We can drone on about sound bites and rehash debate comments all we want. We can debate the facts laid in campaign ads, and count up how many lies have been told. We already know where both Obama and Romney stand on women’s issues, so let’s drop the pandering and lip service and be real for a minute.
While I’d be among the first to admit Obama has not done as much as he could, he’s made more headway to change laws and protect women than any president in my life. And, while I am certainly not the target audience for any Mitt Romney ad, when he speaks to women’s issues, it comes across hallow and insincere, like a promise our lives will be better because he’ll lead us back to the 1950s. Once upon a time, college was something some girls did, to meet a husband, learn how to run a house, or gain skills to work until they were married.
Once upon a time, birth control and abortion were illegal.
Once upon a time, women were ostracized for wanting a career, and a life outside the home.
Once upon a time, paying women less than men and limiting their ability to move up in a company was commonplace, expected.
Once upon a time, women were expected to keep quiet about abuse, and try harder to please their spouses.
And once upon a time, women chose to fight back and change the social structure of this country.
It didn’t happen all at once, and the work isn’t over yet. It has been passed from one generation to the next, for several generations now. We have come so far, and the frightening thing is, the ideal world for some would take us back 50 years. Fifty years of struggle and progress could be wiped out with one election.
Last year I wrote about The Handmaid’s Tale, an often forgotten book about what happens when no one stands up to defend the progress made. Yes, it should be a part of your library. And yes, while reading this I was terrified of the parallels I saw as I watched the Republican Primary debates. Our narrator informs us that no one really thought life would be rolled back in time like it was. No government, especially a democracy would let such a thing happen. And then no one stood up to the first, minor changes. It parallels other terrifying times in history.
A Romney presidency will not change our way of life into something akin to The Handmaid’s Tale, though what a cautionary tale it is. We know from what he has said about women’s issues, from his lip service and pandering, that our fight has been lost on him, as have so many for equal rights. The warning signs are there. Yes, the “binders full of women” comment was awful and insulting. It is offensive anyone who has held public office, or anyone for that matter, would say something so condescending about half the country. But let’s not forget that didn’t happen as told either. Romney didn’t ask for those binders, they were given to him, full of resumes of well -qualified job candidates, who happened to be women.
We know where Romney stands from his sidestepping question after question about equal pay, and his claim children of single mothers are more likely shoot people. We’ll disregard the fact the 42nd and 44th Presidents of the United States were raised by single mothers. We know Romney prefers employers decide if a woman should use birth control, rather than the individual. And we know he believes higher education is something only for those who can afford it. But who can afford it? Surely not the 47%!
Ann Romney and Janna Ryan have both worked hard to raise families and participate in their communities. Yet neither is a voice for the women’s movement. Neither one would be a voice of reason or moderation to their conservative husbands. Neither has ever faced the struggles other women face, raising children alone, or on a tight budget. They have never had to do the dance between career and family, or dealt with childcare, or had to worry about an illness or injury to cause the family to go bankrupt. Neither of them knows or understands the myriad of reasons another woman may find herself facing when choosing an abortion, or the relief at knowing she no longer has to go spend all her extra pay on birth control. In fact, we know very little about either of them, what issues they are passionate about, or what kind of agenda, or voice they would have, if any.
In the final debate, Romney paid lip service to women’s issues; in a last ditch effort to gain support. Yes, we need to protect religious minorities and women in the Middle East, because no country can be successful without developing all of its population. And yes, it felt like pandering, from both candidates. What Marie Claire pointed out, which should really be obvious to everyone by now, a sitting president will come off more authentic when it comes to women’s rights abroad over a former governor who appears to have little interest in women’s rights anywhere.
We know where Mitt Romney stands and on these issues, regardless of the sound bites he offers to entice undecided female voters. We already have an ally in the White House, and he brought many more allies with him. Without their binders.
Originally appeared on Fem2.0.