Life as a woman is a cavalcade of guilt and inadequacy. You didn’t have children, or had too many children; the kids you had certainly didn’t get the time they deserved. If you’re not rich and you don’t work, you’re a welfare queen; if you leave your kids alone while you work, you’re a criminal. You’re almost definitely too fat or too thin, too old or too young. If you’re a Democrat, you obviously “cannot control your libido.” Which is going to be a problem, because you’ll be lucky to find even an AARP member who finds you sexy after 42.
And now comes Politico with something else for women to feel bad about, in a story starkly headlined: “Money gap: Why don’t women give?”
Why women, why? Why don't you give?
Politico explains: “For all the progress women have made in Congress and in elections, they are practically sitting out the new game that is redefining American politics: big money…The top 10 male donors gave over $51 million to political candidates; the top 10 female donors combined for just over $8 million.” We all know the Koch brothers, but where are the Koch sisters?*
Now, this could have been a fairly short story. Women are “sitting out” the “big money game,” because very few of us have big money. Next question?
Seriously, women make 77 cents to a man’s dollar, but own only 36% as much wealth – and the wealth gap between men and women has widened even as the income gap slowly narrows. Women who never married own 6 percent of the wealth of their bachelor brothers. It gets worse: black and Latino never-married women own a penny for every dollar of wealth controlled by men of their race. And of course, women make up almost two out of three adults living in poverty.
Since the capacity to make big political donations is a factor of having disposable wealth, not just income, the wealth gap between men and women is the crucial factor behind the donor gap. That’s the main reason “why women don’t give.” You’re welcome, Politico.
Unbelievably, the Politico story doesn’t even mention the wealth gap between men and women. Way down in the second page of the piece, Democratic donor Laura Ricketts does mention the money gap, as an aside. “In general, many women don’t make as much money as men,” she notes perceptively. But there’s no data presented on the wage or wealth gap. Instead we are informed about the innovative – and often condescending -- strategies fundraisers are using to reach women:
Wooing female donors takes a more personal touch: Often they want more of a relationship with candidates or outside groups and to have a clear understanding of where their money is going, according to several fundraisers and donors.
Those ladies: Always wanting more of a relationship.
Women, we also learn, are often more receptive to outreach from other women, but that’s a problem too, because, well, women have less free time than men. “Persuading women to devote a significant amount of their free time is a challenge, considering that they might already be busy with family, work and other obligations,” Politico explains. “Certainly men face the time crunch, but sources noted women mention the problem more often.” Women “mention the problem more often;” those whiners. If only there was research documenting the “second shift” women work at home. Oh, there is.
Republican women seem to have more success on the woman-to-woman front. “I don’t ride horses and I don’t play golf,” says one big female GOP fundraiser. “I have two hobbies: One is my grandkids, the second is political fundraising for people I believe in.” That sounds nice.
The downside for Republican women? Republican policies for women. “[GOP] fundraisers say it’s important not to talk to women just about so-called women’s issues when seeking contributions,” Politico reports. “While some donors are motivated by causes like abortion or federal funding for breast cancer research, many also want to hear about the economy, health care and other issues.” It’s not working all that well for Republicans: only five of the top 20 female donors gave to the GOP.
Maybe it’s cranky to complain about the class bias of an article about rich people, but the utter ignorance of the context in which big money is a) controlled by wealthy men and b) rigging politics on behalf of wealthy men was jaw-dropping. It also ignored remarkable female success stories: in 2008, President Obama’s small donors (under $200) were disproportionately women, 56-44 percent. Men and women were equally divided among who gave Obama less than $2,500; over that number, his donors were three-fifths men.
Another success story for women that’s only mentioned at the end of the Politico piece is Emily’s List, which likewise cultivates smaller donors, expressly to support pro-reproductive rights Democrats. Three quarters of its six figure donors are women, but it doesn’t ignore women who aren’t wealthy. “What we’ve seen at Emily’s List is that a donor who comes in at $100 today, very possibly could be that six-figure donor in 20 years,” said Stephanie Schriock, head of EMILY’s List. And even if she doesn't become a six figure donor, Emily's List thinks her opinion is valuable.
Maybe there's something to that: the group is just had its best quarter ever, raising $9.2 million, and 90 percent of its donations were under $200.
It seems like Politico could have written a different story -- "Why women do give" -- but missed it.
*Apparently there once were semi-famous Koch sisters, a highwire act in Moscow in the 1940s.