Feminism’s Barack-star Makeover at the California Oprah Rally

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When I was a UCLA undergrad, I used to drive home to San Diego on weekends to visit my parents, where they would be promptly subjected to my hour-long soliloquies on the hypocrisy of the American Dream. After my Women’s Studies, African-American Politics, and Public Policy in Minority Communities courses, I was positively engaged in our nation’s equality principles and absolutely negative about my generation’s capacity for civic responsibility. Were we non-voters always going to gripe for hours in the dorm hallways, bitterly re-hashing the concepts of “privilege” and the “hegemony” before blowing it all off to hit Pauley Pavillion and get drunk and rowdy at the next men’s hoops game?


Years have passed since I was on the floor of that storied gymnasium watching Baron Davis dribble circles around the Stanford defenders to pound a slam dunk. As the daughter of a football coach, there’s nothing I love more than a good sports analogy, and on Superbowl Sunday—with Oprah, Caroline Kennedy, Michelle Obama, and Maria Shriver exuding poise and commanding authority from center stage—I noted that this Empowered Woman Dream Team had actually managed to outshine even the championship performances of the great John Wooden himself.


Spitting passion in pretty dresses and polished lips, these women were regal knockouts. In the election that should have represented our comeuppance, Hillary finally rewarded for the sacrifice to raise Chelsea and support a (dashingly handsome, illogically loveable, brilliant) cheating husband, I was unnerved when I realized I was crying because the women-behind-the-men had shaken my heart. For an Obama die-hard, I have unbearable HRC guilt. But when Oprah asserted that we are now officially free, jointly celebrating the victory of the Women’s and Civil Rights movements, she enumerated the many reasons why I believe Barack is the right person for the job.


Besides, can you really argue that these fiery femmes are behind their husbands?


As a confused member of the generation of women who inherited our mother’s You-Can-Have-It-All feminism and watching the speakers own their various matron-professional-wife identities, I was compelled to feel that the Great Lie was in fact real and attainable. On stage you can’t see the nervous breakdowns, Blackberries, nannies, housekeepers, therapists, and friendship networks it takes to keep it all together. You just see the badass woman, and you can only hope she’s not a blurry oasis in the desert.


Every wine-spilling Wednesday night with my girlfriends ends in nearly teary-eyed frustration, asking each other: Can an ambitious woman really achieve a career, family and supportive, loving partnership? And lately, if we let Hillary pass us by, have we conceded to that unyielding “good” female quality of compromise? If men come first and roll over, will it ever be our turn?


Michelle Obama stood about fifty yards in front of me, oozing Jackie Kennedy and physically shaking with the ferocity of her message. My mind flashed to a moment on the campaign trail in Iowa that had made me smile, when Barack joked about how he couldn’t succeed without her and then he referred to her as “The Closer.” Maybe this truly is the post-inequality era Oprah declared and it’s time to embrace it. Maybe we got it wrong the first time around and we are really just now electing the nation’s first legitimate Power Couple.


The crowd’s chants of “Yes We Can!” drowning in my ears seemed like an inherent answer.

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