Former first lady Michelle Obama once again blamed women for not supporting Hillary Clinton to be president at a convening for left-leaning women this weekend. The second United State of Women Summit could have been an opportunity to unite and empower all American women, but instead it was another pep rally for the victimhood ideology that dominates feminism today.
Obama questioned how women could put anything ahead of gender. She told crowds that her running for president isn’t the answer unless all women are ready to line up in formation behind her. “We still didn't get 'Yes, we can' right. It's not, 'Yes, you can,' it's 'Yes, we can.' And until we get that right, it doesn't matter who runs."
Many women would find this message insulting. Sadly, this was the prevailing view at this convening. Just look at the roster of speakers and what they have had to say about women on the Right.
Obama previously said of any woman who voted for President Trump, "You don't like your voice. You like the thing you're told to like." Activist Brittany Packnett chides all white people for their complicity and silence that allowed "discrimination, rape culture, and xenophobia" to "win the White House." Valerie Jarrett thinksconservative policies are having a "devastating impact on the American people." #MeToo activist Tarana Burke declined to attend President Trump's State of the Union address this year but joined activist Ai-jen Poo in a counter protest to bash the Trump agenda.
These headliners ignore the progress women are making today due to strong economic policies. Instead, they focus myopically on the gender pay gap and sexual harassment. These are issues that should be discussed and addressed, but this is hardly, as Cher put it, "one of the worst times in our history."
On the contrary, American women have reason to be more optimistic than ever.
Women outnumber men in some of the biggest industries like education and health services, financial activities, and leisure and hospitality.
And female financial situations continue to improve, thanks to efforts by Congress and the Trump administration. The tax reform package is a key effort. Individual tax rates were lowered, meaning more money in the paychecks of 90 percent of earners. Middle-income married women also face less of a tax penalty for being married.
Women are the primary breadwinners in four out of ten households, and they make the majority of household consumption decisions. By expanding the Child Tax Credit and expanding 529 savings accounts for K-12 education, families like mine have more resources for our children's educational and day-to-day needs.
Tax reform also doubled the standard deduction, shielding more income from taxes. That is money women can use to catch up on bills, make memories with their families, or even buy pink pussy hats if they choose.
Changes to small business taxes will also greatly benefit women: Some 9.4 million businesses are owned by women today, with a third of those minority-owned. About 39 percent were self-employed in 2016. A new deduction for pass-through income will help women- and minority-owned businesses grow.
Women are among the millions of Americans workers who have received pay increases, bonuses, paid leave, and educational benefits from their employers who reinvested savings from corporate tax cuts.
To ignore all of this is to be disingenuous about the success women are experiencing today.
Reproductive rights, gender parity, or other so-called women's issues may be the focus of the United State of Women Summit, but they are not the focus of most women. According to generic ballot polling, the three top issues for women are the economy, security, and healthcare. Women's issues are tied with education in fifth place.
This probably doesn’t mean much to Michelle Obama, who said that in light of this last election, she’s questioning "what is going on in our heads where we let that happen." Women made decisions that were unrelated to gender because they can. Women’s empowerment is not ensuring that all women think, and vote, the same, but fighting to ensure that all women can freely choose what is best for their own lives and respecting the results.
If Obama and future convenings like the United State of Women Summit take a broader view of the issues, they might attract a broader audience of women. Otherwise, such divisive rhetoric will continue to turn women off.