Is it Race, Gender . . . or Both?

In my humble opinion Michelle Obama gave an impressive speech at the Democratic National Convention on Monday, giving us a picture of the Barack she knows, as well as dispelling the myth surrounding her disloyal sentiments about her country, misguided as it was at the time, tossed out unthinkingly, I’m sure, during a grueling campaign that must get awfully tiring as you’re judged and analyzed at every turn. According to some of the blogs we read, there are a lot of Hillary supporters who still don’t like her, contributing to their reluctance to vote for Obama. Her personality is a problem. She’s been charged with being too aggressive, having a chip on her shoulder, being hateful and spiteful to name just a few. It even bothered me a few months ago when she said she’d have to think about whether she’d throw her support to Hillary if Barack should lose. Hillary had already stated that she intended to support the Democratic nominee no matter who that person was.

Even Hubby has hinted that he has problems with her personality. However, he feels that Michelle Obama’s personality is not relevant, but that he thinks Barack Obama’s resume is woefully thin for such an important office at this point in his career. He’s even said he may not vote for Obama because in Utah our Democratic votes won’t count anyhow, so if the Democrats lose he will not have contributed to that loss.

Could it be that the real problem is that people still have a problem with strong (that can mean bitchy is that’s your definition) women, white or black? I’ll continue to believe that was part of the country’s problem with Hillary Clinton.

The fact that the adult American Negro female emerges a formidable character is often met with amazement, distaste and even belligerence. It is seldom accepted as an inevitable outcome of the struggle won by survivors, and deserves respect if not enthusiastic acceptance.

Those words were uttered by Maya Angelou, one of my favorite writers since I discovered her through her first book I KNOW WHY THE CAGED BIRD SINGS published way back in 1969. Naturally I thought of her a lot as I’ve been watching the Democratic convention this week, remembering her prominence at Bill Clinton’s inauguration in 1993 as she recited her poem “On the Pulse of Morning” as well as her strong and loyal support for Hillary Clinton during the current Democratic campaign. I wonder if the quote wouldn’t be just as effective if you were to take the words “American Negro” out of the sentence making it read just “adult female.” I’m pretty sure it would be.

So if the aggressive, even tense (nervous?) personality of the current nominee’s wife is one of the things that you think negatively of as you consider who will get your vote November 4, please consider Maya Angelou’s words in the above quote. I don’t know the real Michelle Obama, and I’m pretty darn sure the woman that emerges throughout the media won’t necessarily be accurate either, but those are the words I will remember as I continue to fully support our Democratic nominee, Barack Obama. I will put aside my initial hurt and disappointment that my choice didn’t win the nomination and I’ll vote Democratic, because I know this is probably THE MOST IMPORTANT election I will ever have voted in, and I’ll be better off with a Democrat in office rather than a Republican for even four more years!

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10 thoughts on “Is it Race, Gender . . . or Both?

  1. I am always amazed that people are so influenced by the spouse of a candidate and not the candidate him/herself.

    You cannot equate strong with aggressive, nervous and/ or bitchy. There is a great difference between a strong woman and an agressive woman. One illustrates character, the other anger and egotism.

    So if one is determining his vote by looking at spouses, a candidate with a strong spouse would certainly be a better man than one with an aggressive one.

  2. i think somebody needs to *actually* take a look at Mr. Obama’s experience…has he actually looked at that resume?? Or is he just making assumptions based on how young Obama looks? Because I get that kind of comment all the time. How I can actually be a college professor when I look like a college student? Blech. It’s infuriating. I would say that Mr. Obama makes up in judgment what he might lack in experience, but I don’t even buy the idea that he doesn’t have enough experience. He’s been a public servant and worked in government for long enough to know how to lead and to choose the right people as he does.

    The idea that your vote doesn’t matter in Utah is one thing, though sad. But “not contributing to that loss” by not voting doesn’t even make any sense. And don’t you have any local races?

    I hope you’re still planning to vote.

  3. Hello Dr. V. Thanks for your thoughtful comment. I hope I made clear that I am voting, and I’m voting for Obama. I’ve also been working on Himself a bit, asking the kinds of questions phrased here and other challenges. I’m pretty sure he’ll come around by election day. The acceptance speech last night cleared away a lot of cobwebs of uncertainty too, I think, for both of us. (Update: He’s telling me that you should know that he likes to be a rabble raiser, and to assure you he’ll vote for Obama because he thinks his little daughters are so cute! You know Pop! LOL.)

    And CatchHer, thank you too, for your insightful thoughts about the difference between bitchy and strong. In my 66 years on earth, however, I’ve learned that there are no absolutes in the world, only PERCEPTIONS. Those perceptions are colored by and filtered through each person’s own experiences, however, so one person’s bitch may be another’s strong woman as you pointed out. All of us are sum totals of our experiences, and some of us struggle in ways that others may not know about or understand. Sometimes those struggles show up in the veneer of “bitchiness” or “strength” and we all have some of each. It still goes that we should remember that before we presume to judge others either one way or another. That’s what Angelou was saying, and I hope I remember that every time I catch myself thinking of anyone as a bitch.

  4. As a woman who was called bitchy, when a male would be called assertive, bossy, when a male would be called a leader and many other misogynistic terms, I say that the way Clinton was treated and any derogatory views of the candidate spouses are really about the gender. So much so that it was easier to select a non-white male than a white female.

    I had an interaction in my language course where a woman was speaking in a misogynistic manner and when braced on it, said that it was ok because she’s a woman. Well, that attitude, that these terms and feelings are acceptable to express, leads to the same things that I saw bruited about the internet in reference to Clinton and that you are mentioning in re Mrs.Obama. I’m glad that you think twice. I lived through a real change in the workplace in the last 20 years, and I want it to keep trending better.

  5. Yes, G in Berlin, I’m not young anymore like you, yet I’m still in constant struggle between the me that I was in my 20s, therefore more loveable and agreeable and “sweet,” yes, that’s what so many people called me, and the me I am becoming. I hated being thought of as “sweet” then as much as I do now because I know underneath I’m not really sweet at all. It took me a long time to be able to recognize how women were ,and still are, relegated to second class. Thanks for commenting; it’s always nice to hear what you’re thinking.

  6. I care no more about Michelle (or her personality) in judging her husband than I cared about Hillary (or her personality) in judging her husband. Spouses, let alone their personalities, are pretty much immaterial. I’d like to know who the people are who DO care!

  7. Hi Alice!
    I totally agree with Dr. V. If you have a look at the way politics is played these days, you’ll find that it’s often the stronger, more intelligent candidate who loses out because of small and in the long run, very inconsequential things. I hope this doesn’t happen here too. I’m part of a group of women at womenetcetera.com, and I’d love to have you join us. We could do with women like you, smart, social, and first-class citizens!:)

  8. Excellent post, Alice! You know my thoughts on Obama and Hillary from my post yesterday.
    And today’s post tells you my feelings on Sarah Palin……I’m SO upset over this, I plan to blog again tomorrow about her. WE have to get the word out there!!! Because if not….it’ll be pretty damn scary living in a country with McCain and Palin!

  9. Welcome to Older n Dirt. I think we choose who we vote for in a variety of ways, some of us not all, because unless you know everything a candidate has done throughout his/her political careers–and I know I have a lot more time to read and decipher these things for myself now that we’re retired, since it’s clear we can’t depend on an unbiased media any longer–you (that’s a “kingly” you understand, nothing personal). Anyhow, Obama’s cute little girls are reason enough to vote for him. Okay? If you were sitting here, you’d be able to see the tongue in my cheek.

    Welcome Natasha, nice to hear from you. I’ll check womenetcetera.com out soon. Not sure I fill the bill you’ve written, but it sure sounds nice. Thanks. I still think we all vote for candidates for reasons not altogether known to any of us. I’ve been studying the brain enough lately to know that we’re more hard-wired than we would imagine the day we’re born. Sometimes I wonder if the creationists could be right, and there is a giant male (of course, a male!) somewhere up there on cloud 7 (rhymes nicely with heaven) who’s just pulling strings and playing with us like puppets. Food for thought, that!

    And Terri, lovely to see you have time from all your writing projects to read some blogs! : ) I can’t wait to see what your musings are about Palin. From the comments I hear from my 38 year old daughter and her age group, McCain more or less just handed the election over to Obama. Hubby and I, on the other hand, are a little more worried. But just think! If McCain does win (heaven forbid!), our first woman president could possibly be someone other than Hillary Clinton, and someone with far less experience than Obama or Clinton. Oh but I have to remember that she’s had five children, and she chose not to abort a fetus she knew would not be “perfect.” Let’s see. She’s against abortion, she’s cute, and forgive me I don’t know much more than that right now. Isn’t that reason enough to vote Republican this year? : )

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