Women Like Me--Michelle's speech and PUMAs
by iamold, Tue Aug 26, 2008 at 10:32:42 AM EDT
Crossposted from user nj mom at dailykos
Tue Aug 26, 2008 at 09:07:43 AM PDT
By superficial measures, you might mistake me for a Republican.
Having put on hold 10 years ago a very successful career, I am a dedicated full-time mother with three young children who is an active community volunteers and, yes, even occasionally bakes cookies. As a practicing Catholic, I go to church regularly, think life is sacred and work actively to instill a sense of values in my children. My husband works in finance, and we benefitted from the Bush tax cuts.
I could be a Republican but yet I am a true progressive Dem, bringing my children with me to political rallies, the Million Mom March, door-to-door canvassing, phone banks, and most recently the Women for Obama event in NYC. I'm not alone--there are millions of women like me. Michelle's speech gave me hope that the Obamas get women like me.
While I understand the struggles of the generation before me, I am often frustrated by some proclaimed feminists' narrowness in defining a fulfilling life. I exist in the grey edges of the traditional democratic demographic. I could easily be Republican, but I'm not. Understanding women like me can grow our coalition. An enthusiastic supporter of Obama, I waited and hoped he'd bring a nuance understanding of today's women's issues in the same way he has a nuanced understandings of race. With Michelle Obama's speech last night, I have hope.
If I ask myself, given my profile, what makes me a passionate, active progressive Democrat, it comes down to one main thing: empathy and a deep understanding of the value of community. It is the "we" and not just the "me".
Partly, this comes from my background. My husband and I live a comfortable life now, affording me economic freedom to choose to put my career on hold while my children are young--a choice sadly becoming less and less of an option for most Americans. Yet I was raised in a single-parent home for most of my childhood, with my mother briefly on welfare in the early 1970's when she was newly divorced and alone with two young babies and had to practically beg to be taken seriously enough for a decent job to support her family. As a result, I have empathy for those who occasionally need a hand to help through a rough spot and empathy for parents who struggle to raise children on their own or a child who grows up, as Barack did, with a hole in their heart from a missing parent.
What the Obamas recognize--and frankly what Republicans have emphasized is that families are built---they don't just happen. They take time and energy and choices from both men and women. When I see how Michelle and Barack have struggled to keep their family strong, even in the midst of a national campaign, I know that they get it.
It is within our families that we first learn about empathy for others ("How do you think your sister felt when you grabbed that out of her arms?"), it is where we move beyond ourselves to understand that we are not solo in this world but interconnected--like the thread Michelle spoke about. It is within our families and our other communities that we learn we have a responsibility not just to ourselves but to others as well. It is why I would fiercely attack anyone harming a child in my presence, regardless if that child is my own. It is why I spend the time volunteering in my children's schools and as a Girl Scout leader and a volunteer for local civic organizations. It is also why I think there should be universal health care, and why we need to protect the environment and, frankly, it is why we pay taxes. It is why I am a Democrat.
When I see the overblown media reports of hard-core PUMAs and McCain's political plays for die-hard Clinton supporters, I see an attempt to drive a wedge between women and especially between the old feminists and the new. PUMAs, unfortunately, are the ultimate manifestation of "me"--so wrapped up in their identity politics that they'll bring the community down with them. When you look at the choices I've made in my life, especially those that don't involved climbing a career ladder or breaking a glass-ceiling, some of yesterday's feminists might say I'm wasting my time. I say building communities whether that is your family, or your township, or even your network of women executives at the office, is NEVER a waste of time. It is the heart of and soul of what gives life meaning and value and something that we, as women who bring life into this world feel intensely in our being. The Obama's get that in a fundamental and real way. Indeed, much of the success of their organizing efforts, I would argue, are centered around understanding the power of "we."
In Michelle and Barack's love for each other and struggle to find a way to balance their own professional goals with their family needs, I see them struggling what all of us struggle with -the right balance between "me" and "we". Today's feminists recognize there are many different paths that lead to a fulfilling woman's life, and that my choices don't diminish yours. Today's feminists recognize there are many different ways to balance the needs a families and individuals, while recognizing the self-care needs of both women and men.Today's feminists recognize that all women and even men struggle with these issues and have a common thread regardless of the outward look of their choices. Today's feminists recognize that kids don't raise themselves and communities don't build themselves. In the great words of Hillary Clinton, it truly does take a village. We are part of that village and today's feminists -vast and diverse and strong--recognize the "we" as well as the "me". The Obamas--Michelle and Barack together-- get that in a powerful way. Don't let the GOP or the media or anyone else tell us othewise.