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Equal Obliviousness, Not Equal Rights | The Nation

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The Notion

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Equal Obliviousness, Not Equal Rights

The Atlantic published one of many recent articles about the "he-cession" or the "decline of men," wondering what it means that women are now the majority of the workforce, the majority of breadwinners, et cetera. "What if the economics of the new era are better suited to women?" asked author Hanna Rosin.

Not so fast. After all, the majority of power positions—the presidency, Congress, CEOs and boardrooms—are still filled with men. And although pundits galore like to do it—a lot—it makes no sense to lump the sexes into undifferentiated groups.

As Daisy Hernandez at ColorLines points out: The "He-cession" could be properly termed a "black-cession." White men still have a lower than average unemployment rate (8.8 percent), while black men are soaring over it—at 17 percent. Our still-segregated school system still plays a role—the so-called school-to-jail pipeline doesn't typically funnel more white males to prison than college.

Sure, upper-class white women may be moving into some more positions of power—take former CEOs Meg Whitman and Carly Fiorina, now buying their way into politics. But Rosin's idea of a "sisterhood" involves domestic jobs opening up when those women go to work—which, Hernandez points out, means women of color cleaning affluent houses. That's not exactly the sisterhood we'd been thinking of.

More gender equality at the top's a fine thing, as Melissa Harris-Lacewell pointed out here last month. But let's not pretend that privileged white women catching up to white men as the whole economy tanks is synonymous with liberation for the gender. As we've seen with the "year of the right-wing women" in politics, sometimes equality is simply being as oblivious to privilege as those stuffed shirts that came before you.

The F Word is a regular commentary by Laura Flanders, the host of GRITtv which broadcasts weekdays on satellite TV (Dish Network Ch. 9415 Free Speech TV) on cable, and online at GRITtv.org and TheNation.com. Support us by signing up for our podcast, and follow GRITtv or GRITlaura on Twitter.com.

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