I used to be a member of the Unitarian Universalist Church, a self-proclaimed liberal religion that aimed to value “The inherent worth and dignity of all people.” I was shocked last fall when my congregation’s pastors (both men) made the decision to endorse Pope Francis on our church sign and replace our regular service with the televised pope mass.
No amount of discussion could make the pastors understand why, as a queer feminist, I would be offended by their decision to endorse a religion that opposes reproductive rights, doesn’t allow women to lead congregations, and condemns gay marriage. No one in the Unitarian Society of Germantown, gay or straight, male or female, could see my point, so I left USG and, I’m pretty sure, all of religion, behind. I would have seen this as an isolated incident, a blind spot within just this particular group, but I see the same invisibility playing out on a national level through the Bernie Sanders campaign.
I know that there are many valid reasons to choose him, and I trust that the Bernie fans near and dear to me have everyone’s best interest at heart just as much as I do, but by now I’ve scrolled through hundreds of pro-Bernie posts without seeing a single mention of protecting women’s rights or fighting for GLBT equality. He does have those things in his platform, but they don’t seem to be the reason that people are so bananas about him. That oversight, more than anything else, is why I feel that gender-normative prejudice is the unconscious driving force underlying most (but not all) of the Bernie love.
I’ve seen and heard well-reasoned arguments in his favor, but here’s what acquaintances in my friend feed seem to love about Bernie Sanders:
1. He’s not Hillary Clinton.
2. He is adorable.
3. He’s against some mysterious entity called “the banks.”
When Hillary Clinton received the endorsements of Planned Parenthood and the Human Rights Campaign, Bernie dismissed those organizations, which serve to protect the health and safety of women and GLBT Americans, as “the establishment.” With women’s health under attack and anti-gay legislation taking hold all over the country, I would like those organizations to stay established. I want a president who will fight to keep the progress that Barack Obama worked so hard to create.
And now, albeit super-awkwardly, Bernie Sanders is trying to align himself with another so-called liberal, Pope Francis, who doesn’t believe women should have autonomy over our own bodies and who condemns gay marriage.
This has been my year to learn that “liberal” and “progressive” don’t automatically mean “feminist,” and although that revelation has been painful, it has inspired me to act with more self-respect, to turn away from those who don’t prioritize women and GLBT folks. I refuse to be invisible. I refuse to be talked down to. I refuse to stop asking for the same safety and rights that straight white men are born feeling entitled to. Though I’ll hang on tight to those important to me no matter how they vote, I’m enjoying pivoting my life in a more feminist direction. Whether or not we wind up with our first female president, my life will be very mush the richer for this race.