Gloria Steinem has been a feminist icon for most of her life. She founded Ms. magazine. She’s lobbied for equal rights and reproductive freedom. But every hero must be proved mortal by saying something dumb about Millennials, and Steinem is no different. During an otherwise-standard interview on Real Time With Bill Maher, she gets into trouble when Maher pushes her on why younger women are more supportive of Bernie Sanders than they are of Hillary Clinton.
Steinem begins by demurring, noting that every generation of women is radicalized by the issues of their day. She contends that women get more radical as they age and power slips out of their grasp. But then, the fatal moment. She goes on to say, “And when you’re young, you’re thinking, you know, where are the boys? The boys are with Bernie, or, you know …” (Maher jumped on it immediately, noting, “Oo, now, if I said that … Yeah, they’re for Bernie because that’s where the boys are. You’d swat me.” He’s not wrong.)
Steinem tried to walk it back (sort of), but the damage was done. She took the myriad reasons young women might support Sanders over Clinton and reduced them, essentially, to boy-craziness. If older feminists want the younger generation to turn to Hillary, it might help not to condescend to them about their political motivations.
UPDATE, 2/7/16 3:33PM: Steinem apologized for what she deems her moment of “talk-show Interruptus” with a post on her Facebook page. In it, she notes that she misspoke and was misinterpreted, and that she truly believes “whether they gravitate to Bernie or Hillary, young women are activist and feminist in greater numbers than ever before.”