Last week, Hillary Clinton chose to play it safe. When faced with the question of who was most qualified to campaign alongside her, to speak to her qualifications and extol her virtues, HRC dug deep into a bag of inoffensive options and came up with a name: Chloë Grace Moretz.
Of course, Moretz is just one of the many soft-hitting celebrity speakers on the DNC lineup. While these stars are undoubtedly enthusiastic, some are more legitimate than others. For example, Lena Dunham has campaigned tirelessly on Hillary’s behalf, in a series of overwhelming but well-meaning outfits. Eva Longoria, another DNC speaker, has an impressive track record, and brings her political action group the Latino Victory Project to the table. America Ferrera and Demi Lovato appear to have been chosen on the basis of their appeal to women of a certain demographic: all the Latina women who are too young to be fans of Eva Longoria.
But if we had to pick just one Scott Baio out of the bunch, it would have to be Moretz. The biggest thing that separates Moretz from other up-and-coming blond starlets is an umlaut—and a superfluous one at that. But HRC’s decision to throw a random PYT into the mix wouldn’t be so egregious if it didn’t inadvertently speak to Clinton’s feminist Achilles’ Heel.
When it comes to women, and basically every other issue on the table, this is the Taylor Swift versus Kimye of elections—there’s only one legitimate side. Donald Trump can only conceive of women as sex objects or inexhaustible wells of menstruation. Additionally, his beliefs in gender equality and women in the workplace appear to extend only as far as Ivanka Trump. Calling Clinton 2016’s feminist candidate is like calling Michelle Obama cool or Lin-Manuel Miranda talented. But feminism has strains, and some are catchier than others.
Hillary has often been accused of doing or saying anything to appeal to the most voters; it’s a quality that translates very well into an SNL sketch, but is slightly worrisome in a future president. So while Clinton has a proud history of fighting on behalf of women and girls worldwide, the brand of feminism that she articulates and promotes often plays it safe, and falls short of intersectional feminist standards. For many women, Hillary is the political face of white feminism: Despite campaigning as a voice for women everywhere, her politics have had a tangible, punitive effect on communities of color.
Clinton came under fire on the campaign trail when she was interrupted by Ashley Williams, a young Black Lives Matter protester, holding a sign reading, “We Have to Bring Them to Heel”—a direct Clinton quote referring to young black people at a 1996 speech on the crime problem. Williams said to Clinton, “I am not a ‘superpredator,’” and asked Clinton why she had used that word. She was quickly escorted out of the room.
But Clinton has more than just a public image problem. In Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow, she explains that it was Hillary Clinton who lobbied Congress in 1994 to expand the drug war and mass incarceration, through a piece of legislation that had a significantly more harmful impact on people of color. With so many politically active young people fighting against structural racism, police violence, and mass incarceration, it’s not surprising that millennial feminists are less than comfortable with HRC’s credentials. The harsh reality is that Hillary is the kind of feminist who can afford to be silent or relatively safe on issues like the criminalization of black women and rampant police brutality. Many of her constituents can’t. As Jacobin’s Kevin Young and Diana Becerra wrote, “we must listen to the voices of the most marginalized women and gender and sexual minorities—many of whom are extremely critical of Clintonite feminism—and act in solidarity with movements that seek equity in all realms of life and for all people. These are the feminists not invited to the Hillary Clinton party, except perhaps to serve and clean up.”
So when it comes to Hillary Clinton’s first big party, the DNC, it makes sense to critically examine the guest list. First of all, the fact that Chloë Grace Moretz sided with Taylor Swift over the weekend isn’t doing her any favors. In addition to finding herself on the wrong side of 2016’s most important pop cultural war, Moretz spouts a girl power ideology that might look appealing on the surface, but becomes pretty problematic upon closer examination. Moretz’s boldest feminist stand was picking a Twitter feud with Kim Kardashian. When Kardashian posted a nude selfie, Moretz took it upon herself to chastise the reality TV star, tweeting, “I truly hope you realize how important setting goals are for young women, teaching them we have so much more to offer than just our bodies,” essentially espousing the same “feminist” position as Piers Morgan. When Kim clapped back to “welcome @ChloeGMoretz to twitter,” Moretz kept on the offensive, calling Kardashian’s response “snarky” and “girl on girl hate.” It’s a unique form of victimization previously perfected by white feminist poster child Taylor Swift, who discovered that being mean to other women doesn’t preclude you from calling them anti-feminist when they’re mean to you. Moretz’s tweet was unwarranted, self-righteous, and body-shaming. The fact that she then rebranded it as a feminist victory against a snarky bully is emblematic of the exact kind of solipsistic, privileged feminism that irks millennial voters.
More recently, Moretz came at Kardashian again in the wake of Sunday’s social media Armageddon, tweeting, “Stop wasting your voice on something so petulant and unimportant. Everyone in this industry needs to get their heads out of a hole and look around to realize what’s ACTUALLY happening in the REAL world.” It was another opportunity for Moretz to attack her imaginary nemesis by acting holier than thou. Of course, Twitter was quick to pick up on the fact that for all her self-congratulatory sermonizing, Moretz has failed to adequately address such “real world” issues as gun violence and Black Lives Matter.
Clinton’s decision to give this cute, semi-famous white girl and her off-brand empowerment an even bigger platform is another example of failed millennial pandering. In handing the mic to a 19-year-old with some pretty sus opinions, Clinton’s camp is choosing superficial flash over meaningful substance. It’s a disturbing trend—whenever Hill tries to woo millennials, like with her now infamous Whip and Nae Nae, it comes off as ill-informed and vaguely condescending, as if twenty-somethings will be magically moved to political action the second “Neighbors 2 star speaks at DNC” starts trending on Twitter.
In the words of Moretz herself, it would be nice to see some young, politically involved speakers at the DNC who can address “what’s ACTUALLY happening in the REAL world.” If HRC really is as desperate for our votes as she appears, she could start by giving us a little more credit.