It's time for some Monday morning myth busting, thanks to an article in Sunday's New York Times headlined "Feminist Pitch by a Democrat Named Obama." For this troublesome feminist fable, look no farther than the story's lead: "In the intensifying battle for the votes of Democratic women, Senator Barack Obama's campaign is trying to turn years of feminist thinking on its head and argue that the best candidate for women may, in fact, be a man." The article later notes: "In less-noticed, more subtle ways, rival campaigns are advancing the argument that it is acceptable for a woman, even a feminist, to back someone other than the woman."
Huh. I've encountered countless women's studies courses and loads of feminist writing, but have yet to come across a mainstream feminist argument that a woman, simply by merit of her extra X chromosome, would automatically be a better candidate than a man. Fighting for a woman's chance at the Oval Office is one thing; arguing that a female candidate can do the better job of representing women is another. Most politically involved feminists are all too aware that women's rights are just as easily cheated by men as by women. As you might remember, Lisa Jervis, co-founder of Bitch magazine, recently argued that electing a female president because of her gender is "a trap." She said, "Women who do nothing to enact feminist policies will be elected and backlash will flourish. I can hear the refrain now: 'They've finally gotten a woman in the White House, so why are feminists still whining about equal pay?'"
That's not to say that there aren't feminists out there who believe that a Y chromosome renders a candidate incapable of addressing women's rights. That's also not to say that most feminists, and women in general, aren't beside themselves just to see a woman in the presidential race, regardless of her politics. But are we really to believe that "years of feminist thinking" -- about everything from reproductive rights to shattering the glass ceiling -- have taught us that a woman, any woman, is necessarily the best person for the job?