The Golf Ball Incident Brings About a Larger Discussion on Millennial Feminism

Hillary Clinton

If you follow the news, you’ve probably seen the controversy surrounding president Trump’s retweet of an edited video that another user posted depicting Donald Trump hitting a golf ball so hard that it strikes Hillary Clinton in the back. In the aftermath, many political journalists have noted that if you consider the reaction to Trump’s earlier retweet of the CNN wrestling video, there was a considerably grander response to that occurrence than this most recent one involving the former Secretary of State.

Many are now positing that today’s liberal activism, including feminism, is misguided in that young people have ousted Hillary Clinton without fully taking the time to understand what she represents for women’s political history. The 2016 election saw a definite trend toward support for Clinton’s rival, Bernie Sanders, from the younger generation. Both candidates were well-qualified, but there seemed to be an unspoken fear, among young people in particular, of openly supporting the Clinton side.

As author Susan Bordo notes in her article, aptly titled “The destruction of Hillary Clinton: sexism, Sanders and the millennial feminists,” many young women had formed their ideas about Ms. Clinton prematurely. However, these women weren’t around during the “decade of culture wars in which feminists’ efforts were reduced to a species of political correctness.” What Ms. Clinton’s struggle to appeal to young women represents, in a broader sense, is the voice of the forgotten feminists: the older generation.

Today’s Feminism

The current focus of feminism is scattered. The second wave of feminism, which occurred from the 1960s to the 1980s, was arguably focused on white, middle-class women. Since the 1990s, there has been a desire to incorporate more demographics.

As the needs of feminism change, we search for ways to be more inclusive, paying attention to race, sexual orientation, class and religion. This is often referred to as intersectional feminism. However, it’s inadvertently leaving out one group.

The Older Generation and Feminism

Feminism is often viewed today as a young women’s movement. With the advancement of technology, women find it easier to connect with one another online. However, this practice leaves out a large chunk of the population, particularly the elderly and the poor who don’t have access to computers.

In the U.S., we tend to value and prioritize youth over old age. We are neglecting and missing out on valuable knowledge that our feminist elders could hand down. They have seen feminism evolve, and likely have ideas on how the current movement can progress forward.

One of the largest ignored issues by feminism is elder abuse. Approximately one in 10 Americans who are over the age of 60 become a victim of elder abuse, and women are at an even higher risk of becoming a part of that statistic. Ongoing studies are being conducted to figure out why this is occurring. However, one thing needs to become clearer to young social activists: if feminism’s goal is to make the world better for all women, it needs to include all women.

Bridging the Generational Gap

With the rise of the internet age, we need to make sure we are creating outlets for people spanning many generations to be interacting and getting conversation started. Older feminists must be given the chance to make connections with younger ones.

Advocating for better media coverage is huge. The media’s portrayal of Clinton as “shrill” undoubtedly hurt her during the campaign trail, and it represents the inherent sexism and ageism that are both intertwined with each other and rooted in our society’s values. Portraying our older women in a positive light in the media will help. Media campaigns are a great way to inform families, friends and others about the contributions that older women like Clinton are, and have been, making to the world, and how important their knowledge and experience is for change.

Clinton was undoubtedly a flawed candidate in various ways, regardless of her age. The point is that so many young people didn’t understand, or even take the time to understand, where she’s been and what a powerhouse of a political entity she has been for women over the years.

Modern-day feminism seems to forget where it’s been as it gets caught up solely in where it’s at. We have to know where we’ve been in order to know where we need to go. I can’t help but respect Clinton’s perseverance in light of all the sexist backlash she has faced, and her political history, though flawed, definitely holds important lessons and significance for modern-day feminists. Knowledge and understanding of where we’ve been and where we need to go has the opportunity to close inter-generational gaps and bring all women together.

At some point in time, the young feminists who are fighting now will age. No one should get pushed out of the movement just because they age. And speaking of pushing — hitting people with golf balls isn’t funny either, folks.

Kate Harveston is a political writer with an interest in social justice and progressive change. She has a background in journalism and Criminal Justice, so she enjoys anything related to law, politics, culture and the written word. In her spare time, her favorite activity is reading dystopian fiction. If you like her work, you can subscribe to her blog, Only Slightly Biased, or follow her on Twitter for updates!

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