Racism in my feminism? You don’t say…
Hillary Clinton: Bow to the man, and take the vice presidency. Let our country heal. You will run in eight years and be unstoppable as a visionary world leader. You must pass through this filter first though: bow to the man.
Now, I’ll bet reading that made you want to reach for a hammer right? You’re thinking “What kind of sexist BS is this?” and possibly questioning my sanity. You’re right. It is sexist and I would sound insane if I were typing something like this with any serious intentions behind it. Of course it would be even more ludicrous if this was actually being widely disseminated and had people agreeing with it, but that’ll never happen right? Right. Except…something like it is being disseminated and people are agreeing with it. The message is a little different though. It actually reads:
“Barack Obama: Bow to the woman, and take the vice presidency. Let our country heal. You will run in eight years and be unstoppable as a visionary world leader. You must pass through this filter first though: bow to the woman.”
and there are people that actually think this racist drivel has some validity. Now, I know at least a few people are thinking “Well it’s Roseanne Barr, who cares what she has to say?” and that’s probably a pretty valid response for most things. But right now she’s actually just voicing the thought a lot of white feminists are harboring as they spout things like “Black men had the vote first” or when they start talking about those pesky brown women putting their skin before their gender and then have the temerity to start trying to chastise us for not operating in sisterhood. She left out the word “white” before woman, but the subtext is there for all the world to see.
Perhaps this is one of those things that hasn’t been made clear in previous years so I’m going to make it clear now. I’m not going to side with a bigot against a black man. I’m not going to side with a bigot against a black woman. In fact? I’m not going to side with a bigot period. SNL had a sketch this week that is (I think) meant to be lampooning Hillary’s desperation, but if you only catch the middle of the sketch? It’s pretty damned racist. And it’s not like this phenomenon is restricted to entertainers. Gloria Steinem, Erica Jong, and Robyn Morgan have also weighed in, and in some really ugly ways all while claiming to be looking out for all women. Meanwhile Hillary’s campaign has given them no reason to stop as she can’t even be bothered to say that these tactics are unacceptable. On the contrary, her official campaign has been busy indulging in similar behavior, and then insisting that Obama is playing the race card when there’s even a hint of protest at the egregious displays of race-baiting. Shockingly, racism is visible well before someone sets a cross on fire in the front yard and claiming to mean no offense while repeatedly using bigotry as a campaign tactic isn’t going to fly.
It’s been very clear throughout this election cycle that racism was going to be a factor even as people swore up and down that sexism was worse than racism. There’s this underlying idea that gender and race can be separated and that when people speak of women that umbrella means that all women (regardless of ethnicity) have the same concerns and so in this election getting to see a woman in power is far more important than any other consideration. Yet when you sit down and look at the history of the feminist movement and the transition to women being in the workplace? You’re primarily talking about white women. WOC were already working. Usually in low paying jobs with no future and only a guarantee of the work being physically and emotionally draining. In fact that transition of white women to the workforce took place in large part because white women were able to hand over the care of their children to poor WOC who were shut out of even pink collar jobs for years after white women were free to pursue the dream of having it all.
That same attitude is still prevalent with so many white feminists who are willing to insist that WOC should support this grand achievement while ignoring the reality that putting a bigot (and before someone fires off an angry comment or email insisting Hillary’s background is proof she isn’t racist, think about that old adage with the ducks) in the White House isn’t exactly in the best interests of WOC. Being a feminist doesn’t make you immune to racism, or classism, or any of the other ‘isms that are so frequently discussed in feminist circles. But, it seems to be one of the few ‘isms that is accepted as long as it’s displayed with a (thin) veneer of being about fighting the patriarchy. Look at the rhetoric from Marion Wagner, a regional director of NOW
“The issue that’s not being talked about in this campaign is the blatant sexism,” Wagner said, her words echoing off the granite walls. “There are some people who promote Barack Obama because they want anybody but a woman. Would they like a white man instead of a black man? Of course. But they’ll take a black man over a woman. I never thought, in 2008, that we’d still be dealing with this.”
who then goes on to say that Obama pulling out Hillary’s chair is evidence of his sexism just to make sure we know she’s not upset that he’s a black candidate. Which would sound great if it weren’t for the part of the article where she (like so many other white feminists) is quick to jump on the bandwagon that a vote for Obama from black women couldn’t possibly have anything to do with the issues. No, it’s all about them choosing race over gender which I guess is an easy assumption to make if you can’t be bothered to listen to black women that aren’t willing to follow your lead. After all, it’s not like they have the capacity or the right to think for themselves. Oh wait…
There’s an ever growing gap in the feminist movement, and I’m sure the argument is going to be made that WOC aren’t willing to do what it takes to bridge the gap while ignoring that the prospect of dealing with the internalized racism of so-called allies just isn’t an attractive proposition. It’s not sisterhood if the movement insists on treating WOC alternately like mules, children, or part of the scenery unless it needs their support. Would I like to see a woman in the White House? Sure. But I’d really like that woman to be someone who doesn’t think she has a right to my vote. Who recognizes me as an intelligent person with valid concerns even if they are different from her concerns. Who can grasp the idea that my skin color and my gender are a part of who I am; but they are not all that I am, and thus listening to what I have to say is necessary and important in order to help me achieve MY goals. I want to vote for a female President because I believe in her, not because she’s Miss Daisy.
Karnythia is a writer, a historian, and occasionally a loud mouth. In between raising hell and raising kids she usually manages to find time to contemplate the meaning of life as a black woman in America.” Her posts on any topic can be found at her Livejournal.