Friday, March 28, 2008

Helen Thomas Misses the Mark

Helen Thomas

Helen Thomas (introduced by Ann!) gave the keynote speech here at the Women, Action & Media! conference. Thomas has been a dogged criticizer of the Bush administration, but tonight I perhaps will have to offer up a critique of her as well. She noted that the treatment of Hillary Clinton has been unfair in the press and that Barack Obama is "walking on water." I think we'll debate who is getting more favorable coverage in this primary season for years to come, but Thomas claimed "being racist is more verboten than being anti-woman." It's not surprising that Thomas is identifying the same argument that older feminists like Gloria Steinhem and Geraldine Ferraro advance.

It's certain that sexism is frustrating, especially to second wave feminists that thought true equality was in their grasp -- the "upward trajectory" I've heard so much about -- but could never quite break through. I'll defend women who want to vote for Clinton because they view her candidacy as too historic to ignore. What seems like bad policy is to attack female Obama supporters and call them anti-feminist (although I've definitely met female anti-feminist Obama supporters).

Thomas' inclination to to start comparing marginalization is incomprehensible to me. Not only is it a controversial exercise, but a useless one. I don't mind if older feminists are voting for Clinton because they view Clinton's candidacy as the utmost of historic importance, but what makes me upset is when they somehow suggest that Obama "has it easy" or that he's getting a "pass" as a black man while Clinton is deflecting bullets of criticism. Running for president is never easy, so let's not pretend that Obama has it any "easier" than Clinton.

Update: I uploaded the photo.

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