Thursday, March 12, 2009

Oh, Fickle Young Love...


The recent media coverage plaguing the Palin family is the news of Bristol Palin and Levi Johnston's break up. According to several news sources, the break up happened a couple weeks ago for unknown reasons, but only became public knowledge in the past couple of days. There is speculation Bristol broke it off with her fiance but there is no conclusive evidence as of yet. Some claim Bristol is heartbroken while others claim she is fine. Levi's sister, Mercede, has been quoted as saying: "Levi tries to visit Tripp every single day, but Bristol makes it nearly impossible. She tells him he can't take the baby to our house because she doesn't want him around 'white trash'!" While we can deduce this might have played a role in the split, it seems that Levi will continue to maintain a fatherly role in two month old Tripp's life.

Many claim to have seen this coming from the very beginning, so I have to wonder if Bristol and Levi were fooling themselves for the sake of Sarah Palin's image on the campaign trail? In trying to empathize with the single parents, though, let's drop the subject.

Yahoo featured a blog which gave Bristol advice in her new role as a single mother. Among the advice were "Reach out to other single parents" and "Embrace the family you have, not the family you envisioned." I found this blog very touching, because instead of poking fun at the recent developments, the post asked for others to contribute words of wisdom. What would you do in her situation?

The post also drew attention to the fact that there are over 13 million single parents out there, and that there has been a 3% upswing in teenage pregnancy. From 1991 to 2005 the number of teenage pregnancies was decreasing, but in 2006 it began to inch back up again. I wonder what caused this to occur? The blog blames the omnipresence of sex in the media, but with great sexual education I do not think sexual liberality can be blamed.

On a completely random note, how unfortunate is it that the split has left Levi with a tattoo of "Bristol" on his ring finger? Dating rule 101 could quite possibly be "Never tattoo someone's name on your body." I suppose he learned his lesson the hard way.


For further information visit:

People.com
Foxnews.com
Huffingtonpost.com
Chicagotribune.com

First Female President: Barack Obama


When reflecting on this course, I noted that we subconsciously defined gender to be about women.  This is very similar to the idea behind race, that is, a white person does not have to deal with race, just as men do not have to deal with gender.
Obviously, this makes little sense, as male is a sex just as much as female is.  
And yes, there is a distinct difference between sex and gender, but the concept still applies.
I therefore decided to look at the males in the election, and stumbled on this article in Newsweek.
The author first notes that this is not the first time that a president's values, actions, and persona have emulated a person in a different role or category.  He sites former president Bill Clinton as the "first black president" due to his penchant for playing the saxophone and his display of "almost every trope of blackness"
He goes on to say that Barack Obama seemed to be playing a traditional female role.
Obama doesn't play the sax. But he is pushing against conventional- and political party nominating convention-wisdom in five important ways, with approaches that are usually though of as qualities and values that women bring to organizational life: a commitment to inclusiveness in problem solving, deep optimism, modesty about knowing all the answers, the courage to deliver uncomfortable news, not taking all the work alone, and a willingness to air dry linen.
However, the campaign is over, and the authority with which Obama has taken office has shown that his not one to be trifled with.  Perhaps this has made him appear more masculine, but I believe that it is his willingness to accept these gender stereotypes as part of his own that he has been able to pass the stimulus bill and get a strongly divided congress to agree on so many other matters.
Perhaps America does need a female president, and for right now, his name is Barack Obama

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

What Sarah Palin's Email Got Hacked?


Yes its true, as i was browsing online for any recent information about Sarah Palin I came across a couple of articles saying that Sarah Palin's email had been hacked. Last September 2008, a group that called themselves, Anonymous, found a way to hack themselves into Sarah Palin's Yahoo email account. They got hold of two emails, a contact list, and a couple of family pictures and displayed them on a website. Supposedly according to another article, Sarah Palin in the past had been criticized for using web mail rather then official government servers, and so this in return as backfired on her. McCain on the other hand sent out a statement after he had heard what had happened:



This is a shocking invasion of the governor's privacy and a violation of law, the matter has been turned over to the appropriate authorities and we hope that anyone in possession of these emails will destroy them.


Apparently Time said that Sarah Palin herself could face charges for "conducting official state business with her personal email." However this investigation is yet to be solve. The secret service along with FBI are in search of more emails and anymore people in possession of the emails. Sarah Palin came to find that her email had been hacked by her aide who received the following email:


This email was hacked by anonymous, but I took no part in that. I simply got the password back, and changed it so no further damage could be done. Please get in contact with Sarah Palin and inform her the new password on this account is samsonite1.Thank you and best wishes,the good anonymous

In my opinion this is ridiculous how low can people get. Getting into someones account, especially Sarah Palin's you have got to know that you in return are going to get into big trouble with the police. But then again why didn't Sarah Palin use the official government website? Something like a yahoo account should be a no brainer that it is most likely going to get hacked. But I could be wrong, what do you think?

Obama's Stimulus Plan Won't Help Women

Barack Obama’s proposed stimulus package that intends on creating 2.5 million jobs over the next two years sounds too good to be true. His proposal has fired up a number of feminists who believe this package will be of limited help to women. Unfortunately, women in the work force will not receive the same economic boost from this package that men will. In Obama plans on investing in road and bridge maintenance and school repair to create jobs and at the same time reduce energy use thus decreasing the affects on global warming.

 The downside of his road to recovery that has many females up in arms is the way in which the program will provide jobs for male dominated industries. He wants to create more building projects which will generate jobs in construction, where women make up only 9 percent of the workforce. Obama also wants to increase green jobs, which lone behold is almost entirely male. A study conducted by the United States Conference of Mayors discovered that half the projected new jobs in any green area will be in either of the following areas: engineering, a field consisting of 12 percent female, manufacturing, agriculture and forestry. 

Today women constitute approximately 46 percent of the labor force, and something needs to be adjusted in his plans to include jobs in female dominated fields. Obama can easily include opportunities for economic growth for females by concentrating on professions that build upon human capital such as social workers, child careers’, teachers, and librarians. All these fields consist of 75 to 95 percent females. Many of these areas of work are included in Obama’s campaign promises. Some may argue that women should participate more in the fields of engineering and construction, but their are programs out there that encourage women to pursue careers in these areas of work and they have had little success.

            One well-known feminists in particular, Barbara Bergmann, decided to take a stand. She wrote a letter calling for a package that would do more for women. Her letter, addressed to Obama, began by applauding his noble intentions but turned to address the way in which the package will segregate women and only benefit males. She suggested three lines of action to insure a fair playing field for women as well. They read:

"1. Revive and enforce the Labor Department regulations that require government contractors to institute affirmative action plans that provide a share of the jobs for women and minorities. Closely monitor the contractors for compliance.

2. In connection with the infrastructure projects, institute apprenticeships, and ensure that at least one third of the positions go to women.

3. Add projects in health, child care, education, social service that will both provide jobs to women, and also provide needed services to them."

I agree with the actions Barbara has suggested. Recent research has shown that women’s employment has become more vulnerable to recessions than in the past. After the 2001 recession, for example, women's employment rates never returned to their pre-recession levels. Before, recessions tended to hit men's jobs harder than women's, but in the 2001 recession, that changed, and this pattern is expected to continue.

Hopefully, more women will stand up and in turn influence Obama to include more opportunities for women in his stimulus package. I believe we deserve the same benefits that males will receive from this package.

 

 

A Fortunate and Surprising Surge of Prospective Women Senators

I recently stumbled upon this "Politico" article by Josh Kraushaar called, "Female Candidates Line Up for 2010." Apparently the mixed gender in the 2008 election caused a spark in female confidence and support, which I think is great! The article explains that there are many female candidates, mostly Democrats, who are planning to run for Senate in 2010. This looks as if it may cause change in the chamber which currently only has 17 women senators. Karen O' Connor, the director of the Women and Politics Institute at American University, says that, "it really is a landmark year because there's a farm team now...you have mayors, congresswomen, secretaries of state; they're waiting in the wings and they're not going to sit back any longer." Reading this excites me because it really shows that our class topic is relevant. The gender in this past election did cause a wave, not only of surprise, but also of support and identification for women.

The woman in the picture above is Carly Florina, former Hewlett-Packard CEO and McCain economic adviser. She is looking to run against Barbara Boxer for the Senate seat here in California. There is a slew of other women that are running in different states, and they list all of these determined women in the "Politico" article. O'Connor, whom I mentioned earlier, explains that female candidates have a better track record in elections when the economy is a main issue. This said, the United States should be looking to elect more females in the years to come. Jonathan Parker, EMILY'S List political director, tell us that "when kitchen-table issues are at the forefront, voters recognize it’s women in so many households across America that deal with these issues. That will resonate with a certain segment of voters." Although it is nice that this view will cause more women support, I don't think that it is the only factor affecting this increased support.

The 2008 election allowed us women to see how far we have come and after reading this article, I am sure that it inspired women to want to achieve greatness, not only in politics, but simply in general. Martha McKenna, who is a recruiter as political director of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, said that, "it’s becoming more and more common for the strongest candidate to be a woman, and that’s a good thing for the party and the country.” I anticipate the 2010 elections; hopefully the Senate will be a tad more gender-balanced after that, and the demonstration of increased female support will cause a snowball effect of equality!

Obama Creates White House Council for Women

Today, Obama created a White House Council for women, which I believe is a big step for women all across the United States. The purpose of the new panel is to analyze how the government's policies will impact females. This panel will be headed by Valerie Jarret, who is a senior adviser to President Obama. Valerie Jarrett is a very powerful and influential women from Chicago, and a loyal supporter of Obama. During the primaries against Clinton, Jarret described one of the challenges Obama campaign's faced was “to introduce him to the American people so that they can see what the Women around him (Obama) know”.


Photo of Valerie Jarret

In a speech to introduce the Council, Obama stated that “It's up to us to carry on that hope, to ensure that our daughters and granddaughters have no limits on their greatness, no obstacles to their achievements, that they have opportunities that their mothers, their grandmother and great-grandmothers never dreamed of".

Obama also said that “I sign this order not just as a president, but as a son, a grandson, a husband and a father. These issues are not just women's issues. When women make less than men for the same work, it hurts families who find themselves with less income and have to work harder just to get by."

Here's the link of the news article for more info on the new White house Council.

We already saw a preview of Obama's interest in shattering the glass ceiling in the passing of the Lilly Ledbetter law, which created a policy of a woman's right to equal pay for equal work. I believe that the new White House Council for women is one of the first steps Obama will take to finish shattering the glass ceiling which Hillary left undone. This Council is a big deal in that it shows the amount of dedication the Obama administration is willing to put into women's rights. Who knows, maybe the White House Council for Women will help the Obama administration shatter the glass ceiling.

Solidarity among women--as reflected in common supporters of Clinton and Gillibrand

Read Nicholas Confessore's story in today's NYT, "Old Clinton Hands Line up Behind Gillibrand." It reports that many Hillary Rodham Clinton staffers and supporters are now working with or for Kirsten Gillibrand, who was appointed to fill the U.S. Senate vacancy for New York after Clinton resigned to become Secretary of State.

The story features this quote from Karen Finney, who was a deputy press secretary for HRC in the White House and who is now an advisor to Ms. Gillibrand: “Kirsten has inspired the band to get back together ... It’s nice to be working for another great woman from New York.”

Here's an excerpt from deeper in the story, amidst many examples of women supporting Gillibrand:

Ms. Gillibrand’s back-to-back campaigns will also provide an outlet to the energies and enthusiasms of Mrs. Clinton’s ardent grass-roots supporters, especially in feminist circles.

One member of Ms. Gillibrand’s kitchen cabinet, for example, is Ann Lewis, a longtime Clinton confidante and a senior adviser on the presidential campaign. Ms. Lewis recently launched NoLimits.org, a Web site and blog, to allow Mrs. Clinton’s supporters to network and stay in touch.

One Clinton supporter who spoke on the condition of anonymity said:
Hard-core Hillary supporters are fully expecting her to run again in 2016 ... That is one reality. Kirsten is a more local reality. But for folks in New York, she gives them a focus.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Looking Back: "Class Bias Distorted Her Image"

The ex-Presidential Candidate, Sarah Palin backlashes the media with her "guns blazing" in a recent interview. Palin blames the media for unfairly judging her as well as her social class. While being interviewed by a staunchly conservative film-maker John Ziegler, Palin attacked everyone from newspapers, news channels, the Republican campaign team, bloggers and the infamous stand-up comedians for misrepresenting her image, community and daughter.
    In one of her outburst's she "predicts that the media will wear kid gloves in comparison when they talk about Caroline Kennedy, "John F. Kennedy's daughter, who plans on running for Hilary Clinton's New York Senate seat. She said, "As we watch that we will perhaps be able to prove there is a class issue here that is a factor in the scrutiny of my candidacy." Ironically, Kennedy herself has undertaken the wrath of the media when she was criticized for stumbling through a series of interviews, in one of which she said, "you know" an astonishing 138 times. Maybe someone should let Sarah Palin know that she is not the only one taking heat from the media.
   Palin's attack on her own campaign team shocked a multitude of Republicans.She holds the McCain campaign strategists for repeatedly subjecting her to the memorable interviews with CBS newscaster Katie Couric. Anyone who saw how much difficulty Palin had in the first interview should have known not to put Palin in the hot seat with Couric again until she was more prepared. Even Sarah Palin acknowledged, "Going back for more was not a wise decision." The interviews with Couric exemplified Palin as naive, ignorant and ill equipped for the Vice Presidential office. The most publicized and replayed moment from the interview was when Palin appeared unable to answer the question of what recent newspaper she had recently read. Although, in this recent interview, she now describes herself as being "too flippant" in answering that specific question, and she adamantly insist that she interpreted the question as an implication that Alaskans did not read. Palin made sure to list all the newspapers she reads in this past interview with Ziegler. 
    During the Ziegler interview he plays her the clip from when Tina Fey mocked Palin, and said, "I believe marriage is meant to be a sacred institution between two unwilling teenagers." Palin reacted just as any mother would and lashed out at the underlying jab at Palin's teen, Bristol.
   Not to anyone's surprise, she concluded the interview leaving open the possibility to be a Presidential candidate in the 2012 election. Her eagerness and enthusiasm towards seeking a national office worries me. To me, she has shown she is not ready to run the country. After all the scrutiny and attacks, why would she put herself or her family through such a difficult time?

So What Exactly are the Gender Stereotypes for Women Candidates?

Warm, gentle, kind and passive versus aggressive, tough, and assertive.....which are the women stereotypes and which are the men? I can figure it out can you? Women and Men have certain personality traits that most people agree with. However when it comes to being a higher office leader which traits are social allowed in a leader and which are not? According to a scholarly article, masculine personality traits are more acceptable for an ideal leader then feminine personality traits are. They found voters weren't willing to back up a female candidate for president or vice president, because they felt as though women weren't capable of handling "traditional male issues." However this article goes on to find that there are some issues that females are capable of handling more then men. Issues such as arts, education, and health, while a male could handle issues on war, economy, and military.


female candidates can win national office if they convince voters that they possess masculine traits and are competent on 'male' policy issues.
So then a female should be okay for running for higher office if she possesses masculine traits, right? Think again. Hillary Clinton tried to play this role of being more masculine and it backfired. People accused her of being stuck between a double bind. She was conflicted upon whether to show her femininity or to be more masculine to show she was strong enough and capable of handling being President of the United States.
So then what should female politicians do then? If they are too feminine they can't handle being president, but then if a female tries to posses some male traits they get accused of being stuck in a double bind. Why are our female traits so degraded upon?!

"The Right to Bare Arms"


Believe it or not, there has been considerable discussion about Michelle Obama wearing sleeveless attire. Looking at the photo to the left that caused all the commotion, I see little to be concerned about. Why must the "fashion police" be so critical of the First Lady? True, she is making a statement that she is going to be herself and wear clothes that she is comfortable in, which I definitely respect. Her well-toned arms are something to admire, she obviously stays in good physical condition and is going to serve as a good role model for healthy living.
    Maybe we need someone who is not afraid to defy convention and to dress in clothes bought from places like Target, J. Crew and not limit herself to wearing designer clothes that few can afford. The image of Barrack Obama, before he was elected president, in a tee shirt and blue jeans when he was visiting his grandmother in Hawaii sticks in my memory as a symbol of common ground that middle class America has with the first family. It is true that clothes can make an impression and when in the public eye, are important. I do not suggest going to a job interview in blue jeans, but Michelle Obama has been wearing tasteful dresses and looks fine to me. People need to focus on issues more important than "bare arms". What about all the people suffering in Darfur, the millions of Americans looking for work and what can be done to stimulate the economy? ONce again, some people seem to enjoy attacking Michelle Obama picking up any little difference from norm that they can find. I think Michelle Obama is more normal than most of the critics, so comparing her to traditional first ladies, is like comparing pseudo royalty to an upper middle class mom. The critics don't really realize that the middle class roots of the Obama family are real and here to stay. I hope Michelle Obama continues to teach by example that living in the White House is a privilege that does not have to change who you are and that it is a good thing to be yourself.

"Fox News Racists and Sexist... No?"

Looking back for stories about Michelle Obama, I was angered to see just how racist and sexist the Fox News Channel is. Not only have they portrayed the Obama's as Terrorists with their fist bump, they have now added insult to injury by their new description for Michelle Obama as "Obama's Baby Mama." Michelle Obama is a graduate of both Princeton and Harvard Law School and she is a successful attorney. Fox News needs to apologize to the Obama's and to see our world as it is today. The Obama's are a very well educated and talented couple that place community service above their own personal wealth. The Obama's should be celebrated rather than mocked. These two are people whom we should try to emulate; they have given up high paying careers in order to help poor communities. Fox News needs to take a look at the younger generation and see that the fist bump is used very often by professional athletes and NBA players, to symbolizes a high five. Obama who likens himself to Lebron James, said "the fist bump reflects a marriage that keeps him grounded," "it captures what I love about my wife." I feel that it is refreshing to have a couple in the White House that care about each other and the American people. The use of the derogatory term "Baby Mama," is disrespectful. Fox News would never call Laura Bush or Sarah Palin someone's Baby Mama. Their comment is both racist and sexists. The Obama's have a loving relationship and a wonderful family, they should be praised for their commitment to our country and one another. Fox News racist reporting and hate mongering only appeals to the far right and shows a limited view of reality. 

Is Barack Obama a woman?

A post from the blog "Read, Write, Now" discusses a Scripps-Howard article that presents the idea that no matter which democrat won the primaries, we would still get a female president (as long as the dems. won)."

"Clinton’s female supporters who are watching Obama’s movement coalesce, solidify
and take over should console themselves there will be a woman Democrat in the
White House either way if the Democrats win the general election. The nominee
will either be a woman with double-X chromosomes, or one with XY chromosomes who votes more like a woman than most with XX."

The article makes a good point about the advancement of women's rights and women's issues - it does not necessarily take a woman to make things more equal. For example, had John McCain won the election and died in term, Sarah Palin would have become President of the US, and women's issues would have taken a couple of long strides backwards. So then we have to ask ourselves, which is better for feminism: To have a female president, or to have continuing advances in the realm of women's issues? This is an answer that is subjective to each person, but I can confidently say I would rather have a feminist male president than just a female president. Once again I agree with this article when it comes down to it, chromosomes aren't the most important factor.



The blog post says:


"The gender weirdness of this campaign continues to demonstrate that Americans
have a keenly developed, if not completely sick, sense of the politics of
sexuality and gender. Obama is suspicious because he is too much of a woman, and
Clinton is unappealing because she is too much of a man."

I am hoping that both of these individuals will help to change gender roles and stereotypes so that a woman with a short haircut and a pantsuit like Hillary can still be as much of a woman as a lady wearing high heels and a miniskirt. I hope the same would apply to men, that he can be thin and well-dressed or in overalls with a beer and both would be considered men. This election proved more than anything that it really isn't the way one dresses or walks or even necessarily their chromosomes that defines their gender, it is their actions and values.



One more thing - what does it mean when I search "Barack Obama crossdress," and "Barack Obama in a dress" and get no images, whereas the first image in "Hillary Clinton man" shows this?:







Credibility and Perception of “She’s too Sexy?”

I recently read an article that discussed the affect of people's perception of Palin and the possible relation with the unfavorable outcome that resulted for the McCain-Palin campaign. The group of people who focused intensely on Sarah Palin's looks were distracted from the important question of wether Palin was competent enough to be Vice President. The author of the article, Geoffrey Dunn, described a study conducted at the University of South Florida by Nathan A. Heflick and Jamie L. Goldenberg that was published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology. In this study undergraduate students, whom the study used as a representation of the entire American society, who payed more attention to what Sarah Palin was wearing rather then her political strategies and ideas ended up voting for another candidate thus reducing the votes for the McCain-Palin ticket. The studies main point was the affect of the emphasis by the media on Palin's looks and how it negatively impacted voters opinions.
 Mr. Dunn, who had a doctorate in sociology, says that he takes this study with a "block of salt" since many of these "academic" studies use "false assumptions and bad science" to recreate results that the study desires. The entire study consisted of inaccurate and poor methodology. The study gathered research by having students write down their thoughts about one of two American women celebrities, Sarah Palin or Angelina Jolie.  From that group, half were asked to write their opinions about the person and the remaining group was to discuss the person's appearance. The students then evaluated their subject in terms of certain attributes such as competence. Finally they were to identify who they were intending to vote for in the next election. The study asked questions that would not relay any insightful information. To further support the inaccuracy of this study is the number the subjects observed. The study used 133 students all ranging in the same age group, which does not relay appropriate information to draw an accurate conclusion. Also the study's participants consisted of 96 females and an underrepresented number of males totaling 37. The list goes on for all the variables that were not considered for an appropriate "academic" study. 
I frequently run into studies that are supposedly credible because they are peer reviewed articles, but this study still brought up an interesting point to further analyze. Initially, the Republican party contributed to Sarah Palin's representation as "the hottest governor in the coldest state" and as "Caribou Barbie" with signs at events and buzz words in the press. Although, they soon recognized the sexism behind these loaded words and images which led voters to question her credibility and competence. I believe Sarah Palin was hurt politically by the poor representation by the media and its focus on her looks and unintelligence. Even though Palin played into the objectification, and unfortunately for her campaign she was unable to move past the attacks and prove herself as a reliable, competent candidate. She ultimately could not prove to the country that they should place our economy and safety into her hands. Lack of knowledge and her fumbling interviews only weakened her position. 
   I still would like to know whether or not her portrayal as a sex symbol impacted our perception of her? I believe it has and there is evidence that supports this claim, other than the article mentioned above. There is no doubt in my mind that Sarah Palin was treated in an absolutely sexist manner. None of the male candidate's faced the same scrutiny on their appearance as intensely as Palin. This is simply another example of the media placing emphasis on the materialistic and trivial information of a female candidate, rather than judging qualifications based upon knowledge, skill, and ability. Sara Palin played a part in her on objectification, her winking into the camera and her choice of sexy clothing along with her pageant strides across the stage all contributed to the countries perception of her sexy portrayal. The RNC also played the sex card with Palin, but only when it was beneficial to them and then they turned the table and complained when it blew up in their faces. All in all I feel Palin's lack of knowledge compared to the competing candidates was the ultimate cause of her downfall. Even if her sexy representation lead to her portrayal as unintelligent, she still lacked all other qualities that are required for a Vice President. 

“Which more fervently permeates the fabric of American society, racism or sexism?”

After looking back at the 2008 election, I have realized how livid I am at the idea that society does not hold sexism to the same level of scrutiny as racism. The representation of the 2008 election by the media has demonstrated that it is more politically correct to be sexist than racist. Today American culture tolerates sexism to a degree at which it would never tolerate racism. Women have made significant strides in the recent presidential election. For instance, Senator Hilary Clinton became the first woman to ever win a state primary and Governor Sarah Palin became the first female Vice Presidential running mate on a Republican ticket. Even though some of us have differing opinions on either candidate, no one can deny the fact that both have made remarkable achievements for women. 
The campaigns during the 2008 election have catapulted widespread complaints about sexism and racism in the media and public perceptions. Senator Clinton definitely experienced harsh attacks by media commentators. The media has treated Sarah Palin unfairly as well, although not nearly to the same extent as Clinton. Our current President, Obama, couldn't escape the scrutiny from the media either. He was targeted by video pranks and his opponents displayed other disgusting forms of dislike. Looking at the attacks on Obama you can clearly tell that they were on the basis of race, although it was not as visible as attacks on CLinton for her gender. The question I would like to know is how come we did not see this kind of scrutiny portrayed upon John McCain?
The debate on wether American society is more racist than sexist began decades ago, when slave and women's suffragist Frederick Douglas and women's rights activist Elizabeth Stanton came to blows over the question. Although both activists advanced to rights for women and slaves, Stanton was outraged that black men were able to vote after the Civil War and women were not.
The New York Times reported in March that a poll revealed that "Americans think racism is a more serious problem than sexism in the U.S today. In a CBS News poll, a plurality of Americans, 42% said racism was a more serious problem for the country compared to 10% who said sexism was the more serious problem."
I believe that we have a greater problem with sexism in our country and the portrayal of women in the 2008 election was a prime example. Polls form the 2008 election show that white men still feel more comfortable sharing power with a man of color over a white or even possibly colored woman. The 15th Amendment to the Constitution, granting black men the right to cote, was ratified in 1870. Then 50 years later the 19th Amendment granted women the right to vote on the federal level. 
I look forward to the time when racism and sexism are no longer factors in American politics. So far, the legacy of 2008 will remain as a progress for fighting racism while sexism will remain on the back burner of American minds. 

Monday, March 9, 2009

The Effects of the 2008 Presidential Election on the American Feminism Movement

After researching the 2008 election for all this time, I have come to the conclusion that there was sexism in the 2008 election. In fact, the sexism displayed in the election period was so strong that I believe it has impacted our society and brought a new wave of sexism which has damaged and almost undermined the American Feminism Movement. Many have believed that Palin and Clinton have tremendously helped the Feminism movement since they have brought a limelight on the long overlooked plight of American women due to the glass ceiling. For Americans, these two female politicians represented a huge advance in the feminism movement since the women's suffrage movement only ended seventy nine years ago. In reality, the 2008 election became a setback for the feminism movement due to the result of the media portrayal of the female candidates, the campaigns' use of the gender card, and the public acceptance of sexist portrayal of the female candidates.

One of the main causes of the surge in sexism during the past months was due to the campaign tactics that Hillary used. Mark Penn, Hillary's chief strategist, was the man behind the tactics. He suggested that since women make up 54% of the electorate, Clinton could win over as much as 24% of the republican female vote based on the emotional element of potentially having the first female president. In the beginning, Clinton dismissed exploiting women and decided to run a clean campaign. However, when reality hit Clinton that she may lose the nomination, Clinton began to unleash her storm. She began to make well-known comments directly linking herself to the feminism movement. One way she did such task was by making her gender one of the central themes of her campaign. She referenced her gender theme as often as she could in speeches such as one in Wellesley College, an all girls university, where she stated “In so many ways, this all-women's college prepared me to compete in the all-boys club of presidential politics”. In one single swoop, Hillary complained of being ganged up by two “boys”, referring to Obama and Edwards who she insists runs on the same themes. In addition, the New York Daily Times even reported that Clinton said that one of the six reasons Hillary wanted to be president was because of the “women in their 90s who had told her they were born before women could vote, and they wanted to live to see a women in the White House”. Such usage of the gender card did pull on the emotional strings of females across the country, but it also infuriated Obama and non-Clinton supporters which in turn provoked them to make sexist comments and attacks. During her concession speech to Obama, Hillary referenced gender ten times. One of her most notable evocation of gender was when she stated that she had made “eighteen million cracks in the nation's highest glass ceiling”. With many allusions such as the ones she made in her concession speech, Hillary supporters and voters inferred that Hillary ran for women's rights. Therefore, by representing herself as the face of the feminism movement, the feminism movement lost supporters due to the fact that not everybody supported Hillary.


Picking up on Hillary's loss, the McCain campaign was also to blame for the rise in sexism. When the McCain campaign saw how many votes Hillary received from feminists, the McCain campaign decided to take advantage of the opportunity. Surprising the world, McCain picked an unknown Governor from the far away region of Alaska. As soon as she was picked, Palin quickly made her central theme revolve around how she was just like any ordinary “hockey mom”. She fortified her campaign theme with subtle parts in her speeches such as calling herself a “pitbull with lipstick” in her speech at the Republican national convention. She further evoked gender during the Vice Presidential debates when Palin continuously described her role as a mom: “But it wasn’t just that experience tapped into, it was my connection to the heartland of America. Being a mom, one very concerned about a son in the war, about a special needs child, about kids heading off to college, how are we going to pay those tuition bills?” By making her gender a qualification, many opposing Palin were able to use it against Palin. When Americans think of “hockey mom”, they think of protective mothers whose morals and values are reflected by their children. The media and the public soon focused their attention on the Alaskan hockey mom's family and criticized her family. The media and the public made fun of Palin's underage unwed and pregnant daughter and mentally handicapped baby since they thought that they represented values which were opposite to her conservative values. The attacks on Palin due to her family's seemingly nonconservative values soon expanded and the attacks on Palin alluded to attacks on women. By twisting her role as a mom to being a qualification for the vice presidency, Palin further provoked Americans to make sexist attacks. The McCain campaign was also able to use Palin’s gender as a counterargument from opponents. For example, when Obama’s campaign commented on Palin’s inexperience, Carly Fiorina, a senior McCain adviser said “I am appalled by the Obama’s campaign’s attempts to belittle Governor Sarah Palin’s experience. … Because of Hillary Clinton’s historic run for the Presidency and the treatment she received, American women are more highly tuned than ever to recognize and decry sexism in all its forms. They will not tolerate sexist treatment of Governor Palin.” The McCain campaign’s blatant attempt at accusing their opponents of sexism was just one of the many examples doing the 2008 election. Due to the campaign’s abuse of Palin’s gender, Americans and the media make numerous sexist remarks and attacks which proved to be a setback to the American feminism movement.


Even though the campaigns were a major factor in invoking sexism, the media was also partly to blame. Since media is very influential in the United States in terms of the impact it has on the publics' perceptions, its coverage of the election was detrimental to the American feminism movement. Over the course of the election, studies have found that female candidates were getting not only less airtime, but also getting a greater percentage of negative media coverage. Negative media coverage for female candidates came from all spectrum of the media and stereotyped women into two categories: either as a strong, and masculine women or a weak and feminine women. Hillary was identified to be a strong and masculine woman, and therefore considered to be unacceptable. Such stereotyping of Hillary was seen in the media and news portraying Hillary to a cold hearted “witch” with a shrill voice. SNL even called Hillary to be a “boner shrinker”, a derogatory term which suggested that women were sexual objects. Fox news also compiled and played clips which showed Hillary's cackle and in turn molded Hillary into the stereotypical masculine cold hearted women. In contrast, Sarah Palin received a different media coverage radically different but still with stereotypes. In comedy, there were the infamous Saturday Night Live skits which made fun of her previous record as a beauty queen and talent contest type girl. In the news, many topics come and go, but for Palin, they seem to stick. For example, the clothing scandal, which was when Palin instructed some staffers to go on a shopping spree at Neiman Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue, the media still reported the scandal months after it has happened. Such prolonged media coverage on Palin fortified the stereotypical concepts of a feminine women being obsessed with their looks. The conventional stereotypes played out by the media not only incited sexism but also encouraged public acceptance of sexism.


Subconsciously encouraged by the media, the public soon became more willing to accept sexism during the 2008 election. Since the media and McCain campaign womanized Palin, many thought it was fine to accept and display sexism. During the election, many commented on how hot Palin's body was. The magnitude of the publics' obsession with Palin's body was revealed when a high end porn movie featured a Palin lookalike. Called “Nailin Palin”, it featured two Russian solders outside of Palin's governor's man before engaging in sexual intercourse. By allowing people to objectify Palin, society has made it seem that such acts are tolerable and acceptable. However, not all women politicians were treated the same. Since Hillary was more of a masculine women, she was criticized more for her unfeminine behavior. During the democratic primaries, college students could be seen sporting tee shirts stating “Bros before Hoes” with a photo of Obama on Bros and a photo of Hillary above Hoes. Media depiction of Hillary such as Saturday Night Live's website called Hillary the “Bitch in the new Black”. Such sexist language was reiterated in the public and nobody decried such activity. With so much uncalled for disrespect to women politicians in society, the 2008 presidential election was a setback in the American feminism movement.


To many, the 2008 election was a beacon of hope for both Africans Americans and females all over the country. For women, the presence of a female vice president one heartbeat away from the presidency and the candidacy of the first serious woman contestant for presidency inspired women around the world. However, a closer view reveals a far darker secret of America: Sexism is still prevalent today. The provocation of sexism by the media, politicians, and society caused a resurgence of sexism which was so strong that it became a setback for the American feminism movement. When the candidates linked themselves to the feminism movement, they gained female voters but at a cost. With the faces of Palin and Hillary plastered as the icons of the American feminist movement, sexist media coverage and societies' behavior incited sexism. The American feminism movement which is trying to quell sexism have found themselves in a world with even more sexism. What may have been a strong force pushing the feminism movement into the 21st century was only slowed down by the 2008 election.



Don't miss Maureen Dowd on Michelle Obama

Read Dowd's column, "Should Michelle Cover Up?" here. Yes, we're talking about Michelle Obama's recent baring of her biceps--among a wide range of weightier topics that Dowd also touches on in the column.

Here's an excerpt from near the end of the column:
I love the designer-to-J. Crew glamour. Combined with her workaday visits to soup kitchens, inner-city schools and meetings with military families, Michelle’s flair is our depression’s answer to Ginger Rogers gliding around in feathers and lamé.
* * *
Her arms, and her complete confidence in her skin, are a reminder that Americans can do anything if they put their minds to it.
I'm purposefully omitting the next sentence because there Dowd (of course, once again, never miss a chance . . . ) slams HRC.

I agree with Dowd's assessment of Michelle's confidence and competence; I'm not so sure I buy the Ginger Rogers comparison.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Did Palin's looks hurt?

Politico blogger Ben Smith wrote today of a new study published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology. The research discusses how Sarah Palin's looks and the focus on them hurt her and John McCain.

The sample consisted of Republicans and independent voters. Participants were asked to rate former Republican vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin and celebrity actress Angelina Jolie on various factors including competence.

"The study suggests that their confidence in her abilities may have decreased the more they focused on her looks – and thus, in feminist terms, objectified her."

I think this research paper affirms that sexism did play a role in the 2008 presidential election.

Americans, especially the male population, view Angelina Jolie as one of the most "attractive" female celebrities. Americans also tend to believe that celebrites are not the most "intelligent" people.

This study confirms that Palin was considered a political "celebrity." Because of this status and Palin's physical appearance, her intelligence was questioned by the American people. I still stand by my statement that she energized the Republican Party and gave McCain a fighting chance of victory.

The full research paper can be found here. (Note: It is not free)

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Entering a new age of political correctness

Few people will argue that the Saturday Night Live sketches done by Tina Fey and Amy Palmer had an effect on public opinion. While I do not believe it was a deciding factor in the election, I think that it was an important step for the media. These sketches allowed the stigma surrounding women and feminism to fall. Fey and Palmer were quick to note that while sexism runs rampant in our media, we try to pretend that it does not. My attention was recently brought to a piece done by Onion News, entitled: "First Female Dictator Hailed as Step Forward for Women." I noted this because I feel that a dictatorship is a very masculine concept. I am not promoting a dictatorship in any way, shape, or form, but I do feel that it is a very interesting concept.
Why is it the women are not dictators? Is it because there has not been a women with a strong enough following to create such a senario, or is it because we simply laugh the thought off. Society tells us that a women is not strong or aggressive enough to rule a country in such a way.
These views are prevalent enough that The Onion felt that they could mock them. However, I do not believe that, (despite how forward The Onion tends to be) they would have produced this video prior to the SNL skits.
I have thought a lot about why these sketches were acceptable, and I believe it comes back to the two women behind it. Men would not take on sexist issues for fear of being called sexist. However, because Tina Fey and Amy Palmer are represented as strong and self-assured women by the media, they were able to highlight sexism as it presently exists in the media and society at large.
By doing so, Fey and Palmer have brought sexism out from behind the curtain, and I feel that we can only go forward from here.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Politically Incorrect: One man’s joke is another’s racial slur



New York Post's page six cartoon, caricaturing Monday's police shooting of a chimpanzee in Connecticut, has created considerable controversy. The actual cartoon depicts two befuddled looking police officers holding guns looking over the dead body of a chimpanzee they just shot. The famed cartoonist, Sean Delonas, was referencing the mauling of a woman by the chimpanzee in question. In the cartoon, one of the police officers says to the other, "They'll have to find someone else to write the next stimulus bill". the drawing and the caption are replete with violent imagery as well as what may be construed as racist comments, which sparked a fiery rampage from critics. Many people who are critical of the cartoon view the drawing as a comparison of President Obama to a chimpanzee in a commentary on his recently approved economic stimulus package. Contrary to critic's opinions, the post described their cartoon as solely a mockery of what they called an "ineptly written" stimulus bill. The post recognized that the cartoon appeared to be a " depiction of President Obama, as a thinly veiled expression of racism".

A day after the publication of the cartoon the New York Post apologized as well as defended its action and even attacked detractors. Their statement read, " this most certainly was not its intent, to those who were offended by the image we apologize", "However, there are some i the media and in public life who have had differences with The Post in the past --and they see the incident as an opportunity for payback," the statement says. "To them, no apology is due. Sometimes a cartoon is just a cartoon -- even as the opportunities seek to make it something else."
At its most benign, the cartoon suggests that the stimulus was composed so poorly, that monkeys may as well have written it. Others believe it compares the President to a rabid chimp. Either way, the incorporation of violence and race into politics is bound to cause controversy. Critics that linked Obama as the author f the stimulus bill may need to review the structure of our government. the Prwesident is not generally in charge of such economic responsibilities, and although President Obama oversaw the process, Nancy Pelosi and Henry Reid as well as other members of the House of Representatives/Senate were the prime instigators. The cartoon was intended to mock the poor structure of how the bill was written, and not to target Obama, though critics would like us to think otherwise. 
If we truly want to get pat racism we must not interpret everything and anything within an overarching perspective: not very every comment is intended, nor is it. Furthermore Obama is President, not the black president, of this country. Once we reduce him to the color of his skin we fall into the rut of small-minded people, demean the transcendent aspect of his presidency, and perpetuate the very "disease" which the protestors attempt to eradicate. There is a fine line between satire and plain un-American, unethical behavior. There are some jokes that are better left unsaid, but our media is charged with adherence to a degree of social behavior that instills in us a sense of Americanism, which does not insult our moral social fabric. However, one would expect people within our society to maintain a dialogue and to bring enlightenment to our causes without such a harsh display of separatism. 

Michelle Obama: The Popular New Girl at the First Ladies' Lunch Table



A recent article published by Dalia Sussman in the New York Times reported that Michelle Obama has thus far received the highest ratings of any first lady in the past 28 years. The poll, taken by the New York Times and CBS News, indicates that currently, about half of Americans polled (49%) view Ms. Obama favorably, 44% have not yet formulated an opinion, and only 5% view her unfavorably. 

The article mentions that the other first ladies of the past quarter century have generally received approval ratings of about 30% with the exception of Hillary Rodham Clinton, of whom 44% approved. These polls were all taken within the preliminary months of their husbands' terms in office. 

What I found most interesting was that women are, at this point, more likely than men to rate Michelle Obama positively; 56% of females polled approved of Ms. Obama as opposed to only 41% of men. We've recently been commenting a great deal on our first lady's representation in the media, particularly with respect to her role as a mother. Is Michelle Obama's crafted image as a doting mother and wife significantly changing the way the public sees her? Do American women find Michelle Obama's relatively new sense of femininity and style relatable and appealing? It seems that the womanhood portrayed so publicly by Michelle Obama does strike a chord with females, and although men generally do approve of her role as first lady as well, they find her image less admirable or respectable than do American women. But has she always been seen so positively, or are her ratings actually improving with time?

The answer is that no, Michelle Obama hasn't always been so universally admired. Sussman notes that "during the presidential campaign last year, Mrs. Obama's opponents cast her as unpatriotic and carrying racial anger, prompting questions about whether she might be a political liability for her husband." Another article published in the Telegraph by Alex Spillius back in January points out that Michelle Obama was harshly criticized for her infamous comment that her husband's election marked the first time that she was "really proud" of her country. At the time, Michelle Obama was widely seen as detrimental to the Obama campaign. Now the beaming, composed first lady, often clad in pastels and pearls and constantly attending to her young daughters, is hardly a controversial character. 
It seems that many of us have picked up on the conscious shaping of Michelle Obama as the next most popular first lady and "first mother." How does her embrace of the role compare to first ladies of the past? Who is most responsible for this change in portrayal? And how will we continue to view her as her husband's term advances?


Who'd run the best daycare?

As I was browsing the internet last night, all of a sudden, a poll on the U.S. News & World Report website caught my eye. "Who'd Run the Best Daycare?" The poll went on to ask, "If you had a choice of four daycare centers run separately by Michelle Obama, Sarah Palin, Hillary Clinton, and Nancy Pelosi, which would you choose for your kids?" http://www.usnews.com/polls/whod-run-the-best-daycare/results.html Had this poll not proceeded the 2008 Presidential Election, I would have been utterly shocked that a major news publisher would have the audacity to allow such a blatantly sexist question to be posted all over their website. Unfortunately, this election seemed to pave the way for the acceptance of sexism as a form of discrimination which was no longer seen as very offensive.

Rather than looking at these four women as serious politicians, the media is once again shedding light on the fact that they are just that, women, and more specifically, mothers. Although this poll may seem like a very minute example, almost a joke, it's small things like this one that are looked upon as the building blocks for the perception of gender roles in America. Setting the tone that women, even those in high positions such as the four in this poll, should be looked upon as women and caretakers, seems to overshadow all the accomplishments they may have in the political world. Throughout the election, this same perspective pervaded media articles around the nation. Rather than being looked at as politicians first and foremost, the media began focusing more attention on personal lives of the female candidates, and on various occasions, the women vying for office were looked down upon for leaving their families behind in order to pursue political recognition, especially in the cases of Sarah Palin and Michelle Obama.

But putting all the criticism and gender stereotyping aside, I fell into the trap that this poll was setting up. I gave in, and soon found myself clicking the "View Results" button. Ironically, and much to my surprise, after all the mocking and harsh words of disapproval, Sarah Palin was winning overwhelmingly.
  1. 36.38% First lady Michelle Obama's
  2. 58.83% Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin's
  3. 2.58% Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's
  4. 2.21% House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's


Strategically Taking The Beaten Path


In the latest episode of The Secret Life of the American Teenager, the mother of the pregnant teenager, Anne, is dressed in business attire preparing breakfast for the family when her husband, George, saunters in. George gives her the one-over and scoffs something along the lines of: "What, just because you're the mother of a pregnant teenager you think you can be mayor now?" Whether this was an innocent remark or a sly dig at Sarah Palin, I drew a connection and later decided to check in with the "First Mother" of the United States.

In an article titled "Michelle Obama takes well-trod path in first lady role", the Chicago Tribune discusses how Michelle seems to have taken the position of "First Mom" over that of "First Lady" in the beginning days of the new presidency. Apparently Michelle Obama has been reading books, scheduling games, meeting with chefs, and getting to know the neighborhood.

There is doubt expressed over the fact that "First Mom" is the largest role such a high-powered woman will take. Hillary Clinton is discussed and the journalist writes that Michelle is probably trying to avoid Hillary's mistakes as First Lady:
First Lady Hillary Clinton suffered a backlash for barreling straight to the role once termed "co-president" after joking that she had chosen professional fulfillment instead of cookie-baking and tea-hosting.

Michelle Obama is clearly taking the opposite approach, starting with hearth and home and venturing outward. It's a more familiar route for the experienced six-figure professional with a reputation for sizing up the waters before diving in.
In that quote the journalist claims the "First Mom" strategy is just a way for Michelle to ease into the role of First Lady, but I have to wonder: Is Michelle truly going about this in a "professional" manner, or is she just doing her best to conform to the "undefined role of the first lady?" Michelle is an advocate of the "work-life balance." Is it a true lifestyle or just a way to sooth the Social Conservatives?
"She is looking and learning and isn't going to make the same mistakes because she's aware of what the mistakes were," said Letitia Baldridge, the author who served as social secretary to Jacqueline Kennedy when she was first lady.
Isn't it possible that Michelle is just making sure her husband's transfer into office is as smoothe as possible by giving the public what they expect and desire?

While I don't necessarily fault her for it, I have to question whether I, as a feminist, would rather have had a First Lady who barrels straight for co-president, or a First Lady who will "help women realize that a woman can juggle the two, that she can find that division between family and job, and experience joy in both places."

What do you think?

"Gender Affinity Affect", Major or Minor Play in the 2008 Election?

Gender was one of the play cards used in the 2008 election; however, to what extent did it work? According to a scholarly research article, the gender affinity affect is when women voters are most likely in support for female candidates. This article found women do actually feel positively towards a female candidate because of the "shared sex identity".

In this past election Hillary Clinton was a female candidate up for running as president. The Washington Post conducted a survey and found that 51 percent of women supported Hillary while 24 percent supported Obama and 11 percent supported John Edwards. Here is a clear example to the gender affinity affect. However how far does this affect go? Far enough for women to cross over parties? Interestingly, John McCain was the main candidate that tried to used this phenomenon for his advantage, and it somewhat worked. He felt as though having Sarah Palin as his vice president nominee would switch women supporters of Hillary Clinton over to support his campaign. However this article states otherwise:
......women often evaluate female candidates through the lens of political party. That women respondents feel more positively toward female Democratic candidates than do men, but do not have the same affective feelings for female Republican candidates, suggests that any gender gap in evaluations of female candidates should take into account partisan differences as well as sex-based identity.
Overall John McCain's pick for Sarah Palin as his running mate made a difference, but not a drastic difference. A poll conducted by Newsweek found that only 14 percent of female Hillary Clinton supporters wanted to switch and support McCain. This was an affect on McCain's campaign, but not substantial change enough to help him win the election.
The gender affinity affect, in my opinion, played a major role for Hillary Clinton. There were huge numbers of Hillary Clinton supporters that were female and this did help her in the election. On the other hand, McCain thought he could use this affect to his advantage, but it ended up only playing a minor role and not helping out as much as McCain wanted. The gender affinity affect did exist in this election as much as we did not want it to. This article has found that with the number of women increasing in office, we as women are getting a greater understanding and becoming more complex in our thought patterns, when choosing a candidate to support. To some this affect may play a minor role, but the gender affinity affect does exist sometimes for the better and sometimes for the worst.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Rationalizing the Democratic Primaries

  I did not decided who I was going to vote for in the democratic primary election until I got into the voting booth.  I researched both Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama thoroughly, comparing their stances on many issues, ranging from education to the environment, to the war on terror.  However, when I prioritized my views, it all came down to classic women's issue, such as abortion, equal pay for men and women, and gay marriage.
  Both Obama and Clinton both supported me views, and as I realized that all other issue paled in comparison to these, I felt both ashamed and confused.  I was ashamed because I knew that there were many other issues that these two candidates differed on that were very important for the whole country as well as the rest of the world and confused because I still had no idea which candidate I preferred.
I worked as a poll worker during the 2007 and 2008 elections, so I was very closely tied them, having experienced them from both sides.     Photo: http://www.pollingplaceproject.org/
While I was not present during the presidential election because I was here at school, I spoke to my mother about her experience late that November night.  She told me that when we opened our garage to allow voting to begin at seven, there was already a line forming down our street.  We were not alone as this was a trend all around the country.  
Being a poll worker has given me a new perspective on elections.  I remember during the primaries, watching people come into my garage to vote.  Some looked self-assured, others mirrored my own confusion, but everyone appeared to understand the implications of their decisions.  Knowing that there were others who had feelings that were just as confused and muddled as my own were gave me a feeling of unity.  Before then, I never felt, and for the most part, still do not feel that democracy is unifying, as I imagine it ought to be, but in that moment, I was proud to be an American.
Perhaps that was what stirred the memory that decided the election for me.  As I entered the voting booth, I was stuck by childhood dream.  As a child, I wanted to either be a veterinarian or the first woman president.  Deep in the throes of college applications, I knew I was already following one of those dreams and politics was not involved.  Perhaps it was the stigma of being able to see both of my dreams achieved, I took my "special" ballot marking pen and drew a line connecting the arrow next to Hillary Rodham Clinton's name and did not look back on my decision.  
I was not upset when Obama won the nomination and I eagerly voted for him in the November election from my dorm room, and was ecstatic when he won later that night. 
Looking back on it, I did not have a large preference between Obama and Clinton, and my decision came down to a childhood wish.  Would I be hypocritical and judge other people for making decisions for similar reasons? Yes.  Do I feel that this decision was rash? Probably.  Do I regret my decision? Not at all.

The Portrayals of Michelle Obama as First Lady













Today I'd like to discuss Michelle Obama as not only a First Lady but as a Vogue cover model. I went searching for stories on the politics page of CNN.com and found two interesting videos: one regarding her role as First Lady and the other pertaining to her wardrobe and her appearance in Vogue magazine. I thought it fascinating how differently these two videos portrayed Ms. Obama. The former, entitled, "Michelle Obama's Role," made her out to be a qualified and serious woman taking on the position of First Lady with ease. The latter, called, "Michelle Obama Covers Vogue," gave little notice to Ms. Obama's professional life and instead focused on her fashion and this sort of "femininity."

The video regarding Ms. Obama's role begins with Michelle at a press conference saying, "I'm going to spend the next several weeks, or months, however long it takes, going from agency to agency just to say hello, to learn, to listen, to take information back where possible. But truthfully, my task here is to say 'thank you and roll up your sleeves because we have a lot of work to do.'" The video goes on to explain how Ms. Obama's office told CNN that the three main projects for the First Lady will be: focusing on working parents, helping military families, and boosting volunteerism. I was glad they brought this up because I had been wondering what her duties would be when she is 'at work.' I use quotes here because being First Lady is not technically a job. In this video, Robert Thompson from Syracuse University explains, "being First Lady in the United States of America has got to be one of the most frustrating jobs to hold because for one thing, it isn't even a job, for another thing, it has no job description, but for a third thing, you are constantly being evaluated as to how well you're doing." I really liked this quote because it's true; First Women are always under scrutiny even though their position lacks strict guidelines. With the duties outlined earlier, I believe Michelle Obama will really do some good and make the change needed. I'm excited to see how she handles her position, not only as "mom-in-chief," as she calls it, but as a hard-working, capable First Lady. This video shows her speaking to, working with, and showing compassion toward people, which gives us the same sense of pride and hope that her husband exudes.

The second video starts with Michelle Obama speaking to business students at Howard University, but this clip only lasts for thirty seconds. Anderson Cooper then veers from this subject and says, "since moving to the White House the First Lady's been busy making the rounds at federal agencies and schools; people want to know what she has to say, certainly, and also what she's been wearing. Next month her style and substance come together when Ms. Obama graces the cover of Vogue magazine." "Her style and substance come together?" I thought that was a particularly important phrase. Does anyone remember a time when a president's "style and substance [came] together?" I understand that this is the viewpoint of most people here in America, to distinguish differences between the sexes, but it bothers me. I also understand why Ms. Obama agreed to this article and photo shoot with Vogue. She is reaching out to a certain, and definitely a major demographic of women here. Something that stuck out to me in this clip was hearing that all of the clothes worn in the shoot were right out of Michelle's closet; she spent no extra money on clothes for this occasion. I think that shows character, and while appearing on the cover of Vogue is a feminine move, she is still able to maintain her respectable and strong persona. In this video they ask, "what makes Michelle Obama cover-worthy?" Andre Leon Talley, the writer of the Vogue article, claims that, "she represents power, she represents the seismic shift in our times and our culture, being the first African American First Lady of our nation." I agree with this statement and as the video went on, I began to further appreciate her choice to do this article. I think it's great that the Vogue subscribers will get to read about Michelle Obama and become inspired by her. In slight contrast to the other video, this clip shows her hugging small children and shows pictures of her with her family. The last line of this video is, "what this First Lady wants is for women to have fun with their clothes; don't take fashion too seriously, even if you are on the cover of Vogue." Clearly the two videos are showing different sides to Ms. Obama. While I tend to respect the first video's portrayal more, I do see that both sides to this woman are important to show. This way she can reach out to everyone, men and women alike, and show that she will not only be a loving mom and a confident, attractive woman, but that she will also be an amazingly dedicated First Lady to her country.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

The Election Is Over; Now It Is Time to Analyze It

Yes, the election is over, and Obama is already taking his first few footsteps in the White House, but we cannot leave this noteworthy election behind.  This past election was important to us in so many ways.  It marked the beginning of many opportunities for change.  It was the first time a serious woman candidate was in the running, and it was also the first time an African-American was running to be president of the United States of America.

As a very aware and intellectual society, it is our calling to analyze the results of this 2008 presidential election.  As a whole, as a country, we need to work together in trying to understand the twists and turns of this election-- who voted for whom, possible influences on voters' preferences for a candidate, etc.  Our class has been pondering this all quarter long now.  It is very hard to know exactly what caused specific events or situations to happen and how much of an effect certain influences did have.

Our class sent out an online survey that included questions about the reasons why voters voted for whoever they chose.  People's reasons varied immensely; however, it was interesting to see and note that some women voted for Clinton (in the primaries) just because she was a woman.  Interestingly enough, some African-Americans voted for Obama for the same reason-- just because he was an African-American.  They wanted to see "their kind" take foot in the White House.

The New York Times has posted a very interesting interactive graphic on "How Different Groups Voted in the 2008 Democratic Presidential Primaries."  You can click on the boxes underneath the graphic to see how different demographics of voters voted.  I examined "Women" and "Blacks."  When I clicked on the "Women" box, I noticed that there was a pretty even split-- about half the states had stronger Clinton support, and half had stronger Obama support; however, when I clicked on the "Blacks" box to see how African-American voters voted, all 28 states represented in the graphic were on the right-hand side.  They all had stronger Obama support.  This really sparked my interest.  Did African-Americans feel a greater need to support an African-American candidate than woman did to support a female candidate?

There are so many factors that probably influenced the election.  There was a range of different influences that could have affected voters' decisions-- from media to voters' perceptions.  There is no way to perfectly analyze the election results and the reasons why everyone voted the way they did, but we should look at all the results and hard proof that we do have to better understand this 2008 presidential election.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

My Flirt with Sarah Palin

A feeling of relief inundated my mind as the results of the November 4 presidential election were announced. No longer would I have to debate others over who I voted for in the presidential election. My decision was made and now the election season was finally over.

I am a Democrat. I have been since the presidential election that occurred when I was in second grade. I support a woman’s right to choose, the freedom to choose one’s life partner, the environment, and helping the poor. I was against the War in Iraq from the beginning. I supported former vice-president Gore for president in 2000 and United States senator John Kerry in 2004. In 2008, I wholeheartedly supported Hillary Clinton for president.

After Hillary conceded the Democratic nomination to Barack Obama, I became disappointed and even depressed. I could not recall a time when I had so fervently supported one candidate. To me, Hillary was a hero, an inspiring politician, and a champion. I decided to commit my support to Hillary in January 2008. When Hillary won a primary or a caucus, my spirits were lifted. When she lost a contest, I voiced frustration but also heightened support for her to remain in the race. Just like Hillary’s other supporters, I was angry at the media and the Democratic Party establishment. In my opinion, they were biased toward Barack Obama.

Once Hillary’s loss became a reality, I turned to Obama to see whether he would do all he could to raise money to retire Hillary’s campaign debt. I looked to see if Obama would choose Hillary to be his running-mate or someone who had supported her. Neither of these things happened.

John McCain chose Sarah Palin, a dark-horse candidate and little known governor of Alaska, to be his running-mate on Friday, August 29, 2008. During the days leading up to vice-presidential announcements, I suggested that Obama choose Evan Bayh and McCain choose Palin. To say I was surprised when I found out would be an understatement. I screamed and jumped all around my apartment. McCain did it! McCain did it! He actually chose Sarah Palin. (Never did I think McCain would take a gamble by selecting Sarah Palin!)

McCain made a political decision when he selected Sarah Palin. It was clear McCain was sending a signal to disgruntled Hillary supporters and disappointed women that a woman may still have an important role at the White House. I think McCain was playing the gender card and he was smart to do so. His campaign was struggling and dying. McCain desperately needed a game-changer.

Sarah Palin brought to the McCain campaign three things: a new image for the McCain campaign, expanded support among voting demographics, and a revitalization of a failing presidential campaign.

Palin, 44, brought her youth to McCain’s campaign, invoking a refreshing and new picture. The image of Palin’s family brought family issues such as teenage pregnancy and special needs children into the presidential debate. Palin’s conservative credentials shored up support among factions of the Republican Party. Her executive experience coupled with McCain legislative experience added to the presidential ticket.

I did not agree with Sarah Palin on a wide-range of issues including the right to an abortion and keeping ANWAR off limits. I did not agree with many statements Palin made. I thought her debate performance with Joe Biden was awful.

So why was I attracted to the McCain-Palin team? It’s simple, the McCain-Palin ticket reached out to me. While I realize McCain was just trying to earn votes, he appealed to me when he praised Clinton’s historic candidacy. He appealed to me when he chose Sarah Palin, a political newcomer and maverick.

Do I think the choice of Sarah Palin as vice-president was a smart and risky decision? You betcha!

Did Sarah Palin cause more damage to or reinvigorate support for McCain’s candidacy? That’s debatable.

It was a difficult choice when it was time for me to fill out a vote-by-mail ballot. As attractive as the selection of Palin was to the McCain campaign, I did not vote for McCain. I also did not vote for Obama. Who did I vote for? I voted for Hillary Clinton.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Why I Voted for Barack Obama

I'm a moderate republican. I like the 2nd amendment, the death penalty, and Ayn Rand. I'm a capitalist at heart and I believe the best societies have more financial freedom. I'm also a woman, and some of my social views are pretty liberal. Because of this I spent a long time debating who I should vote for, making lists of the candidates' platforms and voting records, and trying to align those with my own views. Even though there were only two choices, I felt like who I picked would tell me a lot about myself and which views I found more important. For a long time, I couldn't make the decision. The answer easily came to me in early September, and my decision never wavered after that.

I chose to vote for Barack Obama because of the introduction of Sarah Palin as the Republican Vice Presidential pick. When I initially heard rumors of McCain's choice, I thought two things. 1) He is using her gender to get the female vote, and to compete with the fact that the democrats had a historical nominee. 2) It could be nice to have a female as second in command for a change. The second thought disappeared as soon as I discovered Sarah Palin in no way represented the values that I do, as a female, and Barack Obama absolutely did.

When I heard Palin say things like, "I'd oppose abortion even if my own daughter was raped," my feelings about guns and the free market were no longer important. When I found out about her desire to push an abstinence-only sex education on the nation's youth, it was like I had not even read The Fountainhead. Sarah Palin opposed expanding hate crimes to include sexual orientation (I believe homosexuality is included in women's issues), and advocated making women buy their own rape kits, and just in general, seemed to oppose everything women activists have fought for for the past century.

2008 was my first presidential election, and it was certainly very interesting. What I took from it, more than anything, was that the economy will rise and fall as it normally does. I am always open to my political views changing, as they have in the past. I was not born a republican, but a woman, and I will die a woman, so I am a woman first, and my rights need to be protected. My right to govern my own body, my right to marry who I want, my right to not have to take out a loan to find out who raped me, my right to the knowledge about safe sex - all of these made Obama the right choice for a female who finds these issues important. Most of all I learned that the gender of an individual doesn't make them a feminist, their actions and choices do. If Sarah Palin had become the Vice President of the United States, I believe feminism would have lost a lot of hard-earned progress, and that is why I voted for Barack Obama.