A man on the cover of Ms. Magazine! President Obama is honored with a special inaugural issue Ms. Magazine. The illustration of the president has him in a heroic superman pose wearing a T-shirt with the inscription: “THIS IS WHAT A FEMINIST LOOKS LIKE.” The Executive Editor of Ms. Magazine, Kathy Spillar defends the cover and the self-proclaimed feminist president by arguing that it captures the national feminist mood.
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Is Obama a feminist?
SHARMINI PERIES, TRNN: Welcome to The Real News and its inauguration and post-inauguration coverage from Washington, DC. This morning I’m joined by Kathy Spillar. She is the executive editor of Ms. Magazine, and she’s also the senior vice president of Feminist Majority. And she’s joining us to discuss the cover of Ms. Magazine dedicated to Barack Obama. Thank you for joining me, Kathy.
KATHERINE SPILLAR, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, MS. MAGAZINE: Thank you. Thank you.
PERIES: Kathy, this is quite an honor for Barack Obama—not too many men are featured on an issue of Ms. Magazine. Why did you do it?
SPILLAR: We did it because we wanted to capture the hopefulness and the mood of feminists across the country and, really, Americans across the country, celebrating another period in this country’s history and what we believe will be a transformative period for women’s equality and women’s empowerment, and wanted to showcase a president who has self-identified as a feminist, has called himself a feminist, and ran on the strongest women’s rights platform in the history of any major party in the United States, and has made very strong commitments on women’s equality issues that are going to be before Congress. And so we wanted to say, hey, we have a partner now in the White House, and feeling very joyful, as the country is, about now moving forward again.
PERIES: You were there yesterday for the inauguration. How did it feel?
SPILLAR: Oh, it was just the most magical period. It was a magical time, people from all over the country together, standing in line for hours to get in, and making all kinds of new friends, and everyone was so respectful and patient as we made our way, finally, onto the grounds. And then the moment, of course, he took the oath, such joy, such joy. And it is an exciting time.
PERIES: However, in the feminist community, you must have raised a few eyebrows with this issue.
SPILLAR: We did.
PERIES: How are you responding to—?
SPILLAR: Well, I’ll tell you. We explain in the magazine why we would put President Obama on the front cover. This is a bit of a Superman pose. And, in fact, a couple of weeks before the election, he joked about being born on Krypton. And so we wanted to showcase, you know, that people are feeling that his presidency is going to save us from, you know, the crises that we face in the economy, and wars, and the environment. But most importantly, we wanted to make sure people knew that he is a feminist and is strongly committed to women’s equality. But we warn in the magazine, we say in the magazine we’re going to hold his feet to the fire. This is not a free pass. This is to say that we now have hope that we can move forward. But we know that we’re going to have to organize, organize, organize to make sure that we move forward in partnership, because he’s going to be buffeted by so many crosscurrents and crises that we know we’re going to have to work very hard to move forward. But we have hope that we actually can make progress.
PERIES: Let’s dig into that hope just a little bit. What gives you hope? I know that initially when the Feminist Majority endorsed Barack Obama as a candidate, you were thrilled that he had also appointed Biden, and you see Biden as a friend of the feminists. What are some of the really serious issues that gives you hope?
SPILLAR: Well, he has pledged to very early in his administration repeal the global gag rule, which has been a horrid rule under the Bush administration that has hurt and in fact resulted in the deaths of many women around the world, hampering US international family planning aid. He has promised to release the funds, finally, after eight years, to the United Nations Population Fund. He’s made very strong commitments and was a sponsor of the Violence Against Women Act. Joe Biden, of course, was the chief sponsor and author of the Violence Against Women Act. We’ve been working with Senator Biden—now Vice President Biden—on an international Violence Against Women Act and to strengthen the US Violence Against Women Act. So we’re very hopeful that we can make progress. We are hoping very early that one of the first new laws that President Obama signs is the Lilly Ledbetter Act, which right now is being held up in the Senate by Republican and business-interest opposition. This bill is very critical to reestablish the strength of laws here in the United States against sex discrimination and pay on the job. Lilly Ledbetter sued, proved that she had been discriminated against. But this Supreme Court, which has been stacked by Bush, ruled that she hadn’t sued early enough. So now we’re hoping that the Congress will take action on that this week and that it’ll be one of the first bills that he signs. Reproductive health, not only for women around the world but for women here in this country, has suffered mightily under the Bush administration, and he has pledged a full, comprehensive sex education, increasing family planning funding and assistance. So, as I said, we’re going to work closely but hold feet to the fire. And, of course, the economic crisis. We’ve been in meetings with the transition team to make sure that women’s jobs are also part of the economic stimulus plan. And we’re so pleased that health care and education and child care and early childhood development is part of the stimulus package, because women dominate those sectors. Women don’t do so well in the construction trades to this day, despite our efforts—only 10 percent of the jobs.
PERIES: Kathy, this is a very interesting discussion. Let’s continue this in the second segment and talk about the stimulus package and its impact on women. And please join us for the second segment with Kathy Spillar and the economic stimulus package of Barack Obama.
Please note that TRNN transcripts are typed from a recording of the program; The Real News Network cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.