Thursday, September 22, 2011

The "Guyism" of Mr. Obama's White House: At What Price?

Two years ago, I wrote about how, when Mr. Obama took his summer vacation in 2009 and Huffington Post invited readers to make recommendations about his summer reading list, I suggested he add some books by women to the all-male list of authors he told the press he planned to read that summer.  I concluded my posting noting that Obama's mentors and lists of favorite books were totally male-centric, with the following observations:

The world might look very different if women had more of a voice in making it in the halls of power where the games of power are played. And if more women stood in the pulpits and the bemas and minarets. If the scriptures were in the hands of women as well as men, and if women’s interpretation of the scriptures carried the gravitas of any man’s word about the holy books.

And if the moral debates of our times were infused with even a touch of the insight many women have about key moral issues, as men continue to talk on and on about them, laying down the law and dictating the solutions.

And now I'm interested to read Joan Walsh at Salon saying that Ron Suskind's new book about the miseducation of the president notes the heavy "guyism" of the Obama White House.  Walsh writes,

But most of this stuff has been known since the New York Times' Mark Leibovich revealed that the president's fondness for bonding on the basketball court and golf course was leaving female staffers on the sidelines. (Although I hadn't heard that Obama greeted Christina Romer, the first time they met, by declaring that monetary policy had "shot its wad.")  Suskind offers one telling anecdote about Obama's approach to gender that's been overlooked in coverage to date. Early in the book, during a campaign strategy session on candidate Obama's economic program, he and his advisors discuss the continuing erosion of jobs and wages for low to moderately skilled male workers. The big job opportunities, one researcher explains, will be in the exploding realm of healthcare -- positions for nurses, hospital orderlies and in-home assistants to frail seniors will boom.

Obama jumps in: "Look, these are guys," he says. "A lot of them see health care, being nurse's aides, as women's work. They need to do something that fits with how they define themselves as men." Quickly the conversation turned to infrastructure: fixing the nation's crumbling roads, bridges, schools and public buildings. Men like to build, the group concludes, and infrastructure offers a campaign promise that promotes employment, improves our public roads and buildings, and makes working-class men feel better about themselves. It's a threefer, the kind of big idea Obama likes. He leaves the meeting energized. "Good meeting," he tells the guys. "Real good."

And everything she says here makes me even more convinced of the rightness of my concluding observations in that 2009 posting.

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