Dear President Obama, I voted for you as a citizen, not a daughter, wife, or mother

I’ll have a longer post on the State of the Union speech later, but for now, here’s one nitpick. In making a plug for the Violence Against Women Act and the Paycheck Fairness Act, President Obama said:

“We know our economy is stronger when our wives, mothers, and daughters can live their lives free from discrimination in the workplace and free from the fear of domestic violence.”

Like Melissa–and many other feminists I saw on Twitter–I really, really hate this framing. (And he used it more than once last night.) As I’ve written before, I think it is counter-productive and offensive to continually ask men to imagine a female relation when calling on them to support women’s basic rights.

More to the point in this case, last time I checked the State of Union, while delivered to Congress, is a message to whole nation. I mean, I know women only make up 20 percent of Congress, but President Obama is surely aware that we make up half of the population. (After all, he was elected thanks to women–mainly single women, I might add.) So it indefensible, and frankly weird, that he so often “appears to be talking to The Men of America about Their Women.”

You can sign Shakesville’s petition here.

St. Paul, MN

Maya Dusenbery is executive director in charge of editorial at Feministing. She is the author of the forthcoming book Doing Harm: The Truth About How Bad Medicine and Lazy Science Leave Women Dismissed, Misdiagnosed, and Sick (HarperOne, March 2018). She has been a fellow at Mother Jones magazine and a columnist at Pacific Standard magazine. Her work has appeared in publications like,, Bitch Magazine, as well as the anthology The Feminist Utopia Project. Before become a full-time journalist, she worked at the National Institute for Reproductive Health. A Minnesota native, she received her B.A. from Carleton College in 2008. After living in Brooklyn, Oakland, and Atlanta, she is currently based in the Twin Cities.

Maya Dusenbery is an executive director of Feministing and author of the forthcoming book Doing Harm on sexism in medicine.

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