Campaigns fight for women’s votes, shift to economic focus

As Mitt Romney moves into the position of defacto GOP nominee for president, the fight for the votes of women continues to wage in polling, pundit comments and attacks from both parties about who is the best candidate for women’s issues. Earlier campaign fighting focused on healthcare and the debate over contraception, with some labeling the GOP legislative agenda as a “war on women.”

This past week that fight took on an economic twist. Fact checkers quickly pounced on Romney’s statement in a speech to a women’s owned business that 92.3% of jobs lost since Obama took office were held by women. Later in the week, Romney paused when asked if he supported the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Restoration Act, which makes it easier workers to sue over gender pay disparity (earlier in the week, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, who Romney has expressed past support for, repealed the state’s Equal Pay Enforcement Act.) Romney’s campaign later said he “supports pay equity and is not looking to change current law.”

But Democrats had their own share of fumbles with women this week, despite polls that show President Obama leading Romeny with female voters by double digit margins. Democratic strategist and former Obama adivsor Hilary Rosen criticized Romney’s wife, Ann Romney, as not being in touch with the economic issues facing women because she “never worked a day in her life.” Later, Bill Maher took the sentiment a step further, saying on his HBO show “What she meant to say, I think, was that Ann Romney has never gotten her ass out of the house to work.” Maher recently donated $1 million to a pro-Obama super PAC.

Mrs. Romney referred to the Rosen’s statement as an “early birthday gift” and was quick to retort that staying home to raise her five children was her own choice. President Obama included a statement in a campaign speech saying there is no tougher job than being a mom. Democatic operatives also put distance between the party of Rosen, who later retracted her “poorly chosen” words.

Want more about women’s role in the campaign this week? Check out these other sources:

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International Women’s Day, ‘war on women’ dominate week’s news coverage

This week women continued to be a featured angle in the presidential race, particularly in light of Super Tuesday’s primary results and the continued headline and discussion of the GOP’s “war on women.” Last week we looked at how this term was being used by Democrats as a fundraising tactic after comments from radio host Rush Limbaugh ignited bitter online protests and several advertisers pulling support from his show.

Photo from NYTimes.com

In his Tuesday press conference, President Obama commented that “Women are going to make up their own minds in this election about who is advancing the issues they care most deeply about.” However, many fundraising efforts have been focused on women’s health and birth control as key issues women will consider while voting. The Guardian characterized this presidential election as “becoming a referendum on women’s bodies” and the republican legislative agenda as a “regress[ion] to a pre-modern state.” In a New York Times feature, centrist Republican women said they may consider voting for Barack Obama in November due to the GOP’s push for limits on contraception coverage and access.

International Women’s Day

However, this week also marked International Women’s Day, and the Boston Herald was not alone in warning readers that American women are not the only group losing ground. The Wall Street Journal reported on the Afghanistan’s government support of laws that would require women to wear the veil and forbid them from mixing with men in the work place or traveling without a male chaperone, in an attempt to negotiate with the Taliban.  Additionally,  a prominent Afghani female activist’s office was attacked in what she called an assassination attempt.

Elsewhere, women in Egypt marked Thursday by marching to demand more equal gender representation in Parliament. Turkey’s Parliament marked International Women’s Day on Thursday by approving a package of laws aimed at better protecting women and children from abuse.

Read more coverage of International Women’s Day:

What do you think about the phrase “war on women?”

This is the Gender Report’s Week in Review, a weekly post that highlights some of the major stories related to gender issues this week. Some of these stories may have already appeared in our News Feed or in the week’s Gender Checks. We’ll at times include a longer analysis of stories as well as bring attention to stories that may have slipped through the cracks of the week’s news cycle.

Talk radio, women and the GOP: An extended Week in Review

Over the past few weeks, the Gender Report has been following the continued news coverage and debates on President Obama’s ruling and subsequent compromise requiring all insurance plans to cover contraception.

POLITICO - 3/1/2012

This week’s headlines on the issue gravitated towards comments from talk radio’s Rush Limbaugh.

On his show Wednesday, Limbaugh spoke about Sandra Fluke, the Georgetown law student barred from testifying at a Congressional hearing held by the Oversight and Government Reform Committee on the contraception ruling. Among other comments, he referred to Fluke as a “slut,” saying, “She wants to be paid to have sex. She’s having so much sex she can’t afford the contraception. She wants you and me and the taxpayers to pay her to have sex. What does that make us? We’re the pimps.”

The response to Limbaugh’s show was widespread and almost exclusively critical. Nancy Pelosi and other democratic leaders called the remarks “vicious attacks.” House Speaker John Boehner as well as the republican presidential hopefuls also spoke out against the language use. Friday, President Obama called Fluke, who told MSNBC the president “encouraged me and supported me and thanked me for speaking out about the concerns of American women.” As of this posting, seven advertisers had also pulled their support for the show.

Limbaugh eventually apologized for the comments as out of line and that he did not intend a personal attack. Some, including Rick Santorum and many democratic leaders, called the apology insincere. However, Limbaugh still stood behind his position against the contraception mandate, saying, “I think it is absolutely absurd that during these very serious political times, we are discussing personal sexual recreational activities before members of Congress. I personally do not agree that American citizens should pay for these social activities.”

This week’s provoking language, however, is causing concern for some Republicans already concerned about their party’s image with female voters. A recent poll released by the Pew Research Center found men, by 54 percent to 40 percent, favored the birth-control exemption for religious groups, while only 42 percent of women favored it, with 48 percent opposed.

Last week, several media outlets focused on Santorum’s remarks on the birth control debate, questioning if his support of the Catholic church would turn away potential votes. A Washington Post poll showed Santorum is less unpopular than his rivals for the GOP nomination, but other outlets cast his campaign and the party’s push as a whole to win women’s votes as less optimistic. A POLITICO blog post referred to Santorum’s campaign as a “perfect political punching bag” for Democrats, and an NPR story called him the  “candidate who personifies the gender gap in American politics.” An earlier Wall Street Journal article found Mitt Romney’s “milder” candidacy more appealing to female voters. Similarly, the Christian Science Monitor reported in mid-February that among Republican men, Santorum held a 10-point edge, while Romney was beating Santorum among Republican women by 9 points (quoting a CNN news poll).

A New York Times post noted that “comments by Mr. Santorum about related issues, including women in combat and the role of “radical feminism” in encouraging work outside the home… fuel the sense that the election could present women with stark ideological choices about their rights and place in society.”

Want to see more opinions? Check out these columns or posts:

Week of the Year: A look at our Week in Review

When we started this project, one of our big goals was to bring more attention to not only the lack of women in the newsroom, but also to the lack of women in the news. One of the ways we did this was through our Week in Review, a post each weekend that rounded up coverage about one or two big trending stories that either featured female subjects or women’s issues both domestically and abroad. Here are some of our larger trends from our 34 posts in this category:

Top 5 Week in Review posts:

  1. Week in Review: Women Journalists in the News” (Dec. 3, 2011) – A look at prominent cases of harassment and violence against female journalists working abroad.
  2. Women breaking journalism’s glass ceiling: The ascent of Jill Abramson and others” (June 11, 2011) – Ms. Abramson took over as executive editor of the New York Times.
  3. Supreme Court decision in Wal-Mart case brings out discussions about sex discrimination, re-emergence of ERA” (June 25, 2011) – The Supreme Court ruled against the filing of a class action lawsuit against the retail giant.
  4. Concerns expressed over victim blaming in New York Times article on gang rape (Updated)” (March 12, 2011) – a story about a teenage girl in Texas found critics questioning the media’s coverage of the rape’s circumstances and the girl’s clothing and behavior.
  5. The Debate: Is News Coverage of Michele Bachmann sexist?” (Aug. 13, 2011) – The former candidate for the GOP primary faced many stories involving her gender and its relationship to her leadership style and capabilities.

Not surprisingly, the stories our readers explored the most had to do with women in the media itself, rather than media stories that happened to be about women. Other media coverage of the Arab Spring, the continued debates about Planned Parenthood, other healthcare issues, and the politics of gender issues internationally also found and held our attention.

As we move forward, we welcome your feedback about the focuses of these Week in Review posts. Check out daily stories on our News Feed on Twitter and on the right side of our home page. Find a story we missed? Tweet it @GRNewsFeed or post it to our Facebook page.

In the coming year, we also plan to add a weekly news poll to our site to get more feedback and your voices involved in the discussion. Look for our first poll this week.

‘Pandagate’: BBC taken to task for including panda in female ‘Faces of the Year’ list

‘Tis the season for year in review lists and one list has caused quite a stir this week. BBC has received flak for its “Faces of the year 2011 – the women list” after it included the Chinese panda Tian Tian, also known as Sweetie, as one of the 12 women who made headlines this year. A similar list of male faces of the year list contained only actual people.

BBC – “Faces of the year 2011 – the women”

Sweetie along with her male counterpart, Yang Guang or Sunshine, arrived at the Edinburgh Zoo on loan from China earlier this month. Sunshine was not included on a list on his own.

After the release of the list, “#pandagate” began trending Twitter. Critics, including those on Twitter, took the BBC to task for the decision as well as other choices on the list. Four women, many noted, were included because of their involvement in marriages including Pippa Middleton (sister of Kate Middleton who wed Prince William), Sarah Burton (who designed Kate Middleton’s dress), Charlene Wittstock and the Duchess of Alba. In addition, two of the women were on the list as alleged sexual assault victims — Nafissatou Diallo, who accused Dominique Strauss-Kahn, and Eman al-Obeidi, the woman from Libya who told reporters she’d been raped by Gaddafi forces.

Several reports made note that the panda’s inclusion was particularly of issue since several headline-making women were not on the list. According to the Guardian, Labour MP Stella Creasy mentioned several women who made waves this year such as new IMF head Christine Lagarde, Helle Thorning-Schmidt, who became prime minister of Denmark, or the death of singer Amy Winehouse.

According to news sources, the BBC’s response was to note that this wasn’t the first time non-humans have been included as a “lighthearted” addition to the list – Peppa Pig was on the female list in 2010 and Benson the Carp was on the male list in 2009.

Many news reports made mention of an issue with a different list the BBC released earlier this year. BBC also came under fire for its Sports Personality of the Year awards’ 10-name short-list, which contained only male athletes.

Other “of the year” lists have also been critiqued, including the decision to pick Kate Middleton over Gabrielle Giffords as a runner-up to TIME’s Person of the Year and the naming of Dominique Strauss-Kahn’s wife, Anne Sinclair, as France’s “Woman of the Year” based on an opinion poll.

Read more about this issue in this round-up of stories:

For year-end lists without pandas, check out these selections and share others in the comment section below: