First Debate Completely Ignores Women’s Economic Issues

There is no greater proof that women remain invisible actors in the economy than the fact that during the first presidential debate on “domestic policy” the issues of wage discrimination, paid medical and sick leave, discrimination in employment benefits and reproductive freedom were not mentioned once. Not once. Not by the candidates and never by moderator Jim Lehrer.

How is it possible for the first presidential debate to completely ignore an issue that effects every worker generally and at least half of the work-force specifically?

It makes sense that Republican candidate Mitt Romney would want to stay away from these topics because, frankly, his positions on equal pay, paid family leave and reproductive equality are arcane and dangerous to American women. But President Obama lost a real opportunity to shift the framing, to make sure women and our role in the economy both as workers and as consumers is seen.

Wage discrimination is a drag on household net worth and an obstacle in creating a lasting and sustained economic recovery. Workers with paid sick leave are more productive, allowing our businesses to run more efficiently and our households to better respond to life’s challenges. Dollars invested in family planning and equal access to health insurance benefits mean women stay in the workforce more consistently and have the ability to plan and save for motherhood.

Once the Republicans swept into Congress and state legislatures in 2010, they took aim at women’s rights and workers rights. And during the first presidential debate over domestic policy this fact was totally, completely ignored at the expense of corporate tax burdens and the ever-important “small business owner.”

The closest the candidates came to acknowledging the presence of women in our economy was in the context of cuts to Medicaid. On this point President Obama at least put a face to the cuts in services the Romney-Ryan plan creates. And this is important, but it still reinforces the image of recipients of economic benefits without recognizing they are participants in the economy as well. We have to do better than this.

The candidates will have at least two more opportunities to acknowledge the fact that women exist as participants and beneficiaries in our economy. Though it’s hard to imagine the issue coming up in the foreign policy debate, Romney’s support of the global gag rule and similar policies that help confine women in the developing world to a life of poverty and turning to dangerous and often lethal methods to end unplanned pregnancies provides the perfect opportunity to do so.

More likely, abortion and access to family planning services will get a singular mention in the final debate. Equal pay and paid leave may receive a passing reference, but that’s it.  Then, after the election and regardless of who wins, Republicans will continue to push legislation and policies that relegate women out of the economy as equal participants through restrictions to reproductive health care and an embrace of discriminatory policies and practices. Republicans will continue to push legislation and policies that attack worker’s rights and undermine our neighborhoods and schools. Then will we finally talk about these assaults in the context of what they are — full-on economic assaults on the middle class and the poor? Because we sure are not right now.


Related Stories:

Top 7 Lies of the First Debate

Debate #1. What Did You Think?

Debate Preview: The Good, The Bad, and the Expected



Sarah Hill
Sarah Hill5 years ago

I agree with Kenny W, this article is ridiculous. All economic issues are women's issues. They both addressed them.

Kenny W.
Kenny Wes5 years ago

Why would Womens economic issues be any diferent than Mens?, kind of a sexist isn't it?. Obama addresses all issues that concern Women. This article is stupid.

Nils Lunde
PlsNoMessage se5 years ago

Wonder how many hours politichians use to train themself befor camera :-) ALL of them learn to use their hands right when they talk, when to look in the camera, how to put a smile between 2 words, how to lift their eyebrown and so on and so on...... :-) The REAL thing get some how lost........

Grace Adams
Grace Adams5 years ago

Children, kitchen, church, shades of the Third Reich. Republicans have wanted all power to the corporations at least since Ronald Reagan. Democrats sold out to the corporations shortly after the 2010 midterm elections.

BMutiny TCorporationsAreE

Being given all the questions in advance, with NO SURPRISES, gave Rmoney's handlers the opportunity to prep their boy and indeed, Mitt REELED OFF THE ANSWERS WITHOUT STOPPING so as to get to the end before he forgot anything! Even if it was rude and inappropriate to keep talking over his time limits! WE HAVE SEEN THIS IN PEOPLE WHO ARE SPEED-FREAKS.
I think it was Drugs, not "Rmoney being Manic", because his handlers and Karl Rove, would not have left an important debate to CHANCE. Mitt being Manic could just as well have been Mitt being "depressed". Drugs, "Uppers", were a way to ENSURE against that.
Mitt being a Mormon, not supposed to take even caffeine, is not a reason for him not taking Drugs for this occasion. Mormons are very well known for being "adaptable" and changing their religious strictures if it will advance the Church. {They are of course not the only religion to do so!} Rmoney has SWORN in Temple ritual, to put the Mormon Church above EVERYthing else...
I am not saying Mitt is an habitual Drug-user; but, that his behavior was SO DIFFERENT from his usual demeanor, that there has to be SOME reason. {Like his artificial "tan" for his appearance on a Latino TV show - it just wasn't "natural"!} If he ACTS exactly like a Drug user, on the occasion, that is the LOGICAL conclusion... after all, WHY WOULDN'T THEY?
{They also drug our troops, to send them into battle - even wounded and traumatized - so THIS IS THE SAME PRINCIPLE.}

BMutiny TCorporationsAreE

People, you don't realize that FOR THE FIRST TIME IN PRESIDENTIAL DEBATE HISTORY, the questions were PROVIDED IN ADVANCE. This was no doubt done thru the influence of the Koch brothers, to help RMONEY. President Obama has shown he doesn't NEED that sort of "help".
This was done, so that Mitt could MEMORIZE HIS ANSWERS IN ADVANCE. And REHEARSE them, until he got it down perfectly.
OF COURSE there were no questions about Women's issues! The Rmoney camp wanted to AVOID them! President Obama had no freedom to ASK AND ANSWER HIS OWN QUESTIONS. This whole thing was CANNED! It was NOT a "real" debate, in any sense!
Rmoney was DOPED TO THE GILLS, HIGHER THAN A KITE ON DRUGS. ANYone who has ever seen people on Meth, SPEED-FREAKS, recognizes the symptoms - glassy eyes and NONSTOP TALKING - talking right over the Moderator! and repeating himself, and being frantically "animated" and Manic - NOT Mitt's usual mode! Or, maybe he was high on COCAINE - a favorite drug of rich people, it makes them think they are all-powerful, can do nothing wrong, it gives Confidence which Mitt sorely lacked until now...

Carole R.
Carole R5 years ago


Mary B.
Mary B5 years ago

Dealing with womans economic issues would change the economy for the better, but that would be too simple and most americans still just want a fight. Way easier than actually opening their minds to new solutions. Dealing with poverty issues would also change the economy for the better, but again, injecting money into the base, unpaid and underpaid workers, is too easy and people would have to stop blaming and judgeing.
Here's the bottom line. You're All wrong, about nearly everything, because you bought into false premises in the first place.Nothing can be solved as long as you discount the contributions of women and the working poor.NOBODY is independent and haveing a solid platform to start from is absolutely crucsial.Business will never be able to create enough living wage jobs every where for everybody, and you will always be dependant on a government stipend or a paycheck.Who do you trust more? A business, or your government? If you say niether, then you have a real problem and you're going to have to deal with it yourself 'cause no body will be able to pursuade you otherwise.

Scott V.
Scott V.5 years ago

men have higher unemployment rates and higher workplace death rates. Wheres the equality when it comes to that?

Nels Nemitz
Nels Nemitz5 years ago

Wake up and get the facts!

I truly believe that we have little choice to vote on social issues in this election. Our country is crumbling, there was a reason that the questions were heavily weighted on the economy because without a healthy economy all the debates about the social issues .... Simply don't matter.

women's issues!!! There were loads of social issues left off the table for the same reason .... They don't matter until this country is restored economically. Obama's lack of experience has bankrupt this country and if you hope to further the role of women regardless of how you have voted in the past - you need to vote for the candidate capable of rebuilding Americas economy (period). To do anything else in my opinion right now is un-American.

If that isn't enough simply read my first post - women have suffered more than men under Obama - FACT!

Wake up - the dream is over