I first read "The Communist Manifesto" when I was a junior in college. To be completely honest, I didn't understand the appeal of Marxism when I first read it and still don't to this day. The entire premise reminded me of a dystopian novel.
Judging by the history of Marxism from the Soviet Union to Cuba, I didn't understand why anyone would want to embrace it. A few weeks after I finished reading Karl Marx's infamous manifesto, Bernie Sanders announced his candidacy for the 2016 Presidential Election as a Democratic Socialist. He won over millennials across the country, especially millennial women.
I know I'm not alone in not understanding why so many young people (especially women) embracing Marxist ideologies. However, I think it's very important, especially in this political climate, to try to understand where people are coming from. Most people are good at heart and want to change the world for the better. There are just many ways to go about it, and we often disagree. This is my attempt to do so by asking the question as to why so many young women are embracing Marxism.
What Is Marxism?
Discussions about communism and socialism usually end before they can even start because of arguing over the definition of the two, as well as the differences between the two ideologies. For the sake of simplicity for this article, I will be focusing on a broad definition of Marxism.
The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines Marxism as "the political, economic, and social principles and policies advocated by Marx especially: a theory and practice of socialism, including the labor theory of value, dialectical materialism, the class struggle, and dictatorship of the proletariat until the establishment of a classless society."
This broad definition includes all works of Marx, including "The Communist Manifesto" "Das Kapital" and other writings. This umbrella term includes communism, socialism, and democratic socialism. To preface the rest of this article, not all Marxist policies are inherently bad. Marxism looks decent on paper but has a consistent history of failing when implemented.
Marxism looks decent on paper but has a consistent history of failing when implemented.
All in the Classroom
When one looks at statistics, higher education is a probable reason as to why more young women are embracing Marxism. Marxist professors outnumber conservative professors at most social science departments, and Marx's aforementioned manifesto is one of the most assigned books in college classes. This makes sense for women since men are currently the minority on most college campuses.
Marxist professors outnumber conservative professors at most social science departments, and Marx's aforementioned manifesto is one of the most assigned books in college classes.
Correlation doesn't always equal causation, but this is something to take note of. Generation Z is not exempt either. Popular teenage publications like "Teen Vogue" (yes, the same magazine you read in high school to learn how to copy Selena Gomez's latest red carpet look on a budget) have become more political, even going as far to publishing a biographical piece on Marx himself. In short, Marxism is everywhere, and it's hard to avoid it.
Feeling the Bern
One cannot discuss Marxism among millennials without mentioning Bernie Sanders. As a Democratic Socialist (a term that is often dubbed "an oxymoron" by critics), it can be argued that he brought Marxism to the forefront during the 2016 election.
Back in 2017, Sarah Leonard of "The New York Times" provided a couple of reasons as to why Sanders, as well as his British counterparts like Jeremy Corbyn, are popular among young voters in the United States and the United Kingdom. She writes, "Since the 1970s, and accelerating in the '80s and '90s, the left-wing planks have one by one been ripped from their platforms.
Under Tony Blair, Labour rewrote its famous Clause IV, which had committed the party to the goal of "common ownership of the means of production, distribution, and exchange." Under Bill Clinton, the Democratic Party cut welfare programs and pushed anti-worker international trade deals." To sum it up, Sanders is pro-worker. Unlike some of his fellow Democratic colleagues, he goes out of his way to show he cares for issues millennials care about like income inequality and the environment.
Unlike some of his fellow Democratic colleagues, he goes out of his way to show he cares for issues millennials care about like income inequality and the environment.
Although it can be argued that Sanders has a "sexism problem," it's no secret that he's popular among young women. This is because he advocates for issues millennial women often care about like funding Planned Parenthood and equal pay.
The Rise of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez
At 29-years-old, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is the youngest person to ever be elected to Congress. Even before her first day in office, she was controversial among conservative circles for her Democratic Socialist principles.
She wasn't in office for long before the backlash began. She's most famous for co-authoring the controversial Green New Deal. Critics have gone as far as comparing it to "The Communist Manifesto" (though if you compare the two documents, it's not too far of a reach) and organizations such as the Communist Party USA praising the document doesn't do much to refute this argument.
Ocasio-Cortez is a millennial herself, so it only makes sense that she appeals to women in their twenties and thirties. She's often cited as relatable and likable with her Instagram live streams, red lipstick, and unorthodox rise to power. She's the most influential Marxist of our generation and has millions of Twitter and Instagram followers. Young women see themselves in Ocasio-Cortez and believe she's fighting for the marginalized. On a surface level, it's hard to believe that any millennial woman would be against her, but the division comes with her policies.
On a surface level, it's hard to believe that any millennial woman would be against her, but the division comes with her policies.
The question as to why millennial women are embracing Marxism doesn't have a single or straightforward answer. There are answers other than college professors, Sanders, and Ocasio-Cortez.
President Trump believes it is because millennials are "young and idealistic" while Leonard argues many different points. From the focus of the environment as a concern to Democratic Socialists to the fact that millennials weren't alive to experience the demonization of the Soviet Union. The most convincing argument lies in our generation's negative connotation with capitalism.
The most convincing argument lies in our generation's negative connotation with capitalism.
In her aforementioned "New York Times" piece, she argues, "Our politics have been shaped by an era of financial crisis and government complicity. Especially since 2008, we have seen corporations take our families' homes, exploit our medical debt, and cost us our jobs. We have seen governments impose brutal austerity to please bankers. The capitalists didn't do it by accident, they did it for profit, and they invested that profit in our political parties. For many of us, capitalism is something to fear, not celebrate, and our enemy is on Wall Street and in the City of London."
In short, millennials often have an aversion to capitalism, so Marxist ideologies like socialism seem appealing. Millennials weren't alive for the Cold War, and it's not uncommon to see a twenty-something rocking a Che Guevara shirt in an unironic manner. Young people tend to rebel against the status quo. In this case, the status quo just happens to be capitalism.
Young people tend to rebel against the status quo. In this case, the status quo just happens to be capitalism.
Younger voters, especially young women, tend to vote for more liberal candidates. Since the Democratic Party is moving further to the left and is embracing Marxism, it only makes sense for millennial women to do so as well.
There are many reasons why young women are embracing an ideology that was immoral and unpatriotic only a few decades ago. Marxist professors outnumber conservatives on most college campuses, Democratic Socialist politicians tend to appeal to young female voters by embracing policies they like, and Marxism doesn't have the negative connotation it had amongst previous generations.
If there is a way to change this, non-Marxist politicians, especially women, need to get into the spotlight and find ways to appeal to millennial women. Youth tends to rebel against the status quo, and if the status quo becomes Marxism, it's only a matter of time before the next generation begins to rebel.