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The media, with no small amount of nudging from Hillary Clinton and her supporters, is in a period of self-reflection over whether they, and the American people, have been misogynist.  Chris Matthews has been cited, as has (inexplicably since they are women) Randi Rhodes (who I reject and denounce as crass and ignorant, but not sexist) and Robin Ghivan (whose commentary on Clinton's cleavage was just plain bizarre, but not surprising in an age where candidates underwear and tattoos are also covered) as well as the "Iron my shirts" heckler and the case of the junkstore Hillary Nutcracker.  There are many other examples worth exploring, debating, and probably denouncing, as well. (h/t to dhonig)

However, what has been missing from the commentary is any consideration that Michelle Obama is a woman too.

In 1851 Sojourner Truth addressed a women's convention in Akron, Ohio. She came to address the fact that black women were not being considered as equal by their counterparts in the nascent feminist movement.  The speech went notoriously badly. She said:

That man over there says that women need to be helped into carriages, and lifted over ditches, and to have the best place everywhere. Nobody ever helps me into carriages, or over mud-puddles, or gives me any best place! And ain't I a woman? Look at me! Look at my arm! I have ploughed and planted, and gathered into barns, and no man could head me! And ain't I a woman? I could work as much and eat as much as a man - when I could get it - and bear the lash as well! And ain't I a woman? I have borne thirteen children, and seen them most all sold off to slavery, and when I cried out with my mother's grief, none but Jesus heard me! And ain't I a woman?

Yes, Sojourner, you are very much a woman.  And so is Michelle Obama.  Michelle Obama who has been the target of smears since the beginning of the campaign.  Michelle Obama, who FOX news scorned and ridiculed as Barack's "Baby Mama."  Michelle Obama, who stands accused of being unpatriotic, of being a racist and a radical.

One would think there would be outcry from feminist leaders, from Hillary Clinton perhaps.  From the blogs and the media.  One would think someone would compare the treatment of Michelle Obama and Hillary Clinton, that someone would reject and denounce the treatment and call on women to stand up for Michelle.  But a few quick Google searches of news and blogs finds paltry commentary, and little defense for Michelle Obama.

This is a difficult subject, but the fact remains that black women are not treated by feminism, by the media, and by politicians with the same deference that white women are.  They are "baby mammas," still considered undesirables at best, and radicals at worst.  And that may well be the worst condemnation of this primary that I can find: that among all the bigotry that was exposed, the horrible hybrid of racism and sexism faced by black women went unremarked, and still is.

So I submit to you that Sojourner and Michelle should be considered feminist icons, progressive heroes.  And most of all, they should be viewed as women.  Not black or white, but women who have struggled against adversity and are still met with a disrespect that smacks of indifference.

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Originally posted to SteamPunkX on Fri Jun 13, 2008 at 09:47 AM PDT.


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