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Usually we think of cheer, not fear, as synonymous with the holiday season. All you have to do is look around in store windows or at TV commercials and you see pretty, shiny objects holding court with cheerful jingles playing in the background. Then there’s that car commercial where the jingle is the surprise clue, and lo and behold the gift recipient is presented with a luxury car with a red bow on top.

I don’t know what planet ad executives are living on these days. Haven’t they cottoned on to the fact that difficult times are still with us? Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not talking about taking away cheerful surroundings or promoting sales that help, dare I say, the 99 percent of us who won’t be giving a luxury car as a gift this year. We know that helping businesses means helping the economy. Why, even Congress has made that point clear.

And yet, there is the possibility that Congress won’t extend federal unemployment insurance benefits for the long-term unemployed by the expiration date of December 31?! Politics are one thing, living is another. A roof over your head, food on your family’s table — are those not thought of as basic human rights? Those extra benefits aren’t going into someone’s pocket, they are being spent, helping those very businesses we are supposed to support.

And for months, we have been hearing how women are being hit especially hard in this economy. A headline from this week alone read “More than 300,000 Women Drop Out of Labor Force as Sluggish Growth Continues.” Highlights from the A Jobs Overview: How Are Women Faring?report by Adriana Kugler, the chief economist at the U.S. Department of Labor, included this statistic: An extension of unemployment insurance will prevent 2.6 million women from losing their benefits.

In addition, as pointed out in another AAUW blog post by our Regulatory Affairs Manager Beth Scott, single mothers in particular are struggling — their unemployment rate is 12.4 percent, almost 4 percent more than the national average. Somehow I don’t see recognition of this audience in the toy ads today.

Fear is a powerful word. It brings up instant images in most people’s minds that make us shiver. I remember when it used to bring forth images of spiders; now for the unemployed, it brings up the loss of ability to provide life’s basic needs. Even for those who are employed, fear of losing one’s job is ever present in the minds of most. I would imagine “do you still have a job?” has now moved up the question list right next to “how are you?”

It’s time we put the words merry or happy back in with holidays and moved fear back to the bugs.

This blogpost is part of the #HERvotes blog carnival.


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