Tuesday, June 24, 2008

My Mourning Dress Is Tight

Tree hugging, maple syrup loving, beaver cuddling Cannuck that I am, I should probably refrain from commenting on American politics, but I am so irritated that I cannot stand it anymore.  All over the blogosphere, HRC supporters are declaring themselves to be in mourning for her loss of the democratic nomination.  They speak about shattered dreams, and of feeling belittled, and used by a party that has come to take for granted their support.  With an allies heart I listened to the plaintive wails and tried to sympathize. I wanted to emphasize with their feelings of grief, to feel some sort of shared solidarity in our common womanhood.  I intellectualized it over endless pots of green tea, mused about it while incense burned, blocking out the smell of one too many cigarettes. Give it time I thought, it will come to me.

Then I woke up, and just plain and simple got real about it. Was she a victim of sexist attacks by the media, no doubt, but at the end of the day when she proudly packed up her bag, and walked off the stage with a class, and a grace that was remarkable, HRC is still a woman of incredible privilege. I think the privilege aspect of it all is where the disconnect begins for me.  In the game of life that woman is a winner. Though she may not have won this particular race, she will be remembered as the first woman that had a legitimate shot of becoming POTUS. This is a positively historic moniker to own. There will be books written about her, songs attesting her strength and courage, and when her light finally fades, she will be remembered more for the positive that she has done rather than the negative; the true sign of fame, revisionist memoralization.

Let me tell you who will go unheralded, the single mother that struggles to put food on the table, and keep a roof over the head of her child, the wife that has taken so many beatings from her husband that she suffers from brain injuries, the prostitute that is raped for the 100th time, the homeless women that are suffering with mental illness, the everyday working mom doing the Herculean task of raising a family and having a career, the so-called illegal alien performing what amounts to slave labor so that Americans can have their fresh fruit and trendy clothes, and finally the WOC and the GLBT community who are rejected and silenced. (If I were to do a complete list this post would never end.) These are the women I mourn for, these are the women I hope for, this is where my solidarity lies.

Let's be clear HRC is not just a woman, she represents the ideal of a certain class of women. Though her campaign targeted working class people, how often have the working class rallied only to be betrayed by the bourgeoisie? I submit that in a system that is corrupt from the very root, true and lasting change cannot occur from within, whether the candidate is HRC, or Barack Obama for that matter. The current leaders will always be beholden to those that granted them the power to rule, and unfortunately they will not remember their proletarian base. It is very clear that after decades of the so-called war on poverty, that it simply means eliminating the poor people, and not dismantling the system that impoverishes. There is much rhetoric about tolerance and justice, and yet there are still cases like Duanna Johnson and Sean Bell. In the wealthiest country in the world, how many children go to bed hungry, and how many will graduate high school without the basic skills to get a job, or continue their education?

It actually saddens me that feminism invested so much of its strength and energy to obtain a figure head, that could not despite her best efforts if she won achieve a substantive change in the lives of women. In pushing for the success of one individual what was forgotten were the needs of the many. We have become so disconnected from each other in the pursuit of material gain, that we have forgotten how to come together for the benefit of the least amongst us. In prioritizing our concerns, what we have forgotten is that as a movement we are only as strong as our weakest and most vulnerable members. Does anyone even still believe that the personal is political? Were they just words to mollify the legitimate rage of women that society has constructed as less than? At some point we as feminists have to declare that the bodies that the bourgeoisie have chosen to manipulate and exploit for their own enrichment matter, whether they are invisible, working, or middle class. 

So while I don't mean to offend you, or even belittle your sense of loss in any way, I will however challenge you to experience the same ferocity of emotion when a woman who is not as "accomplished" struggles to get through her day. It is not enough to state the domestic violence stats while spouting feminist theory. What we need as a movement is to feel true rage, and injustice every time a woman is marginalized, abused or exploited, whether or not we can identify with her life experience or not. It means owning our privileges, admitting we don't have the answers, and listening closely. The next time we decide to unify, let us hope that we will be inspired from the bottom up, for in that way we assure that the needs of the many, will truly outweigh the needs of the few.

7 comments:

hysperia said...

Geez sister Canadian, do I ever agree with you on this one and I haven't said it better. There were some US feminists, though, who understood that the sexism exhibited during the Clinton campaign was hurtful and damaging to WOMEN and not, primarily, to Clinton. Clinton has said it herself.

But where I REALLY truly deeply get you is when you talk about what a tragic distraction it all was. Sometimes, these days, I'm sorry to say that I think a lot of what feminists talk about is distracting. It's important to call out the sexism of individuals when they are powerful or have big voices. But if you understand sexism to be systemic, you also understand that you'll never change it only by changing the attitudes of a bunch of individual people. Not for a million years.

Feminists don't seem to focus much these days on social action. I have an idea that it's because of how the "problem" of sexism is defined. Sad to say, I thought that many of those definition problems had been worked out thirty years ago. But I guess I just narrowed by own focus too much and lost track of the Third Wave.

ouyangdan said...

This is a beautiful post, and I really can't see what provoked all of the ire at Feministe.

The point was straight and true.

I also for the life of me can not see what was so "juvenile" about it. It is well thought out, and something that honestly needed to be said.

And I was/am a Clinton supporter.

You nailed it again...as usual.

I hope to see more of your stuff at Feministe.

Renee said...

Thanks for your support ladies. I was very surprised at the reaction to this post at feministe. When I wrote it, I believed that it was written in a neutral tone. The commenters have done their best to try and silence me and belittle me. It seems that the only way to be a feminist is to express a point of view that is popular.

tanglad said...

Kamusta, Renee. I do not have the patience to engage more in the feministe thread, so I'll just thank you here.

I don't think anyone even acknowledged your excellent point regarding how our current political and economic systems perpetuate poverty. Regardless of who is in leadership. (I think your "tone" put them off, haha)

But to acknowledge your important point means that privileged people--including privileged women--will have to scale down A LOT of their privileges for more equitable social arrangements. They'll have to be more intersectional in their analyses. They'll have to change their lives. Gasp.

It's much easier to focus on the shocking(!) amount of misogyny that still exists in 2008. Yeah. If you talked to a woc every now and then, would you even be surprised that such misogyny exists?

Thanks again!

Maria said...

Although I was a Hillary supporter and am holding out hope that she becomes the vice president nominee, I certainly know what you are saying. I worked as a Parenting and Personal Development teacher at a prison with the pregnant women. I know exactly what you are talking about when you talk about helping those who are at "the bottom". So much more needs to be done to help them out of the vicious cycles they are part of. I found their stories to be heartbreaking and sincerely miss working with them. This was a great post. Thanks for submitting it to me!

Anonymous said...

I agree completely. Thank you for expressing this so eloquently.

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