Here’s Why Susan Sarandon Is Wrong About Hillary Clinton & The Female Vote
Actress and feeler of the #Bern Susan Sarandon doesn't hide the fact that she's not a Hillary Clinton fan. In an interview with Entertainment Weekly on Monday, Sarandon shared her belief that it's sexist to support Clinton based on her gender, and how she doesn't think women should support Clinton because she's female. At first glance, this seems empowering — our gender is not all we are! But unpacking her comments revealed to me that her words were a bit tone-deaf.
"It’s sexist to imagine that a woman is doing anything based on her gender. I mean, you have the right to choose everything," Sarandon told Entertainment Weekly. “I think it really does women a disservice to think they would be influenced by gender and not the issues.” Sarandon may be trying to set herself apart from Clinton by saying this, but here's the awkward truth: Clinton has made similar remarks during this election. At a campaign stop in South Carolina last summer, Clinton said, "Clearly, I'm not asking people to vote for me simply because I'm a woman. I'm asking people to vote for me on the merits."
To be fair, Clinton then added, "I think one of the merits is I am a woman. And I can bring those views and perspectives to the White House." By no means has Clinton shied away from playing the "gender card," but she has also made it clear that she's not asking or expecting people, especially not women, to vote for her exclusively or primarily because she's a woman.
While I understand and respect that many women may very much resent the idea that there is any kind of feminist obligation to support Clinton, Sarandon is making a different comment. She is saying it is "sexist" and a "disservice" to think a woman's actions would be influenced by her gender. I think her comments miss a huge point. We can't wholly ignore Clinton's gender. Clinton herself can't, and doesn't. Sarandon may not like it, but gender is playing a part of Clinton's campaign — including its media coverage and the response to it. Ignoring such a reality also means ignoring all the sexism that Clinton faces.
Moreover, I don't think it's wrong, and certainly not sexist, for a woman's political choices to be influenced by her gender — and yes, that includes voting for a female candidate if she believes that candidate will better fight for her needs. Sarandon said it's wrong to be "influenced by gender and not the issues," but sometimes, gender is the issue. As a woman, I can't disassociate my gender while considering equal pay, for example. To me, suggesting that there is something wrong or sexist about my views being influenced by gender is offensive, and may even discourage women from speaking about their unique hardships, goals, and experiences.
Of course, in the grand scheme of remarks that Sarandon has made this election cycle, this is far from the most controversial. Remember that time she told MSNBC's Chris Hayes that she believed some Sanders supporters would back Donald Trump before Clinton because his election "will bring the revolution immediately," and was subsequently condemned by civilians and fellow celebrities alike? (Sarandon later clarified she wouldn't vote for Trump). If Sarandon can withstand that heat, I doubt she will be backing down with her #ImNotWithHer comments.