Republican candidates — including many women — appear poised to repudiate the notion that conservatives engage in a systematic and sinister “war on women.” The question now becomes whether Democrats can move beyond this wedge concept and place “women’s issues” into a broader context, uniting rather than dividing Americans based on identity politics.
In upstate New York, Republican Elise Stefanik, 30, leads the pack by double digits for an open seat in the 21st District. If victorious, she’d be the youngest woman ever elected to Congress. Favored to win the 4th Congressional District in Utah, Mia Love would be the first African-American Republican woman elected to Congress. Joni Ernst, the victim of a sexist attack by retiring Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin — he compared Ernst to singer Taylor Swift and attributed Ernst’s political success to her physical appearance — has consistently led in polling and could be the first female combat veteran in the Senate. Incumbent Arizona Gov. Susana Martinez is expected to handily defeat her Democratic challenger and retain her seat, She made history in 2010 as the first Latina governor in America from any political party.
The list goes on with examples of strong women who are defying the stereotype of the GOP as a bastion of old, white males. Carly Fiorina, former CEO of Hewlett-Packard, chairwoman of the American Conservative Union Foundation and a former U.S. Senate candidate in California, has played a role in this through her Unlocking Potential Project. Through this project, she’s helped recruit strong female candidates and toured the country pushing for expanding conservative ideals among women.
“When I talk about women’s issues I talk about every issue, meaning jobs and the economy, education, national security, healthcare,” Fiorina told Opportunity Lives. “Women care about a lot more than birth control and abortion, and when the Democrats refuse to speak about anything other than that, women get fed up.”
Polls showed the gender gap — women tend to favor Democrats — narrowing in Republicans’ favor as the elections approached.
“I think it reminds men and women that we are living in serious times and that these are serious issues and we need serious answers,” Fiorina said.
Yet popular culture abounds with memes perpetuating false stereotypes about women’s opportunity. A scene from The Daily Show where Kristen Schaal swallows a bowl full of birth control pills gets high marks for comedic originality. She’s skewering an advertisement by the free-market group Americans For Shared Prosperity (AFSP) where a young woman pretends to break up with Barack Obama for failing to keep his promises and also obsessing about birth control.
“He thinks the only thing I care about is free birth control, but he won’t even let me keep my own doctor,” the actress says in the original AFSP ad.
Yet despite the bluster from Schaal, the conservative advertisement is true: many women — and men — found themselves dropped off their healthcare plans or faced double-digit premium increases even as Democrats chose to zoom in and give disproportionate attention on covering all forms of birth control. This sort of myopic focus basically says to women, “we’ll fight tooth and nail to save your couch while we let your whole house burn down.”
Data shows Hollywood elites — the vanguards of American culture — overwhelmingly tilt to the left. Conservative women are routinely smeared (one recent example is CNN anchor Carol Costello mocking the Palin family after Sarah Palin’s daughter faced domestic abuse) with no outcry by the left.
“Conservative women are either ignored by the ‘feminist establishment’ or their pilloried,” Fiorina said. “And I think it reveals the fact that a lot of women who call themselves feminists are just liberals who don’t appreciate or support diversity of opinion. I think the real definition of feminism is that every woman gets to choose her own path. And that means every woman gets to choose her own beliefs.”
And despite feminist howls against conservatives, the left is full of memes that capitalize off women’s sexuality. In 2012, this was blatantly obvious by actress Lena Dunham, creator of HBO’s popular television series Girls, whose advertisement for President Obama suggested that women should treat voting for the first time in the way they should approach losing their virginity. On the spectrum of sexual exploitation (Dunham herself recently apologized for exploiting her own sister), this falls way further down than a lighthearted advertisement from the College Republican National Committee for Rick Scott comparing a vote for him to a vote for a certain type of wedding dress, a la the television show Say Yes To The Dress.
This sort of myopic focus basically says to women, “we’ll fight tooth and nail to save your couch while we let your whole house burn down.”
From the very senior levels of party leadership, Democratic National Committee chairwoman Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, accused Wisconsin Republican Gov. Scott Walker of attacking women and “grabbing us by the hair and pulling us back.”
This sort of extremist and graphic language triggered Fiorina to repeatedly call for Wasserman-Schultz’ resignation.
“It should be completely unacceptable to accuse a political opponent of domestic violence as a political tactic,” Fiorina said. “On top of every other reason that one can think of, it demeans women who are actually experiencing domestic violence. And there is a double standard. All of this ‘war on women’ rhetoric is shameless propaganda without a basis in fact.”
A viral online video created by a self-labeled feminist group used young girls, between ages six to 13, to drop the F-bomb and perpetuate the myth that women make less than men, a fact not based in data. What’s damaging about the video — similar to a skit from comedian Sarah Silverman — is that it’s not based in fact and its graphic nature is meant to shock rather than educate. It raises the decibel level and the stakes for “feminists” to try and shock even further.
“I think the Democratic Party is revealing itself as the party of a very rigid orthodoxy,” Fiorina said. “Show me a pro-life Democratic candidate. They don’t exist anymore — they’ve been drummed out of the party … Any true feminist ought to celebrate that women, who are half the world’s population and 53 percent of voters, are diverse in their opinions.”
After tonight’s elections, conservatives hope this fictional “war” will be abolished and the national dialogue will turn to substantive matters and actual governance. Fiorina gave an example from her charity work. She chairs a large microfinance organization that offers loans to small businesses and said that 91 percent of the organization’s clients are women, a testament to their ability to compromise and govern.
“It turns out that women are a better credit risk,” Fiorina said. “They tend to be more sensitive in the risk they take and they tend to make choices for the long-term.”
Read the original article here on Opportunity Lives…
Carrie Sheffield is the founder of Bold. She is passionate about storytelling to empower and connect others. A founding POLITICO reporter, Carrie contributed on political economy at Forbes and wrote editorials for The Washington Times. After earning a master’s in public policy from Harvard University, she managed credit risk at Goldman Sachs and researched for American Enterprise Institute scholar Edward Conard. She earned a B.A. in communications at Brigham Young University and completed a Fulbright fellowship in Berlin.