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How women voters became the kingmakers

Barack Obama won 55% of the female vote, meaning it was women who decided this year’s presidential election. Politicians who refuse to take women’s concerns and freedoms seriously are now on notice.

I suspect it may be dawning on a few white men as I write this that giving women the vote was a seriously bad idea.

Suddenly the constituency that used to rule the world — because they ruled America — are getting a sense of just what it feels like to be a minority group. And I don’t think they like it much.

According to numbers that are being crunched as I write, Barack Obama outpolled Mitt Romney in every group except older white men. Based on these admittedly preliminary figures, the President won 55% of the female vote, 93% of the African American vote and 71% of the Latino vote. He also outpolled Romney in every age group up to 45 and won the votes of most Americans who live in cities.

But if these early figures are correct, it is women who have really decided this election. That’s because they are 53% of the population, while blacks are 13%, Latinos 10% and Asians 3%. Even younger people only add up to 46% of the American population.

In other words, women voters in the US have become the kingmakers and let’s hope one day soon, the queenmakers.

Numbers being what they are, it is interesting to speculate how long it will take the religious Right in America to face up to the ramifications of this. Just think about it for a moment, the Republicans fielded two white male candidates in this election. Both were devoutly religious. Romney is a Mormon and his running mate Paul Ryan is an ultra conservative Catholic. Romney, who used to be pro-choice, fell meekly into line with the right-to-life dogma of the Republicans to seal the nomination, while Ryan took things a step further by being opposed to both abortion and contraception.

A few helpful Republican Senate candidates weighed in with some remarkable statements about abortion and r-pe. Todd Akin was clear that if a woman was “legitimately” r-ped her body would close down and expel the nasty man’s sperm. In other words, if you were r-ped and conceived, you clearly wanted it. Richard Mourdock chimed in with his pious belief that if a woman became pregnant after being r-ped then clearly that was what his God wanted. Both men lost their seats, Akin, most satisfyingly, to a female candidate; Claire McCaskill.

It also didn’t help their side of politics that a number of Republican dominated State Houses instituted draconian laws against abortion, including forced vaginal ultrasounds. Or that women in the US were forced to watch a bunch of blokes argue that women’s right to publicly subsidised contraception interfered with their religious rights — and get taken seriously! A spectacle that led university student Sandra Fluke to protest loudly about their lack of understanding about real women’s lives and experiences. Her protest in turn led to right wing shock jock Rush Limbaugh calling her a sl-t and a prost-tute and suggesting that if Americans had to pay for her contraceptives she should post videos of her s-xual encounters online. Way to win female votes, boys.

Such was the onslaught by the religious right on women and their freedom to control their own bodies and destiny, that some called it a “war against women”. This was pooh-poohed by conservative pundits, but the polling must have been showing the religious right something because Ann Romney was wheeled out in an attempt to woo the women’s vote. She kept trying to make the point that the economy was the most pressing issue for women. She was right, but somehow failed to make the connection that for most women the number of children they have directly impacts their prosperity. Could it be because she is married to a multi-millionaire?

Even here in Australia, uppity owners of uteruses were making older white blokes nervous. Tony Abbott trotted meekly along behind wife Margie as she attempted to reassure female voters that despite all appearances to the contrary Tony really was a feminist. When Gillard made her impassioned speech about s-xism and misogyny, some pundits shook their heads over the idiocy of her speech getting three million Youtube hits, while speeches on really important issues like — say — productivity went ignored. I wonder what they think the effect on productivity might be if we properly utilised the talents of 52% of the Australian population who, incidentally, just happen to be the best educated women in the world?

As long as those on the Right, most of whom older white men, refuse to believe that the issues that matter to women really matter, then expect more of the same. Reproductive rights are not theoretical to women. They are not something that only concern some marginalised group of not-very-nice people. They directly and viscerally affect women’s liberty and opportunity. Two things American voters in particular have been trained since childhood to hold dear. Perhaps that’s also why American women are much more likely to get off their bums and exercise the democratic right their great-grandmothers fought so hard to win for them.

Politicians all over the world who refuse to take women’s concerns and freedoms seriously are now on notice.

*This article was originally published at Women’s Agenda

26
  • 1
    fredex
    Posted Thursday, 8 November 2012 at 2:23 pm | Permalink

    Several of the right wing pundits are currently bemoaning the lack of traction of the Repubs with ‘minority’ groups.
    They are right of course, they know that women constitute only about 0% of the US male population.

  • 2
    Thorn
    Posted Thursday, 8 November 2012 at 3:58 pm | Permalink

    I have difficulty recalling any significant (except, I believe, the recognition of Aboriginal people as citizens) piece of social justice legislation introduced by the Conservative side of politics in Australia.

    As virtually every piece of social justice legislation appears to affect women especially, it is hard to imagine why women in this country even consider the conservatives as a viable group to govern them.

    This is even more true when the present Labor Government is presiding over the lowest interest rates and personal taxes in memory, a hugely lower tax to GDP ratio than during the Howard years, a debt to GDP ratio that is one of the lowest in the world and low unemployment - all in the midst of the GFC.

    Any Australian concerned with the future of this country for themselves and their children would be mad to even consider Abbott etc with the complete lack of personal believability and the total lack of credible policy that his now really right wing party represents.

  • 3
    Mark
    Posted Thursday, 8 November 2012 at 5:12 pm | Permalink

    This take from Slate suggests that marriage was an even more decisive factor than gender - http://slate.me/RYsxj1

  • 4
    lorraine benham
    Posted Thursday, 8 November 2012 at 5:25 pm | Permalink

    So well said Jane. I was in America up until the last week of the elections and it was sick making listening to the old, white men pundits opining about the broad electoral coalition which have now returned Obama (women, latinos, afro-americans) in heavily patronising, pompous and dismissive terms. Well they got it all wrong and now there’s a chance of some good progressive policies provided the old, white men who still control Congress come to their senses.

  • 5
    Hamis Hill
    Posted Thursday, 8 November 2012 at 5:37 pm | Permalink

    So how about Michelle Obama as the first “real” African American president?
    Yes, she doesn’t want it, but wouldn’t all those women lusting after someone like Michelle teach all those “white men” a lesson, eh Jane?
    Ought to shrivel up quite a few, undeserving, oppressive male gonads.
    How about Oprah then?

  • 6
    justin cotton
    Posted Thursday, 8 November 2012 at 6:37 pm | Permalink

    That’s just nonsense. I’m tired of all this overtly feminist bollocks. It is extremely divisive. Which is not what Obama is about. The fact is he also had over 70% of the Latino vote and around 96% of the black vote.

  • 7
    justin cotton
    Posted Thursday, 8 November 2012 at 6:38 pm | Permalink

    And before you accuse me of being another white middle aged male oppressor……..I’m an agnostic, moderaly young, part Maori gay man. Fed up to the eyeballs wih hearing from feminazis.

  • 8
    Gwen Staral
    Posted Thursday, 8 November 2012 at 6:59 pm | Permalink

    I found myself disagreeing with just about everything in this article. For one, you pretend to speak for all women, which you don’t! Secondly, you mention how women are making inroads into political choices, with over 50% of the population women, and you salivate at the idea of being the majority for once. And what do you do think about this?? “It’s time to make men pay!” So in reality, you’re no different then the old white men you complain about. Funny how that works.

    Thirdly, if you really cared about equal rights and progressive ideas then how can you stand for the social darwinistic and barbaric idea that unborn children are nothing. You don’t even mention them! Way to avoid the subject. If you were truly brave about equal rights you would stand up for the most defenseless minority in the world. Instead, to you, they are just an inconvenience to be done away with. I bet you don’t even consider unborn children human beings, am I right? And yet you think you can lecture these “old white men” who have similar views that white man is the highest form of human being and everybody is below them. As I said before, you’re no different.

    (And no one give me the whole “rape and insest” argument since I’m not refering to those instances)

  • 9
    Tom Jones
    Posted Thursday, 8 November 2012 at 7:07 pm | Permalink

    Justin there may be a lot of women who will say things like “I am not a feminist but…..I still want to determine my ability to have children”. The MSM controlled by old white men have presented a false position for feminism but when the politics get personal women are quite happy to have control over their own bodies and lives. The Catholic church has still to catch up with the reality that many Catholic women have just ignored the strictures on contraception and abortion because the old men who make the rules never have to live with the consequences. Tony Abbott is still listening to these old men who are quite divisive in their determination to make decisions about other people’s especially women’s lives.

  • 10
    Gwen Staral
    Posted Thursday, 8 November 2012 at 7:15 pm | Permalink

    Excuse me moderators, I know my comment isn’t in keeping with the ideology of this website but surely you are not against an open forum for debate?

  • 11
    Love In A Teaspoon
    Posted Thursday, 8 November 2012 at 7:32 pm | Permalink

    Sorry Girls, oh and men, if there’s any here. But feed the hungry and house the homeless and all else will be added on.

  • 12
    Wolfie Rankin
    Posted Thursday, 8 November 2012 at 7:47 pm | Permalink

    I an extremely concerned, You see I’m a white aussie bloke who has been a bit of a hippy all my life, I’ve spent most of my life hugging trees, being kind to animals and doing yoga.

    But this month I turn 47, and I’m utterly terrified that I will wake up one morning soon and find out that I’m a conservative.

    Can anyone help me before it’s too late?

  • 13
    Gwen Staral
    Posted Thursday, 8 November 2012 at 7:53 pm | Permalink

    I found myself disagreeing with just about everything in this article. For one, you pretend to speak for all women, which you don’t! Secondly, you mention how women are making inroads into political choices, with over 50% of the population women, and you salivate at the idea of being the majority for once. And what do you do think about this?? “It’s time to make men pay!” So in reality, you’re no different then the old white men you complain about. Funny how that works.

  • 14
    Bruce Vonspankher
    Posted Thursday, 8 November 2012 at 9:18 pm | Permalink

    That is the identical impression I got as well.

    Sorry Jane, but revenge belongs to an even higher power than you.

    @Wolfie Rankin

    I know the feeling only too well. It’s a result of the Sabbateans always owning both sides of the argument. Each side always has basic truths and obvious political, religious and philosophical floors. Thanks to the MSM, Thinktanks, Indoctrination Camps ( schools & universities )and all the rest of the social engineering agencies they own, they keep us in a state of social flux of confusion and division. Jane never stood a chance and it probably all started for her back in her university days.

  • 15
    Black Spot
    Posted Thursday, 8 November 2012 at 9:55 pm | Permalink

    When the slave trade industry first gained a foothold in the southern states of America and Caribbean Island areas in the mid to late 1700’s, it was a major social ploy by the slave and plantation owners to reduce the power, influence and status of the dominant male family figure-heads.

    The slaves were easier to control once the family structure was broken down and the dominant males subjugated.

    This subjugation was achieved through humiliation via the rape of their wives in front of them and the vesting of power in the women. With the roles reversed and the establishment of the power vacuum the process of total control was complete.

    So, what am I saying? Nothing really.

  • 16
    Black Spot
    Posted Thursday, 8 November 2012 at 10:02 pm | Permalink

    When the slav e trade industry first gained a foothold in the southern states of A merica and Caribbean Island areas in the mid to late 1700’s, it was a major s ocial ploy by the slav e and plantation owners to reduce the power, influence and status of the dominant male f amily figure-heads.

    The slav es were easier to control once the family structure was broken down and the dominan t m ales sub jugated.

    This subju gation was achieved through humil iation via the r ape of their w ives in front of them and the vesting of power in the w omen. With the roles reversed and the establishment of the p ower vacuum the process of total c ontrol was complete.

    So, what am I saying? Nothing really.

  • 17
    floorer
    Posted Thursday, 8 November 2012 at 10:11 pm | Permalink

    Why would anybody vote for anybody that spits in their face ?

  • 18
    Posted Thursday, 8 November 2012 at 10:36 pm | Permalink

    Gwen: I have no idea where you got that idea, but it does not seem to have stemmed from reading the article. Nowhere does it says “make men pay” - except, that is, for the subset who feel entitled to control women’s bodies and choices. It’s a little like Pat Robertson claiming that Christians are being oppressed because they’re not being allowed to get away with bullying, oppressing and suppressing everyone else.

    But no! Standing up to bullies is not bullying. Fighting for freedom is not oppression. Slavery is not freedom. Oceania has not always been at war with Eastasia.

  • 19
    beachcomber
    Posted Thursday, 8 November 2012 at 11:47 pm | Permalink

    It’s ironic that something the Religious Right don’t believe in, Natural Selection, is leading to their extinction. Or maybe it’s fitting.

  • 20
    JKUU
    Posted Friday, 9 November 2012 at 8:57 am | Permalink

    GOP = Grumpy Old Patricians (white, of course)

  • 21
    Amathar
    Posted Friday, 9 November 2012 at 1:33 pm | Permalink

    The gloating and combative tone of the article totally undermined any point it was trying to communicate. The only message took from it was that here was a person hyped up on victory and spoiling for a fight (a tired, ubiquitous and therefore worthless trope).

    I think it’s a totally misguided response indicative of an attitude that is neither constructive, nor considered.
    Sadly, it’s the kind of behaviour that will only drive opponents deeper into their entrenched position ensuring the “conflict” is longer, harder and more destructive than it otherwise needs to be.

  • 22
    Posted Friday, 9 November 2012 at 5:20 pm | Permalink

    GWEN STARAL: Your Catholicism is showing. After a preliminary round of offensive comments about the author, Jane Caro, expressing her opinion, you launch into the following, “”I bet you don’t even consider unborn children human beings, am I right?”“

    Not only is your question irrelevant, ungrammatical and loaded with venom, I don’t believe Caro mentioned this topic.

    A further statement, “”As I said before, you’re no different.”” Different to what?

    To be utterly tiresome you bring in the old furphy about unborn children being human beings. Using your analogy you, if you were desperate for some food, would turn down a bowl of pumpkin soup and ask instead for a pumpkin seed.

    Please don’t bother to reply to me. You, and all your fellow fundamentalist, right wing religionists are all emotion and no bløødy logic. Qualities which are tiresome, inaccurate, rude and boring.

    Finally, you would have us believe you were in favour of debate; really? Heigh ho.

  • 23
    Malcolm Street
    Posted Friday, 9 November 2012 at 7:08 pm | Permalink

    Gwen - As per the article: “Reproductive rights are not theoretical to women. They are not something that only concern some marginalised group of not-very-nice people. They directly and viscerally affect women’s liberty and opportunity.”

    I do not consider a first-trimester foetus anything other than a *potential* human being. Abortions after the first trimester are overwhelmingly in the case of serious abnormalities in the foetus or threats to the life of the mother.

    I assume you are in favour of measures that are shown to reduce the incidence of abortion, such as the availability of safe, legal abortion, comprehensive sex education and easy and cheap availability of contraception?

    Did you watch Dangerous Remedy on the ABC last Sunday night for a view of how things were when abortion was illegal? Is that what you want to go back to?

  • 24
    Gwen Staral
    Posted Saturday, 10 November 2012 at 12:36 am | Permalink

    That quote you used from the article is about as believable as saying that a child having gay parents affects their liberty and opportunity. It’s backwards thinking. I don’t want to go back, I want to go forward. I wish to go beyond current barbaric thinking where we judge ANYONE as a lesser or “potential” human being.

    I’d say we both believe that we need to reduce the number of abortions.

    It’s not about forcing anyone to do anything, or a war on women (since I’d be at war with myself), but rather an attempt to rethink our prejudices. I can understand that there are many people out there who have been brought up with this backward thinking that they’re not really human beings. I can understand that they will never change their mind about it. And I’m definately against telling those who have had abortion that what they did was horrible, that’s not how you fix this HUMAN RIGHTS issue.

    As I said, we need to educate our future generations on the measures of safe sex that reduce the need for abortion AND remove the discrimination we have of ALL human beings.

    I could not look at myself in the mirror and say that I stand for equal rights for all human beings and be supportive of the discrimination of unborn children.

  • 25
    Gwen Staral
    Posted Saturday, 10 November 2012 at 1:06 pm | Permalink

    Venise: I hate to completely ruin your “argument” but I am an atheist. My friends and I oppose abortion because this is a human rights issue. As I said in my previous posts, I understand that you will think of unborn children as less than human, probably for the rest of your life, and not see it as discrimination. I’m not concerned with you. I’m concerned that future generations will continue to think in this backward manner.

    Secondly, I said nothing offensive about the author. It’s not possible since I know nothing about her. I argued her reasoning but not her personally. You ought to retract that statement or apologise, since some of us still believe in etiquette (or should I say netiquette) and don’t accept boorish behaviour from keyboard warriors.

    Finally, I’m more than happy to debate. You, on the other hand, just resorted to name calling.

  • 26
    The Old Bill
    Posted Monday, 12 November 2012 at 9:36 pm | Permalink

    Gwen, this off topic hand grenade you have thrown into the debate intrigues me. When does an atheist female who opposes abortion as a human right think removing a foetus is abortion? At conception, 3 weeks, 5 weeks, 12 weeks? Do you oppose abortion for rape victims, or when the foetus carrier’s life is in danger medically? When does a foetus enjoy full human rights? Do you support the day after pill? Do you rely on the old Abbott standby of pulling out?
    Apologies to Jane Caro and her excellent article, but these questions have to be asked.

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