It's the economy, stupid.
That now-famous and overused phrase is popping up in articles everywhere as GOP leaders urge Americans to view the economy, jobs, the national deficit, and our foreign policy as the critical issues in this campaign. There are many in this country who believe that the Romney/Ryan ticket will solve the problems, whereas President Obama, if given a second term, would drive us further into the ground. However, based on his speech at the Republican National Convention, Romney seems surer about how President Obama failed than about how the Republican Party is going to succeed.
Going on the assumption that the economy is the number-one issue confronting America, here's what I want to know (and I'm sure both parties would like to know, too): Can a feminist put the principles and ideals of feminism aside if he or she believes that Mitt Romney is the one who can get the job done? Can men and women who support equal rights for all, who are pro-choice, and who demand equal pay vote for a candidate who supports none of these? Can a feminist be a social Democrat but a fiscal Republican? Will those who define themselves as feminists vote for Mitt Romney if they believe he can create jobs and jumpstart the economy, knowing that they might be voting against their personal moral compass for the collective "greater good"? And if they do, will they tell?
Former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright weighed in on the conversation during an exclusive interview with The Huffington Post this weekend, saying, "I can't understand why any woman would want to vote for Mitt Romney, except maybe Mrs. Romney." Even though she rhetorically asked about women in general and not feminists in particular, her outspoken support of women's rights, especially in the workplace, would indicate that she's asking how anyone who truly believes in the rights of women could vote for Romney.
Always eager to hear directly from all of you instead of through the filter of the media, I put this question out to friends and followers on Facebook and Twitter immediately after viewing Romney's speech: "Can a feminist vote for Romney?" The response was fast and furious. Here are a few snippets (reprinted with their permission):
- "Of course. A feminist is first and foremost in favor of economic opportunity. For women as well as men. Everything else is just window dressing." (Mary Linthicum)
"I don't feel they can as there must be equal rights for our bodies, our minds, our salaries and respect for us as equals in all things that matter." (Madge Stein Woods)
"No. Even if the economic policies were sound, which is a huge if -- there is no way that a self-respecting woman should voluntarily promote taking back thirty plus years of hard fought progress. Equal pay -- stalled and died in congress, abortion rights -- funding for Planned Parenthood -- Obamacare and all of it's efforts to make coverage fair for women, the list goes on and on." (Donna Brundage)
"Absolutely, a woman can be a feminist, but still subscribe to the family values of the Romney/Ryan ticket. Other than a Pro-life plank in the platform, which according to Gallup polls, is held by about half the population, there are no other 'assaults' on women's rights to healthcare, civil rights, or standing in society. The national platform did not 'redefine' rape, that was the statement by an old fool, who was dropped like a hot potato from Republican support. I chastise people on the right when they repost untruths about Obama, since (I guess its the cop in me), I vet every statement made against either side. I implore others to do the same." (Joe Madas)
"Yes, a feminist can vote for Romney. How are you defining feminist? I have a friend who is most certainly a die hard feminist, writes about feminist issues, is outspoken, very successful and she most certainly is voting for Mitt. i have another friend, she would without a doubt consider herself a feminist, and she too is voting for Mitt Romney. These are smart, intelligent, funny, witty, right leaning feminists." (Amy Ferris)
"My first impulse is to say that, no, a Romney-Ryan ticket would be anathema to a feminist, especially given the likelihood of Supreme Court justices being appointed in the next four years." (John McAndrew)
"Yes, after tormenting inner conflict, if she believes the national debt to be a greater looming crisis. She might if she believes Romney a better choice for that resolve." (Rebecca Fieman Irving)
"Feminists can make whatever choice is best for them. However, with Romney's stance on issues such as reproductive healthcare and funding for family planning services, I see nothing but irony in a feminist who would make the choice to vote for Romney/Ryan -- as they have made very clear their intent to limit the choices that women can make in many other areas of their lives." (Amber Versola)
"Can a Feminist vote for Romney? Yes, a Feminist could, however, I do not think that a Feminist would vote for Romney. That would be counter to everything most Feminists believe, work and strive to accomplish." (Joyce Frazier Melanson)
"A feminist cannot vote for any Republican in today's atmosphere. I have read their whole platform and it is the most anti-woman in history. Far to the right of the 1980 platform which was considered a triumph for conservatism at the time." (Martha Burk)
"In my book a feminist fights to ensure political, economic, and social rights for women. The answer to your question is a resounding 'no!'" (Cassie Holm)
"Feminists are also concerned about children, that they not be hungry or in need of medical care. That is a reason not to vote for Romney and the Republican Party, many of whom want to cut Food Stamps, Medicaid, etc." (Margaret Walther)
"Absolutely not. Romney wants to take away a woman's most basic right -- the right to make choices about her own body. You can't be a feminist and let someone else make those choices for you." (Lois Alter Mark)
"I know a couple of women who would consider themselves moderately feminist, yet who have embraced the Romney platform because they see him as an economic savior who also shares their views on immigration and health care." (Shana Aborn)
"Feminists, be they male or female, are not likely to vote for Romney and the Republicans. I mean, who do you want to appoint the next Supreme Court Justice if you are a feminist? So, no, I do not think a feminist could vote for Romney and still be a feminist. The moment they pushed the 'Vote Romney' button, they would move from feminist to fool." (Maryellen Deckard)
Many men and women I know who consider themselves to be feminists and who work hard to promote true equality between the sexes are worried that President Obama may not be able to turn things around. At the same time they can't imagine supporting the Romney/Ryan ticket. It's become a political, social, economic, philosophical, and personal quagmire. What's a feminist to do?
Where do you stand on this question? Please take my poll and join the debate by leaving a comment.
Barbara Hannah Grufferman is the president of Best of Everything Media, Inc. She is the author of The Best of Everything After 50, a guide to positive aging, and is at work on her second book, Fifty Rules: What Every Woman Needs to Know Before Turning 50, which will be published in late 2012. Barbara is a columnist for AARP and Chief Pundit at FOF (FabOverFifty), one of the largest websites for women over 45. She can also be found on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.