Looks like Obama’s commencement address didn’t go over well with at least one Barnard student, Ayelet Pearl:
The oppressive and suffocating categorization of women as this uniformly thinking block is even more rampant at a women’s liberal arts college in New York City, where many women do hold similar political viewpoints. Barnard President Debora Spar, in an interview on MSNBC, boldly told the show’s hostess that “they’re [Barnard students] all huge fans [of Obama].” Is that true? Can the president of Barnard College say, in good faith, that every single one of her students is a fan of President Barack Obama? Are we that unindividual? Or are we just a liberal student body, and, as women, a key component of the Democratic vote? Too often, the assumed answer is yes.
And the author finds serious problems with this attitude:
In a trend that I find particularly distasteful, “women” has become a political issue. Candidates are judged on their “support for women,” as if that has a clear set of policy decisions and opinions. Certain politicians are dubbed “anti-women,” and the GOP has supposedly declared a “War on Women.”
But what can this possibly mean, in a world where women make their own decisions and form their own opinions outside the confines of their gender? Some women are pro-life; some women are pro-choice. Some women are advocates for universal health care; some women are not. Some women support gun rights, others do not. Some women will vote for Barack Obama in 2012, and other women will not.
Truly supporting women means understanding that the opinions of one woman cannot be assumed based solely on her gender – or her choice of college. Supporting women does not mean dismissing each woman’s individual opinions for the ease of categorizing her gender. Supporting women does not mean delivering a commencement speech at a women’s college, in an election year, because it is a women’s college.
And that’s just the wind-up for her closing paragraph:
Today, as the president delivered the Barnard commencement speech under thick political circumstances, I was pleased and relieved that the speech itself was apolitical and inspiring. But its context in this increasing political conceptualization of “women’s issues” left me, as a Barnard student, feeling stereotyped, simplified, and used.