The One Word That Obama Left Out Of His State Of The Union Speech Will Frustrate Feminists
President Obama's State of the Union was exactly what he had promised. It focused on expansive ideas and a vision for a future America rather than getting bogged down in legislation, and broadly addressed how change should come about for the country. The change of pace was refreshing and exciting, but there's a serious warrant for exasperation at the speech. If you were paying really close attention, you might have noticed that Obama left out something really important from the entire speech — President Obama never said the word "women" during the State of the Union.
The omission is harder to swallow because Obama spent so much time talking about other social minorities, including LGBTQ people, immigrants, and the working class. Yet no time was specifically spent addressing women. In the very beginning of the speech, Obama briefly included equal pay and paid leave in a long list of legislative agenda points that he wants to address in the coming year, but made no mention of women as a systematically oppressed demographic who deserve specific legal protections.
Obama's speech did include some references to specific women, including astronaut Sally Ride, NASA scientist Katherine Johnson, and groundbreaking computer scientist Grace Hopper. These women are truly inspirational and absolutely deserved mention in the SOTU for their amazing achievements . However, naming a few accomplished women does not equate to progress for women's issues.
Congress is still attempting to defund Planned Parenthood and is refusing to move on a bill for wage equality that has been needlessly sitting in committee for over two years. Violence against transgender women was at an astonishing high during 2015 — 22 transgender women, mostly women of color, were murdered over the past year. An incredibly important abortion rights case that could fundamentally change access to abortion for millions of women will be argued in the Supreme Court beginning on March 2. Specific goals or mentions of any one of these issues could have helped gain so much progress for American women, but instead, Obama left these important causes out of his speech.
The eyes of Congress, the Supreme Court justices, the Cabinet, and the entire country were on President Obama, and he should have been outspoken and unequivocal about his support of women's issues. The speech was strong on foreign policy and Obama's vision for a progressive America, but without any focus on the women's issues that often dominated the news cycle throughout the past year, it felt misrepresentative of the work that needs to be done in this country. As a feminist, it's disheartening to see my issues and targeted discrimination erased from the president's speech and to feel underrepresented on the national stage. Women deserved better from President Obama's final State of the Union address.