Commentary by Organizer CF
Earlier this week on NPR, we learned that married white women in particular are now extremely energized behind the Republican ticket since the debut of VP nominee Sarah Palin at the RNC a couple weeks ago. White women, the reports say, are going to be a decisive vote this year- and it’s on Barack Obama to “win them over.”
As a feminist– and a woman who cares about women and supports women leadership– I am appalled and frightened with this horrible manipulation of women and co-optation of feminist principles. As a white woman against racism, it drives me insane.
First, the nomination of the Alaskan governor as a ploy to pull in disappointed Hillary supporters and other (white) women couldn’t be more obvious. Anecdotally, I’ve heard the argument that the narrative around ex-Hillary supporters for Palin isn’t necessarily supported by the numbers. That it is, in fact, a Republican tactic to generate the idea that women-who-support women are now turning their backs on the Democrats.
But whether the data is there in large numbers or not, women- white women- are now a voting bloc to vie for, according to the coverage.
I’m frustrated with my white sisters who are unquestioning in their “feminist allegiance” to another woman. Make no mistake, women too can perpetuate sexism, misogyny and patriarchy. Sarah Palin is not our ally.
As Eve Ensler- a fiercly anti-racist white woman and playwrite- put it:
Everything Sarah Palin believes in and practices is antithetical to Feminism which for me is part of one story -- connected to saving the earth, ending racism, empowering women, giving young girls options, opening our minds, deepening tolerance, and ending violence and war.
Now, as a white woman who fights for a world free of racism, it drives me insane. Insane to witness the way a millenia of gender oppression is invoked to lull us back to the comforts of whiteness and privilege. The way our “allegiance to our sisters” is dangled before us so that we may feel vindicated in another woman’s victory… but absolved of the pesky responsibility to racial justice. For me, it smacks of that terrible tradition in struggles for women’s rights when white women abandoned and dismissed their sisters of color as they pierced the glass ceiling by means of white privilege.
It sickens me to witness how the Right brandishes their new shiny sword “against sexism,” hurling it at any and all critics of Palin, especially Barack Obama. The Republican party as pioneers of women’s right: why isn’t the irony more obvious to my sisters? Oh, and it’s all too easy to invoke the Black man as a big ole sexist, stirring that deep socialization of white women – their rage at sexism, and their fears of blackness and Black men in particular
And of course the onus is on Barack Obama to win over these white women. In coverage and election discourse, it’s never a question to white women voters on how they see Sarah Palin actually defending women and girls, or what role race and racism play in their vote. It wouldn’t matter if Barack Obama was the biggest feminist in the world; it wouldn’t matter because this is not really about feminism.
To this latter point, maybe the answer is apparent: They see themselves in Sarah Palin. Apparently, these voters are white women first, and feminists second.
And as a white woman, I want to reclaim a feminism that’s built on anti-racist practices. A feminism that remembers all forms of oppression are interlocking and feed each other and to fight for women’s justice means to fight for justice for all people– of every color, community, orientation, gender, ability, age and faith. These fights are not separate from each other.
Even though Sarah Palin and I are both white women, I LOSE if she is elected… and ultimately- though they may not see it this way- those white women who support her lose too. They lose the opportunity for healing the rift with their sisters of color, and they lose the opportunity to help build healthy, multiracial communities that really protect our daughters and our sisters.