Thursday, January 10, 2008

The Problem of Choosing from Personal Experience

Lesboprof alerted me to this powerful and humbling post by AngryBlackBitch which brought me back to reality and reminded me how dangerous it is to get swept up in my own personal wishes and experience. I read Steinem's Op-ed and for better or worse parts of it really resonated with me. Her early rhetorical question--would a woman with Obama's qualifications become a front runner in the Presidential race--stopped me in my tracks. The questions conjured up the image of Carol Moseley-Brown--to me the most eloquent of the Democratic candidates running for the nomination in 2004. Every time she spoke, I agreed with her. She was far more qualified than Obama is now and didn't have a chance. But, as *I* reminded me in the comments to yesterday's post, not everyone is likely to answer a rhetorical question the way the author intends it. It is risky to start off that way, and doing so, Steinem did a poor job making her case. Perhaps, she consciously structured her Op-Ed to fire up women like me. If so, very Karl Rovian.

The second part of her piece that really resonated with me was the following paragraph:

So why is the sex barrier not taken as seriously as the racial one? The reasons are as pervasive as the air we breathe: because sexism is still confused with nature as racism once was; because anything that affects males is seen as more serious than anything that affects “only” the female half of the human race; because children are still raised mostly by women (to put it mildly) so men especially tend to feel they are regressing to childhood when dealing with a powerful woman; because racism stereotyped black men as more “masculine” for so long that some white men find their presence to be masculinity-affirming (as long as there aren’t too many of them); and because there is still no “right” way to be a woman in public power without being considered a you-know-what (my emphasis).
In the past few days I have found myself surprisingly sympathetic to Clinton's candidacy. More than I thought I would. I shared the sentiment that *71* has: we didn't need another political dynasty. But, when she lost in Iowa, I was sincerely bummed. I tried to articulate it here, but I couldn't justify my support for her even when I set down to write it out. Upon greater reflection and thinking of those words bolded above, my support for Clinton comes precisely out of the social location I find myself in. I am a mother and a working woman, in a heavily male dominated field. I aspire to have greater roles of leadership someday, and I don't want to be called cold, calculating, robotic, power-hungry, or a bitch. The very qualities I admire in someone like HRC--very smart, very very articulate, very strategic, and ambitious--are precisely the qualities that so fully turn off others. I must say, however, that I do distinguish between those who reject HRC's political decisions, votes, centrist instincts, and corporate money taking from those who reject her because she is a cold, calculating, power hungry bitch who doesn't want to bake cookies. The former camp are my friends, people I respect, and people who truly challenge my support of Clinton. The latter camp is precisely what keeps redoubling my commitment to her during this primary process.

I am like many women who have had it with this sexist bullshit. I think *I* was dead on in the comments when she clarified what I thought was true in Steinem's piece. It is not that racism is not tolerated. Rather OVERT racism is not tolerated. There is no doubt that lots of structural racism, de facto segregation, and covert racism continues in this country without enough outrage. I was thinking about OVERT sexism and racism. The kinds of sexist comments that pundits make don't raise hackles nearly as much as Don Imus's comments did months ago. So, like many women trying to be ambitious, successful and a good mother, I got sick of the small box that I saw Hillary getting shoved into. Even my own father said--only half joking--that the reason most men his age won't vote for Hillary is because she reminds them of their first wives.

I don't have any ability to save Steinem's Op-Ed from Angry Black Bitch's eloquent rebuttal. I can see why Lesboprof and *I* are disappointed with Steinem. And, I wonder if I have been easily manipulated in this political process--after all--that is the game. I am very wary of stepping into the minefield of trying to figure out what holds us back more: race, class, sexual orientation, gender or ableness. I read Steinem say we shouldn't do it and skipped completely the subtext of the piece, which is indeed an attempt to prioritize feminist (white) issues over race.

I guess at this point, I want to open up this discussion and hear more from others.