Friday, October 19, 2012

Why Women Can't Wait to Protect Themselves from Romney

This morning on NPR I heard a story about some women in Ohio who were voting for Romney even after his disastrous second debate performance, where he gaffed about "binders full of women" and suggested both that women should get flex time at work so that they can get home and cook dinner and that single parent homes (presumably led by women) are responsible for gun violence in our society because such households are inherently less stable than two-parent households.

One of the women interviewed said she thought it was a good thing that Romney talked about flex time.  Well, it certainly is a good thing that an employer provides workers of ANY gender flex time to deal with family matters, such as child care and other domestic duties.  But we are increasingly in a world where there are two income earners per household, and men are increasingly likely to be home and available to pick kids up from school and cook dinner (as I am today, how about that?). 

More importantly, another said that she didn't appreciate Romney's comments about gun violence, or his views on contraception or abortion, but that she was more concerned with the economy, like jobs and our debt, than her own choices about reproduction. "I think women can wait till later to deal with those issues."  I couldn't be sure, but she sounded older and past her child-bearing years.

Here's the thing, and I'll try really hard to avoid falling into the "you're a man, you couldn't possibly understand" trap.  While I agree that national economic issues such as unemployment, deficits, and national debt are of major concern, their importance doesn't detract from the seriousness of women's equality and health issues.  In fact, they shine a very bright spotlight on women's issues.  Women make up more than half the population, and occupy a similar share of the work force.  Their issues regarding equal pay, contraceptive availability, reproductive choice, and the like, are also national economic issues, as Obama said in the debate. 

Folks, neither men nor women can wait to deal with the issues women until after the economy is restored to what we consider "normal."  They go together, and if you delay women's issues, you hamper economic recovery.  Having access to contraception, and access which is covered in their employers' health insurance plans, helps women prevent unwanted pregnancies.  Unwanted pregnancies lead to more lost work time, especially if some women decide to terminate them.  Not to mention, the stress of dealing with a pregnancy one carries to term, which, let's admit, also costs employers time and money in lost productivity.  And if a woman lacks easy access to contraception AND has to deal with a workplace that considers her contribution to be less valuable than a man's even if doing the same work, the economy suffers a great deal.  A vote for Romney practically ensures that women will have to fight even harder to be recognized and valued as equal members of this society.  How a woman decides to vote against that is beyond me, but I'm of the mind that, as a polity, we're pretty fucked up. 

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