Two women are running for the highest office in the land and only one has the support of liberal feminists. Despite her overuse of the gender card, Hillary’s devotion to the feminist cause is largely unquestioned by her following.

The conundrum is an interesting one to observe. How do feminists justify supporting one woman over another in an arena historically delegated to men?

Hillary believes she’s owed the White House, has served her time, and now the public ought repay her with the Presidency. She is pro-abortion, and has accomplished little outside of being elected to office or appointed to a cabinet position. Her resume is full of impressive titles but has a deficit of accomplishment. Clinton seldom, if ever, stands toe to toe with her opponents much less holds her own.

The opposite is true of Fiorina. She’s tough, accomplished, and has said repeatedly she hopes to earn voter support and ultimately, the White House. She doesn’t see being a woman as a meritorious occurrence, nor a reason to garner votes. Preaching women are not “an interest group” in need of puffy pandering, Fiorina has even gone so far as to denounce modern feminism as a version that is “no longer working.”

And yet, liberal feminists aren’t quite sure what to make of her.

The New York Times explored the perplexing phenomena Monday:

When the novelist Jennifer Weiner watched the second Republican presidential debate with her two daughters on Sept. 16, she felt a sense of pride at seeing the lone woman on stage, Carly Fiorina, hold her own against Donald J. Trump.

Then Mrs. Fiorina denounced abortion and Planned Parenthood in a graphic monologue that thrilled many conservative Republican voters but left Ms. Weiner appalled.

“It’s so weird — she looks like one of us, but she’s not,” said Ms. Weiner, who in addition to being a best-selling author is an influential feminist with a large social-media following. “You’re on the bus with her until she starts talking about Planned Parenthood.”

Liberal feminists still maintain that abortion is about the choice of the mother, not the life of the murdered child.

As Mrs. Fiorina’s presidential campaign gains traction — and as the focus on her statements about Planned Parenthood intensifies — liberal women across the web are expressing conflicted feelings about her candidacy. At times, there is gratification at watching a woman forcefully take on Mr. Trump; at other times, horror at Mrs. Fiorina’s conservative policy positions, which these women see as anathema to the feminist cause.

“Can you love a campaign but hate a candidate’s policies?” read the subtitle of the writer Robin Marty’s Sept. 18 essay on titled “Carly Fiorina Is the Candidate I Wanted Hillary Clinton to Be.”

Mrs. Fiorina has encouraged feminists to take her seriously.

After Mr. Trump’s remarks about her looks — “Look at that face! Would anyone vote for that?” he told Rolling Stone magazine — her “super PAC,” Carly for America, released a video advertisement called “Faces,” in which she turned the insult to her advantage.

…“This is the face of a 61-year-old woman,” she says later in the ad, as the audience whoops and whistles its approval. “I am proud of every year and every wrinkle.”

Such shows of defiance and forcefulness by Mrs. Fiorina have impressed many liberal women.

Tracy Clark-Flory, a senior staff writer for who has written about sex and relationships for Salon and other outlets, said Mrs. Fiorina’s debate turn was a powerful moment that created some dissonance given her stands on the issues.

“I think even as a lot of feminists cheered her on during that performance, we were loathing her actual policies,” she said. “There’s an excitement and a horror that those two can kind of coexist.”

When Sarah Palin ran as the Vice Presidential Candidate on McCain’s ticket in 2008, she roused plenty of hate, but little in the way of serious feminist curiosity. Fiorina has managed to capture the attention of those struggling to to apply their ideology to Mrs. Clinton with Carly in the room.

Left-leaning feminists have not been so conflicted by other Republican candidates for national office in recent years. Both Sarah Palin, the Republican vice-presidential nominee in 2008, and Michele Bachmann, a congresswoman who ran for the Republican nomination in 2012, went out of their way to attack traditional feminism.

Mrs. Fiorina has spoken critically of traditional feminism, too: In June, when she still barely registered in national presidential polls, she declared in a speech that the liberal “version of feminism isn’t working” and said her definition of “a feminist is a woman who lives the life she chooses.”

That differs from the definition that Mrs. Clinton gave in an interview with the actress and writer Lena Dunham, the creator and star of the HBO series “Girls,” for a website Ms. Dunham is starting. When Ms. Dunham asked Mrs. Clinton if she considered herself a feminist, she replied, “Yes, absolutely,” and expressed puzzlement at women who did not. “A feminist is by definition someone who believes in equal rights,” she said.

Still, Mrs. Fiorina’s background as a former chief executive at Hewlett-Packard and her role in calling out Mr. Trump, whose remarks have offended women in both parties, have captured the attention of many writers, activists and other influential figures in the feminist movement, as reflected on social media and in news outlets targeted at young women. It was an irony first pointed out by the conservative blogger Michelle Malkin.

“Carly Fiorina is an ice-cold shade queen debate princess and I’m in love with and terrified of her,” Erin Gloria Ryan, managing editor of the feminist blog Jezebel, wrote on Twitter on Sept. 16.

Follow Kemberlee on Twitter @kemberleekaye


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