Women and Election 2008: A gut check

November 18, 2008

At the risk of flogging that dead horse, I renew the concerns expressed in my last blogpost by referring you to today’s The Daily Beast, which has an article that quantifies my uneasiness over the state of women following the recent election. According to its own poll:

• By an overwhelming 61% to 19% margin, women believe there is a gender bias in the media.
• 4 in 10 men freely admit sexist attitudes towards a female president. 39% of men say that a male is “naturally more suited” to carrying out the duties of the office
• 48% of women thought Hillary Clinton received fair media treatment and only 29% believed Sarah Palin was treated fairly. In contrast, nearly 8 in 10 voters thought the press gave fair treatment to Barack Obama and Joe Biden.
• More than two-thirds of women said they were being treated unfairly in the workplace (68%)

And, it determined, “Women over 50, the first generation to have a majority in the workforce, see far more discrimination in every area of life than younger women.” (HA! I wasn’t just imagining it!)

So clearly I’m not the only one grinding my teeth over this issue. We seem to be running harder than ever, but are we just running in place? Our biggest enemy may not be a biased media, but our own ambivalence, since The Daily Beast’s survey also found that, “Only 20% of women are willing to use the word ‘feminist’ about themselves [and] only 17% of all voters said they would welcome their daughters using that label.” And while more than 90% of African-American voters supported Barack Obama, American women did not back either Clinton or Palin in such significant numbers.

Do we really want to succeed? If we keep thinking that “feminist” is a dirty word, do we need to rescript or relabel the whole endeavor?

“What will women do now?” wonders The Daily Beast.

The poll suggests that there is tremendous potential for an expanded, revitalized, and updated women’s equality movement. Certainly there would be considerable support for boycotts of news stations that carry sexist commentators or generally cover women unfairly.

I think it’s time to us women to start speaking up — in ways small and large, gentle and forthright, local and national — instead of hoping that our sheer numbers are going to speak for us.

Update: Social critic Daphne Merkin shares my pessimism.


14 Responses to “Women and Election 2008: A gut check”

  1. Jamie Holts Says:

    Great post. I will read your posts frequently. Added you to the RSS reader.

  2. oo12oo Says:

    Good post. Yes, agreed, it’s way past time that women deserve respect in all walks of life. I hope in our lifetime we live long enough to actually see a woman be elected President of the United States of America.

    Just curious, please take a few seconds to vote on my poll question as it relates to your post. Thank you.


  3. Jamie Holts Says:

    I just stopped by your blog and thought I would say hello. I like your site design. Looking forward to reading more down the road.

  4. Will Pow Says:

    It does seem that the women’s lib movement of the 60’s and later was successful in planting the thought, but did not achieve the practice. Yes, it needs action at every level, and in day-to-day actions to make the difference.

  5. Adlibby Says:

    Great blog. Glad to find you.

    It certainly feels like two steps forward and one step back. Still… compared to the choices my grandmothers were faced with… one lived on a farm and never finished highschool (got her GED when she was 81!) and the other had to quit teaching school when she got married. We’ve come a long way baby.

    Women are rising. Women are rising to power in corporations. Women are the majority of college graduates. Women are doctors and lawyers and lawmakers. Women are moving into the kinds of positions where real lasting change can be made. Change isn’t happening as fast as we would like — but it’s coming.

    I’m very interested to see if Michelle Obama takes on any of these women’s issues as her mission as first lady. She has hinted at it.

  6. Allison Says:

    Ms Meta,

    I think we have to believe about ourselves first anything we want someone else to believe about us (if you can make sense of that grammatically twisted sentence). I have a background in human systems, how they do (or don’t) change, etc. I know it takes a VERY long time to make changes like this. The bias is so embedded, and it must be said, has some biological hard wiring that complicates it further.

    I do believe it’s changing, just slowly. My concern is that the younger generation of women have to keep at it, they can’t slide backwards. They are certainly making more gains educationally than men, and they participate in organized sports etc to a much greater degree than we did, all good signs. But, our culture seems to do its darndest to make women sex objects and judging from what I see, an awful lot of young women buy into that.

    I think we need to be focused on our daughters and granddaughters, personally. We need to support and encourage them to keep pushing on this.

  7. My mantra is “Fork The Media” because I’m not listening to their biased drivel. They are brain washing America and only WE can stop them from continuing. Also, I’m speaking out against the media whenever possible. There should be some accountability but there seems to be none when it comes to their reporting.

  8. […] was just over at Ms. Meta’s where she continues to be frustrated about whether we women really have made headway politically in […]

  9. msmeta Says:

    Thanks for the responses. Yes, I agree with Alison and Adlibby that we have made progress in the workplace and in education, but it always seems that when there’s a real test of society’s intent, like an election, we fall short. So we do need to speak up against a biased media and we do need to empower and educate our daughters and granddaughters — just as long as we don’t call them feminists.

    I’ll keep hoping.

  10. Duchess Says:

    Well, I’m in the 20% that calls herself a feminist and in the 17% that would be happy to have her daughter call herself one too. Nevertheless I will not vote for a woman just because she is a woman, though that would certainly be a point in a candidate’s favour, other things being equal. The fact that many black people voted for Obama just because of his race, diminishes his mandate. It is not a pattern I would like to see women follow. I supported Hillary because I thought she was the best candidate AND she was a woman. I did not support Palin because I thought she was the worst candidate EVEN THOUGH she was a woman. I don’t think I let my sisters down by taking that position! And I don’t think Palin would have done a lot for women had she got in since it seems to me that ownership and control of one’s reproductive system is fundamental to women achieving equality anywhere.

  11. byjane Says:

    I echo and ditto as well what The Duchess says. But I despair of there ever being any real unanimity among us. I keep a pad and pen by the bathroom sink so that I can write the brilliance that comes to me while brushing my teeth. Recently I’ve been working on “Why are women so hard on one another?” Maybe it’s hard-wired, something to do with fighting for the best bull in the yard. Whatever, one only has watch women snipe and peck away at each other on line to feel–well, despair.

  12. I think women associate the word feminist with women burning their bras in the 60’s. The word developed a stigma. Maybe we need a new word for a new generation of women. A word they can relate to and rally to. In some ways we’ve come so far. Jane is right though – a lot of times we are our own worse enemy.

  13. rprangle Says:

    Duchess, black people have historically voted Democratic, I don’t think you can say that Obama’s mandate is diminished. I agree that it would be stupid to vote for a woman just because she is a woman, we need to look at what the woman stands for. I supported Obama over Hillary because Hillary has some huge baggage named Bill. I think women over 50 are facing 2 problems – sex discrimination AND age discrimination. And, it’s likely to get worse as the economy worsens and competition for jobs increases.

  14. […] our voices and ratcheting up the pressure for change. As mismeta at the Adventures at Midlife blog points out, "I think it’s time to us women to start speaking up — in ways small and large, […]

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