I am raising two daughters in this world. And I am scared for them. I have followed the presidential election campaign since the spring from the very start of the Republican primaries and I feel troubled by the rhetoric that by now has become so stale, I don’t even hear it.
The candidates have focused almost entirely on the state of our national economy at the expense of discussing other issues facing the nation. And in this economy, women are at a disadvantage. We earn less than men and always have. Little public discourse had addressed gender inequality in earnings. As a nation, we are focused on the haves/have-nots because the system is so out of balance. However, even if a more equitable regulatory environment, even in an improved and healthy economic climate, women are still at a disadvantage. Improving class inequality does not improve gender inequality.
Ladies, rise up? Is this our moment to make our vote count?
When the media addresses the involvement of women in the political process, they reduce their engagement to rhetoric that sexualizes them. “Courting” women or “turning women off” have become standards of the political lexicon in both conservative and liberal media outlets. So even if women want to engage in these issues, their contributions will not be considered serious.
And the political machine is ill-informed about women in general. Besides the fact that women remain under-represented in elected positions, those who do represent us, often misunderstand us. Akin’s downright ridiculous commentary on sexual assault and the denial of scientific evidence around issues of women’s reproductive health is beyond concerning. In the presidential debates, the word “women” is hardly mentioned except to reference half baked attempts at equity in gender representation in the workplace. Binders full of women simply won’t do.
So I fear for my daughters. The political discourse does not allow for space to discuss social policies like marriage equality or family leave that would address the struggles that many women and men face in the workforce. I have to rely on their plan for the economy alone to make my decision. And no matter what plan I choose, women are still valued at 70% of their male peers. It is a losing proposition.
Last night, I took my three-year-old daughter with me to a meeting at the liberal arts college where I teach. I want her to see higher education (and education broadly) as a pathway to success. I don’t want to feel like I’m lying to her that no matter how much time or money she invests in her education, that no matter how smart she is, that she will always be worth 30% less than her male peers. I want her to believe that she can be anything she wants to be and that her effort will be valued 100%.