Photograph by Darren Hauck/Getty Images.
Now that the shock of losing has settled in, the conservative media has moved on to the important task of castigating the various demographics that broke for Obama, a reaction that can in no way be one of the reasons said demographics dislike Republicans. Since Obama won basically everyone but nonurban white men and their wives, there are a lot of different groups to hate on, but a clear front-runner in the Blame Game has emerged: single women, who gave 68 percent of their vote to Obama, compared to 53 percent of married women who voted for Romney.
There are many reasons for this divergence, including age, income, and racial differences between the single and married women, but right-wing media looks to be settling on a favorite explanation: Loose gals vote Obama. Unlike, say, Sean Hannity’s now evolving position on immigration, clearly morphing in order to somehow get his guys a few Latino votes, this impulse to label single women as sluts is certainly no one’s idea of voter outreach. But it does serve the dual purpose of demonizing Obama voters and reminding Fox News and rightwing talk radio audiences of their favorite porn narratives. Laura Ingraham, sitting in as host of The O’Reilly Factor last night, brought together a panel of church ladies to sneer at the unmarried and their wanton ways:
Watch the latest video at video.foxnews.comThe overall narrative of the segment is, to paraphrase: Single women are so obsessed with birth control and abortion that they can’t be bothered to care about the economy or even take care of their kids. There were many jaw-droppers during the segment, but my favorite might be Gretchen Carlson saying that married women vote more on the economy, “because when you’re married, abortion is not really—or contraception for that matter—is not maybe a huge part of your life.” In Carlson’s bizarro world, only single women have sex and only married women have kids. (Contrary to any stereotypes trotted out on Fox News, married people have more sex than single people, so you really shouldn’t put “getting laid more” on your list of reasons to avoid the institution.)
Other right-wing pundits were even more crass. Andrea Tantaros accused single women of voting for no other reason than wanting “free” birth control. Rush Limbaugh was his usual delightful self on the topic of single women having sex that doesn’t involve him, saying that by being pro-choice, Obama treats women “like vaginas” and that Republicans need to “start our own abortion industry” to get women’s vote.
Reproductive rights do matter to female voters, as I’m the first to say. Some male voters, too, the ones who remember what conservatives apparently forget, which is that sex without making a baby every time is a winning proposition for men, too. But there’s no reason to assume that if Romney and Obama had the same views on contraception access and abortion rights, that Romney would have cleaned up those single female voters. Like married women, single women do vote on economic issues, of which the ability to control how many kids you have to feed is but one. Carlson gets close in the above segment to admitting this, but she frames it as single women being “dependent” on the government, completely ignoring government programs that married women are more likely to benefit from, such as the mortgage deduction or the new tax breaks for married couples.
None of these pundits even consider the possibility that it’s not just single women who think about reproductive rights when they vote, but that plenty of other Americans—some loyal viewers of Fox News, I would imagine—also vote on reproductive rights, specifically to take those rights away. Perhaps the real truth is that if everyone just gave up on the sex and gender wars and let people do their thing, it’s not the Republicans who would benefit.
The gist: If you’re happy about Tuesday night’s victory, thank a woman. Women usually make up about 54 percent of the electorate, and this time they again turned out in higher numbers than men. Unsurprisingly, they also turned out in much higher numbers for Obama than for Romney. Some 55 percent of women voted for the former, while 44 percent chose the latter.Within the subset of women ages 18 to 29 — especially those who attended college during the Bush years, a group that will be voting solidly Democrat for the next 65 years – the numbers skew even more heavily towards Obama.
In other words, the GOP, at least as it now presents itself,doesn’t stand a chance. It didn’t Tuesday, and it won’t in 2016, no matter how deeply its victories cut in the South. Something’s gotta give.
Other contingencies were, of course, also crucial to Obama’s victory. Hispanics (Florida Hispanics too!), LGBTQ voters, youth in general, Black Americans, Asian-Americans, and pro-labor groups handily threw their support behind the president.
This makes Fox News crypt-keeper Charles Krauthammer’s claim that Obama doesn’t have a mandate all the more laughable. To quote Andrew Sullivan during his gleeful appearance on the Colbert Report, “There’s a black man in power who has nothing to lose!”
But here’s the thing about the women’s movement that gets lost sometimes, even on itself. The policies it promotes intersect with the needs of lots of other communities, and not only because of (the obvious) minority women. Health care, reproductive rights, gender equality, and non-discrimination policies are not only about women, though the latter are often implied to be the sole beneficiaries of such legislative gains.
Obama likes to call them “family” issues, but such rhetoric is annoying and offensive because it blatantly discriminates against single and unmarried people. For instance, why do we push for health care for partners in quasi-/post-nuclear-family constructs, instead of advocating for free health care for all? It’s also annoying and plain stupid, since two-thirds of single women voted for Obama both this past Tuesday and in 2008.
Another problem? When referring to “women,” the media tend to default to white, heterosexual, cis women, usually married. It should be noted that Romney captured 56 percent of the white women’s vote and 53 percent of married women’s vote.
So to be a bit more nuanced, these so-called “women’s issues” are often actually the issues of the middle class, labor, and other groups. The right wing’s determination to defund Planned Parenthood earlier this year, for instance, was not just an assault on the aforementioned default woman. Rather, you should see that the campaign spotlighted how Republican legislation often more pointedly affects people of color and low-income communities.
Defunding Planned Parenthood would have disproportionately impacted minority communities, worsening the already abhorrent disparities in healthcare coverage. When Texas tried unsuccessfully (at least as of yesterday) to cut off federal funding to their Women’s Health Program — not just Planned Parenthood, but also those “affiliated” with abortion providers — they were cutting off healthcare to 130,000 people, many of whom were poor Hispanic women…..
- Single White Female (restoringtruthiness.org)
- Gretchen Carlson Brings Back Wendy Long For More “War On Women” Denial (newshounds.us)
- How women voters became the kingmakers (crikey.com.au)
- Single women voted overwhelmingly in favour of Obama, researchers find (guardian.co.uk)
- Why Mitt Romney Lost – and the GOP Will Continue to Lose – Reason.com (mbcalyn.com)
- The War on Women Backfires (thedailybeast.com)
- Representations of the Women’s Movement Are Often Too Reductive (saltyeggs.com)
- What’s at Stake for Women on November 6? (nymag.com)
- Open Thread: Blame the Single Ladies! (balloon-juice.com)