In the last two days, we have had the opportunity to hear two remarkable speeches from two remarkable women. And despite the fact that these women probably agree on a lot of issues, despite the fact that they are both members of the same political party, both grew up in Illinois, both went to prestigious schools on the East Coast, both got high-powered law degrees, both married up-and-coming young lawyers on the road to incredible political careers, they are so different. One of these women is the Senator from New York and the wife of our 42nd President, Hillary Rodham Clinton. The other is the wife of the Senator from Illinois and candidate to become our 44th President, Michelle Robinson Obama.
Wait — that sounds funny, doesn’t it? Michelle doesn’t need to remind people about the family of her birth. Michelle doesn’t need to hyphenate. The fact is that the feminism of women born in the 60s and 70s is very different from the feminism of women born in the 40s and 50s. While some of the issues remain the same, the context is changed and our reaction is different. Brilliant Jill tells us a little about that old school feminism:
I remember early feminism. I remember the feminism of the affluent suburbs during the early 1970’s, when women whose husbands had high-powered jobs or had inherited money, who in the stately colonials of Westfield, New Jersey, held consciousness-raising groups about how oppressed they were. Early-stage feminism had little common cause with the women slinging eggs over easy at the diner, or cleaning the bedpans in the hospitals and nursing homes, or the ones teaching their children. It was about restrictive country clubs and examining their own vaginas. You could almost understand this in the early stages of a movement. Those who need it the most are too busy trying to keep a roof over their heads and don’t have time for activism.
When Hillary was in college, the Supreme Court had to make birth control pills legal; it would be years until Roe v. Wade made abortion legal. Michelle has always lived in a world where women could control when (and if) they wanted to have children.
As Hillary herself pointed out, NASA wouldn’t even talk to her about being an astronaut because she was a girl. Today women may still only make $0.77 for every $1 earned by a man, but women at least have the opportunity to enter almost any profession.
Hillary wears pantsuits to show us all she is just as good as any man. Chelsea wore a suit with a skirt, and looked as if she needed no man’s approval to begin the board meeting. Much has already been made of Michelle’s fashion choices. She doesn’t need to dress like a man to show her authority in the office, the courtroom, or the home.
Hillary’s generation worked hard to achieve, to make it known that a woman could achieve. Michelle can do whatever she wants: stay at home mom; career at a top law firm; charitable work in our communities. She can do this because we already take it as fact that women can.
It was appropriate to mark yesterday as the 88th anniversary of women getting to vote. My grandmother was not quite born yet. Hillary’s grandmother very likely remembered the day and cherished her first Election Day as a voter.
Hillary noted the start of the women’s rights movement going back to 1848 in a place called Seneca Falls. I prefer to take it back to Abigail Adams entreating John Adams to remember the ladies and “Do not put such unlimited power in the hands of the husbands” as Mr. Adams helped write the Declaration of Independence. Don’t forget that Abigail was wife to one President and mother to another.
The torch is being passed from our feminist predecessors to a new, “third wave” or “post-feminist” generation. We hope to take it gracefully and without being burned. The unique issues facing women today are different than the ones our mothers and grandmothers and great-grandmothers faced. And if we greet those challenges on higher ground, it is because we are lifted on the shoulders of those mothers and grandmothers. And if those mothers and grandmothers do not understand that we don’t have to wear pants or don’t like the way we choose to balance our careers and families, so be it. We will still thank them for having been there.
In closing: Learning styles are bunk; if “Idle hands are the Devil’s workshop”, then it’s important that almost half of Iraqi adults are unemployed (gee, maybe people with jobs don’t have time to make IEDs, eh?); Business Week on the Enron Legacy; the Winners of the Bad Boss Contest have been announced; problems at a controversial prison? Just move all the staff and prisoners to a nice clean new prison! What could possibly go wrong?; business travelers switching to chartered jets has revealed a little deregulation problem; 30 years of Lego mini-figures; Carrie on immigrant round-ups (funny how they didn’t arrest any of the bosses who hired those thousand illegal immigrants); Unbossed on arbitration agreements; you go, Dennis!; and finally, Blue Bees.
By the way, there have been some updates in the Links. You might want to check out the new stuff.