Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Woman Power at it's Best

The idea of empowering women and what it means to be a feminist has been on my mind a lot, lately. This is for a few reasons.

First, I was asked to start a Women for Obama group here in Utah. I had kind of avoided the "Women for Obama" movement because I had a lot on my plate being involved with the all-inclusive Utah for Obama group, and because I felt like maybe "Women for Obama" was too narrow of a view about why I support Senator Obama.

Secondly, Hillary Clinton recently attacked Barack Obama's record on women's issues.

Lorna Brett Howard, the former Director of the Chicago chapter of NOW (Nation Organization of Women), who had been a Hillary supporter, was so offended by this attack that she not only turned around and endorsed Obama, but put out a video defending his record with the facts.

Then when Senator Ted Kennedy endorsed Barack, the NY State Chapter of NOW got more than a bit upset and called him a traitor.

Actions such as this are why I've never considered myself a feminist.

So, what does it mean to empower women, and to be a feminist?

Does it mean that no matter what other issues there are, supporting a woman should take priority? Does it mean that because I am female, I am better than men? Does it mean that women have some kind of inherent rights that trump a man's inherent rights?

I get the impression that there are women in America today who believe that the answers to those questions are yes, and that for any woman, or women's rights activist, to support anyone but the female candidate, they are betraying women everywhere.

And I have to call bullshit.

That would be like saying that a black man who supported John Edwards was betraying the black cause, and that he should support Obama regardless of whether he believes Obama is the best choice, or not.

And I'm saying that to support a man because he's black, and only because he's black, is the same thing as ostracizing a man because he's black.

I'm saying that to vote for a woman because she's a woman, and only because she's a woman, is the same thing as not voting for a woman because she's a woman.

I will admit that if all things were equal, I'd love to vote for the woman candidate. But, I don't believe she's the best choice. And because of that, I'm supporting another candidate. I'm not betraying women's causes in doing so.

In fact, I believe that voting for a woman only because she's a woman is actually doing a lot of damage to women's causes.

Back to my original question - what does it mean to empower women and to be a feminist?

I may not have all of the answers, but I have a feeling that there are some good ones in this book, Good As Lily.

I hadn't heard of it before seeing the review on Boing Boing.
It tells the story of Grace Kwon, a young Korean-American girl who, on her 18th birthday, finds herself in the company of her six-year-old self, her 29-year-old self and her 70-year-old self, three women who become a part of her life as she finishes out her last semester of high school before going off to her freshman year at Stanford.

Grace is a perfect young adult protagonist, likable and flawed, insecure and brave, driven and oblivious all at once. She's in love with her drama teacher (and bent on rescuing the school play from budget cuts), surrounded by great (and flawed) friends, and embroiled in high-school dominance struggles that are savage as only school fights can be.
The review really makes it sound like the ultimate book on what woman power really is, and if I'm ever lucky enough to have a daughter, I hope I remember this book. It might not hurt my sons to read, either.

I decided to go forward with Women for Obama because I feel like it embodies what the feminist movement should, even if the feminist movement gets it wrong sometimes.

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