Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Do I Dare To Eat A Peach I?

Robin Morgan dares, I think, because she dared to write this pro-Clinton piece: "Goodbye To All That (#2)." Her piece presses all the buttons, some more carelessly than others, and wades straight into the major controversies of this Democratic primary, but it also says some very important things. You might want to read it before continuing with this post.

Now take a step back, and look at the two Democratic primary leaders as demographic specimens: In the right corner we have Barack Obama, a black man, and in the left corner we have Hillary Clinton, a white woman. He is privileged as a man, she is privileged as a white person. Can you see the oppression Olympics begin? Can you hear the questions about who it is who has really been oppressed in this country, and who it is, therefore, that should get the golden cup? Can you imagine how very ugly all this could turn out to be? And can you imagine how very awkward all this is for black women, say? Astonishingly, the only group which is not touched by any of this directly consists of white men, which also happens to be the group that has traditionally held almost all the power.

I don't want to participate in the oppression Olympics, but they are ongoing as I write, and Morgan's piece does contribute to them. I'm not sure if that can be avoided, given the initial setup, unless we manage to find someone obviously the most oppressed at the present time to stand as the surprise candidate. Perhaps a survivor of the Rwandan genocide. Yes, I know that was flippant, and I apologize for it, but the point needed to be made: Electing either Clinton or Obama does not make any difference to the oppression Olympics. Neither of them has personally suffered the whole extent of the cruelty and oppression that we humans are capable of inflicting on the out-groups, and their election will not kiss the wounds and make them all better. In reality they are both fairly fortunate individuals.

Let's look at the race-and-gender question from a different angle: We now have a chance to elect either the first black president or the first female president in the history of the United States. Who should wait for the next round? And when will the next realistic round be?

See how impossible the questions are? The usual reaction of wise feminists seems to be to refuse to participate in the oppression Olympics. What does this refusal mean? As far as I can tell it means not supporting Clinton just because she is a woman. Whether it means not supporting Obama just because she is black I have no way of telling. Perhaps. Then the decision between the candidates would be made on the basis of their policies which are astonishingly alike, with few exceptions. Or it could be made on some other grounds, such as ability to engage, perceived experience or age. I'm not too happy with the age criterion, given the prevalence of age discrimination in this society, too.

Imagine, for a moment, that the two front-runners in the Democratic primaries were John Edwards and either Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton. Would that make the choices easier? And what is it you learn about your own choices in that imaginary situation? Yes, I know that John Edwards is actually the most progressive of the three. But he is also a white guy.

Take one further step back. What got us into this mess in the first place? Could it be a political history totally dominated by white guys? Look at the Republican candidates for presidency and what they offer in gender and race variety. In some ways we are fighting for the one scrap that has fallen off the establishment table, the one chance for some power, and we are fighting each other while those at the table snicker. We are not asking how to make sure that the political pipelines have lots of people of all ethnic groups and both sexes, lots of people being mentored to take over one day. Instead, we are fighting each other for the one juicy bone.

So much for the oppression Olympics. But race and gender enter the discussion in a different form, too, having to do with electability. Are American voters, on average, more racist than sexist or the other way round? Many Democrats want to beat the Republicans, because so much is at stake here, and they want a nominee which can win against whoever the Republicans might nominate. Does this mean that Hillary Clinton would be a BIG mistake, because people hate her so? Because she is a cold, calculating bitch who cries or just a very unpleasant creature? Would Barack Obama play better? How can we guarantee that we elect the most likely to win in the general elections?

This is about oppression, too, but from the other side, and the commentary is as depressing to me as following the oppression Olympics. Either we should award the crown to the one who deserves it the most or to the one who deserves it the least, it seems.

These are my thoughts on one of the themes Morgan's piece discusses. The next post on peach eating will address the generational divide among feminists.