Several years ago, I was asked to do a project for a Women’s history class and interview a woman of a certain age in the family. I interviewed my great Aunt Mattie Alberta. My aunt was her mother’s namesake and she told me my great-grandmother’s story. According to the census of 1930, my great-grandmother was my grandfather’s second wife. Born in Mississippi in 1907 to a family of 15, she met and married my great-grandfather, a Baptist minister, sometime in the late twenties and to their union were born three children: Uncle Isiah in 1927, Lula, my grandmother in 1929, and my Aunt Mattie in 1930. About 1933 my great-grandmother Alberta became pregnant again.
The economic injustice of the Jim Crow south was intensified by the near total economic collapse brought on by the depression. Times were tough for blackfolks anyhow, but the misery of the depression made some of us long for the degradation of slavery because at least they could be assured of being fed. It was into this climate of desperation, penury and fear that my great-grandmother faced the prospect of having a fourth mouth to feed.
When a woman is intent on ending a pregnancy to preserve the family that she already has, there is nothing that she won’t do. My great-grandmother searched high and low for an abortifacient that would work and settled on a method, which is lost in the mists of time, that took her life. Her death left a hole in the family that could never be filled. My great-grandfather re-married twice. The woman who raised my grandmother and her siblings was a cold, emotionally distant woman who expected her grown children still at home to pay room and board before each eventually married. My great-grandfather was a strict disciplinarian who had trouble understanding the difference between necessary discipline and child abuse.
Several years ago, my Auntie gave grandma this old black and white photo. My great-grandmother, who my grandma closely resembles, is holding an infant, my aunt, while her toddlers stand to her sides. Grandma cried as she told us how much she missed her mother. Her loss is felt even now. Because of limited career choices available to their generation, my grandmother and her sister became nurses and I know that her mother’s death made grandma firmly and unalterably pro-choice. Out of respect for her and the memory of my great-grandmother, I am too.
It did my heart good to see that the National Organization for Women endorsed Barack Obama and Joe Biden today. They said in part, “Sen. Obama is a co-sponsor of the Prevention First Act, to strengthen access to contraception and reproductive health care, and prevent unwanted pregnancies. He strongly supports Roe v. Wade and will oppose any efforts to overturn it. …Sen. Obama opposed the nominations of George Bush’s extreme right-wing nominees to the Supreme Court, who have consistently ruled against women’s rights.”
“For more than a decade, Barack Obama has said “yes” to women’s rights, while John McCain has consistently said “no” – NO to pay equity, NO to contraceptive access and reproductive rights, NO to appointing Supreme Court judges who will uphold women’s rights and civil rights, NO to funding shelters and other anti-violence programs, and NO to supporting working moms and dads with policies that support work/life balance.”
Barack Obama is not perfect and is far too accommodating and corporate for my taste. However, he is the only candidate in the race who shares most of my values that is capable of winning. Anybody who claimed to be for Hillary Clinton that doesn’t support Barack Obama is lying when they claim to be feminists. Feminists support the rights of women–all women, to be free of patriarchy, racism, violence and economic discrimination. Supporting John McCain and his right-wing fembot is antithetical to the philosphy of feminism.
Hiding behind John McCain and Sarah Palin or Cynthia McKinney changes nothing. Sarah Palin is not a feminist, no matter what she claims, and she doesn’t support preserving the reproductive rights of women. Cynthia McKinney, on the other hand, is a good feminist, but she has absolutely no chance to win.
The choice for feminists is clear. Anybody who says anything different and insists on bludgeoning Barack Obama as the scapegoat for the slings and arrows of sexism is really more interested in preserving white supremacy than they are in defending Hillary Clinton from sexist patriarchy.