I’m not really one to dabble in gender essentialist arguments about what women would “should” care about, nor do I think rhetoric like conservative women are “men with breasts” does anything to further the radical idea that ladies are capable of an array of opinions and beliefs. The notion that sex can and should have all women thinking one way is an innately demeaning one, and so when the ladies of The View launched into a discussion of what women voters “should” care about, I hesitated for the conclusion.
Yet, when guest Governor Nikki Haley of South Carolina made the sweeping statement that women don’t care about contraception, there was another Pandora’s box to consider.
The 40-year-old governor was pressed on a variety of topics with regard to her possible VP selection and her background. But when asked about the whole contraception debacle that continues to dominate our American headlines, she said this:
“Women don’t care about contraception. They care about jobs, the economy, and raising their families, and all of those things…The media wants to talk about contraception.”
The blanket statement is an irksome one, but Haley’s insistence that contraception and raising families are mutually exclusive issues is just as problematic. For many women, controlling their fertility and keeping their families to a size that they can afford and support keeps very much with personal financial and economic circumstances. So much so that if a candidate like Rick Santorum comes along and starts squawking about banning birth control, a broader conversation is triggered in which we’re already talking about women’s career possibilities and women’s economic constraints.
Sandra Fluke raised this issue recently at 92Y, highlighting contraception access as a barrier for low-income women to have a say in public discourse. We also have continued shutdowns of places like Planned Parenthood, which provide birth control to so many mothers trying to keep their not so wealthy families afloat.
Contraception is a very important issue to some women, some of them childless while others are mothers to five. And as Haley evidences, for some women of economic privilege, contraception is hardly an issue at all.