Saturday, May 31, 2008

A Rant

So, let me get this straight--Sen. Obama is a Muslim-racist Christian-sleeper agent-opportunist while Sen. Clinton is a strong fighter who is being bullied by the big bad white males of America. You know what? Fuck the Democratic Party. They deserve what they get at this point. If a party can't win the White House after two terms of George Motherfucking Bush and a war that nearly everyone in America hates then they deserve it. This election was supposed to be a cakewalk. Things were supposed to change. And all I see is the same bloody stupid and selfish tactics of Karl Rove played out by the 'leader' of feminism. I've had it with the baby boomers and their selfishness. I've had it with the old people who protested in the 60s and 70s and expect us to bow down before them. If the Gore-Bush election didn't turn younger generations off of politics, then Sen. Clinton will. That's for damn sure. Sen. Clinton will lose this election--badly. Why? Because the old Republican machine Rove build will swing into action and everything the Clintons did wrong in the 90s will get 24/7 coverage. What? You thought that wouldn't happen? You thought the Republicans would just play nice and forget all about that? And you think the Republicans won't start digging into the last eight years of the Clinton's lives? This is what happens when you let white people decide everything. We had the chance to elect the first black leader of a Western industrialized nation that just so happens to also have the most powerful military arsenal in the world. But no, that wasn't good enough for the spineless Whitey Democrats. So fuck the Democratic Party for throwing away the one chance to actually do something different, to do something good for this nation. The baby boomers are holding on to their power as hard as they can. It's going to be one hell of a sledgehammer to their precious little heads when their baby boomer leaders start dying off and we come to power. This is what happens when you resist change, particularly historical change. Simply put, you can't and if you try then the worse it will be for you when things do change. So get ready baby boomers. Get ready oh feminists of the 60s. Get ready Sharpton and Jackson. Because you are all first against the wall and it's your own damn fault.

Sexism v. Racism: A Response

My friend Adrienne sent me a response to my latest posts on sexism and racism in America and naturally makes some points I hadn't really thought about. Here's the text of her email and my response follows below:

re: that, I think you should try again in comparing American racism and American sexism in your own head. I'm NOT SAYING that you were wrong to "choose" the former as ultimately worse than the latter, I'm just wondering if you're able to see that there is, perhaps, a case that they're potentially equal, or even that sexism might be worse? "Rape and harassment and abuse" is not the full extent of it, just as "slavery and lynching" isn't the full extent of the black American experience throughout history [although, are you really thinking about how the very existence of rape and harassment constricts womens' ability to live and act freely? I mean, this is no small thing].

Think of segregation, of the lack of opportunities and acceptable life roles and choices; think of the increased burden that women have had to carry due to having children and a career, or due to their potential partners being in prison (i.e., factor in the Drug War). Factor in how you're treated on the street and in your own house, emotional manipulation subtle and not-so-subtle, forced (implicitly or explicitly) child-bearing (or hidden abortions), the glass ceiling, the cruel inner-city living experience. Of being told that you are less capable of achieving than a white man because of your biology (again, women and blacks got this message for a loooong time). These are a few of the things to consider in the context of the black American experience and the female American experience. There's a lot more.

I'm just saying, I don't think it's as clear cut as you want it to be.
Unfortunately, Adrienne is right to say that the differences in sexism and racism are not as clear cut as I make them out as. They are a difference of degree, not in kind. And to add an extra layer of nuance, racism tends to run tandem with class issues as the Jim Crow laws affected not only blacks in the South but poor whites as well. My issue with the way sexism has been talked about throughout this year's electoral campaign is that many of the old guard feminists have attempted to make sexism morally equivalent to racism at the cost of those who are still fighting against racism. It isn't that women have had it easier than blacks or other minority, but they have faced less physical and mental violence, particularly white women. Moreover, women who understand where second-wave feminism went wrong look more towards gender equality versus biological equality. The issue is not so much proving that women can physically do what men can but realigning gender roles that impose certain expectations on men to act a certain way towards women as much as women are expected to accept such treatment.
What has happened is the turning of the feminist movement in the direction that the civil rights movement took once their great leaders fell. Americans don't like to talk about sexism, hate to talk about racism and class issues are almost anathema in our current political discourse. So we (especially white males) ignore these issues as much as we can. And the generation leaders after the initial movement in the 60s and 70s have become as, if not more, concerned with their influence as they are with advancing their causes. Women, just as blacks do, need new leaders not of the previous victimized baby boomers. Women no longer need leaders like Gloria Steinem or Betty Friedan for the simple reason that third-wave feminists have rejected the radicalism of Steinem or Friedan. Perhaps if someone like the late Ann Richards were to take the lead, the feminist movement might shed it's radical aura that conservatives have saddled it with.
Another problem with the old guard of feminism is that they still maintain a caucasian-centric middle class perspective when feminism itself must move beyond that. Those women who suffer the most from sexism are generally poor, less educated and often are of a different color. The kind of elitism second-wave feminism brought, while advancing the consciousness of the nation, did not aid in bringing black women into the movement nor advocating for the end of the culture among black communities that so often see single mothers whose fathers are either jailed, dead or allowed to shirk their responsibilities. For second-wave feminists to cry foul at the treatment of a white woman in today's media makes them look less like responsible leaders and more like the knee-jerk black 'leaders' who do little but show up when a scandal happens (think the opportunistic Al Sharpton and the dumb as a bag of hammered dog shit Don Imus).
This is the key difference I see between Sen. Clinton's brand of feminism and Sen. Obama's brand of civil rights. Where Sen. Clinton remains locked in this radicalized form of feminism that younger generations no longer buy into, Sen. Obama has sought to transcend the issues of race but acknowledges that both sides, black and white, must start talking about race before such transcendence can occur. The same conversation must occur between men and women for true gender equality can rise. Men need to know what their gender role is within a gender equal society. Much like the whites who complained that blacks were getting a leg up while they were left behind, the men who witnessed second-wave feminism (particularly those of a conservative cultural-warrior bent) were convinced that second-wave feminists sought the emasculation of masculinity. People tend to operate by inertia and much like Newton's 3rd law of motion, every action is met by an equal and opposite reaction. So while radicalism is sometimes necessary don't act all surprised when you see an equally strong reactionary movement.
Such is the problem the Clinton campaign faces when their supporters cry "sexism". It's true that the Chris Matthews of the world have and will continue to make sexist remarks about Sen. Clinton but to argue that such remarks are against all women ignores the context of Sen. Clinton herself. While not responsible for even half of what is believed about her, Sen. Clinton has given little to sway those who do believe she is an egocentric, self-serving sociopath (as Andrew Sullivan would argue). And her surrogates only worsen the problem by repeating the claims of sexism, becoming increasingly shrill and polemical. Meanwhile, Sen. Obama and his campaign have deftly dealt with accusations of sexism and racism by actually talking about it versus writing an invective op-ed to the Washington Post or the New York Times. It's a case of action versus words and a contemporary man versus a woman of the past.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Sexism v. Racism Pt. 2

'Look What They've Done To Her' - E.J. Dionne Jr. @ Washington Post

Apparently I'm on a bit of a sexist rant today as the stance female supporters of Sen. Clinton have taken completely ignores both what Sen. Clinton has done to electoral politics but also the greater achievement of putting the first black man in the office of the President. Not fifty years after the Civil Rights movement and America has the chance to elect a black president but because some white women are so focused on their own issues we might lose that opportunity. And for who? Sen. Hillary Clinton, the woman who smeared other women who accused her husband of sexual harassment, the woman who played up the race card in states like West Virgina and Kentucky, the woman who will do more to harm the cause of women just for the sake of her own ambition. And who is she doing this against? A black member of her own party, not the old white guy from the other party. Whenever I hear white women complaining about how the media has treated Sen. Clinton I have to remember that: a) the mainstream media is a joke; and b) Sen. Clinton seems more than willing to destroy our chance to have a real world-historical moment by voting a black man into the most powerful office in Western history. To argue that electing Sen. Clinton would be a first for women everywhere completely ignores the likes of Chancellor Merkel and Prime Minister Thatcher; two women who have and had control over two of the most powerful economies in the world. And it just pisses me off that white women in America are so willing to ignore that for Sen. Clinton.

Sexism v. Racism

Limits and Ambitions - Ann @ Feministing

See, I knew Ruth Marcus was full of it when she wrote her op-ed on the 'ambition gap' between men and women in politics. The whole piece just didn't feel right in the sense that I knew there were other, more legitimate explanations than simply that women were not as ambitious as men. But Ann from Feministing nails down what it was that troubled me. Even so, Ann brings up another point that I find troubling: the idea that sexism is just as bad as racism. Yes, I will agree that sexism is bad, particularly in today's media and most of the more serious problems in organized religion come from religious leader's attempts to control sex through women. But, if I recall my American history correctly, 700,000 American lives were not spent on getting women the right to vote. Nor did white American women in the 20th century have to worry about getting lynched among other things. If you want to make the case that sexism is as bad as racism then you have to take it out of a 21st century American context and look at all of world history. But comparing American sexism to American racism not only mitigates the plight not just of blacks but of any minority in America but also overstates the plight of white women in America. Yes, rape and sexual harrassment and abuse are terrible things. But to say that it's worse than what blacks in America have had to go through ignores black history. Of course this comes from a white male third-wave feminist perspective, so take it with as big a grain of salt as you'd like.

Monday, May 26, 2008

White Culture and the Democratic Party

Why Krugman is Wrong - Andrew Sullivan

This interesting post by Sullivan argues against two items in Paul Krugman's latest op-ed on Sen. Clinton and some comparisons she has made throughout her campaign. The two items Sullivan has problems with are Sen. Clinton's comparison of this campaign to that of Robert Kennedy in 1968 and the comparison of her own self as an LBJ to Sen. Obama's MLK. Krugman argues that such comparisons and the resulting charges of tone-deafness on the part of the Clinton campaign are nothing more than manufactured scandals. Sullivan believes Krugman's full of shit, which I agree with, even if I don't think the word scandal is appropriate (stupid and ignorant yes, scandal no).
What makes Sullivan's rebuttal interesting though, is his contention that Sen. Clinton, particularly with the LBJ comparison, is arguing that black and gay Democrats should rally behind her because she is taking the standard line of "you vote for us, we'll take care of you. And "we" is always white and straight and connected." That contention on Sen. Clinton's part is exactly why she is losing large and traditionally loyal parts of the Democratic party to Sen. Obama. It's also why Sen. Obama's supposed gaffe over the bitterness of poor and struggling working class families hits the mark. Sen. Obama understands better than Sen. Clinton that what many Democrats and independents are looking for is not someone who will "take care" of them but someone who will provide the opportunities and incentives to take care of themselves. It's a strange position for a progressive politician such as Sen. Obama to take since it implies a more hands off approach to progressive politics. Yet it makes sense in the type of message Sen. Obama is campaigning on--a message that government can help you but you will have to make some efforts on your part as well. It's the type of message that runs counter to the traditional charge that liberals wish to create a nanny state while maintaining the values that make Sen. Obama liberal.
But more than a shift in approach to pushing liberal values, Sen. Obama's platform of post-partisan change drastically pivots away from the attitude of older Democrats like Sen. Clinton by saying that minority Democrats will no longer have to rely on the white, straight and connected members of the party. Could one consider that a subtle playing of the race card? Perhaps, but I think more than playing the race card, Sen. Obama's message is saying that the race card doesn't matter any more. It's a brilliant positioning of himself against Sen. Clinton. Where any comment that might imply Sen. Obama is using his race against Sen. Clinton comes off as an attack on Sen. Obama's race by Sen. Clinton, the position Sen. Obama has struck makes it difficult for anyone in the Clinton campaign to use the race card in the necessary subtle manner. The typical dog-whistle attacks become obvious almost immediately. And while I still don't think of such attacks as scandals, I do think that they show a grave misunderstanding of the movement Sen. Obama has inspired.
It's that misunderstanding of the approach Sen. Obama has taken that has so harmed the Clinton campaign. The allusion to Robert Kennedy's assassination is only the latest in a long line of comments that fail to undermine Sen. Obama's campaign while making either the Clinton campaign or Sen. Clinton herself look out of place and of a previous generation of politics. Even though Sen. Obama has claimed a massive majority of the black vote it wasn't due to anything Sen. Obama or his campaign did but a response to the ingrained white superiority attitude of the Clinton campaign. Although, I must mention that I don't think Sen. Clinton is bigoted against blacks, but much like the gays of the 1990s, the Clintons and their campaign simply expected the black voters to fall in line. It's an attitude about whiteness that the baby boomer generations have trouble understanding. It's also an attitude that post-boomers lack, or at the very least are far more aware of than the boomers are.