But I also was listening to Ed Gordon’s NPR show on my iPod (I am all about podcasts!) and heard the pundits talk about a new story that further demonstrates this conversation about Condoleeza that I address in my letter. On a recent visit to Russia, she criticized the Russian government for its role in effectively cutting off natural gas shipments to Ukraine. The leader of the Liberal and Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR), Vladimir Zhirinovsky expressed his opinion of her comments to a Russian news outlet called Pravada. In the article entitled Condoleezza Rice’s Anti-Russian Stance Based on Sexual Problems, Zhirinovsky said “Condoleezza Rice needs a company of soldiers. She needs to be taken to barracks where she would be satisfied. On the other hand, she can hardly be satisfied because of her age. This is a complex. She needs to return to her university and teach students there. She could also deal with psychological analysis.” (That is part of a larger rant that you can read in its entirety on the link above. Pravada’s framing of the story is no better than the statement itself.)
Now, does any of this “Black woman as castrating ‘B’who just needs to get laid” sound familiar? And not just laid, but needs dick specifically. And it not just dick, but an “army of soldiers,” obviously implying the threat of rape (while at the same time suggesting that a Black woman could not be raped in this scenario because she “obviously” would “want” it)? And if you have not heard this before, isn’t it the least bit disturbing, regardless of whether you like her politics or not?
There are many things to find disturbing about these comments, but based on some of the comments I have received about my open letter, it really exposes how inequipped (or perhaps dis-interested) the left is in having a complex analysis of Rice, or most politics in general. Some of the feedback I have gotten has suggested I am being “too nice” to Rice. But when I hear shit like this, or hear her referred to as a “skeeza” I gotta think there has to be more than taking sides like elementary school kids. Overall though, I have to say most of the feedback on that letter I have gotten has been pretty positive. But it makes me wonder if I was a Black woman raising some of the same critiques, would I be getting as much attention for it? I feel like Black men who engage issues of sexism get more attention that Black women doing the same, even if the work of the men is actually less critical, comprehensive, or creative as Black women writing on the same subject(s).
But let’s be clear, Black women thinkers really lead the way in raising these kinds of complex critiques that are critical of someone’s politics or professional choices AND at the same time vigilant of the racist, sexist, and homophobic narratives that shape critiques of Black women, whether they’re coming from the Right, the Center, or the Left. I think similar to Condoleeza Rice, many Black women’s writings about Anita Hill during and post the Clarence Thomas hearings demonstrate that it is possible to think critically about these issues. How are Black people (especially Black women and Black queer people) supposed to get behind critiques (though we sometimes do) of Rice when they’re usually so racist, sexist and homophobic? Most recently, Patricia Hill Collins’ book
Black Sexual Politics , Tiffany King’s Open Letter to Iraqi Women(which orginally appeared in a different form online), and bell hooks actually speaks to the ways Rice is talked about in an interview in the Classics Edition of Sisters Of The Yam, and countless others.
Some things I am thinking through…