Rapper Killer Mike, a prominent supporter and campaign surrogate of Bernie Sanders, took some heat Tuesday for saying at a Sanders rally that "a uterus doesn't qualify you to be president."
Critics decried the comment as sexist, and Killer Mike quickly responded that he was taken out of context and was quoting someone else. But the full context doesn't make it much better.
Speaking at Morehouse College in Atlanta in front of about 4,800 people, Killer Mike started off with a passionate speech about what it's like to be a black man in America and be faced with constant suspicion — even from the Secret Service agents protecting the candidate he's stumping for. That led into a discussion of which candidates actually had the policies that would help black Americans. Then he said:
When people tell us "hold on, wait a while" — that's what the other Democrat is telling you. Hold on Black Lives Matter, just wait a while. Hold on young people in this country, just wait a while. And then she get good, she have your own momma come to you, your momma sit down and say, "Well you're a woman." But I talked to Jane Elliott a few weeks ago, and Jane said, "Michael, a uterus doesn't qualify you to be president of the United States. You have to have policies that's reflective of social justice."
Jane Elliott, whom Killer Mike has talked about in public before, is an educator and activist who created the famous "brown eyes/blue eyes" experiment — teaching her students about racist discrimination by treating them differently for a day depending on whether they had blue or brown eyes.
Killer Mike defended his remarks against critics by pointing out that they weren't his words but Elliott's. He also hinted that because Elliott is a "progressive activist woman," that's a defense against charges of sexism:
But I didn't say that a progressive activist woman said to me RT @elielcruz: C'mon mike this sexism isn't cute https://t.co/bVfaALfz0b— Killer Mike (@KillerMike) February 17, 2016
Critics countered that it doesn't matter whether a woman said it first. Women say sexist things about other women all the time — and Killer Mike is still the one who decided to cite the quote approvingly.
Glad to see the context, but the whole riff is misguided. To reduce HRC's candidacy to 'uterus' is preposterous. https://t.co/fvhjg3vaxu— June Day (@juneday864) February 17, 2016
You can think what @KillerMike said is sexist or not but I think we can all agree that the fact that he was quoting a woman doesn't matter— Judd Legum (@JuddLegum) February 17, 2016
weird how it's all the men who "fail to get the outrage" over that killer mike uterus thing. full context doesn't help, bros.— Scarce Commodities (@LaPajamas) February 17, 2016
Others said part of the blame lies with the Sanders campaign:
Let's extend some kindness to Killer Mike, and ask why the @SenSanders campaign didn't prep him better, as it should surrogates— Joan Walsh (@joanwalsh) February 17, 2016
Of course, prominent supporters of Hillary Clinton have also gotten in trouble over sexist comments recently. Madeleine Albright and Gloria Steinem both suggested (and then both publicly apologized for suggesting) that young women who support Sanders over Clinton are doing it because they don't know any better or don't care about the feminist cause.
That's probably the sort of thing Killer Mike was referring to when he suggested that Hillary wants "your own momma" to guilt-trip you about gender. And although it might seem strange to accuse Clinton of telling Black Lives Matter activists to "wait" on the same day she delivered a major speech calling out systemic racism, it's also important to ask serious questions about which candidate's policies are better for racial justice.
But that doesn't make it okay to reduce Clinton's candidacy, her qualifications, and the reasons people support her — which may have nothing to do with her gender, and may also include a legitimate desire to elect the first woman president — to her reproductive organs. It's not just crude and demeaning, it also trivializes a serious and complicated fight for gender equality and representation.