When I hear advocates claiming to represent women tell us we need to focus on “women’s issues,” I roll my eyes and try not to be insulted. I thought we’d gotten past the days of patronizing the “little ladies” with special treatment and a “don’t worry about it, government will take care of you” message.
Especially disturbing is that some of this dependency nonsense comes from other women — women who should know better but choose to push a cynical political message rather than a supportive, reality-based view of women in 2014.
I went to a Southern women’s college in the 1970s. It was empowering. I read Gloria Steinem. I had lunch with Betty Friedan. I’ve been married, owned four houses, started and sold a business, been an employee and an employer, had three children and one major surgery, and bought insurance and automobiles. What I know is that women’s issues, women’s health, and women’s rights are just like everyone else’s.
To set us aside, to put us in a box, to make us into a voting bloc, to define who we are and what we can become because we are women is unfair, demeaning, and narrow-minded. Like women all over North Carolina, I have worked hard to be seen and treated as an equal.
I am proud of where we are. I thought we had moved past the past. What I didn’t expect is that other women would try to drag us back.
What are women’s health issues? Some argue that women’s health concerns are limited to abortion and birth control. It goes way beyond contraception.
Menopause, cervical and ovarian cancer, osteoporosis, and pregnancy care are also women’s health issues. Women’s health issues include heart disease, aging, care giving, depression, diabetes, thyroid and lung diseases, foot care, sleep disturbances, urinary tract infections, and — OK —weight control.
Doctors and medical experts encourage women to take charge of their health, to make educated decisions, to take personal responsibility. And that includes much more than contraception.
Instead of government mandates requiring that all insurance policies cover birth control (as under Obamacare), a better approach would be an open market for all kinds of insurance coverage, letting women and men choose a policy that best fits their needs.
Abortion is not just a women’s issue. If there is a need for an abortion, there is a man involved, and often a family, friends, and other children. Ensuring a safe, clean, medically appropriate environment for a medical procedure is everyone’s issue.
Some would have us believe there is one set of issues for the “little ladies” and one for everybody else. We can roll with the men here.
Women care about low taxes, keeping more of our money to spend and invest as we choose. Every rule and regulation has a cost associated with it and affects anyone who has to comply. We care about transportation, national security, the environment, the economy, and immigration.
Women are entrepreneurs, investors, business owners, and job creators — just like men. We accept and embrace personal responsibility for ourselves and know how to enjoy the fruits of our labor. We care deeply about the future of our country.
Domestic violence is not a women’s issue. It’s a human rights issue. It’s a dad issue and a mom issue when little boys are taught that it’s OK to hit or abuse. To say that domestic violence is solely a women’s issue sidesteps the root of the problem and marginalizes responsibility.
Equal pay? It’s not just a women’s issue. It’s an education issue and a work issue. No one is entitled to a guaranteed pay. But as Americans, we are entitled to a good education and equal opportunity. Salary, workplace opportunities, and success are employee/employer issues, equally applicable to both genders, all races, and all ages. To say it is a women’s issue encourages entitlement over skills.
Women’s rights are protected under the U.S. Constitution and the N.C. Constitution. We got the right to vote in 1920, the right to own property on our own in the 1840s. We get to hold public office, get an education of our choice, pursue a career, be a parent, own and drive a car, borrow money, start a business, own a gun. We are entitled to all the rights of being a citizen, just like everybody else.
Don’t listen to those who would set us aside, limit the discussion to some special interest, or confine us to a voting bloc. Tell them to treat us just like everybody else. We can handle it, even if they can’t.
Becki Gray (@beckigray) is vice president for outreach at the John Locke Foundation.