"A white woman herself, she wasn’t referring to the colour of Hillary’s skin, or even her racial politics, but rather what was perceived as her membership in the dominant class, all cleaned up and normalised, aligned with establishment power rather than the forces of resistance, and stylistically coded (her tightly coiffed hair; her neat, boring pantsuits; her circumspection) with her membership in that class. When I looked at Hillary, I saw someone very different – but I understood the basis for my student’s perception.... These young women... didn’t believe in sisterhood – a relic of a time when, as they had been told (often in women’s studies courses) privileged, white feminists clasped hands in imagined gender solidarity, ignoring racial injustice and the problems of the working class."
Writes the University of Kentucky gender studies professor Susan Bordo. (Bordo is American, despite that "colour" and "normalised" business in that extract, which is in the UK paper The Guardian. The book itself — "The Destruction of Hillary Clinton" — goes with "color" and "normalized.")
There's a lot going on in the phrase "relic of a time when, as they had been told (often in women’s studies courses) privileged, white feminists clasped hands in imagined gender solidarity, ignoring racial injustice and the problems of the working class." Was there really such a time?
I've closely watched feminism developing since 1970, when "Sexual Politics" was published. I remember when Ms. Magazine came out in 1970 that I thought it was for older women (pre-Boomer) who hadn't really caught up with the times and needed help with a kind of conventional married life that had nothing to do with me. And I remember criticisms of Ms.-level feminism coming from the left throughout the 70s and coming on strong in the 80s. The idea that feminism needed to take account of race and class was there all along as I remember.
So who's imagining? Bordo seems to be saying that there was a time — circa 1970? 1980? — when "privileged, white feminists" didn't think of themselves as privileged and white but that femaleness was a single and important category worth thinking about and these women gave themselves the room to go ahead and think about what women have in common instead of hobbling themselves with continual attention to the ways is which women differ from each other and belong in other meaningful categories.
I don't think what Hillary tried to do with sisterhood would have worked in those earlier eras either. It's one thing to say "sisterhood is powerful" when what you mean is that women, by recognizing what we have in common can, given our huge number, have an immense political effect and win many protections and benefits for ourselves. It's another thing for one political candidate to say all the women should vote for me because I'm a woman. I don't think sisterhood ever worked like that.