With his official candidacy imminent, Mitt Romney's campaign spent this week addressing his dismal popularity among women voters by doing a classic political move I like to call Flippin' the Script (very technical terminology here, I know). Democrats, according to Romney, have been accusing Republicans of waging a war on women when really, it's Obama's economic policies that have been, "turning the clock back 20 years on American women. " Oh. Let's unpack this one!
Considering Obama's first move as president was to pass the Lilly Ledbetter Act in 2009, ensuring women the ability to enforce in court their right to equal pay for equal work, the Romney campaign will have a tough sell ahead of them with their Obama's War on Women pitch.
Republicans have backed up their attack with numbers. Sharon Day, co-chair of the Republican National Committee, first brought it up on April 6 when she said, "Of the 740,000 jobs lost since Obama took office, 683,000 of them were held by women." This statistic sure is eyebrow-raising, and according to Glenn Kessler, the Washington Post's fact checker, it is true that during Obama's administration women lost more jobs relative to the national rate of decline. According to the latest employment report, while men have seen an increase in 14,000 jobs, female participation is down 177,000. The meaning of these numbers is misleading though. According to Kessler, the narrative changes considerably depending on the dates used to measure it. If we look at numbers back to December 2007, when the recession began, men were hit hardest. Due to the nature of this particular recession (the financial sector meltdown which lead to the housing bubble bursting), it's no surprise that male-dominated industries were hit first. By January 2009, female-dominant industries were beginning to get hit as revenue-strapped local governments fired teachers and other public-sector workers. (And guess whose policies would actually decrease the number of jobs in these industries should he become president?) It's true that if we're looking at the recession as a whole, 3.4 million men and 1.8 million women lost their jobs. Romney's math may add up, but it fails to paint the whole picture.
Ultimately, numbers can be bent by people on both sides of the aisle. Job loss and growth statistics are especially amorphous. What isn't so complex is the Republican-backed anti-choice legislation being passed state by state that has dangerous ramifications for women. With each bill passed, women everywhere are losing autonomy over their bodies and lives. You know what has an actual affect on women in the workforce? Losing the reproductive freedom to make their own decisions. By flipping the script, Romney is trying to draw attention away from the actual war on women. The war on women isn't happening in statistics, it's being waged in our doctor offices and, most disturbingly, inside our own bodies. That's why Romney's claim that Obama is waging the "real" war on women is such a tough, little pill for me to swallow.
Image source Politico