Remember “shared sacrifice”? Like the rain, the budget cuts were supposed to fall on all alike. But somehow men seem to be ending up with more than their share of umbrellas, and women are getting soaked. Attacks on reproductive healthcare are openly aimed at women and have gotten a lot of attention—like the House vote to defund Planned Parenthood and eliminate the Title X family planning program, which has fortunately been blocked in the Senate. Less visible are the ways federal, state and local government cutbacks, touted as neutral and necessary belt-tightening, will fall disproportionately on women.
The cuts will affect women in three ways. Partly as a legacy of private sector discrimination, a huge proportion of working women are employed by government or government contractors, and they tend to work in the very areas slated for the most drastic slashes—education, healthcare, social services, libraries, legal aid, secretarial and other office work. Moreover, because they are more likely to be poor, old and caring for children or relatives, women are the major recipients of social services. Thus, when a senior center is closed down, not only is the elderly person deprived of care likely to be female, the staffer who prepared her lunch or organized her group activities is probably a woman too—and so is the relative who now must take up the slack. When Head Start and childcare slots are eliminated—the Continuing Resolution for fiscal year 2011 proposed by the House axes 368,000 of them—tens of thousands of teachers and aides, almost all female, lose their jobs, and so do many mothers who rely on them. Add massive proposed cuts in the Women, Infants and Children feeding program and the Maternal and Child Health Block Grant, and the abolition of the Women’s Educational Equity program (which monitors schools’ compliance with Title IX), and it’s almost as if there was some kind of concerted plan to undo forty years of progress for women—and, especially, to make sure poor women stay poor.
First they came for the black people, and I said nothing because I was not black.
Then they came for the immigrants, and I didn't speak out because I was not an immigrant.
Then they came for the old and the sick, and I didn't speak out because I was not old and sick.
Now they're coming for the women. Who will speak out? Who will stop them?