Saturday, 31 January 2009
Where are the women - in American politics?
I've read lots of enthusiasm and warmth and excitedness about the inauguration of Barack Obama as the new president of America. (Some) People are genuinely relieved to see the end of the Bush regime, and hope that this new Democrat government will herald a new start. I hope so too. But on the down side.... Firstly. I remember similar - almost euphoric - feelings when Tony Blair and the Labour Party won the election in the UK in 1997. I remember the results because I was on holiday in Portugal - and we saw coverage on a television in a bar in Estoi in the Algarve. (Very nice place by the way, some fine Roman ruins there, and a palace that we couldn't visit). When I got back to work, I discussed the election with colleagues, many of whom were excited in the same way much of America is right now. Some years later, that excitement and enthusiasm had turned into such disillusionment. I hope that America, a few years down the road, doesn't share that same sense of disappointment. And secondly. I first read about Barack Obama a few years ago, and the article was touting him as a potential candidate for the presidency, and I thought it would be interesting to see if he eventually went for it. He did. Just at the time that Hillary Clinton went for it too. The truth is that I don't follow American politics closely enough to have analysed their different approaches, views, values and opinions. I did notice though that Clinton's campaign was accompanied by not just sexist comments but blatant misogyny. Something that she has had to endure since being First Lady, (a ghastly title that irritates the hell out of me) but that doesn't make it any better. And I'm sorry that she didn't get the nomination. I'm equally sorry to see that she is still attracting vitriol because she has been offered a decent position in Obama's government. When do men ever have to suffer endless criticism about their hair, their make-up, their clothes, the way they talk and laugh? Oh, silly me, they are not decorative objects are they? They are intelligent thinking beings. They don't have to make sure they are coming across as a loving parent, endlessly espousing family values, and looking pretty, instead of concentrating on affairs of national and international importance. And what about Michelle Obama? Another intelligent woman who has already had to start toning down her ironic sense of humour and concentrate more on family stuff, and all the 'softer' issues that befit a woman. I can't read anything about the inauguration without reading about what she wore. Who the hell cares? Well, America, I hope you get a female president soon. And preferably a democrat. I'm sorry you didn't give yourselves the opportunity to vote for one this time round. Maybe democrats just aren't as open-minded as they like to think. In spite of nominating an Afro-American - that sends a message of 'Look how progressive we are, there is no discrimination in America.' Because of course, discrimination is always about race, or maybe disability - but never men v women. It may yet be the republicans who nominate a woman for president. Just like the UK, where the Conservatives were the first to elect a woman leader who carried on to become the first British woman prime minister. Maybe too many Americans have the same view as my sexist father had many years ago. "Better to have a bad male prime minister than a good woman prime minister." Funny how he grudgingly ended up admiring Margaret Thatcher and considered her to be one of the best prime ministers in the UK in his lifetime. Hey America! Maybe you should give women a chance. They may surprise you. They may have brains, intelligence, diplomacy, and gosh - they may be able to leave alone their lipstick for at least five minutes and concentrate on Significant Issues. Oh, and another thing. Just had a looky at your cabinet Obama. It doesn't look too representative of women. Are you aware of how many of your population are women? You aren't reflecting it. Arse. Elitist arse, in fact. Shame you didn't follow the example of Zapatero in Spain. Who insisted on half his cabinet being women when he was first elected. What are you doing Obama? Five out of fifteen? Just keep reinforcing the patriarchy sweetheart. You're doing well.
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