Saturday, April 21 , 2018, 7:33 am | Fair 50º


Susan Estrich: What Do Women Want These Days?

Some things never seem to change on the campaign trail, or in society

President Barack Obama was in Colorado on Wednesday trying to solidify his lead among women, appearing at rallies with Sandra Fluke, the Georgetown Law student who made headlines when Rush Limbaugh called her a “slut” (for which he later apologized, in some people’s view because of advertiser pressure) after she testified in favor of insurance coverage of contraceptives.

Invoking his appointments to the U.S. Supreme Court and warning of the threat a Mitt Romney court could pose, he attacked his competitor for “policies more suited to the 1950s than the 21st century.”

It was a speech I could’ve written. As a matter of fact, it was a speech I did write, over and over again, in mostly unsuccessful campaigns. I used to joke that when a candidate is giving speeches about what the Supreme Court will look like, you know he’s in trouble.

Obama is not in anything like the trouble my candidates were in back in the days when I was in charge of “women’s issues.” But I don’t know whether to laugh or cry when I see all these stories about him addressing “women’s issues” in order to get the “women’s vote.”

Does it mean that every other day he is addressing “men’s issues”?

Have you ever read a campaign story about men’s day? Maybe when a candidate visits a firing range or goes hunting or is photographed, as Romney has been in the past, in full hunting regalia? I’m not sure.

If someone had told me back in the 1980s, when this was my turf, that candidates would be giving the same speech in 2012, I would not have believed it. Then again, if someone had told me that women CEOs of Fortune 500 companies had yet to break the 5 percent barrier, I wouldn’t have believed that either.

Are we still fighting about abortion?

Could we really be fighting about contraception?

And are these the issues that will drive women’s votes?

The answers, sadly, are yes. If you don’t think so, wait till you compare the two parties’ platforms or, better yet, watch the committees in action. Lee Atwater’s vision of a “big tent” in the Republican Party that would not be divided by the choice issue seems even more remote now than it did a couple of decades ago.

If you look at the polls, it is certainly true that more women want to control their bodies themselves than to give that control to government and the courts. And yet, states keep passing laws making it more difficult for women to do so, and lawsuits keep getting brought, and judges keep making decisions that should not be theirs to make. It saddens me how many decades of my life I have spent litigating and advocating and writing about abortion, long after the time when it was an issue in my life.

Even so, at the end of the day, when women enter the voting booth, I think what they want is pretty close to what men want: jobs, an economy that will support themselves and their children, real security.

I think the gender gap between the parties may have as much to do with the fact that women tend to be closer to the bottom of the economic ladder, that there are so many single mothers trying to support kids on their own, so many elderly women alone and worrying about the future, so many working women who still are not earning enough to make ends meet.

And by the way, there are also plenty of men out there who think personal decisions belong to the person and not to the government, men with mothers and wives and daughters whose lives and futures, hardships and all, they care about as much as their own.

So maybe sometime, in my daughter’s and son’s lifetimes if not my own, we can move beyond “women’s issues” as distinct from just issues — and “women’s days” on the campaign trail as opposed to just calling it “Wednesday.”

— Best-selling author Susan Estrich is the Robert Kingsley Professor of Law and Political Science at the USC Law Center and was campaign manager for 1988 Democratic presidential nominee Michael Dukakis. Click here to contact her.

  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click Here to Get Started >

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made through PayPal below, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments.

Thank you for your vital support.

Maestro, Mastercard, Visa, American Express, Discover, Debit

Reader Comments

Noozhawk is no longer accepting reader comments on our articles. Click here for the announcement. Readers are instead invited to submit letters to the editor by emailing them to [email protected]. Please provide your full name and community, as well as contact information for verification purposes only.

Daily Noozhawk

Subscribe to Noozhawk's A.M. Report, our free e-Bulletin sent out every day at 4:15 a.m. with Noozhawk's top stories, hand-picked by the editors.

Sign Up Now >