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One thing that's been on my mind during both the Republican and Democratic conventions is what issues get prime-time nods and what issues are relegated to targeted events a few blocks away from the national stage. The word "abortion," for instance, wasn't mentioned once during the RNC programming, but it abounded during pro-life celebrations (opens in new tab) elsewhere.
I noticed this phenomenon at the event Marie Claire put on with EMILY's List this afternoon. I was fresh off writing a post about Michelle Obama's Tuesday speech (opens in new tab), where I mentioned the absence of a real conversation about how to make mothers' lives easier. The concepts missing from her remarks, and from the DNC platform, were affordable daycare and maternity leave. How would moms' lives get easier without these things?
Today's panel, which discussed how to get more women into political office, inevitably turned to these work-life balance questions (as panels on "women in ____" tend to do). Suddenly, New York senator Kirsten Gillibrand was talking about these issues explicitly.
"You can create a family-friendly office" if you're a politician, she said. "Two of my staff members are pregnant, and they're going to get three months of paid maternity leave." She went on to say that "more women in office create more family-friendly policies," including affordable daycare. Somehow, this logic held extra weight coming from someone who tangibly had the power to make it happen.
These are the kinds of policy suggestions omitted from the official show, the programs that would help the injustices Ann Romney (opens in new tab) wrote off as just "how it is." It's great that a small amount of particularly engaged women get to hear a senator address these issues. It'd be better if the whole country could hear it.
"This election is about the economy," politicians keep saying. Childcare and maternity leave have always been about economics. Unfortunately, they're all too often dismissed as boutique issues.
Nona Willis Aronowitz is an editor and writer who thinks a lot about love, sex and politics. She tweets at @nona.
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