Lately I’ve been hearing a lot of American women eagerly throw their support behind the Obama administration, especially in recent weeks with multiple blatant assaults by the GOP on women’s rights. But if my president supports that women in other nation states live in situations of violence, oppression, and hate, and even furthers these situations, it is all but impossible to deduce that this individual cares about women’s rights at all. Where is our global solidarity? Women after all, exist all across the globe. Our social class transcends party politics. All of these thoughts drove me to ask myself whether American women support Obama out of self-interest, instead of women’s rights, as it is so often referred.
The illusion of a functioning democracy that existed in American minds has withered considerably in recent years. This has not stopped bigoted pushes by conservatives to assert their domination and oppression over women. Representative (which he is clearly not) Todd Akin was quoted as saying “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.” Which is clearly not a scientific fact and is, of course, extremely ignorant. This was followed soon after by Paul Ryan’s statement in an interview that rape is just another “method of conception.” In April, Governor Jan Brewer, of everyone’s favorite state for women and immigrants, Arizona, signed into law the “Women’s Health and Safety Act.” The law states that women are pregnant two weeks before the actual conception of the child. This act directly targets women who must wait to get tested after their 20th week of pregnancy for health problems with the fetus, making it illegal after 22 weeks to get an abortion.
Deep seeded cultural sexism has been surfacing in American society too. Everyone remembers Tosh.O’s disturbingly persistent shots fired at a female member of the audience who was brave enough to vocalize that “rape jokes are never funny.” He responded with the following: 'Wouldn’t it be funny if that girl got raped by like, 5 guys right now? Like right now? What if a bunch of guys just raped her…’ Or the Thomas Pink men’s clothing company’s fall campaign that I walked by in Midtown yesterday, which depicts 50’s styled women who appear excited about the new non-iron shirts that will cut down their ironing time for their husband’s clothes.
This openness without fear of consequence to participate in such language and action constitutes such an utter disrespect for women as autonomous political, cultural, and most importantly, whole beings. Yet, there has not been an overwhelming organization or backlash by women to confront such occurrences. The GOP has an agenda that is dangerous and serious for every American woman. If they win, not only in the executive, but the legislative, and the judicial (3 Supreme Court justices will turn 80 over the next presidential term), there is a considerable chance of losing progressive ground. This scenario may cause a reaction from women, but ultimately that reaction will be channeled into support for the only other choice.
While this conservative momentum builds, the Democrats are playing up their strength in what they perceive as the other’s weakness. The two party binary serves for conservative viewpoints to be resisted by the other party, in this case: the Democratic Party. This limited scope, among vast and ever infinitely expanding knowledge, is designed intentionally as the framework within which to discuss our complex rights to be women and fully human in our womanliness. Notice one of Obama’s campaign slogans is “Women FOR Obama.” Why is this not “Obama FOR Women”? How did our power to choose a representative that is in the best interest for our demographic become a brainwashed cheerleading practice? The Democrats love their illusionary role as the GOP’s perfect opposite. This is logical from their perspective because this will ultimately bring them more electoral votes. American politics is constructed like a competition, must I remind you.
American women are being led to believe the Democrats are the “lesser of two evils” in this political structure that is always presented as a concrete fixture. But how can we overlook the obvious fact that these are men making decisions for women? That fact is hugely disregarded. Such an act is present in BOTH American political parties, an act that reaffirms that we are not capable of making decisions for ourselves, or to write our own manifestas and history, to firmly state our rights and freedoms.
If I am an authentic believer in asserting my right as a woman to be fully human, that notion must include all women. Women exist globally. Therefore my analysis must be one that extends worldwide across race, ethnicity, class, and many combinations of these factors working in synergy.
To support the Obama administration (especially through a vote) is to support an administration that knowingly and willingly kills and injures women through both military regime and economic enslavement, and supports the oppression of women as workers, mothers, and autonomous beings with autonomous bodies.
In December 2009, Obama ordered a US air strike in Yemen, which killed “scores of civilians, including women and children.” The US backs the dictatorship in Yemen, and coordinated the strike with the president Ali Abdallah Saleh. This is among many drone strikes that have killed or injured civilians. The Bureau of Investigative Journalism reports that at least 551 civilians have been killed in drone strikes in Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia by the Obama administration.
Obama presented Free Trade Agreements in Colombia and Panama for congressional approval after President Bush had signed the agreements in 2006 and 2007. The Colombian FTA established no conditions for reducing killings of trade unionists (including 34 in the past two years). In 2010 the Obama administration provided political and financial support to Haiti’s 2010 elections, and then following the elections first round, threatened to suspend aid, thereby affecting many families, to modify the results of the election.
Obama openly supports administrations in Brazil, Chile, and El Salvador. All three of these state governments have documented women’s rights abuses, including the criminalization of abortion, and illegal divorce in Chile until the year 2004.
In April, Obama hosted members of the Muslim Brotherhood at the White House, whose ideology rests on the enforcement of Sharia Law, discriminating against women in both law and religion. These are a few examples, among countless others, that can describe that Obama is indeed not FOR women. To be for women is to be for women everywhere, and his actions illustrate otherwise.
Solidarity can only be possible through an understanding of intersectionality, a global analysis. A fight for our rights could only exist in a dialogue that is concerned with the rights of women everywhere. The Combahee River collective wrote in 1977, “The inclusiveness of our politics makes us concerned with any situation that impinges upon the lives of women, Third World and working people. We are of course particularly committed to working on those struggles in which race, sex, and class are simultaneous factors in oppression.”
As American women, and as women of the global North, our privilege is apparent. We must ask ourselves why we are angry with the GOP for their direct oppression and disrespect of women, but not angry with the Democrats, who equally participate in oppression of women as a social class? This fact is largely unrecognized and downplayed in the mainstream media. Are we quick to support the Obama administration because it is in our best interest, and not necessarily because we care about the rights of women’s liberation? Look deeper into yourself. Yes, it is better for our concrete situation. Does it justify the violence our sisters live through because of choices made by both administrations? It simply cannot.
I say this with the firm assertion that we should act in our best interests. Women have too many oppressors not to afford themselves self worth. This piece is not to say that there are no differences. The differences are clear, and are even constructed to appear as stark contrasts to one another. We should work strategically. As Chomsky said this year “A sensible revolutionary will try to push reform to the limits, for two good reasons. First, because the reforms can be valuable in themselves…Secondly, on strategic grounds, you have to show that here are limits to reform.“ Chepe Martin furthers this point in stating, “With the election of Democrats, we gradually move against the system, while with Republicans we move only against their political party, offering the Democrats as a plausible solution.”
The Combahee River Collective statement also includes that “Our politics evolve from a healthy love of ourselves, our sisters, and our community which allows us to continue our struggle and work.” I also refuse to be satisfied, to sing the praises of a man because a situation is more advantageous to me. Such a situation begets extreme violence, strife, and oppression of women globally. To turn our backs on these women and claim victory while others are in chains is fraudulent. Those women do not have the same privileges, yet they have historically fought vehemently for their rights, many times against the United States among their own state apparatuses.
The radical analysis is an intersectional one involving class, the state, and race, among many other complex dialectical factors. The political puppet show, the illusion of democracy playing out on our 20th century televisions, does not leave room for such discussion. In fact, it’s not even mentioned as a global or national concern. Therefore, the analysis is largely lacking in ways that are representative of women’s empirical understanding of themselves and the assertion of their rights. That is oppressive. We need not wait any longer for structures, administrations, and agendas to continue to speak for us. We must no longer adapt, but choose. We must no longer have the illusion of acting through the action of a politician. We must demand an end to the debate over our lives and bodies without our consent. We must spread the words and actions of feminists from across the world. We must feed off of each others hope in the struggle. In the spirit of Emma Goldman, we must wake up, we must become daring enough to demand our rights collectively. Only in our global solidarity through the praxis can we engage in the fight for our liberation and begin to heal our societies from the broken patriarchal forms that plague our concrete world and contribute to our alienation.