Sexism vs. Racism: A Study in Contrasts

Despite the common perception that racism is a worse problem than sexism, there are a number of historical and current facts that support the argument that sexism is far more entrenched than racism. The current war on women in congress ought to be enough to end any debate.  Can anyone imagine what might be happening if this kind of discrimination were aimed at an ethnic group?  The arrogance of these lawmakers to openly attack all the gains of the women’s movement to date exposes the incredible level of sexist mentality to which they fall prey and the widespread acceptance of it.  But to remind everyone that this has long been the case historically, let me point out some facts:  black male former slaves got the right (at least on paper) to vote 50 years before women did, got recognized under the 14th amendment as “persons” over a century before women did, black civil rights got recognized before women’s civil rights, we still don’t have the equal rights amendment which would be equivalent to the Civil Rights Act, we have two holidays set aside for men of color (in addition to all the ones for white men) and not a single one recognizing a woman, we elected a black male President before a white female President, women are far less represented in Congress per capita than are blacks and latinos, pompous talk show hosts who would be afraid to raise the issue of race mock and denigrate women with impunity, race-motivated crimes make big news while violent crimes against women are so commonplace they are not even considered newsworthy, crimes targeting women just recently were recognized by congress as hate crimes while crimes targeting racial groups have long been seen as such, and the murder of the tens of millions of women during the witch hunts is barely spoken of while we hear endlessly of the suffering of other groups.

Some interesting history is that the Civil Rights Act (passed in 1964) is the rough equivalent to the ERA (first introduced in 1923 and still not passed), while the 15th amendment assuring the vote for men regardless of race (passed in 1870) is the equivalent of the 19th amendment for women (not passed until 1920).  The  passage of the 14th amendment actually made things worse for women by specifically guaranteeing the rights of men (regardless of race) while leaving women out, despite the efforts of suffragists to get women included as citizens and to use it to exercise the right to vote.  Some woman suffragists even opposed the 15th amendment because they wanted voting rights extended to everyone, but had to abandon this as black men getting the vote had more public support.  The 2008 elections are one of the most recent blatant examples of sexism being more pronounced than racism with a previously unknown black male candidate muscling out the white female frontrunner, elbowing her aside and getting fawned over by news anchors while she was severely scrutinized and criticized at every turn.  Even many bigoted white men were willing to vote for a black man over a white woman and people on the left, blind to their sexism, saw voting for a black man even greater proof of their open-mindedness than voting for a white woman.

In the spirit of Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Women’s History Month, I say it is high time that women be recognized under the law as having equal rights to men, that women’s rights finally be given the attention they deserve, and that sexism be identified and denounced as much as racism is.  We demand equal acknowledgment and protection by society and under the law.  It is time to pass THE EQUAL RIGHTS AMENDMENT!

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Filed under Civil Rights, Women's Rights

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