For women, President Trump's joint session address on Tuesday night was invitation-only when it came to actually addressing women's issues. The president and first lady invited a handful of powerful and important women to the Capitol for the event — and Trump did his part to highlight their stories. But beyond the women he invited, Trump's joint session address forgot about women almost entirely.
"With the help of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, we have formed a Council with our neighbors in Canada to help ensure that women entrepreneurs have access to the networks, markets and capital they need to start a business and live out their financial dreams," Trump said, as he stood in front of members of Congress, the Supreme Court, and his administration on Tuesday.
Later in his speech, he continued, "My administration wants to work with members in both parties to make childcare accessible and affordable, to help ensure new parents have paid family leave, to invest in women's health, and to promote clean air and clear water, and to rebuild our military and our infrastructure."
If you just read those two miniature excerpts, then you just read everything that Trump had to say about women's issues on Tuesday. He plugged his support of female entrepreneurs and called for investments in women's health. He should have done better.
For one thing, Trump could have dedicated some real time to his support of women. The first statement — the one about his work with Trudeau — was a full sentence dedicated to female entrepreneurs, but that statement was nothing new. The American people already knew about the meeting he had with Trudeau, and it doesn't seem that anything new has happened with the council since it was launched after the meeting. The second statement mentioned women's health and affordable childcare in passing, lumping those issues together with environmental issues, infrastructure development, and military spending. But effective policies on women in the workplace remain to be seen, and it's hard to take seriously his investment in women's health when his signing and expansion of the global gag order will surely, and potentially fatally, compromise the health and wellbeing of countless women across the globe. It's hard to take him seriously when he wants to defund Planned Parenthood. It's hard to take him seriously when his plan to repeal Obamacare could leave thousands of women without health care.
While women's issues took a backseat in Trump's address, the audience and viewers heard more of the same from the still-new president: He touted the border wall he plans to build and the dangers of immigration. He charged Congress with repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act. Healthcare and national security are important issues to cover, for sure, but Tuesday's speech was an opportunity for Trump to chart his agenda for the country's future — and women weren't made an adequate part of that agenda.
Women should be able to expect more than two sentences from their president. From their statements on social media and elsewhere, it seemed that Trump was working closely with his daughter and advisor, Ivanka, to address the needs of America's women. Where was the talk of the plans they've made or the conversations they've had?
"My job is not to represent the world. My job is to represent the United States of America," Trump said toward the end of his speech. It's a shame that Trump only represented half of the U.S. as he said it.