How “Women’s Issues” Belittle Women

What does a group of scantily clad male models have to do with politics? According to women’s magazine Cosmopolitan, it’s the perfect way to involve college-aged women in the political process and save them from those who would take away their rights if elected. Halloween may be long gone, but that doesn’t mean certain political parties haven’t used some of the scariest tactics around to try to convince young women to vote for their candidates.

Cosmopolitan’s Election Day competition awarded a party bus to students at North Carolina State University to take student voters to the polls on Election Day. The ploy, which included male models, as well as snacks and “swag” on the bus, was intended to encourage young women to participate in the political process and vote for issues that matter to them. But instead of encouraging thoughtful debate about politics and some of the greatest issues facing our country this midterm election cycle, Cosmo endorsed 10 Democratic candidates based on their views on issues they believe are important to women—contraception, abortion, and equal pay.

Self magazine, another publication directed at women, published an article entitled, “Why You Should Definitely Count Yourself In When It Comes to Voting,” which stressed how important it was for women to vote in this election to protect their interests when it came to reproductive rights, paid family leave and sick days, and education.

Both of these articles, and many more directed exclusively at women, emphasized how important this election was to women and how a Republican majority in the Senate would harm women and set back “women’s issues.” This fear-inducing rhetoric on “women’s issues” came directly from the Democratic Party, which has claimed to side with women on issues that are important to them, unlike the “old, white men” of the Republican Party.

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Women’s Issues, According to Democrats.

But what are “women’s issues”? The availability of contraception? The right to an abortion if one chooses? Education policy? Equal pay and paid family leave? Politics have stereotyped women into these narrow categories, assuming that, because we are women, we care only, or primarily, about reproductive rights, children, and gender equality.

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Not Women’s Issues?

False. I am a woman, but I refuse to be pulled and twisted to fit into the tiny box labeled “women’s issues.” Yes, I value my reproductive rights and my right to fair pay and equality, but I refuse to completely ignore some of the greatest issues facing our nation. We are still struggling economically, and our national debt is sky-high and growing every day. We have failed to pass comprehensive immigration reform, and our national security is threatened by global chaos. I am a woman and these are issues I care about.

I know I am not the only woman who refuses to be talked down to about how important “women’s issues” are to me. I know this because Wendy Davis, the Democratic candidate for Governor in Texas, who gained national attention for her 11-hour filibuster of a bill that would have banned abortions 20 weeks after conception, lost the women’s vote to her Republican opponent, 45 percent to 54 percent, according to CNN exit polls. Davis was the ultimate “women’s issues” candidate for the Democratic Party, and she still didn’t win over women in Texas, meaning either not all women agree with her stances on these issues or women sided with her Republican counterpart on issues they believed were more important to their state than just “women’s issues,” or some combination of the two.

Don’t get me wrong. The issues that political parties use to capture the traditional women’s vote are important to me, but I don’t believe they are intrinsically more important than any of the other hot-button issues facing America this year. Personally, I find it insulting that politicians and political parties automatically assume these issues are all that matter to me when I check the little box that says “female,” and so should you. We are all strong, smart, thoughtful, independent women, and it is up to us to change the way we are treated by political parties. Don’t let them put us on a bus with a bunch of male models and convince us to vote for a candidate simply because she is pro-choice, because there is so much more to politics than so called “women’s issues.”

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