Mitt Romney has pledged to get rid of Planned Parenthood. (Deborah Cannon / Austin…)
Recent weeks have brought sharply different perspectives on the state of women in America today. A new study on the status of women and girls in California, just released by Mount St. Mary's College, concludes that women here earn degrees at a higher rate than men. Nearly a third of the state's businesses are solely owned by women, and 38% of its elected representatives are women. Those are encouraging, if still developing, indicators that an equal society is under construction.
And yet the same survey produces reminders of persistent inequity. Three percent of California's corporate chief executives are women. Even as more women than men graduate from law school, men vastly outnumber women in the leadership positions of law firms. Women are twice as likely as men to report being depressed or anxious.
No wonder. For as Californians consider those insights into the uneven progress of women in this state, the national political campaigns — and the atmosphere around them — continue to supply jarringly anachronistic attacks. Mitt Romney has pledged to "get rid" of Planned Parenthood. A number of states have passed abusive laws to discourage legal abortions or to harass women who obtain them. Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich have accused the Obama administration of interfering with religious liberty by insisting that insurance plans cover contraception. And that doesn't even begin to plumb the depths of Rush Limbaugh.
The progress of women in American society is one of the great markers of this nation's egalitarianism, and though it remains incomplete, it should inspire pride in what has been accomplished as well as determination to complete the work. Instead, it is deliberately polarized by those who would divide in order to win. Denigrating women for competitive advantage should be the politics of yesterday; sadly, they remain.