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?" 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:
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 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.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Something (else) Michelle Obama and HRC have in common?

A story by Rachel Swarns in today's NYT reports that Michele Obama is raising eyebrows in Washington by weighing in on some policy issues. The headline is "'Mom in Chief' Touches on Policy, and Tongues Wag." Swarns characterizes Mrs. Obama's plan to visit all cabinet-level agencies as "a notably different approach" than Laura Bush's, who tended not to discuss legislation and policy, like most First ladies before her. Yet, Swarns reports:
Some observers praised Mrs. Obama’s foray into the legislative debate, saying the new first lady, who is a Harvard-educated lawyer and a former hospital executive, was eminently qualified to promote the president’s policies.

Others expressed surprise, saying they had expected Mrs. Obama to focus on her daughters and on the traditional issues she had emphasized in the presidential campaign, like supporting military families and working parents.
Swarns quotes a scholar who studies first ladies, Myra Gutin:
"She went to some lengths to say she was going to be first mom in chief . . . . I don’t think we ever really imagined her edging toward public policy like this. It’s not like she’s making public policy. But it’s a little less neutral than some of the other things she’s talked about focusing on.”
Swarns suggests that Mrs. Obama's recent forays into policy still don't rise to the level of the role Hillary Clinton played in her husband's administration, and she may be right. But tongues certainly wagged about Mrs. Clinton's role as something other than White House hostess. (See these 1994 columns here, here and here by Anna Quindlen about HRC).

Perhaps Mrs. Obama will evolve into a more HRC-esque role, which wouldn't bother me. After all, we are occasionally (often?) reminded by the media that Mrs. Obama is a Harvard-educated lawyer coming off a high-powered career as a hospital executive. We would not want her intellect and experience to go to waste, would we? And what's so controversial about her supporting her husband's policy positions -- maybe even having some independent positions of her own--and making those heard? Why shouldn't she add her influence to debates about issues of the day?

The Israeli version of Hillary Clinton/Palin?

It looks like we have another Hillary Clinton (or Palin), except she's not in the United States: She's in Israel. After the Israel Prime Minister Ehud Olmert stated that he would resign, an election was scheduled. Tzipi Livni (pictured below) won the September 2008 election, and would have become the prime minister had she formed a coalition government with different political parties. She had 90 days, but many parties refused to join the coalition government, causing an election to be scheduled February 2009.

A quick background to the Israeli government: The way the Israeli elections works is extremely different from elections in the U.S.. First of all, there are numerous parties, not like United States’ two central parties. When an election is held for the Israeli parliament, the percentage of votes casted for a party means the percentage the party is represented in the government.

Tzipi Livni? Who is she? Many of us outside of Israel have never heard of Livni, and you can’t blame us. Livni is currently the acting prime minister of Israel, and was previously the Minister of Justice, Minister of Regional Cooperation, Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Minister of Immigrant Absorption, and Minister of Housing and Construction. In her very early career, she was a Mossad (Israel’s equivalent of the United States’ CIA) agent, and had a role in covert operations during the 1982 Lebanon War. She was ranked the 52nd most powerful women in the world in 2008 by Forbes, 39th most powerful women in the world in 2007, and 40th most powerful women in the world.

Just a week ago, the Israel’s 2009 legislative elections ended. It was an extremely close call for Livni, who was running to defend her position as acting prime minister of Israel. In fact, Livni won with such a close margin that many have suggested that Livini’s victory could have been due to women voters. This was the article which inspired me to write this blog post:

After reading the article, I was extremely surprised at Livni’s blatant attempts to use her gender to her advantage. Livni’s party had many billboards plaguing Israel promising a “different kind of prime minister” and “urged Israelis to elect the country’s first women prime minister in three decades”. Just like Hillary, Livni avoided using the gender card until the few weeks leading up to the election. With so much experience in the government, I thought that it was very interesting of her to evoke gender by including simple statements in her speeches like “I make decisions, not coffee”. In the days leading up to the elections, Livni even went an extra step to exploit her gender by making visits solely to please the feminist crowds. Once such event was a techno dance rally for women. (see the picture) Just behind Livni, a slogan states “Gentlemen, the time has come for women”. Such usage of gender was also seen on Livni’s opponents. The Likud party, a major opponent of Livni, even ran a sexist and anti-feminist campaign stating that the role as prime minister is too big for Livni.

Gender seems to play a larger role in today’s politics and not just in America. This may be because our society today is unable to change our traditional values, a belief that women should not have leading roles. However, we now see females in governmental roles even in predominant Muslim countries, where females were treated like second-class citizens. However, this does not mean that politicians and leaders should be able to use gender to their advantage. Do you think that Livni’s “gender card” is justified? Was her opponent’s anti-feminist slogans fair?

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Gender in 2008 Survey

Here is the link to the survey created for this class.

Send it to people you know so we can get as many responses as possible!