Your Voice, Your Vote

Table of Contents

ONE Change, No Change, or Short-Changed: What's at Stake for Women in 2014 and Beyond?

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 Pay Equity: Show Me the Money

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

ELEVEN Health Care - Still Sick or Getting Better?

TWELVE Reproductive Rights: the Perpetual Attack

THIRTEEN Violence Against Women

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

FIFTEEN Child Care

SIXTEEN Long Term Care

SEVENTEEN Education And Title IX: Back to "Separate But (Un)equal"

EIGHTEEN Affirmative Action is Our Business (and Education Too)

NINETEEN Violence Against Women

TWENTY Lesbian and Gay Civil Rights

TWENTY ONE Global Women's Issues

TWENTY TWO The Last Word Equal Constitutional Rights

APPENDIX The Political Parties and Their Platforms
2012 Democratic Platform
2012 Republican Platform

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What Others Say About Your Voice, Your Vote

"Burk is insistent and urgent when pressing the cause of gender equality. Part primer, part call to arms with its lessons on how politics work. . .valuable lessons for every voter: Take time to know what your candidates stand for, question and prod them beyond bromides and talking points, and hold them accountable." - The Washington Post

"Whether you're a young woman worried about your future, an employed woman fighting to break the glass ceiling, a mom out of the paid workforce, a retired woman 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

"A call to action and a resource for women who want to understand what's really at stake, and why women should view their political selves in a more powerful way. Burk's book is also a great primer on the issues that you think know something about, but would like a little more background on without the spin of cable talking heads, like the Affordable Care Act, why women voters should care about the mortgage/housing crisis, foreign affairs, reproductive health, paid maternity leave, civil rights ‒ you name it, she's got it in this valuable book." - Joanne Bamberger, The Huffington Post

"This is a must have for every voter, not just women . . . the heart of this book is Burk's explanation of the issues. Read the book and then share with the women in your life. Or buy a few copies and start an election discussion group." -

“Martha Burk offers a well-written, accessible, and incisive guide to our political process and all the major political issues of the day from a gendered viewpoint: taxes, war, the military, education, the economy, and health care, as well as the more traditional women's issues like reproductive rights and equal rights at work. The political platforms from the last presidential election year are included to provide an indication of where the parties stand on these important issues. This guidebook is well-resourced with notes to every chapter and a comprehensive index, so it can be used again and again as a reference work now and in the future. If you have not been involved in politics before, this book explains why you should and how you can get into the action. If you have been, this book will re-energize you. It's easy to read and use because you can quickly find exactly what you are looking for.” - Heidi Hartmann, Institute for Women's Policy Research

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Read an excerpt from Your Voice, Your Vote

Change, No Change, or Short-Changed: What's at Stake for Women in 2015 and Beyond?

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 last two U.S. presidential elections were no exception, and indeed had high drama and high expectations. What made them so significant?

In the eight years from 2001-2008, 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 in history on an abortion procedure 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 the 2008 election ushered in was a "regime change" in Washington that was reaffirmed at the presidential level in 2012, it would be a monumental mistake to assume our problems, particularly as women, have gone away or been solved magically. In fact, 2010 changed the balance of power when the House majority changed, and not for the better insofar as women are concerned. The government has been all but paralyzed, and anti-woman legislation has been introduced time and time again at the national level and in the states as well. That's why 2016 is so important.

Forward progress is stalled. 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 a national election every two years, and every one is "the election of the century" for women. And when the election is over, the information here will help you hold those who got elected accountable.

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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