The more I think about it, the more I think that my feminism is rooted on the women in my family, who didn’t consider themselves feminist, but believed in finding ways to do what you had to do to make room for yourself in the world, and women like my College Professor, who taught me an articulated feminism that, at the time, seemed to contradict a lot of what I thought I’d learned from my family.
Aw, hell, of course it contradicted a lot of what I learned from my family. Let’s not kid ourselves.
But what I learned from all these women was a deep commitment to the well-being of everyone and a deep suspicion of being too certain of knowing what constituted “well-being.”
I am convinced that, for myself, the biggest pitfall I face in my desire to aid in everyone’s well-being (and I know that’s a vast oversimplification, but bear with me. I’m not so much interested in talking about end results at the moment.) is how my being white intersects with my being a feminist.
The impulse, and it comes from a good place, is to take charge and fix things. And I find it very empowering to take charge, to feel that I can have a powerful influence on the world. And a lot of how I understand myself as a feminist comes from the belief that women, in general, but namely me, need to be able to take charge.
Don’t worry, I think, I will lead the way.
And I’ve never been non-white, obviously, so I don’t know, but it’s that impulse, I think, that’s very steeped in white culture–this idea that leadership is rightfully ours and that injustice is when we’re denied the ability to lead. I even see it in the huge blowups we have in the feminist blogosphere, which many prominent white feminists seem to understand as critiques and checks on their leadership–demands that they change direction. When, clearly, it’s about more than that. It’s a critique of the structure of leadership in general.
Still, there’s that underlying belief that the women who take the lead deserve the lead, that we should have leaders, which I don’t think we, who feel the impulse to want to lead, do enough to question.
But here’s my point, and maybe it’s all the Sesame Street I watched as a kid, but I do believe that we’re all in this together and that we all suffer when anyone faces injustice.
I look at Obama and I feel amazed and excited. I don’t feel cheated. And I have a hard, hard time understanding the outrage with which some white women express their feelings of being cheated. I’m not a liberal just because I want things to go my way.
Of course that’s a part of it.
But I believe that a black person being able to seriously vie for the Presidency is cool as hell. This is the hope I have for us.
My hope is big enough to hope for a country in which a black person can be president and in which a woman can be president. And yes, I am disappointed that Clinton’s failure to clinch the nomination came draped in real ugliness towards her as a woman, because I am a liberal and I believe that, when you’re arguing with a person, you argue their ideas or their personal behavior. You don’t try to crush them with the historical ugliness you can bring to bear against them.
But I believe that about Obama, too.
And not getting exactly what I want when I want it is not an excuse to betray my core beliefs.
I just don’t recognize that. I don’t understand that.
If it’s wrong to be racist, it’s always wrong to be racist, even when we’re pissed.
If it’s wrong to be sexist, it’s always wrong to be sexist, even when we’re pissed.
And yes, it’s been gruelingly disappointing to see the racist and sexist tropes bandied about by the folks we thought were on our side, but damn. You don’t meet like with like.
Not if you want things to be different than that.