Monday, June 9, 2008

The Feminist Hammer Keeps on Tapping

Rebecca Traister’s most recent blog on certainly made me stop for a second. I nearly threw up my hands in dismay and prepared myself to write a loathing review of her words. In fact, I made that snap decision only about half way through the article itself. I’m glad I had the self control to finish what I’d started and that I didn’t run right off to vent through my keyboard. She actually had some (and I mean “some” literally) good points.

The first portion of her blog is rather inflammatory in my opinion, and I rather took umbrage at her opening paragraphs. They seemed unnecessarily harsh and they seemed to use the language that each and every single journalist I have loathed for their political coverage of the women taking part in the 2008 presidential campaign – candidates and candidates’ wives together. It was blunt; it was infuriating; I wanted to throw things at it. As I try not to regularly throw things at my computer, I settled for seething on my couch instead.

I kept reading. I tried to give Ms. Traister the benefit of the doubt. After all, we don’t all support the same candidate. But what I couldn’t understand was that this woman claimed to be a Hillary supporter – or at least claimed that she had voted for her and voted for her because of legitimate reasons, not just because she was a woman. And I’m glad I continued. Though her elucidation on the subject remained rather caustic in my opinion, she came back around towards the end and remembered that Sen. Clinton is a woman making history with every election-step she takes. Her speech on Saturday was moving and powerful, and while she amply took the opportunity to throw her support wholeheartedly behind Sen. Obama, she also remembered to pat not only herself on the back but all the women who have stood before her and behind her on this history changing campaign. She remembered the octogenarians who were born before women had the right to vote in America. She remembered the young women she inspired and the children whose parents brought them to rallies and were reminded that they could be anything they wanted to be when they grew up.

My personal favorite moments: the 18,000,000 cracks in the glass ceiling; and the story about the old woman who cast her absentee ballot from her hospice bed and passed away. Her vote couldn’t be counted because she was no longer living so her husband, who hadn’t voted in 40+ years, went to the primary and voted for Sen. Clinton in his wife’s memory.

There’s no way around the fact that Sen. Clinton has become a polarizing figure in American politics. To me, she will always be the first woman to successfully run a major, nationwide, campaign for the highest office in the land. She will always be the woman who was derided for standing by her husband in the face of national scrutiny of an affair. She will always be the woman who spoke her mind and relentlessly pursued her goals – traits men would be praised for, she was ridiculed and called a ball-buster or fake. Whether Sen. Obama or Sen. McCain win the White House in November, this has been a historical primary season and Sen. Clinton has been one of the pivotal pieces of making it historic.

That was the final point I decided to take from Rebecca Traister’s blog earlier tonight. I decided to stare past what I found offensive and ugly and see the over-arching message I desperately wanted to see in an article that claimed to see the feminist hammer knocking on the glass wall between women across the country and the Oval Office.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Women Under Forty PAC Summer BBQ Bash

I am consistently inspired by the women I work with and interact everyday in Washington. Even more so, I am always awestruck by the number of women I see and meet at events in Washington who are giving their all to the cause of encouraging young women to strive for more but who are not actually from the District. They come from all over the country; they come for many reasons that aren't always central to that message; and they always make the effort to donate their time and resources to furthering the wonderful cause of Running Start and the Women Under 40 PAC(WUFPAC).

Last night, I was thrilled to join these women at the WUFPAC Summer BBQ event on Capitol Hill. There was great food, excellent conversation and only a little rain. Actually it rained a lot. So much so that we were running back and forth between the tent outside and the inside of the townhouse, throwing caution to the wind and not really caring how soaked we got. Everyone laughed about the weather and found themselves suddenly standing next to new people as they dashed in from the storm and back out again as the night cleared and rained repeatedly. I spoke with women from all walks of life - private industry, non-profit, staffers from both the House and Senate side - and they all were excited about the same message: We need more young women in elected offices. We need to see them running and winning earlier so that we can see things happen with them at a younger age. I want to see the changes that women working together, across political party lines, for the greater good of our country. And working together, organizations like Running Start and the WUFPAC are going to make these goals happen. They need all of our support.

I had a great time at this event. Everyone was so excited to be there and see the wonderful turn out, and everyone wanted to talk about how great it would be if we had more young women involved in politics. Given the fact that the only thing I seem to see covered on the news anymore is the presidential primaries, it was a relief to talk about something else - elections of the future when the young women who benefit from programs like Running Start's Path to Politics and Young Women's Political Leadership Retreat will succeed and accomplish things that politicians today ignore or brush under the rug as though problems will just go away if you don't see them or discuss them.

I had the chance to talk to the President of WUFPAC, Jessica Grounds. She is so inspiring and so excited to see young women get involved in politics and, true to any organization leader, she was amazingly everywhere at once, greeting former Member of Congress Pat Schroder (who was a woman under 40 when she was first elected!) and Representative Tim Ryan (OH-17) as they arrived, making sure everyone was taken care of and still making time to chat with young women interested in politics and running for office. In addition to Jessica, I got the chance to talk to Karen O'Connor and Barbara Palmer, both distinguished professors at American University who run the Women & Politics Institute there. Both were wonderful and kind and eager to answer my many questions about their careers and their dedication to the cause of bringing women to politics.

By the time I left I had consumed delicious BBQ, discussed important current events and future politics and met many men and women putting themselves out there to get more women involved in politics. I wish more fundraisers and political receptions left me with such a great feeling and bounce in my step despite the fact that the rain continued, and I was soaked to the skin by the time I got home.