Gender and Racism
Recently, I undertook quite a few hours of movie watching. Several of which were old classics. I don’t know if any of you ever heard of The French Connection with Gene Hackman, but it’s a pretty famous movie. It took home several oscars in 1972, including the oscar for best picture. After seeing it, I really can’t tell you why it was so popular. It was kind of boring actually, or maybe that was just the mood I was in.
One scene in particular got me thinking though. In the first half hour of the film there’s a scene where two cops rough up a guy in the hopes of getting information from him. In the course of this interrogation (err beat down), the suspect (err patsy) takes out a knife and cuts one of the detectives. In the next scene Gene Hackman refers to the guy they were roughing up as a nig**r. Did that ever catch me by surprise. The use of the word was gratuitous and it really struck a chord when immediately afterwards the two cops went to have a drink in a jazz nightclub where the clientele was predominantly black. What pissed me off is that Gene Hackman’s character who had just used the word nig**r was obviously checking out some good looking black ladies and thoroughly enjoying himself in this nightclub.
This sequence of scenes is what prompted the question: Are women subjected to a different kind of racism than men? I had never really thought of it before, at least not in such clear cut terms. Without doing any research, but by simply looking at certain interactions between people, I have to say the answer is YES. Why this is exactly, I don’ know. With my limited knowledge of the subject, I can only put out a few guesses. Obviously, it has to do with the way women are portrayed and treated as a whole. Sex, gender, and social roles have a lot to do with it and when superimposed on top of racism the problem gets even more complicated. I would go as far as saying that at first glance women aren’t as subjected to the kind of obvious hatred perpetuated by racism, but that is a superficial observation and when looked at a little bit closer immediately falls apart.
If I stick to the nightclub scene in The French Connection I was talking about, Gene Hackman’s character didn’t show any obvious contempt to the women in the bar, because they offered the possibility or at least the very idea of beauty and sex. I’m sure this would hold true, in the case of his character, with all beautiful young women no matter their cultural background. I am also equally certain that this facade would not hold very long if the women in question became an obstacle in his quest for something, whether it be information or sex.
What are your thoughts or experiences in regards to gender and racism?