Sexism > Racism?

I'm not sure. I'm really not sure whether there is more racism or sexism in society today. I certainly can't testify to how blacks (primarily) experience racism in America today (though did have a revealing exchange with an Indian man on one of my last flights as to how he goes through extra security pretty much every time he flies). I don't know that it truly matters if there is "more" or "less" of one than the other.

Of course, there is a bright shining light on this question given the oft-heralded historic race for the Democratic Presidential nomination between Hillary and Barack (did I mention I <3). Hence, the numerous conversations (bordering on argument, perhaps) with several friends. As a fervent Barack supporter, I feel like this belief puts me squarely in the camp of the post-feminists (though not the self-hating shrew variety). One shouldn't vote for a woman presidential candidate primarily because she's a woman. One should vote for the person they believe who will do the best job.

Yet, I do cringe at the way in which many members of the press - including the typically open-minded Chris Matthews - characterize Hillary. On the other hand, I "denounce" and "reject" (to use the parlance of tight-rope walking presidential candidates as they trek the across the mined field of supporters who stick-foot-in-mouth) the whines of Hillary supporters who complain that the media is being sexist.

In reading this recent piece in Conde Nast's Portfolio about sexism in the workplace, I found myself agreeing wholeheartedly with HP's famous-ex-CEO, Carly Fiorina (despite her being a McCain supporter and all) as she was quoted in a recent interview:
"The reason I wouldn't deal with gender when I became C.E.O. of H.P. is that I believed in a meritocracy where gender isn't the issue. I wanted to play by the same rules. Look, I'm not an idiot. There are clearly things that are different for men and women in leadership. But I believe you have to be the change you seek."
Be the Change You Seek, indeed. Although maybe there are more women in the boardroom (WSJ $), and in executive management, than other "underrepresented" minorities. But that doesn't make the experience of sexism in today's work world, unreal. For as many times as I've...
  • been called "ambitious",
  • had a boss tell me not to swim too much because women with big shoulders are not attractive,
  • struggled to figure out what to wear to look stylish, but not overtly sexy,
  • been hit on by a superior with direct, and far-reaching authority, to determine my next opportunity at the firm
  • etc.
there may also have been times that I've benefited from being a (queue the immodesty alarm) smart, driven female professional. I'm not asking anyone to cry a river for me. Quite the opposite. Just as I-Heart-Barack-Obama appealed to the public the other day to have a frank, open and honest discussion about race relations, I appeal to - at least my small circle of friends - to have some friendly, open discussion about sexism in our companies and our society. I wholeheartedly intend to compete-the-pants off of my male counterparts during the course of my career, but I also want to raise a glass to thank the women of my mother's generation - yes, including Hillary - that sacrificed and strove, so I could be as successful as I am capable of being (though long way to go there still :)).

UPDATE: A few more interesting articles/op-ed pieces about sexism and racism this weekend. Neither really offer any unique insight, but just help present the information in a different way.

2 comments:

Mickey | March 24, 2008 at 9:22 PM

First of all, I'm concerned with anyone who refers to Chris Matthews as "normally open minded".
I always think it's funny that people are open minded until you disagree with them. I think your tribute to the forefathers (formothers?) of feminism is laudatory. I'm sure you would say much the same for early abolitionists (many of whom were white), and civil rights pioneers. All deserve to be praised. The question is, should that have anything to do with this, or any, election? Obama didn't think so. He began his campaign saying it was not predicated on race or gender. Only after the appearance of the Wright tapes did he believe "we" needed to have an open an honest discussion about race. It's funny, I didn't need one. What I can't figure out about this Clinton/BO campaign is why so many, such as yourself, are so fervently in favor of Obama. Honestly, his policies, while slightly nuanced, are much the same as HC's. Just as I agree that it is important not to vote for someone because of their sex, it is equally important not to vote for someone based on their magnetism. After all, nobody disputed Reagan's charisma, but we all love to bash him. Race, sex, charisma...all important issues in this campaign, but only to people who make them so. Feel free to enlighten me on the huge policy differences of the two.

Mickey | March 25, 2008 at 12:53 AM
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