Race vs. Sex

There’s an ongoing discussion about it I highly recommend over at TNR, but this snippet in particular really stands out:

The best way I’ve found to explain it is through a contrast with the media’s reaction to Barack Obama’s candidacy. You have pundits like Andrew Sullivan waxing rhapsodic about how fantabulous it would be for America’s image, how great and glorious a morning it will be, when we have an African American taking the oath. You would never hear someone say that about a woman. Even if they’re talking about the historic nature of it, they don’t talk about it in such grand and soul-cleansing terms. And I think part of it is that in the history of this country, slavery, Jim Crow, and racism have been much uglier, more overt, nasty phenomena than sexism.


Sexism is here, sexism is present, but it’s been more paternalistic, and presented in soft, warm and fuzzy terms: “We want to protect the women! It’s not that we don’t like them.” Even when talking about being in battle, it’s, “We don’t want women to get hurt.” Women weren’t persecuted for burning their bras. Feminism is a different cause than civil rights. Slavery is kind of a moral scar for America, so we can be poetic about how great it’s going to be when we, at last, elect an African American. And we just can’t talk that way about electing a woman.

It does strike me as an elephant in the room sort of thing, the difference between the in your face history of American racism as opposed to the “soft” mores of sexism that have existed in pretty much every human culture.