Thursday, July 1, 2010

You've Got Some Balls...

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There is no doubt that we live in a patriarchal society, where there is a perceived sanctity of manhood. Particularly, the culture of white masculinity is portrayed as the normative for which others should adhere to or assimilate. I suggest within this hierarchy underneath white masculinity is that of white femininity. As a result, white privilege extends to their women, as they are able to benefit from the protection of the construct of whiteness and their masculine counterparts. It is this privilege, along with just ignorance of politics, that lead columnist Kathleen Parker to write an article entitled “Obama: Our first female president.”

She begins her article by attempting to placate her audience, saying:

No, I'm not calling Obama a girlie president. But . . . he may be suffering a rhetorical-testosterone deficit when it comes to dealing with crises, with which he has been richly endowed.
While I would love to appreciate this sentence in its contradictory glory, the rest of her commentary articulates her desire to emasculate Obama, through quoting studies she doesn’t tie into her theories and assertions she cannot intelligently defend. In order to label Obama as the first female president, Parker borrows from author Toni Morrison’s claim that President Clinton was the first Black President because:
Clinton displays almost every trope of blackness: single-parent household, born poor, working-class, saxophone-playing, McDonald's-and-junk-food-loving boy from Arkansas.
As a result, she proposes that if Clinton was the first Black president, then Obama is the first female president. In order to dub Obama, the first woman president, the author purposely misunderstands the context in which Toni Morrison makes her statement. What Parker fails to realize is that in Morrison’s characterization of Clinton as the first Black president, she is linking the socially constructed phenomenon of race to some associated social classifications, commonalities, and constraints. Unlike Morrison’s statement, where there is long standing correlation between what it means to be Black in this country and Clinton’s lifestyle, Parker relies on fleeting gender stereotypes.

In a society where 70 percent of African American homes are headed by women there is a commonality with his single family upbringing. From the days of slavery, race was the modality by which class was lived. What this means is the legacy of poor, working-class has long been a social constraint associated with African Americans. Needless to say, the reference to the saxophone pays homage to Jazz music an art form created and perfected within African American culture. As far as McDonald’s, you should just be able to look at their commercials today to understand this comparison. McDonald’s has begun a series of advertisements specifically targeting African Americans through cultural expressions, because it is no secret the cheap fast food chain infiltrates lower-class, urban areas.

As a Black woman to see Parker take the statement of Toni Morrison and transpose it to fit her agenda is insulting. In a thinly veiled way, what it does is suggest that the comparison to Clinton as the first Black President, is so damaging, that the actual first Black president must be denigrated in some way to make atonement.

Racial and gender implications aside, Parker also cites a lot of inaccurate information in her article to support her claim. Specifically, she points to the BP Oil Crisis which has been inaccurately weighed against Hurricane Katrina. She argues that Obama’s inability to immediately act on the crisis made him passive and thus feminine. While I have my own criticisms of the Obama administration and its handling of the crisis, there is no doubt Parker ignores some facts in order to support her theory.

For instance, she stated Obama waited 56 days to address the nation. Doing so, she leaves her readers to assume that from April 20th, the day of the explosion, to the day he addressed the nation, Obama did nothing. On the contrary, within ten days, Obama had ordered a hold on new offshore drilling leases. An investigation of what caused the disaster was underway, and he sent a wide array of officials to assess the damage in the Gulf. Additionally, he secured an agreement with BP for over 20 billion in clean up funds.

Even in the midst of his passivity and inability to be an effective leader, since elected Obama has granted more funding to stem cell research, confirmed the first Hispanic woman Supreme Court judge and soon to possibly confirm another woman in the highest court. He has made huge advances in laws designed to protect individuals from hate crimes. Not to mention the success he had in passing the Economic Stimulus Package and Health Care reform, which were two of his biggest campaign platforms.

Parker also fails to mention for the first time in six years the economy expanded to its fastest rate, because of Obama. Let’s also not forget Obama’s accomplishments regarding domestic relations. Unsurprisingly, many of her assessments of President Obama are the consequence of living in an Attention Deficit Democracy. Basically, as stated in an article I read the other day, “the media views policy through the lens of politics.”

All in all, Parker premeditates the usage of gender to assess that Obama is incapable of doing his job. The insult is NOT in calling President Obama a woman, as women are great in their own right, the insult is that she insinuates he is less than a man. To suggest the perceived inadequacies of President Obama come from political effeminateness, should force the author to understand how her juxtaposition of gender capabilities maintains the status quo of patriarchy. Meanwhile, her desire to emasculate President Obama does so at a damning expense to the capabilities and success of women. Additionally, it ignores the fact that in terms of policy and legislation his portfolio already surpasses that of his predecessors.
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