Perhaps Kathleen Parker’s recent blog post where she calls Obama the first woman President is the stuff your mother always told you to never dignify with a response. But given that the writer is a Pulitzer prize winner who has also recently been selected to fill Larry King’s shoes on CNN, I think readers should give her recent WaPo piece a double-take.
Beyond the fact that she takes a dash at the President’s gender and reproductive functioning by interchanging gender and sex in the headline and subsequent lead paragraph, her arguments yield some pretty problematic conclusions about what it means to be a woman. While Parker makes sure to state that doing things a woman’s way isn’t “evidence of a deficiency” but an “evolutionary achievement,” Obama’s gender are in question because of his response to the BP oil spill. Parker disapproves of his response, calling it delayed, passive and that it lacked leadership. But nowhere in her analysis of the BP oil spill does she speak to how this alleged feminine communication style has been an asset. In this way, her analysis is more of a slight against women in leadership than it is of the President. And it begs the question, when is being called a woman going to be an affirmation instead of an offense against one’s competence?
Interestingly enough, her criticism of the President is inspired by a highly dated argument about Bill Clinton’s blackness that was made in jest by Toni Morrison. But it’s important to remember that Morrison used blackness as an affirmation and to signal to Black folks that Clinton could be trusted as one of them. One thing Parker doesn’t mention in her talk of race to prove her sex/gender theories is that the onslaught of criticism the President is experiencing is also possibly tied to the President’s race — a fact she neglects to mention in its entirety.
In closing, Mary Curtis’s response to Parker sums up exactly how Parker has totally missed the mark:
Parker doesn’t think that the president’s reaction to the BP oil spill was commanding enough. Then say that. Criticizing the president for policy or demeanor or anything else is fine. But emasculating him based on worn-out stereotypes is depressing. If he isn’t the angry black man he must be a gentle white woman. We are all prisoners of what others have decided we must be. Might as well give our little boys trucks and our little girls dolls and forget about it.