In case you haven’t noticed, Linda McMahon is a woman. She’s confirmed the fact in the last three debates. I would like to confirm that I, too, am a woman. Apparently, those of us of the female persuasion are now a hot demographic, targeted by campaigns in both presidential and senate races.
Here’s a secret I’d like to share with all political strategists: mere pandering just isn’t going to cut it with us. Because even though we’ve come a long way, baby, it’s the 21st century and we’re still paid less for doing the same job as a man. We’re still paying significantly more for health insurance. We’re still putting up with middle-aged men legislating medical decisions that should be between women and our doctors. And those of us who are single parents are blamed for the ills of society.
Now, election time rolls around and all of a sudden two guys are trying to hit us up for a four-year date and we’re subjected to pundits “mansplaining” how we think about the issues of the day.
Mansplaining – UrbanDictionary.com definition: “To delight in condescending, inaccurate explanations delivered with rock solid confidence of rightness and that slimy certainty that of course he is right, because he is the man in this conversation.”
For examples, see pretty much any dialogue between Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski on MSNBC’s Morning Joe.
A particularly egregious example was Thursday morning’s episode, when four men told Mika why she and we were “ridiculous” for taking umbrage at Mitt Romney’s “binders full of women” comment and the fact that news emerged post-debate that Romney had lied about actively seeking out said binders. The belittling was bad enough. But then, in response to a tweet from Cher complaining about the behavior, Mark Halperin, senior political analyst for Time and MSNBC, tweeted a picture of a Time cover featuring Cher in a skimpy outfit.
Halperin is Time’s senior political analyst and that’s how he chooses to respond? Clearly, I need to rethink my Time subscription.
Unfortunately, demeaning women personally seems to be the modus operandi in politics. Look at the way Congressman Joe Walsh, R-Illinois — that prince of a guy who owed his wife $100,000 in child support — has attacked his opponent, decorated Iraq War veteran Tammy Duckworth, saying “the only debate she’ll have is which outfit she’ll be wearing.”
Duckworth’s response: “Yes, I do sometimes look at the clothes I wear, but for most of my adult life, I’ve worn one color — it’s called camouflage.” Boom.
It’s not just Republicans. The Democratic House Majority PAC ran an ad against Martha McSally, who is running for a House seat in Arizona, in which they superimposed her image into a kitchen setting and criticized her “recipe cards” for Congress. McSally might well be a fine cook, but the relevant facts are that she was the first female fighter pilot to fly combat missions in U.S. history, is a distinguished graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy, and has a Masters in Public Policy from the JFK School of Government at Harvard. Such imagery demeans her service, her accomplishments, and women in general.
Remember the 1992 “Cookiegate” brouhaha during Bill Clinton’s first campaign? Hillary Clinton was pilloried for saying, “I suppose I could have stayed home and baked cookies and had teas, but what I decided to do was to fulfill my profession which I entered before my husband was in public life.”
Here’s a woman who is smarter than most men in the room, and more, one of the few politicians in recent memory to stand up and say, “I take responsibility,” yet she was forced to hide her light under a bushel. I can only imagine how she felt:
“Seriously America? I was class president at Wellesley, graduated from Yale Law School with honors, was named one of the 100 Most Powerful Lawyers in America by the National Law Journal, and you want to judge me on my cookies?”
Listen up strategists: if you want the “women” vote, don’t demean women. Any of us. I might be a Democrat but if you demean the impressive and genuine accomplishments of a Republican woman, you demean me.
But similarly, pointing out one’s womanhood, as Mrs. McMahon does on numerous occasions, won’t ipso facto win my vote. Particularly, you won’t get my vote if you plan to overturn the Affordable Care Act, which will eliminate in 2014 the excess premium I pay merely for being female, or if you support the Blunt Amendment, which would allow employers to deny contraceptive coverage.
Policy is what effects women and we’d really love it if you stick to the issues. We’re smart enough enough to bother our pretty little heads about it, and make damn fine cookies without you mansplaining any of it.
Sarah Darer Littman is an award-winning columnist and novelist of books for teens. Long before the financial meltdown, she worked as a securities analyst and earned her MBA in Finance from the Stern School at NYU.