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Dec 11, 2008

I consider myself a feminist, but like The Nation's Katha Pollitt, I have to disagree with the mounting distrust of President-elect Obama's women's rights credibility.

I can see their points, to a certain extent. I admit to being angry the first time I heard Larry Summers' name floated about for Treasury Secretary; suggesting as president of Harvard at an academic conference that it is "innate differences" between men and women that makes women less likely to enter science careers, not social stigma and discrimination, does not cause most women to joyfully support your appointment. I winced at Obama's dismissive tea comment to Hillary Clinton before Iowa and again at his they'll-get-over-it comment about female Hillary supporters in June.

But while I believe what you say and how you treat women are a critical aspect of your views on women's rights, I also think that his policy positions are a place where Obama's feminist credentials can really shine. Pollit suggests that Obama should "make gender equality a keystone of his administration." And she points to the fact that the upcoming stimulus package is creating jobs that have traditionally been held by men--infrastructure development, for example. But adding an additional stimulus package aimed at creating jobs in fields where more women are would also help--teaching and health care are two critical ones.

And although Pollit is rather dismissive of the pro-feminist possibilities of Clinton's role as Secretary of State, I believe Clinton can bring a more feminist view to the position that Condeleezza Rice--despite the similarities in their biological sex--simply couldn't. As first lady in 1995, Clinton spearheaded an effort to call China out for women's rights violations while in China for the United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women. Women's rights advocates around the world still point to that speech as a turning point in getting governments to acknowledge problems. Her history on the issue could bring the dramatic change needed to propel women's rights into the forefront of our international political discourse.

And as a feminist, I do think that can happen.  I think it's important to watch the Obama administration closely to ensure they are making women's rights a priority. But I'll be watching with hope, not distrust.

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Posted: Dec 11, 2008 8:27pm


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LiAnna D.
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San Francisco, CA, USA
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