Single issue voters
Can we please stop this pretense that effective birth control and safe and legal abortion did not transform society and help families by enabling women to plan their parenthoods and go to work? What purpose does it serve, except to deny reality and mislead people?
So many flavors of marginalization and specious qualification that it’s hard to keep track. A) A social issue is where to seat people at a dinner table. B) “Female issues” and “women’s issues” are human issues that affect everyone. These are word plays whose only purpose is to trivialize ideas central to our future well being and democracy by virtue of associating them with women, C)the “single issue” isn’t abortion or choice – it’s equality and freedom. Neither of which is tied to my uterus, as much as the GOP would like to insist that they are.
A persistently startling world view difference between the GOP and the Democratic party is this: the GOP will not admit that reproductive freedom and equality for women are prerequisites to our economic freedom and participation, whereas this reality is fundamental to the Democratic Party’s vision for the future. Women and men, those would be people, regardless of party affiliation, know that women’s reproductive rights transformed our society and economy. Taking them away would transform them as well – to disastrous personal and national effect.
How much are we willing to risk in our economy by allowing politicians to falsely insist that “social issues” are not a) as important as “the economy” and b) unrelated to our economic performance? Apparently pretty far. Reproductive rights, family structures, systemic change to support parents who work, to name just three big “social issues,” define how our economy will either expand or falter. “Restoring” anything in ways that are optimized to the GOP’s blind obsession with the single, male breadwinning father, will set us back decades. This is why I have promised myself that every day between now and the election I will talk to at least three people who think that “social issues” aren’t what’s important and that they are unconnected to the economy.
That idea is how we ended up so #motherfkd in the first place. What am I talking about?
In the United States of America motherhood is just about the absolute worse financial decision a woman can make in her lifetime.
- The highest earning window for women, practically the only time they are not subject to the wage gap, is when they are single and childless, usually in their twenties. They have to live in cities and have gone to college.
- More than 50 percent of children born to women under 30 are born to single mothers.
- 60 percent of women with children under the age of three and 77 percent of mothers with school-age children remain in the workforce.
- When a woman has a baby, her chances of being hired go down, compared to a single woman, by 44 percent.
- When a woman has a child her pay drops by 11 percent.
- According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, mothers works fewer hours, have to work part time more and cannot take on overtime.
- Fully 55 percent of stay at home moms would like to work, for pay, out of the home.
- Working mothers are penalized in terms of long-term success by having to work in an interrupted fashion that perpetually erodes their career tenures or experiences.
- The distribution of retirement income is gendered and unbalanced.
Safe reproductive health options made women more financially stable, reduced unwanted pregnancies, reduced abortions and made genuine equality for women feasible. But we are only half-way done. We need systemic changes that support working parents – male and female – in order to qualitatively increase our productivity. So, what does one entire party want to do? Take the ability to plan parenthood – literally – away from women and families and ignore the type of changes necessary for growth.
Any independent voter that is in possession of a womb or in a relationship with someone who is should consider what this means to their economic future.
When women say they “don’t care about contraception and abortion” it’s because they erroneously assume they will have access to them. It is not because they don’t think they’re important. Women have at-risk reproductive rights that the GOP platform simultaneously depends on (economically) while paring those rights down to a meaningless nub of class and race privilege (socially). Paul Ryan and a powerful segment of the Republican Party endorse policies that will, if executed, outlaw abortion, eliminate many forms of birth control and IVF. Planning when to have children is crucial to both men’s and women’s economic well being, but, as women continue to bear the costs of child-rearing it is even more important to them. As it is, men can get condoms in vending machines, on street corners, in candy flavors and ridgey rainbows and it costs them next to nothing. Women? They need doctors, prescriptions, friendly pharmacists, more money. And, even if the GOP is not outlawing birth control outright, they are intent on giving employers,doctors and pharmacists the right to deny women access to their birth control. In this way, they will make it impossible or most women to simply and safely plan when to become mothers and for families to plan their financial and economic lives. This is not speculation. In states like Arizona there are bills that make it legal for employers to fire women who use contraception and in states like Kansas pharmacists can deny women their birth control pills based on religious beliefs. Hope people voting for political representatives that support these personhood for fetus based policies have a Plan B. Opps. Forgot. That’s also a no-no. Just metaphorically.
Mitt Romney assures us he won’t ban abortion and many conservative women just don’t believe any of this will come to pass. But, Romney’s promise, one not even backed up by his Veep and Party, is hollow since his surrogates, peers, party members, vice president, judicial nominees, especially Supreme Court nominees, will do it for him should he be elected. Jamie Raskin calls it the Borking of America.
You want to create jobs, stimulate and grow the economy? Stop harassing and penalizing women seeking independence and financial security. Allow people to plan their families and create systematized, institutional and cultural approaches to work/life balance for both men and women.
Women’s ability — not desire or choice — to take part in the economy, to be productive in the economy, to help stimulate the economy is based on their freedom to make reproductive decisions or lack thereof and on the more active, unpunished by culture, participation of men in child care.
Jobs?? What jobs – who creates them, who gets them, do they keep them, how much will they get paid, can they rise to the top of their chosen profession? Will they be able to seek justice when paid unfairly? Not with these guys…Romney and Paul Ryan claim that they are all for equal opportunity, not equal outcomes. But this assumes an equal playing field in terms of gender, which does not exist. The most meaningful connection between opportunity and outcome for women in this country remains marriage and motherhood. Marriage and fatherhood for men are not nearly as consequential a factor. For women they are the defining factor to economic participation. And Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan want to keep it that way to our massive economic detriment. Here are just a few simple illustrations.
According to Forbes, women small business owners, like me, are expected to create “one-third of the 15.3 million new jobs anticipated by the Bureau of Labor Statistics” in the next six years. Hmm.
In addition, a Goldman Sachs study has revealed that getting rid of our gender wage gap, de-sex segregating the workforce, and cultivating women in leadership roles are necessary for economic growth and transformation. Doing these things would boost American gross domestic product (GDP) by as much as 9%. Isn’t that roughly what we lost in September of 2008?
Women in leadership, of which we have a pitifully scant few, (3% CEOs, 15% of corporate officers) substantively improve corporate productivity and organizational performance. The GOP’s plan is counting on this type of change without providing any support for its happening. It is interesting to note that 75% of the men that overwhelmingly run our business world have stay at home wives (versus 23% of all American families.) It’s interesting, too, to note that the Republican party’s committment to this model is shared by economically troubled (to say the least) southern European countries. Hmm again.
There are several assumptions reflected in both Romney and Ryan’s language, former business lives, policy, and plan reflect:
- That a heterosexual, nuclear family exists, in some kind of Platonic ideal way, and that we can economically draw on this family structure in real time and space. Single mothers are the new norm, I know it’s upsetting to conservatives, personally, but this is life. Single mothers are not what Joan Williams, writing in her book Unbending Gender (in the workplace,) calls our mythological ideal male worker. The Romney/Ryan plan not only assumes that women will not be primary breadwinners working to support their families (when they clearly are) but relies in subtle and overt ways on that hollow assumption.
- That women will be available and continue ad infinitum to provide free, unpaid childcare and domestic labor for working husbands. This isn’t a politically expedient mommy wars issue, it’s a devaluing of women’s labor issue and everyone pays for it equally. Just ask Economist Marilyn Waring.
- That our economy, failing so utterly to accommodate the needs of working parents, does not rely on the cheap labor provided by immigrant women to free wealthier, better educated women to work. We rely on these women to perpetuate a system optimized to the success of men with wives. When those wives also go to work they rely on other women to take on their domestic duties. As I understand it, the GOP would like to shut this down in a magical “self-deportation” kinda way.
I have head zero about how sex segregation in the workplace, which exists because of these assumptions, has huge costs to economic growth. The gender wage chasm, caused by our failing to support working mothers, ingrained sexism and lifetime earnings gaps is real and has pragmatic consequences for all American families. Gender imbalanced leadership of American corporations reduces our competitiveness, productivity and growth.
This economic plan and vision implies that workers and business leaders have wives quietly working away in the background. Being supportive. Managing quietly in support of their hardworking spouses.
The simplest solution, it seems to me, is for every working-for-pay woman is to get a wife. It’s fast, cheap, safe and doesn’t put our health at risk. The GOP has to comprise on their same-sex marriage ban at the very least least.
Ask any woman (it’s OK, they speak Mannish) and she will tell you: create workplace and government policies that liberate women from economically inhibiting roles of primary childcare, elder care and domestic workers. For a start, remember that we are the only wealthy nation to not provide paid maternity or paternity leave.
Another thing she will tell you, contrary to what Mitt Romney’s personal hero in the Republican leadership claims, is that money is as important for women as it is for men. That falls under the category of DUH – I really have to type that sentence?
Third, women cannot work and be successful – they cannot be the engines of growth that we need them to be – if they can’t take care of their health. They cannot participate fully and ambitiously in the marketplace until they have access to health care specific to their needs and reproductive freedom and equality. The GOP’s insistence on denying women basic health care specific to having a woman’s body, the belief that being a woman is a pre-existing condition is core to the GOP’s ideas about who gets health care and for what.
I know that I am not supposed to point out that both Romney and Ryan, representatives of their similarly aligned party, openly and proudly adhere to religious traditions that rely on women to be at home managing their private lives while they leave the home and manage their public, wage earning lives. But being asked to deny that this is a real and important factor that informs their world views and economic policies is insulting and dangerous.
Both Catholic Dignity of Women ideas and the Mormon Proclamation of the Family clearly state that women’s vocations, their highest worth and dignity are to be found in their roles as mothers and wives. Men and women are meant to complement one another and not compete for or share jobs and money (or care of children). This is not to disparage the real and hard work that women do at home. But, single breadwinner, male head of household wage earners (or at least wealth aggregators) is the model for both the Romney and Ryan families. It is also the model that their economic plan cultivates, in defiance of the realities of modern life and the demands of future economic growth.
The number one inhibitor of women’s explosive and continued transformative participation in the workplace is a conservative cultural unwillingness to accept that not all women are mothers, or mothers in waiting, and that mothers – married or single – can, do and will work. Outside of the home. For money and independence. These issues: reproductive rights and health, definitions of marriage, being paid fairly are economic. No amount of waxed veneer, mommy mawkishness or earnest boy wonk changes that.
Scratch the surface of the GOP agenda and everything indicates that they – both economic and social – are magnificently ill-equipped to even imagine the kind of societal transformation required.