Tuesday, January 08, 2008

I’m worried too, Ms. Steinem…

This isn’t an easy post to write. I am a proud black feminist who holds a deep respect for feminist leaders and has done a lot of inner work to come to terms with feminism’s history with race and class.

Yeah, this is not an easy post to write…but a sistah’s got to do what a sistah’s got to do.

Gloria Steinem has an Op-Ed in the New York Times titled Women Are Never Front-Runners. I read the Op-Ed and I feel compelled to address it here.

I highly recommend that you read the piece before you go on reading this post.

After reading Steinem’s Op-Ed I felt invisible…as if black and woman can’t exist in the same body. I felt undocumented…as if the history of blacks and the history of women have nothing to do with the history of black women.

When I read “Black men were given the vote a half-century before women of any race were allowed to mark a ballot, and generally have ascended to positions of power, from the military to the boardroom, before any women (with the possible exception of obedient family members in the latter).” I felt both attacked and ignored at the same time.

I think of the women and men in my family who were not extended the protected vote until 1965. I wince at the lack of acknowledgment for the black women of Birmingham, Selma and Montgomery who had to march with their brothers in the 1960s to attain the vote because the suffrage movement abandoned them in a Southern strategy to get the vote in 1920.

And there it is again…that invisibility; like a brutal weight that I am so bloody tired of carrying.

When I consider Steinem's “So why is the sex barrier not taken as seriously as the racial one?” I’m left confused.

What country does Gloria live in where race barriers are taken seriously? I’d love to know…shit, maybe I’ll move there. But I’m a black woman and this is America where none of my barriers are given more than a token consideration and I’ll present this Op-Ed as exhibit A in that argument.

Steinem goes on to say, “I’m not advocating a competition for who has it toughest. The caste systems of sex and race are interdependent and can only be uprooted together. That’s why Senators Clinton and Obama have to be careful not to let a healthy debate turn into the kind of hostility that the news media love. Both will need a coalition of outsiders to win a general election. The abolition and suffrage movements progressed when united and were damaged by division; we should remember that.”

But this article is soaked in the fluid of competition. It reeks of frustration that I fear is born from a place of entitlement even though it is dressed in the language of the oppressed. And I’ll point out again, the suffrage movement progressed without racial or true class unity and many a sister were damaged by that division.

We should remember that, but first we have to know it.

What worries me is that Gloria bought that bullshit about Obama’s race being a unifying factor. C’mon now, these are early dates yet and campaign operatives have already taken a dip in the race baiting pool. Not for one second do I believe that the unifying power of Senator Obama’s blackness will not eventually collide with the same elegant condescension contained in Steinem's Op-Ed.

What worries me is that this is kind of article that makes some black women wary of feminism…wary of the sisterhood…because eventually, just give it time, it will all come down to black and white or women and men with black women vanished from the equation.

What worries me is the ease with which Ms. Steinem tossed out the insult of implying that Iowans, when faced with a black male candidate, went with that candidate because they are somehow more comfortable with black male leadership than female leadership. It begs the question how John Edwards failed to win by a landslide.

What worries me is that the author is frustrated that Obama hasn’t been accused of playing the race card for his civil rights references and feels that Hillary is getting a raw deal when she gets accused of playing the gender card. Let’s keep it real…Steinem is just frustrated about that race card because a black man is supposed to get called on that shit and she didn’t give permission for any rule change.

What worries me is the patronizing tone with which Steinem dismisses the choices of young women voters. Is it any wonder that young women pause before embracing the feminist movement? Steinem concludes that young women are not radical yet. Will she conclude the same of black women should Clinton lose South Carolina?

I agree with Ms. Steinem that we have to be able to say that we are supporting her, a woman candidate, "because she would be a great president and because she is a woman."

But we also have to be able to say I’m not supporting her because I’ve evaluated her and examined her resume without being labeled a victim or self hating or not radical enough or not feminist enough or easily dazzled by great oratory skills or more black than woman or just too darn stupid to do what Ms. Steinem thinks we should do.


Yankee T said...

"What country does Gloria live in where race barriers are taken seriously? I’d love to know…shit, maybe I’ll move there."

Pack my suitcase, Bitch, because I'm movin' a wagonload behind you.

Anonymous said...

You know we are spitting tacks about this mess in delux central! WTH is on her mind? Seriously!

Saskia said...

I did some hard thinking after reading the Steinem piece, but I guess my overriding conclusion is that she wrote the op-ed with the goal of promoting Hillary Clinton, not to truly engage in serious analysis of race or gender in politics. Once I let go of the idea that she was really going to share something new or interesting about "caste systems of sex and race" and saw it merely as a highly biased pro-Clinton piece cloaked in some pretensions of critical thinking, I was less bothered by it, somehow, but still disappointed.

I write this, by the way, as someone who still hasn't made up her mind about how to vote: Clinton or Obama?

Anonymous said...

THANK YOU!!!!!!! I read that piece, and then keep seeing it linked here and there in the feminist blogosphere, and it's been rubbing me RAW.

Yes--you are right on--and thank you for saying every last word.

Anonymiss said...

Well, she is a White feminist (you pretty much summed up their history & relations with women of color), so I don't expect her to understand race. They have selfish & exclusive attitudes & she created a caste system in her argument. I don't know how she could say that she wasn't trying to.

Her 2nd reason for supporting Hill is cuz she's a woman? SMH. Emotion should never trump logic.

Anonymous said...

I've been reading your blog for a while now and I just had to write and tell you that I really appreciate your comments. They're fantastic. Please keep up the good work.

ps: I understand you like cranberry juice. But I prefer a bit of the khalua with my vodka.

Unknown said...

Right-fucking-on Shark Fu. I have nothing to add to your assessment.

Anonymous said...

The women of New Hampshire had their own opinion...

Anonymous said...

I love you Shark-Fu!

More than any other blogger, and there's a whole slew of 'em out there, you keep it real. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Blackamazon said...

Thank you thank you so much thank you thank you

Anonymous said...

Thank you AngryBlackBitch for this. It's 2008 and tons of critiques have been written by women of color about how myopic the predominantly, White, Western, materially privileged feminist movement has been. It all seems to continue to fall on deaf ears.

Anonymous said...

Fuck yes. Thank you.

Where was all the feminist outrage over Carol Moseley Braun? Steinem proved her own point by not coming out with op-eds to support a black woman candidate, eh?

Anonymous said...

Thank you for breaking down Gloria's bullshit!

I minored in "women's studies" in college, and talk about a joke! A bunch of white women complaining and playing the victim/martyr. Maybe women needed that catharsis 30 or 40 years ago, but not today.

Feminism needs to be remade for modern times, cause Gloria's version of it is getting quite musty!

Akkire said...

i just found this site. i am a beginner in discussing race and gender, so bear with me.

saskia seems to have summed up the point of this op-ed piece well. Steinem is more trying to address why Hillary hadn't shown an emotional side in the race, why she has to be so careful about using her gender, etc...which, if she were Carol Mosley Braun from 2004, would be the same issues any woman would face, regardless of race, right? or am I being as niave and entitled as Steinem to think race can just be set aside in that statement?

but no one can read a Steinem piece without thinking she's going to "represent" for the feminist movement. does anyone really feel like a white woman CAN incorporate the black woman perspective into their stances, honestly? and not leaving out in a malevolent way, but more by not usually having the right "tools" - perspective, experiences, language, etc...In this case, I would be hurt to see such a leader as Steinem categorized as not having the tools when it would be expected she'd know more.

I don't think i know enough from the past to know how black women were more disadvantaged by the suffrage movement, but I'd like to learn.

Amanda Marcotte said...

I'm somewhat amazed that Steinem is the one who issues the myopic op-ed on this issue, since she has a long history of trying to forefront black women in the feminist movement. There was a period of time when she wouldn't accept a speaking engagement without sharing the stage and time equally with a black feminist.

Anonymous said...

Point of order: Steinem worked extensively on behalf of the Braun campaign when Carol made her senatorial and then presidential nomination campaign runs, including trips and speeches in Chicago. I will go to the polls on Feb 5th and vote for the candidate of my choice because I believe her or she is the best choice to lead the country. But I'll wear my "Senator Carol Moseley Braun" button when I do so.

Couple aphorisms for your consideration I have heard over the years: "Whereas men become more conservative as they age, women become more liberal." And "Feminism? Who has time for feminism?"

Was the suffragette movement born of disenfranchised poor women who finally stood up and said "enough"? Or from the female elite who decided they were really ticked off that their lives of privilege didn't extend to voting, as it did for their dissolute brothers? That is NOT to say these women did not suffer for their stances - they did, some of them horribly or unto death.

In any event, the issue should not be race versus gender versus class, but who is the most qualified to lead? Unfortunately, the politics of divisiveness seem to be ruling the day, as always.

Unknown said...

You're right. The editorial was one big embarrassing collection of every mistake the feminist movement made over the years. Cutting people in half by forcing them to privilege gender over everything else. Engaging in the oppression Olympics. Thinking getting the vote means getting the vote. Thinking that racism and sexism function in exactly the same way. Not noticing that there are more female Senators right now than black Senators ever - and not in a way thats proportional to population. Accusing the younger generation of doing it all wrong. And on, and on, and on.

midwesterntransport said...

This is an awesome, awesome post.

Part of what grated me about her article was that it seemed so disingenuous. She was pretending to acknowledge other issues while really just saying, "You should vote for Clinton because she's a woman and oh yes, gender trumps race."

Anyway, I'm loving your post. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this post. The Steinem piece made me really uncomfortable - so unnecessarily stupid and such an exemplar of all the things women of color have complained about re: white feminists denying intersectionality, etc., etc.

mr_subjunctive said...

You're not invisible to me, Shark-fu.

Mnemosyne said...

What worries me is that the author is frustrated that Obama hasn’t been accused of playing the race card for his civil rights references and feels that Hillary is getting a raw deal when she gets accused of playing the gender card. Let’s keep it real…Steinem is just frustrated about that race card because a black man is supposed to get called on that shit and she didn’t give permission for any rule change.

You know, I'm white, but I think you hit it right here. And, frankly, for her to even imply that means she has to ignore pretty much all of the commentary about Obama that's happened so far. He hasn't exactly gotten a free pass from the media.

Anonymous said...

I've been forwarding this post to all my co-workers and friends. I think you hit it right on the head. Thank you (again) for addressing this!

secondhandsally said...

Thank you for writing this. I agreed with the Steinem article without thinking about it. Reading this made me think about it and re-examine my feelings/thoughts.

Anonymous said...

Thank you! I felt insulted and disrespected by her Op-Ed. I for one attended one of the seven sisters, never claimed then nor will I now claim to be a feminist.

Unknown said...

And white feminists have the gall to wonder why young women of color don't call themselves feminist?

This is the same kinda shit that goes on in the "gay movement" when they do the Oppression Olympics (with "sexual orientation" taking the place of "gender").

Neither movement will survive if they keep forcibly ignoring the existence of those of us who are the targets of multiple isms. We have a unique perspective *because* we exemplify these intersections.

I'm disgusted, but not really surprised.

Anonymous said...

I don't know if Steinem is more clueless or careless or "of a certain age". She's a professional writer. And I am not, but I could think of a way to analyze the issue with less offense. This is how I would have approached it.

"Despite conventional wisdom, gender may have a thicker glass ceiling than race in the highest reaches of American electoral politics." (debatable - np)

(yadayada, if you want)

"A male presidential candidate, of whatever race, is still seen as the defender of his own family, and thus capable of starting the war machine to defend the American family. Women aren't supposed to push The Button, or even pick up a combat rifle, in this culture. White women and black men may face overlapping challenges in convincing voters of their competence in other matters, but in the current time of war, a female presidential candidate will face a unique electoral challenge in asserting the ability to be Commander-in-Chief".

There have been a fair number of excellent takes on Gloria's Gaffe - thanks Shark-fu for highlighting it.

btw, c. of a bap, would you describe yourself as "womanist"?


Anonymous said...

I'm a white feminist and even I felt dismissed by Steinem's piece, because of the point you touched on -- she implied that young women supporting Obama simply weren't "radical" enough. Come on now. Like there's a single radical thing about Hillary "I Voted for the Iraq War" Clinton.

Thanks for this analysis.

Anonymous said...

I am new to your blog, but I will be back more often now. I feel this post described what I was thinking after reading the article, but in a much better way. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

This is totally classic Steinem. I heard her speak at the annual academic sociology conference in 2006, and she did the exact same shit: racism and sexism are interlinked/"women" have it worse than "blacks." She knows she's supposed to give lip service to the fact that women are not all white and blacks are not all men, but what can she do? She's not exactly brave.

I walked out. That's the kind of 30-year time warp I don't need.

rikyrah said...

You post was so on point, ABB.

Thank you.

I guess she just ignored that my father, grandfather, great-grandfather, though, by law in the Constitution HAD the right to vote after the Civil War, it was that silly thing called JIM CROW that prevented Blacks from having LEGALLY FULL CITIZENSHIP UNTIL 1964, which is, what, FORTY FIVE YEARS after women got the right to vote?

There are, what, 9 White Female Governors?

1 Black male Governor.

NEVER a Black Female Governor.

There are what, 15 White Female Senators.

1 Black Male Senator.

Only 1 Black Female Senator.

Who are the biggest beneficiaries of Affirmative Action?

Sure in hell isn't Black folk..


Sorry... but I so do not share any parts of White feminism, cause they ain't thinking about my Black behind.

Hattie said...

I respect Steinem while seeing her as an elitist. I heard her speak years ago and noted that she was trying very hard not to dominate the group of women who had come to hear her, but she had the mic. My feeling was she should just have given her speech and taken questions rather than saying it's your space, your forum, and so on, when, of course, it wasn't. It was that some are more equal than others thing. Oh, and she called herself the feminist who was "the pretty one," making a joke out of it, but still...
But I recall that when she and her kind came on the scene there was nothing for feminists, although there were plenty of brave women in the civil rights movement. That has certainly changed.
Anyway, Shark Fu, like you I want the race kept open, so I'm glad Hillary Clinton has won this one.

Lesboprof said...

Shark-fu, i am with you! That piece was the worst kind of claptrap, straight out of the suffrage fight. I am so disappointed in Steinem, I hardly know what to do.

Thanks for the wonderful critique.

Frogspond said...

My wife, who got her dual Masters in African American and Women’s history gave me quite an education a few years ago when she was writing her final papers. One of her papers was contrasting the White and Black movements for women’s suffrage in the 1920’s and how they were both basically saying the same thing but the White women wouldn’t let the Black women in. (I am paraphrasing badly PurpleFeminist so don’t beat me when you get here next week) Her other paper was on the radical feminist movement in the early 1970’s.

In the 1920’s god forbid the mostly wealthy white women let the black women in because after all where would they get the servants from? In the 1970’s all the patriarchy had to do was utter one itty bitty little word and Gloria baby and all her buddies went running to the hills screaming. That little word…


That is all that had to be said and the whole movement fell apart. One little word.




So, to sum up, I have little respect for Gloria baby. I understand that she was a trailblazer and that she did good stuff but I, as a DYKE, can’t help but feel left out in the cold because she couldn’t get the movement to ignore a word and keep going. How much more respect did I just lose with this op-ed missing the point and ignoring so many issues.

Radical Reminders said...

Shark-fu, i'm so so glad you wrote this. In general, i love your posts but this one especially did a great job illustrating the ongoing discrimination within the feminist movement. we aren't perfect and it's important to point out flaws as they come up because that's what will encourage the movement to progress.

FYI, I actually linked to your post on feministing.com because they also wrote about Steinem's piece... i wanted to make sure the readers saw what you had to say because it was so well put.

Anonymous said...

Hattie, I disagree with you - "But I recall that when she and her kind came on the scene there was nothing for feminists, although there were plenty of brave women in the civil rights movement." This centers white women as the "original feminists" and disregards much of women of color's history of struggle.

Awesome response, ABB.


Anonymous said...

Re: 1) This is the same kinda shit that goes on in the "gay movement" when they do the Oppression Olympics (with "sexual orientation" taking the place of "gender").


2) In the 1970’s all the patriarchy had to do was utter one itty bitty little word and Gloria baby and all her buddies went running to the hills screaming. That little word…


To be fair and honest, it cuts both ways:

To this day, there's a hard-core conspiracy of silence in the black community about the VERY EXISTENCE of black gays and lesbians. But the Down Low is quite, quite real, despite their worst head-in-the-sand efforts.

When the King family dared belatedly come out in favor of gays in the 1990s -- several years after their black gay friend and colleague, Bayard Rustin, passed away -- they got shat on big-time by their not-so-loving homophobic brothers and sisters. (And need I mention how gay and black civil rights pioneers got shoved to one side, and still are even decades after their deaths?)

Bette said...

Thank you for articulating so well where Steinem went wrong. I was saddened after reading her op-ed, but all I could do was write about it in a smart-ass way. You wrote about it in a smart way. Well done.

seitzk said...

You rock so hard, Shark-fu!!!!!

Anonymous said...

Mr. Steinem just gets it completely wrong when she attempts to suggest that the obstacles faced by a Caucasian female candidate are somehow far greater than those faced by an African American in the American electoral system.

A simple look at the composition of the United States Senate would give her a rather rapid reality check. Currently, there are sixteen female Senators representing a rather broad range of ideology and a diverse mix of states. One African American currently serves in the Senate.

Obviously, a ratio of 16 to 1 is not exactly demonstrative of African American men "ascend[ing] to positions of power . . . before any women."

Indeed, when one remembers that voters have elected only 3 African Americans to the Senate in the entire history of the republic and compares that number to the 16 female Senators in this Congress alone, Ms. Steinem's complaint becomes almost ridiculous.

Nor is the disparity limited to positions viewed by voters as legislative rather than executive. Currently, there are 8 Caucasian females and 1 African American male serving as governors of their states. And again, the 8 females serving today greatly outnumber the 2 African American males elected since Reconstruction.

Racism and sexism both exist in our society to a far greater degree than is acceptable. Yet Ms. Steinem's attempt to paint Senator Clinton as the victim of the more powerful evil is contrary to any quantifiable measure.

I understand and almost admire the chutzpah of her political tactic of portraying Senator Clinton as the plucky underdog facing monolithic odds due to unfounded stereotypes (much of America does love an underdog). It is her bad luck, however, that Senator Clinton faces a candidate who has had a far steeper hill to climb and faces far more pervasive and lasting discriminatory attitudes.

In attempting to come to the aid of her friend with the premise that sexism trumps racism, Steinem does a real disservice -- both to honesty and the cause of feminism.

It is a shame that she would be so crassly political as to diminish a life's work for equality in order to plug a single political candidate.

Anonymous said...

Thank you!
This is the only response I've read to the misguided Steinem piece.
Here's the best part:

"What worries me is the ease with which Ms. Steinem tossed out the insult of implying that Iowans, when faced with a black male candidate, went with that candidate because they are somehow more comfortable with black male leadership than female leadership. It begs the question how John Edwards failed to win by a landslide."

Absolutely correct!
I'm a white male & wish with all my heart that Sen. Obama will be elected.
The funny thing is I've been thinking about Steinem lately because I'm old enough to remember her old prediction that the U.S. would elect a black man as President before a white woman. She was (then) pointing out how entrenched sexism was/is. I'm just looking for a qualified candidate who can bring the country together, rather than divide it further. I believe that candidate is Barack Obama.

Anonymous said...

Your assessment on Gloria Steinem's article is the best I've seen so far...It points out all that is wrong with what she has said. Divide and conquer indeed...

Wendi Muse said...

awesome commentary. well said :-)

Bashir said...

Couldn't agree more.

When reading Steinem I can't help but feel her real desire is for white men to finally let white women co-lead.

Kind of hits down in the pit of ones stomach.

cowboyangel said...

An excellent post. Both powerful and poignant. I linked to it from my own blog.

Glad I came across your blog.

Anonymous said...

Again you say what needs to be said. For those who need the history lesson, check out When and Where I Enter by Paula Giddings which discusses how Susan B Anthony opposed blacks, native americans (described as "blanketed Indians") and the lower classes having the vote before white women had the vote which resulted in a lot of conflict with Frederick Douglass.
Her bio on About:com states:
She sometimes argued that educated white women would be better voters than "ignorant" black men or immigrant men.In the late 1860s she even portrayed the vote of freedmen as threatening the safety of white women.
So, if you are wondering where the schism comes from, check your history.

Anonymous said...

I think your assessment of "When I consider Steinem's words, so why is the sex barrier not taken as seriously as a racial one, I'm left confused. What country does Gloria live in where race barriers are taken seriously? I'm a black woman and this is America and none of my barriers are given more than a token consideration" is maybe forgetting a few things. African Americans have lots of legislation protecting their rights and assuring them equality such as Affirmative Action, the Civil Rights Act, etc etc. Women have... well, the 19th Amendment. The right to vote and that's practically it. We didn't get the ERA or anything like that. So, in respect to a country that takes barriers more seriously, I think the legislation speaks for itself don't you? None of it is great of course, but women seem to be lagging behind in terms of the token considerations that you refer to.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous, the fact that laws protecting civil rights have passed by no means automatically means that are properly enforced.

Also, you are aware that the largest group of beneficiaries of affirmative action has consistently been white women, right?

Anonymous said...

Comments on the Steinem piece show the merits of a moderated blog. The result is a real discussion among women, each coming from our own experience.

I am a feminist who sees Steinem as a skilled navigator of the political world in which she has long made her living. That's why she has access to the op-ed page of the New York Times and radical feminists who might put forward ideas that really challenge men's class dominance are censored. What Steinem's article chiefly does is get women arguing with each other, always a useful distraction to concentrating on their common cause.

Previous comments have cited the racist rhetoric used by Susan B. Anthony and highlighted by Paula Giddings in her history. Since no historian can tell it all, a reading of Kathleen Barry's "Susan B. Anthony: Biography of a Singular Feminist" (1988) enhances understanding of her personal attitudes and actions as well as the political climate (and the machinations of male abolitionists), throughout her activist lifetime. With no criticism of Giddings's accuracy implied, there is a tendency to confuse the public statements of Anthony with those of her co-activist Elizabeth Cady Stanton. Unlike Anthony whose family approved of her work, Stanton was a daddy's girl whose resulting sense of entitlement survived the shock of her father's total opposition to her determination to act on the insights learned in his law office about discrimination against women. While her feminist analysis was both broader and bolder than Anthony's, her indignation at the exclusion of women too often found expression in invidious comparisons.

There is no argument however with the fact that the suffragist (not "suffragette") leadership of black women was generally undervalued, snubbed, or ignored by the white leadership of the movement. And it is fair to say that mainstream feminist organizations, despite some gestures of inclusion, have continued this stupid or cowardly behavior.

Still, it is instructive to recognize the sad political reality that, while Frederick Douglass asserted his male authority to persuade the Seneca Falls Convention to pass Elizabeth Cady Stanton's suffrage resolution in 1848, Douglass understandably chose to go along with the white male liberal abolitionists in drafting the 14th Amendment to confine its guarantee of equal protection of the law to men and deny it to women. This left formerly enslaved women with putative rights only against racial discrimination, but no protection against sex discrimination (the same vexed position that will apply to lesbian women if men use their 14th Amendment rights to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation - rather than advocating for an amendment prohibiting sex discrimination, correctly defined to include sexual orientation discrimination.)
There is no reason to assume that the subsequent institutionalized racist oppression would have been any less if women's 14th Amendment rights had been constitutionally acknowledged, given social class identification and men's overwhelming power to dictate policy and opinion.

Apologies for this long post, but my purpose is to point out that the destructive cross-cutting of race and sex as bases for discrimination has a very long and constitutionally established history.

What I wish that this discussion would acknowledge, however, is that every type of discrimination is treated as important except one because, however imperfectly, men can see harm to men. Where the class subject to discrimination is women - with sexual exploitation (prostitution and pornography) and pregnancy discrimination including barriers to abortion, as prime examples - men see no serious harm, if any. To the contrary, sex (not "gender") discrimination is like any other form of discrimination - it exists because it pays off for those with the power to impose it. If that sounds like Steinem, I wish that she could have said it more clearly without the partisan overtones. Just listen to which subject gets more attention from pundits.

Although the statistical disparities in black vs. female officeholders are interesting, I think that liberal men (who often refer in the same breath to Senator Obama and Mrs. Clinton) feel virtuous about voting for a man who is 50% black but is undeniably 100% male to elevating to the presidency someone (never mind who) who is 100% female. As for women voters, this would not be the first time (e.g. polling on the Equal Rights Amendment) when many women won points with Fang by expressing a judicious rejection of a particular woman or women's issue while taking feminist-won advances in status as their due.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

since i read steinem's op-ed a few days ago, i've been speechless.. not being able to gather all of my thoughts and feelings about it. some friends of mine and i have been going back and forth via email basically saying, "i... uh.. did she just say... uh.. wha!?.. i can't believe this.. wha?!" but you've just said EXACTLY what i've been thinking and feeling.. and you've said it perfectly! i hope ms. steinem reads this!

alyceclover said...

I would vote for Cynthia McKinney for President because she best exemplifies my own moral and political values. That would take care of both the gender and race barrier with one vote.

Steinem's article comment: "she cried out my frustrations" about Ms. Clintons "I work so hard and I want what is best for the country". She shed no tears for the Iraqi mother who has some real frustrating things being thrust upon her.

"...injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere."

I think it might be normal for a person to write from the perspective of their reality. I think Steinem writes from angry rich white bitch perspective, that I can not relate to.

Michelle Obama is broke some glass ceilings and I much prefer her as First Lady than Bill, known liar and cheat, as First Man.

The win in Iowa for Obama gave me hope, except that more Republicans went out to caucus than Democrats. Hillary, of course, does not talk about her Republican past and being a "Goldwater girl". Goldwater, I understand was opposed to integration in the south.

Yet, Ms. Clinton disses Obama, who was, what? two years old because he did not participate in MLK marches?

dfisher said...

Thank you for this.

Anonymous said...

I know I'm really late with posting about this, but I'm going to anyway.

Shark-Fu, I appreciate your thoughtful comments on Steinem's piece. I'm an African American woman/feminist and I'm well aware of the history of white feminists throwing Black women and other women of color under the bus. But I wasn't offended by Steinem's op-ed. I agree with her that gender-baiting is being done much harder and more frequently in the campaign so far than use of the "race card" (and I think the whole MLK/LBJ "controversy" was media-created and a complete nonstarter. But that's another post for another time...).

Pundits and straight-up haters have no problem going after Hillary, esp. after her almost-crying moment in N.H. She was either being weak or calculating; either way she couldn't win. And the recent Washington Post cartoon that Pat Oliphant drew about Hillary was seethingly sexist. And let's not forget the woman (yes, the woman) at the McCain rally a few months back who ask him how do we beat "the bitch?" No one, except for Rush Limbaugh, has even come close to going there with Obama.

Yes, Gloria was techncially right that Black men got the right to vote before white women, but did not elaborate that poll taxes, obstruction, intimidation and death threats rendered the move meaningless. She also didn't mention how Black women were shunted in the suffrage movement (and later in the women's liberation movement). Those are glaring omissions. However, Steinem didn't write that sexism is more important than racism. From the op-ed:

I’m not advocating a competition for who has it toughest. The caste systems of sex and race are interdependent and can only be uprooted together... The abolition and suffrage movements progressed when united and were damaged by division; we should remember that.

I'm not an Obama nor a Clinton supporter, but I do feel that Hillary has been getting a raw deal from the media and frankly many female Democrats and so-called feminists (I know some of them personally) who should know better, even if they're not going to vote for her. Peace.

Shark-Fu said...

Thanks for commenting and adding your voice to this discussion.

I disagree. I've re-read Steinem's piece several times and the paragraph you quoted reads like the author was aware of what she was doing and trying to position it as something else...a wee bit "I'm not a snob, but..." in my eyes.

Having said that, gender is of issue in this campaign. I happen to think Senator Clinton has handled a lot of that extremely well and some of it not so well.

Race is of issue in this campaign. I happen to think the Democratic candidates have handled a some of that well and some of it with less style than a 5th grader running for class hall monitor.

Steinem chose to compare and contrast race with gender rather than explore the way gender is being used in the campaign and then she chose to frame not voting for Senator Clinton as not "getting it" on a feminist theory tip.

I found that offensive but the beauty of the written word is that everyone can form their own opinion.

Blessed be.

Lelly said...

Thanks for the excellent discussion.
I add my voice as an older, Jewish American, mainly middle-class woman who got active in radical feminism before Gloria Steinem came on the scene as a reporter covering feminism and then suddenly was anointed as a "leader" and icon of feminism. Yes, she has been prominent since then as a feminist, and yes she has done some good things as well as problematic things, but no, she does not equal feminism, and no she does not equal white feminism. Feminism belongs to people from every walk of life, and it has always taken many different forms in many different communities.
Among people who would be considered white feminist, there is a range of commitment to and consciousness concerning the struggle against racism and the struggle against other forms of inequality/oppression. And there is a range of understanding of how interconnected these struggles are.
It pains me that Gloria Steinem still could write what she did, pitting anti-racist struggles against anti-sexist struggles and pitting younger against older feminists. What can we do other than keep working for social justice, connecting those struggles, and building bridges to a better future. Thank you for your parts in that ever-continuing process.

Anonymous said...

I was watching Saddlebrook last night, and I was just wondering if you were proud when your candidate said how he thought marriage (and by extension family) was only between a man and a woman. Did it make you feel giddy to watch all those fundamentalist male folk represent you so well? Not a woman or humanist in sight. Why does Patriarchy and watching men discuss babies and abortion go down so much better with a little melanin? Gosh, good to know sisters like you are out there to attack true evil like
Gloria Steinem who has spent her life working for all the disenfranchised. I feel so much less sexually abused and pushed out of graduate school. Goodness, even Chris Rock will tell you the least oppressed people on earth are those inbred, racist Appalachians who mine your coal and fight with your beloved fathers and brothers in every war. I am so happy to know my Appalachian ass can go back to those priveleged mines for all you Black Male Supporters care. Honestly, what about the planet? He takes money from Nuclear Power Pacs. What about the children? Why do all those all abrahamic, fundamentalists want to go talking about babies and raising children and birth control for? It's never had anything to do with them. Do you really not care if anyone of any other intersection is put down or disenfranchised as long as somebody part Black is president, no matter what sort of mockery he makes of suffrage. You do realize the fundamentalists don't care what color their bitches are? You do get that right? Remember Tawana Brawley. Remember Carly Brugia. Forgive my spelling, but how priveleged were these girls? How invisible are they to your candidate? You are not invisible to me SharkFu. Why are the 6 billion people on this bright blue ball who need a feminist revolution invisible to you? Big Daddy Church and Corporate Board is everywhere, stop working for them, please. They have taken over the churches, the media, the government. We must stop the infighting or we will never be free. Blesses Be.

Shark-Fu said...


You lost me with that melanin crack.

Very telling, m'dear.

The thing is Liz you don't give a flying shit what I think or why I think it.

Nope, you can't hear anything but the never ending whirl of your revised reality buzzing with perpetual motion in your head.

Keep your blessings...I have no use for them.

Anonymous said...

I do care what you think. I appreciate a person who tells the Truth. I heard you on NPR and sought out your webpage, because of the things you said. My point is besides the melanin, what does Obama have to do with any woman trying to raise kids and make it in this very hard world. I could use any blessings anybody has out there so if you don't need them send them my way. I know you care about LGBT issues, I know you care about women and poverty. So how come you support this super rich, fundamentalist, antiunion patriarchal jerk who rigs elections. You say I don't care about racism. This is completely untrue. I am just looking forward to a world where humans and democracy and clean air are more important than what the conmen are running in the pulpit. I honestly wanted to know for someone who supports Obama, how do you swallow the "Father God" and faith based crap and the homophobia. I don't want to vote for McCain. I can't vote for any fundamentalist man. I can't seem to get anyone else in the country interested in Cynthia McKinney, whom I think would be fantastic. So honestly, how do you swallow and vote for somebody who doesn't see women: Doesn't think gays should have the same rights as other people: Doesn't think it is important to count votes. How do you watch all the men get together and talk about what the girls should do with their bodies. I am trying to understand. From my perspective there is nothing in either the Democratic or Republican parties that is defensible. I have clearly made you angry. I apologize. Anger is good, I know, that is one of the things I like about you is how you hold your anger up proud. Blessings anyway. Just trying to have a voice since donna brazille and howard dean stole my vote. Makes me angry. I apologize for saying something stupid. Lots and lots of blessings. The God/dess loves you and your beautiful anger.

Anonymous said...

Elizabeth are you ACTUALLY being serious with that load of tripe?!! White women have been supporting and championing countless worthless,sleazy,underhanded white males and voting them into office for a loooooong time now. And what is Mr. Obama supposed to be Jesus now?!! Or were YOU asking these SAME questions when it was Carter,Mondale,Dukakis,Clinton,Gore,Kerry,and John Edwards take a look at their track record when it comes to voting and helping ANYONE who wasn't white and male and then tell me if THEY deserved the accolades they got from blacks and the feminists. Cause I seriously doubt it and you sound exactly like those whiny,privileged harpies acting like he can't do it like a white male can and god forbid we let one of THOSE folks in. You are JUST AS BAD as the people who you claim 'opress you too'!!

Anonymous said...

It's amazing how the feminist movement has had the power all these years to enforce Jim Crow, keep African-Americans out of government and even nominate sleazy old white guys over everybody else every four years. Why don't you just admit you don't want any part of anything to do with white women and get it over with. Because saying that you can't be a feminist just because some feminist women still have -isms to get over is like saying you can't be Christian because Catholics oppose contraception and you don't.

Black people start their own churches all the damn time. They surely understand the concept that there are many ways to be Christian. Why the HELL can't they, therefore, extrapolate this to figure out there are lots of ways to be feminist?

Except... many of them can. Just not folks like you, for some reason I can't fathom.

But yes. Steinem's right. And you know something else? One of the big deals holding back the racial equality movement IS SEXISM. In your own ranks. It's one of the things tripping you up. That is true of ANY ethnic group "of color." The guys spend so much time beating up "their" women that they don't have the time to tackle their actual problems like, oh, the disproportionate number of African-Americans in prison or at the mercy of bad landlords or followed around in department stores because "they might steal something" or whatever.

You think it's white feminists' idea that black women are the most ignored and neglected of all (outside of Native Americans, that is--oh wait, let's just forget about them)? Fuck no. But you want to act like it is. Why is that?

I hate the Democrats for pitting a white woman against a black man. And you and I both fell for it. Hook, line, and sinker. But I'm also not forgetting that it's OK for black people to vote for one of "their own" but not for white women to do the same. You know, OK, we didn't have it near as bad as you did... but white men put their names on us too. Owned our children too. And our labor. For a long damn time. And we're still being owned. And used. And used up. And cut up. And left for dead.

Either we hang together, or rest assuredly we shall all hang separately. Oh wait, a white guy said that. Never mind.

Anonymous said...

Look black, white, pink or purple we are women and this is America. Obama is black and white. His mother is a white woman. All this black and white thing is irrelavant. We have black history month, Martin Luther Kings Day, Black college fund. You know if white people had white history month and a white college fund the would be racists. So we have our fair share NAACP? They are nation wide and public. Come on now If the KKK was public and defended white people openly as does the NAACP they would be arrested for being racists. WE have the upper hand let it lay to rest. For crying out loud it is 2009 not 1900. Get over it.

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