Written by Caitlin Cruz
Edited by Issa Napon
The most interesting part of each State of the Union address, for me, is always the opposite party’s response. Like the keynote speech of both party’s convention, the speaker chosen is a rising star in their party. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington as the fourth highest-ranking member of the House fits the bill.
McMorris Rodgers stayed on message, was likeable, intelligent and clear, but it felt like she missed something. Ann Friedman wrote an excellent column articulating the problems that occur when the GOP and women meet: “The Republicans’ decision to focus on McMorris Rodgers’s mommy cred illustrates just how little they understand about their woman problem. They’re responding to what they see as a superficial problem — offensive quotes about unchecked libidos and “victimology” — with a superficial solution. True, Rand Paul and Mike Huckabee aren’t helping the Party win female hearts and minds. But their gaffes are just symptoms of the underlying issue, which is that the policies the GOP advocates do nothing to improve the lives of the majority of American women. And we know it.”
Republican policies (or lack of action) are problematic in just how negatively they affect women, the poor and people of color. In McMorris Rodgers’ SOTU response, it was all about how great you could be if only you work hard enough, particularly women. Which for some women can be true. But this line of thinking does not account for policies that almost automatically put women at a disadvantage, such as the lack of an Equal Rights Amendment. To me, this speech felt like an endorsement of Second Wave Feminism, a movement that privileged the experiences of white women over populations of color. Second Wave Feminism preaches the working mom who is home each night to cook mac-n-cheese and pour a brandy for her husband while helping a child with their homework. McMorris Rodger’s endorsement of this type of feminism is upsetting because it is an unrealistic expectation of women. Furthermore, Second Wave puts all women into one box and does not account for the variety of persons that exist within the gender.
On the other hand, it is frustrating to still hear politicians from either party say something to the effect of “I worked through college so you can do it too!” I know maybe only a handful of college students around the country who do not have at least one job or paid internship to help subsidize their education. I think it is highly presumptuous to think students are not working to pay for the education and that is the reason they graduate with so much debt. Students are working – college is just insanely expensive.
Overall, McMorris Rodger’s response to Barack Obama’s latest State of the Union fell flat because she was representing an archaic presentation of women in politics.