Today in Lady-Pandering: Connecticut Senate Race Edition

What Women Really Think
Oct. 1 2012 3:43 PM

Today in Lady-Pandering: Connecticut Senate Race Edition

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An abiding source of fear for American women, Triple H.

Photo By Getty Images

The race between Chris Murphy and Linda McMahon, both senatorial candidates in Connecticut, would seem to be a contest between two perfectly competent pro-choice moderates. But at some point someone at Chris Murphy headquarters decided that the campaign would be won or lost based on Murphy’s performance among the 51 percent of Connecticut’s electorate who happen to be women. This, as we would expect, is the precise point at which the race tipped from a contest between slightly differing policy preferences to an ad war in which the question most central to our democracy is taken to be whether Linda McMahon is a traitor to her gender.

"As CEO Linda McMahon demeaned women to make millions in her business," insists an apparently demeaned woman in this ad. "She's targeting children with violent images and toys," says another woman. "Now she's trying to hide that," says yet another woman. Then with no transition and no context we learn from another woman that McMahon does not support mandatory birth control coverage by employers with religious objections.

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“Take a look,” says McMahon in her response, “I am a woman.”  She then stares into the camera, musters an expression of effortful bemusement, and denies everything the concerned ladies in Chris Murphy’s ad tell us to be true, absent the mention of “violent toys.” If you’re a single issue voter whose biggest worry is this cuddly Triple H doll, McMahon has irretrievably lost you.

I imagine that some women will feel more demeaned by this entire conversation than by anything in this Bleacher Report list of “25 Extreme WWE Clips,” which the site chose in honor of McMahon’s run, including the "gravy wrestling" bit. From my vantage point of near complete ignorance, WWE looks like a decades-long triumph of labyrinthine plot structure. This is more than we can say for the imagined world conjured by Chris Murphy’s campaign. Throw Murphy’s spot in with the rest of the season’s lady-focused ads and the picture you get of American womanhood is one of earnest cowering worry, often while toting a baby, occasionally while muttering said worries to said baby. Our emotional repertoire would seem to consist entirely of different shades of fear. Next to this, the world in which we regularly opt to wrestle in a bowl of gravy begins to look appealing. 

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.