Elections Will Never Be Enough: A Criticism of Pres. Obama From an Intersectional Feminist

The liberal feminists have gotten together and agree: Obama and the democrats have ended institutional oppression, as we know it. Just ask Bitch Magazine writer Kelsey Wallace who reacts to last week’s election saying,

“The sexism, racism, homophobia, and ableism that have been the political norm in this country lost big because–maybe, hopefully–they aren’t the norm anymore.”

 I suppose that if one is an able-bodied, heterosexual, white, cis-gender, upper middle class woman election day was the mountaintop moment. “You’ve come a long way, baby” can be our slogan. As long as we assume that “our” is only relevant to those who have privilege, whether it is through whiteness, class, sexuality or being able-bodied. The Obama administration could mean a lot of things for women’s liberation, but actual liberation from the “white supremacist capitalist patriarchy” is not one of them.

 The “Lesser of Two Evils” Bites Hard

 The lesser of two evils is a pretty powerful statement that liberal democrats love to use in order to defend their stance on institutionalized oppression and imperialism. Fortunately, it is not one that most intersectional feminists take seriously.

 Try telling people whose communities have been attacked by drones that Obama is the “lesser of two evils.”  People who have been attacked in countries like Yemen and Pakistan do not differentiate Romney from Obama. To them, they are two sides to the same coin, imperialism. People of color all over the globe are suffering due to United States foreign policy, from Pakistan to Yemen. In fact, Obama has stated time and time again that the drone program is necessary to defeating Al Qaida. He fails to mention the impact it has on innocent civilians in these countries. Only 1 in 50 killed by drone strikes is a militant, the rest are civilians, according to a study done by Stanford and New York Universities.

Obama has imprisoned Yemeni journalist Abdulelah Haider Shaye, accusing him of being a part of Al Qaida. Shaye was uncovering a story that linked missile strikes in Yemen to the United States. This missile strike in question killed 14 women and 21 children. Shaye continues to be detained despite Obama’s promise to let him go.

 We cannot, as feminists, turn a blind eye to these acts of murder. We cannot morally claim we are for the equality of all women and at the same time celebrate a president who is a war criminal. Obama is no different than any other U.S. president. Imperialism comes with the job. We have to realize that he is not going to wake up one morning, feel bad for all the civilians he has killed through the drone program and stop it immediately. There needs to be a push against drone strikes and this can only happen if we, as feminists active in our communities large and small organize against the imperialistic actions of our government.

 Great Strides, Minor Changes

 There is no doubt that 19 women in the Senate is a great feat for women in power. It is awesome that marriage equality passed in four more states. It’s also amazing that one can smoke weed freely in two states, Colorado and Washington. The first Asian-American woman and openly gay politician were elected to the Senate. The first time a woman with a disability was elected to the House, also.   These are great things that should not be undermined, except of course if one lives in a world where over eighty percent of the global population lives in poverty.

 Consider this your reality check.

 20-40 % of homeless youth in the United States are LGBT. They are not concerned about marriage equality. They are concerned about where they will sleep, what they will eat or if they will even make it to the next day. To put this in perspective, because statistics can sometimes numb us to the reality — around 400,000 gay and transgender youth will face homelessness every year, and that’s just the conservative estimate.  Organizers of the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) and other LGBT organizations who support Obama should really imprint those numbers in their mind next time they canvass for a president, who, frankly has committed nothing but lip service to the rights of the LGBT community.  Let’s not forget that Obama recently told MTV that he would not focus on federally uplifting the ban on gay marriage that it is up to the states to decide. Even if one is an upper class, white, gay male who does not give a crap about the homeless LGBT youth in this country, at least recognize that Obama does not really care what happens with gay marriage either way, nor is he concerned about the community except when it comes time to vote.

 I am in support of marginalized people winning victories against those who have historically and still do in many ways, oppress them.  I am in support of women, people with disabilities, people of color and people of a variety of religious affiliations winning victories against the hegemonic power structures set up to make sure these people fail.

 I am not in favor of the idea that since these people can do it: so can you! Meritocracy, the idea that if one works hard enough they can make it to the top is at work here when Obama stated last Tuesday night:

 “What makes America exceptional are the bonds that hold together the most diverse nation on Earth…. It doesn’t matter who you are or where you come from or what you look like or where you love. It doesn’t matter whether you’re black or white or Hispanic or Asian or Native American or young or old or rich or poor, abled, disabled, gay or straight.”

 It does matter, though. It matters if one is white because it means more opportunities for school and jobs. It matters if one is straight and a man because it means less discrimination in the work place due to heterosexism and/or sexism. It matters if one is able bodied due to the overwhelming discrimination of people with disabilities even with the American with Disabilities Act (ADA). It matters if someone is black because there is a risk of being a victim of racially charged hate crimes through police brutality.  It matters if someone is rich or poor, because someone who is poor does not receive the same resources that someone who lives in the upper strata of society does.

 As feminists we should be critical of statements that attempt to erase identity. We should be more critical when it is the president. I do not celebrate a president who actively participates in the hegemonic power structures that aim to push down working class LGBT communities, women, people of color and people with disabilities, both invisible and visible.

 If Not Obama, Then Who?

 It is true that Barack Obama being elected president twice is historic. It is amazing to have a bi-racial President, especially when we think about the racist past and present of this country. I also understand that as a white woman I am walking a fine line between racism when I make criticisms against him and I take responsibility and accountability for that.

 I am not advocating for the end of Obama, but the end of a political and economic system that is not able to support the working class people of this country. Working class people of color, women, LGBT communities and people with disabilities are suffering across the nation and the world due to inequality and United States foreign policy. We cannot kid ourselves that any president, including Obama will change things for us. He hasn’t, really.

 I’m excited to have a free papsmear every year at the gynecologist, but I would rather have every doctor’s visit be free for myself and for people around the world. I’m more concerned about creating systemic change through social movements than organizing around electoral politics that have never changed anything for anyone. This is a call for liberals to wake up from their zombie state and so-called “serious” leftists to stop celebrating Occupy, a movement whose populist nature often makes it unsafe for women, people of color, the LGBT community and people with disabilities. Election season is over, so I want to see groups of people organizing against the capitalist white supremacist patriarchy rather than championing it through people in power, such as the President of the United States. It can only be done through direct action and civil disobedience, not unquestioning obedience to people in power.

3 thoughts on “Elections Will Never Be Enough: A Criticism of Pres. Obama From an Intersectional Feminist

  1. As a Black woman and member of the lgbtia community, I can attest to fhe fact that Obama’s historic wins are more properly viewed as flukish events than significant indicators of the magical manifestation of “post-racial” society. I appreciate your walking-the-tightrope stance, as well as your clear utterance of the complexities of ‘privilege,’ and I’m referring to ‘white privilege,’ as opposed to a program like Affirmative Action which many people incorrectly assume to be “black privilege,” as if such an institution ever existed…

    My experience has been that Obama’s wins, wonderful and historic as they have been, have also served to create a menacing backlash, i.e., What are those blacks complaining about now? What else could they want? They have a Black president! It’s the same type of erroneous thinking that causes these same people to say, “We fought the [American] Civil War for you!” when, in essence, “you” did not — and neither did Lincoln. And anyone who can read can learn that Lincoln, himself, said as much.
    It annoys me that people think they can lay claim to a post-racial society by simply by denying that racism still exists. I’ve referred to this phenomenon in my own writing as “Liars in ‘Twaining,'” in reference to the publisher, NewSouth, which simply deleted the term ‘nigger’ from Twain’s classic, Huckleberry Finn, and now, voila!, the American “old South” has become a kinder, gentler place… This is dangerous.

    I appreciate your comments along these lines, and I, for one, find nothing racist about a White woman making them. These issues must be discussed!

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