How Both Political Parties Are Lying to Women This Election Season

The best prescription to guarantee women’s progress and prosperity is to demand it -- not pray for a man to be nice to us. Rally. Protest. Get loud. Scare the crap out of both sides.

Sep 4, 2012 at 12:30pm | Leave a comment

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Political pandering is at a fever pitch.

Once again our votes are required. Yet neither party wishes to grant women autonomy because then we'd be free agents. Better to keep us in a perpetual childlike state of want and hope than empowerment. More women than ever live in poverty today -- about 17 million as compared with 12.6 million men.

A woman's economic empowerment is critical, as is promoting the "women's bench" in each party's respective roster. Women tend to do better when women legislators are in place, representing their concerns. A record number of women are running for Congress this year. As important as the presidential election is, paying attention to down ticket races is also paramount.

About 85 percent of us say our top concerns are the economy and jobs. Yet Democrats are going whole-hog campaigning on "the War on Women," pretending it is only Republicans that are waging it, or that the right to contraception is the real battleground. In fact, both sides feel quite comfortable with a ready-made sexist toolkit that degrades politically inconvenient women when it suits their purposes.

The media exacerbates the problem. And the biggest lie fabricated by both parties is that feminism is no longer required. Misogyny bubbles unchecked under the surface in this country. A shocking 2012 election study by the Fourth Estate shared that men are quoted over women by a ratio of five to one when discussing women's health issues. What does that say for how much either side values the needs or opinions of women? That is also the ratio of men to women in Congress.

And let us not forget that 2008 was a disgrace; the year misogyny was made cool. To see Hillary Clinton spend a lifetime fighting for the rights of women, childhood development, education, health care, first responders and the military only to have left-leaning pundits call her bitch, witch, hellish housewife, yapping troll, Nurse Ratched and she-devil in order to derail her candidacy shows you just how far we have yet to go.

A woman is conspicuous by her absence this election season. So in choosing from what is left over, how can we wade through the spin?

What Democrats note is true. Women do earn less than men. Some Republicans state that this is due to women pursuing lower paid professions. Even among doctors, allowing for disparities in choice of specialty, female physicians on average earn 12 percent less per year. The disparity is worse in other professions. Democrats, therefore, will celebrate the 2009 Lily Ledbetter Act at their Convention this week. But the law does not guarantee equal pay. It only extends the amount of time a woman can sue for redress.

President Obama has been telling women to "fight for a seat at the table," but he recently nixed and replaced Jill Abramson, the first female executive editor of the New York Times, as Barnard's commencement speaker. A woman who fought for a seat at the table was at the last minute told to step aside. We are not expected to dwell on this mixed message, but if we do not, we are abetting the problem.

Last week, the Republican Convention featured an ethnically diverse array of female and male speakers that belied the media's narrative that Republicans are a bunch of rich, Southern and presumably racist white men. They now feature what MSNBC's Chuck Todd calls an enviable "deep bench" of future stars, including a number of powerhouse women. DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz has derided these ladies as "shiny objects." A shiny object typically does not become governor of a state. So the meme that Republicans do not promote women, or women of color, is false. Oddly, some of their speeches were omitted in media coverage. Draw your own conclusions.

It is also peculiar that Democrats are not pushing a stronger slate of women at the Convention. As usual, the pro-life/pro-choice debate is being used as a tool to divide and conquer. Republicans have a problem in their attempts to portray themselves as having a big tent for this reason. Until a woman has sovereignty over her own body, she will never be the true equal of men. For the sake of argument, imagine telling a man that in order to undergo a vasectomy, he must first have a probe inserted deep into the shaft of his penis so that he can take a good long look at the sperm he plans on killing. He'd knock your block off. Left or right, women must be trusted to make their own moral, intelligent, thoughtful choice without being governed on the issue by men.

The ridiculous, ignorant extremism of Missouri Senate candidate Todd Akin did nothing to help Republicans' cause and while it is to Democrats' advantage to paint the right with the Akin brush; that is not an accurate assessment. According to Gallup, 22 percent of Republicans say they're "pro-choice" and 34 percent of Democrats identify as "pro-life."

Both Parties feature extreme abortion platforms that do not reflect the sentiments of most of the country. Election year fear mongering notwithstanding, the likelihood of Roe v. Wade being overturned is between slim and none. Ultra-conservative Justice Antonin Scalia said he was loathe "to fly in the face of stare decisis" -- well-settled law.  Liberal Supreme Court Justice Ruth Ginsberg recently said, "We are never going back to the way things were." Imagine Republicans being without one of their favorite drums to beat at election time. Imagine Democrats no longer being able to threaten women with the loss of those rights should they dare to cross the aisle and vote for a Republican.

Both parties have been guilty of wasteful spending and of hiring the fox to guard the henhouse.

Mitt Romney accused President Obama of gutting welfare reform. The New York Times and The Washington Post deride that statement as false. The real answer is a mixed bag. Romney also stated that women have done horribly this recession, being hired back in lower number than men. That is true. Romney is accused of being a vulture capitalist guilty of outsourcing, yet some members of President Obama's jobs council (with whom he has not met this year) likewise outsource jobs. For what is it worth, Romney also invested in a start-up called Bright Horizons 25 years ago, a company Michelle Obama recently singled out for praise.

In terms of choosing the best leader this November, as General Wesley Clark once said, "If you want to know what someone is going to do, take a look at what they've done." The information is out there to examine someone's record, sans spin. SuperPAC ads be damned.

The best prescription to guarantee women's progress and prosperity is to demand it -- not pray for a man to be nice to us. Rally. Protest. Get loud. Scare the crap out of both sides. We have seen this work before. Our involvement precludes our suppression. Continued placating by Democrats and Republicans does little to counteract the unchecked disrespectful messages with which we are bombarded via mainstream media, advertisers, politicians or comedians daily. Nor does it change a work environment where women are often late to be promoted to sky-high positions, and then the first to feel the boot when things go awry.

Regardless of who wins this November, we are going to have to demand more in terms of equal treatment, otherwise the cycle of election year pandering and fear mongering will continue. 

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Anita Finlay is the author of "Dirty Words on Clean Skin: Sexism and Sabotage, a Hillary Supporter's Rude Awakening," available on Amazon in print and kindle editions.

Follow Anita on Twitter.