The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Rosanne Barr and Gender/Race, and barfing

Why do I choose FlowFit over Prasara? Understand: I’ve done Prasara yoga, and enjoy it. But I like to separate performance and recovery COMPLETELY (Steve Perry will understad). Frankly, my body doesn’t recover as fast as it once did (sob!) but I still love to work out hard. I know my psychological tendencies: if I did dynamic yoga, I’d start competing with myself, and pretty soon my yoga “recovery” days would be an invitation to burn out. So I separate the two completely.

That said, the entire FlowFit complex IS a Prasara flow…a very simple one, but comprehensive in all of the important ranges. FlowFit Two is even better and more challenging. Combining FlowFit Two with Jumping rope is a current exploration. Accidentally, I did FlowFit Two in-between laps on the track. I loved it. I’m trying to duplicate that feeling with the rope, for a lot of reasons. Partially just because I love messing around with my exercise program: it’s a happy compulsion, and keeps me happy.
I was asked about signs that the country has swung too far to the Right. One sign is the way homophobia is used as political coin. I have felt and heard much more negativity about gays from the right than the left. And I find that objectionable.
Whether she was calculated in her tears at that moment, I do believe Hillary’s emotions were genuine, even if the timing is suspect. No harm. She IS a human being, with human emotions and fears. Period. And she’s been more “real” since then. Undoubtedly at the urging of her advisers, but I get more of a sense that she’s being closer to her heart right now, and I like it.

I’m about to rant. It is clearly labeled as a rant, because I honestly don’t know how logical all of this is.
When Rosanne Barr threw her hat in the ring about the Race/Gender issue, I kinda wanted to vomit. The following things ran through my mind. THE FOLLOWING IS CLEARLY SELF-SERVING AND A BIT EGOTISTICAL. PLEASE BE WARNED.
Like I’ve said, I use this blog to flush out my head, not to propose Earth-shaking truths…

When I hear white women say that the gender issue is more important than the racial one, it makes me ill. I know more women than they know black people. I know more black people than they know black people. I’ve spent all but maybe two years of my entire life LIVING with women. And I don’t think I could say “which” is more disadvantaged, because any standards I would use are artificial, self-serving or “politically correct.”

Now, for years, I’ve had some standards that I’ve used racially, saying “when these standards are equal, I’ll believe that racial problems are pretty much over.”
1) Incarceration rates.
2) Inherited Wealth
3) Life Expectancy
4) Education Stats

There’s another one that we’ve talked about on this blog: love scenes in movies.

If I were trying to “win” the discussion (in my own mind, or preaching to the choir) I would apply these same standards to the questions of men and women…and women do better than black people on every one of these standards, whether blacks in general, or black women specifically. And yet I know that I can’t map them over and think I’ve found some “truth.” There are interesting rebuttals to each question. Most of them, I think, looked at carefully, suggest that women are actually SUPERIOR to men—an implication that lurks right under the surface of much if not most Feminist rhetoric I’ve heard. That’s o.k.—everybody thinks they’re better. But I don’t have to roll over for that crap.
I have another problem with Hillary, by the way. She claims to have 35 years experience. Most of that time that experience was being the wife of a governor, or a President. All right—are we supposed to believe that being married to a man of power is the same as wielding that power? Really? Think about your answer carefully…
Because if it is, then let me ask: how can that statement (or position) be true, without affecting the contention that women have been kept out of power? If Hillary has 35 years of experience based on being married to Bill (and what she did in that position) then women haven’t been kept out of power as much as the radicals would like you to think. The vast majority of elected Presidents have been married. Probably governors, senators, and what not as well. Hillary is making the point (or would seem to be) that, by the standards she’s using, women have had power since the very beginning. So…where is this “women are more disenfranchised” coming from in the light of her claim of 35 years? Compared to men? In terms of overstructure, external power, sure. Compared to minorities? I doubt it sincerely. BUT IT WOULD BE FOLLY TO TRY TO QUANTIFY THIS, THEN POINT AT YOUR QUANTIFICATION AND CALL IT "TRUTH."
Like I said, any standards I use have the danger of being either self-serving, or politically correct. I try to be neither. But slavery and Jim Crow benefited white people--male and female. It’s great to have status, even at someone else’s expense. When I saw photos of blacks lynched, women were there. Pictures of Civil Rights marchers spit on, beaten, and hosed—white women were shaking their fists and screaming at the marchers, just like men . Slave narratives showed that female owners could be just as nasty. White women sent their men off to fight in the Civil War and mocked those who didn’t join—they wanted their social prerogatives protected. Understandable. People say that the Civil War paid the price for slavery. (and I’m not saying it did—that was about preserving the Union. If Lincoln could have done that without freeing a single slave, he would have done it. His words.)
(By the way, I've heard people suggest that America owes nothing to blacks because slavery gave blacks the opportunity to participate in the American Dream. Interesting. How much did a boat ticket cost? Subtract THAT cost from the labor extracted from multiple generations of black folks. Bill me. The rest, is owed and will never be paid. I have no interest in reparations. Just setting the record straight.)

But if the Civil War paid the cost of slavery, and both men and women benefited from slavery, then men paid most of the cost for it. Suggesting that women on the home front suffer as much as men at war (which I’ve heard women say) makes as much sense as saying that fathers in the delivery room suffer as much as the woman having the baby. Any man who said that would get bopped—rightfully—by every mother in the room.

Every standard I used to measure differences: infant mortality rate, percentage of children in poverty, whatever—white women’s statistics and white men’s are pretty much identical. SINGLE women and men have different stats, but that’s a different discussion. Yes, I think that women have LESS racism, but anyone who tries to make the point that they can quantify human misery and consider their hands clean is just full of shit. Ever notice that there weren’t a lot of black women in the Women’s Movement in the sixties? I’ve had black women activists tell me that they felt the same racism there that they felt from men. That’s not definitive (too small a sample, and probably slanted) but look at the images of Feminist leaders and tell me that it doesn’t look just as segregated as other political movements. Men and women are two halves of the same species.
Fewer women in high corporate positions? Certainly, AND THIS MUST CHANGE. Period. However, do the same percentage of women WANT to operate in the corporate arena? Really? I know lots and lots of educated, intelligent women who would love to marry a guy who makes enough money for them to stay home and raise their children. You have to factor that in. There really ARE differences between men and women that relate not just to social conditioning but actual biological differences. None (in my mind) influence intelligence or capacity, but some seem to influence inclination. Women who want (or need) power are definitely at a disadvantage to men. No question. But men who DON’T want power, or to be aggressive, are at a disadvantage as well. A little straw poll—any guys out there who disagree with this basic position: As men get more power, women find them more attractive. That’s not as true for women: I’ve heard few women suggest that as they became more successful their social life improved. So women are penalized for having power, men for NOT having it. This is the game that men and women play with each other. It is different from the game that different racial groups play with each other. THAT game is: keep them from breeding. Keep them living where you want them to live (there was never, anywhere, a “women’s side of town.”) control their access to jobs, education, health care. Rape/impregnate their women, kill their men, and brainwash their children that you are superior. Or…eradicate them. Kill them ALL. Regardless of the horrendous repression and control women have faced, they’ve never faced THAT one.
I’ve suggested asking black women the answer, and that they are the only group who can answer the question. I’ve only suggested this about eight times. Interestingly, seven out of eight times, the person I suggested it to said something to the effect of: “I don’t know any black women.” Excuse me? Can we interpret this to mean they don’t know any black people? And yet they believe they “know” that women have it worse? This is self-serving ignorance, and frankly, I find it deeply offensive. On the other hand, it’s just politics, really. I hate politics. But I love people, and people apparently need politics. Sigh.
Like I warned you. All just a rant. Truth is that I’d love the chance to vote for a woman president. Most of my life has been spent with women. Most of my close friends are women. In my next life, I think it would be fun to come back as a woman (multiple orgasms sure seem interesting). But I don’t think the Race-Gender question can be answered. Not even by black women. But they would be a hell of a lot closer to the truth than a man, or a white woman, or anyone this side of a Martian. All of us are caught up in the system: either black, white, male or female. Anyone out there not ANY of those? I thought not. So if you can’t get out of the system, go right to the core, and talk to someone who has experienced both sides. All the rest of us are just self-interested observers of other people’s pain.


Pagan Topologist said...

I do know quite a few black women, and every one I have asked (only a minority of the ones I know, to be sure) has said that being black has represented more of a difficulty than being a woman. One of the women in question is the only person who is not a white male in her computer system maintenance group (15 or so people) so in the case of her current job, it might be difficult for her to tell. She is in her late thirties and has had quite a few different jobs, though.

David Bellamy

Anonymous said...

Steve the measures of racial problems you have listed, with the possible exception of incarcerations seem to me to be symptoms of the disease, rather than evidence of the presence of the disease itself. The disease is racism, treating one race more poorly than another, because you believe them inferior or just dislike them because they are not us. Poorer educational stats, more incarcerations, less wealth result from racism and are symptoms of that disease. If we go to the doctor with a sore throat and fever, he may treat us and as a result of the treatment the disease may be dead whether it knows it or not. Nevertheless the symptoms of the disease may persist for a while and we need to take medications such as throat lozenges to alleviate the symptoms. Blacks were the subject of a great deal of racism in the past, and probably still are the subject of some degree of racism. The socio-economic differences between Whites and Blacks are products of this past racism and must be treated even if they are not the result of current racism. But they may not be an indicator of current racism. To the extent that a greater number of incarcerations is related to Blacks overall lower socio-economic status and a greater proportion of incarcerations are associated with people of lower socio-economic status whether White or Black incarcerations are also a measure of the symptoms, rather then the disease. The extent to which Blacks are incarcerated more often or for longer periods of time for the same crime as Whites is measure of the extent to which the disease of racial discrimination is still alive and well.

On the subject of who has it worse women or Blacks, I don’t really think the problems are really comparable. As you have pointed out women are different from men biologically. Some of these biological differences, such as hormonal differences, result in men and women being different in the way they respond to their environment. Thus true “Equality” between the sexes will in some sense never exist. On the other hand there is no evidence of the existence of any significant biological differences between races, other than those such as color, which are part of the definition of the race. Hence it is reasonable to hope that someday there will be true “Equality” between races.

adelheid said...

I am a white woman who is employed in a male domintated field-I'm a systems administrator. For the most part, I would say that the problems I face are not those so much of economic power but of breaking into and relating to a very male culture. Maybe I've been fortunate in this respect --it could also be that I've been working at academic institutions (or startups formed from those institutions) that tend to be more liberal in this respect. I agree with you that racism is a much more important issue.

Steven Barnes said...

I don't believe racism is more important. I think it's impacted my life more, and beyond that I can't say.
As for incarceration being a symptom, yep, of course. I'm looking for cultural markers. If those stats are equal, I don't think I'd have much to complain about. Let people feel how they will. If I live long, support my family and stay out of jail...heck, that's not a bad foundation for a life.

Anonymous said...

Hi Steve, good rant.

Re H. Clinton's 35 years of experience... I believe that Hillary is referring to work she did for Marian Wright Edelman when she was in college. I don't have access to her resume, but I am fairly certain that's the early end of the 35 years. That work probably shaped Clinton. I can easily see Edelman's influences on Clinton.

Racism is everywhere. I think we are more racist now that 30 years ago. Sexism abounds, too. They are cheap and easy weapons that an be used by the inept against anyone better than they are.

Women of all races who are smart and talented have been turning on their heels and leaving corporate America (and the screen door does not hit them on the backside) for the past two decades rather than die the death of a thousand cuts.

On a slightly different topic, I would like to point out, however, that the "race card" headlines over the weekend about Clinton and Obama were overblown at best and outright lies for the most part. I hunted around and found sites that posted the original quotes, in context, and they were radically different that reported. Sorry in advance for going all religious on you, but this is "bearing false witness," a major sin in three of the six major religions/philosophies, and perhaps in all, I don't happen to know what Confucianism (general Chinese philosophy), Buddhism and Hinduism say on the subject.

Racism in this election seems to be pulled out and waved around to juice the TV and newspaper pundits and headline writers. Less of this crap is being done to the Republican candidates, except Ron Paul, who is interesting and nutty at the same time. His past and perhaps current racist comments curdle my blood. Yet, he seems the safest of the GOP.

Thanks for letting me use your blog to write my rant.

Dan Gambiera said...

Before I begin, if you want to play the "who is more oppressed in America" game everyone needs to scoot over. The Native peoples win the prize hands down. Lucky them.

It depends very much on how you choose to look at the question and which emotional position you are most comfortable with. Yours is that Blacks people have it worse than Whites and that that is the fundamental problem. It becomes a comparison of Black men and women versus, in effect, White women.

You're ignoring the equally valid way of looking at it. No matter what ethnic group they belong to women within the group do worse than the men. They are more economically insecure. They are more likely to live and die in poverty. They do more hours of work for no pay than men, and they disproportionately bear the personal and financial hardships of family life from birth to eldercare. Their status is not equal to men, and anyone who says so is frankly delusional.

I will spare you and your readers the rest of the litany.

Taking away Black women's womanhood and subsuming it under the banner of color is precisely what male reformers and revolutionaries have always done. "Stick with me, honey. Once the important business is out of the way we'll see about what you want." It is reflected in John and Abigail Adams' letters to each other. Stoakely Carmichael was more blunt in 1967 when he said "The only position for women in SNCC is prone."

The problems of Black people in America are nearly unique. The problems that women face are pretty much universal and date back to at least the dawn of agriculture. Just to begin with consider Africa, East Asia, Southeast Asia, the Middle East, the Sub-Continent and Latin America. You will find that there are various forms of ethnic prejudice, but women always take it on the chin. And for the most part it isn't even noted except when one group of rich powerful men wants to use it as a reason to wage war against another group of rich powerful men.

So which is more important? Who is more oppressed? In America it's not as clear as your just anger makes it out to be. Worldwide it's not even a question.