Remember in November

Recently, some Democrats have backtracked on the phrase “war on women.” They shouldn’t. This is not the time to make a political calculation about terminology out of concern some voters view the word “war” as too harsh. Those same voters respect honesty and conviction. (I’d also point out that when Howard Dean first used the term “culture of corruption” to describe the Tom Delay-Jack Abramoff-K Street-Bush administration connection, some initially said it was too harsh.) Many women see an abundance of supporting facts, aptly describing what they legitimately are feeling. The phrase has given voice to women across the country, across all kinds of dividing lines, who have the sense that something doesn’t feel right. These are not hysterical rantings about “caterpillar wars.”

Some describe it as having their liberty chipped away, from empowering employers to legally inquire about and decide which medicines women can take, to government bureaucrats’ definition of rape superseding a woman’s actual experience, to laws that allow a doctor to lie to a woman about potential problems with her pregnancy. For others it’s an erosion of respect, represented in misogynist conversations suggesting women would scheme and use rape exceptions as a “loophole” to receive abortion care, or comments made about Sarah Palin’s clothing, or Michele Bachmann’s migraines, or a Supreme Court nominee having “some ’splainin to do” or attacks made against a law school student for using her constitutional right to speak out in support of access to contraception. 

ADVERTISEMENT
Other women feel an all-out attack on their personal and economic safety. As a recent White House Conference on Women recognized, while we are making important gains, women still face a number of structural and institutional challenges, like making 77 cents for every dollar a man makes, access to capital for their businesses, or sexual harassment in the workplace. Or that opposition to renewing the Violence Against Women Act endangers women’s lives —every year an estimated 1.3 million women are victims of physical assault by an intimate partner, and most cases of domestic violence are never reported. It also sends the immoral message that it’s OK to assault one kind of women but not another.

Some see a politically motivated, frightening disconnect when the likely Republican presidential nominee says, “I’m not concerned about the very poor. We have a safety net there. If it needs repair, I’ll fix it,” while also supporting GOP Rep. Paul Ryan’s (Wis.) budget, which cuts safety-net programs women and families rely on, like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or Medicare. Or that repealing ObamaCare is both a health and economic issue for women in many ways, in part by preventing insurance companies from charging women more than men for their healthcare. Or understanding that access to medically determined comprehensive preventive healthcare affects a woman’s economy, from resources available to spend on college tuition for their kids to groceries and rent. 

These are all issues that can affect American women as each of us navigates our lives and challenges. And we’ll remember in November which side politicians were on. 

As Meryl Streep says in her portrayal of Margaret Thatcher in “The Iron Lady,” “With all due respect sir, I have done battle every single day of my life, and many men have underestimated me before. This lot seem bound to do the same, but they will rue the day.”

Amen, sister.

Karen Finney is a political analyst for MSNBC and Democratic consultant, and co-host of POTUS/Sirius XM’s “The Flaks.”