Jasmyne A. Cannick Political and race analyst; political communications strategist.
*I’m not a self-described feminist, but even I have noticed over the past few weeks how the American feminism has been fired up and ready to go over attacks from the political left and right.
Rush Limbaugh got the ball rolling by calling Georgetown University Law School student Sandra Fluke a “slut” and a “prostitute.” Liberal outposts like Media Matters were aided greatly by the National Organization of Women in targeting advertisers of Limbaugh, and to date, more than 100 have fled the show.
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On the right, the conservative Concerned Women for America has been equally relentless in their criticism of Bill Maher, the liberal comedian and host of HBO’s Real Time, for calling Sarah Palin a “c—.”
So then why have these two female powerhouse organizations been missing in action on the two Los Angeles talk radio hosts who offended women, particularly Black women, when they called Whitney Houston a “crack ho” three days after her death?
The hosts of Clear Channel’s flagship Los Angeles Station, KFI/640 AM, were suspended, only I and other African- Americans denounced their actions. But those men are back on the air, and we continue our battle with Clear Channel over diversity efforts at the station—where out of 15 hosts, one is female, none are Black.
So what’s the deal NOW and CWA, because if white women are called out of their names and their character sullied by men, you’re quick to rally the masses. Yet when it involves Black women, you’re strangely silent. What gives?
Oh, I’m sure critics will be quick to say I’m playing the race card. But there is history here.
In 2007, when shock jock Don Imus called the Rutgers female basketball team “nappy-headed hoes,” it was the National Association of Black Journalists and Black civil rights organizations leading the charge.
NOW and CWA had to be dragged kicking and screaming into the debate. In fact, CWA didn’t issue a statement on Imus until a full week after the calls for his head were issued, and even that didn’t come down until after NBC took action against him.
Talk about late to the party!
The message these two groups, with their token representation of Black women on their boards, is clear: it’s not okay to refer to white women as sluts, prostitutes, or c—s, but it is however okay to call Black women crack hoes.
These attitudes prove once again that today’s feminist movement is no better than yesterdays, and even worse—share’s haunting similarities to the gay civil rights movement—a movement that also suffers from the same selective outrage.
Most women, regardless of race, will agree that Limbaugh’s comments were disgusting, distasteful, and insensitive. Similarly, the same can be said about Maher’s Palin comments.
Where I do agree with Maher is in his recent comments to ABC News’ Jake Tapper. In response to the ensuing controversy over his remarks Maher said, “I used a rude word about a public figure who gives as good as she gets.”
As a Black woman, I can relate to that.
Today’s feminist movement gets from Black women as good as it gives and the token Black on their boards, coupled with the Black children they adopt from Africa, and their support of the KONY 2012 on Facebook doesn’t represent diversity or their other favorite word–multiculturalism. Real talk.
The face of HIV/AIDS today is that of a Black woman. Do you see NOW and CWA rallying to our side and demanding attention be paid to this burgeoning epidemic? If so, let me know because clearly I’ve been watching the wrong cable news channels and reading the wrong publications and websites.
It is what it is, and Black women like myself, are sick and tired of white women dismissing, overlooking, and just flat out ignoring our concerns, while simultaneously and ever so self-righteously proclaiming to be the champions of diversity where women are concerned.
It’s clear through NOW’s and CWA’s deafening silence on the personal attack on Whitney Houston that when it comes to defending women, even multi-platinum, international pop icons, that groups like NOW and CWA are concerned only with sexist slurs hurled at white women.
So NOW and CWA, please, spare us all the sidestepping, double talking, excuses and after-the-fact statements. Please, just make a simple modification to your names and add the word “white” before “Women.” Yes, I’m serious. It’s perfectly clear that today’s feminist movement is led by, for the benefit of, and about middle-class white women only. Period. The end.
If they’d just keep it real, us nappy-headed crack hoes would have no need to ever even look in their direction for coalition building around similar issues or even expect that they’d be offended when a Black woman is being called out of her name by a radio shock jock.
If adding the word white to their names is not a practical option, then NOW and CWA need to start defending all women, and not just Georgetown law students and former vice-presidential candidates. It means putting the same energy and resources into defending Black women airport screeners who are repeatedly called fat and lazy by white shock jocks; calling out men who routinely degrade the First Lady of the United States and her body; and the other shameful antics we see directed at Black women.
Yes, I am Black, and I’m also a woman, and I’m also a lesbian. I stand tall in fighting for respect for African-Americans, for women and for LGBT folk. I shouldn’t have to check off a box when insulted.
If the Black in me is offended, I expect the NAACP to rise up and fight it. If the woman in me is offended, I expect NOW and CWA to care enough about me to say something. And if the lesbian in me is insulted, I expect the National Black Justice Coalition to be there but I also expect GLAAD, the Human Rights Campaign and other LGBT groups to stand strong with them.
But what is increasingly clear is that when the non-Black groups see me, all they see is my skin color. And all too often, when folks like me need them to stand up, they are missing in action.
Instead of paying Blacks lip service, its time for white feminists to really see us for whom we really are: women.
Based in Los Angeles, Calif., Jasmyne A. Cannick is a political and race analyst. Follow her on Twitter @jasmyne and on Facebook at /jasmyne.