Do you regret referring to Bill Clinton as the first black President?...The "first female president" riff comes from WaPo's Dana Milbank. He doesn't mean it in the Toni Morrison way — that Obama's getting the kind of shabby/unfair treatment typically aimed at women — but in the way Morrison was misunderstood. Milbank's evidence for his proposition is that Obama has gone on “The View” 4 times and that he gave a commencement speech at Barnard. Obama is. speaking to women, boosting them, pleasing them, hoping to get something in return. Hello! He's not getting treated like a woman. He's not even acting like a woman. He's acting like a man, angling for the favor of women.
People misunderstood that phrase. I was deploring the way in which President Clinton was being treated, vis-à-vis the sex scandal that was surrounding him. I said he was being treated like a black on the street, already guilty, already a perp. I have no idea what his real instincts are, in terms of race.
Milbank admits it:
His reelection campaign has been working for months to exploit the considerable gender gap, which puts him far ahead of likely GOP rival Mitt Romney among women. But Monday’s activities veered into pandering, as Obama brazenly flaunted his feminine mystique.Pandering. Let's consult the OED:
1. trans. To act as a pander to; to minister to the gratification of (another's desire or lust)....Sorry. Pandering to women is not acting like a woman. (Or being treated like a woman.)
2. intr. To act as a pander; to minister to the immoral urges or distasteful desires of another, or to gratify a person with such desires. Also in weakened use: to indulge the tastes, whims, or weaknesses of another. Now usu. with to.
And Milbank doesn't really know what "the feminine mystique" means. Betty Friedan defined her term clearly in her classic book, in the first paragraph of the first chapter, which was famously titled "The Problem With No Name":
The problem lay buried, unspoken, for many years in the minds of American women. It was a strange stirring, a sense of dissatisfaction, a yearning that women suffered in the middle of the twentieth century in the United States. Each suburban wife struggled with it alone. As she made the beds, shopped for groceries, matched slipcover material, ate peanut butter sandwiches with her children, chauffeured Cub Scouts and Brownies, lay beside her husband at night—she was afraid to ask even of herself the silent question—“Is this all?”The "mystique" — she says a few pages later — was the pervasive cultural belief in "feminine fulfillment" in the home...
... the American suburban housewife, kissing their husbands goodbye in front of the picture window, depositing their stationwagonsful of children at school, and smiling as they ran the new electric waxer over the spotless kitchen floor. They baked their own bread, sewed their own and their children’s clothes, kept their new washing machines and dryers running all day. They changed the sheets on the beds twice a week instead of once, took the rug-hooking class in adult education, and pitied their poor frustrated mothers, who had dreamed of having a career. Their only dream was to be perfect wives and mothers; their highest ambition to have five children and a beautiful house, their only fight to get and keep their husbands. They had no thought for the unfeminine problems of the world outside the home; they wanted the men to make the major decisions. They gloried in their role as women, and wrote proudly on the census blank: “Occupation: housewife.”No way Obama was "flaunting" his feminine fulfillment in the house. Presumably, Dana Milbank (who is a man) thinks he can pontificate about female matters and use a feminist catchphrase and give it whatever meaning it seems to have to him. He's got a longstanding column in the Washington Post, so he feels he can do that. Ironically, that feeling is utterly the opposite of feminism. It's patriarchy. And this patriarch, Milbank, is himself pandering to women. It's funny that he's attempting to flatter and impress women by tagging alongside the man he thinks all the women love, Barack Obama.
Milbank tells us that Obama told the college women that "'Congress would get a lot more done' if more women were there." And Obama gave the women the supposedly good news that "more and more women are out-earning their husbands. You’re more than half of our college graduates and master’s graduates and PhDs." (Presumably, he didn't tell them they're going to have a hell of a time finding a mate on their level.) Milbank goes on:
And they can look good doing it! “You can be stylish and powerful, too,” he said. “That’s Michelle’s advice.”And this makes him "a woman"... how? Oh, what's the point of looking for reason in Milbank's lame obeisance to the alpha male?
There were some ironies in the appearance. When the White House asked Barnard for the commencement speaking role, the college dumped its original speaker, Jill Abramson. In addition to being an actual woman, Abramson is the first of her sex to become executive editor of the New York Times.
Obama made no mention of Abramson, but he did mention that he knows the past three Barnard commencement speakers, including Hillary Rodham Clinton, whose presidential aspirations Obama dashed.Ha ha. Step aside, ladies. The patriarch is here.