Zillah Eisenstein is a Distinguished Scholar in Residence and a Professor of Anti-Racist Feminist Theories at Ithaca College in New York.
Race and its colored meanings is a funny thing. They change little and they also change a lot. Race in its historical forms has a racialized color-coding that privileges whiteness and sleights black and brown and yellow. Yet, in the U.S. just now Maureen Dowd of the New York Times writes of the “death rattle of the white male patriarchy”. She is speaking of the recent 2012 presidential election. Supposedly Romney/Ryan lost because the Republican Party is out of tune with the multi-racial multi-classed electorate. And this electorate also found its women’s rights and gay rights voice.
Yet, it is also true that a white (male?) running with Obama’s agenda could have/would have won. And, a black (male?) running with Romney’s would have lost. The only sure bet win for a female just now would be Hillary. But who could even be sure of this in another four years.
Twenty-twelve marks a possible new progressive voice that demands more for the 99 percent who also happen to be of multiple races, and at least two genders, one of which deserves the right to control her own body—be that with contraception, or the choice of abortion. And, genders have their sexes and these may have homosexual rights as well—gay marriage or equality in marriage won the day at the election booth. Sixty-seven percent of single women voted for Obama and the right wing say they voted in terms of the single issue of abortion. Actually, this is really oversimplified. These women have more than their vaginas on their minds.
Less than a week after the election Ohio promised the extreme legislation of the most restrictive abortion ban in the nation if passed. HB125 would criminalize all abortions after the fetal heartbeat is detected with no exceptions at all—not for rape, incest or the health of the woman. This is happening despite the fact that the country seems to have rejected the anti-choice agenda.
At the very least there was an 11 point gender gap in Obama’s favor with women. Over seventy percent of Latinas voted for Obama; with over 93 percent of Blacks doing so as well. Seventy-seven gay and lesbians voted for Obama. Hawaii chose their first Asian American for Senate, and their first Hindu woman for the House.
So what does color? Or race? Or gender exactly mean here? White men still appear to be the ones with the power in the boardrooms but something appears a bit different outside. Romney still holds onto his race, gender and class privilege even though he lost the election. Working class white men still hold onto racial and gender privilege but this is undercut as they tumble from the middle class into the working class, or from the working class into the poor. Yet, eighty percent of Romney’s vote was white and more male than not.
Let me try this several other ways. If Obama had run on Romney’s platform he would most probably have not have won the election. His color/race is not the singular factor, and may not even be the deciding factor. This does not mean that race does not matter, nor does it mean that the society is less racist. It rather means that race is always intersecting with other issues as well. Hence the more complicated voting patterns that identify people in terms of their multiple, rather than singular identities.
So I am still wondering about whiteness and the complexity of race along with the notion of the “end of white male patriarchy”? Ask the black men in our prisons about this; or the black women for that matter. Ask the recently deported immigrant man or woman. Ask Karen Hughes, former aide to President Bush, who says if one more Republican says anything about rape she will annihilate him.
Both campaigns spoke endlessly about the middle class as though it were a huge encompassing homogenous category that happens to be white when really it is a made up category that includes a huge working class that is more often poor and struggling than comfortably middle income. And it is not white but multi-colored Latina, Asian and African-American men and women.
This election spoke a diverse electorate that is not simply white, nor male, nor straight, nor middle class. That says little about the structure of power that still privileges white, heterosexual, rich men of the one percent. White male patriarchy remains structurally in place although it often is confusing with its new complexity and plurality of color.