Against either/or feminism

Most folks have probably read Gloria Steinem’s op-ed piece in the New York Times entitled “Women Are Never Front-Runners.” Hopefully folks have also gotten to read, listen to or watch the subsequent Democracy Now! debate between Steinem and Melissa Harris-Lacewell, in which Harris-Lacewell took Steinem to task for many of the points she makes in her op-ed. If you haven’t gotten to take a look at the debate, I highly recommend it. Here’s just a taste of what Harris-Lacewell has to say:

And so, when Steinem suggests, for example, in that article that Obama is a lawyer married to another lawyer and to suggest that, for example, Hillary Clinton represents some kind of sort of breakthrough in questions of gender, I think that ignores an entire history in which white women have in fact been in the White House. They’ve been there as an attachment to white male patriarchal power. It’s the same way that Hillary Clinton is now making a claim towards experience. It’s not her experience. It’s her experience married to, connected to, climbing up on white male patriarchy. This is exactly the ways in which this kind of system actually silences questions of gender that are more complicated than simply sort of putting white women in positions of power and then claiming women’s issues are cared for.

Today I read another great response from Kimberle Crenshaw and Eve Ensler to “either/or” feminism: a feminism that deems a vote for Hillary Clinton to be the only truly feminist choice. Steinem’s op-ed echoes the arguments of this sort of feminism which, when taken to its extreme, results in the kind of malarkey that the New York State chapter of NOW put out there when it called Senator Ted Kennedy’s endorsement of Barack Obama “the ultimate betrayal” of women. From Crenshaw and Ensler’s essay in the Huffington Post:

While denying any intention to square off racism against sexism, the “either/or” feminists nonetheless remind us that the Black (man) got the vote before the (white) woman, that gender barriers are more rigid than racial barriers, that sexism is everywhere and racism is not, that a female Obama wouldn’t get nearly as far as a Barack Obama, and that a woman’s vote for Clinton is scrutinized while a male vote for Obama is not. Never mind of course that real suffrage for African Americans wasn’t realized until the 1960s, that there are any number of advantages that white women have in business, politics and culture that people of color do not; that all around the world women’s route to political leadership is through family dynasty which is virtually closed to marginalized groups, and that the double standard of stigmatizing Obama’s Black voters as racially motivated while whitewashing Clinton’s white voters as “just voters” constitutes the exact same double standard that the “either/or feminists” bemoan. The “either/or” crowd surprisingly claims that the two Democratic candidates are more alike than different, yet those who gravitate to Obama find their motives questioned and their loyalties on trial.

2 Responses to “Against either/or feminism”

  1. 1 Paul Richardson

    This article is to the point in how showing polarization in America. America’s mindset is based on labelling and polarizing. This is our natural order of life. Just as birds fly south for the winter, salmon swim up stream to spawn, America politics will produce people who vote for the person modt like them in thinking. What is being overlooked here is that Obama Barack is doing something no other candidate other thatn John F. Kennedy has been able to do, bering out young voters who are looking for change. Not just from a Republican White House, but from the “old boys” way of doing things. What’s wrong with that? That’s what elections are about. Politicians for years have taken the Black and youth vote for granted for years.
    There was no reference to this type of alignment when candidates were male and white.

  2. 2 Everette Thombs

    To reduce the election to race and gender is simply stupid. The asking of questions concerning race and gender was alright at the beginning of this campaign but it is now time to judge the candidates as candidates. We need to decide individually which candidate can do the best job of leading this nation. Our problems in this country are far more than problems of race or gender.
    We talk about race and gender so much that we miss out on opportunities to help the country reach cits true greatness.

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