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Kathleen Parker: How about we ditch all the gender nonsense?

  • Washington Post
  • Published Thursday, Oct. 11, 2012, at 5 p.m.
  • Updated Thursday, Oct. 11, 2012, at 5 p.m.

How many years of the woman have we had? Let me count.

To the extent that women’s votes count more than men’s, it’s been the year of the woman since at least 1964 – when women began outvoting men.

In 2008, 10 million more women than men voted, according to the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University.

The operative assumption, obviously, is that women pick winners and losers as a voting bloc. Nothing could be further from the truth.

It is true that more women support Barack Obama over Mitt Romney – but this is only partly owing to the usual, so-called women’s issues.

Thanks to certain outspoken members and supporters of the GOP, the Democratic Party has been able to capitalize on a fiction created by the Obama campaign – the alleged “war on women.”

It is not helpful when people such as Rush Limbaugh call Sandra Fluke a “slut” for her position that insurance should cover contraception. Then there was the strange intelligence of Rep. Todd Akin, R-Mo., that victims of “legitimate rape” don’t get pregnant. Finally, some Republican-led states have waved one too many ultrasound wands at women.

While these incidents and anecdotes provide handy faces for dart practice, they constitute a war on women only if all women find these positions reprehensible. And only if all women care more about contraception and reproductive rights above all other issues, which is not the case.

This also happens to be the year of the fiscal cliff. It’s the fourth year of a $1 trillion budget deficit. It is also the year that the number of unemployed Americans is still too high and economic recovery too slow.

It is the year that al-Qaida caught its breath and began gaining traction again, and when terrorists murdered one of our ambassadors. It is the year that the Arab Spring descended into an extremist winter.

These are things that women care about, too.

Women, in other words, recognize the gravity of the problems this nation faces and likely will pick a candidate based on these issues rather than on a party’s platform on abortion and contraception.

In fact, women, who are not a monolithic group any more than men are, don’t really rank reproductive issues at the top of their concerns. A recent Kaiser Family Foundation survey found that fewer than 1 percent of respondents mentioned women’s health or birth control as top election-year issues. On access to birth control and abortion, attitudes tend to reflect party affiliation rather than gender. A USA Today-Gallup poll earlier this year found that women split on abortion in numbers comparable to the country as a whole, which is 49 to 45 percent favoring abortion rights.

Topping women’s concerns are the same things that are men’s highest concerns – the economy and jobs. The smartest candidate will recognize this sooner rather than later.

Women think of themselves as breadwinners and job-seekers. They think of themselves as parents who want good schools for their kids and enough money to send them to college. They think of themselves as Americans who worry about national security and the nation’s image.

These are the issues that matter to women, the vast majority of whom will cast their votes accordingly. How about we ditch the gender nonsense and declare this the year of the American?

Kathleen Parker writes for the Washington Post Writers Group.

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