Feminist icon Gloria Steinem said Friday that she believes Hillary Clinton's low favorability ratings are at least partially due to her being a woman.
She said that isn't the only reason the Democratic nominee has hit her lowest approval ratings in 24 years, but the subliminal connections associated with her and her womanhood affect public perception.
"As children, most of us are raised by women, so we may tend to associate female authority with childhood. We see it as emotional, overwhelming, perhaps inappropriate to public life, not rational enough," Steinem told the Hollywood Reporter.
"You can see that in some of the media coverage from otherwise mature, grown-up men, who are saying things like, 'I cross my legs whenever I see her. She reminds me of my first wife asking for alimony.' They are responding to the last time they saw a powerful woman. They feel unmanned. I don't think it's conscious, but I think it's present. It's not going to be easy. It's a very big change."
Steinem said that for her, Clinton's gender does not matter. She just wants a president she feels understands her and her movement.
"I just want to make clear that it's not identity politics. In other words, had it been Sarah Palin, I would not have been happy. Had it been Margaret Thatcher, I would not have been happy," she said. "What you want is somebody who represents your majority interest and experience, not someone who's selling you out. Sometimes the media takes it as identity politics, which it isn't."
The vitriol toward Clinton at the Republican National Convention — embodied in the constant chants of "lock her up" — was, in Steinem's view, akin to the "swiftboating" that took place in 2004 to disparage the reputation of then-Democratic nominee John Kerry.
"Swiftboating" refers to the smear campaign against Kerry from the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth (which has since been renamed the Swift Vets and POWs for Truth) and has come to signify any particularly nasty attack against a political candidate.
According to Steinem, even though 2016 has been the year women's rights have become a "majority movement," the Republican Party and its presidential nominee, Donald Trump, seem set on halting the movement's progress.
"But the bad news is that if you have a 'frontlash,' you get a backlash. We see it in Trumpism and the ultra-right wing and their control of state legislatures, for instance, and their response against reproductive freedom," she said. "Nowhere is it written that the backlash might not win, even though we have the majority. It's still going to be a long process."
Steinem found herself in some political hot water in February when she suggested on "Real Time with Bill Maher" that young women were only supporting Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders' presidential bid because they were trying to attract men. She later apologized for that proclamation, but has continued to insist, including in the Hollywood Reporter interview, that her remarks were taken out of context.