As Republicans in all levels of government have been so busy waging their War on Women on a gazillion different fronts, Barack Obama's team has been equally busy trying to craft a message that appeals to all of the disenchanted women on the right and in the center but that also reminds women on the left that they have to get active (preferably by voting for him) if they want to protect the rights they've worked so hard to get. To that end, today the Obama campaign released a video from feminist icon Gloria Steinem that hits the nail so hard on the head it actually hurts your heart a little bit. Steinem launches right into talking about why Obama has such a good record of standing up for women:
He understands that women are absolutely full human beings. He has a good heart, a good mind, treats people with dignity, doesn't court conflict, and represents, I think, the best in this country.
Yikes. It seems like just a few years ago that you didn't have to state that women were full human beings; it was implied in most discussions. The fact that she has to say it outright is a sad sign of just how fast we've sped in reverse in the past year or two. But what's so compelling about this ad is that it's not a scare-mongering piece that tries to gin up frenzied concern about what will happen to our reproductive rights if Republicans are elected this year—really there's no need for her to do that because the Republicans are doing a fine job of scaring the shit out of us every time they open their mouths.
Instead, Steinem focuses on where we can go from here. This kind of positive looking-toward-the-horizon-where-greater-things-await-us is a signature Obama campaign move. (That's why he's famous for "Yes We Can" not "We're Fucked.") And it works to perfection here coming from Steinem. She argues that Obama understands how to make actual women's lives better, mentioning pay equality and the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. She discusses how Obama's health care reform bill saves women money by ending gender rating in health insurance, and then she finally touches on contentious issue of reproductive rights:
Whether or not women can determine when and whether to have children is the single biggest element in whether we're healthy or not, whether we're educated or not, how long our life expectancy is, whether we we can be active in the world or not. This presidential election is a turning point. We will lose what we have gained if any Republican candidate were to win.
Warning: it is possible, if you are feeling soft-hearted at the moment, that this video might give you a case of the goosebumps or even force a few misty tears of relief from your eyes. (Well played with that subtly upbeat music, Obama ad team.) For those of us who have been having daily episodes of banging our heads on our desks every time some legislature or radio personality calls us a slut or proposes some bill to force us to get the approval of our priest before refilling our whore pill prescription (OK, that hasn't happened quite yet…), it's refreshing to hear someone sounding so sane and talking about how we might get back to the business of gaining further rights and obtaining actual equality, rather than how we might have to spend the next decade fighting a battle that we've already won once before.
Obviously, Obama is not perfect, and there's no guarantee that he'll make women's issues a priority once he's elected for a second term. Still, it's good to have such a concise reminder that who is elected matters very much, and if we don't stand up for ourselves nobody else will. Not that Obama probably needs to do much else to convince us he's the man for the job—at least when it comes to fighting for women—but I know many of us would not complain at all if he wanted to sing a little song about how women deserve equal rights. In fact, perhaps it's time for the whole Obama family to break out a group performance of Beyonce's "Run the World (Girls)" on the campaign trail. It can't hurt—and not even the Romney family responding with a wholesome a capella song they wrote called "God Bless America, Even the Women" could ever top it.