I never thought I would disagree with Gloria Steinem. As a notable feminist, fabulous writer and co-founder of the Women’s Media Center, Steinem has been a leader in the women’s movement for as long as I can remember.

However, I disagreed with Steinem after her article “American women are never front-runners” surfaced in the New York Times as well as the International Herald Tribune (Sat-Sun Jan 12-13, 2008). Steinem argued “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.” I will agree, gender is a pervasive and restricting force, but what about religion and citizenship? Can you imagine a Muslim being elected President? Our constitution does not allow foreign born citizens to run for president, nor can undocumented workers vote.
Steinem argues that if Obama was a woman, “her goose would’ve been cooked long ago,” in other words, s/he would have no chance. Perhaps there is some truth to that, but I would rather imagine both Clinton and Obama as women of color and compare their words and policies rather than their lineage and family members. Just for a moment, if Clinton were a woman of color, she would not be married to a former President, if history is any indication, multiracial couples don’t make it to the White House. In addition, she may or may not have had the resources to make it to Yale in the first place.
Women have not historically been front-runners and the reasons, according to Steinem, are “as pervasive as the air we breathe.” Including, but not limited to the fact that men feel as though they are “regressing to childhood when dealing with a powerful woman” and “there is still no ‘right’ way to be a woman in public power without being considered a you-know-what” (b**ch). Given the lack of female front-runners, Steinem does make important points.
Though she recognizes the interdependence of race and sex, Steinem is still a Clinton supporter on account of the four more years of Senate experience Clinton has over Obama (a moot point, if you ask me). In addition Clinton has “no masculinity to prove” and “the potential to tap a huge reservoir of this country’s talent by her example.” I am assuming she means young girls and women’s talents here, which is important, but what about the people of color, or women of color who don’t see anything in Clinton that resembles their own views, or those who may have reservations about a so-called feminist who takes back her husband after cheating? Is the personal political in the race of white woman vs. black man, and should it be?
What worries Steinem though, is that “some women, perhaps especially younger ones, hope to deny or escape the sexual caste system.” To you, one of my idols, Ms. Steinem, I will say I do hope to someday escape the sexual caste system, but I do not hope to deny it, I hope to recognize, challenge and abolish it.
In a recent Financial Times article, “Tears for ballot-box fears,” (Sat-Sun Jan 12-13, 2008) Chrystia Freeland contributes her own opinion to Clinton’s tears. In response to Steinem’s praise of women over 50 and 60 in Iowa who may be “more radical with age,” Freeland argues that perhaps “younger women are more demanding when it comes to feminist icons.”
Steinem ends her piece by arguing that “it’s time to take equal pride in breaking the barriers,” I would add that it is also time to evaluate our candidates by acknowledging the interlocking systems of domination, such as race and sex, and looking beyond, to their words, morals, policies and vision for change in the US.
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