Money, sex, and power


Working in D.C. means we’ve been having a whole lot of conversations about this recently. The national elections are incredibly interesting. And so, whether I’m making photocopies in the church office, buying a phone at the mall, looking at earrings at a flea market, or drinking coffee at home, I find myself talking about Obama and Clinton.

And I find myself torn, most of the time, especially as a young feminist. Obama’s been against the war, consistently. He would be the first African American to become president. He would be a president closer to my generation, someone who understands the crisis of mortgages and student loans. I have not been impressed by Clinton on generational issues or how she sided with banks when she voted on bankruptcy laws that overwhelmingly affect women and children in our country.

But I can’t help but hear my older female friends who support Clinton and say, “We’ve been waiting for this moment all of our lives.” Women who feel like young feminist take things for granted too much. We don’t understand how difficult things were. We don’t appreciate the rough road it took to get here.

They see things that I don’t see. They see how the journalists talk about “Hillary” and “Obama,” and never “Hillary” and “Barack.” (I should have seen it. I’ve certainly heard Rev. Wimberly and Carol used in the same sentence enough times in the last couple of years to be aware…but I’m not.)

When Clinton uses words like “experience,” I think, She hasn’t been in the Senate that much longer than he has. But for the women I speak to, the ones who have been around the block a few more times than I have, it triggers something deep inside of them. They think of all the young and fabulous men who got jobs over them, even though they were more experienced.

I reject the notion of comparing the plight of an African American man to a white woman. Yes, they got the vote before we did, but we weren’t being lynched either. We’re not in a race for the bottom, it’s a race for the top. I would agree that poverty is a much more detrimental factor in our society than gender or ethnicity. And civil rights is a movement of freedom that scours edges, looking for those who have been left out, always seeking ways to expand. In that spirit, I believe Obama will do great things for women, as much as Clinton will do great things for African Americans.

For young feminists (even those in the pastorate, perhaps one of the most sexist professions), there is a bit of inevitability. I’m not so quick to vote for someone solely on the basis of gender. But when I’ve stopped and listened to my older colleagues, I’m not quick to dismiss their frustration either. I’ve never lived in the world that they have.

Gloria Steinem has said that young women are less radical because they are in their height of power as women in our culture: they have sexual power, child-bearing abilities, marketable beauty, etc. That’s why they’re less willing to fight. And although I’m always careful and appreciative of those who have gone before me, I’ve certainly been at the end of an angry pointing finger too many times. Because I’m just not careful and appreciative enough. So, what do you think? Do young feminists take too much for granted? Do we take it all too lightly?

photo’s by divapanenka


13 thoughts on “Money, sex, and power

  1. “I’ve never lived in the world they have.” That’s a huge factor right there, times have changed. Perhaps your appreciation for the past but living in the present could be seen as taking things for granted.
    It’s been a long time now since Margaret Thatcher was Prime Minister. Many nations have had female leaders, yes the US is very slow to catch up here. The presidential race must not be allowed to be reduced to a desire to see either a woman or a black man in the White House, it must be about who can best lead the country over the next four years.

  2. I think I remember reading the Clinton campaign intentionally tried to get folks to refer to HRC as “Hilary” as that would separate her from Bill in some ways that they thought helpful at the time.

    Here’s a post I did this week on Obama and eschatology which, I think, appeals to the younger generation most.
    Obama Eschatology

    Before Obama, I would have expected a main issue in the election to be gender. After Obama, generational differences are more important.

  3. Neil,

    I agree with you, and I’m thankful that we’re moving beyond identity politics, but… then I wonder… isn’t there something empowering about seeing someone who looks like you in important positions? I think of my small position, and I can’t help but be thankful that little girls have told me that they want to be a pastor when they grow up. That was unfathomable for me when I was little….

    Of course, from my very slanted political viewpoint, I’m thrilled that we might have both: an underrepresented minority and the best person to lead the country.

  4. At supper, my 18 year old daughter tossed off, casually — “Of course, Obama will win over Hilary because it follows historical precedent — this is the order power goes: white men, black men, white women, black women.” My other daughter quickly chimes in, “and at the end of them all, LGBT.” Who says the young don’t understand the way the world works?

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  6. You know, I really end up in the camp that says voting for someone because she’s a woman is just as sexist as voting against her for that same reason.

    I hear both sides, but I can’t make myself vote for someone on the basis of gender. I might not be able to eradicate sexism that way, but I’ll be doing my best to keep it out of one person’s decisions.

  7. Mrs. M,

    “voting for someone because she’s a woman is just as sexist as voting against her for that same reason.”

    I keep thinking about this one. I’m not sure I agree…. but it’s an interesting viewpoint…

  8. I reject the notion of comparing the plight of an African American man to a white woman. Yes, they got the vote before we did, but we weren’t being lynched either.

    I would be cautious about comparing levels of oppression. Women and girls are still the most likely victims of sexual assault, of murder by family members, of command rape in the military. Women have been thrown on the funeral pyre with their husbands and oppressed by interpretations of every major religion. There are– what?– more than 50 million more males than females in China, despite an expected natural birth rate of 106 males to every 100 females. The media are only now being brought to task about the way they have covered Senator Clinton in this race.

    Yes, I agree, it’s a race to the top and not to the bottom. And the history of racial oppression, including lynching, in this country has been brutal and horrific, and undoubtedly outstrips women’s claims to oppression– in this country. But… can we not agree that women’s oppression has been systemic and longstanding?

    I will probably vote for Senator Edwards. I believe his policies on poverty to be the most progressive, and, for me, the most in line with what I believe the gospel urges. I simply wanted to say, I reject easy notions of who’s been more oppressed. The reality is far more complicated.

    Thanks for your wonderful, wonderful blog.


  9. Magdalene,

    Thanks. That’s what I was trying to say (not such a good job, eh?)… it is quite complicated and we shouldn’t be comparing levels of oppression.

    I saw things as a pastor in S LA–violence against young black men (i.e., a teenager who was handcuffed to a car and whipped with a cord by the police)–appalling stuff that’s haunted me. I brought up the lynching as a counterpoint Steinem’s arguments. Not to say that one’s worse than the other.

    But I also write about violence against women as well. Here’s a sermon I preached/posted a couple of weeks ago.

  10. Did you happen to read Bob Herbert’s column on Misogyny in this week’s New York Times? A really important one, I think. And I don’t disagree at all with what you’ve witnessed (both in your writing, and in your observations). Again, thank you for your writing. I will read your sermon (when I’ve finished mine for Sunday!).



  11. I have thought about this a great deal, about the ways in which I, as a young feminist, may take for granted the hard won battles of those who have gone before. I certainly think this is often true, but I stand incredibly grateful for the hard work, the sacrifices, the witness that went before that allowed a smooth ordination process for me and a minimal level (though not an absence) of gender discrimination in my ministry.

    I’m very intrigued by Mrs. M’s comment about it being sexist to vote for a woman just because she is a woman… I think there is something to this. I have said, in the past week, that I wish Barack Obama were a woman, that would be fabulous. But, the fact is, for many, many reasons I prefer Obama over Clinton and I do not feel that I am forsaking feminist values in so doing. I will admit that Jack Hitt’s article in Mother Jones about a year ago, Hillarating, made me reflect on the ways my intense dislike for Hillary was probably partially sexist. I’ve been working on this.

    I want to see a woman in the highest office of our land, but I have a greater need to see a candidate with impressive integrity in that office. For the past several elections I’ve begun to wonder if that is a pipe dream. So far, in this election year, I don’t question that possibility anymore. This is thanks, in large part, to Barack Obama.

    Thank you for reminding us to listen to the voices of those who have gone before us as we discern how we will act on the responsibilities of our citizenship in this election year.

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