Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Steinem Calls Gender Over Race

Jenn's got a great post, Pitting Race Against Gender, that gives some thought to Gloria Steinem's article that was featured in the New York Times this morning, "Women are Never Frontrunners."

Steinem basically says that if a womyn had Obama's credentials, she would not be given the same weight due to gender. True dat.

That's not what I have a problem with. "What worries me" is this statement: "Gender is probably the most restricting force in American life..." but then asserts, "I’m not advocating a competition for who has it toughest."

Spoken like a true 2nd wave White mainstream feminist "icon" from the New York Times the morning of the New Hampshire primary.

She argues with the following:

"Black men were given the vote a half-century before women of any race were
allowed to mark a ballot, and generally have ascended to positions of power,
from the military to the boardroom, before any women..."

Right. Because the right to VOTE being given to black men over a century ago proves that gender overwhelms race. Yes, let's focus on how White women were restricted the right to vote while ALL Black slaves were restricted the right to live. Let's focus on the few men of color who have "ascended into positions of power" and not the holistic picture of how race and gender interface for all communities of color. There may be some gende/race arguments for the political scene, but that is quite different from making a statement that gender is the most restricting force in America.

Look, I'm not going to go head to head with Steinem and argue what is most pressing for womyn in America - race or gender. What I do know is that as a US womyn of color living in this country is that the two are so inexplicably interlaced that I resist ANY individual that pitts once against the other, especially a White mainstream feminist. What I find most often, too, is women like Steinem (White liberal women) call gender over race. Let's rally all the women together once more because we're all being denied the right to vote and the men of color are making it into the boardroom before any of us are.

There's a reason why I use the word gender/ace as one entity. I cannot separate the two. But, I'm a womyn of color, my opinion probably doesn't fare well next to Steinem. Once again, gender is the tool being used as the great equalizer among women.

Let's look past the military and the boardroom, which Steinem quotes as two examples of Black men's ascension into positions of power. Let's look at economics among women. Take a look at the US economic standing between white women and compare to the womyn of color. I think that tells you everything you need to know about the power of race and gender.

When womyn of color are not the suffering majority from poverty, illiteracy, poor health and education; when I witness White womyn truly listen to womyn of color and learn how to be true allies; when feminism and gender is not used as a big umbrella to bypass issues of racism - THEN I will read the New York Time article again and consider her points. Until then, I find it ludacris to make such statements as Steinem. If you wanna talk gender/ace issues, let's talk about it in the real way that real people experience them. But, I guess for this conversation, we're focusing on the privileged - Clinton and Obama - and ignoring the real gender/ace dynamics of the marginalized.

Thanks, Jenn, for the link.


  1. Ya know, I've just never heard any WOC say "gender over race"--it's always white women who say that.

    Maybe that's something to consider? (((rolls eyes)))

  2. Anonymous10:50 AM

    Great response, Sudy. I was so irritated to read about this on all these different blogs, as well as the uncritical responses at mainstream sites like Feministing. What a tired, typical argument, from an irrelevant, superficial moderate. WOC feminists have been making this criticism for SO DAMN LONG.


  3. Hi, just came across your post. Even though ,you are right about Steinem's views being a tad hyper, it is true of any country in the world that if a woman tries to come to power, her use of her gender as an accessory is seen as divisive and somebody using their race/caste/creed card is seen as unifying. I am from India and have seen enough general elections to know this

  4. She is a liberal feminist. Plain and simple. I was offended by what she said about young women. She does not seem to have much hope for younger women. The keyword is HOPE.

  5. Anonymous11:43 AM

    Gomes, you should probably check out the hostility and stupid comments about Obama as well - the "madrassa" stuff, the ignorant drama over his name, the insinuation by the idiot Sean Hannity that he's "racist" for attending a black church. The rhetoric in the media around around Obama is ludicrous as well.


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