When I wrote this piece last week no matter how I tried I could not figure out what was missing. I knew something was there, straggling along on the side of the margin someplace but I could not put my finger on it. It was puzzling and I felt a little out of my league as I searched for the missing piece. So, I did what strong and wise women will do when we feel lost. I asked for directions.
This set of directions came to me from a strong and wise woman friend in Nashville, someone I like an awful lot and it came in the form of a letter. Cary Gibson is a poet, not a pundit. She is a creative spirit with eyes that see deep into the soul of folks. Her Masters of Philosophy in Peace Studies focused in large part on the relationship between feminism and Christian praxis so I think she’s got her finger on that missing bit I was seeking.
Rather than tear apart her letter and feed you snippets of what she suggests I missed I am reposting her letter in full.
Would love to hear YOUR thoughts as well…I’ll be sure to send Cary over to answer anything you’d like.
In the next week or so I will be writing another piece in this series so keep a look out for that.
I think the key thing I’m left looking for here is an intersectional approach that acknowledges and incorporates the way all of this “mommy wars” fiasco is a very much intended strategy and product of kyriarchal power structures – thus a perspective which incorporates race and class into the mix along with gender. I think that is vital to a comprehensive analysis what is at work in the political war on women and the imbalance of who is affected by it – and to what degree.
I would argue that these war of words is more than an “emotional” tool – it’s designed to push cultural, political and racial buttons (i.e. prejudices) among the GOP base.
But I also see it as more than a tool for policy makers. As I think you are indicating, there’s a difference between the media construct of “the war on women” and the actual legislative battle itself. The primary outcome of one is indeed a diversion, while the latter has direct, actual, embodied consequences.
I think, however, that the former is designed to also bolster the latter by feeding into the narrative that social conservatives are victimized – that rather than defending women’s rights, the left’s agenda is to punish the right. We can see the out-playing of that in case of the recent contraception debate – framed in this election cycle as an attack on religious freedom, rather than a defense of women’s bodily agency and health care. (emphasis mine ADC)
Rosen’s comment was intended to be a comment about wealth and privilege and how the specific wealth and privilege of Ann Romney shields her from the policy positions being taken by her own husband for election gain. Unsurprisingly, his clear shift to the right is leaving many women, notably independents, in key swing states unconvinced and overwhelmingly turning to Obama in the polls.
What troubles me about media outrage like this is that it becomes a war of words between privileged white women and distracts us not merely from policy making but the lived experience of far too many women across the breadth of society. (emphasis mine ADC)
For the majority of women, this is not a matter of choice – for the working class women of this country staying at home means unemployment, not choice. For most, not working outside of the home is not a viable option.
In short, as I think you are pointing to, this is a manufactured debacle but one I see as being not only desirable to political leadership but actively encouraged. Rosen and Romney are stand ins for Obama and Romney. If it wasn’t Rosen, it would have been somebody else and I don’t doubt that the GOP was ready for it. It plays right into their hands. And so I agree with your closing sentiment about not being distracted from the real issue of the lived consequences of legislative changes. The energy given to the Rosen/Romney spat is time not spent giving attention to the very real damage being done to women’s lives in Arizona by Gov. Brewer & the GOP legislature – as just one example.
What also troubles me is that this “mommy war” – leaves out not only women in color but also fathers, and LGBT & multi-generational families. Traditionally understood “women’s work” (child-rearing, cooking, cleaning, subsistence farming, care of the elderly and so on) needs to be seen as integral to the national and global economic system – where now it is considered “unproductive” in terms of GDP. However we are challenged to keep in mind that in this discourse, women are not only born to be mothers or house keepers and not all parents and care givers are mothers. Our languaging needs to become much more expansive to incorporate the majority of families – who together in their wide diversity outnumber the traditional “nuclear” families in this country.
Without intersectionality, feminist discourse is worth little in 2012. The issues of equal pay, adequate minimum wage and a meaningful social safety net, contraception, access to health care, including safe abortion, LGBT equality, educational opportunities, reducing violence of all kinds, supporting families of all kinds are all interlinked. There are many more we could add to this list. These are not separate issues and two key paths to changing the system is to get more women elected who care about rights of women and marginalized communities and getting more women engaged not only in the voting booth, but in the legislative process itself. For it is not simply a matter of sisters speaking to one another – it is in our diversity speaking our collective truths to power – forcefully, for ourselves and in solidarity with one another. The Rosen/Romney debacle is not only a distraction from those powers, but from other far more marginalized women – who have a far harder struggle to be heard in our current system, and who suffer the greatest burdens as a result.
We’ll close this post then with a quote Cary’s just sent me from Mikki Kendall’s Tumblr which I think sums up what we’re missing very well…
I am not a white woman. My experiences in this life are not the same as those of white women. Do please stop acting like a white woman can be my voice at any table, much less in the media. Sure, as a black woman I can be oppressed by MOC & white men. Newsflash, I can also be oppressed by white women. Feminism that ignores racialized misogyny, that fails to interrogate white women’s privilege, or that insists that all WOC are having the same experience isn’t for me. It doesn’t speak to me, speak about me, or benefit me. Consider this your regular women of color are human PSA.