Saturday, February 23, 2008

The reason why Obama is the change we've been waiting for

Do you ever have one of those moments where the world doesn't change in an instant, but rather you change your perspective 180 degrees and see things from a totally new angle? I had one of those radical moments today, coming after weeks studying the Obama-Clinton matchup. I've been supporting Obama since John Edwards dropped out of the race, and my enthusiasm for Obama has kept growing. Today I could see why Obama is literally "the change we have been waiting for," and why Clinton's campaign is failing to catch fire with young people.

Obama is creating a movement toward participatory government, one that will require much more of its citizens. It's crazy that this has not already happened. We waged war against a major oil-producing country, and yet we have not been asked to conserve in any meaningful way. In the face of environmental crisis, war, and poverty, our main civic duties have been to keep spending like greedy little consumers, and not ask too many questions.

That's been about Bush. Obama or Clinton would mark a significant change from Bush, and don't disagree that much on policy issues. So what is the difference between them? Boomer women see Hillary as the change they have been working toward for years. 1970's Feminists get angry with younger women who support Obama, and question whether we have ignored the lessons of Feminism. Don't we get it that our hard-fought rights are still under fire? How could we turn our back on the opportunity to elect a female President? Are we gender traitors, ungrateful, ignorant, or suffering from false consciousness?

I vote for None of the Above. As of today, for the first time I feel like Feminism is no longer the movement we need to drive social change. This is hard for me to even write. Although I majored in neuroscience rather than women's studies, I have always proudly called myself a Feminist. I still believe in the core values and and principles of Feminism, but here's the switch in perspective: I pulled my friend Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner's book The F-Word: Feminism in Jeopardy off the shelf this morning. Kristin writes about young women being active in their communities, informed about issues, and yet turning out to vote at very low levels. Only about one third of women ages 18 to 24 voted in 2000, compared to 65% of women over age 44. I have read her book before, and in the past, I have always interpreted that to mean that there was something wrong with young women, and we should try to find new ways to bring them in to the Feminist movement. But now I am have come to believe that the Second Wave, 1070's Feminist movement was an effort rooted in a particular place and time in American history, and that it is the movement that needs to change, and politics that needs to change, to resonate with young people.

Hillary Clinton is the logical culmination of Boomer Feminists' march toward success. I can understand why they are frustrated that just as they think their/her moment has come, the younger generations are not getting on board. But growing up in the aftermath of the battles of the 1970's is very different than being on the front lines. We do take some of our rights for granted. Is this a success or failure of Feminism? I call it a success, though I realize the absolute danger of complacency.

There are many tough challenges ahead, but I don't think we need a new "wave" of Feminism to tackle them. I would like to see women and men working toward gender justice, and people of all races working toward racial justice. This is what I see in Obama's campaign. Of course Clinton cares about these issues, but Boomer Feminists have alienated us by insisting that we draw political lines based on gender.

Clinton is qualified to be President, but in my opinion she is not the best choice because of the Dynasty issue (20 years of Bushes and Clintons, do we really want it to be 24 or 28?). Politics as usual is fueled by loyalty above all and we have created loyalty gridlock by handing the Presidency back and forth between these two families for twenty years. In addition, there is residual resentment toward Bill and his shenanigans, even among Democrats, and every time he shows up in the campaign it's a 1990's flashback. Clinton surrogates struck dischord every time they acted like she was entitled to win. A co-chair of Clinton's campaign in Michigan said, "Superdelegates are not second-class delegates," says Joel Ferguson, who will be a superdelegate if Michigan is seated. "The real second-class delegates are the delegates that are picked in red-state caucuses that are never going to vote Democratic." Way to give up on and practically disenfranchise those of us in the so-called "Red" states. (Guess the Clinton campaign didn't learn from Howard Dean's successful 50-state strategy in 2006.) I know that Obama will be competing for North Carolina in the general election, should he become the nominee.

It would be a huge milestone to have a women fill the role of President, but Hillary is ultimately an insider, not the change candidate. Obama is poised to reach the benchmark of a million people contributing to his campaign, many small donors who chip in $10 or $25. At the same time, a pro-Hillary 527 group is trying to raise $10 million--$100,000 each from 100 donors. Which campaign, and resulting Presidency, would be "owned" by the people?

These thoughts are a work in progress, and I am sure my Feminist elders would not be pleased by my change of heart. My bottom line is that it is not us who needs to change to conform to a movement, but it is the movement--Feminism, Humanism, Participatory Democracy, Grassroots Wildfire--that needs to change to draw us in.

I am working to support Obama,, Lillian's List of North Carolina, and Women for Women International, among other causes. If my worldview doesn't make sense to older Feminists, maybe they should try looking at things from a new perspective.

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Blogger Amy@UWM said...

Couldn't agree with you more on all points. Movements are about overcoming obstacles. The Feminist Movement as it existed in the 60s and 70s is no longer necessary because women no longer face the same obstacles that they did back then. Gen X women -- the product of the 60s Feminist movement -- are so secure in knowing that a woman in the White House is not a matter or IF, but WHEN, that they're willing to wait for the right one to come along.

8:29 AM  
Blogger WordyDoodles said...

Publish this far and wide! If second wavers are so offended that younger feminists don't follow them meekly to Clinton's camp, they need to ask themselves why their leadership failed to engage the next generation. They also need to accept that the next generation's feminist leadership is going to look and act very different from theirs.

7:32 PM  
Blogger MojoMom said...

Thanks for your supportive comments. This post means a lot to me. I am working on a follow-up piece that I hope to place in a visible outlet. Keep your fingers crossed for me!

7:55 PM  
Blogger CK Holder said...

Of all the hard work that women have put in to gain traction in this country, once we get the rules down pat, they change them. Hillary might be "dynasty" but she's the first woman put up there to represent us in over 20 years - if you count the last as Geraldine Ferraro. She's done everything it takes to become a contender and suddenly, we don't want experience but another fresh-faced man. A man is not a change.

Don't get me wrong, I like Obama, I'm just a little disillusioned as to what kind of change he's going to bring. Better speaches? More voters? Other than that, I'll have to wait and see what's behind the fluff.

For every flaw in one, I see a flaw in the other and both major candidates will be a welcome change from Bush, but I want more than warm fuzzies. I don't want to elect someone who makes me feel good or looks good on TV. I want a president who will represent me and work just as hard as I have all these years to keep me from staying a second class citizen.

8:48 PM  
Blogger MojoMom said...

How can you say that Obama would not create change just because he is a man?

Either Obama or Clinton will bring huge change--especially compared to the Bush administration.

If something resembling a feminist movement is going to move forward, we are going to have to accept the fact that a large number women are excited about Obama as well as Clinton.

I respect those who choose Clinton. I don't respect attacks from women, like Robin Morgan's recent diatribe, who use their definition of feminist orthodoxy to slam me for supporting Obama.

6:50 AM  
Blogger Robyn said...

I do not get this blind support of Hillary Clinton based on gender. Come on people, can we get excited about the fact that we have such a diverse ticket in the running for the democratic nomination? This is what I hate about "boomer feminism" as you refer to it, and in fact the word "feminist" itself- there seems to be the disillusion that being a woman automatically makes you superior. I do not always agree, even in this case. Can we be honest here and admit that Hillary Clinton would not be the position she is in with regards to the nomination if her husband were not president for eight years. No disrespect to her work as senator or as first lady, but the notoriety definitely would not be present. I agree with the dynasty issue-I wonder how it looks from an outsider's perspective? I feel it is extremely dismissive to say Obama is just another man in the White House. I refuse to believe that. I applaud your courage to speak so candidly on this issue in such a public way.

12:26 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It seems to me any Democrat coming into office after Bush will be change--so I don't get the big deal about this word's use in this campaign, and what kind of change will Obama bring that Clinton won't--specifically? I'm not talking about a change in perception--but real specific change--within the issues. That has never been clarified--for me at least.

And why does Clinton have to be seen as "less than" or older feminist for that matter? You will be older one day and understand this divide better--it's always here--not changing. I'm not that old either--am not a first wave feminist--not even close--but I understand the value of both experience and freshness--of both Obama and Clinton. Why the divisiveness that comes from the Obama camp? Why can't people be happy for him w/out taking away from her.

Also--you are not awake if you don't see the sexism issues in this campaign--and in the media's treatment and representation of Clinton. She has not run the best campaign, so some of this is of her own making, but there are some real concerns when it comes the role of sexism in this election.

This post--very much the same as all the post from women in Obama's camp--makes me very sad.

3:48 PM  

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