The XX Factor

Seven Ways the Government Shutdown Will Hit Women Hardest

Lady Liberty also hit hard by shutdown.

Photo by Emmanuel Dunand/AFP/Getty Images

After watching the N’Sync reunion at the MTV Video Music Awards, Republicans decided they wanted a part of the ‘90s nostalgia craze. So they’re jumping in the only way they know how: government shutdown. As with most schemes concocted by the right, the shutdown is going to hit women particularly hard. Here are some of the ways.

WIC payments. Republicans are all about how babies are so great that women shouldn’t be able to say no to having one—so much so that another attempt to make it harder to avoid unwanted pregnancy was in the spending bill that forced the shutdown. However, they clearly don’t love babies enough to make sure the alive ones are fed. The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) is on the “non-essential” list of government services to be shut down starting this week. Since 53 percent of infants in the U.S. rely on WIC to meet their full nutritional needs, this is a massive shortfall that could leave a lot of babies hungry and mothers scrambling for food.

College financial aid. More women than men attend college. The shutdown could cause delays to federal loans and Pell grants because some financial aid officers are being furloughed. The upside is that having less money overall might force college women to skimp on their contraception, and we know how important that is to Republicans. 

Head Start. Twenty Head Start programs are expected to be hit right away, and if the shutdown continues, more will suffer. Children benefit from early education, of course, but women who’ve built their work schedules around the expectation of Head Start will have to scramble to come up with alternative childcare plans or skip work and, perhaps, pay. 

Heat assistance. People who struggle to afford food or rent also struggle to afford heat in the winter. These people tend to be disproportionately female. Temperatures are dropping, and if the shutdown drags into the colder months, poor people who depend on the Low Income Home Energy Program to heat their homes may have to make some hard decisions about whether to heat their homes or feed their kids. 

TANF. Temporary Assistance to Needy Families is a program overwhelmingly used by women—specifically single mothers—and states are going to have to cover the shortfall when the federal government stops paying out. Considering how many states are still trying to recover from the economic crisis, there could be problems down the road.

Flu shots. While the flu vaccinations are still being manufactured and distributed by private industry, the critical role the Centers for Disease Control plays in monitoring the spread of the flu—and therefore targeting the vaccinations properly—will be seriously hampered by the shutdown. More flu means more workers having to take sick days. And women are more likely to take sick days to care for a child or a parent. 

Looking at pandas online in the middle of the day for stress relief. We have no hard statistics on this, but instinct tells me that the people who rely on the National Zoo’s live camera feeds to soothe rattled nerves are more likely to be female. BuzzFeed better step up the animal picture game, because the live camera feeds are being shut off until the federal government is back in action.

Read the rest of Slate’s coverage of the government shutdown.