Women and men who work in politics, social organizations, and general business tout women’s issues as an all-emcompsming arena that needs support — and for good reason. Women are, most definitely, not treated equally in most parts of the world.
But it also got us thinking — is the term “women’s issues” actually harming women?
Why “women’s issues” exist
We started thinking about the gendering of issues after we saw that three, American women mayors recently spoke on Politico’s podcast about the labeling of political women’s issues. The mayors, Jennifer Roberts of Charlotte, North Carolina; Catherine Pugh or Baltimore; and Jackie Biskupski of Salt Lake City, discussed that typical women’s issues impact everyone. Everyone cares about schools and health care, so why are these causes singled out as women’s issues?
Part of the reason that women’s issues get packaged as such is because political campaigns break down the population in categories to better research and reach out to the public.
“In doing statistical research to put together the platform, we break down each segment by gender, race, and socioeconomic background,” Richard Holt, a political consultant with Sirius Campaigns, says.
“When it comes to implementing the message, we tend to want to micro-target each particular demographic and I believe when we do that, we create the situation that you discuss.”
After all, when communicators speak directly to women, their message often is more effective. But this premise could make men feel like they don’t need to be concerned about the issue, Holt explains.
Making women’s issues everyone’s issues
Women have always had to work harder for recognition.
This reality has been in the spotlight since the run-up to the 2016 presidential election and well after the election took place.
Think about language
Language matters. That’s why evolved people now say “police officer” instead of “policeman” and “flight attendant” instead of “stewardess”.
“This gender neutral language goes both ways,” Amanda Ponzar, chief marketing officer at Community Health Charities, says.
The sale-ification of women in traditional male positions isn’t helping matters. In recent years, PR executives describe their women clients as “lady doctor” or “lady CEO”. These fake, overly commercial terms make a woman’s success seem kitsch rather than important. Unfortunately, this schmaltzy sales tactic and specified population targeting is used because it works.
“When we’re isolating campaign dollars, sending a mailer to men about protecting women may not be as effective at getting them out to vote as highlighting my candidates plan cuts their taxes,” Holt says.
“It’s all about getting out the vote and that is perhaps where this disconnect begins to happen. [However,] there are other ways to highlight these issues, such as making them a part of the formal platform — something I think we should seriously discuss.”
Women’s health affects everyone
Women’s health is one issue that men could easily learn to support. When women don’t have access to comprehensive health care, the men who love them are affected, too.
The trick to selling women’s health care to everyone is to not treat the issue as a separate cause. For example, when women’s issues are discussed separately, it makes them appear “less than”. But in reality, most men care just as much about women’s issues as they do all other causes.
“All men have mothers and most men have friends or family members or loved ones that are women,” Ponzar says.
“Making pregnancy, children, etc. a ‘women’s issue’ doesn’t make sense. We all have mothers, and children are both male and female. Plus, most women don’t get pregnant alone. This is an all-people issue. But so are many issues like the environment and clean air. Just general human issues we should all care about.”
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