Tim Wise, a most eloquent and well-respected anti-racist, posted this piece on his blog today:
June 19, 2008
So, I’m just wondering…
Ain’t Michelle Obama a woman?
The reason I ask is this: During the Presidential primaries, there were numerous examples of sexist media commentary aimed at Hillary Clinton, from comments on her cleavage, to her pantsuits, to her laugh (described as a “cackle”) to her voice sounding like “the voice every husband knows” when being asked to take out the trash. Messed up stuff for sure. And white women, by and large, rushed to her defense, angrily (and correctly) denouncing the misogyny that was so commonly on display these past few months.
And yet, as Michelle Obama has come under fire (much of it also blatantly sexist in nature) these white women, many of them self-proclaimed feminists, have said virtually nothing. So when commentators have called her aggressive, or “angry,” or “hard-edged” (just a few of the words I’ve heard used to describe her)–and indeed, these are sexist in nature because they imply that women should be passive, sweet and soft, almost as an archetype–white women by and large say nothing in her defense. And worst of all, when FOX News recently displayed their infamous on-screen caption about Michelle Obama, describing her as “Obama’s Baby Mama,” there was little if any outcry from nationally prominent white women and/or feminists, including the ones who were so animated in their defense of Hillary Clinton.
Where is the New York state chapter of NOW, whose leader Marcia Pappas absurdly and grotesquely compared Obama and John Edwards’s treatment of Clinton during the primary debates to a “gang-bang?” Why no words of feminist outrage for the black woman, being attacked by white men? Hmmm…inquiring minds want to know.
Ain’t she a woman (to borrow from Sojourner Truth)?
Or do black women scare white feminists, just as much in 2008 as they did in Truth’s day, by challenging the way in which womanhood has been racially-constructed as white, and white women typified as the prototypical woman, the norm, the ideal, the standard?
To continue the thought I was trying to begin with the Open Letter to white women who, despite being progressive, are threatening to vote for McCain…once again, their whiteness is showing.
Well, ain’t she a woman?