Women Scorned in Media

Many more male voters than expected flocked to the GOP last November, but still more women voters stayed away from the polls altogether. Women made up 51 percent of the electorate in 1992 -- down from 54 percent in the 1992 campaign. For the Democrats -- who have long relied on a larger female turnout -- this meant defeat. Women's votes had delivered victory to Bill Clinton in 1992. Among Clinton voters, women made up 55 percent. The press has displayed only minimal interest in the reasons for the recent defection of women from the voting rolls, while reporting obsessively on the psychology of the "angry white man." The New York Times, for example, recently ran a piece on the politics of racial preference under the headline, "Affirmative Action: The Race to Win Over the Angry White Male." But an April Harris poll commissioned by the Feminist Majority Foundation pointed up the shortcomings of this view. The poll surveyed 1,364 adults and found that employed women were far more angry than their male counterparts. This suggests that gender may be the greatest gap in coverage of the affirmative action debate. Only 57 percent of women said they are satisfied with their chances of getting promoted, as compared with similarly qualified men. Contrary to the perception in the mainstream press, 81 percent of men reported that they were satisfied with their prospects for promotion, as compared with women candidates. "Men are not worried about being discriminated against," says Colleen Dermody of the Feminist Majority Foundation. "So where did this idea of the angry white men come from? They are certainly not the majority." These findings have not trickled into most media coverage of the affirmative debate. (They did receive passing mention in The Detroit News, the Washington Post and the Chicago Tribune.) Part of this neglect is doubtless due to the Oklahoma City bombing, which occurred as the results of the Harris poll became public. But the media has long paid scant attention to women voters and their concerns. In mid-June, Harris and Eleanor Smeal, head of Feminist Majority, met with reporters from the New York Times, the Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times to underscore the importance of the poll's findings in the affirmative action debate. In any event, Democratic party leaders will ignore women's voices at their peril. According to Democratic pollster Celinda Lake, "For most of the last 15 years, the Democrats would have been a permanent minority party without the support of women."

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