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Thursday, June 26, 2008

Feminists Aren't Silent, They Just Aren't Pandering

While some are asking the question, where are the feminists to defend Michelle Obama? Others are looking on in irritation that feminist achievements are being degraded.

Mary C. Curtis recently wrote an opinion heavy piece in the Washington Post about "The Loud Silence of Feminism." She asserted that feminists were not supporting and defending Michelle Obama because of one thing, she is black. So basically, feminists are racist because they are not standing on the front lines screaming for vindication for Michelle Obama.

But in America, there's seldom a cost for disrespecting black women.

I'm waiting for feminists who speak of second-class citizenship and being pushed to the back of the bus to remember the civil rights movement that gave birth to those words. After all, it was a black woman, Rosa Parks, who took her seat up front and pulled others there, too.

I'm not holding my breath, though.

As a journalist, I have stayed neutral about political candidates.
But as an American, I would have been excited about the historic first had Hillary Clinton emerged victorious from the Democratic primary battle. Yet when an African American made a different kind of history, it seems that feminists can't share in the triumph.

Frankly, I am not amused by her opinion, which laid out how feminism was not inclusive to blacks. I think Ms. Curtis needs a bit of a history lesson, or else she needs a reality check. The Feminism movement was not simply founded on equal rights for women, but equal rights for all. Our founding mothers', whose message was defiled in the past 30 years, took a stand for Emancipation and fought for equality for not only sex but race.

Path Down Memory Lane

1833: The Philadelphia Female Anti-Slavery Society is formed.

1837: The first National Female Anti-Slavery assembles in New York, with eighty one delegates representing twelve states.

February 1861: The last woman’s rights convention is held before the war, and suffrage activities came to a stand still. Efforts by Lucretia Mott, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Susan B. Anthony gave their support by “touring New York State under slogans such as ‘No Compromise With Slave Holders’, and ‘Immediate and Unconditional Emancipation’ while enduring ‘the roughest treatment of their lives at the hands of aroused mobs in every city where they stopped between Buffalo and Albany.’”

May 14, 1863, Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton called a meeting of the Women's National Loyal League. The League called for the immediate abolition of slavery. The Women’s Loyal National League gathered 100,000 signatures on petitions of women and men who "earnestly pray that your honorable body will pass at the earliest practicable day an act emancipating all persons of African descent held to involuntary service or labor in the United States."

1866: The American Equal Rights Association was formed as a coalition between woman's rights and anti-slavery organizations. Its purpose was to agitate for universal suffrage. It soon became apparent that many abolitionists felt that the demand for woman's suffrage would harm the chances for black male suffrage, and they considered this the "Negro's hour," not woman’s.

February 14, 1867: Susan B. Anthony writes Amy Post about the upcoming vote in Kansas on two separate amendments: one that would extend suffrage to African-American males and one to all women.

Perhaps Ms. Curtis was ignorant of feminist history, which very well could be the case. When looking at sources like Wikipedia you see very little mention of women championing abolition of slavery, or the 15th amendment. It is not until the 1970's is there mention of racial equality. Yet more proof that Wikipedia is not the best source of information and quite subject to "Historical Revisionism." While Rosa Parks had a significant contribution to equal rights, she was hardly the one who started the movement. Fredrick Douglass and his good friends like Susan B. Anthony got the ball rolling long before the 1900's.

In her article she seems to focus on Gloria Steinem as a representative of Feminism instead of the women who started the movement.

From the article:

Still, I cheered Steinem when she spoke at my college. Her message could have been more inclusive, but it was a start.

Could have been more inclusive? How exactly? By separating black women from all women? Would that have been "inclusive?" Ms. Curtis seems to think that Gloria Steinem was a start, when really she was just a perversion of a movement that established equality for all men and women, no matter what race. Without them America may still be stuck in an age of slavery and degradation. Ms. Steinem was not a start, she was simply a continuation of some already established ideals. Where she took them, I personally have issue with, but her influence was none the less not a "start."

This "Historical Revisionism" seems to be more like the CIA's highlighter, blacking out all the important information and leaving nothing of substance in it's wake. If one takes a look on the Internet under the search Feminism and Racism, you have a hard time finding the instances above where early feminists pushed for Universal Suffrage and Abolition of Slavery. What you do find are instances where feminism is being accused of racism. In fact you find an entire wikipedia section dedicated to "black feminism." Real inclusive right?

More from Ms. Curtis:
I'd like a little of that solidarity back now, not suspicion because someone of my race defeated someone of our sex.

A recent Washington Post article noted that 3 out of 10 Americans have a racial Bias.
More than six in 10 African Americans now rate race relations as "not so good" or "poor," while 53 percent of whites hold more positive views. Opinions are also divided along racial lines, though less so, on whether blacks face discrimination. There is more similarity on feelings of personal racial prejudice: Thirty percent of whites and 34 percent of blacks admit such sentiments.

So I can only assume that these 3 out of 10 Americans, which include black Americans, are who she is talking about. I have to wonder where this "suspicion" comes from. Women who were voting for Hillary were doing so because they supported her, and are upset because she did not win. The primary concern at this point was not that Barack Obama was black, or that he was male, but that he was "inadequate." Does this suspicion have to deal with a recent rant by Harriett Christian who called Barack Obama and "inadequate black male?" If so then consider this. There are women who voted for Hillary just because she was a woman, and blacks who are voting for Obama just because he is black. Does this make all blacks sexist? The logic does not seem to flow.

Perhaps while Ms. Curtis was in college she skipped her "Women's Studies" class instead of attending like all good feminists.

Sources: Rochester Library, Online Exhibition of Susan B. Anthony and the Feminist Movement.

Women's Sufferage in the United States