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11 January 2008 @ 11:43 am
Sexism vs Racism  
I hate to see the battle shaping up over who has it harder, African Americans or women. (How about African American women?!)

It seems clear to me that evidence shows that both have a liability when trying to achieve a position in public office at the highest levels. Both are grossly underrepresented when compared to their respective proportions of the total population. Both suffer from stereotypes that can be acted upon unconsciously by prospective voters. Barack Obama is therefore complimented for being "clean and articulate" and Hillary can't seem to find a satisfactory--to the media--balance between human warmth and strength without everyone raising the questions "Is she strong enough?" or "Is she a cold, frigid bitch?" We should celebrate the fact that both candidates have overcome these liabilities enough to be front-runners in the current primary race.

Meanwhile, those of us who would be delighted to finally see either an African American or a woman as president are presented with quite a quandary in this election season. There are things to like about each candidate--and some of their competition as well--and some liabilities. Hillary Clinton is seen as the establishment candidate while Barack has the liability of lack of experience in a time when the general electorate might fear to take a risk on someone young and fresh on the scene. We are anxious about this election as we were about the last, given the grave problems our nation at war faces. We want a good candidate on the issues as well as someone who seems electable against whoever the opposing side chooses. Would Barack Obama be able to win out over McCain's experience? Would Hillary Clinton be able to take on the reassuring persona of a war hero? Would either of them fare well matched against the "aw shucks" persona of Mike Huckabee, who also positions himself as an outsider to the Washington establishment? And does John Edwards have a chance, being as inexperienced as Obama? Will South Carolina give him enough of a bump to keep him in the race? (And it's too bad that Biden has the charisma of a carrot because he does have great ideas and a wealth of experience, and also too bad that Kucinich doesn't know how to present himself in a more credible fashion. Maybe he saw a UFO, but it isn't a good idea to talk about it when you're running for president.)

I like each candidate based on some of their ideas and positions on the issues, so the issue of how they play in a national campaign looms large in my mind. I vote on Feb. 5th and I still haven't decided.

Perhaps it's good that we're having a national debate about how sexism and racism affect our choices. It would be even better if we could talk about classism too.

Some of the talk in the media:

Gloria Steinem's piece: "Women are Never Front-Runners."

Salon's Broadsheet in response.

Broadsheet quotes Glamocracy's Caille Millner regarding Steinem's essay.

Ariel Werner responds to Gloria Steinem and explains why she supports Barack Obama.


ETA: an interesting quote and link from Shirley Chisholm (who I previously wrote about), the first black woman to run for President (and I hope very much not the last):

In 1972, when she entered the presidential primaries, she did not expect to capture the Democratic nomination, which ultimately went to George S. McGovern. "Some see my candidacy as an alternate and others as symbolic or a move to make other candidates start addressing themselves to real issues," she said at the time. She did not win a single primary, but in 2002, she said her campaign had been a necessary "catalyst for change."

She was also aware of her status as a woman in politics. "I've always met more discrimination being a woman than being black," she told The Associated Press in December 1982, shortly before she left Washington to teach at Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts. "When I ran for the Congress, when I ran for president, I met more discrimination as a woman than for being black. Men are men."


I still make no claims about whether in the present day women or black men are more discriminated against. This was simply a snapshot of how Ms. Chisholm viewed it at that point in time.
A radiant bundle of fascinating contradictions: fistdalbino83 on January 11th, 2008 08:54 pm (UTC)
Thanks for these links.

A few days ago I was listening to NPR, and one of the reporters was talking with people about the New Hampshire primaries going on that day. He was talking with someone who had the Dominican Republic in her voice. He asked her who she supported.

She said something like, "Black women are going to have a tough choice this year. Me, I'd be happy to vote for either one." The reporter pointed out that one had to select between the two that day, and how would she vote? She said, "Hillary is the most qualified woman we are going to see for the next 30 years running for president. Barack is young and will have other chances. But this year, I'm voting for Clinton, because I may never have another chance to vote for a viable woman candidate."

I appreciated her point of view.
Tapatitapati on January 11th, 2008 11:44 pm (UTC)
I think that's one reason why so many older women are supporting Hillary. We desperately want the triumph of seeing a woman president in our lifetime. I know I do, anyway. Therefore my main question is whether Hillary has too much baggage to be electable. I don't know...

Much as I want a woman president, and even like Hillary, we need a Democrat in office right now very badly.
A radiant bundle of fascinating contradictions: collagedalbino83 on January 12th, 2008 12:03 am (UTC)
Well, I'm not all that convinced that Obama is electable either. Oh, in my blue state of Massachusetts, sure ... but I'm not convinced the red states are going to vote for a black man with any more enthusiasm than they'll vote for a white woman.

Too bad Edwards isn't doing better in the polls.
Tapatitapati on January 12th, 2008 12:20 am (UTC)
Ran into this in the letters at Salon and thought you'd find it interesting:



If Shirley Chisholm had not regarded gender as important, she would not have gone to teach at Mount Holyoke College, which is the oldest surviving women's college in the country.

I was wondering if someone would post that quote (so I wouldn't have to Google on it and post it myself).

We were honored by her presence and her acumen. Holyoke has a tradition of women in government, such as Frances Perkins, the first woman to be a cabinet member, and Elaine Chao (okay, okay), but she's in Bush's cabinet. And that reminds me: when alumna Ella Grasso ran for governor, people were nice enough to say that they didn't want a "governess." I always thought that neatly anticipated the current libertarian denunciations of the Nanny State.

What I'm reading here from the anonymi convinces me that I it's not yet time to go to the Great Dino Dying Place. There's a need for us yet.
-- Greeneyedkzin