One of my pet peeves is statements like this one by Ezra Klein:
...if you're a white male, please do not loudly proclaim that Hillary Clinton's election would be meaningless for feminism or for women because she's only in this position because she married Bill Clinton or because Barack Obama is the true feminist or because you don't like her. Having talked this through with some of the women in my life, I'm now convinced that, as a white guy, you, and I, have no idea what it would mean to see a woman elected to the presidency. It's just not within our universe of experience. That is not to say Clinton's run is more or less historic than Obama's,* and it's not to say that Clinton can't be criticized or should be supported. But 50+ percent of this country is female, a sizable majority of the electorate is female, and of 42 separate presidents, we've never had a woman. It matters, and that should be acknowledged whether or not you support her candidacy.
There are so many layers of wrongheadedness to address here. One quibble is that it isn't within anyone's "universe of experience" to "see a woman elected to the presidency" because it's never happened before. Let's be charitable and assume that Ezra means that women are likely to experience the event differently when it happens... which raises the question of why he only wants white men to keep quiet. Does this mean Ezra is amenable to Jesse Jackson proclaiming that Hillary's election would be meaningless for feminism? What about Barack Obama, who is half-white -- can he make that point so long as he whispers? Do Chinese and Thai men just understand women better? Or is Ezra just less comfortable telling non-white men to shut up?
Another puzzling aspect of this post is that Ezra isn't just saying it might be meaningful for feminism to have a woman president, he is arguing that it will be meaningful -- "it matters, and that should be acknowledged." (Never mind that he simultaneously claims he has "no idea" what it would mean -- can't have that both ways!) So if the contrary argument is wrongheaded, why does he call for only men to refrain from proclaiming it? Does he think it's more permissible for women to voice wrongheaded arguments? Why does he think this?
All this bothers me so much not only because Ezra's arguments are so self-evidently ridiculous or contradictory, but because he buys into the harmful notion that people should refrain from articulating things they believe due to their race and gender.
I'm sympathetic to the notion that most men and women experience the world differently in some ways due to their gender (and that Hillary's election would matter to feminism), but so what? One way these gaps can be bridged is through conversation! A member of one group utters an argument that he believes to be true... and a member of the other group articulates why she thinks that's the dumbest thing she's ever heard. (Those who presage arguments with "... if you're a white male" probably know this process as "a dialogue.")
Ezra seems to think that rather than hold these conversations, white men should take his word for it (by way of his unnamed female friends, who I'm sure represent women everywhere). Hmmm. Why does he prefer the 'Ezra decides the appropriate bounds of civil discourse' model? And why should I?