Sunday, April 15, 2012

It's About Women, Not Gaps

As has often been said during Presidential campaigns, (and it doesn’t matter which political party is having the conversation) there is a GENDER GAP. Both parties argue about which side has the largest gap -- in the past there has been little contest – the Republicans have been the gappiest. And in the past the Democrats figured that women had no place to go but the Democratic party. The 'dialogue' is about how to deal with the gender gap, and it usually takes place between a bunch of men.

What’s wrong with that picture? The Democrats take the women’s vote for granted, and the Republicans have no clue about why women would hesitate to be Republicans. But they can’t get out of their own way in terms of policy decisions that will inevitably have an impact on women.

In order to explain the hows and whys of this, allow me take you for a trip down memory lane. Whatever else you want to say about Bill Clinton (and yes you can make many dirty or snide jokes about it), but during the Clinton Administration, women were in powerful government positions, and the West Wing did do their best to open channels of communication with non-governmental individuals and groups. We had a great time finding ways to make the public and government officials understand the important role that women could play if they had a voice in policy decisions. We created the White House Women’s Office, the Interagency Council for Women, and we selected delegations to world conferences that were truly representative of a cross section of women. We looked like America -- Republicans, Democrats, (conservatives and liberals), different religions, colors, cultures, organizations, sizes, temperaments and on and on. You could take a picture and see that this was an honest attempt to make sure that everyone felt included.

Flash forward to the Bush Administration. They eliminated the White House Women’s Office, the Interagency Council, and any remnant of the progress we had made in the government. They said that those things merely marginalized women and they didn’t want to marginalize us. It’s what men (Dems and Repubs) always say about any mechanism that insures women have some input in decisions which affect them.

What the men, who have always had the power, don’t get is that issues of concern to women go well beyond health, education, social issues and children. Women care deeply about the economy, national security, technology, privacy, government interference in our personal lives, and just about everything from birth to death,

Clearly, there is a gender gap. But the reason for it is because women talk about these things in ways that differ from the way men talk about them. For men, everything is black and white; women see shades of gray. Men make lists of things, women describe the items on a list. Men “cut to the chase”, women tell a story. Regardless of beliefs, women do not want men to usurp their ability to decide about their lives. Here’s an example. A woman may not believe in abortion, but she certainly does not want a man (and especially an elected official), to tell her if she can use birth control, or determine what happens in her bedroom.

Despite the stupidity of the Repubs trying to take women back to the dark ages, the Obama Administration will have to do some serious repair work if they expect women to vote at all. In the last election there were a number of us who were liaisons to the Hillary advocates, because rather than vote for Obama, they were simply not going to vote at all. Most of those important liaison people did not get government positions in order to advocate for an agenda that paid some attention to their issues. As a consequence, people who were not well versed in women’s priorities, (children) had no idea about what was acceptable and unacceptable in terms of a women’s agenda. The Obama White House was not women friendly. Mistakes were made. The men who did -- and do -- surround the President didn’t have a clue. And calling on the First Lady to be visible and involved simply may not be enough to repair the damage. Women may not vote for the Republican nominee. But there is no guarantee that they will vote for the President. The gender gap may be measured by how many women will choose not vote at all. We’re just sayin’…. Iris

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