"Single anxious female" seeks president

Must be equally comfortable with ending war and improving economy.

By Lynn Harris
November 28, 2007 10:36PM (UTC)
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When I am president, one of my first acts, after ending hunger/ war/ poverty/ discrimination/ bandannas on dogs, will be to reverse the mandate that every mention of "single women" must include a reference to "Sex and the City." (I may not be elected until at least 2012, but believe me, it will still be happening. Even if the movie sucks.) "SATC" isn't the problem; it's the glib and rhetorically lazy leap from those four pals to the rest of the country's 53 million unmarried women, and the unflattering, unoriginal "man-chasing," "Manolo-wearing," "cosmo-swilling" epithets that go with it. Among many reporters, and idle editors -- still! -- it is a tic, a scourge. Especially now that -- as you may already have heard -- the so-called single anxious female has, when it comes to voting blocs du jour, eaten the soccer moms and NASCAR dads for breakfast. According to liberal polling firm Greenberg Quinlan Rosner, single females, anxious or not, "have the potential to emerge as the 'Democrats' Evangelicals.'"

Regardless of what impact "SAFs" may actually have on the election, one might expect coverage of their habits and proclivities to be condescending and dismissive. Single women? It's just too tempting.


Or at least you'd think. As it turns out -- from what I've seen -- any complaints that the media is treating this bloc as "anxious," only, say, about brunch, seem to be a bit overblown. To be sure, as polling expert Margie Omero notes today on Pollster.com, the charge (made by CNN and others) that single women are "notoriously difficult" to get to the polls is not borne out by the numbers (at least not relative to their male peers). And the term "single anxious female" really could have benefited from more time in focus groups. However, I'm happy to report that I cannot say that -- as Omero suggests -- a preponderance of press coverage has "caricatured" this group or defined it "not by political views, but by [its] lack of gravitas."

CNN, for one, has suggested that those who are guilty of caricature may be a) Ann Coulter, so, whatever, and b) part of a vast right-wing conspiracy designed to keep single women away from the voting booth, slash, Hillary lever. Gary Langer, poll guy at ABC News, suggests that, actually, married women are even more likely to "play a crucial role" in 2008 -- but not because single women are, you know, drunk. ("The first thing to know is that 'single women' look less like the cast of 'Sex' than they look like the supermarket checkout line," he writes. He nearly ruins everything at the end by referring to single women as "Cosmopolitan-sipping," but we'll give him a pass; after all, until I am elected, it is the law.)

The best read I've seen so far on the topic, though, appeared in yesterday's San Francisco Chronicle, wherein reporter Joe Garofoli -- imagine this! -- actually spoke to an assortment of single women about the election, and not even over drinks. Single women like 50-year-old Carmen Cortez, a janitor and single mother; Courtney Harrell, a 32-year-old lesbian with three roommates who works in film; Gloria Crabbe, a 76-year-old retired lawyer who has been widowed for 18 years; and Kathleen Moschel, a 63-year-old Republican and former Hallmark card store owner. "Despite the attention, unmarrieds say they're not too keen on being the political flavor of the quadrennial," Garofoli writes. "'It offends me when politicians categorize me in some way,' said [Crabbe]. 'Why do we all have to be soccer moms or unmarrieds?'" Added Harrell: "Instead of trying to figure out how to come after single women, how about trying to figure out how to help me get health care?"

Lynn Harris

Award-winning journalist Lynn Harris is author of the comic novel "Death by Chick Lit" and co-creator of BreakupGirl.net. She also writes for the New York Times, Glamour, and many others.

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