Monday, October 29, 2012

I Enjoy Being a Girl: Gender Politics and the Modern Girl

She's leaning left.

I think it was the third time this election season that I was called - not to get out the vote as per usual, but to ask whether I would be supporting Obama - that I noticed the difference.

I'm a life-long Democrat.  I'm independent-minded in some ways, but there are a ton of areas where I think that Democrats view the world the right way, and act accordingly.  On social justice, on women's rights, on using the government to help the poor, the elderly, and the sick - I'm all D.  Therefore, I've never truly been tempted to vote Republican.

It did help that Kerry ran against W.  And even in my post-Hillary rage, I never would have voted to endanger the people (particularly the kids) who depend on the programs that only exist because of Democrats.

But apparently I now fit a certain demographic that is viewed as "up for grabs."  I think it's that I'm white, married, in my thirties, and I live in the suburbs.  But the thing about me that I think should belie those other facts is the fact that I am a woman.

Women lean left.

To quote Amy in The West Wing (from the episode Dead Irish Writers):


If women were the only voters, the Democrats would win in a landslide every time. If men were the only voters, the GOP would be the left-wing party. Women are gonna be 60% of the vote.  Don't you think they should make up, I don't know, 40% of the campaign staff?  

I kept in the end of the quote for a reason.  I'll get there.  We may also talk about Josh's sexist response.

When Mandi and I decided to start this blog, everybody wanted to make sure I understood how personal, sexualized, and occasionally violent the blowback against women bloggers can be.  That mostly pissed me off.  But I can't say it surprised me.

The thing that most women understand - that men generally do not - is that there are reasons women are guarded about the way we speak and interact... even in America.  And that guardedness leads to all kinds of misperceptions and misreads on how women are thinking and how we will react to given stimuli.

Consider this the political equivalent of the fact that for years women were taking the wrong amount of medicine and treated the wrong way, medically, because everything in research was based on men and everybody just assumed women were the same.

Most women are not loud-mouths like me (and at times, Mandi).

I've probably talked about it before, but I thought the way pundits and the news completely missed the boat on two stories that were fundamentally about women, was telling:

  • Komen for the Cure de-funds Planned Parenthood cancer screenings because Komen was run by mostly pro-life women.  The news and pundits ignore it.  Facebook and Twitter exploded.  The news and pundits cover how they are scratching their heads about why Facebook and Twitter are exploding.

  • The Obama Administration mandates health insurance coverage of contraception, with no co-pays.  The Catholic Church goes nuts - NOT because churches would have to offer birth control coverage, churches and places of worship were excluded.  No, the Church was mad because colleges and universities and hospitals that are run by the Church would have to cover birth control.  When churches/places of worship run large institutions they do not get to discriminate in hiring - they accept the rules of the market, because Free Exercise is a limited power - bounded by the Establishment Clause in the very same Amendment to the Constitution.  Lots of non-Catholics use these institutions.  And even presupposing (which I don't) that churches can control the choices of the faithful, they don't get to control the choices of people who do not believe as they do.  But even after the Obama Administration made additional compromises (that it would be the insurance companies, not the institutions, that would pay for the contraceptive coverage - which the Church still didn't like because the Catholic Church has gone into the health insurance business, but still wants to get special treatment), Rs were standing with the heads of the Catholic Church (and employers generally - see Blunt Amendment) over women.  Contraception costs a lot.  Women pay most of the costs.  Health insurance companies save money when women have fewer kids.  And besides all of that WOMEN MATTER.  The Church does not matter more than women.  Employers don't get to choose for women.  And the news and the Rs completely missed that, because they were not listening to women.

This is all to say that just because women don't talk about something to you doesn't mean they agree with you.

Silence is a marked part of a fair number of "women's issues" like:
  • rape, 
  • incest, 
  • abortion,
  • birth control,
  • wife-beating (Violence Against Women), 
  • fair pay, and
  • sexual harassment - to name a few... 

...because of the overtly aggressive, often sexualized pushback women get when they openly talk about these things. What this means is if you aren't a woman, you don't necessarily get what's going on with us.

Where's Wanda?

And most pundits, and most legislators - and all presidents - are guys.  

See?  I told you I'd bring it around to the end of the Amy quote.

There's a book more I could say on this topic, but there's this Frankenstorm and I've got battening-down to do.  But do me a favor, go ahead and ask a woman directly if you want to know what she thinks.  You may be surprised.


  1. Well, you know my perspective on the contraceptive kerfuffle is different. But what I really want to address is the issue of silence, and of men's voices drowning out women. Because recently, both with male conservative politicians determined to put their feet in their mouths as much as possible, and liberal male writers ignoring what actual women like me think and write and instead telling us what we should think about gender issues and what we should talk about, I kind of want to tell all men to shut up.

    But I also feel especially silenced sometimes, because I am a woman who does not have the views I'm supposed to have. 12% of people quoted on abortion are women -- how much you want to bet that almost all of them were pro-choice? And yet, nationwide, slightly more women than men are pro-life. The media and the Democratic Party have successfully framed the abortion issue as one of conservative, religious men against (all) women, and so not a whole lot of attention is paid to those of us who do not fit that narrative.

    And it is not just abortion -- during the aforementioned the Healthcare Mandate kerfuffle, I can't tell you how many times I was told by media outlets, spokespeople, and analysts that the most important issue for me in this election cycle is contraception and health care, when really it's foreign policy.

    And don't get me started on conservatives who seem to think that "pro-life" begins and ends with abortion. I think too many people, and in particular the various media outlets who are concerned with getting eyeballs and generating revenue and various politicians who care more about getting votes than actually fixing problems, become wedded to a particular, simplistic narrative and ignore anything else.

  2. You're absolutely right, a big part of the problem with relegating more than half of the population to a small percentage of the voices we get to hear in the media is that you lose the dynamics and the diversity of opinion there is within the very large group of people who are women.