Since Hillary Clinton conceded the Democratic nomination on June 7, I have read at least two articles a day by progressive bloggers telling Democratic women why it is in women's best interests to vote for Barack Obama. Of the numerous articles, these six are the most representative arguments.
In every case these purveyors of wisdom alternately chide us, berate us for being angry at the media, the Democratic Party system, and its leaders, and lecture us about throwing away our Freedom of Choice if we do not do the right thing and vote for Barack Obama.
First, let me get something out of the way: I'm a proponent and advocate of ensuring women's reproductive rights.
I've lost count of how often I've stood up to candidates and office-holders on this signature women's rights issue, or the amount of money I have given to Planned Parenthood, NARAL, Feminist Majority Foundation, EMILY's List and others to fight for reproductive rights, or the number of marches and rallies I have been part of and helped organize around this issue. Suffice it to say, reproductive choice is important to me.
Now I'd like to offer some comments about why using Roe v. Wade to win over Hillary Clinton's constituents (the "older women") is misguided, narrow-minded and anti-feminist.
From our perspective, Roe v. Wade is not the burning issue that drives us. A lot of older women won't say this directly because they don't want to seem "old" or out of touch or just plain un-PC, so I will. We have "done our time" and now we'd like some attention paid to other issues of concern in our lives.
1. Most of the women who support(ed) Hillary Clinton are second wave feminists who came of age during the 1960s and 70s. We are the ones responsible for Roe v. Wade in the first place. We are now (depending on where we fall on the baby boom age spectrum) in our late 50s to early 70s. Most of us are long past our childbearing/reproductive years.
2. Most second-wave feminists have experienced every form of gender discrimination imaginable: from limitations in the type and nature of our work and careers, to pay inequities, to sexual harassment on the job, to limitations in athletic opportunities, to pension and Social Security inequities, to credit inequality, to pregnancy discrimination, to limitations in educational opportunities, to being sole family caregivers.
Nearly every woman-friendly public policy, Executive Order, workplace benefit and right, and opportunity that third-wave feminists (post-feminists?) enjoy exists because we (and our mothers and grandmothers) helped bring them about. That would never have happened if we had focused solely on Roe v. Wade and not multi-tasked on numerous issues and problems.
3. Second-wave feminists are now either close to retirement or are retired (although as a practical matter, many of us still work, full- or part-time because we have to, or because we enjoy what we do, or both).
Our pensions are likely to be only about half of men's because we don't earn equal pay for equal work or equal pay for work of equal value (and we didn't earn even close to 75 percent "back in the day." It was more like 50 percent, 57 percent, 63 percent. When you consider this and then realize that many older women lost valuable work credits when they took time off to raise families, the issue is clear. And the same rules that apply to pensions also apply to Social Security benefits. They are both tied to earned income. So, to recap: we have less retirement income to begin with, but we outlive men, which means that our benefits must be stretched farther and last longer.
4. We - second-wave feminists - having raised children, are now faced with caring for aging parents who probably suffer from serious chronic illnesses like Alzheimer's, or cancer, or a host of other medical problems resulting from, well, aging. We could sure use some serious help for and attention to the needs and challenges we now face caring for our parents.
5. Health issues are a big concern for us. It isn't just lack of health care or the cost of health care. It is the lack of research money focused on women's health problems. Most research into cancer, heart disease, Alzheimer's and other diseases is male-centric. Studies and R&D are based on a male model of illness/treatment. Yet as baby boom women get older, our health concerns will have an enormous impact on the health care system, generally. Because women live longer than men, concern about our health ought to drive a bigger share of the public policy debate on how diseases affect us and what treatment options work for us, in addition to health care availability, coverage and cost.
6. Finally, here is what most galls us about the use and misuse of Roe v. Wade to scare us: It is the anti-feminist thread that runs through each of the arguments put forth by (cough) well-meaning (cough) progressives.
Not that long ago women were told we couldn't vote. We were told we weren't smart enough, that our "weak" mental and emotional constitutions prevented us from exercising the careful judgment needed to vote, and that we didn't understand and couldn't countenance politics because it was inherently non-feminine.
That was then. Fast forward to 2008. We are now told (essentially) the same things: we don't understand what is at stake; we don't have the emotional and intellectual capacity or maturity to make good judgments on our own, and because we don't understand what is at stake and obviously lack the emotional maturity or logic necessary, we must let others (progressives, in all cases) tell us the correct way to vote and the reasons to do so.
It is even more maddening to see and hear young progressive women lecture us about what is (ostensibly) For Our Own Good and scold us for making choices that disagree with theirs. It's no surprise that men would leave the scolding/lecturing of women up to other women. When have progressive men really been any better about gender equality than, say, men in general? All one need do these days is tiptoe through the liberal blogosphere to understand this. "Women's issues" rarely make the Top Ten List of progressive agendas and there is certainly a paucity of coverage about public policy or legal decisions that affect women.
So I doubt that most of the progressive blogosphere will really "get" this since most didn't see and didn't "get" the rampant sexism directed at Hillary Clinton (and the women who supported her) during the primaries.
So here's the thing: the beauty of choice is that it is our legal right. Nobody can or should tell us when, how, or why to use this right.
I'm not talking about reproductive choice. I'm talking about the right to vote. We don't need (or want) men (or women, for that matter) telling us why or how to vote any more than we want others interfering in any of our choices. That is a losing, non-feminist proposition that sure as hell won't win over most of Hillary Clinton's women because Roe v. Wade, as important as it is, just doesn't move us quite the way it once did.