President-elect Obama said last week that "when Momma's happy, everybody's happy." He was talking about Michelle settling into DC as first Lady, first Mom, and superstar. But let's hope he means it for all of America's "mommas" -- the women who elected him.
Let's face it - we've been trampled pretty badly by the Bush anti-woman political crusaders: the first federal abortion ban since Roe, $200 million a year for abstinence-only education, the return of gender-segregated classrooms, an explosion of sexual assaults in the military, cuts to Medicaid, and more.
And oh yeah, virtually losing our right to sue for employment discrimination, which the House fixed on Friday by passing the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. If the Senate follows, it could be the first bill Obama signs.
A great start. But just a start. Women are losing jobs fast in the recession, and many don't qualify for unemployment because of 1930s-era rules that don't cover part-time and low-wage work. Broadening eligibility would be a doable fix that would put money on the street in a hurry.
As for jobs in the stimulus package, the new Prez shouldn't just take care of the boys who will be repairing the roads and bridges. I know women can be trained for these "non-traditional" jobs, but that takes time. Let's use some of the money up-front to build a meaningful child-care system with jobs that pay decent wages. That would put an entire sector of female workers on the front lines of the recovery, and just incidentally help their sisters who are desperate for decent child care while they're working or looking for work.
Even though a (very) few moms and accidental grandmommas like Sarah Palin might object, that abstinence-only money has to go. Just think about how many mortgages $200 million could save, or how many jobs it could create if put in the right place. Another huge benefit would be stopping the rise in teenage pregnancy, up for the first time since 1991. The Bush administration is "surprised" by this, but has "no immediate explanation." Something tells me President Obama will be smart enough to connect the dots.
No one disputes that the new president will have his hands more than full in the Middle East on day one. Ending conflict will be front and center, but once more he should "remember the ladies." The U.N. has a rule that women be equal partners in peace negotiations and post-conflict rebuilding -- a rule often ignored or minimized, that too-often results in women being marginalized or outright oppressed after the shooting stops.Women are really hopeful for the first time in eight years. Cecile Richards, President of Planned Parenthood, sums it up this way in the latest issue of Ms. magazine:
"Barack Obama is a woman's man. Raised by a single, independent mother, married to a woman every bit his equal and father of two smart young daughters, its obvious. . . He unapologetically believes in our rights."
If Richards is right and the new President comes through for women, he could make a lot of mommas happy in the months to come.