Columnist urges voters to focus on issues rather than race, gender

Jessica Rezac

On Jan. 8 Gloria Steinem challenged the readers of her New York Times editorial to imagine a presidential candidate who differed from the majority of prior candidates who appeared on previous presidential ballots in two areas-she was black and a woman.

Steinem predicted that her readers would deem such a candidate an impossible frontrunner because gender is “the most restricting force in American life.” She continued to argue that this political bias against gender began when men, regardless of race, were granted the right to vote before women of any heritage. Finally, she challenged women to support Senator Clinton over Senator Obama in the primaries “because she’ll be a great president and because she’s a woman.”

This editorial dates Steinem’s personal politics as rooted in a form of feminism no longer suitable for the American population. As opponents to feminist goals continue to label feminists as man-haters, Steinem provides easy fodder for the fight against equality.

While Steinem believes women who voted for Senator Clinton in Iowa were more radical than their younger counterparts who “hope to deny or escape the sexual caste system,” she misses the point which a new generation of feminists has embraced. That point is simple. The enemy of feminism is not men. Instead, women disadvantaged by sexism suffer at the hands of the same enemy who perpetuates racism, homophobia and classism. No, my enemy as a woman is not men; my enemy is oppression.

By acknowledging that all forms of oppression work together, perhaps Steinem would understand that attempting to rank the oppression women have suffered at the hands of sexists over the oppression blacks have suffered at the hands of racists only reinforces the privilege which allows for the creation of both racial and sexual castes. By structuring her fighting as one against oppression, Steinem may see that while she is correct that men of all races technically achieved voting rights in this country before any woman, the 19th Amendment was never circumvented by literacy tests, poll taxes, grandfather clauses, segregated primaries or felon disenfranchisement in the way of the 15th Amendment.

So, this Super Tuesday, participate in your party’s caucus. Vote to end oppression. In this, I mean not to support Senator Clinton if you are a woman or Senator Obama if you are black or former Governor Romney if you are Mormon. Instead, support a candidate because you agree with his or her politics and refuse to let his or her sex, race or religion determine his or her value as the leader of this country.