between women and blacks (the remix)

I like and respect Gloria Steinem, and usually agree with her, but to me this piece wreaks of the rhetoric that sowed a racial division in the early women’s/suffrage movement that has yet to be bridged (i.e. why so many black women still think feminism is some white woman shit). Certainly sexism is operative in some voters’ opposition to Hillary, just as “quiet as it’s kept,” some voters will not support Obama simply because he’s black. But to suggest that all the animosity against Hillary has to do with her gender is ridiculous. There are many other reasons to distrust Hillary (along with her 35 years of experience is also a lot of baggage and mistakes, including voting for the war in Iraq, a mistake that, unlike John Edwards, Hillary never expressed regret for). Some other conscientious voters think Hillary is “bought and paid for,” and will offer “more of the same.”

Steinhem opens her article, imagining that if Obama were a (black) woman, his candidacy wouldn’t even be a blip on the radar. She’s probably right, and if Hillary were a black woman, she would be just as unlikely a candidate (but Steinhem, like most of her generational counterparts, does not complicate the way race is gendered and gender is raced). Once again, polarizing “race” and “gender” produces the raced woman as a ghost in a very old drama between “blacks” and “women.”


About jennifer williams

Jennifer D. Williams is a writer and professor of English and Women's and Gender Studies. She has published in academic journals and online at, PopMatters, among other sites. Jennifer is currently working on a book that looks at black women's urban literature between the Depression and the civil rights era.

One response to “between women and blacks (the remix)

  1. Thanks for linking to the book, I didn’t know about it.Since I am not American, I can afford to watch the presidential campaign with a greater degree with detachment. Though in the case of the US, we are all obviously interested, and these questions become global questions.I sometimes come across the following argument on feminist websites, addressed to people posting misogynist comments: “you wouldn’t dare say that to a Black or Asian person, to anyone from a minority…” I really don’t know what to make of such statements. Somehow, probably unintentionally in most cases, they imply that discrimination on the basis of skin color or ethnicity doesn’t exist or isn’t very serious anymore. What is more, the desire to speak of gender in racial terms and vice versa doesn’t seem to me to do justice to either.It seems like it leads to more confusion and then the presidential race, on some level, for some people, is a really bad but nevertheless anticipated way of “solving” that, i.e. is weighing race against gender, as if an abstraction were possible.

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