Thursday, October 9, 2008

Voting With the Little Hood

Perhaps you've seen the clip that produced this humorous quote about McCain/Palin from Samantha Bee of The Daily Show:

"As a proud Vagina American myself, I can tell you I'll be voting for McCain in November... John McCain chose a woman who is almost completely unprepared for the job and who disagrees with me on every core value I believe in, but I will be voting McCain in November because he understands. Woman don't vote with the big head [pointing to her head]. They vote with the little hood [pointing downward]. Am I right ladies? You're with me!"

It's funny. What makes the bit funny is that it mocks the McCain campaign for insulting the intelligence of women by thinking we'd vote for a woman who is diametrically opposed to many of our core beliefs just because she's a woman. What many believe is that McCain chose the reactionary political newbie Sarah Palin as part of a political scheme to attract female voters to his ticket.

Yet, what's also become clear is that this insulting mindset that women vote with their vaginas is not restricted to conservatives and Republicans. I think the prospect of female voters deserting Obama for McCain/Palin really, really frightens Democrats and liberals- particularly the ones of the male variety who know that women are anxious to see a woman in the White House.

Around my male friends and co-workers, for instance, I find myself saying things like "I'm still voting for Obama, heh heh!" Because I hear that fear in their voices and see them look at me with hope and doubt, I need to remind them that even though I have complicated thoughts about Sarah Palin (I respect her accomplishments as a woman but disagree with her substantively) I'm not going to abandon ship. Some liberal/Democrat men really do believe that liberal/Democrat women will vote for a rightwing candidate just because the candidate is a woman.

Blogger skylanda of Echidne of the Snakes renders an apt critique of Tim Wise's widely-circulated piece on White Privilege and the election. Wise's piece raised many excellent points with respect to white privilege. But in the process, as skylanda critiques, Wise strips women of their intellectual agency and narrates a battle between white women and people of color when he says:

"White privilege is being able to convince white women who don't even agree with you on any substantive issue to vote for you and your running mate anyway, because all of a sudden your presence on the ticket has inspired confidence in these same white women, and made them give your party a 'second look'."

At this point, if you don't already know, Tim Wise is a white man who claims to be one of the "most prominent anti-racist writers and activists in the US." What I am wondering, and what you all may be wondering as well, is who are all these masses of white women who disagree with Sarah Palin on all the substantive issues yet who are voting for the McCain ticket anyway? Perhaps Tim Wise believes he has some special insight into the collective psyche of White Woman, but as a white woman myself who disagrees with Palin on the issues, I can say that I didn't think twice about switching to the McCain ticket. And neither have any of my white woman friends for that matter. Yeah, it's anecdotal, but so is Wise's "insight." Frankly, I trust my experience more than his when it comes to what progressive white women are thinking.

And my opinion is this: If McCain's ploy has convinced any white women to vote for his ticket, it is likely these are the women who were undecided or, prior to the selection of Palin, did not have strong feelings for either candidate. But I don't believe for one minute that hoards of liberal, progressive, and Democratic white women are abandoning Obama to vote with their little hoods.

The great irony of Wise's article, of course, is that a white self-proclaimed anti-racist guy is lecturing his nation on privilege while letting his elephant-in-the-room-like male privilege go unacknowledged. For, inherent in his White Women Are Flocking To McCain myth is the discounting of the desire that many of us women (of all races) have to see a female in the highest executive office of our nation. Skyklanda writes, "And way to totally dismiss the desire that some of us women have to actually see a woman in the White House before the end of our lives; it is this kind of bull that made the clash between Clinton and Obama so profound." If white women who opposed Palin's positions voted for the McCain ticket merely because it was the first opportunity for us to finally, finally see a woman in the White House it speaks to the failings of male privilege than anything else.

Too often, left-leaning men believe that being liberal or progressive is "good enough"- that being liberal somehow proves that they are righteous or that they are good guys who "get it." Yet, these are often the same men who "fail to see" male privilege. On various liberal and progressive blogs over the years, I have read comment after angry comment written by guys who deny that male privilege exists just because they don't see it. It's ironic, really, as one of the defining features of privilege is that it's usually invisible to those who have it.

I sincerely hope that a white man like Tim Wise with such insightful thoughts about white privilege will rethink some of his statements in light of his own male privilege. Here's a start. Male privilege involves being able to vote for a candidate (who is probably of your gender) and not being accused of voting for that candidate just because of his gender.

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