Friday, December 5, 2008

'Barack Obama, Feminist in Chief?'

By Ben Trott

Katha Pollitt has an article in the forthcoming, December 22, issue of the Nation magazine on the attitude many feminists have (and/or should develop) towards an Obama presidency.
'For some women who care about women's equality, the jury is still out on Obama. They voted for him, but they don't trust him to do the right thing for women. Left feminists aren't impressed that he's nominating Hillary Clinton for secretary of state. Mainstream feminists like Salon's Rebecca Traister are disquieted by the "momification" of Michelle. No one has forgotten that Barack called a reporter "sweetie" months ago at a press conference.

'Somehow the feminist positions Obama has taken - on reproductive rights, pay equity, domestic violence, Title IX - don't seal the deal. And neither does his support for healthcare and unions and early childhood education and raising the minimum wage - things that, while not gender-specific, will enormously improve the lives of women, perhaps even more than they improve the lives of men.

'I don't share the suspicions, the sense of disappointment-in-advance. But I think I understand what's going on. Women's progress has been sluggish for decades - we're still not even 18 percent of Congress, there's only one woman on the Supreme Court, parking lot attendants still make more than childcare workers, marriage is not usually a partnership of equals. Educated working women, who we tend to hear from the most, especially if they are journalists, struggle to fulfill - with not enough help from husbands and almost none from society - the demands of man-size jobs while satisfying standards of motherhood that have become so exacting the Virgin Mary herself would call for a martini.'
Pollitt goes on to suggest a number of concrete reforms Obama could implement to improve the lives of women in America, particularly in relation to the economic stimulus package as an opportunity to address (economic) gender inequality. She concludes the article with a quote articulating the now common sense position of the left,
'"We need to put pressure on him now, about concrete policies," historian Linda Gordon, co-founder of Feminists for Obama, told me. "You can be sure that's what the right is doing."'

No comments: