Obama, Romney, and Women… Oh My!

Hannah Howroyd ’13

After reading Ms. Forster’s article, “Obama Leads War on Women, Romney Protects Them,” in this week’s Cowl, I felt the need to respond and provide an alternative point of view. I am sure other students will be voicing their opposition, and before we reach another match-up of Slut Walk vs. The Cowl, I’d like to submit my take.

I found not only the article’s presentation of President Obama to be slanted and warped in regard to his alleged views on women, but the discussion of women itself was distorted.

The article’s classification of womanhood perpetuates a certain female stereotype. Regardless of whether ideals of womanhood be propagated by males “imposing upon us the desires of men” or whether it be coming straight from a female, I found the compartmentalized definition bestowed upon the female sex distasteful. Women make up more than half of the world’s population. We all do not think, act, or vote the same way. By pressing upon women this ideal of “what it means to be a woman,” the article deepens the fallacious entrenchment of a narrow definition and notion of womanhood. The ties between women transcend their potential to be mothers, just as men are not classified as a demographic solely based on their potential to be fathers. Therefore, the strict categorization of “proper womanhood” in relation to motherhood is off-base.

The platform of President Obama in regards to the discussed topic of birth control coverage is inclusive and defends a more comprehensive definition of womanhood. As a woman, I’m not writing to tell you how to think or act; and neither is President Obama. Yes, President Obama has “vociferated that the government should provide funding for birth control;” yet does he mandate that every woman is required to take birth control? Absolutely not, and he never will. It is the individual choice of each woman to decide what is best for her and her body. On the contrary, it is the neo-conservative ideals of the right-wing that have been pigeonholing women in how they conduct themselves. If I don’t want to take birth control, I won’t. But who am I to tell someone that they cannot and should not?

Now, as a Catholic woman, I understand Ms. Forster’s point of view; yet by the very nature of our government, the church and state are distinct and separate. What are and are not acceptable functions of government is a debate for another day, but it is not the job of the government to instill and indoctrinate insular ideals of femininity. Rather, it is the government’s job to administer equitable and inclusive programs that do not seek to disenfranchise or coerce those with varying ideologies. I found it disconcerting that Ms. Forster’s article did not mention equal pay for equal work. If we, as women, value and cherish our potential to be mothers to our children, then shouldn’t we be able to support these children with a fair income, equal to the ones enjoyed by our male peers?  The government should not only support an individual woman’s right to make her own decisions, but also actively work to ensure that the same paths, opportunities, and rewards are available to her as to her male peers.

Furthermore, I found the article’s pejorative classification of the “not-so-feminine feminist” to be utterly degrading. Calling someone a “not-so-nerdy scholar” does not invalidate that person’s attainment of good grades just because they don’t fit into the mold of a “nerd.” How can someone be justified in writing off another woman’s femininity simply because she stands up for her rights? Just because one does not fit one faction’s narrow brand of “feminine” does not mean that she is any less of a woman, or that her voice should not be heard.

Neither Ms. Forster nor I should ever force our personal understandings of what it means to be a woman on the female population. Each woman is an individual first, and has both the capacity and freedom to understand her womanhood and define femininity in a way proper to herself and her beliefs. Every woman ought to be able to exercise this liberty rather than abiding by and feeling held underneath a constant barrage of generalized ideological definitions.

The article discussed in this Friarside Chat can be accessed here via TheCowl.com

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