Ain't I A Woman?

"Ain't I A Woman?"

As a young African American woman I find this election to be very disheartening, and the way things have been handled the past couple of weeks leads me to believe Obama isn't only the one this country WANTS, but he is the one this country NEEDS.

Right now a lot of Hillary's women supporters are up in arms because they feel that she is being passed over for the younger man who isn't as experienced. First of all, Obama actually has MORE elected experience than Hillary. I don't know why pundits and others like to act like he didn't spend his years in the Illinois State Senate, but he did. Seven of them. He's been in the U.S. Senate for 4 now. Hillary has only been in elected office since 2001. But the media seems to only be focusing on white women. You don't see polls of Black Women anymore. Are we no longer important? I remember before South Carolina, we had our moment in the sun, everyone wanted to know what Black Women were going to do. Were we going to be torn between allegiance to our race and allegiance to our gender? Would we be willing to back up Obama when we can have another Clinton? What will we do?!?! Never mind the fact that the narrative that suggests we can't make intelligent reasoned decisions on things other than race or gender, we were supposed to have it tough. Then Obama started winning 80-90% of the African American vote and we were no longer important.

Well, aren't we still women?

Sojourner Truth once said:

That man over there says that women need to be helped into carriages, and lifted over ditches, and to have the best place everywhere. Nobody ever helps me into carriages, or over mud-puddles, or gives me any best place! And ain't I a woman? Look at me! Look at my arm! I have ploughed and planted, and gathered into barns, and no man could head me! And ain't I a woman? I could work as much and eat as much as a man - when I could get it - and bear the lash as well! And ain't I a woman? I have borne thirteen children, and seen most all sold off to slavery, and when I cried out with my mother's grief, none but Jesus heard me! And ain't I a woman?

I think I have an interest in seeing a female president just as much as I have an interest in seeing an African American president. As I am relatively young, I suppose I'm not as worried about never seeing either in my lifetime, so I can perhaps cut a bit of slack to older women on that front. I haven't had to deal with a lot of the sexism that my female ancestors have and I thank them for that. Just the same, I haven't had to deal with a lot of the racism that my African American ancestors have dealt with and I thank them for that. When I read things like this from Hilary Rosen:

Hillary has found her voice and she is using it to speak to a group of people often ignored in politics. Women who have felt powerless to change or even complain about their own lives because they are just too damn busy keeping it together for everyone around them. And they certainly haven't had time for politics.

From the waitress in the diner to the school teacher to the executive on wall street, women feel the daily slights that are often invisible to others. Yes, many of her supporters need real and immediate help from the government, but so many more are just grateful to be noticed.


But Hillary's campaign is still going for every woman who has spoken up in a meeting and was greeted with silence only to have a man say the same thing and be praised. It endures for the mothers who are taking care of their children and their parents and their home and has no time to take care of herself. It endures for women who are so scared to see her fail because of what it may say about their chances in life. And yes folks, it resonates for all the women who have seen the younger guy come along and get the promotion even though she has worked in the company loyally for years.

Really? She's found her voice and is speaking up for people often ignored? Well Black women and young women are still being ignored in this election, and honestly I don't think she's speaking for me at all. Reading what Ms. Rosen wrote, I honestly feel like Hillary is only attempting to reach out to older white women.

Perhaps it's just the way I was raised (by other strong and strong-willed African American women) but I've never been afraid to voice my opinion when I felt I wasn't being treated fairly. Even last summer when I worked at a firm where I was the only African American woman and the only African American clerk, I wasn't afraid to talk to one of the partners (the only African American attorney at the time who happened to be a partner) about how I felt as a double minority working there. Did it really do much for me? No. I wasn't expecting special treatment, I just wanted to get it off of my chest and get some insight. His advice to me? "Get over yourself." I can't recall feeling any "slights" that are only due to my gender, ever but that may be more a product of my age and being brought up in a relatively politically correct society. Again, the only time I really didn't feel like I was even being noticed/acknowledged was last summer, but I don't see how Clinton's candidacy would change that. I don't really know if my lack of comfort in the "real world" of working in a law firm was from being African American or from being a woman, I think it may have been from being a combination of both (there was a woman partner, there was an African American partner, but there was no African American woman who was a partner).

As far as the meeting example, I admit that has never happened to me. Granted, I haven't been in a situation where I was the only woman or one of a couple of women surrounded by men and I voiced my opinion only to have it ignored while someone else said the same thing a couple of minutes later and it was praised. That HAS happened to be before, but that was in sorority meetings which was a group of African American women. I'd voice my opinion, it would be ignored, then someone who had been in the sorority said it a couple minutes later and it would be praised. I admit it pissed me off. I was told it was because I was a younger member, and again that I should "get over [myself]". If I'd felt someone treated me like that for my gender I'd be no less offended. Yet I fail to see what HRC's candidacy has done to advance my cause.

While the media is so focused on the older White Women, they are ignoring the younger women like myself that don't take every criticism as an attack because of gender. We are a generation that has been raised to know that we can do anything a man can do, and most of the times we can do it better. I've fantasized about having a female president because I was of the mindset that we'd have LESS wars (not talk of obliterating entire countries that didn’t' even attack US). As a young African American woman preparing to enter a field where both women and minorities are STILL not great in numbers, I fail to see how Clinton's candidacy this year has helped me. If anything, I feel that she has played into every negative stereotype about women. The woman who can't get ahead on her own, but has to ride on the coattails of her husband. The woman who can't take responsibility for her own mistakes because she didn't know better. The woman who has to have men come out and defend her because she can't defend herself. The woman that tries to act like a man (testicular fortitude?) to get ahead. The woman who cries "sexism" instead of being accountable for her actions at every corner de-legitimizing the legitimate sexism that women face every day.

No one is asking about how younger women feel about this election. All of the focus is on older women who probably won't be around long enough to feel the true negative effect HRC is having on gender.

So again I ask, ain't I a woman?


Anonymous said...

Wow, great article! I'm an older African American and I concur with you completely! Hillary was never the feminist icon these women are seeing her as. It's quite sad to see what's happening to the party.

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