How to Talk to Republican Congressmen: A Guide for Women

What women really think about news, politics, and culture.
Dec. 10 2013 2:39 PM

How to Talk to Republican Congressmen

A guide for women.

John Boehner
House Speaker John Boehner has acknowledged the GOP needs help speaking to women, but how should ladies get through to him?

Photo by Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images

Last week, House Speaker John Boehner conceded that House Republicans probably need to learn how to speak to women. As a result of the gender gap that plagued GOP candidates and Mitt Romney in the 2012 elections, the National Republican Congressional Committee is now teaching male candidates running against female challengers or incumbents about how to discuss rape, for instance. “Multiple sessions” have evidently been devoted to linguistic skills training. After several years of gaffes ranging from Todd Akin’s efforts to parse “legitimate rape” and Saxby Chambliss’ attempt to blame military sexual assault on “hormones,” even Boehner concedes that there is a need for the men of the GOP to “be a little more sensitive.” A senior House Republican strategist told CNN last week that this extensive training will help GOP men understand how women want to be addressed: “First and foremost what we tell them to do (is) talk about yourself as a husband and a father,” he explained.

Dahlia Lithwick Dahlia Lithwick

Dahlia Lithwick writes about the courts and the law for Slate. Follow her on Twitter.

The plot further thickened this weekend when Iowa’s Republican Senate candidate Mark Jacobs sat down for a Sunday interview and explained, in a response to a question about the “biggest difference between men and women,” that “I think you have to connect with women on an emotional level. And with a wife of 25 years and an 18-year-old daughter, I’ve had a lot of coaching on that.”

Now, all of this is interesting, as far as it goes, but it really does elide the larger question: Given that Republican congressmen are being trained to talk to women voters as though we are their wives and daughters, what can women voters learn about how to talk to Republican congressmen?

Advertisement

Stop and consider: Maybe the reason the GOP has been so inexpressibly deaf to the wants and needs of women constituents over the past few decades is because we have been attempting to address them as co-workers and colleagues and doctors and bosses and neighbors and friends.  When all along, we should have been talking to them in the manner of wives and daughters. Sure, you may balk initially, at the idea of having to importune your own elected representative the way Gloria and Edith once cajoled Archie Bunker. But there are real lessons here, my sisters. And we should learn them and employ them. If we can master the basic skills required in order to Talk to Your Republican Congressman, we may finally be heard on Capitol Hill.

So, for instance, you have perhaps become accustomed to asking your Republican congressman to respect your reproductive choices when it comes to matters of birth control and abortion. You may have been attempting to make logic-based arguments about bodily autonomy and the right to control your own economic and professional destiny. But next time you talk to a male Republican member of Congress, try this one instead: “Daddy? Can I please borrow the keys to my uterus?”

Or let’s say the GOP stands poised to cut funding for food stamps this week, thus ending nutrition aid for 47 million poor people, including 210,000 children’s school meals. As a woman, or even a human, you might want to talk rationally to your Republican congressman about the moral failure or fiscal shortsightedness in allowing the poorest Americans—many of whom are working—to go hungry. But knowing that rational policy arguments from women are apt to fall upon deaf ears, might I suggest the following simple substitution? “Honey? May I have $82.5 billion? There’s a HUGE sale on food stamps at Neiman Marcus this weekend?” (I’d accessorize this one with a dry martini, a French twist, and a short, red manicure.)

Just imagine that you’d like to have a meaningful conversation about sexual assault in the military, or NSA surveillance, or the judicial vacancy crisis, or the economic recovery, or health policy, or equal pay, or the environment, or any other policy matter that vexes you. It seems clear that marshaling thoughtful analysis, meaningful statistics, and good arguments would be a complete and utter waste of your time, given that the men of the GOP are being trained to talk to you like you are still strapped into the Dora the Explorer booster seat behind them. So next time I find myself in conversation with a Republican congressman I am going to bust out a foot stamp, a hair toss, and an “It’s not fair.” Then I will hold my breath. And I am going to repeat those moves over and over until I get my way. Join me?

Ultimately, the enduring lesson for actual human women learning of the new GOP imperative to try to “connect with them at an emotional level” is that wasting a lot of time and energy on rational discourse is probably going to be fruitless. You’re going to need to emote more, if you want to be heard, and also probably be preparing a garnish (I like radish roses). So in the runup to the midterm elections, if you find yourselves flummoxed by GOP males and their strange efforts to talk about your feelings while also scanning the newspaper and hoping for a snack, remember that it’s of paramount importance to connect with them on an emotional level. As in: “I feel ...  I feel ... I feel like you need to find another job.”

TODAY IN SLATE

Politics

Meet the New Bosses

How the Republicans would run the Senate.

The Government Is Giving Millions of Dollars in Electric-Car Subsidies to the Wrong Drivers

Scotland Is Just the Beginning. Expect More Political Earthquakes in Europe.

Cheez-Its. Ritz. Triscuits.

Why all cracker names sound alike.

Friends Was the Last Purely Pleasurable Sitcom

The Eye

This Whimsical Driverless Car Imagines Transportation in 2059

Medical Examiner

Did America Get Fat by Drinking Diet Soda?  

A high-profile study points the finger at artificial sweeteners.

The Afghan Town With a Legitimately Good Tourism Pitch

A Futurama Writer on How the Vietnam War Shaped the Series

  News & Politics
Photography
Sept. 21 2014 11:34 PM People’s Climate March in Photos Hundreds of thousands of marchers took to the streets of NYC in the largest climate rally in history.
  Business
Business Insider
Sept. 20 2014 6:30 AM The Man Making Bill Gates Richer
  Life
Quora
Sept. 20 2014 7:27 AM How Do Plants Grow Aboard the International Space Station?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 19 2014 4:58 PM Steubenville Gets the Lifetime Treatment (And a Cheerleader Erupts Into Flames)
  Slate Plus
Tv Club
Sept. 21 2014 1:15 PM The Slate Doctor Who Podcast: Episode 5  A spoiler-filled discussion of "Time Heist."
  Arts
Television
Sept. 21 2014 9:00 PM Attractive People Being Funny While Doing Amusing and Sometimes Romantic Things Don’t dismiss it. Friends was a truly great show.
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 21 2014 11:38 PM “Welcome to the War of Tomorrow” How Futurama’s writers depicted asymmetrical warfare.
  Health & Science
The Good Word
Sept. 21 2014 11:44 PM Does This Name Make Me Sound High-Fat? Why it just seems so right to call a cracker “Cheez-It.”
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.