By The Bakersfield Californian
I am a man. Should that make a difference? Should being a man disqualify me from talking about birth control and abortion? Do women think I don't have anything useful to say just because I am a man?
Don't cite the crackpots when it comes to thoughtful debate on women's issues. That is a dishonest ploy to delegitimize our contribution.
What about equal pay for equal work or a secure retirement? Is a man's perspective really different? Is a man's perspective irrelevant?
Over the past several months, there has been a concerted effort to frighten women into voting for President Obama. Yes, frighten them and create gender-based hostility.
"Mitt Romney will take away your free birth control and outlaw abortion."
"Mitt Romney doesn't believe in equal pay for equal work."
The narrative seems to be that if Mitt Romney is elected president, women will be forced to become second-class citizens. Ridiculous!
I prefer honesty. If you want something, just say so. Don't make up a big scary story in an attempt to alarm women or stir outrage among them. Address the issues head-on and deal with the reality of the situation.
Let me point out the reality regarding what a Romney administration won't do.
Mitt Romney won't take away your birth control. Women have access to free birth control now. That access is not the result of the Affordable Care Act. So being against Obamacare is not the same as being against access to family planning services.
Women had access to free birth control when I was a kid. Women have had uninterrupted access to free birth control for decades. Through Nixon's administration, Ford's, Reagan's, and both Bushes' administrations -- all Republicans -- free birth control has been ubiquitous.
In fact, it was Republican President Richard Nixon who signed the bill that began federal support for family planning services. Planned Parenthood is the recipient of some of that support and provides free birth control to women in Kern County.
Right now, a woman with no job, no money and no insurance can get free birth control right here in "right-wing" Kern County. A Romney presidency won't change that.
What about equal pay for equal work? The Equal Pay Act and the Civil Rights Act both speak to this issue. And they have been the law of the land for almost 50 years!
Republicans in the House and Senate voted in a higher proportion for the Civil Rights Act of 1964 than Democrats did. And while a few Democrats in the House voted against the Equal Pay Act of 1963, no Republicans voted against it.
No Republican is advocating repealing any provisions of either act!
While there is certainly some ambiguity and opportunities for abuse even during this current administration, it is illegal in the United States to have pay differentials based solely on gender.
If you remember your American government class, you will recall that the president cannot change the law. The president has the responsibility of enforcing it. Romney will continue to uphold these laws.
The scary stories about what a Romney administration will take away from women are absurd. But that is not enough by itself. It is also important to ask what the Romney-Ryan ticket can do for women.
Everyone knows the unemployment figures are frightful. The rate is 10.2 percent in California (which translates to about 1.9 million people) and 12 percent in Kern County. This year through September, 2.27 million people have had to file for first time unemployment benefits.
California's population is 50 percent male and 50 percent female. But the equality ends there.
The poverty rate among adult women is 9 percent higher than among adult men. The total number of women over 19 years of age who are unemployed is 8 percent higher than men.
Where is the outrage? Could the solution possibly be found in more of the same? How has it worked in the past?
Look at California's more prosperous days. The years 1990, 2000, 2001, 2006 and 2007 had some of the lowest unemployment rates in recent history. Median income in California either surged or peaked during these periods of relatively low unemployment. I don't know what the specific benefit to women will be when the next surge comes. But job growth causes income growth. And growing incomes will affect women.
Income growth among women is a desirable thing. But the current administration has plodded a circuitous and costly route to slower growth, more unemployment and greater despair by emphasizing the growth of government.
Instead it is a growing private-sector economy that is crucial to the prosperity and financial security of women. A Romney administration will embrace strategies that will foster that growth.
A Romney administration will bring welcome relief to the women of California who are poorer and more likely to be unemployed thanks to an ineffective economic strategy promoted by the current administration.
All the scary stories are just that -- stories. While we may fight passionately about social issues, revolutionary change just isn't practical. The institutions of government that have established and now protect certain rights for women are not easily changed. So the policies are secure.
In addition, women will not quietly relinquish the rights they have embraced for generations. Their expectations demand political respect.
But we should all want more than what the government allows us to have. A Romney administration will bring more opportunity for all Californians to do better. Women, who are hurt most in our current economy, stand to gain the most.
Ric Llewellyn is one of three community columnists whose work normally appears in The Californian's Local section every third Saturday. Email him at llewellyn.californian@ gmail.com.