Blogger Takes Issue with Recent Steinem Op-ed

Feminist icon and activist Gloria Steinem's recent piece in the New York Times, "Women Are Never Front-Runners," triggered a spirited debate on whether the gender barrier can ever truly be broken in America. But Pamela Merritt of the blog Angry Black Bitch, questions whether race will always be more limiting than gender.

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MICHEL MARTIN, host:

Last week, we also had feminist and social activist Gloria Steinem on the program to talk about her recent New York Times op-ed. It was called "Women Are Never Front-Runners."

In it, Steinem argued that, quote, "Gender is probably the most restricting force in American Life, whether the question is who must be in the kitchen or who could be in the White House." The piece has prompted quite a lot of discussion.

Pamela Meritt, who blogs under the name Angry Black and the B-word, had this to say in response to that piece.

Ms. PAMELA MERRITT (Blogger, Angry Black Bitch): I am a proud black feminist who holds a deep respect for feminist leaders and has done a lot of inner work to come to terms with feminism's history with race and class. But there it is again, that invisibility, like a brutal weight that I am so bloody tired of carrying. When I consider Steinem's words, so why is the sex barrier not taken as seriously as the racial one, I'm left confused. What country does Gloria live in, where race barriers are taken seriously? I'd love to know.

Maybe I'll move there. I'm a black woman, and this is America, and none of my barriers are given more than a token consideration. Steinem goes on to say, I'm not advocating a competition for who has it toughest. The caste system of sex and race are interdependent and can only be uprooted together. And she says, "That's why Senators Clinton and Obama have to be careful not to let a healthy debate turn into the kind of hostility that the news media love," end quote. But this article is soaked in the fluid of competition. It reeks of frustration that I fear is born from a place of entitlement, even though it is dressed in the language of oppression.

I'll point out the suffrage movement progressed without racial or true class unity. Many sisters were damaged by that division. What worries me is that Gloria bought that mess about Obama's race being a unifying factor. It's early, and campaign operatives have already taken a dip in the race baiting pool. Not for one second do I believe that the unifying power of Senator Obama's blackness will not eventually collide with the same elegant condescension of Steinem's op-ed.

What worries me is that this kind of article makes some black women suspicious of feminism, uneasy with the sisterhood, because eventually, it will come down to black and white or women and men, with black women disappeared. What worries me is the ease that Ms. Steinem tossed out the insult of implying that Iowans, when faced with a black male candidate, went with that candidate because they're more comfortable with black male leadership. It begs the question how John Edwards did not win.

What worries me is that the author is frustrated that Obama hasn't been accused of playing the race card for his civil rights references, and feels that Hillary is getting slammed when she gets accused of playing the gender card. Steinem is upset about that race card, because a black man is supposed to get called on it, and she didn't give permission for any rule change. What worries me is how Steinem dismisses the choices of young women voters. Is it any wonder that young women hesitate to embrace the feminist movement?

Will she conclude the same of black women if Clinton loses South Carolina? I agree, we have to be able to say that we are supporting her because she would be a great president and because she is a woman. We also have to be able to say I'm not supporting her because I've examined her resume, without being labeled a victim, self-hating or not radical enough or more black than woman or just too darn stupid to do what Ms. Steinem thinks we should do.

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MARTIN: Pamela Merritt responded to Gloria Steinem's op-ed piece, "Women Are Never Front-Runners." Merritt blogs under the name Angry Black and the B-word, and she joined us from KWMU in Saint Louis.

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