Last week, Republicans made it clear at their convention that women are squarely in their sights as a voting bloc to help put GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney over the top on Election Day and into the White House. At the Democratic National Convention this week, Democrats are expected to be just as aggressive if not more so in targeting the female vote, even though opinion polls show President Obama enjoys a double-digit lead over Romney in support from women.
But women are looking for more than platitudes. With women disproportionately feeling the impact of the recession, many are seeking policies that will boost them economically and improve their overall quality of life. Instead, politicians have been using womens issues, especially womens reproductive issues, in ideological warfare, pushing laws that have angered some. We asked a few women to tell us what the politicians should be talking about regarding women.
June Kimmel, community activist:
We still do not pay women any women what men in similar work receive, and day care for women who need it does not begin to meet the need.
Then theres the problem of rape in the military, and the governmental lack of robust support for the women (and men, I am sure) but women who get raped do get pregnant. Our government chooses not to pay for those abortions and leave a woman with little choice but to leave the military. To even bring up womens issues you have to believe that government has a role in solving societal problems. The lessons of the Depression and World War II have been lost to a myth that we are each capable of solving our problems standing alone in the wind. The Affordable Care Act is an important tool for helping women achieve some sort of parity in public life. Insurance must cover birth control, abortions are covered (except in Catholic hospitals) because the people who wrote the bill understood that the age of working women and fertile women coincide. Our women raise our human capital score with their higher achievement in academia and longevity and therefore working life. We need to use that capital more wisely.
Kathy Ridge, community leader
People expect to hear that women care primarily about reproductive rights and were morally offended by Todd Akins comment about legitimate rape. Women voters are well past that we care primarily about the economy just like everyone does. Most small business start-ups are by women, and women are concerned about the problems we might leave behind for our children. When women are educated well, find jobs and develop skills for higher levels of employment, the entire nation thrives: Help a woman find employment and youve helped a whole family. Of course we care about the economy, the mounting debt, quality education and health care and national security from such rising powers as North Korea. What we dont see is any candidate or party with a plan to bring all politicians together to tackle the issues. Its just more kicking the can down the road unless some candidate addresses that issue, insisting that members of Congress work together to move the nation forward in all other aspects. Theres a cartoon circling among my friends right now that says, ... yes womens bodies do have a way to shut the whole thing down its called VOTING.
Pamela Grundy, community activist
These days, when I think about being a woman, I think about being a mom. So when I think about election issues, I think about the things that children and families need: safety, security, health care, good food, good schools. Im lucky to have all of those, but I know so many women who dont have either the solid, steady incomes, or the robust safety nets that provide those basic needs.
I also think about fear. Women (and men) have a lot of fears these days: fears of losing jobs, houses or health care, fears of violence, fears of what will happen to their children in an often-dangerous world. And I think that fear is a far greater impediment to action, creativity and risk-taking than comfort is. Fearful people arent strong people.
So I think Democrats should focus their attention on how they will help women root out the sources of their well-grounded fears and build the kind of secure social and economic base that makes for strong, successful families and communities.
Its quite clear that women matter a lot this campaign, and its good to see attention being paid to their interests. But we still need more women running for state and national office!
Patrice Gaines, author and activist
In the 63 years of my lifetime, I have seen womens health ignored or not considered as important as the health of men. This discussion includes whether or not abortion is a choice for women. I believe it is a sacred decision and like a long list of others should not be legislated, but should be left up to the individuals to decide. I consider national health care a womans issue for many reasons, particularly because there are so many women responsible for the health care of children. But also, I live in what is considered an affluent area and I know too many older women (most of them white) who take only half the prescribed amount of medication they should because they cant afford the cost of taking the medicine properly. I am satisfied that these two issues are part of the Democratic platform. I am still dissatisfied that women dont earn the same as men. Finally, much of my work is with women who are disenfranchised for various reasons. They are usually poor and have criminal records, most often because of drug addictions. I want to see these women included in the discussions, not as welfare moms, but as people who also want to be and need to be employed, yet remain ostracized.
Rosalyn Allison-Jacobs, consultant and activist
Women are alarmed that the discourse about future access to contraceptive technology and procreative self-determination is occurring around them but not with them as though we are children or chattel.
Women are stunned by how brazenly, unself-consciously, and unapologetically male-elected officials can legislate gender-based pay discrimination.
And, most of all, women are fed up watching the ego- and partisan-driven political impasse in this male-dominated Congress that has created so much pain in this country and will diminish our global standing on every conceivable front.
Araminta Johnston, college professor, activist
Id say child poverty should be a number one issue for Democrats. This may not be usually thought of as a womens issue, but since so many of these children live in single-parent homes headed by women, Id consider it very much one. We all pay for the effects of poverty on these children and their moms -- in its impact on education and health, for example. Yes, issues like freedom of choice and access to birth control are important, but what about after the babies are born? Are we going to care for "the least of these" then?
Bonnie Wallsh, consultant
One of the reasons Im favoring the Democrats is that they support a womans right to choose. Im not pro-abortion but I am pro-choice, and Im for protecting a womans right to choose. Im also for equal pay for equal rights, and for the equal rights amendment. I had no idea that North Carolina did not approve the Equal Rights Amendment until 1971.
President Obama and Democrats have shown themselves to be pro-women.
Ill be voting. My mother was born in the former Soviet Union and came to the USA as a young girl with her father in 1923. He escaped from Russia.
My mother emphasized that voting is both a privilege and obligation, and I have never missed voting in an election. Too many women and people of color have died fighting for the right to vote for me to not cast my ballot.
Mae Israel, independent journalist
These are the womens issues I think need addressing:
1. The Republican challenge to access to abortions; this should remain freedom of choice
2. Equal pay. Women now make up a significant share of the workforce but pay remains unequal.
3. Maternity benefits. There remains outdated thinking and reduced benefits for women who want and need to take off after childbirth or adoption.