On International Women’s Day, the MSNBC anchor on the power of black women, fighting bots aimed to silence females and the confrontation white females face between gender and race
As part of a series to mark International Women’s Day, Moneyish asked some prominent people to share their thoughts and experiences regarding issues important to females. Read more here.
If you’re a woman in America, gender is always with you.
Like race, it follows you around because you deal with it all the time. I first became aware of it when I was around 10 or 11 years old watching my mother navigate the world as a single mom who had to be empowered for herself and her kids. She moved to the U.S. and then across the country by herself, worked sometimes more than one job, and went on to get a PhD in her 50s and became a college professor. But we could see the challenges she faced. It was apparent even with little things like going to get the car fixed. You’d see the mechanic looking around for the husband to talk to and after realizing that she was the customer, being surprised.
I think a lot of American women went into the last election confident about their place in the world. They thought, “We’ve arrived at a place of equality,” and may not have realized how tenuous women’s rights are.
I teach a race, gender and media class at Syracuse University’s Newhouse in New York program to a group of mostly young women between 19 to 21 years old. My very first class was the Wednesday after the inauguration. The students were really in shock because they had taken the fact of a first female president for granted. The election was a reminder that there’s still a culture among some men that craves a 1950s-style relationship that penalizes empowered women who don’t fit the stereotype of a smiling, sexually available doll.
At a previous job, I was once criticized as part of my evaluation for not smiling enough. It was a woman boss who told me that, and you realize that we sometimes internalize those same messages and put an undue burden on each other. You have to learn to push back and be vocal. We’re not required to come in and be soothing. Our job is to be competent.
Women of color know this. We’ve had to carry the burden of championing our own rights as people of color, so it’s more natural to feel empowered. If it weren’t for black women, Roy Moore would be a United States senator today. But it’s a fact too often taken for granted by Democrats. They need to realize that when black women vote, we take other people to the polls with us. There’s a multiplier effect. It’s not just a reliable vote, but an indispensable one.
For white women, there’s been an implied veil of protection that race provides. White women have historically been on a very different page politically from women of color. That was true even with the Donald Trump election, which came as a surprise to many. It’s a pity that women aren’t more united. In the competition between racial privilege and gender, choosing privilege has its perils.
And yet, we’re at a time of seeming realignment and questioning, and I’ve even had young conservative women on my show who are struggling to figure out if conservatism empowers them as women today.
Criticism is part of being a public person. There’s nothing like writing a column with your email address on it to teach you how to deal with it. You get so much direct feedback. But a lot of attacks are now designed to silence voices and women are particularly targeted. That’s a way of disciplining women to make us more docile. We should just ignore it and not be afraid to use our voice. Men are not afraid to fail and make mistakes. They raise their hands for roles they may not even be qualified for, like being President.
Joy Reid is the anchor of “AM Joy,” which airs Saturdays and Sundays on MSNBC from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. ET.
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