1.08.2008

Is it sexist if I say I want to have Gloria Steinem's baby?

This whole Hillary/Obama thing is kicking my ass.

I've been having conversations with friends and family about who I'm supporting and why. I got called into a special "invitation only" meeting with a Pulitzer Prize winning Harvard professor who explained why I should support Obama. And I feel really pulled, like there's too much at stake no matter what choice I make.

This campaign is triggering a lot of old neural paths in my brain--like, it's reminding me of 19th c. feminist and abolitionist activism, when some white women (like Susan B. Anthony) said that gender trumped race, and that they weren't going to advocate for civil rights or the 15th Amendment because they were more concerned with (white) women getting the vote than black men. Or even more insidious, the white feminist activists of the late 19th and early 20th c. who supported overt racism (not speaking out about the atrocity of lynchings, for instance) in order to keep from alienating Southern white women.

I don't want to be those sell-out racist white women. I want to be Ida B. Wells, not Frances Willard.

And yet I find that my gut is really with Hillary. Not because I love her politics (although those politics are infinitely better than the current administration--perhaps that goes without saying), but mostly because she's a woman.

Every attack she receives, every time she's vilified in sexist ways (as having a "shrill" voice or having to struggle to keep her emotions in check), something inside me stands up taller and rallies to her defense.

In Gloria Steinem's op-ed piece in today's New York Times, she claims that "gender is probably the most restricting force in American life." As my friend Claire points out, this is an easy thing to say if you're a white woman--but it's a weighty statement that resonates with my white womanly self. Steinem goes on to say,

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.
Every sexist comment on Hillary Clinton makes me want her to be elected that much more. Because one way to change the impossible double bind that faces powerful women--that they have to be assertive enough to be taken seriously, but submissive enough to be seen as appropriately feminine--is to have enough women in positions of power that those ridiculous stereotypes are recognized as ridiculous stereotypes.

I'm not finished with these thoughts, but as I was writing this, Live 5 news called and asked me to be the guest on a Talk Back segment on--you guessed it--how Hillary Clinton's gender is affecting her public perception. So now I have to go get ready.

4 comments:

Margaret said...

oh my gosh your blog is so sexy now! also, yeah, right on, when are you going to be on the news? i will return soon to blogging (about hrc and my teachers) after deadline this week :)

Pam said...

I am so with you on this. On Monday, when Hillary was being bashed - with the media running repeatedly that 15 second clip of her 'emotional' moment, it made me want to support her until the very last minute, which I hope will be when she takes the oath of office. As I watch her, I am so grateful that she is standing tall and moving forward. Her treatment on Monday, and throughout the day on Tuesday - and even the absolute surprise on 'why' she won when the polls suggested otherwise - demonstrates how little confidence people have in women and their vote. I loved Gloria Steinem's editorial, thank God she said those things. I think she was right on target.

I feel like I'm standing taller too.

Syd said...

I'm torn between Hillary and Obama. I like Hillary and appreciate her strength and also like the idea that Bill would be "first man" and part of her team. But I wonder if she is electable. And I wonder the same thing about Obama. I don't think that he will win the South, except maybe Florida (which I don't think of as being in the South). So it's a dilemma for me as I want a Dem. president that is electable.

jaz said...

I like Barack a lot. But I would not be sad to see Hillary in office either.