What DON'T You Want From The Election? JOIN US!
You could set your watch to it. Except that it happens only every four years, instead of every year, month, day. We’ve found ourselves once again in that Presidential-election-cycle moment when politicians sit up and remember that American women are the voters who win or lose an election for either party.
And no, Hilary Rosen did not kick off this moment with her blundering invocation of the endless, and pointless, stay-at-home mom vs. working mom "debate." If it hadn’t been Hilary—well, there was Rush. And the Susan G. Komen flap before him. Someone is always sure to amble—or intentionally leap—into this dangerous territory of “so-called women’s issues.” It’s an easy enough tinderbox to set aflame, and presidential campaigns depend on the heat these media conversations generate, because polarizing topics such as abortion and how we raise our children will always deliver the results politicians want: Drive the media into a frenzy, and you'll stimulate a shoutfest led by the people who define the outside poles of each party’s ideologies.
Because the poles influence the polls, don’t you see?
But something is missing in all this foment and kerfuffle. What’s missing is…women. Real women. Dimensional, multi-issue women. Women who live their lives, pack their kids' lunches (or choose not to have children), struggle to manage a household budget in hard times (because we run those budgets); dream of and build a career or dream of and build a family, or both; face obstacles; raise children alone, whether by choice or by conflict; sign up for unemployment or get a promotion; try to find trustworthy childcare and affordable health insurance; worry about our wardrobe; keep the peace in neighborhood meetings…and avert our eyes to protect ourselves from the incessant, stinging ugliness that passes for political discourse these days.
And the pundits tell us the run-up to the general election will be even worse.
Despite how many stories supposedly about women these incidents generate, this is not the kind of "conversation" about women's lives the majority of women want to have, regardless of their political alignment. That’s because they handily minimize women’s role in shaping society—the society we are living in today, which is so rarely addressed in any meaningful way, because the sheer complexity and variety of women’s lives cannot be neatly dropped into political debates.
Here is what is clear: These decades of politicians' animatedly asking, "What do women want?" has led nowhere in politics. So it’s time to ask a different question.
What DON’T women want?
We DON’T want the same lip service to our needs at election time, and then politics as usual in the new year. We want real answers on complex issues, and compromises that serve the public, not politics.
Women DON’T want to be marginalized as “swing voters.” We are not the swing voters. We are the majority, and we have been steady and sure these last four presidential elections, sticking with our personal beliefs while the men swung to and fro.
We DON’T want to show up in conversation only as our reproductive organs. Even though it makes for bleeding media ink, the majority of women DON’T define themselves politically by their feelings on pro-life/pro-choice.
We DON’T want to be treated as if we are a "special interest." Again, we are the majority: in the population, in education achieved, and in heading households.
Women DON’T want to be catered to with talk of the "so-called women’s issues," because these issues we consistently try to put front and center are, in fact, human issues, American issues, the defining issues of our times: This era will be remembered for whether we failed public education (and therefore, our future generations) or saved it; whether we untethered the economy’s growth from special interests or didn’t; whether we stopped the absolutely insane spending on political campaigns and advertising or found better things to do with that money—or merely accepted the worsening status quo, again.