As we near election day (“Only 16 days away!” says every Sunday show, as if we didn’t know that), there seems to be an almost hysterical realization by the media that women may indeed decide this election….apparently we turn up in more numbers than men when it comes to voting, and the female vote in swing states may determine which way those states swing. But both parties seem to have a deaf ear when it comes to listening to women, although that may explain why they are talking so loudly when speaking to us: like a deaf person, they have to turn up the volume so they can hear themselves. That would be okay, but sometimes I think both parties are speaking slowly and enunciating to make sure I get it. As a blonde, I might muster up the energy to take offense, but I am sort of busy getting through the hollow reasons why I should vote for either one of these parties. Like a reliable girlfriend who is taken for granted because she seems to be there for the long haul, both parties may be counting on my vote because they assume they know what my deal breakers are–but of course, neither party can be sure what those are anymore. Call it the new feminine mystique–but it may translate into a huge political mistake for either party if they are a little too sure about their assumptions about American women. Yes, we are a demographic group–but we are as splintered and polarized as the U.S. Congress. We don’t stick up for each other because we are women. We let our male dominated parties tell us what to do. So much for girl power. Instead, we let ourselves be labeled “liberal” or “conservative” women, when the truth is most issues bleed into both camps in terms of what would really benefit women. We are blowing our chance to find common ground because we think we can be a part of the good old boy network that exists in both parties–but when has that ever worked out? Was Sarah Palin embraced at the last Republican convention? How does Hilary Clinton feel about that bus she was just thrown under?
Most of my friends veer hard right, or hard left (what can I say–I love people), but I see few on either side who see any redeeming qualities in the opposition. But it is hard to get uber excited about Mitt Romney’s protesting too much that he has binders full of women when what I really want to hear is about job creation for everyone, because families are suffering regardless of who the breadwinner is, and that is just statistically true. At the same time, I agree with Cokie Roberts, herself a staunch Democrat, who fearlessly articulated on the Sunday shows after the Democratic convention that the obsession with a pro-choice, pro-abortion reproductive rights agenda dominated the whole convention. She said after awhile it was just too much, and ignored the traditionalism and conservatism of a lot of women who don’t really want to be part of a constant pep rally cheering about abortion. She was right when she called that “alienating.” Hey, I was alienated. What is a girl to do? Well, maybe vote on the economy, which is what pollsters are predicting will happen anyway.
When President Obama was dodging the bullet over the fiasco in Libya during the last presidential debate, I couldn’t help but think that his directive to journalist Candy Crowley to “say that a little louder” when she was erroneously stating her version of the administration’s identification of terrorism (is it that hard to identify?) was just a stone’s throw away from “Candy, could you heat up that coffee for me?” Who talks to women like that anymore? Well, apparently the candidate that claims to be for women. But I don’t know a single woman who is really all “scared” about contraception not being covered for females attending elite law schools. But I sure know a lot of women who have lost their jobs or are petrified of losing the job they have, or making it on the salary they have now that will most certainly not go up in the immediate future. So what about that? Is there some secret plan for women to get really great positions on wind farms? President Obama is apparently part of the team telling me to “vote as if my lady parts depend on it” (honestly, I can barely bring myself to type it–who was the genius who thought that up?) But really, if it is okay with Supreme Court Justice John Roberts and Attorney General Eric Holder (yes, both scare me), I think I will vote as if the U.S. Constitution depended on it, because with those guys in the picture, none of us will have any confidence in protections under the law, regardless of gender.
If you are wondering how the Democrats can talk to females that way, let me tell you how: they think they already have the female vote…No. Matter. What. And that is because they really do think that “lady parts” is what we will vote on. Just like the Republicans have assumed we will not. But what is germane are the assumptions at work about females that each party holds–both parties tend to behave as if women are basically limited in our ability to multi-task and vote on an array of issues, not just one or two. This is why the female vote is literally all over the map–there is a constellation of issues, and the issues that get the most lip service from both parties have varying degrees of importance to female voters.
In addition to the Democrats, the Republicans have their own issues with potential female voters. Take me, for instance. Now I pay taxes, and always have, so I am not technically in the demographic that candidate Romney elegantly lumped into the 47%….but in the Republican profile of Women Who Might Not Vote for Us, I might fit quite nicely. I am technically a “single parent”–one of those “non-traditional” households that statistically looks like I just had this big dream of living an alternative lifestyle, so I must have just gone to France and had a baby, and come back so that I can make so little money supporting my child that I can meet my goal of evading taxes. Nothing could be further from the truth: I was married, I had a child, his father died when he was a baby, so “Voila” I became part of the single female with child demographic. This was no big political statement about my “lifestyle”–life and death just happened. So I am not automatically or necessarily a rabid democrat or republican based upon the statistical profiles they tend to use–I am the person people like Ron Paul hope just want a little freedom from all these labels, and hit “like” when I see his picture on facebook. In other words, I am a little harder for each party to reach, because each party in its own way has already taken me for granted or written me off completely, and that leads to breakups and third party affiliations if you are not really careful with a certain kind of female voter. Are you boys listening?
So here I am watching the debate about five feet from my television ( I am female, and therefore I do not require that big of a screen), and Mitt Romney says he has “binders full of women” in a way that doesn’t offend me at all, except I would have preferred “binders full of qualified candidates” and of course some of those would be women, some of those would not. Because I don’t want someone to be picked just because they are female if they cannot judge how dangerous Libya is, yet get a great title and travel privileges. I wonder if Candy Crowley was in a binder full of women journalists at CNN when she was thinking there “might” be a question on Libya, and that it would be a great idea to brush up on that topic. Indeed, that would have been a fantastic day for women had she chosen to do that. And when Mitt Romney says “it would be a great idea to get married before having children,” which slice of the female population is he talking to? Because a lot of women already got that memo, and I just wonder if he thinks all those women in his binders are much the same, needing a little more direction on this earth. I think they are, ahem, not.
I am not an undecided voter, and I see merits in the two party system, but between “Candy, can you say that a little louder?” and Mitt Romney’s vulnerability regarding the lack of rhetorical sophistication he employs when addressing issues about women, well, let me say, these are the times that try women’s souls. Pick your favorite pages from the talking points each party has for females voters, but don’t think women are ready to fall for the first candidate who comes along claiming that he is really for women: because as we all know, some guys will say anything to get a girl in the ballot box.
My students tell me they cannot figure out how I will vote, and that is a good thing. I want them to know I am really busy listening–that might be a good idea for both candidates to try if they really want to figure out how to get my vote.
Because lately a lot of women hear both candidates and have the same reaction: “Would you please please please please please please please stop talking?”