Tuesday, January 20, 2009

On The Inauguration: Feminist Stream of Consciousness

Some of my impressions, totally unedited for relevance or weightiness:

The vast sea of celebrating people was lovely to see. Rituals are important and in many ways this inauguration was a cleansing ritual as much as anything else, to me at least. All those human beings served as smudging with sage might have done: Out with the old and in with the new.

Though I'm not much consoled by myth-making or rituals myself I believe that this country needs the myths it is making right now, the honeymoon with destiny it is imagining and the short reprieve from political fighting and bickering. I still think that we need to always look past the words, beyond the surface feel-goodness and into the deeds of politicians. If we have learned anything in the last eight years it is to remain vigilant and ready to point out errors and mistakes.

Despite all that, to see the first African-American president take the oath was wonderful (even with Roberts floundering there). This is not just about feeling good or myth-making but something which affects the stereotypes about blacks and whites and gives little children a better world tomorrow. So I very much believe and that is why I want to see a woman taking that oath one day.

Speaking of politics and women, it is the clothes of Michelle Obama that are the talking point in the newspapers. The unpaid job of the First Lady is an extremely odd one. The White House website blurb on her begins:

When people ask Michelle Obama to describe herself, she doesn't hesitate. First and foremost, she is Malia and Sasha's mom.

Dr. Laura Schlesinger, the conservative radio talk host used to always define herself "as her son's mom". There's a connection here across the political aisle, a connection that men in the public sphere don't share. It's as if fathering is not seen as a job but mothering is. Thus, women must say, again and again, that they do indeed put their children first.

Now, that bit about Mom-in-Chief could be a defensive move. As we all have learned during the last year, uppity women get crushed in the mill of misogyny. That crushing could be especially nasty for an African-American woman who must cope with double prejudices.

Still, I'd love to live in the world where it is taken for granted that parents value their children's well-being above most other things. Then we could avoid mentioning it. Then women wouldn't be judged on the basis of their perceived mothering. Then the sexes could compete on a more even basis. What a dreamer I am, sometimes. Reading about Michelle's canary yellow dress and such makes me wonder why I bother wearing out my finger nails writing on all these topics that few others seem to care about.

Talking about things few others seem to care about, why didn't Rick Warren get a haircut before preaching to millions? And why did he turn up in public in an ill-fitting overcoat and an unkempt beard?

We have a lot of work to do in the future, all of us. I'm happy that the Bush bus was stopped just in time before the abyss and that the tow-truck has arrived. But we are not out of the woods yet.