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I'm Not Julia: Why Obama's American Woman Doesn't Speak for Me

I'm Not Julia: Why Obama's American Woman Doesn't Speak for Me


May 14 2012
By the government's estimate, women are best when they live life alone. Not so fast.

If you follow political news at all, by now you've probably heard of Julia, the character who made her debut recently on President Obama's campaign website. The "Life of Julia" page documents this fictional woman's life, from her entrance into the Head Start program at age 3, to her retirement and receiving of monthly Social Security benefits at age 67. Launched May 4, the chicly designed slideshow aims to demonstrate "how President Obama's policies help one woman over her lifetime—and how Mitt Romney would change her story." Thus, it's stoked the ongoing national argument over the size, scope, and purpose of government.

But there's more to the story of Julia than that.

A careful look at her life story reveals just how thoroughly alone Julia is. Ross Douthat of The New York Times put his finger on it when he wrote, "… She seems to have no meaningful relationships apart from her bond with the Obama White House: no friends or siblings or extended family, no husband ('Julia decides to have a child,' is all the slideshow says), a son who disappears once school starts and parents who only matter because Obamacare grants her the privilege of staying on their health care plan until she's 26."

Well, so what? Julia is just a cartoon character, after all, and not a very well-developed one at that. If the woman doesn't even have facial features, why bother giving her relationships?

Still, I submit that the perpetual isolation of Julia matters more than her designers might realize. She is, after all, supposed to represent the American woman. What does Julia's aloneness tell us about how our government, and our society, sees us American women? Nothing good, I think. Certainly nothing realistic.

We might say that Julia goes to a certain extreme because there is simply no need to show the people in her life in this context. But the result is that Julia's life is just a little too revealing about modern mores, especially when we see birth control but not a partner, and later a pregnancy (which she carefully "decides" upon, of course) but not a father. These foundational areas of Julia's life are so completely in her own hands that, apparently, there is no one else qualified or permitted to make these decisions with her.

In fact, Julia demonstrates a certain erroneous view of women that has seeped into the culture: The strong, empowered woman is one who does everything by herself—even if that version of independence leads, paradoxically, to dependence on government. But how many of us really live like that? How many of us want to live like that?

From: May 2012

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