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Karnythia talked about the way in which Women of Color view acts of chivalry today. The gist of her insightful post, at least in my humble opinion, is that WoC are rarely, if ever, afforded the kind of Princess and Pedestal treatment from white men that many white women find degrading and insulting — things like men holding out chaires for women, insisting to pay the check or walk her home, and yes, calling a woman a “sweetie.” Juxtaposing this, Men of Color are taught to be ever-respectful of all women, that an offer of assistance or protection does not automatically question a woman’s ability to take care of herself but shows repect and solidarity instead.

For the most part, women of color, especially black women in the U.S.A., never benefitted from the ideals of chivalric love continued past medieval times and into the Enlightenment Period. They never experienced the pampering and idealizing of “Republican Motherhood” during the Nineteenth Century that leaves a bad taste in white women’s mouths. They have been taught to be self-reliant, because most of the time, white men have treated WoC as objects, not as people. They have had to rely on men of color to play any chivalrous roles available. Women of color are far more likely to see chivalry as a sign of respect and politeness than as condescension or assertion of control.

It may not be a perfect world, but we all work with what we have, and since the playing field is so different between white women and women of color, it’s no surprise that Karnythia took a lot of flak for pointing these truths out. Some white females cannot seem to accept that ‘OMG! Chivalry isn’t always sexist!’, or at least there are differing opinions as to what constitutes sexism in the PoC community.

Discrimination doesn’t happen in a vacuum. More often than not, there are multiple prejudices at work in any given problematic situation.

Here are my two different responses at her cross-posts:

First, at the LJ Feminist Community:

I know this has already been said, but I wanted to add my two cents:

1. It’s the effect, not the intent, that matters. In this case, Obama realized that what he said, although totally innocent in his mind, could be hurtful or demeaning to women, and he made a effort to correct his behavior.

2. Men are inherently going to be sexist at times, just like white people are racist sometimes and don’t even know it. Stuff happens. It’s what you do in reaction to a problem that defines your position. Obama swiftly called up the reporter and apologized. I have a feeling he’s going to be a lot more cautious about what he says to female strangers in the future.

3. We don’t know his motivations, but we do know that he’s trying to better himself. As I’m not inside Obama’s head, I can’t say whether it’s the realization that he may have bad habits that might hurt others or the fact that everything he does is being recorded at all times that ultimately drives him, but hopefully his behavior will continue to improve.

4. Everyone should hold open the damn door for everyone. Doors are heavy, and they like to hit you in the face.

5. I am perfectly okay with anti-door discrimination.

Then on her blog post (emphasis added):

I call people ‘hon’ all of the time. So it [meaning 'sweetie'] was sexist. He bloody apologized, and he did so before the woman complained to him. THAT’S what’s important here. He didn’t become defensive and insist he did nothing wrong; he said he was sorry immediately and learned from the experience.

There’s a learning curve in the Obama camp, something that the Clinton camp is sorely lacking at this point.

This whole subject has me wondering if my Dad behaves differently towards women at his office (there are few) vs. women in public. Of course, now that he has less hair and has paled slightly since I was a child, he probably looks less threatening. But I think he said a couple of months ago that he still would debate offering to help a white woman alone in a park if some white man was harassing her, because he wouldn’t want to end up shot.

The MoC catch-22 of chivalry with a gun at your back reminds me of that line from “Mrs. Robinson”: Any way you look at this you lose.

So my final words on this? I would have been insulted. I would have probably made a snarky comment for my news report, too. But I also would have accepted a personal apology, which some feminist bloggers seem unable or unwilling to do.

To the Hillary supporters: Look. I’m not trying to minimize the crap that has happened to her during this camaign. It pisses me the hell off, too. Please don’t confuse a rebuttal of the blind outrage that I see over “Sweetiegate” as a dismissal of concerns over sexism. I was so disgusted at the mainstream media’s treatment of her leading up to Super Tuesday that I foamed at the mouth and cheered as the pundits threw up their hands and looked like idiots, the stupid paid shills. I am, however, turned off by Clinton’s efforts to taint Obama’s candidacy in order to better her own campaign. Her unwillingness to apologize when she does something wrong is HUGELY problematic to me.

Both Senators need to tell their PR people and supporters to calm the hell down and stop saying stupid things in their names. Six months ago, Democrats had this election served to them on a silver platter. How did we manage to turn it down for a brass tack?

Whose fault is that? Can we lay all of the blame at the feet of the candidates and John McCain, or does part of the problem lie with us?

Originally published at The Multiracial Muse. You can comment here or there.


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July 2010



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