by Molly Ivins
how nice. The Republicans are mounting a big campaign to win women over to their cause. The campaign is called "Winning Women," and The New York Times says they're going to spend millions on us. Take off your aprons, girls, and get your hair out of those pincurls -- we have a new beau. The GOP is coming to woo us.
If I may offer our new suitor a little advice: Don't send candy, don't send flowers. Here are a few things we could use.
One of the most notable deformities in our country is the utter failure of government to respond to the fact that women work. The GOP is funded by businesspeople who won't even think about a six-month paid maternity leave, as is common in Europe, or federal funding for child care. There's a weird Republican schizophrenia: They want welfare mothers to work and working mothers to stay home. Among the Republican women we see most -- who are more often the wives of, rather than senators or representatives -- there is some kind of weird time warp, in which the women uniformly resemble Beaver's mom, Mrs. Cleaver, who always wore pearls and high heels to vacuum.
An actual woman is heading "Winning Women," and she is a suburban mom. Nothing wrong with suburban moms -- in fact a splendid group -- but they are not most of us. According to the last census, the two-parent family with a stay-at-home mom is increasingly rare and not likely to be urgently in need of government help. But I guess they vote more than working moms, who are really busy and really tired.
Here are some other ways government could help women. A lot us of work in factories, and a lot of us do office work. Jobs like data entry, not to mention tougher physical factory work, involve repetitive motion. This leads to everything from chronic back problems to carpal tunnel syndrome.
On his first day in office, President Bush put a plan to deal with repetitive stress injuries on hold. It was then killed by the Republicans in Congress in March. While it was very nice of Bush to appoint an actual woman, Elaine Chao, secretary of labor, it would be even nicer if the hearings the Labor Department is currently holding on repetitive stress were not so painfully obviously stacked in favor of business. I especially liked the doctor who testified that back pain is more likely to be caused by stress, anxiety and depression than heavy lifting.
"It is better to stay at work with a little pain than to adopt a lifestyle of disability," said this stoic. Another doctor expressed serious doubt that ergonomic injuries exist at all. The hearings are so one-sided that the one held at Stanford University Monday was picketed by the AFL-CIO. As long as the GOP is wooing us, it might take notice that we are really tired of being told it's all in our heads. Our heads work fine, thanks -- it's the backs and wrists and feet that hurt.
Another thing that would be helpful to women is universal health insurance. If there's one thing worse than breast cancer, it's having breast cancer and no medical insurance. In Texas, women who have survived breast cancer have formed an organization to help women without insurance (www.texaswings.org), but these are slow, laborious, individual campaigns and can only cover a few dozen cases. And that's just one form of cancer, and cancer is just one disease. We could really use some help on this issue.
And then, just to add an old favorite to the list, perhaps the GOP has noticed that wage discrimination has not disappeared. As difficult as it is to bring a class-action suit to court these days and as long as it takes to try it, women are still winning after proving, yet again, they are underpaid compared to men doing the same work.
Another item that would help working women is increasing the pathetically small number of people doing workplace inspections for health and safety conditions. Sweatshops did not go out with corsets: Many women still work in them.
An increase in the minimum wage would also help women even more than it would men. And as long as we're dreaming, why not a living wage? Then we might be able to afford decent housing, and speaking of housing, if the GOP would quit cutting the funding for it, there might actually be some affordable housing.
So, GOP, it's swell that you propose to serenade us, perhaps in barbershop quartet harmony. But forget the candy and flowers. As Eliza Doolittle sang, "Show Me."
August 2, 2001 (http://www.monitor.net/monitor) All Rights Reserved. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for permission to use in any format.
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