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NOW-NYS claims Ted Kennedy’s Obama endorsement is “ultimate betrayal” of women: CNN reports the slam; feminist bloggers reject it

varreolas Icon Posted by Veronica Arreola

January 30th, 2008

[EDITORIAL NOTE: This post marks Veronica Arreola’s transition from guest blogger to regular house blogger at WIMN’s Voices.]

Here we are, one week until Super Tuesday and I’m still wrestling with who I am going to vote for. Will it be my senator, Barack Obama, who woos me with his charm and vision? Will it be my hometown girl, Hillary Clinton, who woos me with her decades of leadership? I need to consider the issues that are the dearest to me: reproductive justice, education reform, “welfare reform” reform, and safe and affordable child care for the working class. Let me do my due diligence and mosey on over to CNN.com to find out where my candidates stand. Oh wait, I forgot, CNN and corporate media tell me that I should decide based on my genitals & the color of my skin.

Yesterday was a huge day in the election. The Kennedy clan is split – three of RFK’s kids on one side and JFK’s daughter Caroline and his brother, Senator Kennedy on the other - on who is the best candidate; Toni Morrison, who famously dubbed Bill Clinton the “first Black president,” wants “another” one with her endorsement of Senator Obama:

“In addition to keen intelligence, integrity and a rare authenticity, you exhibit something that has nothing to do with age, experience, race or gender and something I don’t see in other candidates.”

At the same time, the NY State chapter of the National Organization for Women scored CNN attention when they called Senator Kennedy’s endorsement of Obama over Clinton a “betrayal of women,” and blowing the feminist community into a tizzy, to say the least. (NOW’s national leadership released a less controversial statement.) These are the things that make sexy headlines, not serious policy stances.

Before diving into the NY-NOW press release, it is clear that the only reason the corporate media ran with it was its tone and demands. If NOW or any other group had sent out a press release demanding that the candidates take a stand on why the hell Congress keeps funneling money into abstinence-only sex education despite report after report [pdf] that says it doesn’t work, we would likely hear crickets chirp. Despite the name calling, the race baiting and the misogyny of the press, the plain simple fact is that corporate media wants us (feminists, progressives, liberals, pick a label) to fight this identity politics war.

Exit polls show that voters are divided not just by race and gender, but by education, generation, and place in life. As NPR noted yesterday, you could have three women all aged 42 and each at different places in their lives make different choices on the election. It’s not as easy as black, white, Latina, man, or woman.

Black women have been the focus of the identity war. Which identity will she choose when she votes? Her skin color (and culture) or her gender? Little attention has been paid by corporate media to the policy war that is occurring in the feminist community. Round up 10 feminists and you will get varying views on the Clinton legacy and women. Many support her without a doubt, some question her stand on the Iraq war and ties to Israel, others will never forgive her support of the 1996 welfare reform bill that President Clinton signed and that she stumped for. (Asked if she would repeal welfare reform at the Yearly Kos convention over the summer, Senator Clinton remarked that she thought that welfare reform helped more than it hurt and generally worked well for women, when in fact welfare reform threw many low-income women out of college and into deeper poverty.)

The NYS-NOW press release threw gasoline on a war that has been brewing under the radar. It also presents us with evidence of a growing generation gap in the primary season. The exit polls already show that women over 65 support Clinton over Obama and that Obama is winning the youth vote (good news is that 64 and under is considered young!). This same thing is occurring in the feminist community. Young feminists who support Obama or Edwards are scoffed at for not understanding the gender-based importance of the Clinton campaign. Young feminists retort back with the litany of demerits on Clinton’s feminist card. Jill at Feministe took a look at the archives of NYS-NOW and found a press release from January 11, 2008 where chapter President Pappas parallels the misogyny Clinton has faced in the media to a gang-rape. While this might have played well when it was released and we were all in a furor over the media’s treatment of Clinton (and to some of us, it never played well), finding it on the same day that Pappas draws a line in the sand over feminist credentials in the voting booth was awful.

Where does this leave us?

The corporate media and even supporters of Senator Obama (Caroline Kennedy in her op-ed and Morrison in her endorsement) paint both Senators as being equal on the issues. But there are nuances in their stances — from what universal access to health care means to who really would bring the troops home — ignoring those nuances dumbs down the election and insults the intelligence of every voter.

And as for media’s lack of interest in covering policy issues, here’s a question we rarely heard addressed in corporate media: “Why were so many feminist economic justice advocates supporting Edwards (before he dropped out of the race)?”

Veronica I. Arreola has been an active member of NOW since 2000 serving at the local, state, and national level. She is still a card carrying member of NOW and will continue to be one as she believes that they do great work. She also serves on the board of Women In Media & News, and blogs at Viva La Feminista, Chicago Parent, Chicago Moms Blog, and Work It, Mom! This post marks her transition from guest blogger to house blogger at WIMN’s Voices.

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