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Harriet Freed, in the Tikkun Daily, wrote: “The original Women’s Liberation Movement was a movement of both race and class integration, a vision of justice for all. It saw female liberation as the basis for social revolution.”
She claims that the movement was co-opted by Gloria Steinem. She would find agreement from socialist white women, black, Asian American and Latina feminists.
Black women have been criticizing the white women’s movement for over one hundred years. They were barred from participating in the Seneca Falls Convention, 1848, and today, black, Latina and Asian American women complain about their exclusion from the feminist movement, whose trends are set by white women.
Nevertheless, those white women and token minority women who’ve been given access to a media have done a good job in promoting issues that affect women. It is because of their agitation that women have made gains.
While black men are more likely to be in prison than in college, and the enrollment of white males has declined so much that some colleges have inaugurated Affirmative Action for them, women are doing very well in higher education. “Women have represented about 57 percent of enrollments at American colleges since at least 2000, according to a recent report by the American Council on Education.” This is seven percent over the 50% that former chief Justice Sandra Day O’Connor said that women had to reach in order to achieve equity.
Women have talk shows like the one hosted by Melissa Harris Perry. It’s feisty and has intellectual heft. She ended her show on Saturday by promising a Sunday show about women’s health. The next day, the first hour included a panel of women who discussed breast cancer. It was informative. I was envious. Why no comparable show for men?
The suicide rate among white men has soared more than that of any other ethnic group; instead of this report drawing urgent media attention, it came and went with little comment. Though those who label me a “racist” after having come to my work with their minds made up before reading it, I expressed alarm about the rising rate of suicide by white males in 1988. I blamed it on the popular media requiring white males to not only be Alpha males but James Bond and Superman combined. The problem has gotten worse.
Black male health statistics are even more dismal. “Black men live 7.1 years less than other racial groups They have higher death rates than women for all leading causes of death They experience disproportionately higher death rates in all the leading causes of death 40% of black men die prematurely from cardiovascular disease as compared to 21% of white men. They have a higher incidence and a higher rate of death from oral cancer Black men are 5 times more likely to die of HIV/AIDS.” If it weren’t for an excellent health plan and devoted physicians, this black man would have been dead.
MSNBC has women’s shows and two shows whose hosts are gay and whose central issue is gay marriage, but no show dealing with the issues of American men. I was surprised to learn from Nichole Bowen of The Lady Warrior Project that most of those who are victims of sexual assault in the armed forces are men. Maybe I’ve been watching too much MSNBC, where the impression is created that all of the victims are women. They’re not the only network where the issues of gays and women take priority over those affecting men. During the same Saturday I watched CNN’s Fredricka Whitfield discuss the literacy rate among women living in Nepal.
Women have been very successful in using the media to promote their health and other issues. But men get sick too.
Ishmael Reed is the publisher of Konch. In the May issue, Amiri Baraka challenges W.W.Norton company’s feud with the Black Arts movement.
Reprinted with permission of the author.