This year, more than any other in recent history, women's issues have dominated public discourse, leading some to suggest that it's the "year of the woman." From the Susan G. Komen debacle to Rush Limbaugh's attacks on Sandra Fluke to Todd Akin's more recent declarations about "legitimate" rape, women's health and rights have been front and center in the media.
After a period of complacency following gains secured by an earlier generation of feminists, it seemed women were finally taking a stand and declaring their indignation.
How ironic, then, that both President Obama and Gov. Romney ignored such a key constituency in the first presidential debate.
With both candidates transparently vying for women's votes, one might assume they'd be eager to articulate their plans to help the 25 million women living in poverty achieve economic security. Or to make guarantees to safeguard our reproductive rights. Or to promise to promote policies like paid leave that would disproportionately benefit working women, who more often bear the responsibility of caring for sick children.
With women comprising half of the electorate, politicians have a responsibility to examine all issues from a woman's point of view, from immigration to gay rights to health care to education to jobs. We're 47 percent of the work force. We make up 57 percent of college students.
Yet, we earn a measly 77 cents to the male dollar. And we're more likely to live in poverty and to utilize government safety-net programs.
Our lives have been shaped by the structural barriers we've faced, particularly low-income women and women of color. We require a different set of solutions than men to level the playing field.
Women need access to the contraception that helps us prevent unintended pregnancy. We need flexible workplace policies that ensure paid sick and maternity leave when we decide to start or expand our families. And we need affordable child care to allow us to continue working, if we want or need to.
So, which candidate best represented women in the debate?
Much like Romney's plans for Big Bird, women were completely cut out.