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Why Are Women's Issues Missing from the Debates?

By October 6, 2012

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At the close of Wednesday night's presidential debate it was obvious that something was missing. In this first debate centered on domestic issues, there was barely any mention of women's issues -- an inexplicable oversight considering that Romney's gender gap among voters has been a constant topic in this election cycle.

Why didn't moderator Jim Lehrer touch upon contraception, abortion, equal pay or workplace gender discrimination in any of his questions? All have been hot button issues during Obama's first term and/or have come before the Supreme Court -- a Court now stocked with two Obama picks. At the very least, this would have given Mitt Romney an opportunity to make his case as to why his track record in hiring and working alongside women should earn him the women's vote.

It's doubtful that women's issues will come up in the debate focused on foreign policy, although there's a chance they'll surface in the town hall meeting style debate moderated by Candy Crowley on October 16.

If I were a betting woman, I'd put money down on women's issues being a hot topic in this Thursday's vice presidential debate. Here's why: Martha Raddatz is moderating; Joe Biden is well-known for his pro-women positions especially his groundbreaking Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) which changed how we dealt with domestic violence in the U.S.; and Paul Ryan has been very vocal in his opposition to abortion even in the case of rape and incest.

What The Hill describes as Biden's "affection for the emotional side of politics" will certainly come out on Thursday; Biden's never been one to hold back how he feels. If his last debate against Sarah Palin in 2008 is any indication of how he'll do, he'll be personable, charming, and shed a tear or two.  A post-debate CNN opinion poll in 2008 indicated that 51% of viewers thought he'd won compared to 36% who felt Palin was the winner.

This time around I'm sure Biden will bring up the struggle to reauthorize VAWA in 2012 and put the blame squarely on the House Republicans who passed their own version which severely cut back on protections for women in the immigrant, Native American, and LGBT populations. Paul Ryan was one of those Representatives who turned his back on women at greatest risk. If he doesn't, he'll be missing an enormous opportunity to draw attention to the GOP agenda which seems hell-bent on setting women back decades.

I didn't live blog the first presidential debate because I had an inkling women's issues would be MIA, and it was. This Thursday I hope things will be different and will post my impressions if and when women's issues come up.

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October 9, 2012 at 5:26 pm
(1) 7th_son says:

Because jobs and the economy comes way ahead of whatever comes second.

October 10, 2012 at 9:07 am
(2) Regina says:

Because the economy and jobs are the biggest issues women are facing right now. It’s hard to focus on anything else when you’re worried about paying the mortgage and making ends meet. As a nation, we need to get our fiscal house in order first, then we can focus on other issues.

October 10, 2012 at 1:45 pm
(3) AnneCaroline says:

Blocked access to equal pay and living wage jobs is at the core of all women’s issues. It is the principle way society perpetually reminds us that we are not, in fact, equal citizens.

The evidence is monumental that societies thrive when women thrive. So, I agree with Linda that we need to acknowledge the elephant in the room. It is high time that we heed Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s call to edit our country’s founding philosophy to read: “all men AND WOMEN are created equal with the unalienable right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

She issued that call 164 years ago, and I hope to live long enough to see it become reality.

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