Friday, February 22, 2008

Throwing the Gender Card From the Deck

Susan Estrich refers to The G Word in this analysis.

The problem that dare not speak its name, as feminist crusader Betty Friedan put it, is the best way to explain what she is saying.

There are two major problem with Estrich's analysis.

1. We do need to have a serious analysis about gender and its effects upon society, however, phrasing it in terms of men versus women has proven to be highly ineffective and counter-productive.

2. Gender is a construct that has never been as easily defined as racism. You can criticize Barack Obama for not being black enough, the implication that he is an Uncle Tom and not credibly black enough to be taken seriously. But you can hardly use that same line of thinking to criticize Hillary Clinton for being not woman enough. That implies that she is somehow too weak to be taken seriously if she shows herself for what she is, a woman.

Nor can you flip it around and say that she's not man enough either, because that's an implication that she has to pass as something other than the gender she was born with.

Feminism has yet to overcome its core failing, and that has been to define itself in contemporary terms. And to a new generation, gender and its application and policy of division into us versus them is a dying idea. Subsequent generations of feminists (notice I did not add the caveat, men and women both) are realizing that gender is so very broad and so hard to pin down to specifics that I would accuse feminists not of having failed in what they tried to accomplished, but failed to keep stay current to serve changing times.

A new generation of us realize that gender does matter, but it matters in a totally different way in an totally different context. As we evolve, we're growing beyond men versus women. If a woman cries, then we feel sorry for her, we don't pile on her and reduce her to some sort of weakling. If Hillary Clinton had not been so hellbent on trying to seem like some man/woman combination and had let her true self shine, then she would be the nominee. We have progressed far enough that no one except for a few true bigots is going to accuse her of being somehow less than for being brave enough to show her true self. Likewise, Obama's race factors in but only to a rapidly dying dynamic of virulent racists who would be so behind the times as to think in such terms.

And by man/woman combination I mean that she pointedly made reference to the fact that she was the first woman running for President with a serious chance at winning the election. Obama, to his credit, did not make light of the fact that he has become the first black male with a serious chance to win the Presidency. And he has not framed himself in terms of some white/black hybrid. All along Clinton's supporters and she indirectly have framed their debate in terms of us verus them. Obama has tried to reach beyond gender and race.

I left this comment up on Daily Kos and received, as always negative criticism. The poster implied that MSNBC was sexist because it failed to throw its support behind Clinton. Bias may exist and it is certainly skewed towards Obama, but aside from one pundit, I do not think sexism is at the core of its criticism of her. Authenticity and the ability to believe what a person is saying goes far beyond identity politics.

But again, you'll never please everyone, and I know that well.


Dr. Zaius said...

Despite the MSM's attempts to say otherwise, the differences between Obama and Hillary Clinton as presidential hopefuls is a lot more complicated than race or gender.

To say that Hillary is being given the short-shrift by voters because of her gender are failing to acknowledge the many issues surrounding the Clintons, and the failings of her own campaign.

You said: "Feminism has yet to overcome its core failing, and that has been to define itself in contemporary terms."

I would disagree. As long as television runs "Girls Gone Wild" commercials on TV women will continue to be defined by the media. I don't think feminists have a chance to really define anything. Even if they did, they would be ignored or laughed at. The subject is not taken seriously by the public, and I don't think that you can blame that on feminists.

Comrade Kevin said...

That's an excellent point and I hope to address.

The Girls Gone Wild culture is a perversion of feminism where women think that there's some sort of empowerment in objectifying themselves.

That's what I think needs to change. I'm criticizing feminists for not taking that into account when they draw better arguments.

The third-wave feminists are taking all of this into account. is a good resource for me.