Saturday, March 1, 2008
Update: Comments have been enabled on this post.
written by Heart of Women's Space
Welcome to the Women's History Month blog carnival: Come Together: Healing Tensions Among Women Working for Equality! I am proud and excited to be hosting this carnival together with Tami of What Tami Said. I was thrilled when she had this idea and invited me to join her in seeing what we might be able to do together.
I "met" Tami when I linked to her in a blog post I wrote a while ago about Carol Moseley-Braun's 2004 campaign for the Democratic nomination for the presidency. I had been a committed supporter of Moseley-Braun and had kept her campaign photo on the front page of my website for months after she had withdrawn from the race. I refused to accept her decision to withdraw; she was the only candidate who appealed to me or whom I felt I could trust. I knew other white feminists who had felt the same way and who had also supported her in various ways. I knew Gloria Steinem had played a central role in her campaign and that NOW had enthusiastically endorsed her. Yet four short years later – albeit four traumatic years for all of us under the reign of terror of the Bush regime – across the progressive blogosphere, the question seemed to be, "Where were all of these white feminists who are supporting Hillary Clinton during Carol Moseley-Braun's campaign? Why weren't they all about a woman president then?" My experience, of course, is that many of us were! And that somehow our support for Moseley-Braun had passed under the radar and gone unnoticed. I felt invisible then, and, hence, perturbed. I blogged about it, linked to Tami, and she joined the discussion in the comments following my post, a comments thread I found difficult in many ways, just as I am finding the entire presidential race difficult.
These days I find I do not want to discuss the presidential race at all. In fact, I want to find anything to talk about and to blog about except that. I have never been a fan of Hillary Rodham Clinton, and I honestly can't say precisely why. There are reasons I could point to, but I know they aren't the real reasons. I have wondered if, as some have suggested, some hidden, internalized misogyny keeps me from supporting this powerful woman whom many view as someone who actually could become President of the United States after all of these centuries of women's disenfranchisement. But I just don't think that's it, given my enthusiastic and unhesitating support four years ago for Carol Moseley-Braun.
I think my discontent with Clinton runs deeper than that. She is a wealthy woman. She has lived for eight years in the White House as the wife of a President. She is a Yale University educated attorney married to a Yale University educated attorney. She has one child. My sense is she has not known what it was to be poor, to struggle to feed, clothe or shelter her child. She has likely not lived in fear of police, doctors, teachers, social service agencies or judges. It is likely she has not been criticized for having had her one child, and she cannot have been pitied or viewed askance for having none at all. She is perennially thin, perfectly groomed, and attractive in the nonsexual manner of every successful businesswoman I have ever known. I cannot envision her mucking around in a muddy barn like I do, scrubbing her gardening hands raw to make them (almost) acceptable for work, the way I have had to, having to watch what she eats the way I must, because I cannot afford to buy a new work wardrobe because I've gained 20 pounds, which I can do in a heartbeat. I can't imagine her worrying over her future and whether she will be able to take care of herself as she ages. Especially, I can't envision her having to do what I have had to do throughout my adult life to survive —make myself impervious to the judgments, prejudices, and bigotries of those who have disapproved of me because of my marriages, my divorces, my children, my faith, my lifestyle, my parenting, birthing practices, politics, in short, everything and everyone who has mattered most deeply to me. I just don't think she can relate to my lived experiences nearly as well as I believe Carol Moseley-Braun would have been able to.
Barack Obama appeals to me on a certain visceral level and always has. I know he was poor as a child, if briefly, and that matters to me. Knowing what it is to be poor never leaves a person. He is biracial as my children are, and I cannot imagine he has escaped the experiences appointed to biracial people and people of color of having to be vigilant, always, in the presence of white people, and especially white people with power and authority, who can hurt you if they decide to. His mother is white like me, and he loves her. I like this very much! I am inspired, listening to Obama. There is something about him that calls forth the mother bear in me (not that that is very difficult to do!). And most of my children are excited about Obama's candidacy, though my daughters feel torn, wanting to support Obama as a biracial man of color and wanting to support Clinton as a female candidate.
Nevertheless, just as I can't seem to overcome my apprehensions towards Hillary Clinton, I don't trust the way Barack Obama appeals to me either. I can't find enough substance to his appeal. If I ask myself what kind of President he might be, I don't like the way I can't really come up with an answer. I wonder how much of the way he appeals to me might have to do with my deep and, I believe, unrealistic longings for a great leader who might be able to capture the public imagination for the reasons and in the way Gandhi did, or Martin, or Cesar Chavez or Nelson Mandela or, for that matter, John and Bobby Kennedy. I say "unrealistic" because although these leaders did capture the public imagination and although in some cases they accomplished much good, they were human, they were men with all of the weaknesses and foibles to which men are heir, they had feet of clay, and I am beyond the time in my life where I can lean more into my hopes than the truth of my lived experiences and what I know to be real.
Against this confused and conflicted malaise I am experiencing, the blogosphere discusses these candidacies. And what am I hearing? That white feminists are knee-jerk supporting Clinton when they failed to support women of color in past campaigns. That white feminists care only about issues of sexism and not racism. That for us, sex trumps race. I watch as outrage against the inexcusable and unapologetic media misogyny against Clinton is read as support for her candidacy, when in fact, quite often, it is simply appropriate outrage over public, unapologetic, sexism that often goes unchallenged, including by women. I hear white feminist support for Clinton, where there is support, being read as a lack of concern about racism, the idea being that if white feminists really cared about racism, they would support a person of color, whether male or female. And I hear womanist and woman-of-color support for Obama being read by white feminists as a lack of concern over sexism, the idea being that if women of color really cared about all women, they would support any woman, including Hillary Clinton. Rarely do I hear my own thoughts or experiences of this campaign reflected back to me. Mostly, I feel erased and invisible.
Into these discussions of this campaign, these analyses, we unavoidably bring our histories and lived realities, as women, of pain and betrayal at one another's hands, of misunderstanding and alienation, of resentment and rage. We bring memories of slights, fights, mistakes, embarrassments, sadness, feelings of being excluded and left out. We bring history – personal and community – and baggage. Mostly, it seems to me, the discussions we are having on the blogosphere about the presidential campaigns are often not about the campaigns at all. More, they are about what we would like to see in one another and don't see and haven't seen. They are about what we want from one another, but we're afraid to ask for it, because we might be disappointed again. They are about our frustrations with one another and our exhaustion and unwillingness to keep trying when it seems like we keep failing or it's no use. They are about our fears that in the end, we are going to miss each other, and we won't be able to do anything about it. They are sometimes, sadly, about the kind of rage and disappointment and discouragement that says, "I don't want you. I don't need you. Get away."
Since you are reading this, I'm betting and believing and hoping, I guess, that you share some of these frustrations and concerns, enough, at least, to want to read about them, talk about them, get them out in the open in a way that is positive, hopeful, in a bridge-building, as opposed to bridge-burning, kind of way. The frustrations and conflicts I have described are just one face, however significant, of many deep divisions between us as women – divisions around class, disability, age, who we love, religion, ethnicity, heritage, size, looks.
I have great hopes for what we might accomplish in this month, Women's History Month. I hope we can make some history of our own here, create even a small beginning, light one candle.
It's important to Tami and I that this carnival be as much about hearing one another as speaking to one another. We are not opposed to heat, but we are hoping for at least as much light! With that in mind, we will be closing all blog carnival posts for 24 hours after they have been added. We hope this will encourage women reading to think deeply about what their sisters have risked writing about and sharing and to breathe before they respond! We ask that when comments are opened, women work to express themselves respectfully, remembering that we are all part of a long history and tradition of strong and passionate women who have wanted to build a new and better world, for all people.
We are still accepting submissions
We have room for more submissions! If you missed the deadline or are inspired by the words of another contributor, send your essay, poem, artwork, video, etc. to firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
Visit Women's Space to read Tami's opening essay for the Women's History Month blog carnival.