Obama, the Feminist?

By S.E. CuppAuthor, "Why You're Wrong About the Right"

Admittedly, I have never cracked open Ms.magazine. Gloria Steinem's girl-power publication doesn't much appeal to me, a 20-something New York City woman who feels pretty empowered most of the time, without a magazine assuring me I'm probably getting the raw end of the deal somewhere.

Sarah Palin

Hillary Clinton

But Ms. magazine deserves a hearty pat on the back for putting Barack Obama on its cover, wearing a T-shirt that says "This is what a feminist looks like." I don't know if Obama's a feminist or not, but acknowledging that men can advocate for women's rights just as fervently as we can is a huge step in getting women like me to take our fingers out of our ears when feminist groups take to their megaphones.

When word spread that Hillary Clinton would be tapped for Secretary of State by Obama, feminists and Clinton supporters from her presidential campaign were quick to insist that a woman take her place in the Senate. Some support Congresswoman Kristen Gillibrand, others Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney. And others still found a rush of new excitement in Caroline Kennedy, a woman with no political experience, a thin public service resume, a relatively unknown platform, and questionable stamina for the rigors of Washington politics. I was shocked at the outpouring of support for Kennedy -- shortlived though it appears to have been -- and the pressure feminist groups were putting on New York Governor David Paterson to heed their warnings that a woman must fill the seat. Even Kathleen Parker -- whose criticism of Sarah Palin this past year was incredibly disappointing to me and many other conservative women for its intellectual elitism -- had to admit Kennedy hasn't earned it.

Furthermore, there are a number of qualified men (Andrew Cuomo being one, Dick Parsons being another) qualified for the job. Democrats are always insisting that their guys -- men like Bill Clinton, Joe Biden and Barack Obama -- are commited to gender equality. But when it comes time for feminists to pick a team, they usually balk in favor their own.

Also troubling is the general reluctance to acknowledge the role of men in advancing women's rights, like for instance, the passing of the 19th Amendment, which came with the help of President Woodrow Wilson, Taft before him, and Henry Blackwell. Or the 32 men who signed the Declaration of Sentiments in 1848, acknowledging inequality among the sexes. Or President Kennedy, for establishing the President's Commission on the Status of Women.

Feminists need to realize that if we want truly equal treatment for women, we have to stop demanding preferential treatment, in the form of senate seats, anti-men legislation and the conventient revision of history. And they need to remember that real American women -- in San Francisco, Topeka, and Anchorage -- are not defined by only one issue.

Ms. magazine has offended a lot of women in the past -- both by glorifying and, in fact, celebrating abortion as an act of defiance against men, and by appearing anti-Semitic in refusing to run an ad honoring Israeli women. If the election of Barack Obama is opening feminists' eyes to the realities of the world -- that men are valuable and important, and shouldn't be excluded from our fight for equality -- then I am now a huge supporter of Barack Obama. Here's hoping the new feminist mantra can be "I Am Man, Hear Me Roar."