What feminism isn’t about: Cabinet headcounts.

obama feminist

UPDATE 1/14/13: Please note that Joe Scarborough [see below] apologized this morning to Mika Brzezinski , and it was an entirely warm and human moment, and that’s a nice thing to see.

Feminism is the radical notion that women are people and as such, have an innate right to the same human and civil rights enjoyed by other people.

To the extent that we have mostly failed to incorporate that fact into the norms, mores, culture and laws of humanity over the vast sweep of our shared history, it’s good to practice a kind of affirmative action that seeks out and advances women of skill. When conditions beyond your control mean that you start the race a mile behind everyone else, at a certain point, it’s only fair that you be given help in making up the difference.

But that help is not, unto itself, the realization of feminism, nor is it the only thing necessary to realize feminism in human society.

I say this because there is a flap being made about the fact that President Obama’s second Cabinet is shaping up to be a very male (and very white, it should be noted) group.

Some Democrats are behaving as if the President has betrayed us, and some Republicans are suggesting that the whole “Obama is better for women” thing was so much mendacious diversion, because look! It’s a sausage fest up in the Oval Office! Joe Scarborough went so far this morning as to yell the following at his Democratic co-host Mika Brzezinski (and then later snap his fingers at her! [Yes, really! Video below]):

For Barack Obama and his team to savage Mitt Romney for a month off of an offhanded comment that really meant nothing, and here we are on something that matters. And you’re forgiving him, while you lit into Romney for a month, and the media lit into Romney for a month, and now you all are hypocritically, and I will say it, hypocritically giving this man a pass because he’s a Democrat that you’re cheering for.

Scarborough’s reference was, of course, to Romney’s “binders full of women” comment, which, had it been an isolated moment of poor phrasing would, in fact have been “an offhanded comment that really meant nothing.”

But here’s the damn thing, aggrieved progressives and conservatives alike: That comment was neither offhanded nor meaningless, because it reflected the Republican Party’s oft-expressed and acted-upon attitude toward the rights of Americans who happen to be women, and feminism is more than a headcount.

The feminist movement (to the extent that there is one thing that can be called that) is about bringing women’s humanity to bear on every aspect of life, and as I have noted on several occasions, President Obama has spent his Presidency expressing his dedication to feminist values. Over and over and over (and over and over) again, he has done the work and forwarded the ideas necessary to actually change the reality in which women and girls live, to not pay lip service to our humanity but to acknowledge and act on it.

Here’s another radical notion: Part of why this President has so many more men than women to choose from when filling any post rests in the sexism which continues to mark and harm our society, at each and every level, not least the professional level where women continue to suffer systematic discrimination. And for all that, 43% of Obama appointees have been women (and hey now! Valerie Jarrett’s leg is just visible in this by-now infamous but somewhat misleading photograph). Not to mention that if the GOP had not successfully hounded Susan Rice out of the nomination process last month, we wouldn’t even be having this conversation right now — because the optics of a single woman of color would have been magically enough.

I want to see more women in leadership positions. I want to see more women getting better jobs and better pay and better benefits. And (note to the Republican Party) I want to see women treated as human beings, rather than vessels for the next generation and/or lying sluts who spread our legs and cry rape. I want my daughter and son to see these things, and believe me, I’m hoping that the President surprises us over the next week or two with a couple of women. Press Secretary Jay Carney has suggested that we wait until Obama has actually made all of his appointments before we pass judgement, and given the President’s record, I’m inclined to take the suggestion to heart. If I’m disappointed in the end, I will not hesitate to join those holding Obama’s feet to the fire on the issue. That’s my job as an American citizen, and I take it seriously.

But not a feminist? Not good for women? Somehow pulled the wool over our eyes and tricked all us silly, slow-witted, eyelash-batting wimminz? Just stop it.

We are, as I have said before, in the process of actually recreating humanity right now, and there is simply no way in which any such process could ever be easy or smooth.

In word and deed, in promise and in policy, my President has demonstrated his feminism time and again, making the country in which I live and in which my daughter is coming of age a better, more perfect union. And that is much, much more important to me than an Oval Office headcount.


Hereunder you can watch Joe Scarborough act like a damn fool:


  1. If all we ever care about is headcount, then we don’t really care. If Susan Rice had become Secretary of State, it certainly would not have absolved the administration of trying to place other qualified women/minorities in positions throughout, but it would have put one very strong woman in a position of power to provide an example for other women to fight for those positions.

    It comes down to this: the books cannot be so easily balanced. We can not simply ask the President to stick women and minorities in cabinet posts and other posts throughout the administration to salve our collective conscience and claim that change is coming. Equality, like so many things in our nation, is not a top-down phenomenon, but a multi-layered one. Are those who are so qucik to judge the President also keeping an eye on Wall Street and agitating for boardrooms to be filled with more women? Are they writing letters to corporations asking where the female CEOs are? Are they pushing to get women on local school boards, in mayoral races, and courts?

    If we’re going to have a standard and apply it to the President, we have to apply it everywhere and if we’re not going to put our money where our mouth is, we have no business complaining.

  2. The same ones screaming that Obama doesn’t have enough women in his Cabinet are the same ones who screamed about Susan Rice and BENGHAZI and pushed for Kerry as the State nom. Hypocrisy much, fellahs?
    It would be nice if Obama can easily fill his roster with women… but this only highlights the fact that there aren’t enough women in politics to qualify for enough of these Cabinet posts. THAT’S the real scandal.

  3. Jueseppi B.

     /  January 10, 2013

    Reblogged this on The ObamaCrat.Com™ and commented:
    Very excellently composed and factually true post Ms. Hauser…..thank you for speaking some common sense, logic & critical thinking, on a very fake diversity issue.

  4. Thank you, Ms. Hauser! I wish this could be reposted and tweeted to every talking head who have abused us with this non-story.

    Your statement about ” Systematic discrimination” is not radical, it is simply the truth. President Obama has not let that stop his search for talented, capable individuals of both genders, races and personal persuasion. To accuse him of chauvinism or hypocrisy is so laughable and ridiculous that I can’t begin to explain how anyone can say these things with a straight face.

    And Joe Scarborough is nuts.

  5. You’re right that Obama’s policies are SO much better for women than the GOP’s that it’s hard to mention them in the same sentence. That said, the Obama team has a tendency to be really good on the details and not always effective communicating about the details. It’s similar to what the LGBT community went through after the 2008 election: Obama promised to end DADT right off the bat, then bobbled it for a while, and eventually got to it… all the while appointing LGBT folks to positions that had never been (openly) held by LGBT people. Meanwhile the perception was that he was not a real friend of the community. (Notwithstanding that the GOP was not even making an effort…) And I do wonder whether Susan Rice was more of a sacrificial lamb than an actual candidate for the job. For smart people who run a brilliant campaign, they can sometimes be amazingly dense about controlling the message while governing.

  6. michaelthewriterguy

     /  January 10, 2013

    I agree. Headcount is not as important as how the policies affect women in our society. The President has been a defender and advocate for women’s rights since his first term. Quite honestly, the fact that his cabinet the second terms is shaping up to be male and white is of a lesser significance than the advancement of women in society as a whole.

  7. michaelthewriterguy

     /  January 10, 2013

    Reblogged this on michaelthewriterguy and commented:
    This article was very interesting for its writing style which has both analysis and conviction. The issues pointed out about the president’s second term cabinet reveal that simply because the president has chosen a predominately white and male cabinet does not mean he is sexist, nor misogynistic.

  8. carolmaewy

     /  January 10, 2013

    Run for office women! Lets balance the scale!

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