With the election campaign in full swing, I am heartily sick of the slogans, “women’s issues,” and “gender gap.” Unfortunately, they are the kind of buzz-words which will stay with us for a long time.

The two slogans are, of course, intertwined, and I’m surprised that no-one -male or female – has protested the insult implicit in the slogans. First, the term “gender gap” means that women are presumed to vote for the candidate whose position on “women’s issues” matches their own – regardless of how the candidate  stands on other issues. Secondly, it implies that women are concerned only with issues which seem to involve them directly. Thirdly, it implies that women vote as a herd and use different criteria from men’s in judging the worth of a particular candidate.

Indeed, it seems almost to assume that women are not capable of independent or logical thought in deciding whose political platform they prefer and that instead they make their decisions based on the candidate’s personal looks, dress-sense and the kind of image projected.

In reality, the so-called “gender gap” is a myth.

The myth is promoted by media which constantly seek new angles in a rather dull political campaign. It is a myth being promoted wholeheartedly by feminist groups both in the U.S. and Canada. The real issue, of course, is power.

Candidates intimidated

Women now form statistically well over fifty percent of the population, and candidates are trying to appease the feminist faction, which asserts it can deliver the “women’s vote” only if the candidate follows feminist ideology on “women’s issues.”

What are the “women’s issues?”

First and foremost comes abortion, followed by “equal pay for work of equal value” “equal pay for work of equal value,” “affirmative action,” universal day care, and “no-fault” divorce.

Abortion is not a women’s – nor a men’s – issue. It is a human rights issue, and it is nonsense to claim that only women have the right o influence public policy in this area.

In fact, the candidates are merely being intimidated by the strident pro-abortion feminists’ claims to “reproductive freedom.”

As for the issues, “equal pay for work of equal value,” and “affirmative action” – they are economic and civil rights matters which affect men and women equally. In Canada we have had, for many years, legislation which guarantees there should be equality of pay for men and women performing the same jobs. Discrimination in this area solely on the basis of sex is unjust and has been recognized as such.

The major problem – women who work in part-time jobs and the “pink collar ghetto” – will not be solved by legislating either affirmative action or equal pay for work of equal value programmes. Women of merit have always succeeded, perhaps having to prove more capable more often, in the same way that men have succeeded in their chosen work: they have worked hard for their success.

Affirmative action programs are, ultimately, reverse discrimination – a man with the same qualifications as a woman will have to wait for employment if the company concerned has not filled its quota of women.

The concept, equal pay for work of equal value, is mind-boggling when one considers the amount of regulation and legislation required to evaluate the worth of two distinctively different jobs – one held traditionally by men and one held by women.

Family issues

Women with young children, who have to work outside the home, have to have someone care for them children. Massive federal and provincial financial subsidies for large impersonal day-care centers are not the answer – but the following is a step in the right direction. An innovation programme in Thunder Bay, Ontario, is designed to put parents who need care for their children in touch with women with children at home who would like to care for one or two others daily and on a professional basis. The care-givers and their homes are inspected to make sure they will be able to handle the job, and the ages of the children are taken into consideration so that no one woman is trying to take care of three babies at once.

Issues such as day care and no-fault divorce are family issues, yet I have not heard any party leader to date describing what he would do to support and strengthen the family.

Where are the policies that will help women with young children to stay at home without exorbitant financial discrimination? Where are the upgraded pension plans to alleviate the poverty faced by many elderly women? Where are the tax breaks and subsidies for those women, often single, who care for elderly parents at home? Where are the programmes that enable divorcees raising children alone to actually collect their child-support payments? Where is the help for community-based shelters for pregnant single women to enable them to give birth to their babies, to help them learn good parenting skills, to help them finish their education so that they don’t have to raise their children on welfare?

Have you challenged your candidate or party leader as to his views on pornography and prostitution?

Feminists and prostitutes’ rights?

The feminists are only concerned with these issues insofar as they include violence against women or children or both. The lack of tough legislation to safeguard our children in these areas is a scandal.

Recent reports, of research which shows the impact of soft-core pornography and the subsequent desire in the user for more explicit hard-core pornography, surely confirm that more attention must be paid to this so-called harmless industry. And while Canadian feminists are not (yet) calling for prostitutes’ rights, U.S. feminists are doing so – it won’t be long in coming here.

None of these issues are women’s issues and it is about time that both men and women recognized that fact. I am as interested in such issues as peace, inflation, unemployment and the impact of low and high technology as is my husband. I suppose we should be grateful that these issues are not yet called “men’s issues” (with the implied warning to women – “keep out”).

I firmly believe that abortion is the focus of the rest. All of the other social issues revolve around abortion, and we have the responsibility to tell this to the candidates.

A pro-life candidate may not know much at all about the effects of pornography, or about the problems of the mother at home. It is up to us to raise the questions, and, if he or she is ignorant, to educate. We have a better chance with the candidate who has the strength to say “I’m pro-life” because he or she upholds the dignity of human life and so can understand the peripheral issues.

Canadian women have an enormous responsibility in this election. We must all vote. We must vote for the candidate who reflects our pro-life philosophy if we are fortunate enough to have one in our riding.

If we are faced with no pro-life candidate in the party of our choice, we must either cross party lines or we must make our position known at the polling station.

If there truly is a “gender gap” then the women’s vote must be identified as part of the pro-life vote. We elect the candidates and, if we must, we will educate the candidates. And we will tell them that we will be watching to make sure that they fulfill their election promises.