Monday, February 4, 2008

On Primary Eve

When I was fourteen and a high school freshman, I attended a conference about getting girls interested in science (you can see how well that worked -- I now teach English). My biology teacher, Mrs. Brooks, nominated me (I won the "coveted" Watson-Crick award at my high school - hee hee ). My mother came with me and we sat through lectures and seminars. I don't remember too much about it except for one incident that my mother told me about.

I think she was talking to some other mothers about what they had heard that day. You have to understand that my mother, though not politically active, embraced women's rights, seeing what it had to offer her daughter even if it might not affect her future in the same way. One African-American woman commented discouragingly to her that white women would then more likely take away the jobs from black men. My mother was outraged and related the story to me by saying "why that so and so!" to me (my mother does not curse, for the most part).

On the one hand, I can understand my mother's frustration because this was an event where we were all supposed to "on the same side." Alternatively, the woman showed her that there are many facets to the "same side" (and a common critique of feminism from that era was that it did not take into account class or people of color).

So, now on the eve of the Primary, the two Democratic contenders are for a white women and a black man. And I can't help but think about both my mother and that woman who spoke to her over twenty years ago. Since I only heard about it from my mom's point of view, I wonder at the other's tone and reasons for speaking. Was it because she thought my mother would be sympathetic or that she needed to be reminded of the complexity? Or was it that there were too many white girls there (and where was her child at that time? Was it frustration about how can a black woman ever get a break?). I'm not sure and when my mother told me the story, I felt this same way. I don't know what I would have said at that point.

Still, I'm going to vote tomorrow for a woman because I want to vote for her. If the black man gets the nomination, I will also proudly vote for him.

2 comments:

K. A. Laity said...

Hear, hear! This country seems to lust constantly for easy answers -- there aren't any, just illusions sold between commercials.

I can't vote today because I am not affiliated with any party, but I will be watching with interest those who do vote. I like to think that the uncertainty about the outcome speaks to the bounty of positive choices.

I think one of the beauties of Third Wave feminism (as much as I ambivalent about that designation) is its conscious embrace of diversity both nationally and internationally. But I remember all too well the scorn male activists in the 60s (of all racial identities) showed toward women: Abbie Hoffman saying women should fight for "pussy power" and Eldridge Cleaver condoning rape of white women as an "insurrectionary act."

Lielo said...

As I recall - you shared that "Watson/Crick award" with me!