Your Voice, Your Vote

Table of Contents

ONE Change or Short–Changed? What’s at Stake for Women in 2012

TWO Who’s in Charge? Why Should Women Care?

THREE The Gender Gap – Women Can Control Any Election

FOUR Where We Stand: We’ve Come a Long Way . . . and Yet?

FIVE What Do Women Want? What Are We Thinking?

SIX Politicians With Forked Tongues: “Beware the False Prophets”

SEVEN Your Money: The Economy


NINE Health Care - Still Sick or Getting Better?

TEN Reproductive Rights: the Perpetual Attack

ELEVEN Hey Lady, Wanna Buy a War?

TWELVE More than a Few Good Women – in the Military

THIRTEEN Pay Equity: Show Me the Money!

FOURTEEN Social Security (or Insecurity?): Will I Be Dependent on “The Kindness of Strangers” in My Old Age?

FIFTEEN Our (sick) System of Sick Leave, Maternity Leave, and Family Leave

SIXTEEN Child Care

SEVENTEEN Long Term Care

EIGHTEEN Affirmative Action is Our Business (and Education Too)

NINETEEN Violence Against Women

TWENTY Education And Title IX – Back to “Separate But (Un)equal”

TWENTY–ONE Lesbian and Gay Civil Rights

TWENTY–TWO Global Women’s Issues

TWENTY–THREE The Last Word – Equal Constitutional Rights

APPENDIX The Political Parties and Their Platforms
2008 Democratic Platform
2008 Republican Platform



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What Others Say About Your Voice, Your Vote

“Martha Burk reminds us there is still work to do – and shows us a road to gender equality that goes straight through the voting booth.” – Susan Scanlan, Chair, National Council of Women’s Organizations

“Whether you're a young woman worried about your future options, an employed woman fighting to break the glass ceiling, a mom out of the paid workforce, a retired women struggling to make ends meet, or a feminist activist trying to change the world, this book has the information you need.” - Eleanor Smeal, Publisher, Ms. Magazine

“Martha Burk spends her time breaking barriers for women.” -Augusta Chronicle (Georgia)

“Martha Burk is much more than simply an advocate for women's issues. Her broad range of experience and understanding of the political process make her uniquely qualified to outline what's at stake - not just for women, but for the country as a whole - in the upcoming election. A timely and important call to action.” - Bill Richardson, Former Governor of New Mexico

“What every woman needs to know to bring about real change for themselves, families and communities, and for this nation.” - LaDonna Harris, President and Founder of Americans for Indian Opportunity; Convener, National Women's Political Caucus

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Read an excerpt from Your Voice, Your Vote

Change or Short–Changed? What’s at Stake for Women in 2012

Elections are often characterized as the “election of the century,” and billed as “the most significant election in our lifetime” for one group or another, including women. The 2008 U.S. presidential election was no exception, and indeed was one with high drama and high expectations. What made it so significant

In the previous eight years, the U.S. had gone from record surpluses to record deficits. We were at war in two countries with no end in sight. Gasoline prices had doubled since 2000. Our country was flooded with contaminated products, including the toys our children play with, and our very food supply. Climate change continued to threaten the planet, yet the government appeared unresponsive.

But most importantly, women’s rights, for which we fought so hard in the 20th century, had been steadily eroded since 2001. The first federal ban on an abortion procedure in history became law in 2007. Title IX, the law requiring equal educational opportunities for girls and women, was greatly weakened. A woman–hostile majority on the Supreme Court seriously curtailed our right to challenge employment discrimination.

And while it is true that 2008 ushered in was a “regime change” in Washington, it would be a monumental mistake to assume our problems, particularly as women, have gone away or been solved magically. Our work is far from done, and no single election can guarantee the changes we want and need. In fact, 2010 once again changed the face of government, and not for the better insofar as women are concerned. That’s why 2012 is so important.

The pay gap remains, there are unprecedented and growing assaults on reproductive freedom and medical privacy, and we are the only industrialized country on earth without some form of pregnancy leave or paid family leave.

The child care system in the U.S. is a patchwork of “make–do” arrangements that leaves families struggling, and the few federal child care programs that exist have been cut to the bone. Social Security, women’s primary retirement program, is under constant pressure, and long term care is an increasing problem that families must solve on their own.

There are many other pressing national issues we don’t normally think about as “women’s issues” – but that is indeed what they are. The faltering economy, the health care crisis, ongoing and potential wars, tax policies – all affect women in different ways than they affect men, and all are growing concerns.

If this sounds like a doomsday scenario, it’s not, though it is a challenge. Women are the majority, and we have the opportunity to take control and make the changes we need in every election – but having the opportunity is not enough. We must have the will – firmly grounded in essential knowledge of the issues and a path ahead. That’s what this book is about.

This book is not about any candidate or party. It’s about the challenges we face from the setbacks since the turn of the 21st century, and what we can do about them as we go forward. But please don’t think of this as just another “good citizens act – good citizens vote” sermon. Voting and taking action doesn’t help, and indeed can hurt, if women end up doing something against their own interests because they don’t know the facts.

It is still true that knowledge is power. By the time you close this book you will know what’s at stake for women as we navigate the most important opportunities for progress – or lack of it – in this election year. But knowledge won’t bring change without action – and that means holding candidates and elected officials accountable for long–term solutions.

The first action we must take is confronting candidates – incumbents and challengers of both parties – with questions not only about their voting records, but also their future intentions on our most vital issues. At the end of each chapter, you will find just such questions. After all, there’s an election every four years, and every one is “the election of the century” for women.

Those who would roll back the progress we’ve made toward reaching economic, social, legal, and political equality have vast financial resources, are very well organized, and are too often driven by a misogyny that borders on outright hatred of women. They are not prone to participate in rational and reasonable discourse. They will usurp control of social policy at every opportunity, and block any positive steps they don’t agree with. And by now we know that is no idle threat – women are suffering both attacks and setbacks. It’s up to women to stop it, and we must start right now in public discourse, election campaigns, and in the voting booth.

“We shall employ agents, circulate tracts, petition the State and national Legislatures, and endeavor to enlist the pulpit and the press in our behalf.”

These words are contained in the final paragraph of the Declaration of Sentiments from the First Women’s Rights Convention held in 1848. The ladies of 1848 were determined, and after 72 more years of struggle they got what they wanted most – the vote. If they were alive to exercise that right today, they might put it this way:

Read their records. Go to town hall meetings and confront them. Call in when you hear them on the radio. If they don’t mention women, ask why not. Spread the word when they say something about our issues, good or bad. Email. Blog. Facebook. Twitter. Raise hell. Don’t be captivated by fancy speeches or red–hot rhetoric. Arm yourself with knowledge and vote your own interests.

How to Read This Book

The essential background you need to make a difference is found in the first six chapters of this book; we urge you to read them first. After that – well, women have differing concerns. So you’ll probably want to read the chapters about your priority issues next. We do think there are eye–opening facts in every section, but skipping around won’t hurt. It is not necessary to go straight through to get the most out of Your Voice, Your Vote: The Savvy Woman’s Guide to Politics, Power, and the Change We Need.

When you’re finished, pass this book along, or keep it for reference and encourage your friends to get a copy and read it too. After all, one woman can change the world – but it’s easier when we combine our power into a force to be reckoned with.

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