What is the War on Women really about?
With the upcoming presidential election, it seems that everyone is talking about the "War on Women." As a women's college that has a track record of caring and speaking out about women's issues, we have to ask ourselves: why is this happening? We sat down with our resident expert in U.S. politics, Associate Professor of Political Science Leanne Doherty, to find out what's really going on.
Is it true that women will decide this year's election?
Women decide pretty much every election. They turn out to vote more often than their male counterparts, and when it comes to presidential elections, especially since 1980, we've seen a gender gap, one gender votes for one party and the other gender votes for another. So the idea that there would be a gender gap towards Barack Obama is not what interests me. What is interesting is the level of scrutiny on laws like the Violence Against Women Act, which is to protect women from assault and battery. The Republican Party is trying to undue the expansion of that.
When media say the election is going to be decided by women, it's married women who tend to vote Republican who are now siding with President Obama and the Democratic Party based on arguments about contraception and equal pay. This is probably going to change now that Mitt Romney is the nominee, because he is going to have to bring it back to the center a little more. He is in a tough situation because the rhetoric has been so far right of center.
Have women's issues been ignored in past elections?
The term women's issues is tough. Women care about economy and jobs just as much as men do, because it's the number one issue in the country. If you look at Massachusetts Senate Candidate Elizabeth Warren, she is running on the economic platform based on her experiences as an advocate in the Obama Administration. Women aren't an interest group. Women are a demographic that cannot be easily understood on how they are going to vote.
What is different about this year?
You're talking about birth control pills, and the visual of the all white male panel talking about birth control really sparked things. It also has to do with the Komen Foundation pulling out of Planned Parenthood and the comments made by Rush Limbaugh. All those factors came into play to create this perfect storm, that the Democrats seized upon. The Democrats said, Obama is your guy if you want to maintain your rights as a citizen.
What does Romney need to do to win women over?
Romney has to bring the discussion back to the center. He needs to talk about women and the economy, not women and social issues.
Dr. Leanne Doherty's teaching is centered around the American political system, with a concentration on gender and politics, popular culture, and public policy.
This is going to be an interesting election, and we'll be following it closely. We'd love to hear what you think about the "War on Women." Leave comments below, Tweet to @SimmonsCollege, or share your thoughts on the Simmons College Facebook Timeline.