To Hell with Well Behaved; Women Who Are Interested and Involved in Politics Talk Quietly about How No One Is Chasing Their Vote. Then They Sigh and Move On

By Quindlen, Anna | Newsweek, June 28, 2004 | Go to article overview

To Hell with Well Behaved; Women Who Are Interested and Involved in Politics Talk Quietly about How No One Is Chasing Their Vote. Then They Sigh and Move On


Quindlen, Anna, Newsweek


Byline: Anna Quindlen

Recently a young mother asked for advice. What, she wanted to know, was she to do with a 7-year-old who was obstreperous, outspoken and inconveniently willful?

"Keep her," I replied.

Not helpful, but heartfelt. I have never been a fan of tractable women, having mostly experienced self-loathing when I tried to masquerade as one. Yet despite progress and change, liberation and self-examination, she has a way of resurrecting herself, the girl who sits with her hands folded, the woman who keeps her mouth shut.

WELL-BEHAVED WOMEN DON'T MAKE HISTORY, says the T shirt a college student sent me. It's been worn and washed so often, it's the texture of tissue.

Here she comes again, the fantasy and the reality. Hollywood has showcased her in a remake of "The Stepford Wives," in which judges, doctors and executives are remade by their husbands into Stay-at-Home Barbies, and apparently the most shocking thing a woman can admit is that she's more accomplished than her spouse. As punishment for this heresy, she must be transformed into a vacuous trophy wife. This is either satire or wish fulfillment, depending on how you see studio execs. Of course, there is the sub rosa suggestion abroad in the world that it is actually more soothing to shop and lunch than perform surgery. But only if you're a girl. When it is suggested that men might be happier playing golf full time than closing a deal, it is called downsizing and is a bad thing.

And in real life we have the Stepford voters, who are supposed to go along to get along, taking what they're given. At cause luncheons throughout the country, women who are interested and involved in politics talk quietly about how no one seems to be chasing their support. Then they sigh and move on. Which may be what John Kerry will be doing if he keeps this up.

The gender gap has been the most persistent voter phenomenon in presidential elections in the past 25 years. Men disproportionately support the Republicans and women the Democrats. Depending on whom you talk to, this is either because men are more interested in fiscal issues and women in social concerns or because men couldn't care less about sex discrimination, sexual harassment and unwanted pregnancies and women have to live with all three. Although not so the ruling Republicans would notice.

Many progressive Republican women--not an oxymoron--have become disenchanted with George W. Bush, who began his term by blocking aid to foreign family-planning groups and went on to allow his attorney general to try to rifle through the private medical files of women who had had abortions. …

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