not challenged the sex/gender based barriers here as they have in universities. Seems to me that we need a double focus–one on the barriers within the trades jobs and the other a focus on the gendering that leads women away from wanting to pursue the trades.

    Harriet I hope our paths cross again one of these days and that we can talk about this some more in person. I recall our discussion at the INPC many years ago.

  8. I have zero idea why the impossibility of a disheveled female Sanders (which I agree is impossible, and I agree that that sucks) should make me support someone whose policies I hate and who is embarrassingly tone-deaf to intersectionality, her own privilege, or any of the issues that matter to those who don’t share her class and generational status. I share reallyfuckingangry’s fury at repeatedly having my feminist cred questioned in virtue of my progressive political commitments that make supporting Clinton impossible to me. And I am not ‘young’ at all unless we are just going to declare everyone younger than Clinton’s own cohort to be ‘young,’ which seems to be pretty echo-chambery to me.

  9. I’m really sorry I don’t have the time to go into more detail here, but let me try to make a point or two. First of all, I am not sure the article is recommending courses of action and/or censoring those who don’t vote for Hillary or don’t want to. Secondly, I don’t think we should read her generalizations as strictly universal statements. She’s offering an explanation of trends. I take the author to be silent on any questions about a particular individual who is not part of a trend. In more formal language, her generalizations look to be generics, along the order of “Mosquitos carry malaria”; that’s true even though mmost do not.

    Is the fact that Hillary’s being president would open up possibilities for other women a reason for voting for her? I’m here reminded of Biden’s surprise at Obama being clean. I take it that many people who would have shared that reaction may be less inclined to do so now. I think that in terms of helping over 50% of the population, it is not irrelevant to have a member of the subjugated class get in power.

  10. ” embarrassingly tone-deaf to intersectionality, her own privilege, or any of the issues that matter to those who don’t share her class and generational status”

    If Hillary is tone-deaf to intersectionality why does she have a good deal of support from latina and black women? Are male candidates ever evaluated on their grasp of “intersectionality”? Just wondering.

    I think a lot of people underestimated the current leftward generational push. I hopeful her campaign will take on as much of this as it can.

  11. Do hope we can get together again–and INPCs I went to were terrific conferences!

    About the reluctance of women to go for blue-collar jobs, the natural experiment of WWII was very interesting in this regard. As soon as the government sent the message that women were being hired for these jobs (advertising in women’s magazines, making it explicit that women could be hired) women applied. After WWII the Women’s Bureau surveyed women working at these jobs and over 80% said that if they’d been able to stay on they would have.

    Of course they couldn’t, because they were booted out to make room for returning GIs. Not some misogynist conspiracy, but rational social engineering–to assimilate young men back into civilian society and to recruit women as a cadre of professional consumers in order to convert to the economy to peace-time production of consumer goods.

    Ironically, sex discrimination made my life better. I’d much rather be a tenured professor than a tow-truck driver–or even a plumber. And if I’d been a boy, given my consistently disastrous k-12 academic record I’d of been shunted off to ‘vocational school’. ‘Poor Harry: just not academically oriented. But soooo good with his hands…’

  12. PJ, your remarks remind me of similar worries I have had. I see Hillary accused of very, very obvious mistakes, ones that I’d doubt any colleague would make. So I’m wonderng and worried about the accusatons.

  13. Harriet, thank you for your eloquent post. #7, have you ever worked either as a secretary or a tow truck driver. I was once the former, married to the latter. My horizons were not expanded in my job, nor could they have been unless I got a degree (e.g., in business). But thanks to my ex, we did have a cool 68 impala lowered to the ground, a Dodge charger, a Grand Prix SJ, and a vintage willy’s truck. Thanks to that formative experience, I love cars, and these days drive a C7 stingray.

  14. I got a Toyota Tacoma: love it! I was just at the Sally Army yesterday and saw a 7 piece wicker set for $99. No problem with a truck! And yes I was a secretary, and a waitress, and a label typist for a lampshade factory…that’s why I got a PhD.

  15. Anecdotes are rarely helpful, of course, because easily dismissed. But for what it is worth, I am not a big fan of Hilary despite being a feminist who has experienced sexism in the workplace, and who is quite convinced it is real. Here is my logic- she likes to be surrounded by yes-women and men. As a result, she doesn’t avoid scandal and courts low-level sleaze. An example, is the Goldman Sachs speeches. She KNEW she was running for President. Unless she is very obtuse, she knew those would look bad in the current climate. And she did it anyway. Rinse, wash, repeat. The Obama presidency has been remarkably scandal free for 7 years and counting with every Republican salivating to get him. I cannot imagine a Hilary presidency making it 7 weeks. She isn’t straightforwardly corrupt. But she gives every evidence of cutting corners. And my being a feminist (who has on several occasions upgraded women I felt less support for over male candidates on the grounds that I might be underrating them for gendered reasons) that seems to be enough of a reason to be uncomfortable with her candidacy.

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