Thursday, August 28, 2008

A Note from the Culture Minister: OMG WTF

Everyone here at the Turner Report (The Queen has graciously deferred to her court in this post, as she's busily working on more for you read today. Forgive her this once!) took a turn sounding off about this post from Racialicious, a response to another post at The Roots.com. This dialogue about feminism, racism and Hillary and Michelle is ongoing in the blogosphere and I felt that it was time for us to tackle it. Do you want to join in? Listen, there, in the distance -- the comments section is calling you!

Since I’m starting off, I’m going to have to quote from the comments section of Racialicious:
Should white feminists be taken to task if they don’t defend Michelle Obama from the misogynistic attacks sure to continue coming her way as the presidential campaign unfolds?

Yes.

It is the moral obligation of feminists of any color (or gender) to call out sexism against any woman of any color. Period.
I would revise that to say, “…to call out sexism against any woman.” Period.

You can’t ignore race. The only person I know who doesn’t see color is Stephen Colbert. Feminism cannot ignore race because it cannot be exclusive – that defeats the very purpose of calling for equality. It’s difficult, but there has to be a willingness to listen to, share and respect a variety of viewpoints, even if they are alien to you and even if you suspect that people around you haven’t done you the same favor. That's how you educate yourself. That's how you learn about the vast expanse of human experience that exists. That's what happens when you, oh, I don't know, read.

You can start by reading Gail Collins' piece (hat tip to the Queen for sharing this with me) in the NY Times yesterday, which will remind you that Hillary and Michelle can share the experience of being first Lady and a mother. And they have been.

All week, however, we’ve been having a long-running and complicated transfer of the first lady mantle from Hillary Clinton to Michelle Obama. “No one has been more gracious and more forthcoming and more helpful to me,” Michelle said at a joint appearance with Hillary on Tuesday.

Do we believe this? People, it doesn’t matter a whit. The Clintons did everything they were supposed to do here and in politics, like so much of life, feelings are irrelevant to everyone except the persons doing the feeling.

Complaints about peoples' literary habits notwithstanding, my point is that feminists attacking each other over who did what, who defended whom and who was left in the patriarchal, misogynist dust is the kind of navel-gazing that makes people stop listening. We should see the ways that feminists can come together by sharing their diversity of experiences with each other openly and respectfully, instead of dividing ourselves internally along any lines we can come up with. Both of these posts fell into the kind of tit-for-tat, us vs. them attitude that makes me cringe. Women can't discount other female experiences because women in general are discounted too much as it is. In order to stand up we have to stand, as Barbara Mikulski said, shoulder to shoulder. And we have to do it in order not to elect someone that *cough* doesn't have women's issues on his agenda.

But that's just my opinion. Who's next?

Fathima agrees:
The first thing that comes to mind is that it’s a vicious chain. We’ll never get anywhere if we keep up the whole…"I’m not inviting her to my birthday party, because she didn’t invite me to hers…” SOMEBODY has to suck it up and defend all women who are being attacked regardless of race… I don’t know who… but somebody.
Gloria took a slightly different route:
How about approaching it from the generational angle? I get the sense that older feminism is largely defined by white females, and women today who feel part of the feminist tradition are resentful and fragmented. But younger women who would consider themselves as feminists, but who are disconnected from the movement feminism, who have not “inherited” what feminism means from older feminists, are crafting their own lens through which to see the world from their own experiences, which are much more multi-ethnic and culturally aware. This new feminism looks quite different from the feminism of older white women, with new focuses such as on body image, and less emphasis on abortion rights.
Pam from our Western office said:
Should anyone be taken to task for their outspoken or even unspoken beliefs? That’s been a major ACLU issue for years, of course, and a hotbed of controversy when it comes to those who defend or refrain from condemning the likes of neo-Nazi’s and others. The bottom line says it all – being at the crossroads of change is always tough, no matter if you’re female, male, black, white or orange. All we can hope for is that the majority of Americans are smart enough to vote based on a person’s cause and believes rather than skin color or gender.
Ben offers:
Anyone who tolerates oppression is guilty of perpetuating injustice. But Kareem goes on to commit the same error by seeming to propose that the targets of one form of oppression should be forgiven for tolerating other forms because they're in "defense mode." When political progressives produce catalogues of oppression by way of measuring which groups suffer most, and who therefore owes what to whom, they drive the infighting that so often causes the Left to lose elections in circumstances that should favor us.
Neal calls on us to remember that all of us still have a lot of work to do:
During John Kerry’s speech on the 3rd night of the convention, the former Democratic standard bearer provided the one most vigorous advocacies of Obama’s leadership we’re likely to see this election cycle. Midway through the speech Kerry recognized Charles Payne Obama’s uncle a WWII veteran and a genuine American hero.

The reason you’ve never seen Charles around or near the stump is because he’s white. And in America, while it’s an incredible step forward to have a person of color as a Presidential nominee, mixed racial families still face the taboos of decades past.

Obama’s people know this and the pressure is on to keep their candidate with his nuclear black family--his wife and children primarily. Not out of shame but in anticipation of the avalanche of race-baiting bile coming to an e-mail box near you.

Of course, that’s not to say it hasn’t started. From the same party that brought you “the welfare queen” comes a depiction of the DNCC as “The Cosby Show." And if that’s sledgehammer isn’t big enough for you, take a gander at the pictures circling the blogs of Obama’s half-brother in Africa portraying his as living in a “shanty town."

And how about Jonathan Corsi’s new book “Obama Nation” which describes how his mother generally preferred “men of color." Let’s not forget Karl Rove’s observation of Obama’s debate performance during the primaries as “trash talking (that) was an unattractive carryover from his days playing pickup basketball."

Tell me again how this election has become post-racial.
And friend-of-the-TR Marc points out:
Black feminists support Hillary. If you watched coverage of the convention on CNN, they had an interview with an African-American woman who was very emotional after Hillary gave her speech; she said she loved Hillary, and how she would be a great president. Obama is fully aware of the moment, and his constituent base; he knows he needs Hillary's support to win this election. And Hillary supporters are aware that Obama is the "lesser of two evils." I think the issue between Hillary and Obama supporters is not where they stand on key issues, but which side of history both camps are standing on (first AA nominee or first Woman nominee).
Finally, the TR sends its condolences to the PUMAs in the only way we know how:

2 comments:

SnarkySue said...

Katie -- oops, Minister of Culture -- thanks for taking this on. And e-mail it out to all our friends! Fer goodness sakes here, people, we have a world to reform! No more snivelling, we're all in this together. *kiss*kiss* THE QUEEN

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