Optimism has never been my thing. I blame it on the rather high percentage of Irish blood I have in this body of mine. We Irish hold our traditions of pessimism dear, and if I am any kind of woman, I am a traditional one.
Nevertheless, as the election grows closer, I’m having an awfully hard time remaining true to type. There’s this strange feeling growing inside me that can only be described as hope. I am increasingly hopeful, with the occasional moment of confidence, that Mitt Romney will take Ohio and the presidency next Tuesday.
I’m also increasingly hopeful that this election cycle will deal a serious wound, if not the ultimate deathblow, to the whole idea of “women’s issues.” Or at least to the idea of women’s issues as politically conceived.
I don’t want to let my hopes get too high on that count, but with Romney’s campaign finally closing the gender gap, I can’t help but dream of a day when certain politicians don’t think that the fastest way to secure a woman’s vote is to promise to be her substitute father, husband, lover, doctor, teacher, and friend (ala The Life of Julia).
Nor can I stop dreaming of a day when those same candidates don’t assume that all women are keen on having the right to kill their unborn children, and recognize that, in fact, more women identify themselves as “pro-life” than “pro-choice.”
Try as I might to stop it, my mind continues to wander to a halcyon future when liberal politicians acknowledge that women own small businesses, have investments, and worry about pesky things like job creation, debt, and runaway entitlement spending.
In that future, they also recognize that women are rational creatures, with thoughts on war and peace, education and energy policy, trial lawyers and unions. In other words, they recognize that there’s a veritable laundry list of issues we consider more important than government-sponsored birth control.
Heck, since we’re dreaming, let’s just go for it and imagine a day where all politicians show some real concern for women’s health by pledging to put some of those government research dollars to work studying the many links between birth control and cancer.
Baseline minimum, I’m hoping for a future where presidents of the United States don’t think it’s anything other than nauseating to equate the act of voting with losing one’s virginity…where fathers of two young girls don’t have campaign ads mocking abstinence…and where those entrusted with safeguarding the Constitution realize that women might—just might—be more worried about the government violating the First Amendment and depriving Christians of their right to live their beliefs than they are about seeing Big Bird lose his government paycheck.
Okay, okay, maybe I’m getting a little out of control here. I should probably reign the fantasizing back in. It will take more than one electoral defeat to send the message to liberal politicians of Obama’s ilk that women are reasonable, intelligent creatures, who use our pretty little heads to think about more than sex and shopping. Indeed, that we think all sorts of thoughts and that those thoughts aren’t the same as every other woman’s.
Which I suppose, even more than the assumptions underlying President Obama’s particular approach to the politicking of women, is what really bothers me about the idea of “women’s issues.”
You see, just like men, women are capable of caring about a world that’s bigger than our own. Just like men, we work, pay bills, and worry about our children’s (or potential children’s) future. Just like men, we read and think and observe the world around us, then make decisions based on what we read and think and observe. And we do it all as individuals, not as a sex. Again, just like men.
But despite the fact that both women and men do all those things, no politician ever insinuates that men base their vote on their gender or their sex lives. They don’t cater exclusively to men’s self-interest, nor do they pander to men as a political monolith. They respect men as individuals, capable of independent thought and action. They acknowledge the differences in the opinions men hold.
That same respect isn’t given to women, not by President Obama and not by countless other politicians. Which is why the whole concept of “women’s issues” is laden with sexism from the start.
And yes, I know, there are bigger problems in the world than a president who puts his stamp of approval on raunchy, demeaning political ads. But ideas, as they say, have consequences, and in this administration, the persistent sexism of our president has had more than a few of those. The most serious infringement of religious liberty by the national government in our history is one of them. Christina Hoff Sommers uber-ably pointed out many others in an essay that ran earlier this week for National Review.
What concerns me most, however, are the numbers of otherwise intelligent women who still don’t have a problem with this administration’s conception of women. Who, in fact, seem to share it, and in doing so, are failing to grasp the deepest truths of their own dignity and worth.
What, I wonder, will it take for them to see beyond President Obama’s talk of being “pro-woman” and see the sexism underlying his every word?
What will it take for them to realize that if you strip away the Hollywood Starlets and armband tattoos, this video…
Says much the same thing as this video…
That’s Obama’s message to us lady folk in a nutshell: “Women, know your limits.”
Hasn’t the time come for us to say the same thing to him and the whole idea of “women’s issues”?
This Tuesday, we’ll get our chance. Here’s hoping we take it.
Emily Stimpson is a Contributing Editor to “Our Sunday Visitor” and the author of “The Catholic Girl’s Survival Guide for the Single Years,” where she dishes on the Church’s teachings about women, marriage, sex, work, beauty, suffering, and more.