Elizabeth Warren and Lilly Ledbetter at the DNC: Democrats May Actually Be Neglecting What Women Really Want

The Huffington Post reported Wednesday that the Democratic National Convention newly released lineup of convention speakers, which features several prominent women, “represents a clear effort by the Obama campaign to drive home the point that one party is tolerant of women’s issues while the other is blind to them.” 

However, not all women agree. A group of National Organization for Women (NOW) chapters in Southern California has released a statement on Monday denouncing the DNC for discriminating against the mothers of young children. Although “women’s issues” in national politics usually translates into endless (sometimes inane) arguments over abortion, contraception, and sexual assault, Democrats must not neglect the numerous battles they should be fighting to achieve true gender equality.

As announced Wednesday, the DNC’s slated speakers include Sandra Fluke, Nancy Keenan (president of NARAL Pro-Choice America), Caroline Kennedy, Lilly Ledbetter (of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act) and Cecile Richards (president of Planned Parenthood Action Fund). These women, along with previously announced speaker Elizabeth Warren and others, will address the convention in Charlotte, North Carolina. CNN argues that this roster of speakers is part of “a renewed focus on the female vote and a concerted attempt by Team Obama to woo women voters away from the Republican Party.”

Republicans are not impressed. Columnist Alana Goodman writes, “This may come as a shock to them, but the RNC has the same number of women slated to speak. That wasn’t widely promoted in a press release because, in 2012, Americans have become accustomed to women being involved in the political process. But kudos to the DNC for continuing that long-held tradition.”  

(For reference, the women confirmed as speakers at the Republican National Convention, include Mayor Mia Love of Utah, Sen. Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, Gov. Mary Fallin of Oklahoma, Nikki Haley from South Carolina, Condoleezza Rice, Ann Romney, actress Janine Turner, and Gov. Susana Martinez of New Mexico.)

And not all Democratic women are pleased with the DNC either. Recently, the DNC has been critiqued for allegedly paying its female staff members 15% less than its male staff members. The NOW chapters of Hollywood, Long Beach-South Bay, Pacific Shore, and Palm Spring are calling on the DNC to “demonstrate comprehensive support of women” and “state publicly that it supports true family values” by giving mothers the ability to bring their children ages six and under to the convention.  Currently, the DNC requires children and babies to have a credential to enter the convention while denying mothers credential requests, according to Lindsey Horvath, the president of Hollywood NOW.

While convention spokeswoman Joanne Peters has confirmed that private child care providers are available on an official vendor directory, and lactation centers are available in all venues for nursing mothers, she has also asserted that credentials have historically been required at the convention. The NOW chapters maintain that this amounts to discrimination against women who wish to attend with their children. (Though they do not, sadly, mention that fathers might have the same problem.)

Prominent feminist activist Gloria Steinem approved the statement, explaining, “Women are the key to a Democratic victory, and sometimes, children are the key to women. It’s both right and smart for the Democratic Convention to behave as if children exist.”

DNC Chairman Debbie Wasserman Schultz was one of the first to claim that the GOP was waging a “war on women.” While the GOP’s recently released platform certainly seems to be part such a war, which the ACLU defines as “a wide-range of policy efforts designed to place restrictions on women's health care and erode protections for women and their families,” Democrats should make sure they are paying attention to all aspects of reproductive justice, including making appropriate arrangements for men and women with young children at the upcoming convention.

In failing to provide for the needs of all women, the DNC may inadvertently reinforce the supposed irreconcilability of “family values” and “women’s rights.” 

To truly woo women voters, Democrats should re-examine the needs and rights of all women and see where they are falling short on the issues.

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Sam Meier

Samantha Meier serves as the Identities editor at PolicyMic, where she writes on activism, gender, and new media. Sam was profiled in the New York Times for co-founding Sex Week at Harvard, and is currently working on a book about women and underground comix. Originally from Flagstaff, Arizona, she currently lives in New York.

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