Monday, February 25, 2008

You've got racism in my sexism!

*WARNING* Monday morning ranting ahead.

I realize I'm the last person in the world to comment on this phenomenon of the Barack vs. Hillary/Racism vs. Sexism debate. But I just hate it. I'm over all those pointless debates: "Is it harder to elect a black man or a white woman?" or "What's harder racism or sexism"? However, the more I think about this debate, the more I realize that maybe I have something to say...

As a white woman, I can never pretend to understand racial issues as a person of color would. But as a woman, I can certainly understand sexism as its been leveled at me on more than one occasion . And honestly I do think that our culture tolerates sexism more than racism (and yes, this is all the worse for women of color) .

Think about this: What's the worst name you can call a woman? Probably a cunt. And Hillary Clinton has certainly been labeled a "cunt" and worse. How about the worst name you could call a black person? How often have you seen THAT word on t-shirts sold at conservative rallies? Yes, white supremacists groups have used that despicable word against Obama, but the public at large acknowledges their evil, stupid, wing-nuttery. There's even a physical revulsion when people hear the n-word. But how many "mainstream" groups have called Hillary "cunt" with no shame at all?

And then you have this:

Man yelling "Iron my shirt!" as Clinton tries to deliver her speech.

Has anyone yelled at Obama, "Work my fields?" And if they did, wouldn't that be FRONT PAGE /headline news? Wouldn't there be loads of outraged op-eds (as there should be)? But the "Iron-my-shirt" incident was barely a blip on the political radar.

I interpret the non-acknowledgement of this shit as our culture's ultimate victim blaming. We refuse to acknowledge the seriousness of these insults and it says to Hillary and to all women, "You invite this behavior on yourself. If you stayed out of the way, this wouldn't happen."

Women are expected to put up with sexism. Did mainstream media (or anyone) rush to her Hillary's defense when she was called a cunt, a bitch, a she-devil and weirdly enough, even called a pimp and her daughter was the whore?

Then the media jumped down her throat when her voice cracked ONCE on the campaign trail-- and it's not even when she's speaking of the unfair scrutiny she has received for simply being a woman who dared to dream of being the President--- NO-- it was when she spoke of her great love of this country.

What a whiny bitch, huh?

This invisible sexism extends beyond politics. Remeber when Imus called a group of female athletes "nappy headed?" We (rightly) fired him but we also conveniently overlooked him calling them "hos." A racial slur = bad but calling a group of women 'whores'---just par for the course. However, I'm willing to bet the women of Rutgers noticed both.

Well if I speak the truth, and sexism is more accepted in this culture--- you may ask yourself, "Fine Tobes, who do you blame for this supposed problem?"

I blame Men are from Mars Women are from Venus!

Seriously, click that link and read the whole blog post-- it wisely points out that a culture that relies on "men and women are so different" stereotypes isn't doing anyone any favors.

Today we teach our children that color is only skin deep but we still cling to the notion that men and women are fundamentally different and need to be treated as such. In the blog about MafMWafV, the blog author wisely states:

The whole concept of gender differences--particularly gender opposites--is so overblown in pop psych. I am officially sick of hearing statements in the form "Men go hoody hoo, but women go haddy ha!" Men are rational but women are irrational. Women are sensitive but men are insensitive. The idea that male and female personalities are opposites is dumb, condescending, and makes truly respectful relationships impossible.

And it makes it impossible for us to recognize that women are just as capable as men. We are not aliens sharing a planet, we're all a part of the human race. The fact that Hillary has a vagina does not make her any more or less capable that any male politician out there.

We look the other way so much when it comes to sexism that we don't even recognize a classic example of sexism when we see it!

James Wolcott of Vanity Fair illustrates this point beautifully in his op-ed "You can Call a Woman anything", talking not just about Hillary/woman-hate but also about women's inclusion in professional sports.

Wolcott writes briefly about Elaine Joyce, a champion amateur golfer. She and her father were looking forward to a weekend tournament at the public course on Cape Cod where they both had full memberships. But their names were not listed when officials posted tee times. Rather than call Elaine, the club's head pro called her father and told him the tournament was not open to women.

It did not matter that Joyce would play from the men’s tees. Or that she had won more than 20 club championships over the years. Or that she had captured the title in 2001 at an event for the state’s top female club champions.

Elaine Joyce filed a discrimination claim and after 18 (18!) months was allowed to play again. But she was punished.

Some members of the group were appalled and let her know it. One said he would play only if she played naked. Others walked off the course when paired with her. Some refused to speak to her during rounds.

If any club tried to deny a man of color entry-- would it not be news story #1? But a woman is denied entry and shunned and we shrug our shoulders and say its their business, their right?? I mean, why should they have to put up with the woman... the other?

I'm tired of the pissing contest of "what's harder" when it come to race/gender in this election. But I'm also a little miffed as to why this hasn't sparked more discussion.

I mean are there men of ANY COLOR who can't ref a sports game, can't expect medical care, would lose a job because of pre-marital sex, .... ugh.

But then there's the sports anchor (and a woman at that) who commented on "lynching Tiger Woods" and Bill O'Reilly talking about lynching Michelle Obama and plenty of other horrible racist shit....

There really is no point in havin the "what's worse" discussion because it's all horrible and it's all connected and it's all about keeping us down.

I'm just tired of a media society that will ignore Hillary bashing (or participate in it) and at the same time, bat their eyes in a, "What's sexism?" sort of ignorance. Seriously. You KNOW what you're doing... now STOP IT!


Plain(s)feminist said...

I don't think you can have it both ways. You argue that sexism is more tolerated, offer evidence to support your argument, and sandwich that in between commenting on how pointless these oppression olympics are. This post is a "what's worse" discussion, in itself.

Tobes said...

I guess that's true. I guess in my mind the sexism levelled at Hillary has been so much worse than what's happening to Barack. But if I say that-- I get myself into the very thing I'm trying to avoid and I look stupid, because as I say, there's no way I can understand racial issues as a white woman.

Still. I stand by what I'm saying. There are words the media would NEVER use against Obama---- but "you can call a woman anything."

Plain(s)feminist said...

I think it's true that there are words that one can't say on television or in many other places that have to do with race. However, I think this is not because racism is not ok. I think it's because certain expressions of racism are not ok, whereas others, like Bill O'Reilly's lynching party comment, are just fine. He'll take some heat for that, but he says racist things all the time.

I guess my point is that it's more complicated than what is ok or not ok to express in public and in the media. As I wrote on my own blog, this country watched Black people die on national television when we could have prevented it - and we didn't. That is certainly an expression of racism.

I'm not minimizing the sexism, which is pervasive and blatant. I just think the whole issue is more complicated than a comparison of what is tolerated or not tolerated can get at.

Adrienne said...

I thought that Imus was fired for saying 'hos'.... I actually didn't realize that 'nappy-headed' was a racial slur. In my pre-school classroom we have a children's book called 'Happy to Be Nappy' that is recommended to help black children develop self-identity.

While I think the 'iron my shirt' incident was ridiculous, the racism/sexism debate makes me roll my eyes. I feel like if we are going to debate the candidates based on their issues, their record, and their potential, breaking down which chromosomes and melanin levels they have is so utterly beside the point, distracting, and divisive.

As a woman, it offends and worries me when I hear someone say that they are voting for Hilary straight out because she is a woman. That is outrageous. Likewise, it drives me nuts when I hear people say that they're going to vote the Democratic line just because they're registered democrats. Ridiculous.

Elections need to be about the issues, not what either candidate is carrying in their pants, what church they go to, where their ancestors are from, what they like to eat for dinner, what color their eyes are, whether or not they have a hearing aid.