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.
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