reconstructinglawschool

What are “Women’s Issues”?

House Representative Kristi Noem recently gave a speech on the House floor about her view that the Republican party is “pro-women.” In response to recent criticism of the Republican Party, she told the House, “[M]y agenda and the Republican agenda is indeed pro-women. It is pro-woman because it is pro-small business, pro-job creator, pro-family, pro-economic growth. […] It’s pro-woman and it’s pro-man because it does exactly what we need to get our economy back on track.” Rep. Noem seems to be implying that women’s issues are just well, issues. They are the same issues that affect men, there is nothing gender specific about it.

I have to admit, Rep. Noem got me thinking. In 2011 what are “women’s issues”? Ninety-one years after women gained the right to vote, thirty-eight years after Roe v. Wade and three years after Sarah Palin and Hillary Rodham Clinton made very serious bids for the Presidency, what does it mean to be pro- (or anti-) woman? I’ve decided that I agree with Rep. Noem, albeit for very different reasons, that women and men should care about the same issues.

The case for women’s equity has been made over and over. And yet, we still lag behind in representation in corporate leadership, law firm partnership, and elected leadership. So, while it’s clear that men should care about gender equity and that diversity is good for everyone, I’m not sure that everyone actually realizes that so called “women’s issues” are actually everyone issues. That being said, Rep. Noem might be leaving something out. Just because women’s issues pertain to everyone and their resolutions benefit everyone does not mean that there are not issues that specifically effect women. Sure there are hot button issues like birth control healthcare coverage and abortion legislation that I cannot fault a politician from steering clear of. But there are also issues like fair pay, anti-discrimination, and equal education opportunities that affect women in a unique way.

I’m not sure if moving away from talking about “women’s issues” is a good or a bad thing. If it means we are moving toward a society where we realize that we all benefit from equal opportunity and a culture that values all genders then we are headed in the right direction.  A society that abandons talk of “women’s issues” because we are all in it together and to talk about solutions without talking about all gender is just plain silly…then I’m all for it. If we’re no longer talking about “women’s issues” because we think they are controversial, vulgar, or simply not important enough to talk about…well then I’m down right terrified.

 

2 Comments

connie

Interesting point.  I think the difficulty in defining women’s issues is that at this moment in time, progress toward total equality with men involves very subtle shifts in the attitude of both men and women towards women’s roles. 

Peg

I think for most people the words “women’s issues” mean “abortion” at least as the first issue to come to mind.  But, abortion is not my issue.  I also think that “gay rights” is becoming very closely associated with “women’s issues”.  But, gay rights is not my issue. 
My issues are fiscal responsibility, education, defense, foreign policy, immigration, etc.  Those are the issues of the GOP.
Just because somebody is a woman doesn’t mean that she needs to prioritize abortion or gay marraige or other so-called “women’s issues”.  Just because a politician doesn’t support abortion or gay marraige doesn’t make her less of a woman.  I think that is the point.

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