December 11, 2008 / Uncategorized

Obama’s message to women


We’re about halfway through the transition period between election and inauguration, and it seems a good moment to take stock of the message President-elect Obama is sending to the women of America. So far, it’s not an encouraging one.

First, there was the Larry Summers appointment. Whatever Summers’ gifts in terms of economic policy — and those are debatable — he’s an intellectual trainwreck when it comes to gender. His absurd and groundless views on women’s inherent inferiority make him an appalling choice for a senior post in anyone’s government.

Then there’s Jon Favreau, head speechwriter and would-be groper. We’ve spoken on the Favreau business at length, which is more than we can say for President-elect Obama. As of this writing, we haven’t heard a peep out him. Not a word. His head speechwriter is shown emulating a sexual assault, and Mr. Obama has nothing to say. (Perhaps he needs a second speechwriter, one to whip up a statement on the first speechwriter.)

And finally there’s the Cabinet count, which is growing ever more lopsided. The latest semi-official word is that Steven Chu will be the new Secretary of Energy, bringing the male-female ratio in the Cabinet to 10-to-3. Dr. Chu is an unusual choice for a Cabinet secretary, having absolutely no experience in government, but he does share one key characteristic with the overwhelming majority of President-elect Obama’s appointees: he’s a guy.

37 days down, 40 to go. Not looking too good.

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  • John Horning


    If I could squeeze in a question. I have read several times that within the paid staff of the Obama campaign the women workers were paid 78 cents on the dollar compared to the men workers. Is there some evidence of this? I expect to be embroiled in a discussion about this before the end of the year, knowing what this is based on would be helpful.

    Thanks for your help.

  • Kevin

    The count is really worse than 10 to 3.

    HRC, Susan and Janet are not in positions to help on US policies issues related to female pay parity; women breaking the corporate glass ceiling or better benefits for single working mothers. I am just shocked that most Americans think Obama is doing great with respect to including women and diversity but are missing that he is not stressing policies and legislation that benefit women or minorities – may be it will come later.

    Is it my imagination or are organization like Catalyst and NOW being silent on holding Obama’s feet to the fire?

  • pacific-cali

    This is a fantastic resource. Thank you again, Dr. Socks.
    I know we’ve all be frustrated by obama’s refusal to stand up and do what’s right (though not at all surprised). Since we cannot MAKE him have integrity or any sense of decency, keeping score like this is a great way to keep building the case.

    It would be great to maintain a full “rap sheet” on obama that we can easily refer to and keep adding to along the way. Imagine what that thing is going to look like by re-election time. Its already so ugly.

    We should keep a rap sheet on other pigs like chris matthews too – it’ll come in handy when he runs for election.
    And, of course, there’s nbc/msnbc and many others that we could develop rap sheets on too.

    Imagine how handy it’ll be to so easily refer to/access these individual “rap sheets” and forward that sheet to anyone who is considering promoting or (re)electing or hiring or honoring or advertising with any of these pigs.
    These can also become very useful tools for demonstrating patterns to those people who “have problems identifying sexism”.

  • bruce nahin

    Clearyly silent, just like during the election with the Palin bashing.NOW has tilted so far left that it isnt the organization I joined in the early 70’s. It truly should change its name to the national organization for extremely liberal women. it is less concerned with women’s equality and more involved in a left wing agenda not always related to its original mission statement of womens equality and parity.

  • The idea of a rap sheet is great. Every point above is relevant. Yet, Hillary is wrong in lightly dismissing the issue of Lavreau and sexism. She was suppose to lead in these matters; I find this very disheartening.

  • Sis

    Interesting comment. I think NOW is not left at all. I think they are so far right they’re making Palin look left.

    I have always felt these government sanctioned, and in Canada’s case financially supported, official women’s orgs are completely right in their politics. I have always refused to support them. I was happy to see the Status of Women in Canada lose funding. They do not represent women.

  • Sis

    Obama’s message to American women is you don’t matter. He doesn’t have to answer to you, on the women he appoints, or the women his staff mock sexaully assaults, because no one else thinks he should. So he won’t. Obama, and the American public’s message is, women don’t matter. What you do to them slides off the page.

  • goesh

    Obama could have squelched much of the blatant attacks on Hillary but he did not and he could have significantly curbed the attacks on Sarah Palin but he did not. Nobody is surprised at the score of 10-3 but it is alarming he was smugly confident he did not have to leash the attack dogs in order to win. It is heartening to see smoldering anger turning into significant, rational action and NA will become a power to be acknowledged and in due time, reckoned with. That he has not expected, nor other patriarchs in power.

  • Anne-Marie

    Right, Sis, because no one is holding him accountable.

    How can we hold Obama accountable for not choosing more women for his cabinet and not speaking out against the Favreau incident, or at least acknowledge it? I

    I am hoping that he will fire Favreau, or at least replace him shortly, but is not doing it right away, because, well because you know how some people, a lot of people, especially men don’t like to do something as soon as you ask them to? They want to feel like they did it because they wanted to, not because someone told them to? Maybe that’s the same dynamic here. Or maybe he doesn’t want to appear as if any group of people in society can tell him what to do, because, he’s the President, and he’s supposed to be strong and cool…I don’t know…

    I think the best we can do is keep the Favreau issue alive until he says something about it, and to publicly denounce the lack of female representation in his cabinet, in the Senate and in government, until everyone’s blue in the face about it.

  • Update: 11-3….sigh….

    We are working on a press release.

  • lightacandle

    A lot of women’s organizations are unfortunately starting to act like a lot of the labor unions.

    They all start out with very good motives and are generally led by people who are all fired up with a passion to correct injustices.

    But, then, the groups get big, monetarily successful and puffed up with their fame. Their leaders are interviewed and occasionally show up in vanity magazine articles.

    That’s when the wheels start coming off.

    At that point, it becomes no longer about the women (in the case of women’s organizations) or workers (in the case of unions); it turns into a way for the leaders to get famous, have their books published, and sit in mahogany-paneled offices.

    They forget why they organized in the first place; they hunker down and do the safe things, back the safe candidate who looks like he’ll win (no matter his policies) — and, thus, protect their own careers.

    It happens regularly, and it’s happening now with NOW and NARAL and a few of the other, older women’s groups.

    The members of the women’s groups and the labor unions get disgusted — and they all start feeling a sense of betrayal and abandonment.

    The New Agenda is new on the scene, so I write this not about TNA but as an alert to TNA. This is no time to play it safe; now is the time to get aggressive and not tolerate even one instance of bad behavior from our public officials — whether concerning women’s issues or the issues of concern to workers in general.

  • lightacandle,

    There is a delicate balance. TNA is an activist group, but we are professional and not fringe. We have long-term desires.

    There is also so much work to be done on so many fronts. As Kevin pointed out on another thread – how about cabinet, Bair, etc. Yes – we need to focus multiple places.

  • Thia, GA

    This isn’t directed at anyone in particular, just to the general group.

    I don’t understand why women from different women’s groups are attacking each other? Don’t we all have at least 80 % of the same goals? I’m sure all the sexist jerks and misogynists of the world would love to see us at each other’s throats instead of at theirs. Please don’t give them the satisfaction. Why can’t we be like a family of women. We can fight like hell behind closed doors when we disagree but I think publicly attacking each other is insanity. Why does there seem to be this attitude developing lately that if TNA doesn’t do exactly what we want then they are sell-outs and old news. It’s been FOUR months people. This is going to take time and hard work. The only group where all of the members will agree on every issue would be a group that had only one member. I know it is frustrating when you don’t agree about something (I’ve been there myself) but we have to keep it together and remember what and who we are fighting. Guess what, it shouldn’t be each other.

  • lightacandle


    I thought I had make it clear that I was NOT talking about The New Agenda.

    Someone had expressed frustration with NOW’s silence on the Favreau issue; I was adding my input to that.

    “SHADOW” now . . . and “SHADOW” forever!

    “Stop Humiliation And Disparagement Of Women”

  • Thia, GA

    John Horning,

    Here is an article that sort of gives both sides of the argument. They site sources that you can look at as well.

  • Thia, GA


    Here is one that talks about their senate staff pay.

  • Thia, GA

    Someone correct me if I am wrong, but I think the explanation for why the women on the McCain senate staff were paid more was that there were more women in higher profile higher paying jobs on his staff. In other words the Obama campaign said that this wasn’t a matter of different pay for the same jobs, it was skewed because McCain had more women in higher positions. Do I have that right?

  • lightacandle

    By posing for that disgusting photo and posting it on the Internet Facebook site, Jon Favreau wanted to send a message that large numbers of people would see and “get.”

    He is creating a HOSTILE work environment not just for the probable Sec. of State Hillary Clinton but for ALL the women who will be working in or moving through the Obama White House.

    Obama’s silence on this — he’s apparently hoping to wait this out without having to do anything (Obama’s default mode) — tells us most of what we need to know about Obama’s character and principles.

  • John Horning

    Thia, GA,

    Thanks for the assist. There has been, in past statements made, the comment that the campaign itself was underpaying the women relative to men who were part of the “paid staff”. What I recall is that when asked about it the Obama campaign representative avoided the question and never denied the allegation. If true, this would be meaningful to some people that I will be talking to. I am just looking for some help finding that report. Thanks again.

  • Zee


    I remember reading these same sources…and yes, I’m prejudiced. I never quoted the pay equity discrepancy because the original source was a rightwing organization instead of a mainstream news source.

    Still, if everyone agrees McCain had more women in higher positions, that is verifiable and indisputable…and just as telling.
    So even if that’s the “reason” the pay comparison was “skewed” so what? Why didn’t Obama have more women at the top?

    Well, we know…he ran an agist and sexist campaign.

  • Zee

    Anne-Marie and Amy…

    we can’t overstate the facts enough. More pressure, more press releases.

    It takes repetition for facts to sink into public awareness. Plus, if Obama thinks he can outwait us, the sooner he knows that we’re going to repeat “DID THE GROPER WRITE THIS?” the better.

    He can choose to lose Favreau now (or make him a public example as also discussed) or he can be linked to groping every time he makes a speech.

    That’s his choice. Like it or lump it.

  • Thia, GA

    I thought that was a ridiculous argument for the skewing too. Everything I have been able to find that sources real numbers and verifiable sources is about the senate staffers rather than the campaign staffers. They have to publish their records for senate staff but I can’t find anything that has a source I can check that relates to the campaign staff specifically.

  • Cynthia Ruccia

    No one’s said it yet, but Obama looks like a case of Teflon II—-remember that Reagan was considered the teflon president because nothing ever stuck to him?

    Looks more and more like history repeating itself…

  • Ali

    Some great ideas here!

    pacific-cal – I LOVE your idea about keeping rap sheets. A wonderful idea that can be useful in so many ways.

    Zee – Yes, I absolutely agree. Obama is a master of waiting things out and letting controversies die, because he knows the press won’t do anything to keep (his) controversies alive. So we have to do this. Obama is ALREADY trying to wait this one out and we cannot let this disappear. Keep “Gropergate” alive. “DID THE GROPER WRITE THIS?” Yes! Again and again. Until this is acknowledged in a more serious way, Jon is no more than “the groper”.

  • Sis

    It’s still on his Facebook site. Today, this morning. He does not feel there’s anything wrong with leaving it up although it distresses and insults women. Obama does not see the need to tell him to remove it.

    Where are all those quisling feminists who supported Obama? Don’t they have anything to say?

    I would refuse financial or volunteer work support to any so-called feminist organization or group that does not make a clear women-supporting statement on this, and call for him being fired.

  • Sis

    Can you imagine if it had been RACISM. Apart from everything else, groveling apologies, contrition, public flogging by media, Obama, his former grade four teacher, he would have removed it immediately.

    I’d like to know, are Black women’s organizations and blogs calling this out? How about Oprah–she got anything to say?

  • Thia, GA

    We have all seen the picture and we all have opinions of Favreau and what should be done with him. I don’t know if this is his personal facebook page or one someone has done about him. If there is anyone who is more familiar with facebook maybe you can tell? Either way, I think we are missing an important point. Look at the comment section…

    The third page is before this became public but the first two echo some of the sentiments we have heard in the media.

  • Sis

    Missing the point? No I don’t think so. This was taken from Women’s Space/the Margins. Thanks Emma.


    The Obama movement is not so much about accountability or free speech, apparently.


    It seems that questions being posted to about Favreau’s inappropriate actions are being removed from the site because people find them inappropriate:

    “For “sexual violence” and “Jon Favreau,” the search engine returned these results [Emphasis added]:

    “Why hasn’t President-elect Obama fired Jon Favreau for his inappropriate sexual assault fantasy against Sen. Hillary Clinton, still available on Facebook? It reflects badly on Obama coming from his new head speechwriter and offends all women voters.” NanInBoston, CA – Questions View response Post a response This submission was removed because people believe it is inappropriate.

    “Given the obvious inappropriate groping actions of Jon Favreau regarding the Hillary life-size cut-out; will he still be a part of the Obama administration?” Durham4sale – Questions View response Post a response This submission was removed because people believe it is inappropriate.

    “Your speechwriter recently behaved in a manner denigrating and humiliating to all women, especially Hillary Clinton. Yet you have not fired him. How can we be sure you will run a transparent, honest, and respectful administration in light of this?” Gabriele, Ohio – Questions View response Post a response This submission was removed because people believe it is inappropriate.

    “Would you favor eliminating Jon Favreau as a staff member for his ridiculous, inappropriate and disrespectful behavior towards our new Secretary of State ( … on_favreau)?” Jenn, Beltsville, MD – Questions View response Post a response This submission was removed because people believe it is inappropriate.

    “Given the obvious inappropriate groping actions of Jon Favreau regarding the Hillary life-size cut-out; will he still be a part of the Obama administration?” Durham4sale – Questions View response Post a response This submission was removed because people believe it is inappropriate.

    “Why hasn’t President-elect Obama fired Jon Favreau for his inappropriate sexual assault fantasy against Sen. Hillary Clinton, still available on Facebook? It reflects badly on Obama coming from his new head speechwriter and offends all women voters.” NanInBoston, CA – Questions View response Post a response This submission was removed because people believe it is inappropriate.”

  • Sis

    And perhaps Thia, you can explain to me why it would make any difference that he has not had this picture removed, whether it be his personal page or one someone else put up?

    Was that someone else standing behind him with a gun to his head to make him pose like that?

    Get real.

  • Thia, GA

    Obviously it makes a huge difference if he has had the nerve to put it back up or keep it up on a page he has control of AFTER the ****storm of the last week. If he did leave it up or put it back up then it would give us another issue to address and a way to possibly get it back into the media. I would appreciate it if you would not use a combative tone with me, I am just asking questions and trying to have a discussion.

  • I think there’s a bit of crossed signals here, so let’s not get tangled up. Actually I don’t think any of us knows exactly who is behind the current Facebook page.

    That said, you’re both right: the fact that the picture exists at all and that Obama has not called it out speaks volumes, about both Favreau and Obama; and, as Thia points out, the comments on the page are illuminating.

    Personally I’m saddened by how anti-feminist so many of those young people sound.

  • Thia, GA

    That is what broke my heart. Especially the younger women and the comment directed toward feminists. I hope they never experience sexism and never have to “get it” through personal experience, but I suspect they will. It is encouraging that some people had the nerve to post that they were disgusted by it, but equally as discouraging that so many were asking “what is the big deal” and “who does it hurt.”

  • yttik

    I know why NOW no longer represents me. They send me stuff like this:

    “I’m sure you share my excitement at the golden political opportunity we have before us — a newly-elected president and vice president who care about women’s rights, a House and Senate with leaders who “get it,” and majorities for many of the issues we care about as feminists.”

    No, I’m not feeling the excitement, I’m still reeling from all the sexism that went on during the primary. So far I haven’t seen any “caring” from the President and VP about women’s rights. I’m still waiting for this “progressive” president to appoint more women to his cabinet then Bush did. Would that be too much to ask?

  • Sis

    That’s not my combative tone Thia. 🙂

    And if Favreau wanted that site down it would be done, whether he did it himself, talked someone else into doing it, or had a lawyer send a letter to Facebook.

  • with office neighbor.

    I argued that because it’s not absolutely horrible to sexually assault a real live woman, the cardboard cutout joke, by extension, isn’t so horrible either.

    That’s really what all of this, “can’t you take a joke” garbage says.
    Because if there were a cutout of Obama in a jokey fun lynching, people would be universally outraged. “Just racists having fun! Come on y’all!”

    It’s the actual act of sexual assault and bigotry because of gender that isn’t vomit inducing in the first place that allows the ‘let boys be boys’ stuff to even exist.

    “You’re not being objective because you’re a woman yourself”.

    WOW! I couldn’t rebut that!

  • Ali

    Yeah, I’m also saddened by the comments on the Facebook thread, particularly the ones by young women. But we have to remember that these girls were raised on Girls Gone Wild. I think it must be especially hard for this generation to understand sexism even if they experience it themselves.

  • ER

    I am astounded that Favreau has not removed the picture from his Facebook page. This shows blatant, flaunting disrespect and disregard for others. Where is his boss on this? Why is his behavior condoned? Obama’s silence on this is deafening.

    i am also astounded that Obama’s website essentially censored questions and comments about Favreau.

    Here’s one ACTION PLAN–if a lot of us take action, it could make an impact:

    1. Obama’s website asks people to “tell us what you’d like the Obama-Biden administration to do and where you’d like the country to go.” We can articulate what we want here (fire Favreau; ensure parity in Cabinet appointments, etc): The page:

    2. On another page of the website, people are asked to “share your thoughts; volunteer initiatives are still taking shape.” How about asking for the creation of a Human Rights Corps to work for equality, parity, equal wages, and against sexual harassment, domestic violence, etc etc. Here’s the page:

    3. Email every one of your friends and colleagues and tell them about The New Agenda website. Invite them to join us in positive action.

  • lightacandle

    Maybe Amy or one of the other founders of TNA could ask to go on Greta Van Susteren’s TV program.

    Of all the programs, Greta’s seems the likeliest to grant time to make the case that Jon Favreau needs to be FIRED.

    The point needs to be made that the Favreau “date rape” portrayal insults NOT only Hillary Clinton but ALL women.

    At the very least, that photograph creates a HOISTILE workplace environment for the women who will be working at (or passing through) the Obama White House.

    If we don’t speak out and make a big noise about this degradation of women, who will?

  • lightacandle

    oops …

    that would be: “HOSTILE workplace environment”

  • Kiuku

    right Lightacandle..if the character of my speech writer was called into question the very least I would do, even if I wasn’t going to keep the person around, would be atleast some effort into cleaning it up.

    Just the level of depravity shown by the President in brushing this off, and the old men in the media ranting unprofessionally calling people who disagree “STUPID”, that if it were him “‘It’ wouldn’t have been a piece of cardboard!!!!!”, is concerning.

    The level of depravity toward women, and complete lack of concern for appearance and character is frightening.

    What does that bode for the future?

  • Kiuku

    Statesmanly ..that’s the word I’m looking for. It’s not very Statesmanly

    It’s not diplomatic. It’s not professional. An apology..a removal of the photo from facebook, and a little effort into cleaning the image..but a complete disregard for it because some loud mouthed men find depravity becoming in their circles?

    Other countries look at this..this is embarassing.

  • Thia, GA

    Statesmanly is a good word and you’re right, he isn’t.