If Obama Is a Woman, and I Vote For Clinton, Am I a Man?

| Thu Feb. 28, 2008 4:41 PM PST

One would think Maureen Dowd had cornered the market on silly-beyond-belief gendered nonsense about Sens. Clinton and Obama. One would be wrong; Newsweek wants to vie for that crown:

Advertise on MotherJones.com

It has been a rarity in modern political life: a wide-open race for the nomination of both parties. But whatever happens from here on out, this campaign will always be remembered for the emergence of the first serious woman candidate for president: Barack Obama.

Obama is a female candidate for president in the same way that Bill Clinton was the first black president.

Yes. The same tediously stupid way.

You have to listen to comedian/civil rights activist Dick Gregory "apologize" to Bill for black people making him think he was black if you're having trouble putting the latter bit of twaddle to rest, but what of the new twaddle?

This—Obama is a 'woman' cuz he's all nice and stuff—seems like yet another example of how Obama isn't 'really' black. (He can't be. He isn't scary.) That makes him acceptable to whites since 'black' men are dangerous and uncooperative and, to put it mildly, not team players. The hardest kind of racism to combat is the kind that pats the 'good' Negroes on the head and sets them up in opposition to the black masses, signaling that 'they' (the black masses) may remain safely marginalized. Pretty obvious wink-and-nod from one white to the other. And you wonder why 'we' still feel discriminated against and despised. Kaleaph Luis, at GenderYouth.org sums up this feeling with sad succinctness in a recent post. He's right to be sick to death of the requirement that black men be hard, gangsta, and oppositional to be considered men.

"In fact, most of the young black men with whom I have deep, personal relationships that exhibit the very same "female" characteristics that Newsweek attributes to Obama: they take an inclusive approach to problem solving, are generally optimistic about life, are modest about having all the answers, and are comfortable with teamwork.

For us, Obama is not a new phenomenon. He's not a "female" one either. He's us. Alas, we are used to our real selves being erased by the gangsta masculinity that society too often seems to expect of young black men, or by the surprise it exhibits when we break the mold.

With all the familiar statistics about young black men about academic underachievement, incarceration, and underemployment, it may be hard for mainstream culture to believe that we, in Sen. Joe Biden's immortal prose, actually are "articulate and bright and clean." Let me assure you, we're already here. Calling Obama the female candidate just recycles the same tired, old stereotypes of masculinity that deny us—and him—a precious opportunity to redefine and expand definitions of manhood for young men."

Likely, Newsweek was just trying to be cute, like Dowd does in most of her columns—playing word games while our society slowly implodes. But the reality underlying this type of thinking is far from ephemeral in its effects on black lives; the masses of black men, not being wunderkinds, are dangerous. Uncivilized. Justifiably marginalized.

Get Mother Jones by Email - Free. Like what you're reading? Get the best of MoJo three times a week.