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With all of the recent “War on Women” rhetoric, I’d like to sound off on this subject. “Polls show Obama ahead with women by 19 points”. “Romney is trailing with female voters”. “Women have historically voted more for Democrats”. “The real way to appeal to female voters is…” Stop. Women are human beings. Depersonalizing the existence of more than half of the population is a sure way to alienate a group so seemingly important to politicians. You’d think their strategists would realize this.
I’m not part of a monolithic voting bloc, and I’m not an interest group. President Obama made this very “not an interest group” point at his recent summit on American women and girls. Sure, he was pandering, but at least he actually has such a summit. This was not the first time the summit convened. It is not merely an election year tactic.
Yes, I’m voting for President Barack Obama. I’m sincerely hoping he gets reelected—not because I think of myself as a female voter, and women’s issues are at the top of the list for me. Quite the contrary. I wouldn’t have even been thinking about so called “women’s issues” very much had it not been for the recent onslaught against women’s rights. I’m talking beyond issues of birth control, which, itself, is an unbelievably backward thing to even be bringing up this campaign cycle. I’m talking about things such as fair pay for women, protection of health benefits, a sense of self worth and privacy, dignity, and pride in oneself.
President Obama is taking advantage of the current political climate in which a great deal of Republicans have been toxic to women. I’m aware that he hopes to score political points, but I’m not terribly cynical as I accept the fact that such political point scoring on his part might be necessary in order to get reelected. If he’s talking about actual accomplishments—concrete steps toward advancing and protecting the rights of women—I’m ok with the president reminding the public, and garnering the recognition.
The president has lauded the fact that the first bill he signed into law after being elected was the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. When I heard about this initially, at the beginning of Obama’s first term, I was extremely surprised that such an act was not already in place. The president’s signing of this bill, the contents of which protect a woman seeking retribution for unfair pay even after her employer has paid her less than her male colleagues for years, is a big deal. Contrast this with the recent undoing of Wisconsin’s fair pay law by Governor Walk All Over Workers (Governor Walker). Walker has a history of abusing his power and fervently attacking workers and unions in the short time he has been governor. Now that he is set to be recalled, he has kicked into overdrive, much like the especially active 111th Congress in late 2010 during the “lame duck” session. The “quiet” action he took on women’s pay is one of several bills the governor has recently passed in such a fashion. The New York Daily News elaborates: “The wage bill was one of several items Walker, a controversial union-defying GOPer, signed off on this month. Other pieces of legislation included barring abortion coverage through health insurance exchanges, mandating doctors to consult privately with women seeking abortions, and requiring sex ed teachers to stress abstinence.”
Add to this the recent comments by Wisconsin State Senator Glenn Grothman, claiming that women don’t need to be paid equally to men and that more money was more important to a man because his ego is very important and he might want to be the breadwinner. In a recent article, The newspaper explains, “Under the old law, employees who win discrimination lawsuits can collect between $50,000 and $300,000 in compensatory and punitive damages. The GOP bill bars anyone from collecting such funds in employment discrimination suits.
Democrats argue the bill negatively affects women who suffer discrimination in the workplace.
According to the recent Shriver Report, women are the primary or co-breadwinners in two-thirds of American families — but continue to make 23 cents less than men for every dollar earned.”
The entire article can be found here: http://articles.nydailynews.com/2012-04-11/news/31326804_1_wage-gap-wage-bill-discrimination
Grothman thinks “workplace bias” is bullshit. Not only is this terribly ignorant and out of step with modernity; it is unbelievably offensive.
Speaking of the shockingly offensive, the Violence Against Women Act is up for a reauthorization vote in Congress. This should be a no-brainer. It should not be a partisan vote, and it hasn’t been a partisan vote in the past. It is worth noting that Vice President Biden is responsible for the original Violence Against Women Act. This particular piece of legislation is facing significant opposition for the first time. Whether this is some subtle way of trying to score points against the president’s reelection bid (because it is Biden’s legislation) at the expense of women or for some other nefarious reason, it is a disgusting display of disregard for their fellow human beings. The Violence Against Women Act protects women in particularly vulnerable positions, and for a party that claims to be so chivalrous and value “the fairer sex”, you’d think Republicans would do all that’s in their power to reauthorize such a bill.
According to an article in The Huffington Post, “Since the Violence Against Women Act was first enacted in 1994, reporting of domestic violence has increased by as much as 51 percent. The legislation was aimed at improving the response to domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking. Yet according to national statistics, more than three women are, on average, murdered by their husbands or boyfriends every day.”
Terrible, right? Strengthening protections for women through a reauthorization of this bill should be a bipartisan effort, right? Wrong. The article goes on to say “Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) and a few conservative organizations, object not to the act as a whole, but to new protections for LGBT individuals, undocumented immigrants who are victims of domestic abuse and the authority of Native American tribes to prosecute crimes.”
For those interested in reading the entire article, it can be found here. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/16/violence-against-women-act-reauthorization-senate-vote_n_1429327.html
I could go on and on about Mitt Romney’s record on saying that poor women must have the “dignity of work”—meaning work outside the home—if they are to qualify for state aid, which is understandable, but less understandable when he and every other Republican, it seems, have advocated cutting childcare and education programs like Head Start. Most women do not have the luxury of raising children without working outside the home (unlike his wife, who has the “hardest job there is”, apparently), especially single mothers, and for the poorest women, outside work is increasingly difficult if they do not receive adequate government aid. The much-celebrated Paul Ryan budget plan deals a disproportionately heavy blow to women as well.
From frighteningly restrictive abortion laws (such as the recent law that says that life begins two weeks after a woman’s period), women’s basic rights to their own bodies and their ability to make decisions are being trampled in the name of some warped, overbearing ideology. President Obama’s Affordable Care Act is not aimed specifically toward women, but in many ways it advances women’s rights. Nothing in this bill, not even the apparently terrifying contraception language, is as overarching as many recently proposed (and passed) bills limiting women’s rights.
While I do not want to be defined by my gender, I feel a duty to inform those who share it a bit about what is happening in America. Every individual is free to vote for whomever she or he wants to, but I don’t understand how any woman who isn’t Ann Coulter or Phyllis Schlafly could ever—in good conscience—vote for a Republican this cycle. If someone finds me a Republican who bucks this trend, I would be very happy.