Once again, Senator McCain has let it slip that women’s issues may not be as important as we women think they are. Calling his VP running-mate a "direct counterpart to the liberal, feminist agenda", McCain seemed not to grasp that it is precisely the feminist agenda that has facilitated Governor Palin’s rise to her current groundbreaking position.
As Tommy Christopher writes on the Political Machine:
Considering Hillary Clinton’s historic run for president, and the fact that John McCain picked what would be the first female vice president in US history, women’s issue have been largely ignored in this campaign. Amazingly, not one question at the VP debate dealt with women’s issues, and female voters are still grossly unaware of the McCain/Palin ticket’s record on women’s rights issues.
Women’s issues may have been ignored this campaign season but it’s still relevant to explain just how a feminist agenda has helped this country along and how we ignore said feminist agenda at risk not just to our women and girls but to society at large. It was a feminist agenda that actually put women’s rights in the public sphere when the first activists feminists gathered for the women’s rights convention at Seneca Falls to discuss elevating women’s status in this country in 1848. Who gave women the right to vote? Was it the establishment at the time? No – it was the feminists, the suffragists who fought long and hard to take what was rightly theirs to have. Did all of those women agree on every political issue? Of course not – but they believed enough in themselves and each other to understand how critical the political process was to their own empowerment.
Advocating for the right to affordable and accessible health care for low-income women? That would be feminists and feminist organizations like the National Organization for Women and Planned Parenthood. The Feminist Majority, NARAL Pro-Choice America and others continue to advocate strongly to ensure that women of all income levels, ethnicities, sexual orientations or age receive access to the full range of health care services they need.
Advocating to ensure funding for women internationally to receive critical family planning and contraceptive services that, in many cases, save their lives? That would be part of a feminist agenda.
Ensuring equal pay for equal work? Again, feminists like Lily Ledbetter and the feminst organizations that have supported her are responsible for ensuring that women are paid on par with their male counterparts for the same or similar job. Senator McCain voted against this bill.
Working for paid family leave for all U.S. families? Feminist organizations led by mothers, by feminists, have worked tirelessly to pass a federal paid family leave act that would ensure that new mothers are able to stay home for a period of time to care for their babies. Senator McCain has voted against this.
Advocating for teen pregnancy prevention programs and programs that ensure young mothers and their new babies have access to social service programs like Women Infants and Children? That, again, would be feminist organizations – part of the feminist agenda to ensure that our young people, including young mothers and children, are given to access to the education, information and tools to live healthy lives.
Expanding health insurance coverage for low-income children? Senator McCain voted twice against expanding SCHIP to cover more needy children under the federal government’s health insurance program.
A feminist agenda is an agenda that includes all women, girls, and families. It is one that takes into account our most vulnerable, our most oppressed. But it is not one that is partisan. It is not an agenda that only covers Democratic women or progressive families. The health exception in Roe v. Wade says that our society has a vested interest in our mothers’ health so that if a woman is faced with a crisis pregnancy or extreme situation, she and her family are allowed to save her own life before the life of the fetus. It covers all women and it has allowed all women – of all political persuasions – to make the best decision available to them at that time in their lives.
Senator McCain derided the exception as "extreme." He chose now to deride the accomplishments of generations of women who have worked back-breakingly hard to better the lives of all women, girls, boys and men in this country.