The two iconic feminists made separate appearances over the weekend in an effort to shore up support for the former secretary of state, who is running surprisingly behind Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders among young women in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination.
But it didn’t quite work out that way.
Albright, the nation’s first woman secretary of state (appointed by President Bill Clinton in 1997), appeared with Hillary Clinton at a New Hampshire rally on Saturday and, tracing the progress of women up the ladder through American history, said: “Young women have to support Hillary Clinton. The story is not over! It’s not done and you have to help. Hillary Clinton will always be there for you. And just remember, there’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help each other.”
“Special place in hell” is a line Albright’s used for years – “a light-hearted but very pointed remark,” Clinton called it in a morning-after appearance on Meet the Press. “Madeline has been saying this for many, many years. She believes it firmly, in part because she knows what a struggle it has been, and she understands the struggle is not over.”
But the line was news – of the unwelcome kind – to Twitter.
Albright’s controversial comment came on the heels of Steinem’s appearance Friday on HBO’s Real Time with Bill Maher, in which she suggested that younger women were siding with Sanders in order to meet boys.
In New Hampshire, which votes in the nation’s first presidential primary on Tuesday, Sanders is leading with women under age 45 – by a whopping 29 points in a Wall Street Journal/NBC/Marist College poll of Democratic voters in New Hampshire last week. In that survey, just 35 percent of women younger than 45 backed Clinton. With women older than 45, Clinton beat Sanders by nine percentage points.
Musing about this phenomenon, Steinem told Maher, “When you’re young, you’re thinking: ‘Where are the boys? The boys are with Bernie.’ ”
By Sunday morning, she was blaming “talk-show Interruptus” – and apologizing.
Sanders supporter Mark Ruffalo gave Steinem’s mea culpa a thumbs-up.
Others were not so mollified.
As emblematic of the reaction by some young women, The New York Times quoted this Facebook post by Zoe Trimboli, a 23-year-old from Vermont who, according to the Times, both supports Sanders and considers herself a feminist: “Shame on Gloria Steinem and Madeleine Albright for implying that we as women should be voting for a candidate based solely on gender. I can tell you that shaming me and essentially calling me misinformed and stupid is NOT the way to win my vote.”
Clinton, on NBC, laughed off Albright’s comment and its fallout, saying, “I don’t want people to be offended by what she is expressing.” Pressed on whether she understands why some women might be put off, Clinton continued:
“Well, good grief, we’re getting offended about everything these days. Honest to goodness. I mean, people can’t say anything without offending somebody. She has a life experience that I respect … and I think what she was trying to do … was to remind young women, particularly, that this struggle, which many of us have been a part of is not over and don’t be in any way lulled by the progress we’ve made.”