Menu Join now Search

The Female Factor: Red...

The Female Factor: Red Said, Blue Said

Does the Democratic or Republican Party do a better job of addressing issues important to women? Why?

The Red Perspective: Kathryn Biber Chen

The notion of traditional “women’s issues” in America belongs on the ash heap of history, right on top of the well-worn axiom “girls can’t be good at math.” We sell ourselves pretty short if we truly believe that our political beliefs are knee-jerk reactions to our gender. More generally, slicing and dicing the American populace into narrow interest groups (whether divided by gender, race, or religion) strikes me as a terribly offensive thing to do. I’ve always wondered why some liberals—who profess to care deeply about the rights of individuals—are so eager to lump people into factions. 

Indeed, the issues I care about are fairly universal: free speech, safe neighborhoods, small government, low taxes, health care, clean air and water, and intelligent national security policies, to name a few. Most Americans care about these issues, not just women. And Erin and I are a good example of variance within the female ranks.

I recognize that women in America often face different circumstances in life than men do. Not all glass ceilings are fully shattered, and “having it all” just isn’t possible. Women across the country (whether Democrat or Republican) may encounter similar societal prejudices and public expectations. I do not, therefore, mean to argue that women do not have a certain kinship with one another due to their shared experiences, and that on occasion their worldviews will be shaded by such experiences.   

I simply mean to say this: all women do not think alike. While I am thrilled to see that women are finally reaching the upper echelons of political power in America, I would not vote for a candidate simply because she is female. My chromosomal makeup has little to do with my beliefs about important political issues, and I do not believe that women make better or worse leaders or lawmakers. In short, I do not appreciate the insulting assumption that my gender is predictive of my political beliefs. And neither should you.

So, which party best addresses so-called issues important to women? The Republican Party, of course—because it actually treats them as individuals.

The Blue Perspective: Erin Egan

Our impulse may be to answer by reverting to a checklist of issues we assume are important to women and matching those to a party. A working woman values equal pay for equal work, and Democrats promote pay equality. A Catholic woman believes life begins at conception, and Republicans support that belief. But what party do you pick if you are a Catholic working woman?
The female voice is not monolithic, and stereotypes don’t tell the whole story.
Take me, for example. Stereotypically speaking, I could be a Republican. I was raised in Tennessee by an upper-middle class family, surrounded by mega-churches, and educated alongside children who were taught that gay people go to hell and cousins who think you should speak “American” if you live in America. I grew up with rich folks whose primary interest is protecting their pockets. And hey, I like money too—I love Chanel and pay a bundle to keep my hair blond.  
How did I morph into a progressive?
I realized that I want to empower those who traditionally have been excluded. I prefer a politics of unity to a politics of division. I believe we should work together to solve problems and create opportunities for all Americans to secure their piece of the American Dream—not just the privileged few.
The Republican Party relies on a divided America, a scared America, to protect its power. Consider questions asked in recent survey commissioned by the Republican Party to test tolerance for attacks on minority and female candidates. Agree or Disagree?
“Most women interpret innocent remarks or acts as being sexist.”
“Women seek to gain power by getting control over men.”
“I feel awkward/anxious when interacting with black people.”
One party spends money determining how best to exploit people’s fears about race and gender stereotypes to secure a win. That party markets the story of chronically pregnant mothers who manipulate the welfare system; children of illegal immigrants who overwhelm social services; families whose faulty decision-making led to foreclosure; and uninsureds who flood ERs.
For every one of those stereotypes, there is a sick child without health insurance through no fault of her own; a family in foreclosure because a workplace injury forced a choice between paying medical bills and the mortgage; and a hard-working mom who can no longer afford gas to drive to work. One party has solutions that go beyond cynical stereotypes. That reality compels this woman to side with the donkeys.

During this election season, DivineCaroline is presenting a twice-monthly column on politics from two points of view: one red, one blue. Each month you can read what Democrat Erin Egan and Republican Kathryn Biber Chen have to say about the issues. To make sure you never miss a Red Said, Blue Said column, just click on the author’s name at the top of the story, then select “Be notified when writer publishes” at the top of the page. We’ll send you an email as soon as a new column is published.