Presidential Poll: Women Scorn Sexist Media, Feminists

Illustration for article titled Presidential Poll: Women Scorn Sexist Media, Feminists

Tina Brown's internet baby The Daily Beast recently hired former Clinton strategist Mark Penn's firm to conduct a study about Americans' perception of sexism following the Presidential election. Leaving aside the situational irony of hiring a firm whose named partner convinced Hillary Clinton to unsex herself to prove that she can be Commander In Chief, it has some interesting (if sometimes obvious) results. Basically, people think sexism still exists, but they still hate feminists. WTF?According to the study, 61 percent of women think the media is biased against women and that it treated Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin unfairly. More than half of the women polled think Clinton was treated unfairly in the media and 70 percent thought Palin got shafted. One reason? Older women pointed to the focus on the female candidates' appearances:

Women over 50 said Palin was asked questions and subjected to unfair comments by a remarkable 2/1. They are more likely to recall stories being written about Palin’s hair and clothes than Obama’s healthcare plans. Despite the large volume of stories about the appearance of the candidates, 70% of women think those topics are not fair game for discussion.


Which is all well and good and I don't disagree that people should read more about policy issues, but my experience this cycle is a lot more of our readers clicked through and commented on stories about Wardrobe-gate than any of my posts on serious policy issues like health reform — and I'll bet, if you asked another, more "mainstream" media outlet, the story was the same. Newspapers, magazines and blogs are money-making enterprises, and they make money selling readers stories. So unless these women spent more time trying to read about health care reform — and I believe they didn't — and were stymied by the wall-to-wall Wardrobe-gate coverage, it's not really fair to blame the media for giving them what they obviously wanted to read. Worse yet, according to the Daily Beast poll, the same women decrying the sexist media coverage not only won't call themselves feminists, they would be horrified if their daughters did so:

Voters reject the term and the category of being a “feminist,” with only 20% of women willing to use that word about themselves. Nor do they want their daughters to become feminists—only 17% of voters said they would welcome their daughters using that label.


In the least surprising results, men thought everything was fairer than women did, with two-thirds of men claiming they treated women equally at home compared to half of women thinking they were treated equal to the men in their lives behind closed doors. And although they recognize — to a degree — that women have it harder at work and in politics than men, there's nary a Bradley effect in sight when asked about a woman President:

But 4 in 10 men freely admit sexist attitudes towards a female president. 39% of men say that a male is “naturally more suited” to carrying out the duties of the office. Almost equal numbers doubted that a women would be strong enough to carry out the job of Commander in Chief.

That means that nearly half of the men surveyed, despite all their bullshitting about how women don't have it that bad, don't think that men and women are actually equal in their leadership capabilities. Sexism, I guess, isn't a problem as long as we don't expect to be treated like we're as good as men — and as long as we don't have to call ourselves "feminists" to boot. The Barrier That Didn’t Fall [The Daily Beast] Earlier: McCain (Palin) On Women's Issues: When It's Not Sparse, It's Not Good Standing Up For Equality Can Have Its Downsides McCain And Contraception Another Week, Another Unsuccessful Tactic From McCain-Palin (This Time, It's Abortion) Marriage Equality? Money Talks, And Politicians Ought To HIV Proven To Be Older Than John McCain (And His Bad AIDS Policies) Equal Pay? Women Of Color Get The Short End Of The Stick Pay Equity For Women In The U.S., U.K. Remains Elusive Despite "Education And Training" A Uterus Costs 50% More In McCain's Health Insurance Market

Share This Story

Get our newsletter



There is a pervasive sentiment here that mainstream America would be more accepting of the feminist movement if it weren't so associated with or "demonized" by images of angry, unshaven lesbians. As an often-angry, sometimes-unshaven, all-the-time lesbian, I'm disheartened by the language used and the disconnect in a community of would-be allies. Even if this is a way to point to the ridiculous nature of existing criticism of the feminist movement and to defend the word, don't throw us under the bus to do it! Of course not all feminists are ugly, hairy, militant, man-hating lesbians! So let's stop stringing all those words together; let's stop strengthening stereotypes through repetition.