I am sorry, Mr. President, but we see through your words.
Last Friday, at the White House’s women’s summit, President Obama declared that we, women, aren’t an interest group. He went on to talk about issues of gender income inequality and health care. Despite the push back by the White House that this wasn’t a political play, it was. And to be honest, women should be insulted that he didn’t think we could see it for what it is.
Now, I understand the president was attempting to be flattering (after an unfortunate joke that he waited to come over until the women in the room “settled down”). Not all women have the same interests, or opinions. We don’t vote in lockstep. We are individuals.
But underneath the flattery were policy platitudes on traditional “women’s issues.” Specifically, he talked about health care and inequality as if all women supported more intervention into the economy via higher taxes and more government spending.
Wrong, Mr. President. Sure, some women support this agenda, but many, many do not.
Furthermore, why did the president choose now to make his statement? As opposed to, say, when he was running against Hillary Clinton in 2008? Or why not simply invite a few more women on your 93 golf outings to discuss what real women care about? (Only two outings have included women.)
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It’s because he’s simply trying to take advantage of the Republican message gaffe that started earlier this year. The president is a political opportunist, and when the Republicans fumbled the Religious Freedom issue involving health care and started talking about contraception, the White House and Obama campaign saw an opportunity to exploit. This is why all of a sudden the president has picked up the mantle of women’s rights.
Regarding economic inequality, the president proposed new legislation to close the gap on women earning 77 cents on every dollar a man earns. This issue can’t simply be changed by a law or more regulation; it has to be changed by the culture, a culture that values a woman’s opinions, decisions and leadership as much as a man’s. We don’t want a regulated job, we want respect. I don’t want a job or a CEO position because it was regulated for a female, and nor should any other woman. Jobs and positions should be earned and rewarded, and it’s unfortunate if the culture doesn’t allow for this. This culture shift, which has been slow to shift, must start with us women, and with the president. We must demand respect, and he and others must show it.
It reminds me of the movie "Wag the Dog," which showed, in an effort to get the sitting president reelected, a political campaign starting a faux war. That’s exactly what Obama, the White House and his campaign are doing right now. They are declaring a nonexistent war on women for political gain so the president can keep his job. Even his own party members are saying this war doesn’t exist. If the president really valued women over his job, then maybe he would call on his Super PAC to return Bill Maher’s million dollars.
Since 1964, women have voted in larger margins than men, and it's not just Independents who decide elections, it's women.
We are dames, not damsels in distress. We are not looking for a knight in shining armor to be our president, to give us government-run health care and be quiet. We are just like every other valuable voter segment, striving to make the most of ourselves in this country and fight for the issues that are important to us. We are just looking for a little respect and for our voices to be heard.
So maybe we aren’t one monolithic block. That’s what you said, Mr. President, but underneath your words you showed you don’t really understand it.
Gretchen Hamel is the Executive Director of Public Notice.