It was 10:06 p.m. Wednesday when Democrats were finally asked about equal pay.
The question went to… Andrew Yang.
If night two in the CNN Detroit thunderdome made one thing clear, it was that no one had learned much from night one. The style had been slightly smoothed and the questions were not quite as pointed but the reality remained the same, with almost no questions about women's health care, abortion, childcare, family planning, equal rights, sex trafficking, or the plight of women.
And when women’s issues were brought up, the candidates used them mostly as tools to bludgeon each other. The Hyde amendment was used by Kamala Harris to beat up Democratic frontrunner Joe Biden, Kirsten Gillibrand brought up “women working outside the home” and a 1981 oped he’d written to try and land a shot against him.
Where did the feminism go? What happened to us? Did we slip through the cracks? In more than five collective hours of debate we merited merely two questions. We’re 50.8 percent of America.
Democrats (and many independents) are terrified of what happened in 2016 happening again; they are desperate to stop it. They want to do everything differently but they don’t want to appear sexist. That said, there is still this nagging feeling in many Democratic hearts, whether they admit it or not, that Hillary might have lost because she was a woman—that maybe America isn’t ready to break through that glass ceiling with 18 million cracks. They know they can’t say it. They know they shouldn’t even think it. But they’re thinking it.
Conscious or unconscious Democrats have post-traumatic stress from seeing a woman beaten by a long-shot reality television host who sleeps with porn stars and pays them to shut up about it, and paints himself orange, and they just want a candidate who will win against Trump. Unfortunately, this is causing an unprecedented level of weird misogyny which is playing out in these oddly sexist and horribly anti-feminist debates.
There are six women candidates, a historic number, but you wouldn’t know it because their womanhood is largely being ignored. Health care was talked about at length, but in an almost entirely ungendered way. Of these six candidates, four are mothers but they were never asked (and neither was Yang or the other men) about childcare, about the fight for equal pay, about the impossible choices working mothers are forced to make every day. It was like they weren’t women at all.
I’m all for equal rights but women are not small men. Ignoring women’s womenness will not make voters think they’re men.
There were a lot of complaints from the pundit class and the Twitter knowers about the CNN debate’s Heritage Foundation-sounding questions, but what if the calls were coming from inside the party all along? What if Democrats are censoring themselves in the hopes of beating Trump?