Mississippi Politician’s Sexism and a Bigger Fight: Intersectionality

Republican state Rep. Robert Foster gave social media a glimpse of American Sharia this month when he refused to allow a reporter access to his campaign during the height of the campaign season. The crime? Being a woman.

Foster, a Tea Party gubernatorial candidate known for calling “anyone who votes Dem[ocrat] in 2018 … either ignorant or evil” blocked “Mississippi Today” reporter Larrison Campbell from shadowing him on a campaign trip, without a man to sit between them … or something like that.

“Before our decision to run, my wife and I made a commitment to follow the ‘Billy Graham Rule,’ which is to avoid any situation[s] that may evoke suspicion or compromise of our marriage,” Foster wrote on Twitter. “I am sorry Ms. Campbell doesn’t share these views, but my decision was out of respect of my wife.”

Foster’s argument sounds like his wifey didn’t approve the move due to Campbell’s body parts, which makes us all wonder how fast he jumps under a couch when a woman delivers him a pizza. His argument is made even more stupid by the fact that Campbell is an avowed lesbian, who is in a healthy relationship, and therefore, one of the least likely women to be in a position to launch an accusation of harassment against him, or make “un-Christian-like” advances.

The truth of the matter could be that Foster is afraid of reporters from legitimate newspapers who diligently report him saying the (ridiculous) things he tends to say. He scheduled multiple whine tours with conservative news outlets like Fox Radio and the “Ben Ferguson Show” in the wake of the national uproar he created over being a lout, but he booked no immediate interviews with genuine news services. Foster may be hiding from honest reporters, but his cowardice comes at a cost to professional women who merely want to do their jobs without being sexualized.

“I wanted to cover Foster because I love my job,” Campbell told ABC News. “His campaign refused my request because they sexualized me. How’s that not sexism?”

The rancid divisiveness behind Foster’s move is the worst part of this whole affair (pun intended)—made worse if the greater part of the nation fails to acknowledge it.

We know America is big enough for more than one form of oppression to exist simultaneously. The country does it well. There’s racism, sexism, homophobia and economic inequality, among many other types of oppression. These separate oppressions have a habit of stacking, too, which leaves some members of oppressed populations more beaten down than others. A woman can be denied a promotion because of her womanhood. A Black man can be denied because of his race. A woman who is Black, however, might not get the job in the first place. What happens then? And whiteness, in an equation like this? Whiteness trumps (again, no pun intended) all.

Historically, for example, a white woman screaming for equal pay may abruptly grow silent when she gets her raise, but then ignore the lingering pay disparity between herself and her Black co-workers. This kind of thing happens all the time, and it’s hard to stay united in the fight against general oppression without getting divided into weaker enclaves by a self-serving loon like Foster. When somebody like the candidate frames his oily sexism as protecting an “aggrieved minority,” like values-oriented white folks who aren’t oppressed and barely a minority, someone’s in trouble. We’ve learned because of Campbell, women are; we know from experience Black ones are even more so. Foster would have us believe his crap behavior is some kind of “conservative” value pitted against a growing nation of godless heathens. If America is unable to see through that nonsense, how will it ever grasp the greater theory of intersectionality?

What if Campbell had been a Black woman? Would Foster have denied access to the campaign because she is Black or because she is a woman? What if there was some other layer of oppression to add to her womanness that was left or right of white cisgendered heterosexual maleness? Who can ever know? Truthfully, the gubernatorial hopeful himself probably doesn’t. That’s the tricky, insidiousness of intersectionality. Deep biases and subsequent prejudicial behavior aren’t easy to parse out.

Foster’s dirt-clogged morals are further revealed by his shoddy attempt at undermining the #MeToo movement. When he snarls that he rejected Campbell to “avoid any situation that may evoke suspicion or compromise of [his] marriage,” he’s actually tearing down a movement that’s been working to give a voice to countless rape and assault victims who have been silent until now.

When movie producer and human greaseball Harvey Weinstein got frog-marched out of Hollywood over years of alleged sexual assault, it was only because millions of female voices behind #MeToo found the strength to speak up. When federal prosecutors recently accused billionaire financier Jeffrey Epstein of sex trafficking teenagers, the clamor of #MeToo gave women the emotional strength to righteously turn on the former U.S. attorney who let Epstein off for identical crimes he committed the lasttime around.

CBS News legal analyst Rikki Klieman said as much in a recent panel discussion.

“I think there will be a groundswell (against former U.S. Attorney Alex Acosta). You have to remember the change of time and change of culture. At the time, 2008, when people were victims in situations like this, they had shame,” Klieman said. “Now, because of the #MeToo movement, now they have courage. So Alex Acosta becomes public enemy No. 2, Jeffrey Epstein being No. 1, but No. 2 because he did this sweetheart deal.”

And Foster undermines that whole beautiful movement when he squeals his beleaguered male grievance at having to watch his back and protect himself from baseless sexual allegations, as if hordes of women were queuing up to lob accusations at his weird, bowl hair-cut and grabby hands.

Chump, please. We know better than this, and we see through people like Foster who communicate through sexist (inevitably, misogynoiristic) grunts. Guess we’ll try to educate the ones who maybe don’t.

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