Gloria Steinem’s Insufferable Neoliberal White Feminism: Defending #Feminist Sandernistas on Blog#42

Gloria Steinem didn’t do herself any favors in her appearance on Bill Maher’s Real Time and, in the process, contradicted much of what she’s ever stood for.

“I mean, women are more for her than men are and she has the black…”

“But I don’t mean to over-generalize, I’m sure that you get more radical but … but men tend to get more conservative because they gain power as they age, and women get more radical because they lose power as they age, so it’s kind of not fair to measure most women by the standard of most men, because they’re going to get more activist as they get older, and when you’re young, you’re thinking, ‘Where are the boys?’ The boys are with Bernie.”

Well, Steinem did over-generalize in several key areas. First, she was explaining, even as she was cut off by Maher, that Hillary Clinton has the Black vote.

Considering another interview Steinem gave just last year on Black Feminism, that statement shows disrespect for the autonomy and self-determination of Black women:

“I thought they invented the feminist movement. I’ve learned feminism disproportionately from black women. I realize that things being what they are, probably the white middle-class part of the movement got reported more… But if you look at the numbers and the very first poll of women thinking about responding on women’s issues, African-American women were twice as likely to support feminism and feminist issues as White women.”

Then, speaking of young women as a whole, Steinem displayed a breathtaking lack of respect for an entire generation of young women and their ability to make judgments on who best answers their interests, or those young women’s understanding and application of the meaning and essence of feminism.

But most of all, her dismissive attitude belies what Black feminists have pointed to for over a century: white feminism is neoliberal at its core and responsive only to the needs of white middle class women.

Steinem used to know better than to paint a generation of women using sexist imagery just because they aren’t falling in line behind Hillary Clinton, under the banner of a wrongful interpretation of feminism. Steinem should know better than to categorize Black women or invoke the stereotypical Black voter as one monolithic group.

Hillary Clinton seems to draw out the worst from white feminists. Madeleine Albright, who came out to stump for Hillary Clinton in New Hampshire, said this:

“And just remember, here’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help each other.”

and

“So people are talking about revolution, what a revolution it would be to have a woman president,” she said.

Feminist shaming is as horrid to a feminist as slut-shaming. No woman should engage in it, especially those who lead. Albright said this in the presence of Hillary Clinton who, instead of laughing and clapping, should have promptly disavowed such talk.

As The Root’s senior writer Kirsten West Savali writes in her new essay:

“It may be an unpopular stance to  take in some feminist circles, but my vote is worth much more than that. Democrats and Republicans, through damaging economic and punitive policies, have marginalized, oppressed and killed too many people of color, specifically black Americans, and I refuse to let them assassinate my political imagination, too.”

What West Savali may not yet fully realize is that the sphere of damage of policies Clinton promoted in the 1990’s now extends to a far larger segment of America’s population in the years following the Great Recession. The Welfare Reform Act of 1994 is now coming home to roost for many millions of Americans who fell out of the white middle class in 2009 and have yet to get back up, in addition to the deepened poverty we now see in formerly well-to-do Black urban strongholds, and in Black rural America. Moreover, it is the millenial children of those middle class whites who predominantly support Sanders out of that same realization and the knowledge that their generation will not have the same start in life their parents got.

Most glaring of all, however, is that Steinem should know that feminism isn’t about supporting a woman because she is a woman, but supporting the person who will best serve the interest of women.

As Bell Hooks explains:

“As all advocates of feminist politics know, most people do not understand sexism or if they do, they think it is not a problem. Masses of people think that feminism is always and only about women seeking to be equal to men. And a huge majority of these folks think feminism is anti-male. Their misunderstanding of feminist politics reflects the reality that most folks learn about feminism from patriarchal mass media.”

Like many women of her generation, it appears that Steinem never really broke free, and as much as she credits Black feminists for the rights women have obtained, she has yet to demonstrate a much deeper, more nuanced understanding of the core meanings of feminism.

I continue to firmly stand by my conclusion in “I am not ready for Hillary. Am I still a feminist?

There is a big difference between promoting equality between the sexes and elevating one woman without regard to fitness, out of some entitled notion that the time has come for a woman to lead. Such a preconception is indicative of matriarchy. If there is a better-qualified, less flawed and more trustworthy candidate whose views and policies are more in line with public opinion and he happens to be a man, I, for one, don’t think my choosing him over a woman would make me less of a feminist. The goal should always be the common good.”


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Transcript: Bill Maher interview of Gloria Steinem on Real Time, February 5, 2016

Maher: “They really don’t like Hillary, though. What do you think that’s about? Mom likes her so I have to f.. you know?”

Steinem: “First of all, she does have a huge gender gap and race gap.”

Maher: “Huge.”

Steinem: “I mean, women are more for her than men are and she has the black…”

Maher: The younger women, they’re more for Bernie.

Steinem: “It depends where you ask. But I do think that Bernie.”

Maher: “In America… No, really, in America, I mean, it’s just true!”

Steinem: “It doesn’t. I mean, first of all, women get more radical as we get older because we experience…

Maher: “Women get more radical? That’s interesting!”

Steinem: “Yeah, it’s the opposite of men, yeah.”

Maher: “They really don’t like Hillary, though. What do you think that’s about? Mom likes her so I have to f.. you know?”

Steinem: “But I I don’t mean to over-generalize, I’m sure that you get more radical but … but men tend to get more conservative because they gain power as they age, and women get more radical because they lose power as they age, so it’s kind of not fair to measure most women by the standard of most men, because they’re going to get more activist as they get older, and when you’re young, you’re thinking, ‘Where are the boys?’ The boys are with Bernie.”

Maher: “Oooh, now if I said that… Yeah, they’re for Bernie, that’s because that’s where the boys are, you’d swat me. Come on!”

Steinem: “No, I wouldn’t. I wouldn’t. Because the boys are saying… No. Hello! How well do you know me?”

Steinem interview with Stacy Tisdale of Black Enterprise:


 

Madeleine Albright and Hillary Clinton in New Hampshire

  • Haywood Jeblowme

    Nice analysis. Thanks for linking on the NYT forums 🙂

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  • Sarah Saiano

    If you people weren’t so full of yourselves I MIGHT be able to take you seriously. Sure, let’s F _ _ _ the only candidate running for president in the past fifty years who hasn’t been controlled by party politics and ties to big money on the basis of feminism. That’s not my feminism. Let’s f _ _ _ him in the name of blackness. Great. Way to bite off your nose to spite your face. Thanks, all of you, for keeping the rest of us f – – – ed for the next four years at minimum.

    • Sarah… You do realize that you managed to guess exactly the opposite of what I wrote? I mean exactly opposite. Care to actually read before accusing? Thank you.