Feminist Friday: Michelle Obama More than Makes the Grade


This Week in Politics

Lily Ledbetter spoke at the first night of the Democratic National Convention and told her story of — in this day and age, right here — fighting for equal pay for equal work. And very nearly not getting it. As you will see, Ms. Ledbetter is kind of great.

And, really, who can argue for sex discrimination instead of fair pay? Oh, The National Review, that’s who. Charming.

Never mind the Review. Elizabeth Banks couldn’t resist a little squee over meeting Ms. Ledbetter.

Photo courtesy of ElizabethBanks.com

Michelle Obama also made an amazing and moving speech, pretty much taking the night if not the convention. If you haven’t seen it yet, grab a tissue before you dive in.

Eric Ostermeier at Smart Politics noted that the First Lady’s speech was written at a higher grade level than any other speech of a Presidential nominee’s wife. In contrast, Ann Romney’s speech at the Republican National Convention last week was written at the lowest grade level in convention history.

I don’t think this is due to an assumption that one audience is necessarily less bright than the other, but I do think it says interesting things about what we — or at least some of the nation — are starting to expect from our first ladies. It used to be a ceremonial position that was all about decorating the White House, dressing beautifully, and, I don’t know, christening ships or something. (With the notable exceptions of the generally fantastic Eleanor Roosevelt and brains-of-the-outfit Florence Harding and probably Abigail Adams.)

But as our society gets less locked in to gender roles, we’re starting to expect our first ladies to be more than just married to someone who’s the President and able to refrain from picking giblets out of her teeth in front of the cameras. We’re starting to expect Hillary Clinton and Michelle Obama levels of smarts and accomplishment. And we’re starting to expect our Presidents to be interested in and unthreatened by such women. (The next steps, of course, are for society to also expect female or transgendered or intergender Presidents, and to not worry so much about the genders of the people our Presidents are married to.)

I think Ann Romney’s easy-words-and-short-sentences speech may have been a little bit about catching the attention of low-information voters, but I suspect it was much more about making sure that Ms. Romney didn’t appear to be uncomfortably brainy or full of independent opinions. The Republican Party’s astonishingly hard pull to the right over the past several years doesn’t leave much room for women of independent thoughts and careers. Even their big national candidates, Michele Bachmann and Sarah Palin, had to show their not-too-modern street cred: A minimum of five children and some tricky language to navigate about submitting to one’s husband.

I wonder how long the GOP can keep it up and how long Republican women will be able to stand it.

Texts from Bill to Hillary played with that dynamic in a different way.

Photo via Upworthy on Facebook

This Week in Idiocy

Hey, Republicans, your convention is long over. Does that mean you’re out of candidates for national office who have some stupid opinions that involve punishing rape victims? Ha, ha! No, of course not. Apparently the GOP blew a bunch of its massive corporate donations on some sort of magical cornucopia dealio, only instead of having it produce plentiful food because COMMUNISM, they programmed it to keep popping out jerkballs who would like to opine on your ladybits. Good job, political strategists!

Anyway, this latest one is current Congressman and Senate candidate Rick Berg (R – ND), who it turns out supported a bill that would make any woman having an abortion guilty of homicide — even if she did so to save her own life. These guys, huh? They should form a super team called the Empathy Squad.

Holy vacationing physicians, were you aware of how many unnecessary C-sections happen in this country? The Las Vegas Review-Journal covered a rally to draw attention to the problem. Interestingly, since part of the motivation to pressure a woman to deliver by C-section (at greater risk to both mother and child) is that the hospital can charge an insurance company more, it’s one of the few areas of health care in which middle-class and wealthy American women are at greater risk than poor women. It’s almost like the whole for-profit health care system might have a few drawbacks.

This Week in Thinky

Melissa Harris-Perry hit what was, depending on your point of view, either a disconcerting or a refreshing level of are-you-kidding-me on her show this weekend. During a discussion on welfare and class mobility, business writer Monica Mehta started to make a point about the risks the “job creators” take when Harris-Perry stopped her with a pretty great rant — and from a point of view we rarely get to see on television — starting with “What is riskier than living poor in America? Seriously! What in the world is riskier than being a poor person in America?” Here’s the full clip.


Intrigued? AlterNet ran an in-depth article on Harris-Perry and her occasionally controversial career. (And, really, who gets to have a career in the public eye without being controversial to someone?)

Goodness gracious. I haven’t read Naomi Wolf’s latest, but it certainly seems to have struck a nerve at the Guardian. The melee in the comments alone is fascinating.

I don’t even quite know what to do with this item: A pregnant Turkish woman was being blackmailed by her rapist, who had taken nude pictures of her. He had been terrorizing her for months, threatening to send the pictures to her parents unless she had sex with him again. (According to the culture, getting raped was her shame, and even the victim saw it that way.)

So she restored her honor by shooting him, decapitating him, and throwing his head into the town square.

This Week in People To Whom You Must Send Good Wishes Immediately

Judy Blume, author of an astonishing number of young adult books – and not just any old books, but life-changing books if you’re from a certain generation, and books that were honest and real enough to get hidden under countless mattresses and banned, banned, banned — is recovering from a mastectomy. She handles it on her blog with the humor and unflinching honesty you’d expect. Blume just keeps getting more amazing. She might not mind it if you said hi to her on Twitter.

This Week in Awesome

You know what I didn’t know about this year’s Republican National Convention? It was in part protected by a lesbian chief of police. You go, Chief Jane Castor.

In other news of female law enforcement bad-assery, this video of women FBI agents talking about what it means to be a special agent was posted this week. (Hat tip to Keva for the link.)

Yes, I’m pretending all of them are Clarice Starling.

And the Chicago Police Department has adopted a policy to help protect transgender people while in police custody. (Thanks to Bisera for the link.)

The Broad Humor Festival is coming to Venice, CA September 27-30! Hop to!

Oh, let your science-fiction-loving heart soar free! The Mary Sue pointed out that not only were more than half of last weekend’s Hugo award winners women, but most of those works are available to read for free.

Don’t worry gamers — Mary Sue has joy for you, too. Aliens: Colonial Marines will include playable female characters. …After a little nudging from fans, that is. But still: alien-splattering fun all around is the point.

And for those of you who like your women large, in charge and making cool stuff for you to watch, Martha Coolidge thought about how to get more women in positions of power as directors (warning: bummer) and we got a taste of the female directors whose works are playing at the Toronto Film Festival.  

Have a great weekend. Get out there and make your own scenes happen.

Got a news item or slice of awesome for Feminist Friday? Tweet Ali @Ali_Davis.

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