gender trumps race
Why does this statement bother me so?
Because it is ridiculous to lay claim to the idea that all women are oppressed on equal terms, simply because they are women. Obviously, oppression is more complicated than that and I personally think that gender does not trump anything. Instead, there are interlocking systems of oppression that women face based on gender, race, class, sexuality, religious background, nationality, citizenship status and so forth. It is very naive and very, very 2nd wave-ish to say, “well, gender trumps race.” I can’t even understand how one can come to such a conclusion.
In the case of the current Duke scandal, some folks feel that we must pay attention to the issue of gender before race since, she is a WOMAN and was allegedly attacked by MEN. However, I don’t see how we can only pay attention to her as a woman, or as just a black woman, or even as a economically disenfrachised black woman, for that matter–all of her identities must be taken into account. Her race is already determining who believes her and who doesn’t, how bad of a parent she is (the myth of the bad black mother), and it’s determining how she is
misrepresented in the media. Additionally, we must not forget that we exist in a media saturated world that continuously reproduces negative images that deem black womens bodies as disposable sex objects. It is all too impossible to deny that those images do not play a strong part in concluding how she was/is/will be treated by men of all races. Furthermore, if one believes that gender trumps race in this specific situtation, then they deny the harm of the racial slurs that were hurled at the dancers, which I personally see as a form of violence towards these women–no matter what.
I also can’t possibly see how gender would trump race, since gender roles are constructed alongside race and class lines. I grew up learning not only how to be a female, but how to be a black female–and I think for other women of color in this country, it is impossible not to formulate a race conscisouness of being “less than whites,” alongside a gender consciousness of being “less than men.” Therefore, our racial identity and racism play a major role in our negotiations of how we experience gender. On the other hand, white women grow up to learn how to be white and female–which basically boils down to a white race consciousness that is formulated on the basis of having power within a system of white supremacy. So then, of course to some white feminists, gender would trump race, since they are not impacted by racial oppression.
Moreover, the argument that “gender trumps race,” also ignores the fact that women of color see men of color as necessary allies in the struggle against “the patriarchy.” Men of color do have a complicit relationship with fostering the oppression of women based on gender differences, but, we cannot ignore the fact that these same men face similar oppressions due to the color of their skin aside from their gender. In the case of the Duke scandal, if it were men of color who allegedly attacked a woman of color, issues of race would still be in play and I still wouldn’t see how gender would situate itself in a hierarchical position above race, or vice-versa. Rather, we would have to take into account how race functions within the specific racial group to understand fully the scope of the attack, what should and can be done about it, ways to prevent future attacks on women, etc.
Finally, if gender trumped race, there would be no need for black feminism, for third world feminism, for chicana feminism or for women of color feminism. Generalizations about “the patriarchy” and the oppression of women in a heirarchy based on gender, only ignores the multiplicity of the number of oppressions all women face that are not soley based on gender. However, to some white feminists who face gender oppression in exchange for racial privilege, gender does trump race.
This is also posted on my blog.
What’s fascinating/disturbing about this thread of comments is that Ginmar’s comment seems to be a nonsequiter- Nubian didn’t say a damned thing about black men being somehow blameless when they perpetrate rape and she didn’t say that the fact that the Duke victim was female was somehow irrelevant. She said, and the fact that there is still disagreement on this is truly frightening, that gender does not trump race. Not that race trumps gender, not that class is immaterial, not that white women don’t get raped, not that black men are always 100% egalitarian at all times. THIS is what she said:
I don’t see how we can only pay attention to her as a woman, or as just a black woman, or even as a economically disenfrachised black woman, for that matter”“all of her identities must be taken into account. Her race is already determining who believes her and who doesn’t, how bad of a parent she is (the myth of the bad black mother), and it’s determining how she is misrepresented in the media. Additionally, we must not forget that we exist in a media saturated world that continuously reproduces negative images that deem black womens bodies as disposable sex objects. It is all too impossible to deny that those images do not play a strong part in concluding how she was/is/will be treated by men of all races. Furthermore, if one believes that gender trumps race in this specific situtation, then they deny the harm of the racial slurs that were hurled at the dancers, which I personally see as a form of violence towards these women”“no matter what.
The response to this, so deeply grounded in white privilege, was in flagrant disregard of Nubian’s actual post. There was something, frankly, damn near pathological about the rush to overwrite the Duke rape case with other rape cases, particularly those celebrity rape cases.
Facing one’s privilege can be intense and guilt-inducing, I guess, but it’s got to be better than hurting and alienating people of color with whom you should be allied and better than being so caught up in your own rage that you can no longer analyze or empathize.
[drift] Amp, did you notice from the BC’s front page that they are looking for financial support to stay affloat ? You might want to mention that in your next link farm. [/drift]
I’ve been meaning to get in on this for a while, and now that my compute is back……….I agree with EL in #91. This was a distraction from the larger post. Nubian didn’t set up any type of one is a bigger problem than the other kind of statement.
I also think that all of the people who want to downplay the significance of race in the Duke case need to remember that some of these men used racial slurs directed at the two women–even their defense attorneys have not disputed that. Racism was very clearly implicated in this situation because of the history of exploitation and rape of Black women and because these White lacrosse players used racial slurs.
Exactly – I’m with Nubian and Rachel on the slurs issue. I made a post to that effect in the comments on BlackProf – it seems that, as soon as the two men were indicted, the discussion of those racial slurs, again UNDENIED, went totally underground. To me, just as in the “Jewish whore” case, the particulars as they relate to race and ethnicity cannot simply be ignored.
We have no way of knowing whether the strippers would have been raped had they been white, but that’s not the point. The point is that a woman WAS raped, that woman WAS black, her rapists ARE (okay, alleged to be, to be fair) white.
So, let me get this straight Puck. Since there exists a bad stereotype of black men as The Rapist, white women can never criticize or critique those black men who *do* rape and how all black men, just like all white men, benefit from our rape culture? The fact that you don’t want to wrap your mind around because you’re afraid of being labelled a racist is that black men do rape. Do they rape because they are black — uh, I highly doubt so. But that’s what you’re trying to say I’m saying. The leaps of logic that you jumped through to get to that are a quite nifty trick on your part.
And your claim that I didn’t apply any “real analysis” to the story of the black male workers and the student is a similar tricky leap. Obviously I did analyze it and spent a post explaining that — that it could be race, it could be gender, it could be class — and that the crux of the matter depended a lot on my experience as a white woman and the supposed experiences/interpretations of the female black student. You seem to think that I’m making a statement about all black men when this man, and his buddies, did IN FACT, harrass this woman. Was that O.K.? Where’s your outrage over an employee of Duke University harrassing a student? Oh, right. You got hung up on my sarcastic “it must be a black thing.”
Look, either I can criticize all men’s sexual harrassment, regardless of race or class, or I can’t. Men don’t get a free pass on misogyny because they happen to be black or working class. And they especially don’t get a free pass on misogyny because I’m a white woman calling them on their shit. My whiteness has shit-all to do with their bad behavior.
Now, I know. Someone’s gonna come along and say, “oh, that Q-Grrl, she’s saying all black men are sexist! All black men are rapists!.”
Well, if someone does come to that conclusion… have at it.
I’m not one to coddle any man. And if men who are oppressed turn around and treat women like sub-humans… eh, I’m going to hold them responsible for the shit they do. ‘Cause a big part of that “oh, oppressed people tend to oppress people under them” should really read “Oppressed MEN tend to oppress the WOMEN under them.” Black men may try to or actively succed in oppressing Hispanics or Asians, but not nearly to the degree that they succeed in oppressing the women of their own communities.
Ok, so I went back and re-read this:
This is what I’m having a hard time reconciling. I believe it is a false claim to patently say “gender trumps race” and take it as a universal feminist approach. I do think though that “gender trumps race” is a useful and situationally correct tool — when needed and when applied with a broader understanding that there is no hierarchy of oppression. At some time, when all the cards are down, there will be an instance when gender does trump race. And vice versa.
The idea posited above that there is a contigency of women who *only* experience sexism/misogyny is stretched too thin. The percentage of (white?) women that I know who might *only* experience sexism (as if this was what? a blip on the social screen?) is pretty small. Women don’t face sexism in “exchange” for racial “privilege”. I mean, WTF? What does that even begin to mean? White women aren’t lining up saying “oh, lordy me. I’ll take a heaping dose of rape, harrassment, and lower pay… that way I can ignore looking at my honkey privilege.” Or is it that nubian is saying white women find it easier to challenge men in a rape culture than it is to challenge themselves about their white privilege? ‘Cause even there, I’m having a really hard time believing it. Challenging men gets you hurt or dead. Challenging yourself at worst gets you mighty confused and depressed.
I read Nubian’s post on her blog, didn’t know about the firestorm in these comments.
Ginmar: ” I notice that nobody wants to touch that one. All white women lie: all black men are inncoent. ” Stop trying to stir up more dust. No one said that, no one meant it. But if you want, go back and research the history of white woman and black lynching from slavery. Then maybe you’ll understand why POC are wary of white women, as they are of white men. The privilege exists, even if you don’t want it to. The Duke rape has just as strong an element of RACE as GENDER whether you want it to or not.
Nubian: You are the bomb as usual. Thank you for being strong against all this ignorant rhetoric. Keep blasting’em with common sense.
All she was saying is that GENDER doesn’t trump race. They are all rolled in there together. Then she broke it down as to WHY gender is no trump card.
Ginmar asks when she hears sexist things, is she supposed to just suck it up. As a white woman, I could see how that could wound her; after all, she has no other “trump” to use except maybe class. Race is not an issue for her, so it’s easy to see why she would want to dismiss. It does make her a classic ostrich though, with her head in the sand as we speak of racial epithets and the fact that the lacrosse players specifically asked for a Black woman. It’s okay if you don’t notice something at first, because it’s not something you deal with everyday. But it’s not okay if it is brought to your attention and you still refuse to acknowledge it, even attacking it to make yourself feel better. That sucks.
Richard Jeffrey Newman: WOW. That was a deeply moving story you told. I thought you were right on too. It is a form of privilege (if that’s the right word) that a white woman not be called racial epithets during race. (Though she could be called “white whore” even if her rapist is white…would that necessarily make her feel worse about the rape? Maybe the “whore” would, but calling her white?) When calling your friend Jewish while violating her, the rapist made it implicit that part of his excitement came from her cultural distinction. As in the Duke case, I think that the race issue simply compounds the violation to unknown heights…I know that after hearing that the “Thank Grandpa for my shirt” comment threw me into mental rages I hadn’t felt for awhile. Because while they did not hurt me, the statement implied that any Black girl would’ve sufficed for them…so it could’ve been me .
Honestly, I don’t see what all the fuss was about. Nubian was clear, succint and said something that should be common sense for everyone. Are we going back to comparing which race had it worse too? Please, let’s not fall back into that trap. While we are attacking each other, women are being raped and people of color are being abused. Can’t we come together to stop those things? Or must we only fight for what affects us directly? Because that sucks too.
TMJ, you wrote, in response to me:
You’re right, of course: a white rapist could call the white woman who is his victim a “white whore,” but I guess the implication of my question–and I don’t know if this is right–is that such a term would not even occur to him under “normal” circumstances, i.e., where race has not been explicitly introduced in some other way. I can, for example, imagine a white man raping a white woman as a form of “punishment” for having had sex with a Black man, and I can imagine the rapist in that kind of situation calling the woman a “white whore”–but it would have been her relationship with a Black man that made her race an issue, not something inherent in the fact that she was white.
On the other hand, it is not hard for me to imagine that the man who whispered “Jewish whore” into my friend’s ear might have been Jewish, nor is it hard for me to imagine a Black rapist calling the Black woman who is his victim a “Black whore” because the racially sexualized images of Jewish and Black woman that exist in a culture are there for everyone to use, including the men that belong to those groups. I know that Jewish men use them when they want to assert power/control over women; I assume that Black men do as well. (And I would add that such a situation, in which, say, a Jewish man calls a Jewish woman a “Jewish whore, sounds to me like the kind of situation where one could argue, as Q Grrl does, that gender would be the thing you need to deal with first, not because it “trumps” race, but because it is foregrounded in the situation.)
All of which brings me back to my original question: It’s not hard to talk about what it means for a woman of color to be raped as a woman of color–nor it is hard, I think I would add now, to talk about what it means for a white man to rape as a white man–but how do we talk about what it means for a white woman to be raped as a white woman?
Qgrrl, it sounds to me like your interpretation is different than ginmar’s. Or maybe something else is going on. As I told somebody else upthread, I am quite capable of observing that there are commonalities in the way rapists behave, in the way society at large views a woman who dares to press charges, etc. I have always taken it for granted that these things are what make up what we call rape culture in discussions about violence against women.
I don’t have any quarrel with that. What I quarrel with is ginmar’s assertion that the culture under discussion couldn’t possibly have any signifigant subcultures worth examining for how they differ from one another. What I quarrel with is her seeming assertion that a woman like Nubian is coldly and deliberately attempting to shield Black men from scrutiny if she choose to parse and label cultures differently than ginmar does.
And I agree with Rachel S. that it would be a mistake to sweep the Duke rapists’ use of racial epithets under the rug. There is a reason they used those epithets against Jane Doe, and why they wouldn’t use those epithets against a dancer with my skin color. How can that not be important ?
I guess what I’m resistant to is the notion that race *does not* affect white women. Or that if a white woman chooses to focus on gender first, rather than race, she is excluding any and all implications of race for WOC. Maybe that’s not even being said… although a few posters above have indicated that race does not affect white women.
And the funny thing is, that this particular comment from one of the Duke lacrosse players, “Thank your granddad for my shirt” isn’t theoretically hurtful in my community. This happened here, mere blocks from the historically black community of Walltown. These are my neighbors, my friends, my co-workers who are dealing with having to live with, work for, wait-on, or just pass by on the street, these racist, raping fucks. This isn’t CNBC, this isn’t FoxNews telling us this. And so, yeah, I’m defensive when someone suggests that white women don’t have to deal with race. We dealt with it last summer when racist fucks burnt three crosses in Durham; we’re dealing with it now as the Klan gears up, once again, in distributing racist flyers around town. Racism and the implications of race are not a distant abstract.
But neither is sexism. And while I can work on myself regarding my white privilege, and I can work together with my neighbors and friends to resist the fallout from racism, I will always feel stronger and more knowledgeable about sexism and misogyny. And because of this, I will most likely preface and dissect sexism before racism.
… and I don’t see why I should be viewed as a sell-out to do so. I do best what I know best.
That doesn’t mean I ignore race and racism.
This is an interesting question, and I have some further questions and reactions related to it, but I am hesitant to pursue them on this thread — it feels too much like hijacking the thread to ask “what about the white people?”
I’m not saying you’ve done that; I just feel like I would be doing that if I responded here.
I agree with whoever said that the slur “Thank grandpa for my shirt” was blood chilling. I guess what bothered me most about it was how … calculated it felt. Maybe I’m wrong, but it feels like the kind of epithet one would have to think out beforehand, not just hurl at the moment. What kind of person saves that shit up?
(Sigh.) But Q, when you say “deal with,” you don’t mean that you are dealing with it in the same way that you would as a WOC, do you ? That shit can’t have the same meaning for you as it would if you were a WOC, can it ?
I never acused anyone of being a sell-out, BTW. That was not my intent.
I don’t know all the details of your current situation, Q, so bear with my assumption for a second. You could, conceiveably, walk away from all the nasty shit in your neck of the woods next year, couldn’t you ? From a purely socio-economic standpoint, you could leave that community and move to an area that was all or nearly-all White folks, even if still working-class. And you have that mobility that you wouldn’t as a WOC, because you have White skin, like me.
It humiliates me to say it, but there are indeed White women who don’t deal with race, because they don’t have to. You have chosen to make these issues your business. You have chosen to feel solidarity with your neighbors and not to just run home silently every night and lock yourself in your house. I’ve tried to do the same, in my own butter-fingered fashion, but neither Jane Doe nor Nubian nor the other WOC on this thread have that lattitude. It’s their business no matter what they choose, and their choices are hemmed in because of forces they have less control over than you or I do.
And I never said that you did.
I think you’re right; to pursue it at this point beyond using the question to point back to the “gender trumps race” issue–which is what I hope I’ve done–would be hijacking the thread. I wonder if this is something Amp would feel it’s worth starting a new thread on.
why do I even have to put that qualifier out there? Damn people.
I have my own understanding of race, just as black women have an understanding of race the differs from Asian women.
Well, no I couldn’t. Especially from a purely socio-economic standpoint.
eh, that reads as if I’m angry with you Alsis. I’m not.
It just seems that people are bending over backwards to see stuff that isn’t there — like some kind of bad case of the white guilts is hovering over this thread and fucking with folks’ reasoning abilities.
Why would your first reaction be to assume that I think that my impressions and understanding of race are the same as WOC? C’mon now.
(Sigh.) I’m just trying to clarify, Q. And I wouldn’t call it “guilt,” exactly. More like there’s some button that would make it all click into place right in the room here, but I can’t figure out what/where it is. Aggravation ? Confusion ? Not guilt.
Frankly, I hate it when posts that could be three sentences end up being six paragraphs. OTOH, if some folks had been more lavish with the qualifiers, maybe things wouldn’t have gone to shit here as they did. :/
For example: I’ve never read ginmar’s postings about rape and thought for a second that she only wanted justice for White women. So why does it seem to me like ginmar read Nubian’s comments as if Nubian were calling for Black men to be relieved of any responsibility for stopping rape ?
Ginmar mentioned in the earlier thread that the discussion of lynchings was basically letting White men off the hook by talking about White women as part of the same society. But I didn’t see that at all when I went back and read the whole thing. What I saw was that we’re on a board that deals heavily with feminist issues, and that it’s logical to assume that we’re going to talk about all women and what agency they don’t or don’t have when crimes are committed.
Ehhh… Never mind. That button has to be somewhere, but I have too much to do to keep groping around for it. Probably it’ll turn up when everyone’s talking about something completely unrelated and/or trivial. That’s usually how it works.
I think that’s what women here have been saying in response to how some women and men were misreading(deliberately or otherwise) what nubian had put in her recent post, and claiming she wrote things she didn’t write and claiming she didn’t address issues which she did.
Making assumptions that Black women didn’t know about sexism from Black men or they did not know that there have been Black men who have raped women is just ignorant and incredibly insulting.
This assumption that statements like “All White women are liars” are being tossed around is just self-serving on a thread about a Black woman’s credibility being attacked due to her race as much or more than her gender.
Making assumptions that Black women and Black feminists as well as other women and feminists of color weren’t discussing issues of sexism and gender within their communities as if these discussions couldn’t happen without White women either being privy to them or being involved. That is stupid and imperialistic.
Why is that? Because apparently there is some unwritten rule somewhere that women of color can’t or don’t have discussions on issues pertaining to gender without checking in with White women first.
Then the “you’re painting White women as devils” card. That was a bit surprising to run into here.
I would have had my jaw hanging too with all I’ve seen on this thread, but my TMJ’s been really bad this week.
The statement, “Gender does not trump race” was made and explained in the original post. Yet, there was this assumption that well, if gender doesn’t trump race, then it must be the other way around! Omigod, they are siding with their men against White women! That really was not what happened here.
White women took the greatest offense at this immediately. Women of color understood what Nubian meant all along and stated that in their posts here and at her blog. They expressed their frustrations at not being heard, and they weren’t, really, even by those who claimed the most ardently that they care the most about them, because they put gender first above everything else.
That was why I asked one person or another at one point to go back and reread it before they put words in her mouth that she never wrote. It wasn’t a fair way to treat her.
I also don’t get how White women can claim to be for and with women of color if they can’t even listen to what women of color here have said without putting up the defensive shields all around them and without invalidating them and their life-long experiences as women of color, in an attempts to *prove* that they are the experts on all things, gender.
As for “White guilt”, that’s an occupational hazard. The stories I listen to regarding racism from men and women have created those feelings within me. I am familiar and intimate enough with them to know when they are in the room with me.
That’s not what is motivating me here. It’s mostly frustration, sadness and being somewhat pissed off.
… well, if WOC understand it right off the bat, maybe it’s a mix between it not being heard and it not being said.
But this still begs the question — what if some white women disagree with nubian. Does that immediately stem from their privilege? That’s where I had tried to start out — that understanding her points and agreeing with her points are two very, very separate things. I was originally pointing out that hers was an apparently onesided critique — that the statement “gender does not trump race” leaves a lot to still be said and that even at the core of nubian’s own argument was a firm foundation of women’s identitiy as women (precisely, she said “feminists). I feel that a reading of ginmar’s statement to mean that she, and by default all other white feminists, don’t consider race to be important to be a rather sophomoric theorizing. And I think that this type of criticism can and should be levied without white women being told that this is merely a privileged position — rather than a thought out one. To me that seems knee-jerk. I read Ginmar’s statement to mean that she puts all women ahead of all men, regardless of primary, secondary, or tertiary relations of gender, race, or class. What I read Nubian to be saying is that Ginmar can’t do this in good faith because other women don’t have the luxury of doing so. Which is where I begin to quibble. Do I agree with Nubian’s points? Yes, to a great degree. Up until that point that she deems Ginmar’s feminism to be corrupt because it lacks a more universal and comprehensive view of “women”, while at the same time slipping out that “some” white feminists “exchange” misogyny for racial privilege.
no, i never said that. i said “being able to say a black man who rapes someone is a rapist must be… for sure. black men have no more place to commit violence against anyone than anyone else.” read the whole post next time, please.
perhaps i misunderstood you when you said “black men are rapists”, but that seems very much to be saying that, well, black men are rapists. not some black men. black men. particularly without the context of “all men are rapists” which i also have some problems with, it singles out black men as violent sexual offenders. once again, though, maybe this is just another example of how hard it is to communicate over the internet.
on the other hand, you thinking that i (or anyone else here) thinks that black men should get a pass to be oppressive to women is quite a stretch as no one has even written anything that could be vaguely misinterpreted to mean such a thing.
next, i had written that post before you put up your “analysis” if it could be called that… after having read it, it makes more sense. from your (subjective) perspective, the sexism/misogyny was the “trump”, if you will (omg, that word is starting to suck)… i’m pretty sure that the woman in question was thinking somehing quite different from you – though i’m certain that not a bone in her body was “excusing” those men.
no, men never get a “free pass on misogyny” and no one here is offering that up. however, it speaks volumes that, in your example, not only did you choose to illustrate your point with black men but with working class black men. it’s problematic to
perhaps, but what defines “success” in oppressing someone? further, my point wasn’t about how much black men oppress other people. my point was that, in a shitstem built on a foundation of iniquity, everyone is simultaneously acting out oppressive behavior at the same time as being imprisoned by it. let me make myself clear: this, in no way excuses such behavior/ actions/ ideologies/ violences/ etc. it also doesn’t invalidate the very real oppressions we are each facing or even diminish them. it simply means that we aren’t going to find our ways out of this shit until we each recognize our own complicity in reproducing modes of oppression.
reading your most recent comments, it’s clear that you’re dedicated to doing just that. and, as long as we all keep open hearts and keep moving forward, that’s the most essential thing.
peace and blessings
white feminists need to SHUT THE FUCK UP and let us say what we have to say. they need to stop silencing and suppressing the voices of women of color, and invalidating our claims by any means possible. they need to allow us to speak for ourselves and to stop claiming frantically that they have the absolute knowledge and authority to decide what all women’s oppressions are. they need to really start HEARING what we are saying, instead of denying us any validity just because our statements go against their theories about what struggles are worth fighting. they need to realize that what might be the reality for them, does NOT by default mean that women of color also have to deal with that SAME reality only. they need to stop claiming that gender struggles ‘trump’ [what a simplistic, one-dimensional term] any other struggles for ALL WOMEN, and basing it solely on their own, limited experience of oppression. they need to not violate our space and allow us to define our existence and struggles without calling us stupid, without resorting to desperate and ludicrous ad hominem attacks on our personalities, our writing and expression style, our choice of vocabulary or our un-academic, un-pretentious, un-high-culture, “simplistic” language.
listen up, white “sisters”:
get over yourselves. essentially, it is not HOW we say it, but WHAT we say that’s important. and sometimes you’re NOT the ones who know the absolute, irrefutable truth. the least you could do (if you really don’t want to be perceived by us as just another ‘oppressor’) is to say, “ok, i might not understand exactly what you’re talking about because i haven’t lived as a woman of color, and the only oppression i’ve ever encountered is patriarchy. however, i understand that your life experiences as a person of color leads you to form your own identities and your own resistances, and i respect that. and i’m not going to jam my shit down your throats trying to silence and erase you. and i’m not going to claim until i turn blue that you’re not enlightened enough and not conscious enough to define your own reality.”
fight against patriarchy does NOT equal all other fights for everybody. for YOU it does, because that’s the only conceivable cause for you all to unite (being on top of the socially-constructed racial hierarchy and not having to be seen as more ‘exotic’, more submissive, more agreeable, more sexualized, more oppressible, more coercible, more victimizable, more tempting to rape and humiliate… on a daily basis). but that’s NOT the case for the people who have had to fight against something much greater and much more mind-numbing our whole lives. gender oppression alone does NOT explain the plight of women of color, as opposed to that of yours. if you ask us, the first oppressor any conscious woman of color would identify off the bat, would be White Supremacy. and want it or not, you do NOT have to fight against it because you ARE PART OF IT. and by denying us our voices and by attacking our words, you are only reinforcing and proving to us that the fight against White Domination (be it in the form of male or female) is ultimately our single, most important purpose. because unlike you, we are always viewed as strippers OF COLOR, mothers OF COLOR, lesbians OF COLOR, activists OF COLOR, professionals OF COLOR, with all the accompanying circumstances and social stigma attached to that. and this ‘of color’ suffix changes a whole lot of shit for us on many different levels.
i never identity myself as just a *woman* ““ my fundamental identity in this world is *woman of color*, which already, in and of itself, signifies that i have at least two oppressors ““ white supremacy and patriarchy. Moreover, for me the patriarchy is always secondary to white supremacy. and in most of my personal fights men ARE my comrades ““ my blood brothers, my fathers, my uncles, my cousins, and all brothers OF COLOR. we together bear the burden of being racially profiled, generalized, stereotyped and humiliated. we together understand what it feels like NOT TO BE WHITE, we together fight it, hate it and support each other in spirit against it. there’s no ‘male racism’ and ‘female racism’ to me, there’s just one, atrocious, omnipresent, demoralizing racism that we (women and men of color) understand and fight in concert. and in a lot of ways, it is YOU, white feminists, who i have to fight against in order to reassert my position in the society ““ much like in this very debate, which i find absolutely ridiculous.
it is YOUR restless anxiety to always be right that’s dividing us. your truth is NOT women of color’ truth. period. just because you’re not aware of something doesn’t mean it’s not there. because you haven’t lived in a certain way doesn’t mean that nobody does. because you haven’t experienced something doesn’t mean it’s not real. because you find something incomprehensible and unrealistic, doesn’t mean it’s bullshit.
and for those who are much too quick to label us ‘whiney’ and to dismiss our own stories of OUR OWN TRUTH as absurd, i have only this to say: if anyone is ‘whiney’, it must be you because all you can see and focus on is your poor, oppressed, repressed, misunderstood, manipulated, denied, defied, misinterpreted little selves. no-one’s had it as hard as you have; therefore, your oppression is the only AUTHENTIC one, right?
I think it’s been said, though. A few times.
There’s nothing wrong with disagreement, but there’s a difference between doing that and throwing out statements like nubian said this and she really didn’t to forumalate your argument against. I have seen more mistatements made about her postings here than anyone who has posted a column at this blog at least recently, which struck me as odd at first because her postings at least do not seem to be ones that would create much confusion.
I think ginmar’s presumption that “gender does NOT trump race” meant that she and other White feminists did not consider race important, was premature, but it’s a response I often hear or read from White feminists. Granted, her posting being used in a column did put her on the spot and maybe on the defensive, but she did put the statement out there and a woman decided to challenge it from her own experiences and perspective.
But saying you do with words and then being dismissive to women of color when they disagree with you and accusing them of doing this(saying Black men never rape or All White women lie about rape(borrowed from another thread)) and not doing this(having discussions about sexism and violence within their own communities) was unfair. I can understand why women of color here and at nubian’s blog stated how offensive they found hers and others words. It seemed to me whether some folks intended it or not, that they wrote off entire sections of the history and present day realities of Black feminism and other feminist ideologies of women of color as well as the discussions which women of color have on these issues among themselves. Simply because White women aren’t present or privy, doesn’t mean they don’t happen.
To chastize women of color for not dealing with issues(I guess not in the way she would like) when you have no real knowlege that they don’t is patronizing to say the least. The only thing those words do is just about guarantee they will not have those discussions in your presense.
cool Puck. I get what you’re saying. And no, I do not mean to say that either “all Black men are rapists” or that “all men are rapists” — although I do have very contentious and controversial opinions about men and rape. What I meant more specifically is that when men who are black rape, they are not significantly different vis-a-vis the rape, then white men who rape.
I’ve been thinking about that question on what it means to be raped without added racism.
For me, allthough it wasn’t actually a rape, it meant constanly questining myself and thinking about why someone would feel that sort of aggression towards me. What did I do – how did I behave? How did I come across? Could he have misunderstood me or was my worth really so low in a mans eyes that he would do this?
My privilege and naivitÃ© up to this point in life (Iwas only seventeen) made it difficult for me to understand the situation. Today I would say that his actions then were due to his misogynic view on women but then I didn’t have the ability to look at the larger structure and instead put a lot of doubt on my self.
If he had said stuff that made it clear that his actions were due to some sort of community of wich I was a part I wouldn’t have put so much upon myself and my sense of self wouldn’t have suffered as much damage.
Possibly it might have made it worse in other ways that I cannot understand. Still, from my viewpoint, rape and assault hurts worse when they come from a personal angle than when they are due to the perpetrators reaction to external factors and not you personally.
This is why I really can’t see the priviledge of being raped without racist motivations behind the deed.
And as for rape being primarily about gender, I think that is obvious. Why else has noone talked about being raped as a black man versus being raped as a white man? Because people are raped as women, that’s why.
It is relatively easy to see that when a woman of color is raped”“and I am, for the sake of this discussion, going to include Jewish women in that category even though I know the relationship between Jewishness and whiteness/of colorness is a problematic one”“that she would experience the rape in her body as a totality, one that would include her “of color” identity, especially when the rape is interracial.
I see what you’re saying, and yes, I agree. This is why I can’t accept statements by some that women are raped as women. Some are raped as black women or Jewish women or Latina women; it’s the confluence of their gender with their specific ethnic/racial identity. Yes, as has been pointed out, gender is a commonality here, which is why we’re not talking about the rape of white men vs. black men. But although that commonality exists, the experiences are still very different because of racial/class elements. Very often the experiences are too different to gloss over as all being part of the same oppression.
I guess what I’m resistant to is the notion that race *does not* affect white women. Or that if a white woman chooses to focus on gender first, rather than race, she is excluding any and all implications of race for WOC. Maybe that’s not even being said… although a few posters above have indicated that race does not affect white women.
1) I think “white” is perceived as being not-really-a ““race, as the absence of race. Like, white people are the default and then there are other groups that are “racial” or “ethnic.” Now, not being white, I don’t know if this is how white people experience race. But I would argue that often when race affects white women, and white people in general, it’s the absence of race that’s actually in play.
2) I don’t think anyone’s saying that if a white woman focuses on gender first she’s excluding all race implications for women of color. All I see is people objecting to the blanket statement “gender trumps race.”
But this still begs the question … what if some white women disagree with nubian. Does that immediately stem from their privilege?
To be perfectly honest? I’d say yes. I think that, using your words, “putting all women ahead of all men, regardless of primary, secondary, or tertiary relations of gender, race, or class” is an option only open to white privileged women. I can’t do that. Most other women of color in this thread also are skeptical of their ability to do that. And if you as a white feminist expect me to do that (which I know you haven’t said you do), then yeah, I think that’s racist and unbelievably arrogant and presumptuous.
What I meant more specifically is that when men who are black rape, they are not significantly different vis-a-vis the rape, then white men who rape.
Hmm. I’m not sure I agree or disagree with this. It’s an interesting point to bring up. You don’t think black men’s oppression could color their motivations for rape? Or that being raped by a black man, whatever the color of his victim, couldn’t have a different political and possibly emotional context than being raped by a white man? (NOT saying it’s more justified or less painful and degrading, obviously. Just suggesting that it might be qualitatively different in some ways).
I do think though that “gender trumps race” is a useful and situationally correct tool … when needed and when applied with a broader understanding that there is no hierarchy of oppression. At some time, when all the cards are down, there will be an instance when gender does trump race. And vice versa.
I whole-heartedly agree. There are lots of specific situations where you can say “okay, in this case, race [or gender, or class] is the most important factor.” It’s the blanket statements I object to.
for me, my whiteness is very much the ‘absence’ of ‘race’. my family traded in their cultural heritage for the opportunity to become white americans (not in such harsh terms, but to a significant degree). and now we can pass, up to a point (that point came to a head once when all our windows were shot out for having electric menorahs up – and we don’t even really observe jewish high holy days).
more importantly, ‘whiteness’ allows for and actually necessitates a certain degree of obliviousness to racialized experience. this obliviousness is, in part, developed on a foundation of not wanting to be responsible for wrongs one has never committed, not wanting to recognize that things are easier for oneself than for others, etc.
in a lot of ways, white obliviousness to race dynamics is a self-defense mechanism by which white supremacism can reproduce itself. considering that most people are truly compassionate, if whites had a sense of what privilege was from the get, a lot of that privilege would fall apart, unhinging some very important cogs in the mechanism of oppressions and violent social order.
as we’ve all seen, however, a lot of otherwise progressive, compassionate, even radical white people (or men) will fight tooth and nail to play down their own complicity in negative racial dynamics… by various tactics, and one of those is by stating, in one way or another, that “gender trumps race” (or, alternatively, in the case of men of color, “race trumps gender”)*
this, i’m sure, isn’t exclusive to white people (or to men), but i only know myself.
peace and blessings
*this applies, too, to class, sexuality, able-bodiedness, age, etc.
I hear what people are saying about whiteness being the absence of race, and I do agree with it.
However, I think it’s a little more complicated than just absence. Whiteness functions as absence in many/most circumstances… but in some interracial dynamics, the perception of whiteness does become racialized, I think.
For instance, it seems to me that most white college students entering liberal universities encounter a point where they are suddenly, for the first time, asked to encounter themselves as white. And their reaction to this is often white guilt, which strikes me not as a reaction of absence, but a reaction of racialization. Suddenly coming to terms with the idea that they have a race, and that their race is complicit with very bad things, and that in fact this is not just a historical phenomenon, but something they need to deal with in the classroom — and the self-consciousness that stems from this — seems very racialized to me. (It seems to me that students experiencing white guilt also often become tongue tied, because they aren’t used to having to filter all their thoughts and words through the perception of their race & privilege.)
Likewise, I do think that a white woman can be raped in a way where her race is an issue rather than an absence. For instance, my (white, Jewish) mother was raped during the seventies by a black man. Her perception of the situation (I don’t know enough details to know if it’s accurate, but will assume here it was) was that she would not have been raped if she was black; she was working for a predominantly black church at the time in a predominantly black area in Georgia. After stealing the money she was keeping accounts on, the man raped her at gunpoint. I believe he called her a white bitch, that she was being punished for being out of place.
I assume in this case (perhaps wrongly) that raping my mother was a way for this man to act out his anger at white supremacy, and that her body became a symbolic substitute for whiteness.
For me, deconstructing this incident, I would probably look at race before gender.
Anyway, I guess this isn’t really saying anything new, except that I don’t think whiteness is always blank. However, I don’t want to put undue emphasis on this particular example; I am aware that, in many ways, it’s an exception.
[drift] Qgrrl, I’m sorry for misunderstanding your income situation. Somehow, I had it in my head that you had a sock full of dough saved up for a move, and that you were just waiting for your beloved to finish school.[/drift] I probably got your situation confused with somebody else’s. [/drift]
I am white. My wife is black.
I am not as intellectual as you people, but I can assure you that 15 years in an inter-racial, heterosexual relationship I have learned that the differences between men and women are far greate than any racial difference.
Debbie and I get along fine. She doesn’t watch NFL football with me, and I don’t go clothes-shopping at the mall with her.
Y’all can probably philosophize for weeks on end about oppresion and exploitation and master/slave surrogate relationships or something like that and have a great time doing it.
We don’t waste our time on that crap. We just love and support each other, and put up with each other’s flaws and get along with each other.
I think some of you people need to do less thinking and more hugging.
I just wanted to quickly say, to clarify a comment I left here a few days ago: I said that I had not read all the comments, which probably should have been written to read, “I have not read ALL the comments, but I have read the comments in THIS thread.” This whole thread was started, however, in response to a comment that Ginmar said on another thread that I had not read.
All I was saying was that it’s fine and dandy to say argue against the validity of “gender trumps race” but if you don’t also mention that race doesn’t “trump” gender, it can look like that’s what you’re trying to say. As a lurker myself who doesn’t personally “know” who’s speaking, I don’t “know” that someone who passionately argues against the idea of gender “trumping” race ALSO believes that race does not trump gender.
I was not trying to comment on any specific post. I was just trying to comment, in general, what can happen in certain discussions (not even limited to race discussions) when people don’t lay all their cards out straight away — it can lead to assumptions that are seriously off-base.
That said, the discussion here has been very interesting, and mostly assumption-free, as far as I can tell.
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Wow, skyscraper, what a totally awesome post!
Actually, there are a lot of awesome posts here.
Nubian, thanks for being willing to blog here, and I’m sorry it was not a good experience. I think the fact your thread turned into a flame war shows what a contentious issue you wrote about.
[Post deleted by Ampersand.]
[Post deleted by author’s requiest]
i really didn’t want to enter any of the useless demagogy and polemic fights going on here, because no one is really listening to each other, seems like. people are just pushing their own ideologies onto one another and i have no time nor desire to partake in it. just wanted to offer my opinion – my radical opinion [a ‘rant’ as it was called]. but, glad that at least SOMEONE understood and appreciated.
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I’ve watched this trend and needless to say I think it’s disturbing. I see some of these blogs makes me wonder if people really are interested in civil rights if they themselves engage in active bigotry. The more I read, the more I feel that people are content blaming everything wrong in the world against the Evil White Feminist rather than promoting a balanced perspective. People act like white feminists must be evil selfish racists if they dare focus even ONE nanosecond on her own problems. Jesus Christ, people. Get a grip – white women have problems, too. Is it such an evil for them to care about the crap they get dished on too?
Oh, and one more thing – how will white women and feminists truly be able to understand the problems of other women from different ethnic backgrounds if she herself is treated as trivial? Remember the golden rule – treat others as you would have like to be treated.
Would you care to provide examples of your argument, invisible? Cuz, mostly, you just sound incredibly racist.