Dreams From Our Mothers sparked a bit of discussion in the Pumasphere. The response has been interesting, with the personal part of the post getting a lot of appreciation, but other parts some disagreement, as evidenced in comments at Corrente. I wanted to follow up, because I realize in hindsight that my initial post may have been a bit confusing. I was talking about several different issues, none of which get any airplay in the ongoing culture-maker that is our media. I’ve had a chance to contemplate some more on these issues since posting that essay and want to delve deeper here too. Clarity so often comes in the wake of revelation.
The issues are:
- The disparity in treatment of single mothers and absentee fathers is evidence of sexism in the culture.
- How we train kids to feel about their single mothers and absentee fathers are tools to instill latent misogyny.
- White women having biracial children out of wedlock is a trend that has directly led to a decrease in racism.
Now, you’ll just have to forgive me for my sloppy rhetorical presentation. When you’re pioneering new land, mistakes happen and necessity becomes the mother of invention. These issues would not seem to be well-suited to each other, as the only thing they have in common is the presence of single mothers, and seem to diverge from there. But they are brought together by the figure that is Barack Obama, made obvious in a book he wrote, and I was trying to discuss these issues and my personal experience in the context of having read that book. Perhaps I should have written two posts, but these ideas are present throughout his life.
While Dreams From My Father is sexist, that wasn’t my point, and I realize my mistake is in putting the cart before the horse, so to speak, in one question:
Do you need any more evidence to know exactly how misogynistic Obama, and the culture at large, are?
Had I inverted “culture at large” and “Obama” perhaps I would have been clearer. But since I have your attention, let me expound: The very idea that a person should feel grief for an absent father and little to no appreciation for the present mother is an expression of latent misogyny. The person experiencing the grief may or may not be to blame, because we are told a lot of lies from very early on about the nature of parents, we set those values in stone very young, and they are difficult to correct. The correct emotion to feel in the event of having a father who doesn’t give a damn is to feel anger at the father and gratitude towards the mother, if she is a good care-giver. But that doesn’t often happen, especially with males. If you tell someone this, they may come to accept that and internalize it, but because the culture is so busy protecting male privilege and projecting male fantasies, that truth rarely occurs to individuals on their own.
And that’s what all of this is about after all, isn’t it? This judging of mothers? Poison the first female, and you’ve inculcated a boy’s club member for life, even if the member is a female. Male privilege remains protected, and you’ve got a useful little emotional lure—buried deep—that you can just tug on a little bit to provoke what you need. Obama’s going to use that very lure to send out the dog whistle to boomer men, who feel especially alienated from their fathers, even though they were present, and young people, more than ¼ of which come from single parent homes, mostly female-headed. The first idea, about the disparity of treatment, is particularly important to discuss in the context of Obama’s life and current campaign because of that dog whistle.
But, rather than saying that Obama is to blame for this dynamic, I’m trying to say he’s simply subject to it, just like any other child who grew up in such ignorance. I don’t blame him for being in this spot in the first place, I blame him for ostensibly being so smart and wanting to unite and change the world, and for missing the most obvious opportunity in his life to do so. (If that opportunity offered him anything in the way of privilege or power, I believe he’d have taken it already.)
My point (in hindsight, of course) with issue # 3 is that, even if the culture doesn’t value the work of raising children, there can be little argument that it does now value decreasing racism. So why don’t our so-called cultural leaders, our elected officials too, point this out? I’m a lone voice coming to you from Jeffersonville, IN, population 30,000, and very few people are listening to me. Yet this concept is simple and obvious. That this issue isn’t yet talked about, even though Elephant Obama is in the middle of the room proves that issues #1 & # 2 are true, and that what I’ve been saying all along is also true: Women’s issues are deliberately pitted against African-American issues because African-American issues are less threatening to the power structure than women’s issues are.
I could have perhaps explained some of this better in Dreams From My Mother, but to be quite frank, some of it only occurred to me in hindsight. I was sort of stumbling around in the dark myself. And I could write a book about the myriad secret or ignored issues related to single motherhood and some ways to set all of that right. It’s way too long for a blog post, and I’m not doing this professionally or anything. I guess my post served its purpose—it got people to think and discuss some ideas, even if they may reject another. I do think it’s interesting how the race-angle got way more sympathy than the woman-angle.
Finally, a couple of the comments at Corrente were a tad harsh in their critique of the woman’s angle (even as they praised the race angle). One person implied I might be guilty of “excessive politicization” and another said I had suggested Obama hates his mother and all women, when I suggested no such thing. They’re perfectly entitled to their opinion, but I think the issues are political in the first place, and I suspect the subtext of these arguments is that these are women’s issues (even though they aren’t and shouldn’t be). Which means, of course, that they’re feminist issues. Those two comments in particular read like so many habitual pooh-poohs of feminism I have heard since the 1980s from people who haven’t even bothered their lazy little heads to think about what they’re pooh-poohing—they just paint whatever it is as feminist and are then trained to automatically dismiss it. I guess a few of us are guilty of sloppy rhetoric lately.