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A Presidential Debate on Women’s Issues?
In January, Showtime debuted a docuseries behind the 2016 presidential election called “The Circus.” Circus is the word that comes to mind while watching the twenty-one primary debates that aired nationally between August 2015 and April of this year.
As I wrote in a piece published this week at the official blog of the United State of Women Summit in DC, we reviewed every transcript of the primary debates and found that in over 700 questions asked, only 6 were about women’s issues that did not specifically mention “abortion” or federal funding for Planned Parenthood.
You can see those six questions here. (Don’t worry, they did make sure to ask burning questions about Secret Service codenames, fantasy sports, and who should be on the $10 bill, which is of course the most pressing economic issue of our age).
Women’s issues are not just about reproductive rights. They are not niche or special interest, and certainly not monolithic.
They are core social and political issues: the economy, health care, safety. There are aspects of these core issues that disproportionately affect—and negatively impact—women’s lives and their families. How can we substantively discuss policies about minimum wage, how the justice system addresses sexual assault and rape, access to quality health care, poverty and more without acknowledging how these issues acutely affect more than half the population (and the majority of registered voters)?
• Women and children account for 70% of our nation’s poor, women are 35% more likely to be poor than men, and single mothers face the highest risk of poverty. Nearly 700,000 single mothers who worked full-time, year round in 2014 still lived on the poverty line. And it gets worse for women of color and for women as they age—they’re facing workplace discrimination, and living longer with smaller retirement accounts.
Realities like this are why we need a #womensdebate. The Women’s Debate is a nonpartisan civic group founded to collect voters’ questions for a presidential debate on women’s issues. You can sign our petition here.
The nearly year-long circus that has brought us to the national party conventions this month may have turned off many from wanting to watch another debate, but there’s no denying their high ratings and even higher profits. By introducing these issues in a national debate or a town hall—hey, we’re not picky about the format, only the discussion—we can help raise awareness, evaluate our leader’s policies and demonstrate women’s voting power.
Maybe with a women’s debate American voters can benefit, too.
Antonella Iannarino is Executive Director of The Women's Debate. Learn more at www.womensdebate.org. She's also a consultant on digital strategy: social media management, website project management and development, editorial development, ebook publishing and other projects that help clients build their online presence.
As an agent at the David Black Agency for eight years, her areas of interest included commercial and literary fiction (especially mystery, thriller, and the 20-something zeitgeist), young adult and middle grade fiction, romance, cooking, lifestyle, and nonfiction (narrative, humor, and some memoir). As “digital maven,” she represented authors in mobile apps and e-originals, and pursued website project management, and digital branding and social media strategy and consulting.