KQED: Gender Equality Debate Gives New Life to Old Ideas in Sacramento

Apr 01, 2015

By Marisa Lagos

Are you a liberal Democrat who supports increased welfare payments or expanded access to subsidized child care or paid family leave?

Your best bet may just be to frame it as gender issue — not a way to fight poverty.

That’s the tactic many Democrats in the California Legislature are taking this year as they push bills that, in many cases, have failed in years past.

Ange-Marie Hancock, a professor of political science and gender studies at the University of Southern California, said it’s a pretty smart approach.

“There’s really a sense that there’s not a lot of space in the public discourse for structural anti-poverty policies,” she said, “so I think female candidates and elected officials are making a calculation that they are not going to get these policies through if they are framed as a poverty issue.”

She added, “They have a better shot at things politically, particularly with Republicans and independents, if they frame these as gender equality issues.”

Last week, female lawmakers — including Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins (D-San Diego) — held a news conference to push a package of billstouted as the “women’s economic security agenda.” They include measures to repeal a decades-old law that prohibits families on public assistance who have another child from receiving more aid (the so-called welfare-queen law); a proposal to expand access to state-subsidized child care and give child care providers bargaining rights; one that aims tonarrow the gender pay gap; and legislation to require large retailers togive blue-collar workers more predictable schedules.

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