What “many women” want in a president (according to ABC News)

6 Nov

Many women want to be in a relationship with a man who is clear, strong, kind, knows where he is going, can stand up when confronted and can make a woman feel protected and safe.  They really don’t have a lot of confidence in someone who is passive, unsure and unwilling to fight the good fight when needed.

Looking at the last debate through this prism for women, Romney came across as strong, assertive and clear, while President Obama came across as a bit weak and passive.  From this presentation — even with the issue landscape favoring Obama — women began to move to Romney (http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2012/10/what-women-want-in-a-president/).

–Matthew Dowd, ABC News contributor and former Bush-Cheney ’04 campaign chief strategist

So if I’m reading this correctly: I vote for the candidate I want to marry?


I’m sure when Dowd started writing this article, it made sense to him. But why didn’t he stop to read over it, before hitting “send”?

First of all, what a set-of up a premise: the choice for women is between a man who is kind and another guy who is “unwilling to fight the good fight.” The assumption being that the fight is, of course, good, so if the man doesn’t step up to it, he is, by default, bad.

And I suppose lesbians just don’t count as women.

As for “protected and safe,” yes, well, who doesn’t want to feel that way, men included?

And then the leap! Suggesting that women confuse presidential candidates with suitors… Off we go to elect a Husband in Chief when we cast our ballots today (or earlier, if we vote by absentee ballot)!

Now when I rein in my indignation for a moment, I do think there’s something legitimate in Dowd’s fundamental argument about a bias for presidential candidates who project a certain masculine profile (and I anticipate this will be true and trickier for future female candidates). That profile is strong without seeming too aggressive, and capable of keeping the US safe without being a global bully.

But it’s not just women who hold and are susceptible to this bias about what–and who–is presidential. The implication of Dowd’s article is that men are unbiased and clear in their own choice of president, as if it’s just a silly girl-thing to prefer the assertive candidate in a debate.

And Dowd isn’t just putting forth an opinion: he offers his own hopeful prescription for the future when he writes, “When we as men get better at constructing that model [of a blended Alan Alda-John Wayne archetype], we’ll be giving women more of what they want as leaders and as men.”

That’s right: When “we as men” (read: who control politics) “get better at constructing that model” (read: composing an appealing artifice), “we’ll be giving women more of that they want as leaders and as men.”

The answer, to Dowd, is not voter education for women and men about bono fide versus unhelpful biases. The answer is to capitalize on sexism and heterosexism to win.

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