by Ty Slobe
I watch a lot of TLC (which in itself is an issue that needs to be addressed), and for the past few weeks this ‘Dear Daughter” Romney advertisement has been aired during pretty much every commercial break clearly targeting women like me. When I first heard the soppy music and “Dear Daughter” opening line I was really excited— finally Romney approving a message that has something to do with women!
Then I realized that most of the information is untrue, all of it is skewed, and most importantly none of it actually has to do specifically with women. While every issue in this election affects women as citizens of the United States, we can all agree that there are certainly issues specific to women (e.g. unequal pay, glass ceilings, access to contraceptives, abortion, marriage rights, rape definitions, the fact that I am afraid of walking home every night, etc.) that Romney has consistently failed to address during his presidential campaign. In an attempt to appeal to the demands for discourse about women’s rights Romney keeps rambling off statistics that are not even really specific to us at all. Instead he just says the unemployment rate, slaps on the word “women” after, and calls it a women’s rights issue.
Here are the lies of the ‘Dear Daughter’ commercial uncovered:
1.“Your share of Obama’s Debt is over $50,000”
Four years ago—before Obama took office—the national debt per person was about $34,000. Thus, approximately two thirds of the debt precedes Obama’s presidency. (For this and more details, see the US Debt Clock.) This is also clearly not something that is specific to the daughters of the United States, since “per person” presumably includes sons as well.
2.”The poverty rate for women? The highest in 17 years.”
Ok that’s true. It is also likely true that the poverty rate for LGBTQ people, left-handed people, musicians, chefs, people who are missing a toe, and OH YEAH MEN is the highest that it has been in 17 years. As a country, we went through and are still recovering from an economic recession together. It was not a women-only recession. And it is a recession that started in 2007, 13 months before Obama took office (and ended six months after he took office). It is true that more women are in poverty than men, but higher poverty among woman is something that has been true always and forever, recession or no recession, Obama or no Obama. The structural factors that lead to this—discrimination in the workplace, unequal pay, lack of access to education, lack of access to reproductive health—are things that Romney would do well to address. Giving voters the very wrong impression that poverty is only higher among women and not addressing preexisting inequality in the workplace or general social inequality is not in any way addressing a women’s rights issue.
3. “More women are unemployed under president Obama”
Again, more men are unemployed under president Obama as well. As you can see from this graph there were as many women and men unemployed the day that Obama took office than ever before. However, this claim is even more misleading: the country has more people than ever before—seventy-five million more since 1980—so of course there are more unemployed women. There are just more women!
A political commercial cannot claim to truly address women’s rights issues when the word ‘daughter’ could be replaced with ‘son’ and be essentially the same commercial. Women are not simply men with vaginas. Women, of course, have many of the same cares as men, jobs and poverty among them. However, there are a great number of issues that affect women in particular ways, and that deserve the attention of the presidential candidates.
‘Dear Daughter’ is only one of many examples of Romney’s discourse throughout the campaign failing to explicitly address women’s issues. We finally saw the important matter of unequal pay addressed in the second presidential debate, and Romney’s response had nothing to do with how to fix the problem. Rather, he discussed the now famous binders-full-of-women technique that he used to hire females for his cabinet in Massachusetts. This technique was one he came up with specifically for his cabinet, as the Boston Globe reports that during Romney’s reign as CEO of Bain Capital in the 80s and 90s there were never any women partners.
Romney also discussed how companies that hire women need to be more flexible when it comes to their schedules because they may need to get home and take care of their kids—a point which was not only extremely offensive, but that also played into the stereotypes that the Republican party has been pushing throughout their campaign, particularly during the RNC, of women as mothers.
Millions of women are not mothers. Millions of women will never be mothers. Millions of women are making the conscious decision not to be mothers. Sometimes women stay at home and make it their job to be mothers, but certainly not always. In 2012 when somebody is born a female it is not automatically their job because of their sex to be a mother. This continuing discourse suggesting that women’s most important job is to be a mother makes the ‘Dear Daughter’ advertisement even more terrifying. The woman is twirling her baby around to sad music while politicians are feeding her with lies about Obama and the economy—and the only way that the poor mother can help her child is by voting for a party that thinks society would be better off in terms of economics, gun violence, and personal welfare if that child were to grow up learning that her most important job in life will be motherhood. She is a baby.
Republicans are trying to make women a centerpiece this campaign. Unfortunately, they’ve also made women the centerpiece of their policies in the past: almost every single Republican voted against the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. Republican-appointed Supreme Court justices voted to limit women’s access to abortions in Gonzalez v. Carhart, and Arizona Republicans even passed a bill that allows bosses to fire women who use birth control. It’s true that women are hurting in today’s economy. What’s also true is that Republican policies are often to blame.
I’m going to vote to save the ‘Dear Daughter’ baby from a president who is already assigning her stereotypical gender roles and who refuses to acknowledge the unique and important issues that she will face throughout her life by virtue of being a woman.