Wednesday, September 22, 2004

The Woman Question

Let me begin this discussion about who American women are going to vote for by stating that almost nothing angers me as much as the treatment of women voters as some weird, alien breed, possibly mammal; a breed that must be analyzed apart from the breed voters, a breed that can mostly be ignored except for a few obvious leftovers that are thrown to the hungry hordes of these exotic creatures at the end of campaign speeches: W stands for women!!! Kerry stands for choice!!! Look at these cute babies!!!

Now why would this common journalistic practice anger me? Could it have anything to do with the fact that women are the majority of the voters in this country, yet so invisible, so marginal that what they want from the government is only discussed when there is nothing else of interest to discuss or when the polls appear to suggest that this inexplicably mysterious group has suddenly and unexpectedly veered away from the path that has been marked for them?

Then the analysts get cracking with their statistical software programs and blunt pencils, coining new and unenlightening terms such as 'the soccer mums' or now 'the security moms', or start trying to find similar descriptions of single women. As if we don't live in a fairly integrated society with lots of women everywhere you look, pretty much.

Gah. Enough ranting. The New York Times (which is herself viewed as a woman, by the way) has an article about the possibility that women, or rather, married women, are no longer supporting Kerry as they are supposed to but appear to intend to vote for Bush, the man who has the W that doesn't stand for women unless 'women' is sort of like spare ribs. This is what NYT says:

In the last few weeks, Kerry campaign officials have been nervously eyeing polls that show an erosion of the senator's support among women, one of the Democratic Party's most reliable constituencies. In a New York Times/CBS News poll conducted last week, women who are registered to vote were more likely to say they would vote for Mr. Bush than for Mr. Kerry, with 48 percent favoring Mr. Bush and 43 percent favoring Mr. Kerry.
In 2000, 54 percent of women voted for Al Gore, the Democratic nominee, while 43 percent voted for Mr. Bush.
Democratic and Republican pollsters say the reason for the change this year is that an issue Mr. Bush had initially pitched as part of an overall message - which candidate would be best able to protect the United States from terrorists - has become particularly compelling for women. Several said that a confluence of two events - a Republican convention that was loaded with provocative scenes of the Sept. 11 tragedy, and a terrorist attack on children in Russia - had helped recast the electoral dynamic among this critical group in a way that created a new challenge for the Kerry camp.

So now we are told that men don't really worry about their children being killed by terrorists, but women do? Pardon me if I disbelieve that. Or that women react emotionally to the 9/11 events but men don't? Pardon me if I disbelieve that, too. I also don't believe that feeling emotions makes one unable to think cogently.

May I also add that Kerry has offered nothing specifically for women voters in his speeches. You need to go to his website to find what his campaign stands for in this respect, and I doubt that many women do that. In short, Kerry has taken women for granted. This is nothing new in American politics, of course.

How about reversing the sex roles in this study? Why do men go for Bush in larger numbers than for Kerry? Is it because they are gung-ho about violence and don't care if some children get killed? Or could it be, just possibly, that men and women have rather similar reasons for choosing whom to vote for? Including, of course, ignorance of the actual issues in the elections. This is what the Kerry campaign should focus on, not some miraculous new term to cover all those mysterious female choices.