Thursday, May 15, 2008

Trying to Understand the Division

**What I was trying to say, much more eloquently**

Kim sent me a link to this article that I believe is a must-read. By Marie Cocco, it's entitled Misogyny I Won't Miss:

As the Democratic nomination contest slouches toward a close, it's time to take stock of what I will not miss.

I will not miss seeing advertisements for T-shirts that bear the slogan "Bros before Hos." The shirts depict Barack Obama (the Bro) and Hillary Clinton (the Ho) and are widely sold on the Internet.

I will not miss walking past airport concessions selling the Hillary Nutcracker, a device in which a pantsuit-clad Clinton doll opens her legs to reveal stainless-steel thighs that, well, bust nuts. I won't miss television and newspaper stories that make light of the novelty item.
Erica Barnett's Women In Politics: The Same as It Ever Was is even more detailed about sexist tactics and attacks used against Senator Clinton:
This kind of shit ought to be behind us: Hillary Clinton is a bitch. A big ol' bitchy bitch. And a cunt. A "big fucking whore." Fortunately, you can "call a woman anything." She's "Nurse Ratched." She'll castrate you if she gets a chance. She would like that. She's a "She-Devil." She's a madam, and her daughter's a whore.
I am linking these pieces both because I find them significant and so on point in their own right and because I think it's ridiculous to claim that anyone can miss the misogyny directed at Sen. Clinton, in particular (and the idea of powerful, politically involved women in general), during this campaign, even if s/he won't acknowledge it. I received an e-mail that really, quite politely took me to task about this post in which I discussed my perceptions of (what has turned out to be) the battle for the Democratic nomination in terms of race and racism. The e-mail began with the question of whether or not I believed sexism had played a role in this campaign in the way that I argued race had and it (d)evolved into a sort of kinder, gentler, elle-you're-letting-race-trump-gender scolding. And, I thought, no, no, no--not this again.

I am not blind to the misogyny from various sources--the media, Obama supporters, blogs, Republicans--that has been horribly evident during Senator Clinton's campaign. I do not think it is less significant or has any less impact than the racism Obama has had to endure. I know I'm not the only person who sees the effects of both. So when I say that I have been put off and disheartened by the campaign, let me explain quite simply why.

I have seen the writings and exclamations of the most ardent supporters on both (Democrats') sides. I have seen them accuse each other of pretty near apocalyptic offenses. And I wanted to write a partially-irritated post about how I don't get it. But I think my intended tone may have made light of some people's very real concerns and what they perceive as righteous anger. So, in all seriousness, I have to say, the viciousness, the hatred, I don't get it.

I realize that my cluelessness may be a result of my studied indifference towards the race once it began to get so ugly. But it is also a result of who I am—southern, black, woman, historian. I am the daughter of people who remember when their parents couldn’t vote. I am the granddaughter of a woman who so cherished finally getting the franchise that she voted up until the end of her life. That may seem insignificant, but at some point, diabetes led to my grandmother having her legs amputated. The recreational center that was her polling place did not have access for disabled voters and one of my last memories of her is that she insisted that she be driven to the center and that people lift her wheelchair through the door.

I live in a region where “W, the President” bumper stickers usually exist side by side with confederate flag stickers and majority white/white-only “Christian” school stickers. I have studied about the Southern strategy and still see it in force here—you wouldn’t believe (well, you might) the code words and innuendos used to appeal to Republicans. When I lived in Texas, I remember an incident where a black woman ran for some office as a Republican. Her slogan? “She’s one of us.”

My impression of the Republican Party and what it’s all about is shaped by those things. That’s part of the reason why I don’t believe the world will end if Barack Obama is the Democratic nominee. And I don’t believe the world will end if Hillary Clinton is the Democratic nominee.

I don’t think an Obama candidacy equals the end of racism in this country. Neither do I think it will usher in the Most. Sexist. Administration. Ever. Similarly, I don’t think a H. Clinton candidacy means the days of entrenched misogyny are over. Neither do I think it will mean “gender has trumped race.”

So when I read that if Sen. Obama is denied the nomination, African Americans may just not vote anymore, I think, surely, given our history, that is not true. And when I read that if Sen. Clinton is denied the denomination, millions of working class whites and (white) feminists will flock to the Republicans, I think, surely, that is not true. In the end, even if I feel a grave injustice has been done by the Democratic Party in choosing, I won’t not vote. And I will not vote for the Republican Party that is so repugnant to me. The more I think about it, I might defy my past practices and vote for a third party candidate. Or, I might decide that, whoever was my preference, either Democratic candidate is better, in my opinion, than John McCain. But please trust, I will exercise my right to vote. I don’t think staying home is the answer. And I don’t think that feminists and working class people voting for a party known for its anti-feminist, race-baiting, let’s-treat-corporations-like-they’re-people-and-treat-working-class-people-like-they’re-shit stance is the answer, either.

The saddest thing? Before this primary season, I think many of us thought of both of them as good, accomplished, typically-on-the-right-side-of-an-issue Democrats. Why has that been lost?


GeekLove said...

I helped create the Mad is Hell” video (re. media bias against HIllary Clinton) along with IndyRobin.

I created a NEW VIDEO: “We’ve Come a Long Way, Baby!”

It’s about Obama’s silence on sexism against Hillary Clinton and his own sexist remarks.

If you approve of the video, I’d appreciate your help in spreading the video by creating a post on the video and ask that you and your readers go to youtube to RATE, COMMENT & mark FAVORITE the video.


elle said...

I saw the "We've Come a Long Way, Baby" video yesterday, but the way I found it demonstrates what I'm trying to say here. I was clicking from blog to blog through various links and found it linked by someone who said something to the effect that the video alone was enough reason to vote for John McCain.

Which is not to say that the video was not simultaneously impressive and saddening/maddening. I thought the video was well done and I saw some things that I hadn't before. I don't know how Sen. Clinton keeps it together in the face of shit like that. Everyday? From so many places? And much of it was downright violent. I couldn't do it.

Didn't so much like the inference that Obama was looking down his nose--both because of the lack of context around the images and because, yeah, it plays on the "this uppity black man thinks he's better than her" trope IMO.

It’s about Obama’s silence on sexism against Hillary Clinton and his own sexist remarks.

Please don't think I'm saying two wrongs make a right. My point is I have been disturbed by the words and actions of both candidates. Obama is wrong for standing silent and engaging is sexist discourse, just as I think HRC is wrong for--just one example--claiming she has greater appeal to white voters--"the votes you have to have"-- without admitting all the reasons that might be true (if it is) or thinking of how dismissive that is to other staunch Democratic voters.

I think people so firmly in the camp of one or the other can't see how their candidate has fed into/benefited from racism and/or sexism. So the other candidate is cast as some sort of monster that becomes the embodiment of male or white privilege, and I just don't see that.

Unknown said...

thanks for this post elle--the thing I find maddening--I've been anti-clinton for a very long time--manly due to her longstanding support of nafta. I personally can't figure out for the life of me why on earth she's got the support of so many latinos and "hard working" folks--Nafta has screwed those people over first and foremost.

but the thing is--just try to say "I don't like clinton because of nafta" these days. Or, god forbid, "I don't like clinton because I find her support of nafta and increased militarization at the border to be anti-feminist" Or try to say either of these things within the context of "now, mr. obama, I want YOU to tell me how you're support of increased militarization of the border is any less misogynistic than Ms. Clintons".

You can't talk about issues anymore because everybody's so sure that a nose scratch clearly means that he's flicking her off and a hair flip means that she's pulling poor little white lady syndrome.

I mean--I don't really even take all these charges of sexism/racism that seriously anymore. Does anybody remember the way bush turned a man who had lost both arms in the Vietnam war into a traitor to the U.S.? Or how he turned a man who actually fought in the war into a traitor to men he freaking *saved*?

I think both sides are fighting with their hands in their pockets--which is to say that they are not nearly as bad as what they *could* be--and that politics is a dirty fucking business during election time. The sexism/racism that everybody is fretting over is *surface* sexism/racism in my opinion--and if we all wanted to do some *actual* good we could stop fretting about *surface* sexism/racism, and start demanding accountability in our candidates such that *entrenched* sexism/racism will actually be addressed once the election is over.



Kevin Andre Elliott said...

Great post, Elle. Thank you. And Brownfemipower, I'm so feeling you on this. I'm particularly disturbed by the lack of questions. It's all assumptions and demands. The whole "vote for my candidate or else" meme is sickening to me. I've seen so many "liberal/progressive" Clinton and Obama supporters proclaim that they'll vote for McCain if their candidate doesn't win that I'm not sure anymore that I'm not in the Twillight Zone. Now granted, neither candidate makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside (too centrist for my tastes), but I'd really like to get an idea, as you say, of what these two might *do* to address entrenched sexism and racism once in office (especially in relation to militarization, the economy, etc.). So far, I don't know. I just see the oppression olympics being played out at the national level.

Giftie Etcetera said...

I hope that Obama and Clinton have already affected society in a positive way, by both showing themselves strong contenders for the Presidency.

Does race matter? Sure it does. Look at yourself, elle. Growing up as a minority in America, a country that has systematically disenfranchised minorities, made you who you are. Does gender matter? As a woman who works in the male-dominated field of law, absolutely it does. I get annoyed when the candidates pretend that it's okay to call them names based on race or gender(or, maybe, just ignore the comments). I guess I do want to see Obama say, "I'm black and proud of it." I want Hillary to say, "yes, I'm a woman. That does not make me a bitch. But it does make you sexist for saying it." But they are both fighting the fight that needs to be fought. If they miss opportunities to fight harder, well, I guess I'll have to fight harder myself.

When someone in my family uses the "n" word, I remove my son from the situation and remind him that such language is unacceptable because it disrespects others. Now that he talks (he's two), I'll start to teach him to tell his disgusting relatives that it's not nice or FAIR to be racist/sexist pigs. (Okay, I probably won't let him use the word "pigs." But if he slips it in, he won't get punished. ;)) But do I chatise these people (other than to point out that such language is unacceptable in front of my son)? Not really. I've given up on them. When they send anti-Obama or anit-Clinton e-mails (which tend to criticise gender, race, or religion), do I respond? Nah, I just hit delete. Maybe I'm also not fighting hard enough.

As a white woman, one of the most difficult struggles I face when dealing with my rural, racist, sexist extended family is how hard to fight. If I fight too hard, they don't listen. I try, instead, to live by example. My friends - black, white, Asian, gay, straight, lawyer, high school drop-outs - they all are welcome in my home for parties. They came to my wedding. (Hahn, remember him?, even wore leather hot pants to my wedding! Quite the scandal among my folk. :)) My family was/is horrified. I don't really talk about it; I just live a positive lifestyle. But maybe I'm pulling the same scam as Obama and Clinton. Maybe I'm pretending racism and sexism don't exist, because I'm not meeting either head-on.

I'm sorry I wrote so much. You just made me think, and I do my best thinking outloud. I'm going to work on fighting harder. Liviing by example may not be enough these days.

I'll promise one thing. I won't be casting a vote for a Republican in November, either.

elle said...

KAE, ok your version is so much shorter and clearer.

And as Kevin would say, BFP for the win! There are so many things that I've heard just bits and pieces of that I'd like to know more about--I've already said, like Kevin, that I find them a bit centrist IMO. But I remember Nadia linking to some articles about Obama's positions on Palestinian/Israeli conflicts and hearing from you on HRC's position on NAFTA and what seems to be her ongoing support for military aggression (talking matter-of-factly about obliteration?!). And then there are their positions on civil unions vs. marriage for gays which seems to me to be alot of ducking, dodging, and skirting.

And on and on and on. But hell, you can't even get to the questions.

MAWB, don't apologize for writing. It's not too much. I like to see the workings of other people's minds and how who you are shapes your views and beliefs. That's what this blog is largely about.

Five Before Midnight said...

But I remember Nadia linking to some articles about Obama's positions on Palestinian/Israeli conflicts and hearing from you on HRC's position on NAFTA and what seems to be her ongoing support for military aggression (talking matter-of-factly about obliteration?!). And then there are their positions on civil unions vs. marriage for gays which seems to me to be alot of ducking, dodging, and skirting.

And a whole lot of issues including those impacting many women. I really want to vote but I don't think I can vote Democrat.

I'm much more encouraged about what is happening and can happen with many of these issues at the local level (and the California State Supreme Court decision was both encouraging in what happened and scary in the backlash it will get) than at the national level.

So maybe sticking to working locally and let the members of the two major political parties fight it out. Hopefully, they'll tell the rest of us who wins. They'll have to on some issues given how similar the Republicans and Democrats are.

Revelations and ruminations from one southern sistorian...