Women, Race and Hillary Clinton

10 years ago
This article was written by a member of the SheKnows Community. It has not been edited, vetted or reviewed by our editorial staff, and any opinions expressed herein are the writer’s own.

Indulge me a bit in posting on "old news", but there's a discusion going on in the blogosphere about the Senator, with the basis in feminism. On BooMan Tribune, Arthur Gilroy has decided that women, particularly left-leaning, blogging women, hate Clinton because:

They resented her success. They resented the template ITSELF. To some degree, the fact that this woman had become a truly DOMINANT woman...not just independent,. but dominant over the lives of many, many men as well as children and women pressed buttons in both of their heads that had been implanted in their early "I ENJOY being a girl!!!", "Play with those damned dolls or ELSE" youth.

You have to read the entire post to fully appreciate that women, according to Gilroy, can not make a decision regarding Clinton because we're preconditioned.


Over at BlogHer, there's been a very robust discussion on the Senator. Morra Aarons submitted the entry Why Thirtysomething Women need Hillary Clinton, and Why She Needs Us. She exhorts us to vote for Clinton for president, because "it's time". Ironically, the same arguement Gilroy used for why lefty, blogging females hate Clinton, Aarons uses as to why women should vote for Clinton:

I think many young women are coming around to Hillary because despite our hesitancy to re-join the Feminist Majority, we know it’s time. Oddly enough, I think it took a reminder from the godmother of feminism, Gloria Steinem, to wake us up. As (male) uber-blogger Markos put it: “You underestimate that sympathy at your own peril. If I found myself half-rooting for her given the crap that was being flung at her, is it any wonder that women turned out in droves to send a message that sexist double-standards were unacceptable?”

It’s time. Older women have understood that and overwhelmingly support Clinton, but younger women have been slower to support Hillary. I think, though, we are realizing that perhaps having a woman in the White House will let us breathe a little easier at work.

These posts, in and of themeselves would be interesting enough if I was white. But I'm not. I'm black and there is a high level of disinterest of how racism AND sexism can effect a woman's outlook among white females. Especially of white females of certain economic classes and educational levels.

Gloria Steinem, the so-called Godmother of Feminism, wrote a piece for the NYT titled, Women are Never Frontrunners. Somehow, this title was chosen, despite the fact that Sen. Clinton has been the frontrunner since she announced her campaign. Indeed, the media declared her the frontrunner before she announced her campaign. Steinem's article does what most white feminist do, dismiss race. After all, black men were given the right to vote before women were. She neglects the Jim Crow south. She doesn't mention the inherent privilege that Hillary Rodham Clinton grew up with.

So why is the sex barrier not taken as seriously as the racial one? The reasons are as pervasive as the air we breathe: because sexism is still confused with nature as racism once was; because anything that affects males is seen as more serious than anything that affects “only” the female half of the human race; because children are still raised mostly by women (to put it mildly) so men especially tend to feel they are regressing to childhood when dealing with a powerful woman; because racism stereotyped black men as more “masculine” for so long that some white men find their presence to be masculinity-affirming (as long as there aren’t too many of them); and because there is still no “right” way to be a woman in public power without being considered a you-know-what.

I’m not advocating a competition for who has it toughest. The caste systems of sex and race are interdependent and can only be uprooted together. That’s why Senators Clinton and Obama have to be careful not to let a healthy debate turn into the kind of hostility that the news media love. Both will need a coalition of outsiders to win a general election. The abolition and suffrage movements progressed when united and were damaged by division; we should remember that.

Yes, we should remember that, but Steinem spends the rest of the article, carefully not remembering that. At Jack and Jill Politics, dnA gives us a post titled Access to Power with the conclusion:

Women like Steinem are quick to invoke "the sisterhood" as a reason to vote for Hillary Clinton, but black women see few of the same benefits that white women do; yet they're still expected to feel (and act on) gender solidarity with people who essentially ignore the issues facing them. Unless it involves some high profile figure like Imus.

Indeed, that is exactly what Aarons did in her BlogHer post. I responded to the BlogHer post (my post is most definitely longer):

Gloria Steinem's NYT article was clearly directed to young, white females. Of privilege. She lives in a headspace that I could never occupy, would never want to occupy. Her arguments were specious at best and all I took away from the article was that her oppression was greater than my oppression. (I'm sorry...I should stop here and mention that I read the article yesterday and got pissed. As the day wore on, I was downright livid at Steinem's presumptions, assumptions and petty pitifulness.)

Over at TalkLeft there was a post Steinem's article. One person noted that Steinem seem to declare that racism is dead. I posted:

But Steinem is so incredibly wrong on this front. White women are more often "given" much more leeway, advantages and opportunities than any minority regardless of gender and if anyone should know that she should. For someone like Steinem to actually say that is laughable and insulting. Look at feminism, as a movement. Did Steinem ever have to face police dogs, fire hoses and be scared of lynching to get equal rights for women?

Didn't think so.

Other than that, the subject wasn't broached, yet ageism became the focus. On liberal blogs, in general, the subject is very rarely touched. And pointed comments like mine are usually ignored.

rikyrah's response at BlogHer gives you a little political perspective on how white women have more access than blacks in general.

There are, what, 9 White Female Governors?

1 Black male Governor.

NEVER a Black Female Governor.

There are what, 15 White Female Senators.

1 Black Male Senator.

Only 1 Black Female Senator.

Who are the biggest beneficiaries of Affirmative Action?

Sure in hell isn't Black folk..


Black women are only 'Sisters' when it's convenient. If not, our concerns are not addressed, like in that Steinem piece. Black women were INVISIBLE in that piece. She completely and deliberately ignores White Privilege - how convenient for her.

I usually like to keep my isms separated as, the liberal blogosphere has a horrible habit of ignoring one argument to bring up another to make a point. In this case, it's a little difficult, as the Clinton campaign has been quite active in the racism front. Does she get a pass on this because she's a woman? Because she's white. Judging from the media coverage and unreaction in the liberal blogosphere, it seems the answer is 'yes' to both. Female bloggers who are dismissing the sexism regarding Clinton's choking up moment, are extremely quiet on the campaign's race-baiting statements.

That's not to say that I would expect them to speak up. After all, someone like Jane Hamsher, who would be a Clinton contemporary, now has a very strong reputation as a racist in the black and Latino blogosphere. Her site seems to largely condone racism and since I've been oh-so-lucky as to meet some of the guest bloggers there, I'm going to say that this is something that is entrenched. I'm certainly not going to disabuse anyone of the notion that FDL is a blog with racist bloggers, when my experiences with face to face meetings reaffirms that.

While female bloggers recently gave us entries on Feminism, all of them took Steinem's lead with dismissing or ignoring racism. We've gotten rallying cries, as women, to back up Clinton, because she is female. These are the same women who tell me that black people who vote for Obama because he's black are short-sighted. I fail to see why that's not quite a double-standard. However in the comment sections of media sites, to blogs, to random discussions, these double-standards are enforced to the point of becoming conventional wisdom.

I think it's important for people to understand that many black people don't put the Clinton's a pedestal as the media and the Clinton's will have you believe. As I wrote on BlohHer:

But let's take that experience at face value and ignore the fact that she's basically asking us to elect her to a 3rd term...When someone like Clinton wants something from me, my first (selfish) question is, "What have you done for me lately?" With Clinton (Bill or Hillary), it's "What have you done for me period?" Because every core supporter they could have had (Blacks and Gays specifically), they threw under the bus long ago to strengthen their insider ties. At least Bill could make you feel good while he screwed you over. His mantra was always, "Later...your time will come later." Well, it's "later" and Sen. Clinton has most certainly picked up that refrain. What exactly are we waiting for? More backroom deals? More compromises that still leave many Americans with unequal rights?

With the race-baiting tactics from her campaign this past month, are black women supposed to ignore that and history and still back Clinton because she's a woman?

Let's keep in mind that Clinton is not the first woman to run for president and that Obama is not the first black person to run president. Indeed, in 1972 Shirley Chisolm was the first black woman from a major party to ran for president. In 2004, Carol Moseley Braun another black woman ran for president.

Would Steinem still back Clinton if Clinton was a black woman? Did Steinem back Moseley Braun's candidacy for president as she did her run for Senate?

Would the white women of New Hampshire have rallied behind Clinton if she was black?

Would female bloggers even be discussing Feminism if Clinton wasn't white?

For my part, just poking around these internets, I'm going to say the answers to all of my questions is 'no'.