March 27, 2008
Clinton and Obama in Anthropological Perspective
Our own Justin E. H. Smith in CounterPunch:
Will there be no end to this tiresome "national conversation" as to whether a black man trumps a white woman, or vice versa, on our nation's list of the wronged? One possible end might arrive, of course, when another white man is elected in November and American politics returns to business as usual. In the meantime, I would like to join the conversation, if only in order to bring to light the inanity of the relevant comparison, based as it is on a presumption of analogy between two social groups that are distinguished, conceptually and in reality, from the dominant group for entirely different reasons: in the one case, the distinction is based on a relatively short, 500-year history of economic subordination; in the other, it is a consequence of an evidently universal structural feature of human societies.
A few disclaimers. First, disciples of the Robin Morgan-school of feminism will probably fail to appreciate that the disanalogy between race and gender may be acknowledged without abandoning one's feminist principles, even if these principles inform a feminism of a very different stripe: one that does not seek to justify masculine domination on normative grounds, but that nonetheless is genuinely concerned to take it seriously as a deep-rooted, rather than recent and superficial, phenomenon. Second, I confess I will be doing what, at least since Simone de Beauvoir, we have been told we must never do: conflating sex and gender. Of course, "male" and "female" are not just biological categories. They are also social categories, and they have vastly different connotations from culture to culture. They do not always correspond to the biological categories they are presumed to denote.
Posted by S. Abbas Raza at 07:38 AM | Permalink