the suzi parker files

Politics, Pop Culture and Ponderings

GOP, Democratic Girl Power: Get Out The Female Vote

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You, caveman. Me, woman. Grab my pony tail and drag me to the voting booth.

On Monday, my Politics Daily colleague, Matt Lewis, wrote about a recent survey that suggested a gender gap is largely responsible for the predicted Republican “wave” in this year’s elections. Republican men are more enthusiastic about voting than women of either party, he reported.

That’s because women, according to a New York Times article, haven’t struggled with job losses, especially in construction and manufacturing, as much as men during the recession. Women, the story noted, have more jobs in education and health care, which are less sensitive to economic ups and downs.

Then Matt dropped his whopper: “Aside from the logic involved here, it’s also important to note cultural reasons why losing a job may hit a man harder — particularly a man living in a culturally conservative area. Because of traditional gender roles, it seems apparent that losing a job often negatively impacts a man’s very identity.” (He links to a “Dear Abby” type column from a British newspaper for proof.)

Males’ identities are hit harder by job loss than females’ identities? P’shaw. Didn’t Betty Friedan talk for decades about this very thing?

What about a professional woman like me, whose core identity is being a journalist, asking tough questions, and who chose not to be a mother or wife? (My mother introduces me as her “reporter daughter.”) I’ve got 20-plus years invested in my “girl reporter” persona, and I, like my other Woman Up colleagues, would undoubtedly find it hard to adjust to a new identity.

Waffle House waitresses are working hard for their money. Police women, ditto. A wig shop clerk may take great pride in being the best wig fitter in town. If she loses her job, she — like her male counterpart at the discount store down the street — may be wondering about her place in society.

I live in a culturally conservative area, the Bible belt, which is home to plenty of women who have careers and feel very wedded to their work. Most of the women I know who have husbands and children want to work and not stay at home baking cookies. It’s not just because they need the money but because (get this, Matt), they spent long years in school to become a lawyer, doctor, professor, chef, or business owner.

Studies have shown that women who are seen only as her children’s parent face depression and low self esteem. That’s not so unlike the men who lose their jobs and then fall into a new role of Mr. Mom. Not so unlike the jobless men who will be at the voting booths in this midterm election.

Lara Brown, a professor of political science at Villanova University, studies gender gaps in politics. She said that is not what is solely occurring in this election cycle. “They [Matt & Co.] seem to miss that what is happening with men and women and what happened in 2008 — what is going on [between men and women voters] is likely more related to an individual’s ideology and partisan affiliation rather than a person’s gender. In other words there has been a disproportionate effect of historical circumstances on both genders since the 2008 election.”

Brown points out that a gender gap has existed since 1980, a result of men moving away from the Democratic Party and first becoming “Reagan Democrats” and then over time, “Republicans.” In essence, women stayed in the Democratic Party, she said.

From 2006 to 2008, both men and women moved away from the Republican Party. But now some men have returned to the GOP while the majority of women have stayed with the Democrats. Both Democratic men and women are less enthusiastic than in 2008 when President Obama energized the electorate.

“I think things are going more back to the way they have historically been between the parties, the policy preferences, and the genders,” Brown tells me.

As part of his “explanation” for women’s less significant turnout at the polls this year. Matt opines that women are less inclined to vote because (he says without irony) men are more “emotional” than women in this election over the bad economy. He cites a recent ING survey that showed “men are more likely to cry over losing their job than if they discover their partner is cheating on them.” (The survey showed that 46 percent of men would be more upset if they lost a job compared to women at 40 percent.) What Matt didn’t point out: 44 percent of women and 39 percent of men would be more upset if they caught their spouse cheating rather than losing a job. The margin of error was 3.5 percent. In a U.S. Senate poll, that would be considered a dead heat. The end result: Men and women aren’t so different after all.

Matt, dear, what millennium are we living in? Is that a woolly mammoth outside my window? No, I don’t think so. We’ve come a long way, baby. We’ll see you at the voting booth.


Written by suziparker1313

March 8, 2011 at 9:58 pm

Posted in Politics

Tagged with , ,

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