Obama Swayed by Feminists

June 23rd, 2009 by Pelle Billing

Christina Hoff Sommers, author of the excellent book The War Against Boys as well as the book Who Stole Feminism (that I have yet to read), has written a very revealing article. She starts off by summarizing how the current recession has affected men and women in the US:

A “man-cession.” That’s what some economists are starting to call it. Of the 5.7 million jobs Americans lost between December 2007 and May 2009, nearly 80 percent had been held by men. Mark Perry, an economist at the University of Michigan, characterizes the recession as a “downturn” for women but a “catastrophe” for men.

The fact the men have been hit harder by the recession is understandable, since the private sector is more vulnerable to an economic downturn than the public sector. However, there was still some hope for all these men:

Last November, President-elect Obama addressed the devastation in the construction and manufacturing industries by proposing an ambitious New Deal-like program to rebuild the nation’s infrastructure. He called for a two-year “shovel ready” stimulus program to modernize roads, bridges, schools, electrical grids, public transportation, and dams and made reinvigorating the hardest-hit sectors of the economy the goal of the legislation that would become the recovery act.

Whether you agree with Obama’s proposal or not, I think we can all agree that if he was to spend that amount of money, it would be well spent on rebuilding the nation’s infrastructure. But apparently not all groups prioritized what was best for the country as a whole:

Women’s groups were appalled. Grids? Dams? Opinion pieces immediately appeared in major newspapers with titles like “Where are the New Jobs for Women?” and “The Macho Stimulus Plan.” A group of “notable feminist economists” circulated a petition that quickly garnered more than 600 signatures, calling on the president-elect to add projects in health, child care, education, and social services and to “institute apprenticeships” to train women for “at least one third” of the infrastructure jobs.

All I can say is “wow”. Even though the US desperately needs to rebuild its infrastructure, and millions of men have recently lost their jobs, feminists manage to turn it into a women’s issue. The primary issue is obviously the US economy, and the secondary issue is that men have been hit so hard by the economy – but apparently those facts don’t become feminists. This is how Sommers puts it:

The president-elect’s original plan was designed to stop the hemorrhaging in construction and manufacturing while investing in physical infrastructure that is indispensable for long-term economic growth. It was not a grab bag of gender-correct programs, nor was it a macho plan–the whole idea of economic stimulus is to use government spending to put idle factors of production back to work.

Common sense would thus dictate that Obama forge ahead with his original plan, but since he knows the power of feminist ideas in the media, he needed to take some kind of action:

The president-elect responded to the protests by sending Jason Furman, his soon-to-be deputy director at the National Economic Council, along with his senior aides to a meeting organized by Kim Gandy and Feminist Majority president Eleanor Smeal.

The meeting wasn’t only held in order to superficially appease the feminists; apparently Obama believed that they were coming from a perspective of social justices. Thus, the National Organization of Women and other feminists managed to change the proposal in quite some detail:

In her March “Below the Belt” column on the NOW website, Kim Gandy could not contain her elation over “this happily-ever-after ‘stimulus story.’ ” When she and her allies saw the final recovery package, they were amazed to find “over and over” versions of “very specific proposals that we had made.” More than that, the programs NOW had proposed had vast sums of money next to them–”numbers that started with a ‘B’ (as in billion),” Gandy said gleefully. “It’s impossible to convey just how many hours we put into this issue during December and early January and how fruitful it really turned out to be.”

This is a sad story indeed. President Obama has distanced himself from lobbyists, but apparently he doesn’t realize that feminism is one of the strongest lobby groups around.

The administration (and Congress) must have been thinking that groups such as NOW and the Feminist Majority were crusading for social justice, when in fact they were lobbying for their share of the action, to the detriment of urgent necessities.

It’s one thing to discuss the current gender discourse, and how the gender roles impact men and women. But when feminist groups are actually managing to influence public policy in the US to the extent that it can hurt the country in very tangible ways, then criticism of contemporary feminism needs to become a mainstream issue.

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26 Responses to “Obama Swayed by Feminists”

  1. unomi Says:

    …and how much in bailout money has gone into protecting jobs held by men on Wall Street and in Detroit?

    The senior economists listened attentively as Gandy and Smeal and other advocates argued for a stimulus package that would add jobs for nurses, social workers, teachers, and librarians in our crumbling “human infrastructure”

    I’m thinking after years of cutting back on social programmes and education, the US really does need more jobs for social workers and teachers?

    Don’t think the people at The Weekly Standard (or News Corp, their owner) would agree though…

  2. Andreas Dahlin Says:

    Interesting article! I always had the feeling that Sweden is by far the worst country when it comes to feminism influencing politics in a bad way. I still think so, but such things are clearly also happening at other places in the world.

  3. Danny Says:

    ……and how much in bailout money has gone into protecting jobs held by men on Wall Street and in Detroit?

    You think those jobs were protected because they were held by men? No they were protected because they are big business and big business means big money for government.

    The meeting wasn’t only held in order to superficially appease the feminists; apparently Obama believed that they were coming from a perspective of social justices. Thus, the National Organization of Women and other feminists managed to change the proposal in quite some detail:
    This despite constant claims that women as a class and feminsts don’t have power.

  4. Pelle Billing Says:

    unomi:
    I’m thinking after years of cutting back on social programmes and education, the US really does need more jobs for social workers and teachers?

    If these reforms had been motivated by a detailed analysis of what society needs at this point in time, then I would have respected them. But they were motivated by nothing but shallow concerns about promoting women’s issues. I would have been equally unhappy about Obama’s original proposal if his major motivation was to help men, instead of thinking about the country as a whole.

    We also need to consider the following quote from the article:
    Women, by contrast, are a majority in recession-resistant fields such as education and health care, which gained 588,000 jobs during the same period.

    So in recent times there has been no cutting back on education and health care.

  5. unomi Says:

    No they were protected because they are big business and big business means big money for government.

    The Citigroup bailout was a disaster for US taxpayers. Wall Street was only protected because the people in charge there are virtually the same people who are/were in government. (Hank Paulson, anyone?) And incidentally nearly all of them were men, helping out other men.

    The auto makers were not bailed out because of their fantastic money making potential. Most of the arguments in favour of that were about protecting blue collar workers, American history and all sorts of other things. It really makes no financial sense to save GM.

    There are lots of economic benefits to creating more jobs for teachers and social workers. To say that hiring more teachers, social workers and nurses is “to the detriment of urgent necessities”, especially after all those Bush (and Clinton) years of abolishing social programmes and cutting back on education, is just plain wrong.

  6. Danny Says:

    The Citigroup bailout was a disaster for US taxpayers. Wall Street was only protected because the people in charge there are virtually the same people who are/were in government. (Hank Paulson, anyone?) And incidentally nearly all of them were men, helping out other men.
    And while you might mean well in trying to demonize the male gender in and of itself the bigger problem at work is that all (even the ones that aren’t ment) of them are are well connected upper class people. It is a matter of looking them looking out for their own but the link isn’t gender so much as class.

    The auto makers were not bailed out because of their fantastic money making potential. Most of the arguments in favour of that were about protecting blue collar workers, American history and all sorts of other things. It really makes no financial sense to save GM.
    If it the bailouts were all about looking out for men then there would a whole lot more men getting hookups and aid from it. But as it turns out most of the assistance funds stayed at the top regardless of what gender, race, religion, etc…is up there.

    In terms of job loss these recent times have hit men the hardest yet as we can see the governemnt isn’t rushing to help Average Joe get back on his (but that $600 stimulus check was a nice feint). No the government is trying to get Elite Joe back on his feet so they can begin scratchin each other’s backs again.

    You seem hellbent on trying to say that the male gender is the problem and if that is the case you are minimizing countless Average Joes who are in just as bad, if not worse, shape as women are.

  7. unomi Says:

    1. It is unlikely that 80% of the jobs lost during this US recession, from peak to trough, will have been held by men. The initial job losses in the construction and financial sectors will have ripple effects on other job markets. Any stimulus package needs to take this into account.

    2. The stimulus package that was passed does create more jobs for women. However, on average these jobs also pay less than the ones being created for men. This is partly because the people building bridges, roads and dams are better paid, but also because many of those professions are unionised in the US, meaning they receive more benefits. The author is surprisingly quiet on how much money is being spent on men vs women.

    3. Christina Hoff Sommers works for the same think tank that gave us the 2004-2008 Bush doctrine. Just thought you’d like to know…

  8. Jim Says:

    “I’m thinking after years of cutting back on social programmes and education, the US really does need more jobs for social workers and teachers?”

    It’s impossible, for one thing, to generalize across 54 separate polities and further across many thousand taxing and funding authorities – to begin with. Further, spending on social programs and education are completely separate in every jurisdiction that I know of. Social spending has been cut hard everywhere, and year after year, as you say. Education on the other hand has not been subject to cuts anywhere that I know of, and until the economy, and tax receipts, fell off so sharply recently, funding had been steadily rising.

    Anyway, additional funding for education should in no way be some kind of jobs program for women. Teaching is grossly lopsided when it comes to gender, just dwarfing the loudly lamented gender imbalances in politics, for instance. The difference of course is that the ultimate victims of this discrimination are children, who, judging by the pattern of advocacy of groups like NOW, are not an important constituency for them.

    “Don’t think the people at The Weekly Standard (or News Corp, their owner) would agree though…”

    OK, so now there are *two* people in the world who read that publication. Good for you. Well-read.

    “There are lots of economic benefits to creating more jobs for teachers and social workers. ”

    Until the blatant gender bias is rooted out of the social welfare systems in just about every state, there is essentially no benefit of any kind in creating more jobs in that sector.

    “The Citigroup bailout was a disaster for US taxpayers. ”

    A disaster for US taxpayers as investors, maybe. Not at all a disaster for US taxpayers as citizens, though. The financial system is basic social infrastructure. After all, the decades of investment in the welfare system have pretty plainly been an investment disaster for US taxpayers, as well as a social disaster. Does that make all that money wasted, in your opinion?

    “And incidentally nearly all of them were men, helping out other men. ”

    Oh, don’t even try this one. You as much as saying that all these men don’t have one or more women feeding off them who these bail-outs are benefiting every bit as much. So don’t even try this one. There’s a difference of course; the men actually engaged in some kind of activity to get that money.

    “Christina Hoff Sommers works for the same think tank that gave us the 2004-2008 Bush doctrine. Just thought you’d like to know…”

    Hmmm…. Why would any of us want to know about some guilt-by-association bullshit?

  9. Danny Says:

    1. It is unlikely that 80% of the jobs lost during this US recession, from peak to trough, will have been held by men. The initial job losses in the construction and financial sectors will have ripple effects on other job markets. Any stimulus package needs to take this into account.

    And just like a ripple the most damage is done at the center of the blast so while other sectors were hit the most damage (where damage = job losses) was suffered by the financial and construction sectors. So when taking that into account it would make the most logical sense to aid the sectors that need it most. And if the damage ripped outward from those sectors then would it not make sense to fix those sectors and have the aid ripple outward as well?

    It is unlikely that 80% of the jobs lost during this US recession, from peak to trough, will have been held by men.
    I’ve seen this number several times already from other places but have been unable to find myself (I saw it in a New York Times article that said it came from the Labor Department). However it is going to take more than you thinking its unlikely to prove it wrong. But I’ll give you credit for at least not doing like many other feminists are by trying your hardest to bury this number by tossing an avalanche of stats on how the recession has affected women as if they somehow prove men really haven’t been hurt that bad or something.

  10. unomi Says:

    Christina Hoff Sommers really does know how to twist the facts.

    Under the original stimulus plan, only 10% of the jobs created would have gone to women. Does anyone, including Hoff Sommers’ friends at the American Enterprise Institute, really think that only 10% of the jobs lost during this recession would have been held by women?

    @Jim

    Education on the other hand has not been subject to cuts anywhere that I know of

    I’m not American but even I know how to Google this stuff:

    http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,184005,00.html
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A3319-2005Feb6.html

    Why would any of us want to know about some guilt-by-association bullshit?

    Because it’s highly relevant that the author works for an anti-Obama lobbyist group.

    @Danny

    it would make the most logical sense to aid the sectors that need it most

    That is what they are doing. As an example, the US government is spending its own, actual money on building infrastructure (favouring men), and is hoping that will create 600,000 retail jobs and 500,000 jobs in leisure and hospitality (both favouring women) by the end of next year. However, the latter are also included as “job creation” in the stimulus package, even though the government is making no direct investment in those sectors.

    Finally, feminist criticism of the stimulus package has largely focused on the fact that the jobs being created for women are lower paid than the ones being created for men, and that it will take longer for those jobs to materialise. You wouldn’t know that from reading this article.

  11. Pelle Billing Says:

    unomi:
    Under the original stimulus plan, only 10% of the jobs created would have gone to women. Does anyone, including Hoff Sommers’ friends at the American Enterprise Institute, really think that only 10% of the jobs lost during this recession would have been held by women?

    Finally, feminist criticism of the stimulus package has largely focused on the fact that the jobs being created for women are lower paid than the ones being created for men, and that it will take longer for those jobs to materialise. You wouldn’t know that from reading this article.

    I can only repeat what I’ve already said: the government shouldn’t spend money to benefit men or women as a group. The money should be spent on the sectors where it’s desperately needed, for example to revitalize the country by upgrading the infrastructure and investing in green energy production. Such measures will aid the whole country, not only men or women as a group. If there are serious issues with the education system, then that needs to be rectified as well obviously, but not from some kind of let’s-help-women perspective, but from the perspective of realizing that the coming generation needs to be well educated for the country to thrive.

    So my point, from the start, has been that Obama should deal with the overarching concerns of the country, not the petty self-interests of feminists groups. Should he ever be approached by powerful masculist groups who have petty self-interests (which he won’t, because there are no powerful masculist groups), then he should ignore them too, IMO.

    Pelle

  12. unomi Says:

    @Pelle

    “Stimulus packages” are not some sort of science where there is one, single plan that will stimulate the economy more than any other plan would. It is basically just another term for throwing money at the economy and hoping that putting money in people’s pockets will make them want to go out and spend again.

    As such, different interest groups are always going to want their piece of the action. It appears that feminists had some legitimate grievances, if you look at what they have actually said and not what a Republican think tank is quoting them as saying.

    Personally I think it’s important to invest in social programmes when times are tough, to protect those who are most vulnerable to a downturn.

  13. Pelle Billing Says:

    @unomi

    You’re confusing two different kinds of packages. A “stimulus package” can indeed be a package where you simply throw money at the economy and everyone wants their piece of the action.

    However, to launch a comprehensive plan for rebuilding a countries infrastructure and transform the energy sector at a deep level, is not a stimulus plan – it is an investment in the future. Whether such a plan is needed or not, and what the focus of it needs to be, can be discussed. However, IMO it’s important to only accept arguments about what is good for the country, instead of letting specific lobby groups set the agenda.

    If feminists have legitimate grievances, they need to learn how to phrase that in term of what is best for the country, and not what is best for women. OTOH, a lobby group will always be a lobby group, and feminists lobby for female privilege and not much more.

  14. unomi Says:

    Actually no, this really was a stimulus package, which is why it was universally known as “a stimulus package”.

    The incredible importance of rebuilding America’s roads and bridges over rebuilding its dilapidated schools and education system is your opinion, nothing more.

  15. Danny Says:

    Finally, feminist criticism of the stimulus package has largely focused on the fact that the jobs being created for women are lower paid than the ones being created for men, and that it will take longer for those jobs to materialise.
    So even though the sectors that happen to be dominated by men were at the center point of the ripple you still want the sectors that happen to be dominated by women to take priority in the stimulus efforts?

    It appears that feminists had some legitimate grievances,…
    Yes they do but as Pelle has said they are going about it from the angle of “Women need help because they are women.” instead of “Women need help because they are a part of this country too.”

    The incredible importance of rebuilding America’s roads and bridges over rebuilding its dilapidated schools and education system is your opinion, nothing more.
    You’re touching on it right there. You seem think that working on the educational system should take priority. Education for the most part happens to be dominated by women and the construction/repair of those schools happen to be dominated by men. Assuming that is your line of thought you’re hitting on something good there (mind you you couldn’t help but try to dimiss Pelle’s thought process as well but good idea on your part.)

  16. unomi Says:

    Yes they do but as Pelle has said they are going about it from the angle of “Women need help because they are women.”

    I’ve never seen that quote. I do know that if all the money had been put into construction and green energy, only 10% of the jobs created would have gone to women, and most of those 10% would have been in low paid, admin positions.

    Add to that the money already pumped into the male-dominated banks and auto makers, and I can see why some women would be a little annoyed.

    I have already shown that this article is complete rubbish. But another point worth making is that investing in infrastructure is not necessarily the best thing to do in a stimulus package, since it generally takes time to plan those projects, get permission for them, etc. It may not give the economy the “jolt start” a government is looking for.

  17. Danny Says:

    I’ve never seen that quote.
    I’ve never seen a gorilla up close but that doesn’t they don’t exist. What I’m saying is that feminists seem to think that the way to make the world a better place is to concentrate on women first.

    Add to that the money already pumped into the male-dominated banks and auto makers, and I can see why some women would be a little annoyed.
    I didn’t realize that a woman’s personal feelings were supposed to dictate policy that affects everyone. And just out of curiosity if everything was the same except that the male and female dominated sectors were switched (meaning women dominated finance and manufacturing and men dominated education and service) would you still hold your current thoughts on this?

    I have already shown that this article is complete rubbish.
    No you’ve shown why you disagree with it. I find it odd that you try to hold Pelle to higher standard of proof than you hold yourself to.

  18. Jim Says:

    @unomi

    “Education on the other hand has not been subject to cuts anywhere that I know of

    I’m not American but even I know how to Google this stuff:

    http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,184005,00.html
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A3319-2005Feb6.html

    Yes, well it helps if you are able to understand what you are reading. “Bush’s budget” refers to federal spending. Education is funded at the state and local level. Bush’s budget has nothing at all with actual educating of pupils in classrooms. It has to do with grants for studies on education an similar things, and for fundng the federal education bureaucracy. So these cuts don’t really have much to do with children.

    Where Bush truly fucked up was in getting the No Child Left Behind bill passed, which imposed all sorts of onerous standards and other burdens on schools, without providing any funding for this. The conservative state of Utah told the federal government they weren’t going to comply, and it could keep the funding it did provide – the feds do provide some eduacation funding, just not teacher salaries or school building funds you know, actual education.

  19. Jim Says:

    “The incredible importance of rebuilding America’s roads and bridges over rebuilding its dilapidated schools and education system is your opinion, nothing more.”

    They both need rebuilding. The roads are falling apart in places, bridges fall down here and there, and in the most inconvenient places; schools are falling apart in some places and teachers’ salaries are too low tro attract people across the full range of society and develop a coprs of teachers that are truly representative. 95% of elementary schoolteachers are women, which is obviously unacceptable – OTOH salaries ar enot the only reason men stay out of teaching; they face outright hitring discrmination and other forms of discrimination.

    Both are generally funded at local level, which is part of the complexity of using federal money you may be hearing about – the funding has go to state and local jurisdictions first.

    Anyway, there is no direct correlation between spending on schools and academic results, within reason of course. Inner city schools spend more on students than many suburban schools do, and sometimes twice as much as most private schools. Funding levels cannot explain why boys do worse in public schools than girls do, for instance.

  20. unomi Says:

    @Jim

    So these cuts don’t really have much to do with children.

    Good thing we’re not talking about the children then. We’re talking about the women who work in the education sector, whether in classrooms, universities or administration, who most definitely would have been hit by a cut in federal spending

  21. unomi Says:

    @Danny

    No you’ve shown why you disagree with it.

    Really? Because so far I have pointed out that this “very revealing” article:

    1. Forgets to mention that construction and renewable energy would only have created 10% female jobs. Maths is hard. But 10% is smaller than 20%, which was the percentage of jobs lost by women, according to the author.
    2. Completely twists the meaning of “job creation” by including jobs that aren’t the result of direct investment by the US government. Oh, and by leaving out the fact the the jobs created for women pay less, which is why there are more of them.
    3. Ignores the widely held view by economists that building stuff is really not a very good idea if you want to jump start the economy, because many projects take forever to get through planning committees, etc. The “man-cession” could easily have become a “man-pression” that way.

    These are all facts and/or established economic theory. Not the usual populist “feminists always say this and that” rhetoric that is this blog’s stock in trade.

  22. Danny Says:

    True but none of those three facts negate the fact that feminists managed gain some sway on the relief funds on the virtue that they are women. I suppose next you’re gonna say that if a group of men tried to do the same it would not be instantly judged as sexist right?

    These are all facts and/or established economic theory. Not the usual populist “feminists always say this and that” rhetoric that is this blog’s stock in trade.
    There’s an awful lot of feminists who say the things that are pointed out here (and a lot of feminists who don’t acknowledge it) for those things to be simple rhetoric. Unlike feminists that like to pass off anecdotal evidence as proof of an all encompassing conspiracy that in which men as a class are trying to keep women as a class under control.

  23. Jim Says:

    “Good thing we’re not talking about the children then. ”

    When you are talking about education you are only ever talking about children. Education is not supposed to be some jobs program for the benefit of adults. and since when is education supposed ot eb the private reserve of women anyway? Every job created in education for the next ten years would have to go to a man, with not one woman hired, to achieve anything like the gender parity that so many feminists think is so important in so many other fields.

    ” We’re talking about the women who work in the education sector, whether in classrooms, universities or administration, who most definitely would have been hit by a cut in federal spending”

    Unomi, I was very specific about classroom teachers, and that is about the only thing that my reference to ‘children ‘ can mean. M’kay?

    “universities or administration’ – actually, these areas of education are where most of the failings in education in the US are. I know, from the inside of the sytem.

    In any case, women are grossly over-represented in elementary and secondary education. The problem is not so severe in higher education.

    In any case, if women want in on this stimulus program the answer is simple – they need to seek jobs in construction and public works, where the money is going. Sorry if they break a fingernail here or there. It would do them good anyway – women have a lot of dues to pay when it comes to the infrastructure – they didn’t lay a mile of track or roadway in this country.

    “Forgets to mention that construction and renewable energy would only have created 10% female jobs. ”

    Oh. my.God. Just what the f*ck is a “female job”? One where the doughnut dollies hand out sandwiches and coffee to the real workers? You sound like you think place in the kitchen – I know that can’t be the case? wait – do you think the little damsels are somehow entitled to the comfortable office jobs in the industry while the brutes go out into the weather? Of course paying the brutes more would be “pay inequality.”

    “Oh, and by leaving out the fact the the jobs created for women pay less,….”

    You keep doing it! Repeat until you grasp until you understand:

    “Women can do manual labor”
    “Women can do manual labor”
    “Women can do manual labor”
    “Women can do manual labor”
    “Women can do manual labor”

    BTW, are you referring to AEI above, the think tank that master-minded Bush’s? It wouldn’t surprise me if they had some contract like that. Skanks. It’s disgusting that she ended up in that sewer. But then again, it’s a big group of people, not really such a monolith, and I wonder who she actually voted for. I might be disappointed there too, though.

  24. Pelle Billing Says:

    Jim: excellent job of applying feminist rhetoric on the areas where feminists would rather keep the old gender roles. “Having your cake and eating it too” is something that many feminists are unconsciously all too happy to do.

  25. elementary_watson Says:

    Pelle: Well, often the critics of feminism want to have their cake and eat it too, too. Like, for example, denouncinf feminist rhetoric and then applying it on areas where many feminists rather keep the old gender roles.

    Not being an economic expert, I guess creating jobs is a good thing right now. I however don’t think there should be jobs created for men and jobs created for women; there should be jobs created for which men and women should be able to apply for.

    Which is basically what Jim said.

  26. Pelle Billing Says:

    elementary_watson:

    What I meant to underline was the value of consistency. That if you apply a certain principle when it fits your needs then you probably need to apply it even when it doesn’t, and that’s where many feminists fail.

    I don’t think that pointing that out – as a thought experiment – is having your cake and eating it too. What you’re doing then is demonstrating what the principles lead to, without necessarily agreeing with the principles or the end result.

    As long as you’re consistent when talking about an alternative vision, then I think you’re doing fine. As soon as you’re being inconsistent in your own way of reasoning and applying principles, then you’re obviously no better than the people you criticize (for example feminists).

    My own way of reasoning has led me to write articles about how feminism hurts women, and how feminism overlooks the real issues that women face today. If I only wanted to push some kind of male agenda, then I would have suppressed those insights, but I don’t – I publish them right here on the blog.


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