Wait a minute: Iron whose shirt?

The vitriol heaped on Hillary Clinton is making younger women wake up to the fact that sexism is alive and well.

By Kate Harding
Published March 17, 2008 10:00PM (EDT)

According to the media narrative of this primary season, only post-menopausal women still give a damn about seeing a woman president; women my age (33) and younger are, like, so over it. Yet, I've been sitting here all along in my Hello Kitty T-shirt (OK, not really) and my frosty pink lip gloss (really) thinking, "Are you kidding me? There is a WOMAN running for PRESIDENT! Hello? Big deal?!"

The good news is, according to Sunday's New York Times, I might not be as alone among my generation as I thought. Kate Zernike writes:

"Younger women, for their part, are starting to have what Ms. Goldberg calls 'the aha moment' even if it doesn't put them in Mrs. Clinton's column …"

The cumulative effect of all the subtle (and not so subtle) gender- based vitriol directed at Clinton, she says, is finally making younger women notice that sexism is alive and well. (Even Chelsea Clinton evidently sent out an e-mail after the "Iron my shirt!" episode, saying that until that point, she didn't really get it, but now she does.) Zernike hastens to add this doesn't mean anybody's changing her vote, but it does mean younger women are catching on to the fact that we're still some distance from a "postfeminist" society -- seeing as how there's never been a feminist one.

If Zernike's right that Clinton's trials have woken up -- if not quite radicalized -- a new generation of feminists, then maybe this race itself will have sparked at least some of the social change that a female president would, even if Clinton doesn't get the nomination. But let's just say I now have more sympathy than ever for the second-wave feminists who lament being taken for granted and pushed aside by women my age. If it took this long for younger women to realize that the naked bias against Clinton was always in some measure about her gender -- regardless of the other reasons usually cited for opposing her -- we've got a long way to go, baby.

Kate Harding

Kate Harding is the author of Asking For It: The Alarming Rise of Rape Culture--and What We Can Do About It, available from Da Capo Press in August 2015. Previously, she collaborated with Anna Holmes, Amanda Hess, and a cast of thousands on The Book of Jezebel, and with Marianne Kirby on Lessons from the Fat-o-Sphere. You might also remember her as the founding editor of Shapely Prose (2007-2010). Kate's essays have appeared in the anthologies Madonna & Me, Yes Means Yes, Feed Me, and Airmail: Women of Letters. She holds an M.F.A. in fiction from Vermont College of Fine Arts and a B.A. in English from University of Toronto, and is currently at work on a Ph.D. in creative writing from Bath Spa University

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