Should Barack Obama claim the title feminist?
11 February 2009 6,229 views One Comment
CASSANDRA J. CARLSON Since the inauguration of Barack Obama, the world has focused on the first 100 days of one of the world’s most prestigious position. Currently, a cloud of recession lies over America while unemployment rates rise. Americans are struggling to pay for adequate health care, higher education, and even food. Those most hurt by the economy will be of course the poor, but the economy will also impact women the most. But this isn’t just a national issue; it is a global one. Obama’s new arrival brings forth an era of urgency for furthering women’s rights, especially since the political agenda under the leadership of former President George W. Bush was slim and barely included a feminist’s agenda. A recent cover of Ms. Magazine shows Obama in a superman-like pose, ripping at his suit jacket, revealing his t-shirt with bold white letters that reads: “This is what a feminist looks like.” So does Obama truly earn the title of feminist? With recent legislation pushed by the Obama administration, Democrats hope to take the country in a new direction. While the passage to expand state children’s health insurance program has satisfied many feminists throughout the country, the economic stimulus package, totaling $787 billion, lacks the support of some women’s rights activists because most of the money is allocated for roads and infrastructure, instead of social programs. But Obama has made direct action toward women’s rights in his the first two months as president. With the help of the majority of mostly Democrats, Obama passed the Lilly Ledbetter Act to end pay discrimination based on gender by amending the statutory limitations period. This enactment gives women a voice to speak up about inequalities in the workplace. Although the Ledbetter Act does further women’s rights in the work place, it does not close the gender pay gap completely. Employers are not forced to disclose every employees salary, so employees cannot gauge what they are compensated for compared to their counterparts. A call to transparency would lead to fair pay in the workplace, but regulation must also happen. Fairness in the workplace is not a recent issue. Over the last 45 years, an Equal Pay Act of the United States of 1963 has had little to no enforcement. Now, as the Ledbetter Act creates new legal opportunites for women, there needs to be provisions made to secure that women make an equal amount in the United States and elsewhere. This is a fight where women will have to demand fairness and transparency. This will further women’s agendas by having legal protection against discriminatory pay practices; that is, if they get the job. In Obama’s cabinet alone, only three women make up the 15-member cabinet, with the possiblity of adding one more woman, Governor Kathleen Sebelius of Kansas as Health and Human Services Secretary (HHS) after former Sen. Tom Dashchle’s recent withdrawl. Last year, Sebelius was talked about in the blogosphere as being a possible contender for Obama’s vice president and as of press time, Obama had not made a final decision on Sebelius as HHS. On a global level, Obama rescinded the Global Gag rule on his third day in office. The rule, reinstated during the Bush administration, barred U.S. funds to foreign health care organizations that provided abortions or abortion counseling and legalizing abortion within the country receiving the aid. Obama acknowledged the gag rule’s limitations on free speech, women’s health, democracy, and healthcare workers rights. “For too long, international family planning assistance has been used as a political wedge issue, the subject of a back and forth debate that has served only to divide us,” Obama said in a statement released by the White House. “I have no desire to continue this stale and fruitless debate.” The global gag rule, which has been implemented and repealed in an never-ending political tug-of-war is now solved, for now. His policies are not without critics and not everyone will be happy with all of his choices. It is a proud moment for women globally that Obama came out swinging in his first few months in office, implementing changes that would directly affect women in the United States and globally. The challenges the constituency faces in the upcoming downturn of the economy is hopefully seen by President Obama. The 56 percent of women who voted for him along with the 49 percent of men created a want and need for a new direction for the country. On election day, the women created an outstanding and satisfactory gender gap, the seven percent gap, a strong statement to Obama from his women voters that supported his messages at the election booth, checking the box for the most historical presidency yet—America’s first presidential feminist, President Barack Obam