Today, I’m struggling with rah-rah “feminism.” I should also note that I have consumed several a beer and not enough nachos to offset those beers. This may not be my best work; you’ve been warned.
What is rah-rah-ism? It’s Ann Romney yelling “I love you women!” It’s politicians going on and on about how much they love and respect the women in their lives, their wives and daughters, without backing up their love and respect with policy and equality.
It’s tokenism, like we saw in tonight’s debate. Mitt Romney tried real hard, apparently, to find female candidates for the Massachusetts cabinet. He went out of his way, according to him, to solicit suggestions from women’s groups, to expand the pool. Admirable, right? What a decent guy.
The problem is that inequality will never be rectified by individual kindness or altruism. We cannot expect one guy, or one family, or one business to singlehandedly fix centuries of discrimination and prejudice, no matter how good their intentions are.
Mitt Romney needs to be asking why there was such a dearth of candidates for him to choose from. What are the barriers preventing women from creating the resumes that would have impressed him? What can we do to break those barriers for the next generation? It’s not on the shoulders of each governor to go out of their way to find a diverse staff, it’s on the shoulders of each of them to acknowledge that the roots of this disparity are deep and thorny.
We need holistic change. We need fundamental shifts in our understanding of work/life balance, for all parents. Remember Anne-Marie Slaughter’s piece about having it all? There is no space for equal, engaged parents at the upper echelons of most industries, a fact which impacts women more because of the division of housework and childcare. It doesn’t have to be this way. We need equal pay and a recourse to seek it when the numbers aren’t adding up. We need educational opportunities targeting women in fields in which they’re underrepresented. We need health care policies that allow families to strategize on the when and how to have children affordably and safely. I could go on, but you get the point.
During his Bill O’Reilly debate, Jon Stewart brought up Title IX as an example of Republicans ignoring the role of policy initiatives in progress. The Republicans cheered the success of American female athletes during the recent Olympics, but don’t seem to understand the relationship between that very success and the 1972 legislation that enabled it.
It’s not enough to say “rah rah,” to cheer for the occasional accomplishment of this woman or that woman, to point out the success stories where women triumphed despite the obstacles. Rah-rahs make you smile for a minute, perhaps engender some warm and fuzzy feelings, but they don’t solve problems.
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