Topical Tuesday – We Are Not “Julia”

The Life of Julia, according to President Barack Obama’s campaign

Last month, the campaign to re-elect President Obama released a slide-show documenting how the administration has, or purports to support women better than presidential candidate Mitt Romney. Users can view this every-woman “Julia” at every stage of her life and read little blurbs about the two main candidates’ positions on issues deemed critical to women. Clicking on the image will bring you to it, should you like to view it before the following analysis. Also of interest may be FactCheck.org’s breakdown of the veracity of the claims and assertions presented: http://factcheck.org/2012/05/the-life-of-julia-corrected/

Unfortunately, in trying to champion efforts to support women through health care, education, pregnancy, and retirement, this ad makes some grave presumptions about what women want and insult their intelligence and especially deny them dignity, as defined by the Catholic Church.

Presumption #1: Women do not want to get married. At no point is Julia shown with a husband or father of her son.

What That Seems to Mean: While the administration appears ready to back same-sex unions, it does not have any policies or programs to champion that further affirm or support marriage between a man and a woman and families headed by such (no additional tax breaks for joint-filers? No recommendations to eliminate loan penalties? No male version of WIC to encourage meaningful fatherhood?) And lest you think this is partisan, the other campaign’s ideas (if true), do not provide the helping hand that some women need and sadly, private charity cannot address in entirety*.

Presumption #2: Fertility is a distracting health problem. At age 27, Julia is happy to have contraception provided for free because otherwise, she’d be worried about it and not focusing on her job.

What that Seems to Mean: Apparently, remembering to put tampons on your grocery list is problematic to the point that you could not be adult enough to focus on her job. Okay, less sarcastically: The government is willing to pay for you to avoid getting pregnant, but it won’t think to give employers incentives to extend paid or even unpaid maternity leave and it won’t encourage creative solutions so that women who work can also mother. Additionally, it promotes birth control pills as the contraception of choice. What if women using fertility awareness methods wanted their classes, testing strips, and monitors subsidized? Does this slide (age 27) indicate that government-directed health care would? Would any effort to get the FDA to approve the Persona monitor (UK) for sale in the US be supported?

Presumption #3: You will want to work from graduation (also presumption) until retirement. At no point does Julia “opt-out” of a career life.

What that Seems to Mean: The government will incentivize and support only women who remain in the workforce. What if women become unemployed? What if they want to “stay at home” raising children, those young people who will inherit Earth and need to know how to live charitably and responsibly? Any incentives for that?

Presumption #4: You will thrive under a pro-choice administration. Julia presumably would vote for Barack Obama for these policies, also championed by Democrats, known for their pro-choice stance.

What that Seems to Mean: The government wants you to be pro THEIR choice. From which schools (public, and in the questionable Race to the Top program) to how to spend one’s career (only at a job) to health events (delay pregnancy, use an ill-defined, un-tested government facilitated insurance), the clear advantage is to women who follow this proscribed program.

Presumption #5: Your mothers and grandmothers, you yourself, and your daughters will always be supported by the government. Julia’s life spans from 3 to 67. 44 years of benefits backed by Barack Obama.

What that Seems to Mean: If you want this “dream” life with all these benefits, you’d better vote Democrat for the next 11 presidential terms and hope that the Senate, House of Representatives, and Supreme Court are also aligned with these policies. In this current political climate, it can be hard enough to make it through the week, let alone envision a future five decades later. If we stick with the program now, what room does that leave for better solutions? For holistic approaches to larger social problems that make use of both personal and publicly provided support?

Proverbial Girlfriend will not take a political position, because as outlined above, neither side is entirely right nor entirely wrong. She acknowledges that there are fundamental and structural social problems that a single policy, law, tax cut, or philosophy cannot solve. She feels deeply for the men, women, and children who are trapped by circumstance and definitely need support from all who will grant it. Improving the lives of the least of our people will have trickle down AND up effects, which over time will improve society as a whole. Rather than sniping about opposing approaches that alone do not or will not work, every citizen should get creative and collaborate with their shared values (protection of the vulnerable, promotion of motherhood when desired – and the appropriate ways to achieve/delay it, and inclusion of men as equal partners in the public and private sphere.

*A Jesuit’s perspective on subsidiarity:  http://www.americamagazine.org/content/article.cfm?article_id=13455

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