Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Steinem, Clinton Export Second Wave Racism Into Mainstream

Mark January 8 in your book as the day both Gloria Steinem and Hillary Clinton came out with anti-Barack Obama rhetoric of the same classic, ugly racist cloth that proved to be one of the undoings of Second Wave feminism. Yes, Gloria Steinem and Hillary Clinton are exporting the politics, tactics, and nastiness of the Second Wave's internal race wars into the mainstream. Lovely.

Note: It didn't fly within the movement itself -- in fact, rejection of the Second Wave's internal racist crap in particular largely gave rise to the Third Wave, led both substantively and symbolically by Rebecca Walker. That is, feminists now 45 years old or under (does that age group sound familiar this election cycle?) made a distinction between Second Wave feminism's practices and their own right from their 1990s beginning. Steinem and Clinton apparently have learned nothing.

The race wars within feminism are notorious. I'm sure I don't have to give any of you, even if you have no direct experience with the U.S. feminist movement but only knowledge of it through college courses, a tour through the issues and what went down. Privileged white women always made their issues first, always claimed they were most oppressed, viewed woman of color and their issues as secondary, viewed women of color as allies only when they fully supported Second Wave priorities. Those women of any color who questioned these priorities or this approach or even only wanted their issues and their men to be more fully included in the Second Wave agenda, or who went so far as to threaten the dominance of Second Wave leaders were treated as the worst sort of enemies to be outright demonized. This is exactly the politics and priorities that Steinem and Clinton are now exporting to the mainstream against a man and his supporters who for all intents and purposes should be their natural political allies. Make no mistake: It is Gloria Steinem and Hillary Clinton who are taking the false Second Wave "Is Gender or Race More Important? Whose Oppression Is Worse? I'll Be Breaking Glass Ceilings But You're No MLK Jr.!" vile tension into the mainstream.

Do you have any sense of how nasty it got within the movement itself when this Second Wave racism wasn't theory but actually put into practice? You're getting a glimpse of it now. In fact, Gloria Steinem and Hillary Clinton are going to get a lot uglier and more embarrassing if past Second Wave practice is prelude. This is a terrific embarrassment for the U.S. feminist movement, no question.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

The view expressed here is being aired at other feminist blogs too. See, for example, the blog Diary of an Anxious Black Woman.


9:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There are two things that strike me. One is that there is a huge outpouring on feminist blogs talking about Gloria Steinem's massive misfire. The second is that all this time I've been assuming Lay is antifeminist, always attacking Second Wave feminist leaders. It's like I've had my own "aha!" moment. Always she brought up Generation X when discussing MacKinnon's in-the-news practices or Steinem or Hillary Clinton and emphasized that there is a difference between knowing the movement through its practices rather than its theories. But I only put it together now, where she's coming from, probably this is in part because the natural reaction was so strong to assume that because she was critical of the few Second Wave leaders we have on the scene she obviously must be out of her mind antifeminist.

7:51 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you layola! I wondered if i was the only feminist who felt smacked silly when I read Steinem's op-ed and heard Hillary say Barak's no Martin Luther King, and by the way, not MLK but a white guy, LBJ, was responsible for civil rights change. You nailed it. All the gross racist undercurrent and tension of the SEcond Wave race wars was in exhibition and like you it concerns me it's going to be taken much farther.

8:52 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I feel like that analysis completely ignores the point she was actually trying to make about the prevelance and acceptance of sexist comments. I don't see her statement as being a competition of who is the most oppressed at all, just that it is interesting to note how oppressions play out differently.

5:18 AM  
Blogger Laylalola said...

My point is that it's a classic Second Wave tactic to like to think about how interesting it is to think about who is more oppressed, whose oppression is worse. To falsely set up and spend so much energy examining all the nuances of this high theory of very divisive race v. gender issues -- to mask, primarily, the
overt racism that prompted such discussions withing the Second Wave in the first place. So think about it all you like, but be warned: the Second Wave spent decades thinking about this high theory and keeping the discussion rigidly within that very "I'm More Oppressed Than You, Dammit! And You're A Vile Enemy if You Question Anything I'm Saying or Threaten My Leadership!"

The Third Wave rejected this. The mainstream has picked up on the uproar of the racist undercurrents but right now is misleading news consumers into thinking it's only coming from Black bloggers or the Obama campaign. The Third Wave of feminists are also out there in strong force saying the same.

3:59 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I feel that part of what you just said is that our elders have already had these thoughts and so we should just move on. I think that's weird.

I also think that a lot of the Third Wave feminist stuff is bunk, so why I should feel that their comments on this issue should somehow be some sort of authority, I don't know.

Basically, I'll do my thinking for myself. I don't need any waves to do it for me. And I think your analysis of Steinem's arguement only addresses the reaction it is getting, rather than what she actually said. I think the lack of link to her actual words reinforces that.

8:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Gag me. Gloria Steinem easily could have pointed out the sexism she sees in the media's and the public's reactions to Hillary Clinton without deliberatly turning it into a race v. gender argument. She didn't because it's Second Wave M.O. to pit race v. gender in making their arguments about how bad women have it. It's a faux competition between who is most victimized and you're either on the Second Wave side or you're against it -- there is no intersection. You're on the side of letting Steinem et al think for you and frame the arguments the way they insist on doing it despite even the strong internal rejection of this within the Second Wave and yes ultimately the Third Wave. Congratulations!

12:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Do you have any sense how nasty it got within the movement itself when this Second Wave racism wasn't theory but actually put into practice? You're getting a glimpse of it now. In fact ... it's going to get a lot uglier and more embarrassing if past Second Wave practice is prelude."

It's exploded over this weekend and Hillary Clinton and her camp, after injecting race v gender into the discussion, now are claiming they're the victims of race v gender being injected into the national discussion. I'm watching with jaw dropped to the floor. It is a replay of the worst of what went on in the race wars within feminism. It's not shocking to see it played out again, though maybe it would be a shock to never have seen it. I was going to say "Give it up, Laylalola, they're not going to stop now, they're going to go nuclear, full-tilt with this approach" but re-reading the piece I see Layla already knew that they were going to take it to a much higher extreme.

10:12 AM  
Blogger Laylalola said...

Actually, I give up, throw in the towel. What difference does it make? Seriously. The only lesson they learned from the internal race wars within feminism was to go all the way, give nothing, use it to the fullest extent, work it work! So what if it fragmented the Second Wave. So what if it alienated a new generation who distinguished themselves from what came before. So what? These tactics created unbelievable division and passion and for decades women debated minor "who did what first" aspects etc. She's going all the way on this. It's inevitable. She's inevitable. It doesn't matter what it takes to get it, she's going to get it, period, and she's going to ascend to the presidency claiming to be a staunch civil rights advocate, just to let you know in no uncertain terms that her side is righteous and anyone critical of the injection of racism is the other side to be demonized, completely triumphed over, devastated, they're the real enemy, they've got to be rolled over, it's got to be clear who the real civil rights champion is.

10:48 AM  
Blogger Laylalola said...

Bill Clinton is blacker than Barak Obama. Barak hasn't done the "spade work" to be president (WTF, "spade work," used by Hillary, isn't even a common phrase, never heard it.) "Shuck and jive." It's far worse to be a woman running for president than a black man. Etc. etc. And oh yeah. Now it's "I'm being victimized by the insertion of race v gender into this discussion! How low can the Obama campaign go?!"

10:52 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Um, do you think you could pause in this wave of self-congratulation to do Barack Obama the courtesy of spelling his name correctly?

9:26 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Speaking of being self-congratulatory, give yourself a big hand, Anonymous!

10:50 PM  
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