Like sixth graders at their very first middle school dance, politicians just don’t know how to talk to girls. They also dance awkwardly, and generally require chaperones… But I digress. There has been so much talk this election cycle about “women voters,” as if we are some new group of people who just showed up. As if we are completely new and different and need special advertisements for us and speeches about us. Is it flattering? It’s pandering. And it’s not working.
The party of “yes we can” is telling us “no you can’t, not without our help.” There’s even the STEM Women All-Stars, a group of women organized by the White House to show young students that women can succeed in science and technology. I don’t think young kids show up for the first day of kindergarten thinking that, for some reason, women can’t succeed in those fields. But hey, let’s give Obama the benefit of the doubt here; the program does have good intentions. I just wish that it told students, “The White House sent this person to your classroom because she is the best in the world at what she does” instead of, “This person is in your classroom because she is a woman doing man-things.” The latter message just reinforces the idea that women are novelty in the STEM fields; the very concept that the group is supposed to work against.
And can we talk about “Life of Julia” for a hot second? For the uninitiated, it’s an animation made by the Obama campaign that shows a woman -Julia- from birth until old age, dependent on government programs each step of the way. There’s a pretty big creep factor in the “cradle to grave”-ish cartoon. Julia is never even close to independent over the course of her animated life. It’s sad, but fortunately, it’s unrealistic for most women. Life of Angela doesn’t look anything like Life of Julia. In fact, I don’t know a single woman who would gladly count on the government for everything the way Julia does; the social safety net is usually, and should be, a last resort. “But how is Julia’s story anti-feminist?” you say. I say, because the Obama campaign didn’t make a “Life of Julius.” Government dependence is especially for us girls! The Obama administration is implying that the guys just don’t need government’s “help” the way we poor, helpless womenfolk do.
The GOP is also guilty of condescending to women. In this advertisement, made with a budget of -I’m estimating here- eleven dollars, a woman sits down to candlelight dinner with a cardboard cutout of the president. She puts on the “serious girl talk face” (hey, we all have one) and the proceeds to “Break Up With Obama.” The ad implores its viewers to do the same at a corresponding website. The idea that the way to make politics appeal to women is by casting it like a rom-com is offensive. We women are smarter than that. We know that breaking up with someone is not at all like voting. For starters, unlike breaking up, voting is not usually followed by texting your galpals for an emergency night out/sappy movie marathon/ice cream binge… but hey, if that’s what you like to do on election day, knock yourself out.
It’s worth knowing what we talk about when we talk about “women’s issues.” We talk about things like education, health care, and the economy. In short, we talk about American issues. The main concerns of women voters are pretty much the same as those of male voters. We don’t need anyone to coat politics in pink to make it appeal to us, or to help us understand it. Doing so implies that we are apathetic and that we just aren’t as good as men at understanding things. How un-feminist is that?
Rassmussen polling tells us that the number-one issue in the 2012 election is the economy. (Health care comes in at a distant second, 14 points behind.) And in order for the economy to flourish, the government needs to allow women and men to compete with each other in a free and fair marketplace. And in that spirit of fairness, our elected officials should communicate with women as they do with men, and stop treating us like the “other.”