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.

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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.


Gender Check 3/7/12 – Northeast

Gender Checks are quick examinations of gender representation in individual news articles for the purpose of discovering trends over time. Click here to read more.

Website: Boston Globe (

On, one of the lead articles featured on the home page as of 10:20 a.m. (EST) Wednesday, March 7, was titled “Romney Wins Big, But Rivals Hang In.”

Here is its breakdown:

Subject:  Politics and Government: other domestic politics (Global Media Monitoring Project No. 4)

Word count: 1,359

Authors: Male (3)

Human sources (listed in order mentioned):

  1. Male – presidential candidate (from public comments)
  2. Male – presidential candidate (from public comments)
  3. Male – presidential candidate (from public comments)
  4. Male – political strategist
  5. Male – political science professor
  6. Female – voter at large
  7. Male – voter at large

Website: Open Media Boston

At the time of this post at 6 p.m. EST, the site had not posted new content since last week’s Gender Check.

Gender Check 3/5/12 – South

*Gender Checks are quick examinations of gender representation in individual news articles for the purpose of discovering trends over time. Click here to read more.

Website: Atlanta Journal-Constitution

On The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, one of the lead articles featured on the home page as of 9 p.m. EST on Monday, March 5, was titled “1 Killed, 1 Hurt in NW Atlanta shooting.”

Here is its breakdown:

Subject:  Crime and Violence: Violent crime, murder, abduction, assault, etc. (Global Media Monitoring Project 38)

Word count: 220

Author: Male

Human sources (listed in order mentioned):

  1. Female – relative of victim
  2. Male – police officer
  3. Female – relative of victim

Website: Patch Buckhead

On Patch Buckhead, one of the lead articles featured on the home page as of 9 p.m. EST on Monday, March 5, was titled “GOP Primary: Who’s Donating in Buckhead?.”

Here is its breakdown:

Subject: Crime and Violence – other (Global Media Monitoring Project No. 44)

Word count: 129

Author: Female

Human sources (listed in order mentioned):


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:

Michele Bachmann shies away from image as “feminist” frontrunner

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As the primaries for the 2012 Republican nomination come into full swing, one candidate stands out in the race not necessarily for her positions or her politics, but for her gender.

Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann officially announced her candidacy last week, and subsequently dominated the week’s news cycle, a considerable amount of which focused on her specific role as the only female candidate in the GOP race, and if nominated, the first female nominee for president from a major political party.

Many news sites focused on finding a label for Bachmann’s approach to politics, repeatedly asking her if she considers herself a feminist. Bachmann “demurred” from the question from the Washington Post, saying  “I consider myself a woman, an accomplished woman,” she said. She noted that many men are energized by her candidacy, and added that there is a fascination with a female presidential hopeful because of its novelty.”

But some think Bachmann could hold a unique demographic by embracing the dicey “f” word of politics. The LA Times said the word could “be the most polarizing label on the sociopolitical stage.” However, A CNN article speculated she would “cringe” away from the title, but went on to comment that her self-defined brand of “evangelical feminism” could be exemplified in her candidacy, which she has referred to as her calling from God.

Also of interest to the media’s exploration of Bachmann’s candidacy was the role of her husband, specifically in their “fundamentalist patriarchal model of marriage” as described by a Slate columnist. Though POLITICO described Marcus Bachmann as “enthusiastically embracing” his wife’s run, the article went on to say he could be more of a political liability than other spouses of candidates. The Gender Report has previously covered the role of spouses in political campaigns, and found similar pressures and vetting in other candidacies.

And Bachmann is not the only one responsible for raising the visibility and participation of women in Republican politics. POLITICO reported on a group of freshmen GOP congresswomen who don’t “neatly fit the traditional model of women” who typically run for office and are working to combat views that the Democratic party better represents the female constituency. But even in this group, only one, Rep. Renee Ellmers, of the nine women featured identified herself as a feminist. Washington Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, the youngest of the freshmen women, said she “doesn’t easily accept” the feminist label; she called herself instead pro-woman, just like I’m pro-family, just like I’m pro-man.” Currently Democratic female representatives hold 64 seats in the House, compared to the 29 Republican seats.

On the other side of the aisle, Sen. Kristen E. Gillibrand, who filled Secretary of State Hilary Clinton’s vacated seat in 2009, is also working to elevate women’s role in political activism. Her organization, Off the Sidelines, recruits and raises money for female candidates. The New York Times said Gillibrand “epitomizes the ways in which women are asserting themselves in politics these days. “

No doubt as this primary season unfolds, Bachmann’s gender and role, or denial thereof, as a candidate advancing the position of women will extend beyond just this initial coverage, and we hope her candidacy will continue to push women from all ideologies to involve themselves in American political discourse.

For more statistics and studies on women in politics, check out the Center for American Women in Politics to find statistics and information from Rutgers University.