Thursday, July 31, 2008

Sexism Is Worse Than Racism

image I was inspired to write this post after reading about this incident at the Field Negro.  Read the following commentary by Ms.Couric and see if you have any difficulty understanding why WOC have trouble trusting white women as allies.

"The corporate pressure and the ratings terror are intensifying all the time, and the situation is not simple. I find myself in the last bastion of male dominance, and realizing what Hillary Clinton might have realized not long ago: that sexism in the American society is more common than racism, and certainly more acceptable or forgivable. In any case, I think my post and Hillary's race are important steps in the right direction."

This clearly smacks of oppression Olympics. How exactly would she know how difficult it is to live the life of a racialized body, to be able to determine whether or not sexism is worse than racism?  I do believe that even if such a judgement were to be made, she certainly would not be in any position to make it as a white woman. The daily slights and false characterizations experienced by WOC stem for our role at the bottom of the racial and sex hierarchy. To claim that sexism is our primary source of oppression is to  marginalize our daily lived experience.  Our bodies are considered consumable simply because we do not qualify as women in the same sense that white women do.  We are overly eroticized and created as exotic based in colour and thereby assumed to classify a perverse sexuality. This stems from a legacy of slavery wherein black women were routinely raped by their owners and forced to breed at the will of others. Diversely, legitimate white womanhood was, and still is considered pure and chaste. Our social positions are oppositional to each other and it is directly based in race.

How many times does it need to be said that there is no such thing as a good oppression.  Her interest in privileging one "ism" over another is based solely on her desire to promote white supremacy.  One of the issues that modern day feminism continues to suffer from is blatant racism.  Often when white women speak of equality what they mean is equality with white males. When we consider that white males have historically been in a position to assert power over bodies of colour, their desire to associate themselves with this is problematic. Having the ability to oppress is not the same thing as being desirous of equality. Placing white women in the same categorical position as white men systematically institutionalizes bodies of colour as other.

When WOC are told that sexism is worse than racism it necessarily seeks to minimize our experience and demands that we choose between feminism and and anti-racist work.  These two duel oppressions equally affect our lives and if we privilege gender over race, we are only empowering white women with the ability to oppress us in the same manner that white males already do.  The whole drive towards vagina solidarity instead of intersectionalism is meant to reduce us to invisibility in a movement that is supposedly dedicated to improving the lives of all women.  Shouldn't a movement specifically designed to end female oppression be open to considering the concerns of all, instead of privileging the desire of a small minority? We may all be women, but our concerns are simply not the same.



Larry Geater said...

Ms Couric is typical of those who ascribe all of their oposition to bias because they are intelectualy incapable of seeing their personal shortcommings. I am sure that she faces some gender bias. But she gets more oposition for being totaly unsuited for the job. There are many women in the news orginaxations who could have done a good job as anchor. Ms Couric is not among them. If they had hired Gwen Ifill away from PBS they could have had one of the most impressive interviewers available but they chose to go with cutsie instead because they thought being popular was more impoprtant than being competent.

Habladora said...

Sometime it seems like people like Couric are trying to cause rifts. It is hard for me to imagine that she seriously just doesn't have the intellect or the empathy to notice how very racist our society is. Why do some people feel the need to consciously downplay the experiences of others when discussing their own? Sure, we're all going to be crappy allies blinded by our own privilege from time to time... I sure have been. Yet, statements like these - is she trying to provoke resentments or is she really just an idiot?

Renee said...

@Habladora, perhaps the answer is a bit of both.

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