I live in Britain and I set the alarm clock for 2am to watch the second Presidential debate. It was certainly worth hauling myself out of my warm bed during a cold and rainy night to catch Mitt Romney put women in boxes. I am not American and, it goes without saying, I cannot vote in this election but my interest lies in the fact that American social and political trends always make their way across the seas to the UK.
So can the UK now expect binders full of women to be the new catchphrase for equality rights? I certainly hope not because one of the mindsets feminists have fought against and continue to fight against is the placing of women’s issues in situations and locations that suit the patriarchy. Women figure in all layers of life and in all spheres of life.
While Romney did not and will never grasp this fact he did the next best thing in patriarchy terms. He trumpeted the fact, allegedly false, that he promoted women to positions of high-power. Equality legislation has made it easier for men to play the equality card by hiring women and playing to the ‘women on boards’ debate while making cuts and demeaning women in other ways. It is easy and lazy chauvinism.
Amidst all the twitter jokes, slurs and twitpics what is lost is the fact that Romney can only equate female rights to the workplace. Granted that the question was phrased in terms of pay rights but Obama was able to extrapolate his answer to include the role of women as mothers, nurturers and to highlight the difficulties faced in overcoming adversity both at home and in the work place. Obama said:
“And, you know, I was raised by a single mom who had to put herself through school while looking after two kids. And she worked hard every day and made a lot of sacrifices to make sure we got everything we needed. My grandmother, she started off as a secretary in a bank. She never got a college education, even though she was smart as a whip. And she worked her way up to become a vice president of a local bank, but she hit the glass ceiling. She trained people who would end up becoming her bosses during the course of her career…And that’s an example of the kind of advocacy that we need, because women are increasingly the breadwinners in the family. This is not just a women’s issue, this is a family issue…”
A vote for Romney will be a vote for the decimation of women’s rights. You know that saying ‘in your backyard’? Ann Romney’s daughter-in-laws have spoken about how she taught them to buy nice shoes and not bother their husbands with talk of domestic difficulties when they returned from work. There lurks the nugget of the rollback of women’s rights should the Republican candidate win.