By Martha Burk
After suffering through several un-presidential GOP debates, I’m struck by the amount of anti-woman rhetoric spewing from the candidates. Although none of them dares utter the W word — unless it’s part of the phrase “our men and women in uniform” — it’s pretty easy to see what their views are on issues concerning the sex that comprises a majority of voters.
Take a look:
Social Security tops the list. Rick “Ponzi Scheme” Perry has declared the program unconstitutional, and the other candidates are struggling to characterize their various schemes to destroy Social Security as “saving” this vital program.
This is a women’s issue: women live longer than men, earn less during their working lives, and have smaller private pensions and savings accounts. And unlike the private accounts pushed by Michele Bachmann and Rick Santorum, women don’t have to fight over Social Security payments in a divorce, and widows can’t outlive the benefit. Don’t some of these candidates have mothers or grandmothers?
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Then there’s the pesky issue of jobs and the lack thereof. Some members of the media have tried to paint the Great Recession as a “mancession,” because construction took the biggest hit early on. Not so anymore. In the last 12 months, the pain has shifted to the female-dominated public sector currently under attack by the GOP, in which women are 50 percent more likely to be employed than men. And despite the fact that the number of women working part-time because they can’t find full-time employment has doubled since the recession began, the candidates are also opposed to any new stimulus money — unless you’re talking about giveaways for big banks and big corporate tax breaks.
When it comes to abortion, there’s plenty of agreement across the Republican field. All the contenders, including formerly pro-choice Mitt Romney, would deny women a choice when it comes to their own health or the size of their families. That’s why the topic almost never comes up in the debates. From a party that claims it wants the government out of our lives, this makes them all candidates for a new reality show. Let’s call it “The Biggest Liar.”
And take health care, another area of agreement among Republican candidates. Every GOP hopeful favors repealing the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which they all fondly and frequently refer to as “Obamacare.” Poor women and their children are Medicaid’s major recipients, but the candidates want to slash both state and federal funds for the program, sending states on a race to the bottom in terms of who is covered and what benefits they get. And private insurance? Adult women are the largest group in the U.S. working for minimum wage, and far less likely than men to have a company-paid plan. Before the GOP-hated Affordable Care Act passed with its curbs on rate increases, insurance companies were raising premiums for individual policies at a dizzying pace. Increases exceeded 40 percent in some cases. You do the math.
And then think about the things they don’t say.
Year after year, election after election, equal pay polls at or near the top of the list of women’s concerns. The pay gap with men is even more stubborn than the unemployment rate. At 79 cents on the dollar, it has narrowed only about a dime in a generation. But don’t hold your breath while waiting to hear anything about it from the candidates.
What about those revered military women? A little-known statistic is that female members of the military were disproportionately mustered out for violating the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. They comprise about one in five of the troops but close to half of those discharged for their sexual orientation. And tough luck if you get pregnant from a rape or sexual assault. Sex crimes are rampant at too many military installations two countries away from a civilian hospital. Service women can’t get an abortion at the military hospital — even if they pay for it with their own money.
But enough facts. You decide. Does the GOP hate women?
Martha Burk is a political psychologist, women’s issues expert, and director of the Corporate Accountability Project for the National Council of Women’s Organizations (NCWO).