Politics & Policy

What Women Want

Guess what? It's not what the media think.

By Myrna Blyth

“When women vote, we win,” said Inez Dickens, vice chairwoman of the New York Democratic party, to USA Today–implying the usual spin that all women are alike and, naturally, Democrats. Dickens, who fought hard to make sure Hillary Clinton was center stage and in primetime during the convention’s opening night, also declared, “She’s got something to say. Women are following her.”

That’s another aspect of the typical spin: that all women, just because they’re women, are admirers of New York’s strident junior senator. Unfortunately for Hillary, dressed in baggy buttercup yellow, she neither looked nor sounded her best the other night. Bill, on the other hand, tightly tailored and trim, looked great.

Add to the “We are all Friends of Hillary” spin the notion, still often accepted by media, that abortion remains the issue most important to women. (Nobody, by the way, ever expects men to be one-issue voters.) That’s why Gloria Feldt, president of Planned Parenthood, also had her slot as one of the lead-off speakers in Boston on Monday night.

None of this spin is true.

In fact, a new Gallup Poll of women ages 18 and older published in the August Marie Claire notes that today abortion is practically a non-issue for most women. In fact, only six percent of pro-life and three percent of pro-choice women say it will matter when they go to the polls in November.

Actress Ashley Judd, the “guest editor” of this Marie Claire–and we’re all sure she really, really did a lot of editing–found the polls results “amazing” because she is so “passionate about reproductive rights.”

Ashley even confided that she disagrees with her mother, country star Naomi Judd, about the issue and tells Marie Claire readers, “My mother always talks about how she chose not to have an abortion when she was pregnant with Wynonna. But I’m like: Mom, it was illegal at the time.” Bet sister Wynonna loves to hear Ashley’s views on what Mom should have done. Personally, I’d take a pass on their family’s Thanksgiving dinner next year, wouldn’t you?

Leading ladies aside, what does really concern women this election year? For most, according to the Gallup/Marie Claire survey, it’s the economy, security, and health care–exactly the same issues that are important to men. Other polls report that for parents with school-age kids, education matters as well.

Are all women Democrats? Nope. According to Marie Claire, “Unlike in 2000…in which 41% of women labeled themselves Democrats, [women] are now evenly divided.” Thirty-four percent of women describe themselves as Democrats, 31 percent as Republicans and 33 percent as independents. Yet Republican women, or independents who might vote Republican based on the issues, are often made to feel their attitudes are highly unusual by media that still play and re-play the “all women are Democrats” refrain.

Even Marie Claire seems to want to argue with some of the findings of the poll it commissioned. In the past the magazine has been notably–and sometimes embarrassingly–left leaning. Marie Claire is most famous for championing the cause of “Adelaide Abankwah” a purported tribal princess who allegedly left her homeland of Ghana to “escape genital mutilation.” Although immigration didn’t buy “Adelaide’s” story and kept her in detention, Marie Claire did believe it, telling her tale under a headline that shrieked, “Why Are Women Who Escaped Genital Mutilation Being Jailed in This Country?” The magazine’s then-editor made it her “personal mission” to enlist the aid of Hillary, Gloria Steinem, Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney (D., N.Y.), and Julia Roberts to get “Adelaide” sprung.

Marie Claire should have really titled their piece “Made Up In Manhattan” because “Adelaide” was a royal phony who had stolen another woman’s identity and, according to the real Abankwah’s lawyer, “ruined the credibility of all bona-fide asylum seekers.”

In the past, when it touched directly on politics, Marie Claire made its biases clear. During the 2000 presidential election the magazine published a “get out and vote” article written by Hollywood producer and political fundraiser Harvey Weinstein, who coyly confided he was a “closet journalist”–but, of course, has never been a closet Democrat.

This time the magazine seems annoyed that women are a lot more content with their lot than they were in a previous poll the magazine conducted ten years ago. Today, women say they are less worried about environmental damage, equal pay for equal work, and crime than they once were. They also recognize that there is far greater gender equity in education now, and that companies offer more family-friendly work environments than they once did.

But Marie Claire seems not at all happy with such an increasingly positive outlook, and scolds readers: “Our poll shows that you think you’re better off than you were a decade ago. But some facts disagree.” It then goes on to tell them why they should still be miserable, ignoring the gains women have made in the past decade.

The magazine continues to try to push its agenda, even if the vast majority of women disagrees. About feminism, Marie Claire chirps, “A decade ago 30% of you called yourself feminists. Today the ranks are just as strong: 34%.” Strong? Strong? With 66 percent of women not wanting to call themselves feminists? When media for women and about women can’t spin anyone else, I guess, they just have to keep spinning themselves.

Myrna Blyth, long-time editor of Ladies Home Journal and founding editor of More, is author of Spin Sisters: How the Women of the Media Sell Unhappiness–and Liberalism–to the Women of America. Blyth is also an NRO contributor.

Myrna BlythMyrna Blyth is senior vice president and editorial director of AARP Media. She is the former editor-in-chief and publishing director of Ladies’ Home Journal. She was the founding editor and ...


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