President Obama: Feminist Icon
President Obama, “This is what a feminist looks like” and other misleading ideas about feminism from the media.
Over the last several weeks the internet has been a buzz about President Obama’s remarks about being a feminist and being a positive role model not only for his daughters, but for other American males. @afeministlife teamed up with Dr. B–– a sexuality and social justice researcher, teacher, and clinician–– to discuss the pros and cons of Obama’s essay and its implications for feminists everywhere.
“So, what do you think of this whole Obama editorial on Feminism?” Dr B asks.
“For me,” says editor of @afeministlife Samantha Heuwagen, MA MFT ACS, “it’s a little basic– a watered down version of what we’ve come to expect from the media. I was hoping to hear more from the President, not just more of the same. Though I realized its a huge step for feminists everywhere since no other political figure in the last several years has come forward as a proud supporter. It just felt like the same old message we had always gotten from the media. Maybe I just don’t like how the media is portraying his message,” she adds with a smile.
She goes on to explain that when he writes, “when we are all equal, we are all free,” he doesn’t say exactly who women and other marginalized people should be equal to. “Does he mean white, hetero, men? Or himself– a man in power– or someone else? It confuses me when people use equality like a blanket statement because being equal can mean so many things to different people.”
“Exactly!” Chimes in Dr. B, “Sometimes people think blanket statements are helpful in the long run, but in reality–– they can be privileging and unintentionally erase the experiences of those who have already been marginalized.”
“Which is exactly what enlightened individuals want to avoid! If we can get pass censored media and have a real, frank discussion about feminism and its implications for Americans everywhere then maybe I would be more excited,” Samantha says. “I’m just interested in bigger and broader ideas that help more than the privileged few. Yet having someone like President Obama on the team doesn’t hurt. I can support his attempts to create change.”
Stirring the pot, Dr. B asks, “Right, but do you honestly think that we as a culture can have that conversation? Men and women everywhere–– let’s not get started on the clash and cultural implications of including those who identify as genderqueer, agender, or trans–– already have a hard enough time being civil to each other over lesser sub components of the ideals of the feminist movement, much less the overarching framework of equality for women.”
Samantha shakes her head, “Now you are just being bad! But to answer your question: no, I don’t think as a society we are ready to have these really hard conversations that shake up the status quo. If we are still focused on “What is feminism”–– and what it’s not–– we have a long way to go. But maybe that’s the point. The media gets so caught up on the definition of feminism and labeling what it is we lose the opportunity to dig in deeper.”
“But what do we need to do to ‘dig in deeper?’” adds Dr. B. “While this editorial does lack some of the depth we would like–– it at least got a conversation started on a larger level than before. Is that maybe a step in the right direction? Maybe this was the first part of getting below the surface by highlighting that feminism is continuing to gain momentum. Hopefully the next step taken is even larger–– maybe something as large as breaking the ‘highest and hardest glass ceiling’ (Hillary Clinton, 2016).”