Imagine an Office on Women in the Obama-Biden administration — not just any old office, but one at the Cabinet level, putting women “at the table” in a very tangible way. We can make it happen!
Recently NOW helped organize a coalition of nearly 50 national groups which sent a letter to President-elect Barack Obama and Vice President-elect Joe Biden urging gender balance in executive appointments and advocating the creation of this new Office on Women. This office would address not only the status of women, but also the many inequities that women face in our society, our nation, and our world. The director would hold cabinet rank and report directly to the president. Establishing this office would be another historic first for Obama and a giant leap toward equality.
Ask Obama NOW: Create an Office on Women
Because women, especially women of color, are differently affected by so many laws and policies — from health care to the economy — it is critical that women be taken into account as the new administration makes key decisions. Women need an advocate at the policy-making table whose specific responsibility is considering and weighing in on the possible impact of these decisions on women’s opportunities for advancement. A Cabinet-level office is the most effective way to accomplish this goal.
I feel myself going into Miss Marple mode. Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple used her village experience to understand issues with quite different details and scale. My worries about the NOW idea come from experience with universities. Adding in an office on women can seem like such a great idea. You have an administration whose understanding of and commitment to women’s issues seems less robust than one would like, so you add a locus of power into the setting. The problem is: That is not how power gets located.
It may in fact be that the demand for a women’s office comes from a kind of thought Wittgenstein criticized. As he argued, the idea that one might understand how speech carries meaning, for example, by positing an inner speech has been exceptionally attractive, but perhaps illusory. Similarly – perhaps – the idea that one can move the list of women’s needs from outside the cabinet to inside it by itself may mean little. If you can ignore over50% of the population, is having one of them sitting next to you going to change all that? After all, women do already pervade men’s lives.
I’d love to hear what others think. I’m surprised and concerned that NOW has come out for what may be an ill conceived plan.
**This is the related web site; the quote above is from a NOW letter.