Sanders’ success defies gender stereotypes

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Photo Credit: Melanie Westfall | Daily Texan Staff

The 2016 election season has been nothing if not unpredictable. Donald Trump, better known for trying to prove Barack Obama was born in Kenya than for his political accomplishments, is leading the Republican field. While the personalities on the Democratic side might not be as divisive, the poll numbers and demographics are just as surprising.

Bernie Sanders, once considered an afterthought in the race, leads Hillary Clinton in recent New Hampshire and Iowa polling. In order to help understand his popularity, one has to look at how the genders have supported both candidates against expectations.

When Sanders first announced, the stereotypical image of his support was the “Bernie bro.” Salon outlined this stereotype in a startlingly condescending piece, which implied that Clinton’s main obstacle to the White House was the misogyny of young men who “don’t cotton well to the idea of women in power.” Many believe that these young men were the cause of Sanders’ rising numbers.

A recent Rock the Vote poll refuted this hypothesis. The poll showed that millennial women support Sanders over Clinton by 20 percentage points, while young men prefer Sanders by only 4 percentage points.

This poll not only refutes the idea that misogyny is the the main reason Clinton is not getting votes, it also calls into question the stereotype of young women perpetuated in this election cycle. Many assumed that women would vote for Hillary in droves, as the prospect of the first female president would be extremely appealing. But, it turns out that millennials are concerned about more than just gender issues.

The Rock the Vote poll showed that none of the most pressing issues that concerned millenials involved gender. Issues like gun background checks, the environment and police brutality took precedence.

Sanders is no slouch on gender issues, either. Joseph Flores, an international relations senior who is prominently involved with UT Austin Students for Bernie Sanders, argues that Bernie sees women’s problems as the nation’s problems.

“I think that Bernie has proven himself just as much a fighter for women’s rights and access to healthcare as Hillary has, but also displayed a willingness to go further,” Flores said. “Bernie understands that women’s issues are not simply ‘women’s issues,’ but our nation’s issues, many of which disproportionately affect them.”

Sanders’ appeal comes from the fact that he comes to conclusions based on the struggles of many Americans, rather than one specific group. This unconventional approach has invited women to break the expectation of gender-line voting. Bernie has shown that picking the next president is about something more complicated than stereotypes: policy and authenticity.

Chastain-Howley is a rhetoric and writing sophomore from Dallas.