I understand why Barack Obama admires Beyonce. Like him, she is smart, hardworking, forthright and demands respect. Besides, his closest advisor likes her. A lot. But it strikes me that, hard as it may be to imagine, President Obama isn’t totally enamored of Beyonce.
Think that’s not possible? Think that doesn’t matter? Think again. Even though even Beyonce is a feminist, the President isn’t liking that idea so much these days.
“Who run the world? Girls! Who run this motha? Girls! Some of them men think they freak this like we do; but no they don’t; disrespect us no they won’t; my persuasion can build a nation,” Beyonce sings.
And then she speaks: Here she is recently on the matter of equal pay for equal work: “You know, equality is a myth, and for some reason, everyone accepts the fact that women don’t make as much money as men do. I don’t understand that. Why do we have to take a backseat?”
The Oxford English Dictionary defines feminism this way: “…the advocacy of women’s rights on the ground of the equality of the sexes.” No doubt, Beyonce stands on this ground as her feminist generation’s most influential feminist standard bearer.
It is truly odd that President Obama isn’t in sync with Beyonce and the rest of us feminists. After all, he is the only president who has appointed two women to the U.S. Supreme Court, a woman to run homeland security and two women as White House deputy chiefs-of-staff. His closest advisors are two incredibly strong and smart women whose feminist credentials are in good working order. Here is one, Valerie Jarrett, recommending today that women who care for this president: “Speak up,” (Just the kind of thing us care-for-President-Obama, got-him-elected feminists do).
Valerie’s is great advice and so I am wondering: Why is the president so out of sync these days?
Apparently because he prefers strategizing the game in the boys’ locker room, notwithstanding that, during the fall 2012 campaign, he bragged he would do otherwise, no assist needed: “We don’t have to order up some binders to find qualified, talented, driven young women….”
Maybe, it was the “young” that’s gotten President Obama into this trouble. Like the men qualified for the highest level presidential appointments, qualified women have a lot of experience. They’re just not young anymore.
But, I don’t think so. I do think Jay Carney said what President Obama actually thinks: “White House spokesman Jay Carney said the president speaks with a number of diverse candidates for various positions and selects who he thinks is the right person for the job. ‘It’s not uniform, it’s a broad sentiment and he believes the country is served by a process that does seek out the diverse talent in this country for different positions.”
OK, Jay; that’s all well and good, but we learned after these remarks that: “…among the big boy (Obama Cabinet) jobs, there are no girls,” as Washington Post columnist Ruth Marcus put it to NBC’s Andrea Mitchell. The Post’s Chris Cillizza then underscored Marcus’s point, saying: “…all Cabinet jobs are not created equal.” Indeed.
And then there is the matter of the chief-of-staff job. Not a “big boy” Cabinet job, but at least as big.
Historians report that most presidents spend their second term shoring up their legacy, by locking in first term domestic policy victories and focusing on foreign policy. The president’s chief-of-staff is responsible for making sure this all happens. Now, there’s a really, really “big boy job.” It’s been reported that Denis McDonough, a man with strong foreign policy credentials, will be named to it. He is a man who literally grew up in the boys’ locker room.
Did Michèle Flournoy’s name ever come up publicly in the run up to McDonough’s apparently imminent appointment? Not to my knowledge, though she was considered qualified enough on foreign policy matters to be Defense Secretary. Now, I’m not plumping for Flournoy, but she has advised Obama for years and possesses other credentials he seriously likes: a Harvard degree and experience in the Clinton administration.
I am saying that Flournoy’s present status (no Obama “big boy job”) highlights the problem with President Obama’s current stance: commitment to listening to those who “speak up” and to “diversity,” is one thing, but commitment to “run this motha” is quite another.
“…(D)iversity helps to create more effective policy making, and better decision making for me, because it brings different perspectives to the table,” said President Obama on Monday. But all tables aren’t equal. Yes, there will be women sitting at many of his tables. But the head official table will be only men.
Last time, President Obama promised his cabinet “…would look like America.” This time, that isn’t sufficient to the need. Been there. (Been everywhere, in fact.) Done that (Superbly, by all counts.) Proved our bonafides. (Literally, ad nauseum.) This time, we women want to be America. We want to “run this motha.” As Beyonce points out: “(Our) persuasion can build a nation.” And, boys, do you need us nation-building now.
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