Thursday, January 10, 2008

Gender Politics?

An excellent Op-Ed piece by Gloria Steine,co-founder of the Women's
Media Center, in the Jan *th issue of the New York Times, throws light
on gender politics and how one tends to see it. Read on ...

Women Are Never Front-Runners

THE woman in question became a lawyer after some years as a community
organizer, married a corporate lawyer and is the mother of two little
girls, ages 9 and 6. Herself the daughter of a white American mother
and a black African father — in this race-conscious country, she is
considered black — she served as a state legislator for eight years,
and became an inspirational voice for national unity.

Be honest: Do you think this is the biography of someone who could be
elected to the United States Senate? After less than one term there,
do you believe she could be a viable candidate to head the most
powerful nation on earth?

If you answered no to either question, you're not alone. Gender is
probably the most restricting force in American life, whether the
question is who must be in the kitchen or who could be in the White
House. This country is way down the list of countries electing women
and, according to one study, it polarizes gender roles more than the
average democracy.

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).

If the lawyer described above had been just as charismatic but named,
say, Achola Obama instead of Barack Obama, her goose would have been
cooked long ago. Indeed, neither she nor Hillary Clinton could have
used Mr. Obama's public style — or Bill Clinton's either — without
being considered too emotional by Washington pundits.

So why is the sex barrier not taken as seriously as the racial one?
The reasons are as pervasive as the air we breathe: because sexism is
still confused with nature as racism once was; because anything that
affects males is seen as more serious than anything that affects
"only" the female half of the human race; because children are still
raised mostly by women (to put it mildly) so men especially tend to
feel they are regressing to childhood when dealing with a powerful
woman; because racism stereotyped black men as more "masculine" for so
long that some white men find their presence to be
masculinity-affirming (as long as there aren't too many of them); and
because there is still no "right" way to be a woman in public power
without being considered a you-know-what.

Read the full piece at --

No comments: