Lilly Ledbetter on the GOP War on Women: “Romney should understand this…is about families and economic security”

A veteran in the War on Women sets Mitt Romney straight

I was on a conference call today with DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman-Schultz and Lilly Ledbetter, the namesake of the now-famous Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. The two women were speaking to reporters about the War on Women as Mitt Romney tours Pennsylvania and Virginia in this first week of the general election.

Ms. Ledbetter, a woman who has been through some of the major battles in the War on Women, has a few things she’d like to say to Mitt Romney.

Chair Wasserman-Schultz set the stage by describing action after action taken by Republicans to limit women’s access to health and reproductive services and their march toward more and more laws that negatively impact women.

“Women aren’t a monolithic group to fight over,” she said. “We’re professionals and mothers and aunts and sisters, not a special interest group.”

Her statement echoed that of President Obama who, at a fundraiser last week, had this to say:

“This contraception fight in particular was illuminating. It was like being in a time machine…Republicans in Congress were going so far as to say an employer should be able to have a say in the health care decisions of its female employees. You know, for a party that prides itself on being rabidly anti-regulations of almost any kind, for folks who claim to believe in freedom from government interference and meddling, it doesn’t seem to bother them when it comes to a woman’s health.

He went on to say:

“We’ve got governors and legislatures across the river in Virginia, up the road in Pennsylvania, all across the country saying that women can’t be trusted to make your own decisions…They’re pushing and passing bills forcing women to get ultrasounds, even if they don’t want one.

“If you don’t like it, the governor of Pennsylvania said you can ‘close your eyes,’” the president continued to some incredulous laughs. “It’s appalling. It’s offensive, it’s out of touch.”

Out of touch, indeed. Ms. Ledbetter agrees. She said it, “took me 20 years to get an answer” about being discriminated against by her employer because she is a woman. “Republicans like Mitt Romney should be appalled by this [income disparity],” she said. “They say, ‘Well women want jobs that need flexibility and that’s why they are paid less’. I never asked for flexibility or special treatment when I worked in a tire factory for 20 years. These types of comments are condescending and insulting.”

Without naming him by name, she went on to take on Alex Castellanos who argued on Meet the Press that women don’t actually make less than their male counterparts for the same work.

“That’s not reality,” she said. “Reality is when a woman works day in and day out just as hard as a man for only 77% of what he makes. Mitt Romney should understand that this isn’t just about women. This is about all families and about economic security.

I asked Chair Wasserman-Schultz if they had any evidence that the Republicans’ “War on Women” was convincing women who identify themselves as Republicans to switch their support to President Obama. She said, “There is an obvious ‘gender gap’ between President Obama and Mitt Romney based on the data we have. I can only assume that’s coming from Independents and Republicans and not just Democrats.”

When I was about 10 years old, my mother sported this pin:

That was how much a woman made in the late 70s compared to a man doing the same work. 59¢.

Over 30 years later, they’ve only made up the difference by 18¢.

Ms. Ledbetter has been through the trenches in the War on Women. I’m happy to see her able to share her wisdom with the next generation of women. It’s clear we have a long way to go in this country when it comes to women being treated fairly in the workplace and Lilly Ledbetter is a brilliant spokesperson for the cause.

[CC image credit: Molly Theobald | Wikimedia Commons]

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