Republican Congressional candidate Col. Martha McSally says she has been "fighting for women's rights and women's equality [her] whole life."
McSally is well known as the first woman combat pilot and the Air Force officer who fought against a government rule requiring US service women to wear Arab garb when they leave the base.
Does this make her a champion for women's rights? Let's look beyond these headlines to answer that question.
Although McSally bristles when called a "cookie cutter" Republican candidate, her stances on women's issues are in lock-step with Congressional War on Women stalwarts like Republican Vice Presidential candidate Paul Ryan and fellow Arizonan Jeff Flake, who is running on the Republican ticket for US Senate against Dr. Richard Carmona.
McSally's website says she believes in "the sanctity of every human life". This right-wing code for saying that she agrees with the Republican Party's anti-abortion platform. Ironically, small-government McSally believes that the government should dictate when American women have children. Not supporting a woman's right to make decisions governing her own body is a deal breaker for many women.
In a 2010 CBS News interview about Sarah Palin, Katie Couric asked feminist icon Gloria Steinem if one could be a "conservative feminist"--as Palin claimed to be--despite her disagreement with traditional feminist views.
"Yes, you can be a feminist who says that you don't agree with abortion and wouldn't have an abortion," Steinem answered, "but you can't be a feminist who says that other women can't [have an abortion] and [who] criminalizes abortion. One in three American women needs an abortion at some time in her life. To make that criminal and dangerous is not a feminist act."
In addition to her anti-choice stance, McSally is in the repeal-and-replace camp when it comes to the Affordable Care Act (ACA)--even declaring that she would vote to strike down the ACA as one of her first acts in Congress.
The ACA includes many hard-fought benefits for women: coverage for preventive services like mammograms and PAP smears; coverage for maternity care--a benefit that McSally's former boss Arizona Senator Jon Kyl infamously mocked; coverage for contraception and family planning--a benefit 98% of American women need at some point in their lives; and an end to insurance premium price discrimination against women.
The first bill that President Barack Obama signed into law as president was the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which makes it easier for women to sue employers for wage discrimination. Historically, American women have made less than male counterparts doing the same work. A 2010 study showed that American women earn about 80 cents per every dollar earned by a male worker. This not only translates to a smaller paycheck, but over a lifetime in the workforce, this results in a significantly smaller retirement income. Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney has declared that he would not have signed the fair pay act into law.
Where does McSally stand on equal pay for equal work? Who knows? The "Jobs & Economic Opportunities" paragraph on her website focuses on cutting corporate taxes and regulations--with no mention of equal pay or workers' rights.
'Walk in My Shoes'
In a clip from a debate between McSally and Democratic candidate Ron Barber, McSally explains "the real war on women."
...You want to talk about a war on women? Walk in my shoes down the streets of Kabul. Walk in my shoes down the streets of Riyadh; where women have to be covered up. Where they're stoned, where they're honor killed if they've been raped , where they can't drive and they can't travel without the permission of a male relative.
That's a war on women...
To American women, McSally's comment is a slap in the face because it discounts dismisses our struggles here at home. Yes, definitely, the way women are treated in Afghanistan and other fundamentalist countries is deplorable. Women in more progressive countries are fighting for the rights of our oppressed sisters around the world.
We are able to fight because of the rights and freedoms we have won here at home--the right to free public education, the right to vote, the right to equal pay for equal work, the right to control our own bodies, the right to affordable healthcare for ourselves and our families, the right to love and marry whomever we want.
McSally's record and public statements show that she is not a feminist and that she does not stand with American women in our struggles.