24 October, 2012

On Appealing To Women Voters: Why Can't Candidates Just Try Appealing To Voters In General?

As you may know, the USA is getting ready to elect a new president. Incumbent President Barack Obama is running against former Governor of Massachusetts Mitt Romney and the race is very close. Consequently, each candidate's campaign is trying to reel in as many distinct groups as it can: The Hispanic vote, the environmentalist vote, the gun rights vote, the anti-abortion vote, the you-name-it-there's-a-bloc-for-it vote.

And, apparently, "women voters" are considered a swing vote in the election.

Look. I'm female and pay attention to politics. I fully acknowledge that there are some big issues being discussed in Washington right now that can heavily influence a woman's life; equal pay, contraception, abortion, women's rights in the workplace, etc., etc.

However, regardless of how one feels about such topics, what I strongly disagree with is the idea that women voters are somehow separate from other voters and can be swayed by how a candidate presents his or her (though with two male candidates, mostly his) position.

Allow me to elaborate. As I said before, there are issues being addressed by politicians and Congress in general that are important ones. I could go into a long spiel about the committees on abortion and contraception that had no female members, but I'm not going to because that's not my point.

My point is, women voters are so often referred to as though they're not usually an active part of the discussion. I certainly do agree that there should be more women in Congress and other positions of power and they should earn the same as men (and generally be able to make their own life decisions) but boy howdy am I annoyed by all the "Women voters are going to make or break this candidate's campaign!"

Whenever I hear someone saying that I'd like to say this: Women have been voting for decades. In recent years there have been more women voting than men in presidential elections, so it's not like there's some sudden, enormous, untapped resource that 2012 is going to exploit. Sure, if candidates make stupid, sexist and/or misogynistic comments it's going to detract from their campaigns, but I would hope such comments would affect male voters as well.

Which brings me to my second point. A lot of pundits have been talking about Mitt Romney's aggression not appealing; Joe Biden's (Barack Obama's Vice President and running mate during the election) attitude being unattractive; and overall weighing of the candidate's appearances. Especially with regard to how women perceive them. Not how the candidates' talking over each other and the moderator is disruptive and a bit rude in all circumstances, but how women are going to take it.

Perception is important. But it affects all people, and as a female I don't care if one candidate is more aggressive than the other if the candidates are discussing something of substance. I care even less when it comes to electing the president (or other person of importance) of the country, because that person needs to prove they can govern, not be charming and suave.

I cling to some desperate hope that women and men will vote with their brains and base their opinions on what campaign policies are on November 6. It's tiring to hear dozens of people saying "Women didn't like that!" or "That doesn't appeal to women!" when talking about the campaigns because really, women are people with intelligence and logic, too. I daresay a significant number of them pay more attention to the topics discussed and the candidates' positions over some alpha male display, despite the fact so many people declare that they don't.


**********


And so ends my rant. I hope you, dear reader, don't mind me diving into some politics on this blog, but I care about politics and I needed to get this off my chest.


**********

What about you? Do you agree or disagree with the points I made?

If you've watched the US presidential debates (and vice presidential debate) what did you think of them? If you live in the USA, will you be voting this November?

If you don't live in the USA, do the pundits and politicians say the same things about "women voters"? Are there any political catchphrases circulating in your country's news that really annoy you?


-----The Golden Eagle

64 comments:

Melissa Bradley said...

Can I get an Amen? You have hit on exactly what I've been thinking. I'm so tired of women being separated out because somehow they think we don't care about the same things as men do as far as how we are governed. Thank you for this post!

Liz said...

You'd think with women being half (more than half?) of the population, pundits would stop grouping us as some special interest category. Sigh. It's the same thing that keeps happening in Hollywood. (Oh, wow, women went to see that movie. Do we have more movies to market to women?)

I don't watch the debates. They just annoy me. But I will be voting. I've only missed one presidential election, and that was because I just moved right before it.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Well said!
Vote with your brains not your emotion.
And yes, I will be voting.

Beth said...

I like this post. It's very thoughtful, and I'm proud of you for stating what I think a lot of people feel. I think it's okay to talk about how a candidate appeals to women versus men, because we communicate differently, so the same statement will most likely be viewed differently. The problem is this isn't the discussion we have. You're right, it's more centered on women as a swing vote/special interest group. Ridiculous. Because a middle class woman is going to vote her best interest (middle class interests), and a rich woman is going to vote her interest(capitol banes).

Andrew Leon said...

I want to agree with you, but the problem is that perception affects people differently. Studies have shown that women are more likely to vote for a tall handsome guy unless they are given a good reason not to vote for the tall handsome guy. At least, that used to be the case. It has been a decade since I saw that study, but the point is valid. You have to appeal to people in their own area.

L.G.Smith said...

I don't know, I think it's fair to say that certain issues affect women more than men and so they get pandered to more because of them. Legislation regarding birth control, abortion, equal pay, those are all things that become fodder for the political season, but they are still very important, and factors I consider when looking at a candidate to vote for.

Charles Gramlich said...

I think there are issues that resonate more with women than with men, and others that are the reverse. I always just assumed that's the kind of thing they are talking about. But overall, of course, there is no monolithic female voter, nor a male one.

Connie Keller said...

I watched bits and pieces of the different debates (mostly for the political spectacle), but they don't influence me because I made my voting decision based on the candidates' positions on the issues. Everything else seems to be "smoke and mirrors."

Pat Hatt said...

Yeah it is a huge load of crap, but they always find a way to break it down into some aspect, having to distinguish women from the men. Best choice should always be voted.

Mikazuki said...

Yeah, I'm in total agreement. The idea that women are a party to be appealed to is just another way of separating women from men. I mean, certainly, womens' issues are important to pay attention to, and if I was voting age, I'd vote for the person who was for womens' rights. But it's not like all women agree, and it's not like we're in the minority.

M Pax said...

I will be voting.

Politics have gotten crazy. Pure, crazy, crazy.

Michael Offutt, Tebow Cult Initiate said...

NPR had a discussion about this just yesterday. Mostly, it is about the undecided voters of which 60% are women in the swing states. And there are a small amount of those to begin with...just a few percentage points.

Female voters have been pushed to the forefront mostly by the Republicans. This is because Mitt Romney has secured exactly 0% of the black vote, has secured a minority stake in the Hispanic vote, and is backed mostly by white Caucasians.

As a result, they have made it a point to try and seize as much of the female vote as they can, because the damage has been done with respect to the minorities.

With respect to the undecided female voter, there is a suggestion that the reason she remains undecided is because she doesn't have time. She probably hasn't watched the debates and will make up her mind in the last five days before the election.

"Most" people will follow their ideology when voting. This means that 1) if they have swallowed that God is real then 2) they will have chosen what flavor of god they worship and 3) they will have consulted the appropriate manual supporting that flavor of god. I can't think of any ideology out there that is pro-choice, so the candidates with a majority of "evangelicals" will be wanting to appeal to that and tout ultimate control of the uterus. They will want to repeal Roe vs. Wade which (let's face it) has been under attack for thirty years.

If a Republican is elected, I firmly expect this country to change. The supreme court will become a conservative bastion which will give the attackers of Roe vs. Wade new fuel to overturn the law and make abortion illegal. I expect federal lands to be given back to the states who will use them to drill for oil and mine stuff, thereby destroying wilderness. I expect no green energy funding at all as we return to our headstrong fossil fuel burning ways. There will be renewed assault on the Department of Education as the feds will push for states to regulate everything. This power will allow states heavy with creationism beliefs to toss out evolution and start teaching creationism in science classes.

This is an important election.

Old Kitty said...

I love the idea that women as a group hold such power once every four years! LOL!

Probably on a different tangent..

I remember the time when Mr Clinton was running for prez for the first time and cringing at how the candidates' wives (both intelligent strong and assertive women) were made to do battle to see who baked the best brownies.

Or when Mrs Clinton's campaign won one primary (I think that's what you call em!) mainly because she shed tears and showed the world her "femininity".

Or when Maggie Thatcher here did her best to show her contempt for women's hard fought civil rights and therefore won plaudits for being a "more male" than all her male counterparts.

I think the patriarchy (media, politics, culture etc) truly don't know what to do with themselves or these pesky women.

Take care
x

Gail said...

Well said. I would say, Atta, girl but that may be offensive. Kidding!

I think you made some very valid points. I have always been bothered with targeting "groups" of voting people. We are all citizens, hopefully, and that should be the way we are approached.

Donna Hosie said...

How can any group gain equality when our differences are continually being pointed out? Just sayin'.

Carrie Butler said...

You're right. It's ridiculous. Thankfully, I've already voted. (And from the swing state of Ohio, no less.) I hope they stop calling soon!

Shelly said...

I trust neither one. I don't care for what either one is saying. That's my stance.

Hugs and chocolate,
Shelly

mshatch said...

like how you kept this apolitical. Clever :)

Madeline Jane said...

I totally understand and agree with what you're saying. It's like women are their own group that aren't smart enough to vote for what they agree with, but they have to be bribed and targeted specifically. Gotta love politics. ;)

Jasmyne Wright said...

This is Jasmyne.From Cheetah's Imagination. I accidentally deleted my blog. Please follow my new one
http://writingwherereading.blogspot.com/

Donna K. Weaver said...

And I'm tired of the candidates having to change their positions based upon whichever group their addressing. The concept of a front shooter sounds good, but anyone who tries it will be slaughtered by other groups. We get mad that they aren't honest and the kill then of they are. I agree with you, but some of this I fear we've created.

J. A. Bennett said...

I try not to get caught up in whatever stereotype I'm placed in. The important thing is to be informed and to vote. No other arguments need to be made :)

Jai Joshi said...

I hear you.

I was certainly irritated when some fool pundit commented on how the candidates didn't seem warm and that wouldn't appeal to women voters. I don't want A WARM leader. I want to GOOD leader. I want someone who's going to fight for my rights and the rights of all of us. I don't care how warm and cuddly he is. I don't want a teddy bear for my president. Being the leader of the free world is not a job for the fainthearted and I want someone cool headed enough to do it.

At the same time, women need to be acknowledged because if women are not acknowledged then no one will care about our opinion. As someone who's lived and traveled and voted and experienced, I've noted that when women don't speak out for women's interests, no one else does. Certainly not men. It's true.

So while I'm annoyed by the stupidities and misconceptions of what the media think appeals to women, I'm glad that women are talked about because if we weren't then that would mean we're not a factor in deciding the election. That would be a disaster. It may still be a disaster if women don't go out and vote.

Jai

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

I always vote. Ever notice that most of the pundits talking about how women are influenced by this or that are male? Mars and Venus. Men talking about what makes women tick and what affects their votes. It's Syfy TV at its finest.

RaShelle Workman said...

For certain, I will be voting. Great points. All of them. =)

Ghadeer said...

Not American, but I was nodding my head while reading this!

Romance Reader - Nas said...

Well said! And it applies everywhere! Thanks for this great post!

laughingwolf said...

how does ANY committee/group discuss women's issues with no women in the committee/group?

what century is this?

voting is important, but it seems the electoral college has the final say... what does that say about YOUR vote?

any president is only the mouthpiece of the party behind him/her, who do what their puppet masters tell them to do...

Ciara said...

I second that! I'm so sick of the politics right now. The mudslinging is getting old. I want facts, plans, statistics. I will vote with my intelligence, not my emotions. But no matter what, I'll be voting.

Talli Roland said...

That's a great question. I have to see, we don't have the same situation (at least not to the same degree) on the UK. Not sure if that's better or worse!

Carol Kilgore said...

We have the option to vote early here, and I voted yesterday. One year when we lived up north, we had a blizzard on Election Day and we couldn't get out, so I always vote early when I can.

Laurel Garver said...

It also bugs me that though women make up half the population, we're treated like some kind of unified voting block, which is laughable really. My view on guns is very different from the women I grew up with. Their husbands hunt, mine loses students caught in drug war crossfire.

klahanie said...

The problem lies with media distortion of the reality.

The bottom line is that, like you note, vote with your brains and not let emotional, potentially illogical decisions, get in the way of voting. Not matter what sex or age group.

I just hope your election doesn't turn into a catastrophe like it did here in Britain.

Well said and well ranted!

Gary

Christine Rains said...

Excellent post. I completely agree with you. I know more women that are political than men. I wish more people would give some thought to who they're voting for rather than just going with looks, attitude, or what they've heard through someone else.

Medeia Sharif said...

I'd rather be called a voter than a woman/female/whatever voter.

I missed the debates, but caught up on the news elsewhere.

Mark Noce said...

Yeah, I agree 100% Part of it's media hype. "If" we're calling women a group of voters...don't they make up slightly over 50% of the population...which makes them the majority;)

anthony stemke said...

I abhor the disingenuousness so often seen in political campaigns.
I only ask for three things and they are hard to get: The truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.
I fervently hope that people who intend to vote do vote with their brains.

Patricia Stoltey said...

I've watched all of the debates and found them pretty interesting. Even more interesting was the way the media and "experts" interpreted the results.

My rant would be more about the news media than the politicians. Back in the day, we got straight news and factual reports. Now we get opinion disguised as fact and intended to sway the voter. It's disgusting.

Paul Tobin said...

You make your case eloquently. I agree with everything you say. I find the focus on different sections of the community to be insulting and illusory. I think that politicians in general have difficulty in seeing us a people.

The Golden Eagle said...

Melissa: You're welcome! Glad I could write something that resonated.

Liz: More than half, I think, at least in the USA. You would think that, but apparently the pundits want to present it as being otherwise . . .

I like watching the debates since the candidates' proposals are usually brought out next to each other.

Alex: Thanks!

You've hit on my point there.

Beth: I'm glad you like my post!

It's the special interest treatment that really annoys me. Women are over half of the population--how big does a group have to be before they aren't considered a minority anymore?

Andrew: I don't deny that there are some women who would default to the good-looking candidate, but I would be inclined to say the same for male voters. It is my impression that if a study was conducted with men comparing two female candidates, physical attractiveness would come into the mix.

L.G.: I do think they should be addressed and given special attention--I just don't like the talk indicating that women are somehow not going to use their brains in making decisions about who to vote for, and should therefore be treated as a separate kind of voter.

Charles: Nope!

Connie: That's part of the reason why I watched them, too. It can be interesting to see how the candidates react to each other.

Pat: I agree! Just too bad it doesn't happen that way often enough . . .

Mikazuki: Indeed. Saying all women agree is like saying all women are, you know, housewives or something. (Though I think being a housewife is fine, of course.)

Mary: Yes, politics has certainly gone over the deep end.

Michael: NPR, eh? I'll have to see if I can find that discussion online.

I've noticed a lot of reports about how Mitt Romney has failed to appeal to "minorities". It would make sense that they're trying to appeal to "women voters" because of the lack of support and swing states, as you mentioned.

I agree, there will probably be a lot of changes if Mitt Romney wins. He certainly has spoken a lot about not drilling enough, cutting spending, handing control over to the individual states.

It definitely is.

The Golden Eagle said...

Old Kitty: Ha! That is a nice idea, actually.

Yup, we call them primaries. I don't remember that, but then I really only paid attention to the Obama/McCain part of the race that year.

LOL. Yes, men just don't know what to do when intelligent, independent women start doing things. Seriously. Imagine a woman being productive!

Gail: LOL. Thanks!

I agree.

Donna: Absolutely. The pundits keep saying women do this and that and probably won't like that other thing--like women aren't equal.

Carrie: Guess your state must be watched very closely. I live in a fairly consistent state, politically, so it hardly gets any attention from the media.

Here's to ended calls!

Shelly: Neither candidate is a shining light, I guess you could say. Obama didn't keep up all of his promises, and Romney has changed a lot of his positions over the years.

Mshatch: Thanks. I didn't really want to start a flame war over the merits of Obama vs. Romney or some other conflict.

Madeline: LOL. If only politics were just discussing important things, then it would be fine.

Jasmyne: I'll definitely come by and follow your new blog!

Donna: True. Quite true, actually; it is the people who are behind all the individual groups that attack candidates for their particular positions.

J. A.: Well put!

Jai: A teddy bear as a president? Maybe that would help the USA's standing in the world by giving everyone the warm fuzzies . . . *ahem* Right, back to your point!

I absolutely agree. A president must be sharp enough to keep everything running. Also agree with your point about women--I'm not saying they shouldn't be addressed or try blending in, but my complaint is more with the presentation (mostly in the media) of women as flighty voters who only care about a few things.

The Golden Eagle said...

Susan: Yeah, I've noticed that. It's pretty annoying how men think they know everything that influences women, isn't it?

RaShelle: Thank you!

Ghadeer: Here's to hoping for a global change in the perception of women, then!

Nas: You're very welcome.

Laughingwolf: Not sure, really. Or how an otherwise-male debate banned a woman speaker for referencing a female body part in a discussion about abortion . . . maybe the 17th century?

I still don't quite get the electoral college. It seems like it would make more sense to just have a direct election in all cases.

Ciara: I agree. There should be more substance in the debates.

Talli: Depends. Are there many female representatives in the UK? (Since 1789, there have only been 39 women in the US Senate--a 100-member institution.)

Carol: A blizzard! That must have been frustrating.

Laurel: That's a good illustration of the diversity of voters. Campaigns seem to like putting everyone into a particular box or boxes and then pandering to them.

Klahanie: Yes, it does. The media does a lot of damaging things . . .

I remember coverage of the UK election on the news here. David Cameron won and formed a coalition with Nick Clegg, right?

Thank you!

Christine: Thanks. And yes, people should dig deeper when they're evaluating a candidate.

Medeia: I would, too.

Mark: Well, if you're using ordinary math then women are the majority . . . but then, politics rarely uses ordinary math, it seems.

Anthony: The truth would be appreciated in politics!

I do, too.

Patricia: I strongly dislike all the warping of reality going on by the media as well. Just not enough recounting of fact.

Paul: Thank you!

Which is particularly sad, seeing as they're supposed to be representing people.

Jayne said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jayne said...

A great post, Eagle.

I also don't see why women voters should be separate from the rest of the policies and truly hope that male voters would also be offended if candidates that make stupid, sexist, misogynistic etc comments. Sometimes I think these terms - 'women' voters etc, are things the media dream up to feed the media, not realising that the resulting drip feed into humanity somehow poisons us all. And then because it's being talked about, politicians start to use it within campaigns, and suddenly these terms are part of the bigger discussion, without anyone thinking - c'mon, does this really make sense?!

In the UK we first had televised debates at the last election, and the papers were also speculating whether a candidate's personal appearance affected the vote, regardless of policies, especially in terms of whether women voted (of course.) It's totally insulting, but in general these columns were journalists being incendiary to sell more papers / increase their online stats, which in turn makes them sell more advert space. But because of these tactics, suddenly it's a thing, a real consideration, which is so sad.

(Sorry for the deleted comment! A typo sneaked in.)

Andrew Leon said...

That might be true if a guy had to choose between two female candidates; however, the general default for most men is just to not vote for the female.
At any rate, female politicians are still uncommon enough that there hasn't been able to be a study along those lines.

Tyrean Martinson said...

Thank you!!! I am voting, and I'm tired of being treated like a brainless section of the country by the media and the politicians. The crazy thing is that men are supposed to be more "visual" and yet women are expected to just fall under the spell of the "better-looking" or more "suave" candidate - yeah, right. Women are intelligent, and women have different opinions on different issues that don't adhere to one voting bloc or another.
Again, thank you for this well-written and intelligent post!

Kimberlee Turley said...

I was reading the "League of Women Voters" guide for Florida and was offended they were trying to tell me how to vote on amendments completely unrelated to gender status.

I'd rather have an expert from my income bracket or an economist telling me how to vote on financial amendments, mill levies, tax increases, or homestead exemptions than someone who just happens to also have a pair of boobs.

michelle said...

Well said G.E.
The politics in my country is C-R-A-Z-Y!!
I'd need a seperate blog, if I were to go into details... LOL

mywithershins said...

I agree that focussing on women's perceptions should not be a major issue in political campaigns. As has been said already, women make up a huge proportion of the population and probably pay more attention to candidates' platforms than men, so why make it such a big deal?

BTW, in the event that you haven't done this, yet, I have named you for the 'Look Challenge'. Should you decide to accept it, drop by for details. :)

nutschell said...

BRavo! Well said, eagle.
Women need to be voting for candidates who will push their rights forward instead of pulling them back into the dark ages.

Nutschell
www.thewritingnut.com

Misha Gericke said...

Yeah... in South Africa, politics is a whole other animal.

The Golden Eagle said...

Jayne: Thank you!

Probably. The media is very influential and it seems like it is even more so now, since a lot of people are connected to the internet.

I agree. It's depressing that outrageous things can get so much attention, just because they're outrageous.

No worries. I do that, too, if I make a typo.

Andrew: True--I hope there will be more female politicians in coming elections. It seems rather unbalanced to have a male majority controlling a country that's at least half-and-half.

Tyrean: You're very welcome!

Agreed. It's like women can't think of themselves during elections; or if they do, it's not rational.

Kimberlee: Same here. If someone knows what they're doing, I don't care what gender they are.

Michelle: Thanks!

Most countries have crazy politics and/or politicians, I think . . .

In my early days of blogging, I actually thought about creating a political blog. If I posted about it regularly it would consume all of The Eagle's Aerial Perspective!

Mywithershins: I know. It's just a further, totally unnecessary division. So women vote. It's not like they don't care about the economy or foreign policy or other topics.

Thanks for the tag!

Nutschell: Thank you.

The kind of candidates who treat women as regular voters seem to be rare.

Misha: Guess it's a common theme, unfortunately.

Li said...

I'll try and vote with my brain but it's tough when neither candidate has really set out a point by point plan of exactly what they intend to do. At this point, I'll just be glad when the election is over so I at least know what we're dealing with. (Yes, I'll be voting!)

laughingwolf said...

if only, ge...

The Golden Eagle said...

Li: It will be nice to stop that doubt from hovering over politics.

Laughingwolf: Yeah--if only things were that rational.

Shelley said...

I don't pay too much attention to politics since I don't vote yet, but I do agree with you! You never hear them specifically talk about targeting men to get more votes. Nice points! :)

DWei said...

Eh, I think they're doing this stuff simply based on some poll that claimed women were the largest group of neutral voters or something?

I bet if it were men or German voters instead that group would be discussed and considered.

The Golden Eagle said...

Shelley: Nope. Well, not at this point in society, anyway.

Thanks!

DWei: I've haven't heard of that poll before. That might be true.

Beth said...

What an interesting post! I'm Canadian, and I've never lived in the US, but I'm fascinated by your elections (as are many Canadians). Most people I know watch the debates - I saw the first three, and only missed the fourth because I had a conflict that night.

I would agree that when a group is referred to as a whole ("the women's vote", "the Hispanic vote", etc.), a disservice is being done to that group. I know lots of women who have really different political ideas than I do.

And in the end, the most important things that we can ALL do is vote!!!

Melissa Sarno said...

Such a well thought out post. It's disheartening to be lumped into a group like that, just another group to exploit. But it sounds like you know yourself, your values, and your beliefs and that's all that matters. : )

cleemckenzie said...

How great to find a political post here! Agree with your stance and during my time off (AKA a vacation) I've been doing a lot of reading about the issues. One of my biggest concerns is the deficit and continued government spending. I want someone who will reign in that spending. I want someone who will try to return more control to the states, stop meddling in the private lives of its citizens, and get the government back to doing what it's supposed to do--protect and defend us from foreign harm.
Thanks for this post today.

Anthony said...

You make some great points. I think oftentimes, the media focuses on angles, attitudes that are easy to market (eg. women as swing voters). These facile labels/topics (not sure what to term them) attract a lot of readers but are misleading (if not flat out wrong at times).

The Golden Eagle said...

Beth: It's interesting how widespread US politics can be. I wouldn't have guessed so many Canadians paid attention to the debates.

I agree!

Melissa: Thank you. And I do try to ensure I know what the candidates' stances on the issues are--and the facts about those issues.

Cleemckenzie: Glad you liked finding a political post. I know some bloggers dislike any mention of politics.

The deficit must definitely be reduced.

You're very welcome! Thanks for reading.

Anthony: I agree, they are often inaccurate terms. Some concerns stated, and attributed to certain groups, by the media are true enough, but others are completely off the mark.

Deniz Bevan said...

Yes, and yes!

On a lighter note, have you seen the Binders Full of Women tumblr? Hilarious.

On a sad/angry note, though, while the tumblr site is funny, it's a shame we still have people who can say things that are so sad and stupid. How much longer before human beings learn to treat each other like human beings?