Friday, November 30, 2012

"Somebody Has to Do the Thinking for Women": Susan Rice and White Male Privilege

by Rashad Grove
R3 blogger

“Somebody has to do the thinking for women.” These were the words that fell from the lips of Joe, the husband of Janie, as written in the classic novel Their Eyes Were Watching God by anthropologist Zora Neale Hurston.  This characterization is the fundamental premise to the male privilege ideological framework. Whether explicit or implicit, this is the seedbed of thought formation that is the fertile ground from whence the patriarchal imagination emerges.  It is the divine design of God that women must be spoken for and even thought for. From this matrix of maleness, women must have a biological or a gendered inability to do it for themselves. Women who attempt to draw upon the own agency will always lack validity unless men out of their own privileged volition decide to endorse them. This is the promise of patriarchy. In the last few weeks it has been unfolding in the political landscape and the theological terrain with haunting dexterity.

The interrogation of U.N Ambassador Susan Rice that was spearheaded by Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham around the attacks on the U.S. Embassy at Benghazi speaks to this reality. While there may be a plethora of reasons to question than handling of the toxic situation and the unclassified intelligence that was given to Rice that she disseminated  to various media outlets as a spokesperson for the White House, it is how the person of Susan Rice was critiqued and challenged that sparked the most controversy.  With rhetorical venom John McCain commented that Susan Rice was, “incompetent” and “not very bright.” 

This rhetoric plays directly into the dual narrative of racism and sexism that is intertwined into the fabric of these “yet to be” United States of America. Susan Rice may be a lot of things but “incompetent and “not being bright” are the farthest from the truth. Susan Rice was valedictorian at National Cathedral School in Washington, D.C., a private girls' day school. She attended Stanford University, where she received a Truman Scholarship, and graduated with a B.A. in history in 1986. She was elected to Phi Beta Kappa. 

Awarded a Rhodes Scholarship, Rice attended New College, Oxford, where she earned a M.Phil. in 1988 and D.Phil. in 1990. The Chatham House-British International Studies Association honored her dissertation entitled, "Commonwealth Initiative in Zimbabwe, 1979-1980: Implication for International Peacekeeping" as the UK's most distinguished in international relations. John McCain’s judgment upon the intelligence of Dr. Rice could not possibly come from her credentials but must have come from another place. The symbiotic reality of her gender and color make her inherently deficient in this realm according to the doctrine of white male privilege that is espoused by McCain. The words of Janie’s husband Joe comes to mind that, “Somebody has to do the thinking for women.”

With all of the “legitimate rape” and “pregnancy from rape is something that God intended” discourse and the archaic positions on gender equality that emanated from the Grand Old Party, one would deem it to be politically expedient to display an attempt of gender diversity within the leadership of the House of Representatives.  But this is not the case.  All of the GOP’s committee chairs will led by white men. Not even a white woman was selected. If the Republican Party is serous in trying to appeal to women, this new 113th Congress has relegated the women in their caucus to a state of invisibility when it comes to leadership.  Providing analysis on the GOP with accurate insight it was journalist Toure’ who tweeted “The Republican Party is promoting a Mad Men vision for a Modern Family country.”  An opportunity was genuinely missed to broaden the political and leadership aesthetics of the GOP but instead they preferred to sanction the status quo. With concise clarity, the GOP is communicating to us all the mantra of Joe that “Somebody has to do the thinking for women.”

Bell Hooks once wrote, “Sexism  has always been a political stance mediating racial domination, enabling white men and black men to share a common sensibility about the sex roles and the importance of male domination. “ I would also note that this reigns true in the ecclesiastical realm as well. Black men and white men have in the past and continually share in a patriarchal partnership that perpetually excludes women. According to the National Catholic Reporter, “When the Church of England scuttled plans to allow women bishops Nov. 20th; incoming Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby called it "a very grim day for women and their supporters." The historical and theological glass ceiling for women in ministry is alive and well. This decision unveils the nucleus of patriarchal power and privilege from a theological rubric that God can only speak to and through men. When you can construct a God who solely discloses His existence to men and will only allow men to theologize about Him, it creates a hierarchical dichotomy where the subjection of women is God ordained and entirely justifiable. It seems like I can hear Joe saying, “Somebody has to do the thinking for women.”


JWarren said...

Thank you for this excellent post!

Anna Renee said...

It's all falling apart. 2013 will be the year of watching it with our eyes, the year of watching Psalm 91:8 manifest.

Milton Craft said...

I can't believe that we are still having this same conversation about women. Women who are intelligent, powerful, strong, and courageous. Most of these politicians are married. I can only pray for their wives. God made a beautiful creation when God made woman. I believe that is all I'm going to say.