If you ask a feminist what she hopes for, she’ll probably tell you change–a change in the laws that dictate her life and constrain her choices; a change in the attitudes of a nation that continues to devalue her worth; a change in her paycheck.
Feminists have always championed for change. The foundation of change is the bedrock of our progress. And although time and time again we have been denied the change we need, by carrying the hope that change is possible, we have kept the spirit of feminism alive.
This year has proved that feminists aren’t the only people who believe in hope and change. In fact, I’m sure when you hear these words you think of one person in particular and it’s not Rosie the Riveter (We can do it!) or the suffragists who fought for the ballot, or those that marched on Washington for women’s rights.
It’s President Barack Obama. An unlikely candidate for Commander in Chief, if you look at the history books, but one who delivered a message of hope and change so strong and convincing it secured his seat in the White House.
It was Obama’s remarks following his victory in the primaries in South Carolina that propelled his message of change across the nation. His words were so powerful, his delivery so sincere and full of hope it was difficult not to believe him. And so, the crowd broke out into euphoric chants of “yes we can” and “we want change”–chants that followed him from coast to coast, from sea to shinning sea.
It was an inspiring and historic speech, but is this message of change any different than the one feminists have been calling on for decades?
No, not really. President Obama may have coined catchy phrases like “yes we can” and the slogan “Change We Can Believe In,” but the core of his message is the same as the driving force of the feminist movement: the acknowledgement that change is needed, the desire to initiate change, and the belief that change is possible if we work together.
When I hear the words “yes we can” I think of equality. Of a world free from rape and a workplace free from sex or pay discrimination. I think of women CEOs and stay-at-home dads. Of women having babies safely or choosing not to without restriction or judgment. I think of a Madame President and I know I’m not the only one.
I know the change Obama believes in reaches farther than these things and the need for gender equality, but I also know it’s part of his vision (if not I wouldn’t have voted for him). During the heated election season, many questioned whether feminists like myself could support Obama with Hillary Clinton in the running. Well, yes we can and we did and we hope that he will not forget us–the feminists who voted for him and believed that his message of change included our faces and needs.
Let us hope (there it is again, hope) that he can deliver change (as he did last week with the reversal of the Global Gag Rule) and not cave in to the demands of Republicans for bipartisan sake, but rather use this spirit of change to advance the cause of women, of feminists who have always called for justice and equality – for change.
Lastly, let us remember that the tasks before President Obama are heavy and many and that we must continue to do our part. As Sonia Johnson, American feminist activist and writer said, “We must remember that one determined person can make a significant difference, and that a small group of determined people can change the course of history.”
Yes we can. Together.