Give us a break -- single women do care about politics, say readers (including pundit Katha Pollitt). Plus: Does Rush-bashing only reinforce negative stereotypes about liberals?

Salon Staff
April 16, 2004 11:21PM (UTC)

[Read "Sex and the single voter" by Rebecca Traister.]

Rebecca Traister seems to accept the view that there's something patronizing about appealing for young single women's votes on the issue of reproductive rights, but then spends most of her article quoting various inane suggestions about getting young women to vote by choosing a cute VP with "magnetism," by running "cute" and "witty" commercials, and by telling women to look on voting as an opportunity to meet men. She tells us young singles are too "busy" to follow the election, but the women she describes seem to spend their lives shopping. What are they doing the first Tuesday in November that can't wait till the first Wednesday? She may recoil at the "Sex and the City" label, but Carrie was like John Stuart Mill compared to the women she describes.


Don't be a moron, indeed! If women don't care about their rights, Mr. Big -- Republican or Democrat -- will take them away.

-- Katha Pollitt

I think that the real reason that these single women aren't voting is very simple, and hinted at in the article: they aren't being spoken to. This is because of two reasons. First, the fact that these candidates and their political teams are primarily men means that they're using language that typically doesn't translate well to women. It's considerably documented that men and women have different communication styles. Men, in their desire to show no weakness, seem empty and boasting to women, while women seem too mired in analysis and emotion to men. A real and interesting part of this article could have been how the different parties could incorporate different communication styles in their campaign in order to reach women voters.


And the second reason female voters aren't being spoken to; the candidates and their political teams don't take them seriously. This is easier to explain when women are portrayed as needing sex, booze, or a sale to pique their interest. Fusty old men (who are currently the most leading candidates, regardless of party or creed) are accustomed to devaluing women by expecting their priorities to be frivolous. To them, speaking to women on women's terms would demean them as candidates. This is a real issue that would have been interesting and informative to read about, as well as helping to debunk harmful stereotypes about women. Too bad Salon wanted to talk more about fashion at the polls.

-- Deb Paxton

If there's one thing I hate about people who do not vote, it's the excuse that all the candidates suck. It smacks of every adolescent's excuse for apathy: once childhood has passed, and the imperfection of the world is revealed, cynical inaction is so much cooler and safer than actually trying to make a difference --- especially one that might involve compromise.


Real adults realize that it is their duty to read the newspaper, find out which candidate sucks least and vote for that one, making the effort to nudge the world almost imperceptibly in the direction you want it to go in, rather than waiting for some great change.

-- Manni Wood


For myself and most other single woman I know, the greatest limiting factor is neither motivation nor fashion, but time. The best thing that could be done to get us to the polls is instituting mail-in or Internet ballots for every election, or at least allowing us to choose where we vote. My polling center may be (relatively) near my house, but it's nowhere near the office where I spend most of the day. A convenient ballot drop box downtown would do wonders for my voter participation rate.

-- Erica Stephan

[Read "Dr. Dittohead" by Margot Mifflin.]


I am disappointed that the author chose to continue with a therapist who admitted being a fan of Rush Limbaugh. Lately I have found that I have to reevaluate any friendships I have with Bush admirers. Years ago the difference in party didn't matter. Now it does, because it means my friends are not outraged by deceit, dirty politics, bigotry, a stolen election, America as the aggressor, the corruption of the Constitution and the senseless deaths and mutilations of thousands. I find this an unscalable wall.

-- Allan Provost

I live in and attend college in Massachusetts. The first votes I ever cast were for the reelection of Sen. John Kerry as well as for Democratic nominee Shannon O'Brien's ill-fated gubernatorial candidacy. I even spent the entirety of the previous semester interning for a liberal magazine that has had its articles printed within the pages of Salon. I proudly consider myself a liberal.


Yet the tone of Margot Mifflin's recent article angered me as much as anything I've heard from Fox News, the editorial pages of the Wall Street Journal, and yes, Rush Limbaugh. I find it understandable that Ms. Mifflin paused to reflect over her relationship with her therapist upon discovering her therapist's political views via Rush Limbaugh. What I do not find compelling is how she not-so-subtly equated conservatism with stupidity, selfishness, and downright spitefulness. In doing so, Ms. Mifflin inadvertently becomes the stereotype that conservative pundits relish: the liberal whose "liberalism" prevents her from understanding "less enlightened" ideologies. Unfortunately, that is not liberalism.

-- Martin Kaminski

Ms. Mifflin's observations about Rush Limbaugh say a lot more about her own intolerance and ideological bigotry than about her shrinks'. In her world, those who listen to Rush must be uneducated, ignorant, unsophisticated, small-minded bigots, but I would hope that she realizes that both left-wing and right-wingers have sincere reasons for their beliefs. It would be nice if people on both sides of the aisle treated one another with more respect, and actually learn to appreciate intellectual diversity as well as cultural and ethnic diversity.

-- Chris Leek


Mifflin, a liberal college professor, has reinforced every unfavorable assumption that many conservatives make about liberals -- namely, that liberals are insulated in group-think environments and cannot conceive how anyone who is intelligent, educated, literate and well-informed could ever disagree with them.

I'm not excusing Limbaugh's ad hominem attacks or epithets, but he is a media personality and that's how media personalities get attention. I vehemently disagree with many of his positions on social issues, but he does make cogent arguments, if not on his show, at least in his books.

Did it ever occur to Mifflin that her therapist listens to Limbaugh with a critical ear, but enjoys his critique of liberal politics in spite of -- rather than because of -- the vitriol? For that matter, has it ever occurred to Mifflin to use Michael Moore as an example of poor journalism standards for her students?

Mifflin's angst over her therapist's politics is her fault, not her therapist's. She's been betrayed only by her own smug, self-absorbed assumptions about anyone whose beliefs are not consistent with her own.


-- K.W. Andersen

[Read "Act like a man" by Jill Storey.]

I was very moved by Ms. Storey's account of her sensitive son. I saw a lot of my childhood self in little Matt. I used to use my G.I. Joe action figures to reenact scenes from the movie "Grease." And, in my years playing sports, I always won the Good Sportsmanship Award, but definitely never the MVP.

If I could give Ms. Storey any advice it would be to do as she is doing now; love her son for who he is. But I would also plead with her not to steer Matt out of harm's way. Children are much more resilient than you realize. My parents' insistence that I participate in sports and boy scouts as well as supporting my interests in theater and art made me into the balanced adult I am today. I dreaded some of those experiences at the time, but I was never in danger and it never diminished my innate sensitivity. In hindsight, I realize what a valuable lesson it was to be forced to fraternize with boys so unlike me.


-- J. Hilburn

Jill Storey's article "Act Like a Man" was, if anything, touching. I might now have a better idea what my mother felt raising me.

I was that same "non-masculine" boy: Completely inept and uninterested in sports and other "boy things," I turned inwardly, and grew up very much in a world of my own. I have to tell Ms. Storey, though, not to worry too much. Yes, it's tough for a boy (or anyone) to grow up and feel like a foreigner among his peers, but it passes.

I took more than my share of teasing, but I turned to my studies and found my lifelong calling -- an academic career. I got beaten up sometimes, but I also learned to cook (admittedly under the eye of my own father). Nowadays, it seems nothing impresses a girl more than dating a guy who can cook more than canned soup and toaster waffles.

-- John Armstrong

I'm sure I'm not the only guy in San Francisco who chuckled with recognition as he was reading Jill Storey's story. And I'm sure my parents regarded my antics with the same kind of puzzled alarm as she and her husband express. From my childhood through high school, I basked in the world of my private imagination, indifferent to sports, preferring girls to boys and boys to girls in all the wrong ways.

All I can say is that it was a pretty wonderful way to grow up. Yeah, I never learned to excel at team sports, and I never much cared. A few times I got called faggot -- but most boys get called a fag sooner or later -- and in my case it was true, although I was in my early 20s before I really figured that part out.

It really isn't that bad being "different from all the other boys." Eventually you discover virtually everyone you love or admire doesn't fit in. And a boy who grows up attuned to his own imagination has immediate access to the realms of art, music, literature, psychology, spirituality --which in time nourish the soul in a way that belonging to the herd never could.

-- Jim Coughenour

Salon Staff

MORE FROM Salon Staff

Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Fearless journalism
in your inbox every day

Sign up for our free newsletter

• • •