Maybe I missed it in the 10 minutes it took me to wrangle my toddler to bed (7pm bedtime makes for a distraction-heavy 6pm State of the Union viewing), but after President Obama left the building I kept wondering — where were the women in his speech?
True, there was the one gem quote: Women should get equal pay for equal work.
Thank you, Captain Obvious.
I think I can speak for my long-dead grandmother — an OBGYN nurse and a single mother who raised three daughters on a Midwestern cattle farm — to say, “You mean you still don’t have equal pay in 2012? What are you people doing?!”
For one thing, we’ve been working our asses off trying to protect against attacks on the most basic of human rights from the men (it’s pretty much always men) who would see a genocide of women before they would acquiesce one iota to respect the personal bodily autonomy and the right to make medical decisions for ourselves. I don’t seek laws to stand between a doctor and an erectile dysfunction patient or someone seeking life-saving cancer treatment, why is it that when the debate shifts to the uterus, all hell breaks loose? And this fight has been brutal, sometimes bloody, and yes, sometimes deadly.
So, to recap: We can have sex but the buck stops there on the freedoms and autonomy we have over our own bodies.
Not that any of that was mentioned in the State of the Union…
So if the only bone Obama was willing to throw to women was a reference to pay inequality in 2012 — or rather, that we shouldn’t have pay inequality — where was the follow-up statement declaring what he was going to do about it? He mentioned quite a few new task forces and crack-downs on waste and government inefficiency. He mentioned programs to put veterans back to work as cops and firefighters. He mentioned investing in teachers. In fact, he spent the lion’s share of his speaking time discussing the ways we should all pitch in to help get the economy back on track.
So, where’s the task force on pay equality? Where’s the program to invest in the income equality of women? Where’s the tax breaks to businesses who not only bring jobs back from overseas, but bring wages to an equal standard between their male and female employees? (My apologies to my transgender readers, but the pay equity discussion is difficult to do without the gender binary.)
A large body of research shows us that when women are paid fairly and equitably, it raises the standard of living in communities across the board — from groceries on the table to raising the national GDP — because women are more than just people who (might) have a uterus and boobies. Women are also part of the tax-paying, home-owning, economy stimulating population. In fact, women make better investors than men.
There are other things I didn’t like about Obama’s speech tonight and some things I did. But far and away, the most glaring omission of the night was virtually ignoring half of the population. One throw-away admission is not enough! Especially when that issue — equal pay for women — would make a substantial difference in the biggest problem our country faces right now: The Economy!
Near the end of his speech Obama said one of the things that makes America great is that we “got each other’s backs.” I agree! But Mr. President, I don’t feel like you got my back right now. Where have you been on the issue of women’s reproductive health? Barely present. And the one issue you deemed fit to include in your SOTU, you gave less than cursory interest to.
Women deserve better! President Obama, you need to have our backs!