Gloria Steinem, With All Due Respect, Kiss My Butt

If you haven’t read Gloria Steinem’s piece in the New York Times, go on over there and read it. I’ll be here when you get back.


Okay, seriously, fuck you, Steinem.

Where to start? I pick the end.

What worries me is that some women, perhaps especially younger ones, hope to deny or escape the sexual caste system; thus Iowa women over 50 and 60, who disproportionately supported Senator Clinton, proved once again that women are the one group that grows more radical with age.

Really? That’s how you want to play it? That voting for Clinton, because she’s got a vagina, is radical? Really. What’s radical about how she voted for the Iraq war, a war that has had devastating consequences for women, both Iraqi and American? What’s radical about using your husband’s job as an argument for your job qualifications? Is there something particularly radical about shopping around for a state that will elect you and moving there, rather than running in a state you’re actually from?

Because, I have to tell you, I’m not seeing it. I’m seeing a politician playing politics and I, as a voter, will be voting for the politician I think best able to be president. That might be Clinton; it might not be.

You may ask, can’t I see how groovy it is that Clinton is running for president? Can’t I see how important it is that I, as a woman, recognize this historic event and vote with my cooter, not with my brain?

No, you see, I come from Tennessee, home of Marsha Blackburn and Diane Black, women who are in office and not very devoted to assuring that other women have the same freedoms they enjoy. You see, just because someone has a vagina, it doesn’t make them good people.

Second, and more importantly than your little intergenerational pot-stirring is this:

That’s why the Iowa primary was following our historical pattern of making change. 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 (with the possible exception of obedient family members in the latter). [Emphasis mine.]

Steinem, again, fuck you. Dirty, dirty, dirty shame on you.

You were born, according to Wikipedia, in 1934, which means you lived through the 1940s, 50s, and 60s. Did you, perhaps, as you were penning your little NEW YORK TIMES EDITORIAL, not reflect back on how, even though black men were ostensibly given the right to vote a half a century before women of any race, black people of all genders were openly and systematically denied that right until half a century after we–you and me, white women–were guaranteed ours?

Did it not once cross your mind the deaths of James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner happened in 1964–over four decades after we–you and me, white women–got the right to vote?

Did it never occur to you that black women didn’t, by and large, enjoy the same right to vote our foremothers did? And that you, by framing it as some kind of competition for who has it the worst–black men or “women”–basically just said to every black woman in America, “My experience as a woman is the experience of women in America, not yours.”

I mean, it’s gross that you would, after saying out of your own mouth, that you’re not advocating a competition for who has it the toughest, turn right around and use your column to advocate a competition for who has it the toughest, with Hillary Clinton as the winner, but to just basically erase a whole swatch of history you lived through in order to do it?

Shame on you.

Sincerely, with my whole heart, shame on you.


p.s. For those of you who are still confused about why women of color feminists are often wary of white feminists and tired of giving us the benefit of the doubt when we say thoughtless stuff, it’s because we pull shit like this all the time and have for as long as there’ve been feminists in the United States (see Sojourner Truth telling white feminists that their concerns are not the concerns of all women clear back in 1851). I mean, sincerely, Gloria Steinem has enough power in the world that she can get an editorial in the New York Times that basically rewrites the last hundred and fifty years to make it seem as if women (read: white women) have had a tougher row to hoe than black men and it runs. It runs as if it has meaning and imparts anything useful to the conversation and when people criticize it (Andrew Sullivan, I’m looking at you), they criticize it for being about victim politics.

Okay, yes, but what about the fact that it’s bullshit? It’s a lie about history. That doesn’t alarm anyone?

p.p.s. Also, the implication seems to be that, if we’re electing folks on the criteria of how radically they’ll change American politics, Clinton, because she’s a woman, is more radical than Obama, because he’s a black man, but people, please. Either one is going to be a weird new thing we’ve never seen before–a President who isn’t a white man.

Let’s not underestimate the coolness of this moment–where a woman and a black man are both viable candidates for president.

Edited to add:  GoldnI takes up the intergenerational vote for cooters or you suck as a feminist problem with the editorial.

30 thoughts on “Gloria Steinem, With All Due Respect, Kiss My Butt

  1. Pingback: Volunteer Voters » Race Versus Gender

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  3. How disappointingly predictable. And poisonous. You’d think she’d have heard about the backblow from Stanton/Anthony’s experience in the Kansas campaign — drove a spike in cross-racial and cross-class organizing that feminism still really hasn’t recovered from. Obviously. When the disempowered (to whatever extent that word is even relevant to a woman like Steinem — but note that she only gets the space to say what the ed board of the NYT wants to publish, meaning that some group of elite white men feel it’s useful for some prominent older white feminist to attack Obama — no racism here, no no) play “my oppression greater than yours,” it’s always counter-productive and displays a distressing lack of engagement with where feminist practice largely is these days.

    Relying on Steinem as your go-to feminist voice is like quoting Shecky Greene as the happening cat in comedy.

  4. Yeah, sort of like they threw Gossage out of baseball. He was great and all, but he wasn’t really an impact player in the 2007 season, right?

  5. I didn’t expect Gloria Steinem to be alienating me out-the-gate — I didn’t even make it to that end quote you started with – I was busy choking on the bit about how black men were voting all over the place before white women.

    um – yeah. lovely. glad Gloria’s not running.

  6. Well, Jim, that’s why you keep it in your pants like the rest of us do and only bring it out after a couple of beers or in the presence of the paparazzi.

  7. I totally missed out on the piece, and I’ve seen good crits (like urs) popping up post mortem. Gloria should know better, but I see it as all a part of the game.

  8. Yeah, and that’s what makes me so angry about it. It’s exactly part of the game.

    But the thing is, we’re not supposed to play the game the same old way. We’re supposed to be trying for something different. That’s what we mean when we claim to be feminists, that we’re advancing the cause of women–all women–not just our powerful friends.

  9. Pingback: What Should We Remember, Gloria? : Elaine Vigneault

  10. Hey now, don’t be so hard on Gloria Steinem – she says she’ll volunteer for Obama if he wins the nomination!

    Seriously, thanks for this post. I’ve been grumbling under my breath for the past 3 days.

  11. I am an upper middle class, white female 70 year old , middle of the road democratic social worker. Help me to know without the glory of piss and vinegar.. exactly what I need to know. I’m not so politically astute. Help!!!!!

  12. 1. Hockey is better live.
    2. In a restaurant, never order steak well-done.

    Oh, you mean, politically, what do you need to know?

    Other folks have other opinions, but here’s what I think is important for liberal folks to keep in mind:

    1. We need healthcare reform. Either we need to switch to single-payer healthcare or we need to make some real changes to the health insurance industry. Everyone should be able to have healthcare at reasonable rates.

    No Democratic candidates are proposing real healthcare reform. They’re all proposing some model of “just make it illegal for folks to not have health insurance” as if the problem is that poor people are just recalcitrant.

    2. We need to end the War on Drugs. Right now, the only purpose it serves effectively is to disenfranchise black men. If no candidate is brave enough to end the war on drugs, at the least, we need sentencing reform. We need to treat it like a social problem, not a problem containing enemies and guns.

    3. We need our Constitutional Rights back, we need to shut down Guantanamo and other secret prisons where people are kept without due process, and we need to stop torturing people. I haven’t heard any of our candidates talk strongly enough about this and it makes me nervous that it’s because they’d like some of those extra-Constitutional powers for themselves. That needs to be unacceptable.

    4. We need real immigration reform. Putting up a wall and terrorizing Mexicans is stupid and inhumane and won’t stop the problem. Plus, we’ve ignored this problem for so long that we now have a bunch of kids who are (or should be) U.S. citizens. We should not be the kind of country to uproot children from the only home they’ve ever known to send them back to “their” country.

    We need to completely fix Immigration (Did you know that, for all practical purposes, no unskilled workers from Mexico can immigrate here legally?) so that folks can get documented and have a legal way to enter the country. And we need to show compassion for our neighbors who have been productive members of our communities except for one legal transgression.

    All of the presidential campaigns are trying to claim that immigration is a non-issue. It may be a non-issue, but it’s a humanitarian crisis and we need to treat it as such.

    5. We women need to understand that having access to adequate and reliable healthcare (yes, including abortions) is key to our ability to be whole citizens. And we need to demand access to knowledge and services that allow us to have adequate and reliable healthcare.

    6. We have to reduce our dependency on oil from the Middle East. That will continue to be an unstable part of the world and as long as we get oil from there, we’re beholden to some scary people.

    7. We need to reduce our dependency on finite fuels anyway. There’s not enough oil and coal for everyone indefinitely (even if you don’t believe in global warming). We need to be focused on innovating new fuel sources.

    8. We need to bring our troops home and to hold our elected officials to a standard of not declaring war on nations that haven’t attacked us, especially when we then neglect to stabilize nations that harbor people who have.

    Other things, folks?

  13. The crudeness of your comments in response to Gloria Steinem’s editorial reminds me of all the insults, injuries, indignities and humiliations I have lived through. Thanks for reminding me that “Plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose.”

  14. Yeah, shamey shamey, B. You made Jane feel bad, which we all know is the worst thing a woman can do to someone, especially when that someone can speak in French cliches. You should just shut the hell up because being seething, silent, and powerless to voice your own opinion is just what the Second Wave fought for.

    What kind of feminism do you practice, Jane, that you believe that other women owe you dissemblance to insulate you from wounded feelings? If you have something substantive to add in disgreement, by all means, have at it. Otherwise, your aggrandized sense of entitlement and attempt at shaming is out of place.

  15. No, Bridgett, she’s right. It’s crude to say “kiss my butt” when you mean “kiss my ass” — Steinem fought for our right not to have to fake being ladylike, and it’s wrong to get all prissy when arguing with her.

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