This year’s State of the Union Address, delivered Tuesday night, wasn’t the first time President Barack Obama has let his feminist flag wave.
It was, however, the most recent, so let’s talk about it.
First of all, no matter where on the political spectrum you fall, whether you identify as liberal, conservative, somewhere in between or not even on the chart, there is one thing you cannot argue. President Obama can deliver a fine speech. He has when to pause on lock, he knows just when to make a hand gesture for emphasis and don’t even get me started on that wink.
This year, Mr. President spoke about childcare and how it is not just a women’s issue, equal pay for equal work and sweeping same-sex marriage rights. There was even a sprinkle of gender-neutral language, just for good measure.
I love that he is personable. I love that he makes mention of gender equality, of marriage rights, of fair and equal healthcare across the board and of childcare being a family issue as opposed to women’s issue.
I don’t love that while his phrasing is different, he is saying many of the same things he said in previous addresses. It isn’t exactly his fault as he can’t control Congress, but it is disheartening to women and individuals of all races, religions and orientations that so many issues near and dear to us remain unmoved.
This week, Obama called for equal pay for equal work, asking for a close to the pay gap. “Of course, nothing helps families make ends meet like higher wages. That’s why this Congress still needs to pass a law that makes sure a woman is paid the same as a man for doing the same work,” said the president, to which Vice President Joe Biden, women in the audience and a handful of men stood in applause. And by a handful, I mean I saw about two from the camera feed I watched, but I’m sure there were more. I hope.
In 2014, the president said, “Women make up about half of our workforce. But they still make 77 cents for every dollar a man earns. That is wrong, and in 2014, it’s an embarrassment.”
If that was an embarrassment in 2014, I wonder what we should call it in 2015.
Calls to action on the Paycheck Fairness Act rang in his 2013 address, in 2012 he said equal pay for equal work would encourage American people’s individual talents and in 2010 he said, “We’re going to crack down on violations of equal pay laws, so that women get paid equal for an equal day’s work.” Need I continue? The point here is Obama is definitely in support of equal pay for equal work, he’s spoken publicly about it numerous times and still Joe Schmo makes more money than Susie Smith in the same job.
Moving away from closing the pay gap, Obama showed us all that his stance on gay marriage, which has evolved over his career as a politician, has firmly landed on the side of acceptance. I have loved watching him broaden his view of marriage equality, going from stating that, “marriage is a union between a man and a woman” in 2008 while running for president to affirming on Tuesday his support as he has, “seen something like gay marriage go from a wedge issue used to drive us apart to a story of freedom across our country, a civil right now legal in states that seven in 10 Americans call home.”
I think the president’s shift to support of gay marriage answers the question I posed last week and shows us that feminist ideas and religion can indeed come together in a happy medium. His closing comments in his address nail his feminist flag to the highest pole in all the land.
“I want future generations to know that we are a people who see our differences as a great gift, that we are a people who value dignity and worth of every citizen: man and woman, young and old, black and white, Latino and Asian, immigrant and Native American, gay and straight, Americans with mental illness or physical disability. Everybody matters,” he said.
If you haven’t gotten the chance to watch this year’s State of the Union, do it. Whether you agree with his politics or not, be informed please, or don’t talk to me.
What do you think? Is President Obama really a feminist, or does he just use favor of feminist platforms to gain public favor? Tweet us @niner_times with #FeministFriday to join the discussion!