The New York Times this past Tuesday published a Bush-bashing op-ed in the guise of a seemingly serious discussion of linguistics. It was by Deborah Tannen, a professor at Georgetown who has spent the past 15 years examining “genderlect” and claiming that “male-female conversation is cross-cultural communication.” She writes psuedo-scientific bestsellers as well with titles that whine, such as You Just Don’t Understand: Men and Women In Conversation.
Her op-ed this week was about how women like to hear guys apologize, and since President Bush won’t say he’s sorry, women won’t vote for him.
Huh? The obvious fact that the women who are supporting the president and admire his resoluteness don’t think he should apologize was completely ignored.
Tannen also commented that even though the president can be “cute” and “charming, “the charming little boy will probably…undercut his credibility if he reminds mothers of their own little boys who insist, ‘I didn’t eat the cookie–he did!’ even as cookie crumbs are clinging to their chins.”
Since her op-ed was about the election, I personally found it peculiar and rather sexist that instead of discussing what really matters to female voters, she put women right back in the kitchen, keeping tabs on the cookie jar, to make her anti-Bush point. But then focusing on the issues that have become most important to women seems to be a problem these days for many Democratic supporters.
On Tuesday night, I was invited to appear on CNN’s NewsNight with Aaron Brown along with novelist Erica Jong to talk about the usual–what women want in a candidate–as well as the Tannen op-ed.
The program’s very pleasant producers told me the segment was supposed to be conversational, not confrontational. And a very pleasant Aaron Brown confirmed he wanted a serious but low-key discussion.
But once we got on-camera, Erica, the author of the 1960s’ bestseller Fear of Flying and someone I have known for years, came out–and forgive me, Erica, for being so politically incorrect–with AK 47s blazing.
When Brown asked about “security moms,” Erica declared “security moms” are “a myth made up by Karl Rove” who is “Bush’s brain.” And, anyway, what really makes her afraid is not the threat of terrorism–she doesn’t worry about that–but what is happening in the environment. “We are more in danger of our own fumbles because of what’s in the air,” she insisted. “We are more in danger from this administration than we will ever be from another 9/11.” Really? Well, then she just may be the only woman in America who is so blissfully unconcerned about another strike by al Qaeda.
When Erica paused for breath, I did manage to get a couple words in about women’s indelible memory of 9/11 and their reaction to the more recent school tragedy in Beslan, and why that has, indeed, made many of them “security moms.”
But then Erica was right back in there, talking about a woman’s right to choose, an issue that Senator Kerry, her candidate, seeking the Catholic vote, seems to prefer to ignore. She also declared that “women are the collateral damage of political campaigns” and that “our bodies are footballs.” At this point, Aaron Brown looked, for a moment, like a man trying to herd cats.
But Erica, in her explosive way, was not so very different from Deborah Tannen. A Sixties feminist, Jong seems to believe that just because she is a woman, she is speaking for all women, and that women, just because they are women, should all agree. While Tannen implies that her meandering critique of Bush is not based on her personal political opinion but what she knows about women, all women. Again, discounting that millions of women do not share her biases.
In truth, the undecided women’s vote is still in play and is of great concern, especially to Democrats. That may be why columnist Ellen Goodman of the Boston Globe, as well as the left-leaning Internet women’s news service womenenews, are trying so hard now to dismiss the importance of “security moms.” “The whole security-mom thing is bogus,” Goodman wrote, quoting Democratic pollster Anna Greenberg. Besides, she maintained, the moms are just one in four women. What’s more, they were always Republicans anyway. Dan DeLuce, a womenenews reporter and former correspondent for The Guardian, made exactly the same points in a feature posted on the web the other day. Do they protest too much? Funny, but Democratic commentators in years past were always so interested in the opinions and concerns of those soccer moms, who they were sure would give a majority of their votes to Clinton and then to Gore.
I truly believe the president should and will get a far higher proportion of women’s votes in this election than Republicans have in the past. But whatever happens, at least some in the media are beginning to acknowledge that all women don’t think alike. And you’re right, Deborah, women don’t mind apologizing. Sorry, Erica.