Biggest question following SOTU: Where’s the women?

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?!”

What indeed.

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.

True, we’ve managed to hold off the religious right — for now — on the issue of birth control coverage. And we did manage to get universal contraceptive coverage in the new health care law.

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!

5 thoughts on “Biggest question following SOTU: Where’s the women?

  1. He also mentioned how he won’t stand by and allow corporations and specifically health insurance companies get away with paying their fair share and won’t allow deregulation that hurts or leaves vulnerable hard working americans. In that exchange he specifically called out Health Insurance companies for their historical, illegitimately reasoned policy of charging women more for health insurance than men. He also highlighted a woman who benefited from a retraining program in the high-tech industry. He didn’t announce any new task forces or targeted efforts to move the ball up the field on gender equity and in general his speech was very targeted to jobs and regulations, taxes and defense (a little more substance in other areas…like the debt would have been appreciated).

  2. Now that you mention it, I do remember him talking about women being treated fairly by health insurance companies. Good point. But it’s not enough. And I don’t buy the example of the retraining program woman as an example of Obama caring about women. I took that more as an example of a job program and the person highlighted just happened to be a woman (looks better if an unemployed person is a woman than a man). Maybe that’s me being cynical. Maybe I should give him a point for that one. But it still feels to me like he gave such a slight touch on the topics of real change for women. I mean, he even mentioned DADT, in a round about way. And don’t get me wrong, DADT being over is a HUGE deal! It’s a big, big victory! But there wasn’t anything on bullying, marriage equality, national ENDA legislation or anything else substantive for LGBTQ individuals.

    I get that jobs is priority number one. I live in the state with the top 5 worst zipcodes for foreclosures in the nation (all of them in Las Vegas area, I believe). I live in the state with one of the highest (and sometimes the No. 1) unemployment rate for two years running. I have seen my entire neighborhood emptied by foreclosures and bankruptcies. Literally. There are 7 houses on my block and all of them except mine went foreclosure in the space of a year. You can’t live in Nevada, especially Las Vegas, and NOT care about job recovery, market recovery, and overall financial security. It’s everywhere I look. Everywhere I go in this town. I GET IT!

    But if Obama makes the point to mention in his SOTU that women should make the same wages as men and then doesn’t back it up — when at the same time he’s talking about all kinds of programs and highlighting successful community initiatives and corporate citizenry to get people back to work and making a living wage — I have to call him out on it!

  3. Pingback: Mind the gap: Three years in on Lilly Ledbetter… are we there yet? « The Sin City Siren

  4. Pingback: Mind the Gap: Three Years in on Lilly Ledbetter… Are We There Yet? at Fem2pt0

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