National polling, primary results, and numerous articles have highlighted the unexpected gap in support that Hillary Clinton is seeing among young women—a demographic that had once been favored to help her clinch the 2016 election. While many of this group’s questions about Clinton’s candidacy focus on an array of issues similar to those brought up by the broader electorate—including her connections with Wall Street and a thorny email investigation—a particular view has emerged among young women: While they are excited about a female president, they want somebody who is more than just a symbol.
At a February rally for Bernie Sanders in New Hampshire, actress Emily Ratajkowski said just that when explaining her support for the Vermont senator: “I want my first female president to be more than a symbol. I want her to have politics that can revolutionize.” In a piece by my colleague Molly Ball, one woman interviewed about Sanders took this position one step further, saying Sanders is “‘more pro-woman’ than Clinton.” And in a recent Politico article, Molly Roberts lamented that, for Millennials, Clinton’s gender is “simply not enough to make her a groundbreaker.”
The argument is that young women don’t want to support Clinton, or be told they should, solely on the basis of gender, namely because doing so would be reductive. In a New York Magazine story, for example, Carly Gilmore, a Wesleyan University freshman, said: “The idea of voting for a woman purely for the fact that she’s a woman—that’s really almost the opposite of what we’re talking about in our feminist movement.” In a Los Angeles Times piece, college student Meg Renzelman echoed this sentiment: “There is this assumption that if you are a woman, you should support Hillary Clinton because she is a woman … But I feel like Bernie is going to support women in the same way.”