A funny thing has already happened in the 2012 election -- women's needs are being written off as unimportant in both the media and in campaigns. Despite the growing evidence that women voters are key to victory, their concerns are continuing to be played off as not vital issues to consider.
A recent Los Angeles Times article's headline reads, "Poll: Little interest in women's issues on the campaign trail." Yet the bulk of the findings, which were presented by Kaiser Health, doesn't support that claim. The Times reports 60 percent of registered women voters declare the economy the number one concern, health care was most important according to 23 percent, and "social issues" at 12 percent. "Only 2 percent of registered female voters named 'women’s issues' as a top priority in this year’s campaign. If abortion is included, that number rises only to 5 percent."
But the economy is a women's issue. A lack of livable wage jobs, the massive layoffs in the public sector -- which is predominately female -- lack of maternity leave, paid sick time and fair wages regardless of the sex of the employee are all women's issues. Health care, which costs more for women, and annual preventative care which is a must-have for every woman over the age of 18, are women's issues. "Social issues," which run the gambit of marriage rights for same sex couples to the right to chose when to have a child, are most definitely women's issues, and of course reproductive rights and abortion are women's issues as well.
In fact, every issue is a "women's" issue. Properly funding public safety because women are more often victims of assault than men. Affordable college education, as women begin to outpace men obtaining higher degrees. Retaining Social Security, which is paid out more often to women who outlive their partners. Banning environmental toxins, which could be contributing to rising infertility among reproductive age women.
What women really need will drive this election on every level. Women were propping up the numbers of President Barack Obama nationally, and, as the focus of the presidential campaign has moved to Republican nominee Mitt Romney's business background versus his stance on issues vital to women, that lead has dwindled.
The House has once more blocked the Paycheck Fairness Act, which would ensure equal pay for equal work regardless of the sex of the person performing it. Next week, it will be introduced in the Senate, and it will likely die there, too. Women will continue to be told that the thing they care about most in the 2012 election is the economy, and at the same time have see every bill that could provide them a leg up to be an equal player in that economy defeated.
Wisconsin Rep. Tammy Baldwin, who is also the Democratic nominee for Senate, has made equal pay a key campaign issue this year. "We passed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act for women who have been victims of pay discrimination — now, it’s time to take the next step," she said via email.
"It’s time to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act to ensure that women have the resources they worked for. The ability to know they’re being properly compensated. Women shouldn't have to wait to fight for back pay. They deserve to earn the pay they worked hard for. This shouldn't be a partisan issue it is an issue of fundamental fairness."
This election is about women. Women at home, women at work, women who have retired, women who live alone, or with families, or partners, women living in homes that are underwater, in apartments in areas that might not be safe, in nursing homes that lack regulation or in their cars with their children in their arms because they have no place else to go.
If that isn't clear, it's because the media, as well as many of the candidates, are trying to distract from these issues.
The question is, will we let them?