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A letter to President Obama (or should I say “Jock in Chief”)?

(crossposted from Heidi Li’s Potpourri)

Dear President Obama:

One of your Cabinet Secretaries, Hillary Rodham Clinton, is striking a chord with women abroad and at home as she mixes in, with her discussion of global warming and economic security, the issue of women’s empowerment, as a matter of democracy and social justice. Might you consider taking a lesson from the Secretary of State? If you did, you would incorporate her message about the importance of women to democratic politics and economic security into every aspect of your own programs and many of your public statements.

Those of us interested in the emancipation of American women would be delighted to hear you echo Secretary Clinton when she states, “I think that it’s imperative that nations like ours stand up for the rights of women. It is not ancillary to our progress; it is central” or “We have to highlight the importance of inclusion for women. We have to make clear that no democracy can exist without women’s full participation; no economy can be truly a free market without women involved.” (Secretary Clinton, February 20, 2009).

You, Mr. President, are in a flurry of summits, initiatives, and speeches, leading up to the announcement of your budget this Thursday, February 26, 2009. Those who wonder whether you understand the significance of women in the U.S. economy need to hear you speak at home in terms your Secretary of State speaks abroad. We need to hear this partly because many of us doubt whether you are as forward thinking about women’s issues as we would expect a Democratic president who will be seeking our votes again ought to be but also because we doubt you are as forward thinking about economic matters as we expect a Democratic president to be. Women do not dominate the boardrooms and executive suites of Fortune 500 companies; they do depend heavily on Social Security; they are a major source of small business initiatives in this country. When you discuss “entitlements” or “business” this means something different to the majority of women than it does to the majority of men.

Even in symbolic ways, we need you to do better if you want us to trust your commitment to women’s empowerment. Just recently you cooperated with Men’s Journal, a men’s lifestyle magazine, that along with so many other publications, decided to devote a cover story to you. This is the cover:Mj_cover

For those who cannot read the headline, running alongside a photo of you holding a football in your hands, it says: “Barack Obama, Jock in Chief: His Moves, His Trash Talk & His Weekly Power Basketball Game.”

Mr. President, I am not sure whether you are proud of being depicted as a trash-talking jock-in-chief – that seems to me to fulfill both sexist and racist stereotypes you yourself might find personally offensive. But the magazine editors certainly mean this headline to be laudatory, although they would never write the same sort of headline about a woman president or cabinet secretary and mean it to have the connotations of hipness and coolness they meant this one to carry. (“Trash-talking” is not a phrase used to praise powerfully positioned women.)

You, Mr. President, could by word and deed use your bully pulpit to discourage this sort of sexist pigeonholing not only of yourself but therefore of what power is supposed to look like or be like. I have written before about the need for you to convene a Presidential Empowerment of Women Advisory Board, to be as significant and influential with you as you suggest your PERAB and PIAB (Economic Recovery and Intelligence boards, respectively). This is becoming more urgent, not less. If you want the American economy and American democracy to remain strong, you must empower the 51 percent of the population who are women to participate as fully and on fair terms in our society.

Yours truly,

Heidi Li Feldman, founder and president, 51 Percent

45 Responses

  1. Wow, Heidi!

    You are the mistress of the iron fist in the velvet glove. Very, very well said.

    • Thanks, Madamab.

      • It’s a beautifully written letter, Heidi Li. I hope you’re going to mail it to the “jock in chief.” I was thinking of sending him a letter in which I make the “modest proposal” that all the poor, the elderly and women past childbearing age be euthanized. I’m not as polite as you are!

  2. “Barack Obama, Jock in Chief: His Moves, His Trash Talk & His Weekly Power Basketball Game.”

    I guess we should be grateful they didn’t title it “Pimpin’ ain’t easy”

  3. BTW – I don’t know if anyone noticed but we’ve had over 400,000 hits since last month.

    IIRC we passed 5,000,000 hits just before Barack Day

  4. “Jock strap in chief” should be the title.

    Thanks for all your excellent work, Heidi.

  5. what is his “weekly power basketball game”? and do any women play? I don’t have the patience to read the men’s journal article.

    btw and totally off topic, but is Men’s Journal one of those soft core porn mags like Men’s Health for closet cases? I remember one time seeing the cover of that one in the store and wondering where I had seen the cover photo before. I found out later it was a gay porn star and the same pic had been used on a video cover I had seen at a friends house (I swear!)

  6. Oh, and Heidi Li, love the letter. I wish I could write half as well as you. 🙂

  7. But, but, but…I am confused! I thought that was what a feminist looked like????

  8. mentioning “jock in chief” -just came across a really funny video of Robin Williams (in the UK) on Obama’s election:


    • Laurie,

      Thanks for the Robin Williams “amused” UK video! HIs impersonation of Obama going to Washington in a convertible with the top down and doing his JayZ rap walk (how typical!) while grabbing his most prized possessions was FUNNY as hell. No one does Obama like Robin….I like his Bush regime description: “Bush’s Reign of Error”….superb. And Camilla and Charles were in the audience…racy at times….

  9. “I think that it’s imperative that nations like ours stand up for the rights of women. It is not ancillary to our progress; it is central”… “We have to highlight the importance of inclusion for women. We have to make clear that no democracy can exist without women’s full participation; no economy can be truly a free market without women involved.”

    Unless, of course, the women are Chinese, in which case human rights take a back seat to economic issues, as HRC explicitly stated on her visit there. But we can’t let anything complicate the cartoon view of HRC as without sin and BO as a sexist pig, can we?

    • Edgar, sweetie, your more immediate problem is whether you can allow anything to complicate the cartoon view of Obots you embody. I suggest you make that your priority.

      BTW, Secretary Clinton has called the Chinese on human rights abuses–in China. Bear in mind that she’s now representing Obama’s views, not her own. If you want to complain about the policty she’s articulating, take it to its source.

    • Clinton’s view:

      “Before her meetings in Beijing, for instance, Clinton said she would raise human rights issues with Chinese officials. “But we pretty much know what they’re going to say,” she said.

      Clinton’s comments have stirred outrage in the human rights community, where she was once viewed as a hero for having confronted the Chinese government, in 1995, over its record. Activists say that without public, sustained international pressure on human rights issues, nothing will change in China.

      Clinton says she does not understand the fuss. In her view, speaking clearly — and not obfuscating through diplomatic artifice — helps enhance the policy, rather than undermine it.

      “I think that to worry about something which is so self-evident is an impediment to clear thinking,” Clinton told reporters traveling with her. “And I don’t think it should be viewed as particularly extraordinary that someone in my position would say what’s obvious.”

      From WaPo article here:

    • Um, thanks to dumbasses like you, She’s not president. so that’s not HER policy you’re criticizing you idiot, it is your dear leader’s. So yeah, Obama is a sexist pig for ignoring the abuses of women by the chinese government. why don’t you go throw a party to watch videos of your leaders explaining how his horrible policies are in fact liberal, you just don’t get it, you’re forgetting to hope. give me a break.

    • Edgar sweetie, I agree. Barry Soetoro is not a “sexist pig”. He’s just a trash-talkin’ camouflaged misogynist jock who stole the election from his mentor Sen. Alice Palmer and then stole the nomination from his democratic rival whom he cheated in the caucuses and got the huge benefit of the media leg-thrillers’ adulation (like the brat & beer hoi polloi you represent). Read Bernie Goldberg ‘(CBS reporter) book “A Slobbering Love Affair: The Torrid Romance between Obama and the Mainstream Media”.
      You’ve been brainwashed into thinking an anorexic resume holder with a less than mediocre senate presence (l46 days of “present” voting) was the Messiah….wake up!

    • I guess I can’t understand the brouhaha over Clinton’s comments as anything but a deliberate attempt at a fauxrage misreading from the obots. This is the same thing that went on daily (even hourly) in the primaries.

      Clinton did not say that human rights in China do not matter. She said she will raise the issue but does not expect to make much progress. That’s pretty much all she said. That’s worlds different. To read it as her not caring about human rights abuses in China, esp. in light of her history, is ridiculous. Please, obot people, learn to read.

      What do people realistically expect her to say? Even if she wasn’t following Obama’s policy goals?* Threaten to nuke China if they don’t stop right this minute?

      * and yes, if human rights abuses, if rights abuses of any stripe were of concern to you, you should have supported the candidate who cared about them. Too late to cry about it now.

  10. Who showed him how to hold the football?

    It’s either that or “Heh, yeah mine’s that big.”

  11. A fantastic letter, Holly. I hope it isn’t over the head of the clerk who opens it and has to search for a canned response, assuming it isn’t trashed at first glance.

    That cover photo certainly makes me feel confident that we have the right man cast for the celebrity position. Thank you, Huff Poop and other celebrity rags for allowing us to feel so confidence at such a critical juncture in our nation’s history. Will he be on the cover of the Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition, too?

    Will there ever be a time when he won’t have time to work out on a daily basis, and if so, will the people be notified?

    • Ooops, I meant Heidi!

      • No worries. During the primary season, people kept calling me “Hillary” by accident and that was fun.

        • Heidi, “Holly” is a Hillary supporter par excellence. She traveled the country working for
          Hillary and met people everywhere. When I was trying to discover one thing that
          Obama had done for people in his district, someone who wouldn’t further his career, she was
          able to connect me with a woman who was a campaign manager for a well-known politician, who was afraid to be attributed, but could say this: “Obama was in a position to do good, but he did not.”

    • Oh no, that would be too much change. The p0rn, errr, “swimsuit” issue will feature a (brainwashed) female again.

  12. Brava! Heidi, yet another well-written post. I’d of been tempted to write: Hillary works while Barack poses.

    Could anything be more telling than our SoS hard at work around the world, speaking up for what’s right, while B0 gets in some more time playing with balls.

    Posing while the world economy burns.

  13. I will say this about China: I find it odd that the only loud criticism from the left on whether this admin is being forceful enough about human rights around the world is being directed at the person who is speaking the most about that matter: Secretary Clinton.

  14. Great piece, Heidi – thanks

  15. Well said, Heidi! You targeted Obama’s most vulnerable spot: His totall cluelessness about what truly matters to women and the democracy he’s purportedly promoting.

    Sadly, I don’t expect too much from this misogynist puppet.

    Periodically, the Jock-in-Chief will be feeling down and will start launching attacks on women’s rights.
    The last priority for Barrack is women’s democratic rights!

  16. Heidi’s comments on small businesses run predominantly by women are right on target. Obama should respond to this Open Letter or choose to ignore it at his own political risk. It is small businesses that will be the driving force of the economy’s revival. Doesn’t the Trash-Talking Chief Jock know this?!

    I’d love to be able to take a full page at the N.Y.Times and WashingPost and post Heidi’s Open Letter…

  17. Here’s the report from Hillary Clinton’s stop in China. Note short play given to “Human Rights” — Don’t let it get in the way of doing “business?”??? WTF???

    “U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is back in Washington from her first official overseas trip – a four nation tour of Asia. Before leaving Beijing, her final stop, Clinton urged China Sunday to keep buying U.S. debt and work with Washington to fix the global economic crisis. She said Washington must incur more debt to China to boost the ailing U.S. economy and stimulate demand for Chinese products. She says it would not be in China’s interest if the U.S. is unable to get its economy out of a recession.
    China is the largest holder of U.S. Treasury bonds. Clinton says China’s continued investment in U.S. Treasuries is a recognition that the two economies are tied together. Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi told Clinton that both countries should boost economic policy coordination and reject protectionism in trade.

    Yang says he and Clinton also discussed their differing views about human rights in China. He says China will continue to discuss the issue with Washington on the basis of equality and non-interference in each other’s internal affairs.
    BEFORE HER TALKS, CLINTON SAID THE HUMAN RIGHTS DEBATE SHOULD NOT GET IN THE WAY OF PROGRESS IN OTHER AREAS, such as tackling climate change. But rights groups say Washington should make human rights a priority.

    Chinese rights activists complained that police prevented them from leaving their homes to stop them from speaking out or meeting with Clinton.

    Clinton met with Chinese women’s rights advocates at the U.S. Embassy and attended a service at a state-sanctioned Beijing church.

    Clinton says she will host Foreign Minister Yang in Washington next month to prepare for a first meeting between U.S. President Barack Obama and Chinese President Hu Jintao.

    Clinton’s trip to Asia also took her to Japan, Indonesia and South Korea.

    • What is the source of this report? I didn’t see quotes around the capitalized comments (no need to shout btw, I can hear you quite clearly). So this is some ‘journalists’ summary of Clinton’s comments, not her actual comments.

      The real problem is that, thanks to GWB and pals (and soon to be thanks to Obama’s skewed and inadequate response to the economic crisis), the U.S. is now a debtor nation to the China. China has the upper hand.

      Sorry, but critics of Clinton’s every word (assassination, anyone?) blew it by crying fauxrage wolf too many times during the last 2 years. I believe, and will continue to believe, that whatever the maximum effort and progress on China that can be made is, subject to both her boss’ policy strictures and our poor negotiating position, Clinton will make it. Until someone comes up with some proof that Clinton has gone rogue on foreign policy vis-a-vis China, all fauxrage should be directed at Obama. Thanx!

  18. By the way, my daughter is adopted from china and I’m familiar with Chinese “Human Rights” issues and the effect of current government rules and cultural tendencies on the youngest females in particular…

  19. So, someone — actually anyone — point me to any credible report that SecSt Clinton did anything meaningful while on her first official visit to china regarding Human Rights or Women’s Rights. Please!

  20. tommie, why are you blasting Clinton? she’s only delivering the message that her boss, President Obama wants her to deliver. Why no outrage directed towards him?

  21. My impression was that Hillary was on a “get-acquainted” tour of Asia, she wasn’t there to deliver ultimatums.

  22. So, eveyone is convinced that Hillary Clinton took a job and accepted as a condition of taking said job that she would no longer be able to speak her mind about Human Rights and Women’s Rights? And if she DID take a job where she gave up the ability to speak her mind, we should admire that because….. because…. because… we like her in so so many other ways??? Xplain it to me again lucy.

  23. Tommie,

    When I hover over your name with my curor a window opens up with drink recipes and the torso of a bikini-clad woman. Is that your blog? Also, why does a person old enough to adopt a child use a diminuitive like “Tommie?” Is that your birth name or something?

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