By Antonella Iannarino, The Women’s Debate
Whether you intend to vote for Hillary Clinton or not, a woman becoming the presumptive presidential nominee is a historic milestone. But it won’t magically solve the many issues that disproportionately affect women and girls, even if it gives women a seat at the table they’ve never had before. We have to keep asking, “what’s next?” What’s next as we work to eliminate the barriers to equity? What’s next as we call out and work to reform the system that inadequately persecutes sexual assault and rape cases? What’s next for improving the access to and quality of healthcare for women?
What’s next in this election to bring women’s issues to the forefront?
Our answer: a #womensdebate.
In April in the New York Times, Nick Kristof called out 2016 candidates for largely ignoring women’s health as an election issue. “What if we talked about gun violence, and discussed only bullet size?” he asked. “To me, that seems akin to the presidential campaign discussion of women’s health. Somehow in nine Democratic debates, not a single question was asked about women’s health, and when the issue came up elsewhere it was often in the narrowest form, about abortion.”
Thank you, Nick Kristof!
Since the first primary debate aired in August of 2015, a total of 21 primary debates have been broadcast nationally during network primetime, on cable news, on public television, online on Facebook and Youtube and in partnership with radio and print journalism.
In more than 700 questions asked of 16 presidential candidates from both parties, only 6 questions were about issues that disproportionately affect women and did not mention abortion or Planned Parenthood. Check out our math here.
Why that qualifier? While abortion rights and the defunding of Planned Parenthood remain a vital topic no matter where you stand, there are so many more issues that affect American women and girls, and they have been largely ignored in this election cycle.
The Women’s Debate was founded because of that void. Partnering with organizations like WIPP’s WeDecide2016, Women’s Leadership Exchange and others, we are collecting voters’ questions for a presidential debate or town hall in order to hear the nominees’ policies on women’s economic opportunities, health care concerns, and personal safety. By introducing these issues in a national debate, we can help raise awareness, evaluate our leader’s policies and demonstrate women’s voting power.
If there’s time in the debates to ask about fantasy sports or what a candidate’s Secret Service codename would be, certainly there’s time for questions about women’s issues. Women represent half of the U.S. population, make up 47% of the labor force and are predicted to account for 51% of the growth in labor force between 2008-2018. And yet 70% of our nation’s poor are women and children, and women are 35% more likely than men to face poverty. Women also turn out to vote more than men. There’s both room and need for women’s issues in this election.
The term “women’s issues” comes with a lot of baggage, often with negative, narrowed views. It’s not just about reproductive rights. Women’s issues cover the concerns that are acutely experienced by women in their every day lives: child care, parenting, access to health care, sexual assault, domestic violence, workplace discrimination, and the lack of representation in leadership in business and politics, among many others. They are concerns that when addressed, as with paid family leave or the prevention of sexual assault, can benefit all genders and society as a whole.
And they’re not being discussed in election debates, where millions of voters should have the opportunities to evaluate the nominee’s stand on the issues.
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