Why Women Can’t Win (the Woman Question)

Katie Roiphe yawned about it. Susan Sarandon chanted vagina over it. And Maureen Dowd invoked it to school us all on catfight politics.Vote

The Woman Question, #NYC2013 edition.

Why aren’t (more) women voting for Christine Quinn?

Let’s overlook the fact that women voters are characteristically late deciders, making the data on women from polls taken before Labor Day, when most non-political junkies tune in, a boon to reporters looking for a new filly to jazz up this horse race–and not much else.

But the biggest problem with the Woman Question is the question itself. Its underlying presumptions are practically outlying, and predictably, they ignite a full blown feminine bitchfest. Shall I list them?

1) Asking why women aren’t voting for Quinn implies that women should vote for women.

2) Asking why women aren’t voting for Quinn implies that women have voted for women in the past.

3) Asking why women aren’t voting for Quinn implies that New York women would vote for women if not for some uniquely unfortunate Quinnian aspect of this particular woman.

If you wonder how well women take to these presumptions, take a look at the comments following any article on the dust-ups I mention above. Men come out to lecture women about fairness and the true nature of feminism. (No, I’m not making that up.) Women come out to lecture men about how they’d never ever base their vote on gender alone. Then men and women come out to lecture us all on how we’re in a post-racial, post-feminist, post-identity politics moment, and the only thing that matters are the issues, and [insert candidate of choice here] is the only person who’s right on the issues that matter.

What should be clear is that the question prompts a discussion (and defense) of voting habits almost to the exclusion of everything else, including an actual investigation of the candidates running for election. While I would never dissuade any voter from thinking about their process, no amount of thinking will change the fact that for most people, voting is an emotional decision, and many emotions simply are not experienced on a conscious level.

Emotions are tricky. For instance, I’d never presume to say that some of the most rabid Quinn-hating women are protesting too much to prove how much they don’t consider gender when voting. Or that women judge Quinn more harshly because they see themselves in her and want to believe they are less imperfect.

What’s the saying? Emotions aren’t good or bad, they just are. But for argument’s sake, between now and Primary Day, why don’t we all take time to figure out how we feel about our candidates and why? Our next mayor may thank you for it. I know I will.

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