I have to admit, I was a little too tired to stay up and watch the second presidential debate on Tuesday night, as I am one of the tens of thousands of women you can find in a certain challenger’s binders who actually works outside the home and still manages to come home and cook dinner for my family.
Thankfully, Facebook and Twitter have allowed me to enjoy every minute of what was clearly a rollicking debate, one in which President Obama and Mitt Romney were truer to their true colors than had shone through in the previous debate.
I love the internet memes that popped up in the hours during and after – a photo of Patrick Swayze with the line “No one puts Baby in a binder” underneath; a photo of Romney with the caption: “Want to discuss an assault weapon ban? First of all, a man and woman should be married before they have a baby”; and perhaps most telling of the zeitgeist, a Facebook page I can already friend called “Binders Full of Women,” with posts about the some of the most pressing issues in the lives of women today – jobs, pay equity, child care and reproductive rights.
Let’s face it – anyone who knows me, or spends five minutes with me, knows where I stand politically, and knows for whom I will be voting. It’s no secret – I was born and bred in a fiercely Democratic house, one in which there were political buttons dating back for several generations of campaigns, starting with FDR and Stevenson. The day I fell and cut my chin open when I was five years old, my parents were at the ‘68 march on Washington. And one of my most special possessions is a Planned Parenthood suffragette-style sash I wore at a pro-choice rally and march on DC that I attended with my mom a couple of years before she died.
My Facebook page is filled with nuggets from the debate, all of my friends and acquaintances chiming in on the moments that most frustrated, or thrilled them, when our President stood up for what he believed and thwarted the challenger’s rude and inaccurate performance (although lest we feel smug in our clever memes, I am sure that the Facebook pages of Republicans and Romney supporters show similarly-tracked moments of glee from that side of the aisle.)
My children had no interest in watching the debate, or even hearing about it, although my 11-year-old son did come up with a whammy – when I told him that if Romney won, he would try to eliminate many of the laws and protections that I hold dear, including trying to get rid of Obamacare, without missing a beat, he replied, “then it would be ‘Romney-I-Don’t-Care.’ Touche.
But what I realized in parsing the words of the candidates and thinking about how this election will form our country’s future for decades to come, was how having children makes me think about politics in a more coherent and urgent manner.
Although I was raised in a home with a highly politically active parent, I did not find politics to be particularly interesting, and was not a newspaper reader until after college (much to the chagrin of a dear friend of mine from high school who will read this and chuckle.)
But I was always a feminist. Somewhere, somehow, I got the issues about women from the time I was a sentient young teen. I understood how the freedom to choose would have an impact on my life, and how important it was that women were in charge of their own bodies. I was astonished to learn that women didn’t get paid the same as men, and that women’s careers were often limited to the “social” professions – teachers, nurses, social workers. I was horrified by the specter of rape on college campuses, and the disrespect towards women engendered by the fraternity system.
This made me angry, and from a young age, I wanted to work to change it. I helped launch a feminist newsletter in my high school, and then again in college. I petitioned to get money from the college health service to distribute free copies of “Our Bodies Ourselves” to incoming female freshmen. I wrote letters to my schools’ newspapers, sometimes bringing ugly truths to light. My roommates called me a one-woman fraternity antagonism society. After college, I worked for women’s organizations – one focusing on the advancement of women in the workplace, one a pro-choice advocacy organization – volunteered for my local rape crisis center, and tried to keep my voice in the ring.
But priorities shift, and as I started raising my family, the time I spent on these issues diminished. I never waivered in my support, and you better believe that I get daily mailings from Planned Parenthood, Emily's List, NARAL Pro-Choice America and many others, but my active involvement has been relatively small.
But the debates shocked me back into action, at least in the voting booth. Thinking about the lack of focus on women’s issues, and the shockingly patronizing and insulting mention of the “binders full of women” that Romney claimed to have at his disposal to help him find a woman or two for his cabinet when he was governor of Massachusetts, was a reminder of how far we still have to go.
My children are growing up in a world of rapid response. Day after day, 24-hours a day, we are bombarded with information about all the terrible things happening everywhere in the world. We each have to learn how to filter out the general noise and focus in on what’s important.
I am very clear on the issues that still stoke my heart. My daughter’s and sons’ lives are on the line when women don’t have equality in our society. President Obama believes in reproductive freedom, pay equity (go, Lilly Ledbetter) and the power of women to make a real difference in the world (go, Hillary.) Mitt Romney would cut funding to Planned Parenthood, select justices committed to overturning Roe v. Wade, and even believes that Griswold v. Connecticut (which allowed birth control for married couples) was wrongly decided.
This makes me a single issue voter, I suppose. Single-minded about women’s rights and needs in our society. Single-minded about my children’s future, and their right to live in a society where women and men are treated equitably and fairly. Single-minded about the fact that our President is the clear and true choice for me and my family.
Take that and file it in a binder.
photo by Donkeyhotey via Flickr