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Quarterlife Queer

A never ending story

On January 8th The New York Times ran an opinion piece by Gloria Steinem that has the internet “going nuts”. Or I should say has the world of feminist bloggers that I like to frequent ( Sudy, ABW , AngryBlackBitch) writing pieces disputing her main point, that gender trumps race in America. She writes:

“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.”

This statement and her article says a lot. But it says a lot about her reference point in life. She is an old white woman, so for her of course gender is the oppressive force in her life. She only lives within one societal label: Female. She is not confronted with any of the problems women of color have, any of the problems queer women have, or any of the problems men outside of the WASP standard may encounter. All of those realities are foreign to her and the people applauding her on this article. This article brought many different issues to my mind.

1. White people like to think race is not an issue.They try to find any argument to deflect the fact that they have privilege just because they are white. They try their best not to be racist.The truth is race is a problem and a lot of them are racist and don’t even know it. Within every category of life there are racial disparities. People of color always find themselves in the bottom half, even among the poor or the under privileged.

2. White feminists and women of color are on two different pages. I have read commentary of white feminists bitching that when women of color create spaces and agendas that serve only women of color they are creating the gap between the two groups. WOC don’t create this divide. WOC deal with issues that many white women obviously don’t have to, that many white women obviously can’t understand, and obviously don’t believe are a problem. What are WOC suppose to do when you have national feminist figures disregarding the racial struggles we face for the gender struggles she sees as more serious.

3. The more Labels we create the further from progression we get. Society has a label and a box for everyone and in response we have had to claim our own labels in order to have a voice. We all walk around with “Hello” my name is stickers plastered with how we identify ourselves, then we spend our lives defining and defending these labels. We all do it. We define our race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender, personality, beliefs, and education level. Its like ordering at Starbucks, can I get a black-american-queer-female identifying-bohemian-universe worshiper-MA student. The more differences we find the less we connect with one another, the less we understand each other, the more judgment we pass , and the less we get done.

4. There are more than 2 -isms. Our problems don’t start and end with Sexism and Racism. What about the oppression of Heterosexism?? What about the oppression of Elitism? What about the oppression of Capitalism? What about the oppression of Imperialism? Who decides what effects us more?

I could go on but..why? Everyone’s personal reference points will have them see what I’ve said, what G. Steinem said, and what everyone else has said about the issue in their own way. I’m speaking from the point of view of a WOC..a black woman thats grown up in America with my eyes open.

“When I say I am a Black feminist , I mean I recognize that my power as well as my primary oppressions come as a result of my Blackness as well as my womanness, and therefore my struggles on both these fronts are inseparable.”Audre Lorde “I Am Your Sister: Black women organizing Across Sexualities”

The fact is there are many things that oppress us and in different ways. We have to remain open to that. We have to understand that because we are different we go through different things, we see the world differently, and the world treats us differently. We must acknowledge everyones issues and work to combat all oppression instead of defining so broadly what one thing is keeping us all down. Because there is not just one thing oppressing all oppressed people in America (or in the World).

Gloria Steinem speaks for herself and what she knows… Don’t let her old white blinders speak for you.


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