So in the midst of all the (entirely justified) media shitstorm over Rush Limbaugh calling Sandra Fluke a “slut” and “prostitute” who should post sex videos on-line to pay America back for subsidized birth control, I didn’t post about it. I was swamped at my new job, busy fighting about that bullshit in real time on Facebook with unenlightened friends of friends (and maybe even a friend or two, I’m sad to say). Also, frankly, the only response I really had was this:
And I knew y’all pretty much felt the same.
Instead of ranting about Rush Limbaugh and the Republican war on women, I want to take a moment to shout out to Barack Obama, because his behavior throughout this whole shitstorm has been fan-fucking-tastic. I know he’s disappointed liberal voters in a lot of ways. I’m mad that Guantanamo is still open, and really mad about his cowardly slinking around the issue of marriage equality.
When all the absolute worst aspects of the Patriarchy have been on display in our political arena, we have also been treated to some outstanding reminders that our president is a feminist. He’s not only the son of a feminist and married to a feminist, he’s willing to stick his neck out in the election season to defend our right to advocate for ourselves without being degraded or shamed by the religious nutjobs and smacked-out shock jocks from the right.
When asked about Sandra Fluke and why he called her to offer his support, Obama said:
“I thought about Malia and Sasha, and one of the things I want them to do as they get older is to engage in issues they care about, even ones I may not agree with them on,” Mr. Obama said at a televised news conference at the White House. “I want them to be able to speak their mind in a civil and thoughtful way, and I don’t want them attacked or called horrible names because they’re being good citizens.”
A father empowering his daughter to be outspoken and assertive—even if it means challenging his ideas—is a rare and remarkable thing. I had two fathers growing up—my stepfather and my biological father. One encouraged me to speak my mind, to not back down from a fight and even to challenge him if I thought he was wrong. The other preferred me compliant, soft-spoken, and non-confrontational (and would actively shame me if I behaved otherwise). It was a hell of a dichotomy, and it influenced my life in ways that I’m still figuring out to this day…although I think it’s fairly obvious whose influence prevailed.
When Barack Obama makes a point of defending Sandra Fluke, and even calls her to tell her that as a parent, he feels her parents should be proud of her, that’s a big news day in our culture. No other US president would ever have defended a women’s rights activist in such a public way, or made her out to be a good role model for his own children. None of them. Ever. Not even the other liberal Democrats. It set an example for politicians—and fathers—everywhere.
This week I also came across an interview with Obama that ran on Grantland, a sports and pop-culture site with an almost exclusively male readership. The interview is almost entirely about sports, and Obama is definitely a fan of women’s sports as well as men’s. He also actively coaches his daughter Sasha’s basketball team. In the interview, he’s not shy about endorsing female athletes and women’s sports in unambiguous feminist terms:
And what’s great is that women’s athletics, girls’ athletics, I think makes all the difference in the world. I’m 50 now, so I went to high school in the ’70s. We actually went to — I went to a school that had a strong women’s sports team. But it was still not the norm for a lot of girls to participate in a lot of sports teams, and now it’s just second nature. And they’re healthier for it. They learn competition. They learn how to bounce back from adversity. It’s just — it’s a terrific thing to see.
And they’ve got so many role models now because there are so many unbelievable female athletes out there, and they can see that there’s no contradiction between them being strong and tough and beautiful and confident. Yes, it’s a wonderful thing to see.
We live in a misogynist culture. The hatred coming at women from our right-wing commentators and politicians right now is louder and more public than during any election cycle in decades. But the guy we elected in 2008? The one who actually IS in the White House, as opposed to the insane clown posse trying to get there? That dude is a stone-cold supporter of women, and he’s not afraid to put it out there. When Ms. magazine ran their famous Obama cover in 2008, people said it was too early, and we just didn’t know yet. Now we do know. He’s my badass feminist President, and I love him.