Let’s be clear, women in the US are still not equal citizens.
Regarding health care, the very fact that women were mentioned by line item in the Affordable Care Act so often shows that without these inclusions women would continue to receive a standard of care unequal to that of men. Because the Equal Rights Amendment is yet to be passed, there is no single standard of equality by which to judge and assure fair treatment.
Without the ERA, we chose instead to present the same face of discrimination to the world, as Iran, Somalia, and Afghanistan. Under Bush, even with Biden as Chair of the US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, and Obama, as a Committee member, CEDAW languished, as it has, since 1979.
Even under a Democratic presidency CEDAW still slumbers.
These two failures are that of Congress, because they have never made it to presidential signature. Nor have they ever come under judicial review.
Though it is hard to imagine any Democrat elected president would have vetoed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, and many of us were upset that it was Obama, amid much fanfare, rather than Clinton, who was able to sign it, the fact is that the Bill was enacted.
The others, the Fair Pay Act, and Fairness Paycheck Act did not pass Congress. Again, since women are not equal citizens under a single standard, a multitude of bits of bills, each striving for a little slice of fairness, is currently the only way to achieve eventual parity.
As such, these are also failures of Congress. There is only one way to improve this condition. It entails an active defense and offence; but it first it requires an ownership of who we are.
Many of us are uneasy about the idea of defining ourselves. We may think it is too constricting or outdated. Some of us remember a time when using the term seemed a little too “whitebread” and did not correctly articulate the needs of women of color. I believe that Michelle Obama may have partly felt this way when asked if she was part of our group and she demurred. Some of us are still learning and believe that if we just try hard enough, wear the right clothes or behave, things will turn out all right.
Gaining equality is messy, sometimes dirty and smelly, often loud, frightening and even violent. Above all it is a process, rather than a one-time goal. It is a matter of choices. In the politics of women it is usually a matter of choosing the better of two, not so good choices. Pulling historical context forward to the present helps the process.
In the debate conducted on Oct. 16th President Obama said this:
“In my health care bill, I said insurance companies need to provide contraceptive coverage to everybody who is insured, because this is not just a — a health issue; it’s an economic issue for women. It makes a difference. This is money out of that family’s pocket.
Governor Romney not only opposed it; he suggested that, in fact, employers should be able to make the decision as to whether or not a woman gets contraception through her insurance coverage. That’s not the kind of advocacy that women need. When Governor Romney says that we should eliminate funding for Planned Parenthood, there are millions of women all across the country who rely on Planned Parenthood for not just contraceptive care. They rely on it for mammograms, for cervical cancer screenings. That’s a pocketbook issue for women and families all across the country.
And it makes a difference in terms of how well and effectively women are able to work. When we talk about child care and the credits that we’re providing, that makes a difference in terms of whether they can go out there and earn a living for their family. These are not just women’s issues. These are family issues. These are economic issues. And one of the things that makes us grow as an economy is when everybody participates and women are getting the same fair deal as men are.”
Now I don’t like the Affordable Care Act because I think it should have been a single payer system, rather than one based on the profits of insurance companies. Additionally, it has vulnerabilities for women because they are incorporated by line items that can be modified by a conservative Congress.
However, that does not take away from President Obama’s comments. The apparent groking of his SOS Clinton, (Women’s rights are human rights!) indicates the theme of Obama’s presidency toward women’s issues.
This is feminism.
Where the presidency has made successful inroads, to date, is outside of Congressional gridlock and misogyny. The Executive Branch has made a series of proclamations and Orders that advance the cause of women and girls, and therefore, humanity. For example, in 2009 he signed an Executive Order establishing the Council on Women and Girls.
A look the website for the Council shows that from that beginning has flowed a series of ideas, forums and actions that are enlarging the concept of women in government, including “The Equal Futures Partnership and United States Commitments to Expand Women’s Political and Economic Participation” (STEM) that was created this month.
This concerted Executive Branch effort has been seen elsewhere in our dealings internationally through the UN and the State Department.
These efforts unfortunately, are ephemeral. They could change with new players in the Executive Branch of a second Obama administration, or they could be actually snuffed by one of Romney’s construction.
What are WE going to do?