My sister, my enemy?
by Tami of What Tami Said, Blog Carnival Co-Host
Welcome to the Women’s History Month blog carnival: Come Together: Healing Tensions among Women Working for Equality. I am proud to join Heart in hosting this event. I believe there is a growing breach within the feminist movement between white feminists and feminists of color. We need reconciliation. And I need healing.
I have long been told by other black women that feminism isn’t for us—that the white women who make up feminism’s mainstream don’t care about or understand our fight for equality and how our race intersects with our gender. I rejected that notion until now.
It is this divisive presidential election that is making my heart heavy. This glorious moment when two capable, historic candidates stand poised to take the White House. I should be proud. Instead, I am angry and alienated. I explained why in a recent post on What Tami Said:
I am angry because whether it is Gloria Steinem in The New York Times, Erica Jong on Huffington Post, or random posters on feminist and progressive Web sites, I am being subtly and not-so-subtly told that:
- Racism is not as important as sexism
- A vote for Hillary Clinton is the only history-making vote at stake
- White women are more oppressed as a group than black men
- The only vote for true feminists is a vote for Hillary Clinton
- Feminist = white woman
- The needs of black women don’t count
- Black people who vote for Barack Obama are doing so only because of his race
- Other people who vote for Barack Obama (women and men) are doing so only because of misogyny
Consider the not-so-uncommon comment from a Feministing poster re: Tina Fey’s “Bitch is the new black” bit on last Saturday’s SNL:
As feminists, we have worked our whole lives for this moment. Our foremothers fought for us to have this moment. We have an amazing woman running for the office of the president. Not just any woman running, but the most qualified candidate in years. I cannnot believe the cowardly way women are rolling over to appease the male media. Don’t vote your vagina, but no one is saying don’t vote your skin color. On the contrary what black man or woman is not voting for Obama (90%!)? Which I fully support as they have fought their whole lives for this moment. But they have vision and clarity, and we are chcken shits. We lack the courage of our convictions to make this moment ours. I am proud of black America right now, but disgusted by women.
I don’t really get the lame “I can vote who I want” BS as it is just a way to appease your mind that you failed to act. Excuse it all you like, in history, you prevented a great moment from happening. One that we could have shared with our daughters. But now, our daughters know, they are not able to be representations of “cool” “hip” or “inspirationsal”. What this election has shown us iswe all end up shrill, bitchy, women. Thank you feminsts, what a legacy we have created for the future.
When the weaker candidate messes up in his first term, I will be sure to proudly disply my “Don’t blame me, I voted for Hillary” bumper sticker!
Notice how black women are grouped with black men as “other.” Notice that the appeal to “vote Hillary for our daughters” seems not to include mothers of black or bi-racial children. Frankly, I think either a Clinton or Obama win will send a powerful message to my young stepdaughter and my nieces. Notice how the fact that Hillary Clinton once held the majority of the black vote, particularly the black female vote, has been forgotten. Now all black people are voting for Obama, the once “not black enough” candidate, out of racial fealty. Notice how Obama, despite having more legislative experience than Clinton, is being painted as a figurative “affirmative action hire” with few skills and a free ride.
This is why I am angry: Because it seems like some of my white feminist sisters are beckoning me to join the movement with one hand, while throwing racist bombs with the other; and because my feminist bonafides are questioned, yet Hillary Clinton can stand on stage with Bob Johnson who made his fortune by denigrating black women as bitches, hoes and sex objects and still be a feminist icon.
We ask too much of each other, I think. That occurred to me when reading Jennifer of Mixed Race America’s magnificent submission to this blog carnival. (As a student, Jennifer had a disappointing encounter with one of my icons, bell hooks.) We too often expect our heroes to have it all figured out. We think that a woman who is astute and thoughtful when it comes to gender bias is going to have racial bias figured out too. We think that a black activist will “get” the plight of other people of color. We project our own beliefs onto other women. I have naively believed that marginalized groups–women, people of color, GLBT folks, immigrants, etc.–have uncommon empathy for each other. That is not always so. In fact, it never fails to amaze me how tone deaf one group of marginalized people can be to the plight of other oppressed groups.
Maybe the key can be found in a comment that my blogsister, Shecodes, left on the post above. I hope she is okay with me paraphrasing her words here. I found her pragmatism smart, even if it is hard to swallow for an idealist like me:
We don’t have to agree on everything to come together. We just have to come together to work on THOSE things that we DO agree on. Does this make sense?…It’s really easy to get so distracted by the 10% of disagreement and offense, that one can throw out the 90% of agreement.I feel no anger toward white feminists, because they do not have the power to hurt me. There is no expectation for them to understand me, because they only understand a slice of who I am. Therefore, they will get a slice of my participation.
I have enough in common with feminism to be able to bite my tongue and get along for the agendas that we both believe in.
It is very important to Heart and I that this blog carnival present an opportunity for women to communicate with each other, but more importantly, to listen to each other. I have felt over the past few months that there is way too little listening going on. To facilitate this process, all blog carnival posts will be closed to comments for 24 hours after they appear. By doing this, we hope to encourage women to carefully consider the words of their sisters and to take a deep breath before responding. We don’t expect everyone to agree, but we do expect disagreements to be respectful.
We are still accepting submissions