Emily Hauser’s Disgusting Indifference to Women of Color

Update I & Update 2: Below

On yesterday’s on-line “HuffPo Live Debate” on supporting Obama, between Daniel Ellsberg, Daily Beast writer Emily Hauser, and Naked Capitalism writer Matt Stoller, Hauser quickly distinguished herself by trying to shame Stoller into shutting up about basic economic facts that pertained to women and illuminated POTUS in a less than sterling light.

It was the usual run of the mill “white women’s” discussion, reminiscent of the pablum that Katha Pollitt was spewing in January of this year. Hauser scolded Matt Stoller for suggesting that anyone might have a serious “deal-breaking” problem with various policies of POTUS/Democrats.

the suggestion that my life and the life of my daughter, and the life of my mother, sister, and friends is more or the less the same under a Republican as it is under a Democrats is so wildly mistaken as to be delusional, frankly.

Here’s Hauser on the most important implications for the “50% of Americans who are women”:

A woman’s right to choice…A women’s right to bodily autonomy. A woman’s right to be a person. And we’ve seen the Democrats working to stem that tide.…But that doesn’t mean that I’ve agreed with everything [Obama’s] done, or everything that’s been done in Congress while [Obama’s] been there, not even by my fellow Democrats… We’re seeing the Democrats working to stem that tide …But I never expect to agree with everything everybody does, least of all of someone who has to be president of all Americans, least of all me and my fondest dreams

She continues:

But as a woman who’s raising my daughter, I tell you what, there’s no comparison that can be made between life in these United States under a potential Romney Presidency and life here under a second term with Obama.

Thank goodness that Emily Hauser has reminded us to focus on what’s important.

Reproductive rights matter. Plenty. But apparently—and this will be news to the Democrats and to a number of American feminists–they’re not the only issue that women—or men–should care about. To hear the Democrats and NOW and many other repro health organizations, the differences between O and R are HUGE—when it comes to women’s issues.  It’s true that O has mild leanings in favor of reproductive rights. But as I’ve written about over and over again on this blog—they’re mild and rather unaggressive in defending those rights. I’m thinking of Sec. of HHS Kathleen Sebelius’ decision to prevent access to OTC contraception despite widespread support; exempting Catholic organizations from providing contraception under Obama Health Insurance Subsidies (let’s just stop calling it Obamacare. It’s NOT healthcare. It’s a subsidy that draws insurance companies into the mix). It doesn’t count as big in O’s favor that he nominated 2 supposedly pro-choice Supreme Court justices (of which the only proof we have that they’ll be pro-choice is that they’re women), one of whom sided in favor of a conservative decision to limit access to reproductive rights. Of the other one, Kagan, very little favorable can be satisfactorily determined on the issue of choice.

Framing the feminist liberatory potential of an Obama win in the second term on the reproductive choice reduces women to (one—narrow—aspect of) their sexuality. It also ignores how many women—poor white women and women of color have either never had easy access to reproductive rights or have had their access slowly eroded well before now.

It is true that Obama supported and pushed through the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which gives women a more flexible statute of limitations to sue for discriminatory wages; it doesn’t actually mandate that women be paid the SAME as men. Thank the good old religion of free markets for that. The Market! The Market! The Market will provide!

I’m going to extend Emily Hauser’s call to remember what’s important. Let me go out on that delusional limb to consider what the past 11 years—including the most recent 4– has brought women who are part of 50% of Americans AND the world.

Women and their well-being have been aggressively under attack by the current and previous POTUSes. Both the Republicans AND Democrats have attacked women’s psychic, physical, and social/economic well-being.  From a global perspective, like the penumbra of the Articles listed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the well-being of a woman—any woman— depends on a range of rights that guarantee safety, well-being, keeping her children safe and protected, ensuring her community is intact because, in fact, it is in “the community in which alone the free and full development of [her] personality is possible.” And that includes a “cultural right to self-determination,” as has been suggested by some in the human rights community.

I know that international constitutions and conventions aren’t big in Hauser’s crowd, what with enemy combatants and all. But they’re a whole lot more protective of the interests of humans than American discussions. So I’m going to keep with that premise.

Such a perspective means that One’s Community Matters. That same view includes the right to be part of a continuing community, where a woman’s family, neighbors, friends, and extended relatives are intact, safe, and free of harm—from others and by the state.  When the daily existence of a woman consists of living in fear that her community is slowly being eviscerated, through drones, invasions, assaults, rapes by an invading army, sanctions, and open cultural vilification or outright hatred (as in the case of Islamophobia), then her well-being is no longer intact. Her psychic and physical and social existence is no longer safe from harm.

When a woman’s son or spouse or father or brother or cousin or uncle or nephew faces hourly risks of the following: being droned to death; being arrested for unknown reasons; disappearing into the indefinite detention hole for days, months, years at a time; rendered somewhere far away to be tortured; then she can no longer count on the right of cultural self-determination—because her culture is being demolished. Her family is being destroyed. Her community is disappearing. And her ability to determine herself disappears right along with the rest.

Now, I’m not big into sister-talk, but for the last 11 years (and yes, for the innumerate, that includes the last FOUR as well), my daily routine has involved waking up hearing about one or several of the following, and wondering about the women whose lives are shattered through the following policies and practices (and if the details bore you, or you don’t want to be confused with the facts, skip past the blue):

In the United States:

-More than 1 in 5 children live in poverty in 2011. That’s an increase from 1 in 6 children in 2000.

-1.2 million migrants deported in the last 3 years by the Department of Homeland Security (and that’s only in the first three years under a Democratic president).

-46,000 parental deportations of migrants who had US born children (and that’s just from the six month period of Jan-June 2011).

-1 in 9 Black men are in prison. 1 of 3 Black men can expect to go to prison in his lifetime.  These numbers aren’t diminished by the active drug war continued under the current Administration.

-African American & Latino homeowners suffered disproportionately more housing foreclosures than white men or women. According to the Center for Responsible Lending, 17% of Latino homeowners, 11% of African homeowners are at risk for losing their homes. I have not been able to extract the number of women affected, but it’s safe to say black and brown women of color have also been disproportionately affected.

The current Administration did not cause these foreclosures. But according to Neil Barofsky, under Pres. Obama, the Treasury department deliberately and cynically did not use TARP money to help these homeowners despite the express bipartisan intent of the US Congress.

At most, the 49-state mortgage settlement brokered under President Obama will be at most a palliative, if not in fact harmful to these same families.

-Between 800-1000 Muslim men—or more–who are arrested on trumped-up charges made possible by the USA PATRIOT Act (which allows for pre-emptive policing, warrantless surveillance, indefinite detention, interrogation).

-The entrapment, surveillance, and racial profiling of Muslim men in hundreds of mosques under the NYPD and FBI.

-the death of US citizens under the age of 16, like Abdulrahman Al-Aulaqi, who was killed in a drone strike in Yemen. Senior Obama Advisor Robert Gibb’s response (at 2:40 in clip) to whether that was a moral move on POTUS’ part was to point out that Al-Aulaqi should have found a “far more responsible father.” Of course.

-A series of laws, designed and passed to allow the maximum, least-documented, aggressive targeting of Muslim men ALONG with maximum immunity for US government officials and security-related employees. There are so many. Just go read Glenn Greenwald. For the last 5 years.


35,000 have perished in Pakistan, where the US is waging a “shadow” war against “terror groups and militants.”These are deaths from direct violence: bombings, gunshot wounds, missile strikes, etc.

-A celebrated DRONE Program targeted towards militants in Pakistan. More than 3000 militants and civilians will have been killed, more than the number of those who died in the US on September 11, 2011. Other countries being droned include Yemen, Afghanistan, Somalia, and Philippines. Soon to be added: Mali.

-A celebrated “Secret Kill List,” configured and for the authority of the current POTUS.

-As of yesterday, the Secret Kill list will be expanded into a disposition matrix which will make the War on Terror a permanent part of the lives of men and the other 50% of US inhabitants—an ever-increasing list of name of people to kill—gathered by way of National Counterterrorism Center. Here’s an excellent piece that connects the dots.


When American feminists tell me about the importance of protecting reproductive rights, do they believe that Black, Latino, undocumented, Iraqi, Afghan, Pakistani women have reproductive rights, too? Or is that one of those areas where we just can’t expect the Dems to protect “my fondest dreams”? Do we have obligations to hold the Dems accountable for active harms to women around the world?

When Emily Hauser tells me that about POTUS and the Dems’ aggressive attempts to “protect” the bodily autonomy of women—in the face of facts that dispute it, such as increased incarceration rates, poverty, unemployment, mortgage foreclosures for Black and Latina women, and increased every-other-kind-of-targeting for well-being of the brown (most often Muslim) women, I have to wonder what she thinks about the following:

Does the imprisonment/solitary confinement/indefinite incarceration of men–who are Muslim, black, Latino, Asian–count as a “gender issue”?

Does the economic and political detriment to women from having their sons, spouses, brothers, fathers entrapped and arrested–count as “a feminist issue”? By economic and political detriment, I mean the social ostracization, the material effect of the loss of income, the political vulnerability of having a male who is potentially the head of a household.

Does the deportation of hundreds of thousands of men AND women—and the separation of U.S. citizen/children from their parents annually count as an issue that “affects” women? By “affect,” I mean the the psychic, material, social vulnerability to survive, to thrive, to live free of fear and harm.  Does the legal adoption of those children to U.S. citizen parents and the subsequent break-up of families count as a “woman’s” issue?

And before someone tells me that that’s a patriarchal question—that women should be able to make their own decisions and survive independently of “their men,” let me suggest that we look around the US for a quick min: It’s a patriarchal society.

When Emily Hauser insists that she “can’t get everything for free,” I wonder what she thinks of the price black and brown women have to pay for their “reproductive rights.” That price is a hell of a lot more costly than hers: Her family isn’t being decimated through deportations, entrapments, surveillance, and indefinite detentions. There appear to be few male relatives in her life who are being decimated. And if there are, she doesn’t appear to care. Not so for most Muslim women.

To the ridiculous argument offered in that HuffPo Live “Debate” that we must support Obama, even thought he “is doing things that are disillusioning to us,” I agree: It IS disillusioning to have the POTUS take the lead on the extra-legal murders of people he and his staff think are terrorists—without EVER offering evidence. It IS a bit disillusioning to hear about a “disposition matrix.”  It IS disillusioning to wake up every day and hear about NSA, the CIA, the FBI, and the NYPD harassing Muslim men—who are the family members of Muslim women. Interrogating them. Incarcerating them indefinitely and without charges. Running kangaroo courts. Yes. A bit disillusioning. A bit.

When Daniel Ellsberg (and implicitly) Emily Hauser agree that the POTUS is a murderer, but still good on reproductive rights, I can’t help but think that Mr. Ellsberg, Ms. Hauser, just want to vote for Obama and the Democrats, regardless of ANY facts that detract from the ascription of his supposed moral righteousness. Regardless.

What a remarkable feat of hypocrisy, racist-guilt-tripping, and righteous wealthy American myopia to tell Matt Stoller and all the men that he’s supposed to stand in for, that “[he] doesn’t get to have a say on [her]body,” but that Hauser can cheer and clap as she anxiously runs to the polls to vote for a guy and his party who have aggressively, enthusiastically, and eagerly harmed the bodies of the loved ones of many, many US citizens and foreign nationals here and abroad—brown, black, Muslim,–their children, their spouses, their fathers, their brothers?

Emily Hauser’s feminism is the kind of feminism that deprioritizes the multiple dimensions of the well-being of black and brown women, in order to protect one aspect of women’s lives to detriment of so many others.  In light of these facts (which shouldn’t be taken to confuse your ideological commitments), I’d describe Hauser’s voting advice as telling Women of Color to “please f*ck off.”


Update I: I initially omitted the following facts because they happened before 2008. But because they are related to international women’s reproductive rights, I think they bear mentioning as part of the list of atrocities that the US has waged. Dem or Repub or 3rd party, it’s still our collective government waging the assault–and many Democrats voted to go into Iraq, as we know.

Iraqi women have suffered severe reproductive problems and have had children with birth defects as a result of years of cluster bombs: 1 of 2 children born in Falluja has birth defects. That’s 50%. One in Two. Between 2007-2010, 1 in 6 births ended in miscarriage.

Tens of thousands of Afghan women live on soil poisoned by depleted uranium (which has a half-life of 4.5 billion years), resulting in an 18-fold increase in the rate of cancer from 500 cases in 2004 to over 9000 cases in 2009? The damage to their reproductive systems is untold.

Update II (Oct. 27, 2012): In her column, “Not Voting for Obama,” Margaret Kimberley of the Black Agenda Report has another analysis of the harms wrought by the current Democratic Administration.  As she says:

If Democrats also believe in wars of aggression and bail outs and subservience to finance capital, Republicans are only left with abortion and gay marriage as issues to differentiate themselves.”

This conclusion, says Kimberly, has been brought on by progressives themselves:

“It is a lack of progressive activism which has precipitated this crisis. In the absence of strong and coordinated opposition to Democratic Party duplicity, progressives meekly go along with whatever bad deals are presented to them and then recoil in fear every four years when they are told that the barbarians are at the gate. Republicans only help make the case for this complicity with openly racist and misogynistic policies.” 


Author: Falguni A. Sheth

I'm a philosopher and political analyst who writes about all kinds of things, from national security, US politics, race, terrorism, miscegenation, feminism, philosophy, and whatever else captivates my attention. My views are idiosyncratic. I'd like to believe they're carefully considered, and I'm not particularly interested in following crowds.

27 thoughts on “Emily Hauser’s Disgusting Indifference to Women of Color”

  1. Hey, just a little your-own-back-yard thought, cisfeminists:

    Howabout 40 years after Roe some of you get off your transmisogynistic asses and help make estrogen as available in the US as abortion. You know those red-state nightmares you like to write about? We wish we got treatment that good. I got to wait 5 months for spironolactone, you might know it as an off-label anti-androgen that got started as a blood-pressure-reducing medication. I had a consistently monitored BP of 155 over 95 when I requested same and the GP refused to even check my Blood Pressure, so you know… maybe that 14th amendment ought to cover the same trans folk the second-wave icons you grew up reading and right-on-ing worked so hard to deny care.

  2. A few problems with Hauser’s argument it seemed to me. It fundmentally relies on the belief that Rommey will be the omnipotent president that Obama was not capble of being. Obama defenders claim that the President was constrained nearly everywhere he turned–thus his “worldy pragmatism”. Won’t those same constraints be on Rommey? What if the Sentate remains in Dem control? What if a few state houses and governors shift to Democratic party control?

    For some reason, a President Rommey will be able to undercut abortion rights in ways that a President Obama with the same constraints and power could _not_ do for the enhancement abortion rights. Looks like gop presidents have more power than Dem presidents.

    Rommey could degrade abortion rights where he has executive fiat power–but what exactly did Obama did to improve abortion and brith control rights using the same device?

    Hauser makes Obama the face of women’s rights. When in fact, he has not shown that he is. Hauser confuses Democratic party activists who do the heavy lifting and resistance and groundwork with Obama–no Obama, no woman’s movment. It becomes an either/or argument which is not grounded in reality.

    For example, Obama gets a big star for Lily Ledbetter, but as a senator he had nothing at all to do with the years struggle to enact it. He did what any Dem president should have been expected to do. If he goes or stays, the struggle continues. Apparently, if Obama loses, everything goes to ruin.

  3. Obama enshrined the Hyde Amendment in the health care bill. Democrasts have done nothing to protect reproductive rights or any other privacy right. Abortion is already inaccessible in large parts of the US.

    Obama panders to anti-abortion creeps all the time. He doesn’t listen to pro-choice people anymore than he listens to pro-Social Security people or pro-single-payer people. He makes sure the Republicans get what they want.

    1. Obama also without a legal requirement in the health care bill, refused abortion coverage in high risk pools. This was done through executive fiat and did not in anyway require some compromise with right wingers.

  4. “XXX matters, but…”
    “I’m not saying XXX isn’t important, but…”

    The rest of your posts belie these claims.

    It suggests you care about only a few issues. That on these issues the parties are nearly indistinguishable and a choice is not on the table. So you argue the parties are effectively indistinguishable on everything. So your posts wander off the issues where a choice is on the table — because you don’t actually care about those issues.

    1. 1. You have not read or are unable to understand my posts if this is your conclusion. 2. I believe that in the last 10 years, the two parties can be distinguished on many issues: Democrats have taken the lead in initiating drone strikes, kill lists, killing US citizens and their children, expanding deportation of migrants, sending US citizen children into foster care after deporting parents, invading Afghanistan, passing enormous immunity bills like NDAA–at the insistence of a Dem POTUS (see Carl Levin’s December statement on this. It’s on youtube), signing 3–THREE FTA agreements that will undermine job and labor protections. They have in fact, outdone the Republicans thus far in the last 10 years–with the help of plenty of bills pushed hard by Big Dem Bill Clinton 3. You, in fact, don’t care about the issues where there is an evidence of difference because it pertains to black and brown women and men. 4. You want me to ignore that enormous population in my writing just because you’re into some stupid illusion of a mandate of 2 party choices and b/c there’s an election in less than 2 weeks. And I refuse to work from false premises.

      1. I have read your posts and I think for you it is really counter-terrorism.

        I suggest the major parties are indistinguishable on this issue. If you think Romney offers a better option then I’d like to read a post where you lay that out plainly.

        I suggest the counter-terrorism issue doesn’t have material relevance to most non-white voters in this election.

        1. Okay, well some people have problems with reading comprehension. I believe that what she said in quoting Margaret Kimberly gets at a political position that is neither you have to choose candidates from parties that share similar (not the same) visions of America, in terms of foreign or domestic policy, nor you have to go outside the two parties. For progressives there is the third party option, but there is also doing things like running progressive challengers in primaries. The choices are not you have to choose Obama and if you don’t, you MUST be supportive of Romney.

    2. I would also add that I think that by having a POTUS that in all actuality has done very little for reproductive rights doing all of the things mentioned is actually even worse than having a Republican because it gives a false sense of security.

      People think, “all, a dems in office, so he must be doing all he can for reproductive rights”, when in reality its just not true. At least when a Republican is their people are vocal in their support of these rights.

      This is also true of all civil liberties and the anti war movement. Obama has done more to accomplish Republican dreams of silencing these movements than they could of ever hoped to accomplish. Every loss of liberty or life that his administration is responsible for is forgiven by claiming the other guys would have done worse.

      Well I for one will not sacrifice my ideals for some phony pragmatism. I reuse to support this evil with the endorsement of my vote.

      1. Yes, I think you’re right about this false sense of security, although as Sheth points out, it’s a sense of security, false or not, for some but hardly for those whose security has been under attack since 9/11 and before.

    3. Jon S: I’d suggest the inverse. Professor Sheth’s concerns stem from a recognition that we can’t separate liberation struggles — they are inextricably intertwined, as feminists themselves once recognized.

      Throwing the issues that you describe as “not on the table” under the bus (ie., conceding that the narrow contours of our nation’s electoral debate should determine the contours of legitimate debate) reflects a prioritzation of a single issue — reproductive rights for people who have, rather uniquely, recently enjoyed access to it — above all others.

      In contrast, the recognition that those issues (eg poverty, profiling) matter to Americans reflects a willingness to step back from the electoral trees to see the socio-political forest.

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