From The Black Snob:
Someone Needs to Tell Bonnie Erbe to Let It Go (Rants)
Friday, May 22, 2009 at 10:56AM
Columnist Bonnie Erbe of "why isn't the First Lady kicking ass and taking names already" fame is still complaining. Most recently she shot down professor Melissa Harris-Lacewell's argument that Michelle Obama's domestic and ceremonial role as First Lady was already a revolution for black women considering how we've been treated and portrayed historically -- which would be not as women, let alone human, at all.
But let's listen to what Erbe had to say this time. (Sigh)First lady Michelle Obama could be making history. She could take giant steps to give women and women of color more power in society and in the workplace. Instead, she self-selected the title of Mom-in-Chief and told Time Magazine, she stays out of public policy.
This attitude of hers is sad, very sad. I know it's constructed by the Obama public relations types—who want to tone down this brilliant, eminently qualified career woman. This new quote in particular reminds me of an all-time clunker from Barbara Bush who told the media when her husband was president she just, "went her own dumb way" and stayed out of politics.
What is it with these women? Or more importantly, what is with American society that it cannot accept a working spouse first lady? Is that so threatening it causes immediate public fear and dislike? If the answer is yes, and I fear it is, it reconfirms my belief during the last election attitudes toward race moved markedly forward, but gender-bias was allowed to remain politically correct.
Once again, Erbe continues to basically ignore the bigger picture or get over her narrow view of feminism or even acknowledge the arguments of black women and feminists who do find Michelle's role revolutionary because of its novelty and her background.
More after the jump.
Image-wise, black women have Mammies and Sapphires and ... not ... much ... in-between. And then there's reality that a black woman working isn't exactly new in the black community that she just seems to want to discount no matter how many ways you explain it.
Do you know how many black stay-at-home moms I knew growing up? One. Mine. Some of those black mothers had careers because they loved them. A majority had them because without two incomes the family would have been in dire straits. My grandmother picked cotton. Her sisters cleaned houses. My other grandmother cleaned houses. My all my aunts worked. I have great-aunts who were domestics and school teachers. My mom is like the weirdo who, due to my father's very good job as an engineer and later in management for what was then McDonnell Douglas, was able to stay at home and make sure we were taken care of completely.
This was a luxury that, sadly, not all black women had a choice in affording. See, choice was non-existent. Work or don't eat was the option for the majority of black women due to racism that kept black men from being able to get high paying jobs. You cannot compare the scars of institutionalized racism that kept everyone down regardless of educational background and geography to the unfairness of the class system which is what often impacted white women the most. As I said in an earlier post, white women and black women have very different image problems. Like, the complete opposite, and it seems extremely selfish to demand the First Lady to fulfill whatever your narrow view of what a feminist looks like.
My mom is a feminist. She raised three feminists. All while WHILE WORKING AT HOME. These things are not mutually exclusive. She'd worked since she was 10 years old and was the oldest of nine children. Believe me, she did not find this work liberating as this work was never denied to her because of her gender. As the family had no desire to starve, everyone regardless of gender was expected to work. There was nothing special about my mother being born a girl that perculded her from hard labor, picking cotton, cooking, cleaning and other work. She was not seen as too weak or too dumb in any task. It was a matter of survival.
She grew up and worked to put herself through college and received a degree in education, then went on to work as a school teacher until she started having children. Don't tell my mother she's an awful person because at 26, when she had my oldest sister, she'd already been working and/or partially starving for 16 years and she was tired. Don't tell her she's not living up to a feminist ideal just because she wanted to love her family. Don't tell her she let all of womanhood down because when her husband told her that as long as they weren't starving she could stay at home and that she relished in having a CHOICE for the first time in her life between work and that same starvation. That my father had a good job and was good with money and that she too was intelligent and good at saving and that together they were an awesome team who got farther and did more than their hardworking, but "Jim Crow" hampered parents.
Don't sit there and tell me that this was a bad thing. Don't sit there and tell me the First Lady is committing some crime by putting her daughters first and focusing on the ceremonial aspects of her role. She's a First Lady. Not a politician, or a governor, or a senator.
But the most offensive thing to me about Erbe's statements is that she assumes what Michelle Obama is doing is bad for all women, including women of color, which makes me wonder what this woman thinks the impact of the First Lady's role is actually having on people. Yes, hearing a black woman talking about being a mom to her kids is must awful for all those black and brown women used to being dehumanized in the press. That is so hurtful to women of color! (Who often have jobs and degrees out of necessity, not because we thought it was really, really cool and grrl power and shit.) Why? I'm in pain over it RIGHT NOW! It bothers me SO MUCH to see her give commencement speeches and host guests at the White House and be fawned over by the public. That is just AWFUL for my self-esteem! All she did was go to an Ivy League school and be the primary wage-earner until her husband became president and then chose to focus on her family. My God. Think of how that will affect all the little black girls out there. What will they think?
You can read the entire piece at the link above.
My great-grandfather scraped to send my grandmother to Natchez College, because - family story goes -
the only children he wanted my grandmother to take care of were HER OWN.
And, those were the only ones she took care of..LOL
She was equally determined for her daughters, and all four of them went to college and got multiple degrees and went to work. I didn't know any Black stay-at-home mothers. I lived in a middle class Black neighborhood, and all the women had educations and went to work.
Erbe needs to go somewhere and STFU.
You know my feelings - White feminism was never for or about Black women , and us adopting it made no damn sense.