Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Mixed Emotions

The entire country is focused on last night's election outcome, including me, so it seems fitting to write one more political post before I revert to the hum drum descriptions of our little life here. Bear with me, this is not my comfort zone.

I am very happy with the outcome of the election. I want to state that first. I voted for Obama, and I am glad that his victory is definitive. For the first time since 1996, I backed a winning candidate, and it feels good and validating. I hope, with a Congress that is a bit more aligned with the presidency, we can actually get some stuff done around here. We can shift our attention a little from all the issues the previous administration used to keep us scared, the way they hammered us about all the different enemies that surround us, creating an atmosphere of fear. Hopefully we can make some strides toward economic stability, good healthcare options (although I think Barack needs a little help on that one), and educational programs that work. Most importantly, I think, when tested, Obama will rise to any occasion and will do an admirable job.

Having said that, I still find myself somewhat sad today. Even with my emotional, exhausted, hormonal state that leaves me teary eyed at every TV show and commercial that I watch, I don't find myself moved to tears of joy over his victory. Instead, I find myself doubting the first sentence of Barack's victory speech from last night:

"If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible, who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time, who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer."

Last night, we elected the first African American President in our history, truly a historic moment. But what does that really say? Racial divides and tensions are deep seated, and this does break down some barriers. But in my opinion, the barriers between black and white were already being attacked with battering rams. What about the subtler, or less attention-grabbing tensions that exist? The stronger, more camouflaged barriers that are still holding strong? Does the election of Barack Obama mean that a Hispanic American now stands a chance of being elected? An Asian American? A Muslim American or a Jewish American? I am not so sure of that.

What saddens me the most, however, is that we seem no closer to gender equality. Perhaps selfishly, as a female, this concerns me the most. I think I could only cry tears of joy for an election that puts a woman in the White House, and today I am struck by the possibility of never seeing that happen in my lifetime. The divide between sexes is universal and deep seated, far more so than the tensions that exist between any two races or ethnicities. We still live in a time where women can hold the same position as men, and get paid less for it, or receive fewer opportunities for promotion. Our educational systems and workforce regulations are still geared toward a male population. While there have been some strides toward incorporating child-bearing and -raising in the workplace, it does not go far enough. For example, I will receive 6 weeks of paid leave to recover from childbirth and incorporate a new child into the family, and I will receive an additional 6 weeks of unpaid leave on top of that. Frankly, that's just not enough time. I am fortunate to work for a large company, which is beholden to the FMLA rules. If I worked for a small company, I would only be guaranteed the amount of vacation time I managed to accrue before going in to labor. In my opinion, both of those options suck, though one is of course worse than the other.

Yes, you could argue that we got closer this year, with Hillary Clinton making a substantial bid for the presidency. But she didn't win the nomination. Maybe because of who she is (those Clintons can be very polarizing), or maybe because this country is not ready for a female president. Others point to Sarah Palin, who had the opportunity to become the first female Vice President. But honestly, I think her selection as the running mate for John McCain was actually a step backward, a slap in the face toward legitimate female politicians. Yes, she is tenacious, and she must have some smarts to get as far as she has. But she is self-serving, and NOT smart in the areas where a country's leader must be smart - she cannot think on her feet, and maintain a didactic knowledge of the problems and potential solutions facing all of us. To put her one step from the presidency was an insane idea, and it shows disrespect to our intelligence.

I'll be watching, over the next 4 or 8 years, for how or if this election has really changed the political and cultural landscape in America. And you can bet your ass that I'm going to be keeping my eye out for that potential her, the promising woman who can do it, transcend those gender barriers and prove that women really are equals in every way that matters. I'm still hoping I'll see it.

OK, off my soapbox - Finn updates to follow soon.


  1. I agree with your thoughts here. I can't think of who will be a female front runner for either the Republican or Democratic party any time soon. It will have to be like Obama - someone who bursts onto the scene and isn't alreay polarizing like Palin or Pelosi. At least I can feel good (for now) about voting Obama into office. Like you it's the first time since 1996 I've sided with the rest of the nation. Oops, I guess that happened in 2000 too. Yes, I went there...

  2. I agree with you A. It's kind of disheartening to think about the lack of strong women in politics (whose opinions I respect) - possibly McCaskill or Sebellius, but they don't hold a candle to Hillary and what she stands for (at least to me). That said, I do feel good about voting for Obama - it's actually the first time since I guess 1996 that I was actually excited to cast my vote. Small steps, I guess.

  3. I always predicted it was a male of color (hispanic or black) that would get elected before a woman. If one is elected it would probably have to be like this election - where voters were driven by message of change and wanted a new face of politics to go along with that message.

  4. I think there's really only one solution here, ALLISON FOR PRESIDENT!!!!!!