Akin and Romney Release New Ads Aimed at Women

What Women Really Think
Sept. 20 2012 1:30 PM

Akin and Romney Release New Ads Aimed at Women

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Romney tells a baby debtor that she's $50,000 in the hole.

Photo by NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/GettyImages

This Thursday brings us two new Republican videos pitched at ladies—one from the Akin camp, and another from the anti-Akiners over at Romney HQ. Imagine, for a moment, what it is like to be the campaign staffer responsible for resurrecting Mr. Akin’s reputation among members of the gender he so ably alienated. Said staffer, to his or her credit, does a decent job in this ad, which involves various sympathetic, together-seeming women talking about the economy, Todd's niceness, and abortion while avoiding terms like “rape,” “legitimate,” and “shutting down.” Music playing behind them suggests they’re minutes away from a therapeutic massage. Things get a little strange at the end, when a blonde who describes Todd as “very convicted” starts listing issues she takes to be the special province of her gender:

There are a lot of women’s issues where women are under attack. One of those issues would be pornography, one would be sex trafficking. Depression of women. A lot of those issues take away from the dignity of women.

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Porn, sex-trafficking, and major depressive disorder: not, perhaps, the list I would have chosen, but one that reminds us nonetheless that the definition of a “women’s issue” is very subjective. 

The Romney campaign remains convinced/hopeful that the economy is the only such issue, and thus we get this soft-focus “Dear Daughter” ad, in which a mother in some kind of organic-looking white garb bombards her baby daughter with heavy statistics:

Dear Daughter, Welcome to America. Your share of Obama debt is over $50,000, and it grows every day. Obama’s policies are making it harder on women. The poverty rate for women? The highest in 17 years. More women are unemployed under President Obama. More than five and a half million women can’t find work. That’s what Obama’s policies have done for women.

The baby responds to these numbers by smiling, from which we can assume that she is cheering on the country’s downfall. It would be interesting to know whether the aesthetic choices here—soporific music in Akin’s case, soft focus in Romney's—are borne of any actual evidence about the preferences of the intended audience. As it is, it looks as if they think we need to be calmed before we can be reasoned with. That or they’re just trying to hypnotize us, which may, given recent poll numbers, be what it takes.

Kerry Howley's work has appeared in the Paris Review, Bookforum, and the New York Times Magazine. She is currently finishing a book about consensual violence, ecstatic experience, and the body.