Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Goodbye to Robin Morgan

Two people have sent me the Robin Morgan essay "Goodbye to All That #2," both saying it put tears in their eyes.

It put tears in my eyes, too- and not in a good way.

Here's my response to her essay. Let me say at the outset I find her to be condescending and her words ugly, wagging her finger in the face of young feminists who think differently from her. I don't need her to tell me how to be a good feminist. And neither do you! Be who you are, and don't let Robin Morgan or anyone else tell you you're not part of the movement.

Let me also say that Nancy Fraser provides a sane, intelligent and reasonable response to Morgan's essay/diatribe.

***This is my answer to a friend who asked how best to call out gender bias that is happening against Clinton without resorting to racial comparisons, which Morgan and Gloria Steinem both made the grievous error of doing.***

I think the strongest way to call out the horrible gender bias that is indeed happening is to clearly and simply name it. For me, Morgan's essay would have completely hit the nail on the head if she had just named the outrageous occurrences (the Nutcracker, the 'iron my shirt,' etc.). That has integrity. She would have been making statements that are clear, simple, true-- and without question, demonstrating that those occurrences were sexist, demeaning and disgusting. Contrary to what she may have intended, the race-based comparisons do not make her argument that the media treats Hillary unfairly any stronger. They just inflame. If she wanted to say the media treats Hillary unfairly because Hillary is a woman and Barack is a man, fine- say that. But to say "if they had made *RACIAL* slurs, everyone would be all over this,"-- well, to that I say, great!

It always pains me a lot when there are comparisons like "X was done to a woman. If X was done to a person of color, it never would have been tolerated!" Morgan has a laundry list of those, and to be honest, I think it's a divisive and hurtful tactic. It's horrible that someone yelled "iron my shirt" to Clinton, full stop. Her race-based comparisons are flawed and unnecessary to make the point that women have it tough. I saw Gloria Steinem do this too- compare oppression (even though she said "I'm not trying to compare oppression," that's exactly what her NYT piece did.). I am really weary of seeing this mistake made over and over.

It's obvious that mainstream media provides sexist analysis and perpetuates sexist myths. And Morgan's list of the ways in which women have been and are oppressed is heartbreaking. But I disagree with her on many points, including "goodbye to blaming anything Bill Clinton does on Hillary." She's referring, I'm sure, to Bill's comments on Obama being a Jesse Jackson esque (ie, token) candidate. I'd bet everything that Hillary knew he'd say that, that he'd take that angle, and signed off on it. So I believe they do need to share the blame for tactical campaign mistakes. There are other points that deserve examination, but that's emblematic.

Morgan says she knows black women supporting Hillary who are called "race traitors," but Morgan is essentially calling women who support Obama "gender traitors." It's enough to make me, as a woman of color, want to crawl into bed and stay there!

Nancy Fraser's essay succinctly and powerfully made the case for Obama. I especially appreciated her argument for the need for an improved political terrain on which to further build feminism and progressive politics. This doesn't take away from Clinton's abilities, only argues that the time is right for Obama's. I found it thoughtful.