Why Every Woman Should Watch The State Of The Union Address
President Obama will give his final State of the Union address Tuesday evening. He'll likely discuss the landmark issues that have come to define his presidency, such as healthcare reform, gun violence, and economic recovery, provide updates on how far we've come during his tenure as president, and forecast how far we still need to go. Viewership for these speeches have declined over Obama's two terms as president, but this year, it's perhaps more important than ever for American women to watch the State of the Union address.
This year's SOTU address will be like any other, in that it will highlight the current issues our country is dealing with, as well as the president's priorities. What's different this time around, though, is that it's one of the last opportunities for President Obama to make his voice heard on the entire gamut of issues that will soon face our next president. Whether Obama's successor comes from his party or the GOP, the country's executive power will soon fall to someone else — and American voters will begin heading to the polls in a few short weeks to start moving closer to determining who that successor will be. As a result, the topics that the president discusses on Tuesday will likely align with at least some of the issues that the current candidates and voters across the country are discussing. This SOTU address could have some bearing on the way those issues are talked about.
So what's in it for women? Well, first of all, women should watch for the same reason that all Americans should watch: It's an important opportunity to hear what our president has to say, and to learn a little bit about the major issues facing our country. After all, in a democratic society, it's important to be an informed, active voter.
Additionally, this SOTU comes at the beginning of a year in which women's rights will undoubtedly make an appearance in political debates — both on- and off-camera. There are controversies over Planned Parenthood, the gender pay gap, and the ongoing incorporation of women into all combat branches of the military. Obama might not devote a ton of time to each of these issues in particular, but he's likely to mention them — and whatever he does say probably needs to be heard.
Women currently make up more than half of the U.S. population, and they typically turn out to vote more often than men. In fact, according to the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University, the proportion of eligible women who voted has exceeded the proportion of eligible men who voted in every election since 1980. The SOTU could serve as a good reference point for the issues that we'll need our presidential candidates to confront. Additionally, a female representative of the Republican Party, South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, will deliver their official rebuttal to the speech. As a result, women's issues are likely to come up, and women's perspectives won't be missing from the important evening.
Last year, 31.7 million people tuned into the SOTU address, in which Obama referenced many of the same issues that he's likely to talk about this year — including the economy, climate change, and national security. That number represents a decline in viewership from the previous year, when more than 33 million people tuned in. Since Obama gave his first address in 2009, viewership has been on a downward slope from year to year. Fortunately, the White House will offer a free livestream of the event. If there were ever a year to turn the declining viewership around — and for women to play a role in making that happen — this is it.