Blogging for HONS 201: Feminism, New Media, and Health at Hunter College.
Wednesday was the first of the presidential debates for the 2012 election – and I have to say, when the most memorable statement made was regarding Big Bird, there’s a problem. The debate, which was meant to focus on domestic topics, has been criticized for notably ignoring issues relating to women’s rights and LGBTQ+ rights – issues that have gained serious political traction over the past year. Only two specific women referred to directly – Michelle Obama and President Obama’s grandmother – and neither was really used to talk about women’s rights.
While I did notice the egregious absence of the topics of women’s health and equal pay being directly brought up, I realized pretty quickly that women were being discussed – just in an uncomfortably sneaky, dog-whistely way.
It would seem that according to Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama, the only issues that qualify as “domestic issues” that demand discussion are taxes, Social Security, and Medicare. There was nary a mention of equal pay, women’s health, or LGBTQ+ rights (as well as education and immigration). Well – nary a direct mention.
Romney mentioned his desire to overturn the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which stipulates that insurance cover contraception as a preventative care service without a co-pay. The ACA, more colloquially known as “Obamacare,” covers nearly 50 million Americans – 19 million of whom are women. Obamacare also eliminated the practice of gender rating – charging women more for insurance simply because they are women. Insurance companies and employers claimed it was to cover maternity costs – but the National Women’s Law Center found that even when maternity care was excluded, almost one third of insurance plans charged women at least 30% more than men for the same coverage. In revoking the ACA, Mitt Romney would be pushing back the fight for affordable and accessible healthcare for women.
Romney also declared that he wanted to cut government spending by cutting public sector jobs, and many public sector jobs are held by women – most notably, teachers. Women lost 450,000 public-sector jobs during the recovery due to cuts in “local government education” and “state government education,” AKA elementary school teachers (over 81% of whom are women).
It goes on. Women tend to rely on social safety nets like Social Security because they make less money in their lifetimes and live longer than men. President Obama cited his grandmother as a beneficiary of such programs, while Romney has a history of wanting to partially privatize Social Security.
The way I saw it, women weren’t completely absent from the debate – they were alluded to quite frequently. Of course that’s not good enough; women vote, just as men do, and deserve to have issues relating to them and their lives discussed in an open forum – such as a presidential debate. Politicians, please remember the ladies.