The White House's new Council on Women and Girls is designed to ensure that government programs do enough to aid women. Between this and the Lily Ledbetter act signing, is the Obama Administration embracing feminism?
The Administration has taken major strides since January. The aforementioned Council on Women and Girls was created back in March, and includes a key provision to improve women's economic security. Hillary Clinton has made women's issues a key component of the State Department's strategy. And, according to USA Today's list of accomplishments, "Obama appointed the first White House senior adviser on violence against women, domestic violence expert Lynn Rosenthal. In her new job, Rosenthal will help develop policies and programs aimed at reducing domestic violence and sexual assault."
However, these moves have been met with their fair share of controversy. Some conservative women are not celebrating these gains.
"Obama's policies reflect the views of hard-core abortion and feminist groups," says Wendy Wright, president of Concerned Women for America. "Considering the diversity of views among American women, it is insulting to assume that there is one 'women's view' and it is represented by liberal feminist activists. … Obama's choices reflect a stereotypical view of women who are abortion advocates who are dependent on government."
Wright's statement is a little difficult to swallow, especially considering the careful treatment of abortion and abortion rights by the administration. While he was lauded as the pro-choice candidate during the primaries, his views on abortion have been muted since taking office. And, considering how political dealings are forcing the administration to explicitly spell out a ban on using federal dollars for abortion services (which was already banned) in the health care bill, we may not be on as stable ground as we thought.
In addition, feminist activists have pointed out that a council position may not go quite far enough in trying to achieve these kinds of goals. A cabinet level position, they argue, would be more permanent and have more political clout.
"This has been the most open White House to women's issues and groups," says Eleanor Smeal of the Feminist Majority Foundation.
And perhaps it is. There are many women in positions of power and in highly visible positions. But I think it's a bit too soon to tell if the administration will continue to be feminist friendly, particularly once the national focus shifts from health care and the economy.
Women's rights a priority for Obama panel [USA Today]
President Obama Announces White House Council on Women and Girls [White House.gov]