2016 race

Does Hillary Clinton have a women problem?

There are some feminists who prefer to see a man as the next U.S. president rather than Hillary

LOS ANGELES CA - Democratic Presidential hopeful and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

Reading the barrage of news headlines lately, it’s more than reasonable to conclude that Hillary Clinton’s primary problem is the scandal erupting around her over the use of a private email server. New details about what she knew, what the State Department knew and what Democrats are worrying about emerge daily as the FBI conducts its probe of the server.

Two stories this week, though, augur a new potential problem that’s beginning to surface for Clinton — one that could severely undermine her carefully constructed image as a champion of feminist issues.

Clinton, according to separate reports in The Washington Post and The National Journal, is losing the support of some young feminists, and is in danger of losing even more.

The Post profiled Sylva Stoel, a 17-year-old high school student from South Dakota who operates the @QueenFeminist Twitter feed. Stoel is vocal on numerous women’s issues, and has amassed a following of almost 25,000 on the social media platform. She’ll turn 18 in two months, and explained to The Washington Post that she once supported Hillary, but no more.

“I used to think I should stand with Hillary,” she said. “It was tough to give that up.”

Stoel goes on to say that she’s backing Bernie Sanders, the longtime U.S. senator from Vermont, who describes himself as a socialist. Sanders, The Post notes, is not all that popular with women voters, according to recent polls. But Stoel has some interesting reasons for supporting the 73-year-old candidate. Namely, it’s his positions on economic policy and capitalism that resonate with Stoel.

“He’s a socialist,” Stoel told The Post about her support of Sanders. “And I think capitalism is a driving force behind all kinds of oppression, including sexism. He’s not backed by huge corporations, like Hillary [is].”

The sentiment is similar for 23-year-old Alexandra Svokos. In a story for The National Journal, Molly Mirhashem talks to Svokos, who grew up in Franklin Lakes, New Jersey, and is now working as an editorial fellow at The Huffington Post. Svokos has been a fan of Clinton since she was just 6 years old.

Svokos said her perception of Clinton as a feminist icon has been changing as she’s matured. At first, she backed Clinton “because she was a woman, rather than knowing much about what she stood for,” she told The National Journal. Her basic idea of feminism, she said, was “girl power” and Clinton fit that less-than-nuanced bill at the time.

These days, according to the story, Svokos has soured somewhat on Clinton, and her expectations for what Clinton can accomplish for women are well-managed, at best. “I find her lacking, in that I realize she’s not likely to push for the kind of change I’d like to see,” Svokos said.

But she still plans to vote for Clinton, she said.

Mirhashem spoke to some 47 young women who describe themselves as feminists and reports that while “the overwhelming majority of these women said they would likely vote for her in 2016, only about a quarter of them were enthusiastic or emphatic in their support.”

According to The Washington Post, women who support other candidates are using Clinton’s drop in the polls as an opportunity to steal her supporters. One group, Women For Bernie Sanders (which, it’s worth noting, was co-founded by a man), has organized meet-ups on Facebook, and other women supporters are buying Bernie Sanders earrings.

November 2016 is a long way off, but Clinton, who’s already seen the once mile-long lead she enjoyed over her Democratic rivals begin to erode, could have a real problem on her hands if young women like Kelly Boyle gravitate to other candidates.

Boyle, a 22-year-old college programming coordinator for the website Elite Daily, also abandoned Clinton. In a recent column she wrote that she tried “to stay on Hillary’s side,” but decided to support Sanders instead. “Voting for a man when a woman is running does not make me any less of a feminist,” Boyle argues. “It means I’m taking the very feminist route of expressing my right to choose.”

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