Is there a word for someone whose entitlement is so vast, so deep, so historically embedded, and so unconscious it includes the belief that they got where they are by a resolute devotion to fair play? It’s not reassuring that his senior campaign staff, like his long-time political inner circle, is almost entirely white and male. In a long campaign, everyone says unfortunate things. But these and other remarks suggest that when it comes to gender, he just doesn’t feel the burn. The problem is less that Bernie focuses on class and economic inequality than that he doesn’t seem to understand that the economy, like society generally, is structured by gender and race. Equal pay is great, but if women and men are funneled into different kinds of work by race and gender, with men’s jobs valued more because men are valued more, and if women are hobbled economically by doing most of the domestic labor and having to contend with prejudice against working mothers to boot, equal pay alone doesn’t solve the problem.
It would have been great if Bernie had given a major speech about his plans to make women’s lives better—safer, fairer, less dominated by men. Instead, he gives every sign of believing that his basic program—a $15 minimum wage, free public college, breaking up the big banks, single-payer health insurance—is quite enough. Those are all great and important goals—in fact, the $15 minimum wage will benefit more women than men. But they do not speak directly to the rage and fed-upness that so many women, in every class, justly feel.
Bernie showed a similar blindness to the specific harms of racism, but, thanks largely to Black Lives Matter, has moved a little further toward integrating race into his analysis.
At 74, you are who you are. Bernie is a traditional class-based leftist for whom feminism is a distraction.