There Is No "War on Women"

The XX Factor
What Women Really Think
June 8 2012 3:28 PM

There Is No "War on Women"   

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Women: We often disagree.

Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images

What the hell does “the women’s vote” even mean? That’s the headline to Erin Gloria Ryan’s excellent rant against the general notion that all women vote in one giant lady block, passing each other our periods as we head to the polls.

Strategists and analysts and general political nerds would undoubtedly like to understand voting patterns, but is it useful to lump an increasingly diverse group into a misshapen mass and try to make heads or tales of their decisions? My personal pet issues are probably much different than a religious mother of 4 living in the suburbs, or a gun-toting female hunting enthusiast in the north woods, or an 85-year-old widow living on Social Security checks.    

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But if Ryan’s argument makes sense, then doesn’t it follow that there is also no “war on women”? That the phrase is just as much a media and political construct as "the women's vote" is? The religious mother of four living in the suburbs who doesn't care about the same political issues as I do  also might not feel attacked by transvaginal ultrasounds bills. And that 85-year-old widow living on Social Security definitely thinks Sandra Fluke is a slut. Sure, I can argue that all of these fictional females are wrong, but whether we’re talking about who we vote for or what we want for our bodies, we've all got our own thing going on. Autonomy!

This might be why only a third of American women think there is actually a war being waged on them (to which Ryan earlier wrote: “Good grief”). From the Kaiser poll revealing this new stat:

Among women, we see some differences in the perception of a wide‐scale effort to limit women’s reproductive health choices and services by religious identification. Overall, women who call themselves Evangelical Christians are somewhat less likely than Catholic women and non‐Evangelical Christians to say there is a wide‐scale effort to limit reproductive choices and services.

These evangelical women are, presumably, women. Women who want your/their abortion rights attacked.

So while there is undoubtedly a political assault on women who care about the same things I do—women who are probably a fairly reliable voting block, by the way—and while all women, regardless of their religious or political affiliations, would be impacted by rights-curbing legislation, it's pretty condescending to assume these women who don't feel bombarded just don't know better. As Ryan puts it:

While we do have certain things in common (usually boobs, neatly tucked away sex organs, two X chromosomes, and chocoholism, but not even those traits are across-the-board), our experiences and beliefs vary so widely (like men's!) that it's kind of absurd to expect our votes to align.

Or our outrage.

Allison Benedikt is a Slate senior editor. Follow her on Twitter.

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