Why Do Some Feminists Think the Bernie Sanders Inauguration Meme Is Sexist?

An "ice cold feminist take" about a beloved photo of Bernie Sanders at the inauguration has sparked criticism — and a meme of its own

Bernie Sanders
A portrait of the senator as a sexist man, according to some ice cold feminists.
Photo by BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images

If you’ve been anywhere near the internet this week, you’ve probably encountered a certain ubiquitous photo of Bernie Sanders sitting in a folding chair at the inauguration, arms crossed over his body and show-stealing mittens on full display. The instantly relatable image immediately captivated the internet and has since been widely memed, with one of the photo’s most popular meme formats featuring the Vermont senator traveling the world, a cropped version of the image popping up everywhere from college classrooms to burlesque shows.

It’s altogether delightful, but according to some feminist thinkers, it’s sexist.

On Wednesday, Drexel University professor Amelia Hoover Green took to Twitter to offer her “ice cold feminist take” on the popular image, criticizing Sanders’ apparently disinterested demeanor in the photo as evidence of his failure to perform the “emotional labor” expected of women.

“Ice cold feminist take: I love Bernie, I really do, but sir: emotional labor is not beneath you. Not feeling it? Fucking pretend for one minute, like [most] women do every minute,” reads Green’s original tweet.

Others have also attempted to take a critical feminist lens to Sanders’ inauguration day outfit, with Female Persuasion’s Anne B. Kelly going as far as to declare Sanders’ mittens and parka a willful act of “misogyny,” done “purposefully to cast a shadow on women’s historic day.”

The general consensus among the vast majority of women, including many who consider themselves feminists, is that this rage against Sanders is a largely garbage take and not representative of any brand of feminism with which most women want to align themselves.

For one thing, as many have pointed out, the image in question represents but a single snapshot of Bernie Sanders at one point during the entire ceremony. Whatever his demeanor appears to be in this one specific moment that happens to have been captured and widely circulated cannot be presumed representative of his attitude throughout the duration of the day. Moreover, as still more have pointed out, it was cold! It’s winter! This is an image of an old man trying to stay warm while sitting outside! It is not inherently political! It’s not inherently anything!

Moreover, as others have noted, such straw-graspy “feminist takes” have a tendency to trivialize and discredit feminism in general, threatening the many very real and important issues within the movement that need to be addressed.

In the meantime, “ice cold feminist take” has become a meme of its own, with many openly mocking the phrase.

Anyway, to each their own ice cold feminist take, I suppose. I, personally, am not a feminist scholar. Having taken exactly one women’s studies course in college, (probably should’ve taken more! That’s on me! Not the point!) I don’t necessarily feel qualified to offer my own on this particular issue. What I will say is this: I have no idea which wave of feminism this is, but it’s not a great look.

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