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Voting Like a Woman

A popular mantra of political discourse in this presidential season involves lecturing women not to cast our votes as women.

There are various versions of this mantra, coming mostly from conservatives and too many Bernie-or-bust folks, designed to prevent us from voting for one of our own just because she’s one of our own.

My personal favorite is, “Don’t vote with your vagina.” Believe me when I tell you that no good comes from trying to picture that. Let it go.

The assumption behind this myopic view of a woman’s mind is that most women support Hillary Clinton because somewhere inside every American woman resides a 5-foot-5-inch tall white grandmother with blond hair and kitten heels. Or something like that. I really don’t want to spend much time wading in the shallow end of their minds.

At least a dozens times a week, I hear this mantra, regardless of the topic. When I objected on social media to Donald Trump’s mocking gold star mother Ghazala Khan, for example, the 10th response was, “Oh, yeah? So you’re voting for Hillary because she’s a woman.”

I hear this. All. Day. Long.

So far, explaining that Hillary Clinton is the most qualified candidate to run for president in my lifetime has failed to convince those who apparently have been residing on the planet Dagobah for the past 59 years. I’ve learned — and my, is this the season for lessons — that defending my support for Hillary can inspire the sort of responses that leave me marveling at the vile stuff some people let crawl across their tongues.

Moving right along.

Earlier this week at a Trump rally, a baby began to cry. I’m inclined to think that infant has the power of prophecy, but let’s assume for the moment that she or he was just rattled by the usual chants of racism and misogyny that have become so common at Trump rallies.

For a few seconds there, Trump seemed to be almost fatherly — in a healthy way, even.

“Don’t worry about that baby,” he said into the microphone. “I love babies. I hear that baby crying, I like it. I like it. What a baby, what a beautiful baby. Don’t worry.”

New York Times reporter Nick Corasaniti described what happened next:

“But the platitudes did nothing to comfort the infant, whose persistent wails seemed to be getting on the candidate’s nerves.

“‘Actually, I was only kidding. You can get that baby out of here,’ Mr. Trump said a few beats later with a slight smirk as laughs and a few gasps escaped from the crowd. ‘Don’t worry, I think she really believed me that I love having a baby crying while I’m speaking. That’s O.K. People don’t understand. That’s O.K.'”

Ah. There he is.

After seeing that video clip, I was reminded of a story about Gloria Steinem and crying babies that I’d heard many years ago. A quick search on Google and I found this 2014 account from Karin Lippert, who was Ms. magazine’s promotion director from 1972 to 1981:

“Sometimes in a college lecture hall there would be thousands and thousands of people … and sometimes in smaller groups there would be a woman with a crying baby in the back of the room. Gloria would say, ‘Would the woman with the crying baby please stay.’ And everybody applauded, and everybody got teary-eyed. It was an era when women were always told, ‘You can’t have your child misbehave’ and she would have left the room.”

We women have moved on, you see, and one of the things we left behind is men like Donald Trump.

When Khan stood silently next to her husband on that stage at the Democratic convention, Trump speculated that she wasn’t allowed to speak.

When one woman after another at Fox so-called News said Roger Ailes sexually harassed them, Trump said they should have pursued other careers.

When Megyn Kelly dared to question Trump about all the awful things he’s said about women, he later accused her of being on her period.

And you know what? Sometimes it’s true that women think alike. Because every time Donald Trump makes such statements about women, millions of us look at him and think the same thing:

Oh, I know you.

And our collective memory is bad, bad news for candidate Trump.

Connie Schultz is a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist and professional in residence at Kent State University’s school of journalism. She is the author of two books, including “…and His Lovely Wife,” which chronicled the successful race of her husband, Sherrod Brown, for the U.S. Senate. To find out more about Connie Schultz (con.schultz@yahoo.com) and read her past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.

Photo: U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks at Transylvania University in Lexington, Kentucky

Movie Review: ‘Suffragette’ Is An Unglamorous Look At Important Fight For Rights

By Katie Walsh, Tribune News Service (TNS)

The story of women fighting for the right to vote is all too recent, and for some, all too forgotten. Director Sarah Gavron and writer Abi Morgan bring the history of the British suffragette movement to bear in the film Suffragette, as a reminder of the struggles that have come before, and the achievements that have yet to be won. The resulting film is dark and unglamorous, but it burns with a determined fire, giving these women a revolutionary hero treatment.

Suffragette is carried by the excellent Carey Mulligan, who does career-best acting in an unshowy role. Her Maud Watts is a fictional stand in for the working class women drawn into the movement in the early 20th century, fighting alongside real historical figures Emmeline Pankhurst (Meryl Streep, in a glorified cameo) and Emily Davison (Natalie Press). As Maud, Mulligan is drawn and wan, her eyes tired, her mouth pulled into a wry, sad smirk, like she can’t even believe her situation herself. From a contemporary perspective, it’s hard to comprehend the realities of this brutal, bloody battle.

Maud works in a huge industrial laundry run by a sadistic, lecherous man, Taylor (Geoff Bell). As she testifies before a government committee, she was born there, her mother carrying her on her back while she worked. Maud started work at age 7, and at 24, the dangerous, injurious work of steam, irons and clouds of linen are all she’s ever known. Her husband, Sonny (Ben Whishaw), is passive, cowardly. The greatest, and only, joy in Maud’s life is her small son, George (Adam Michael Dodd).

At the laundry, her mouthy friend Violet (Anne-Marie Duff) starts to spout off about “Votes for Women!” and with the prodding of proud suffragette pharmacist Edith Ellyn (Helena Bonham Carter), and upper-class activist Alice Haughton (Romola Garai), Maud is soon embroiled in the fight.

Spurred by entreaties to civil disobedience espoused in Emmeline Pankhurst’s secret speeches, they become a group of feminist terrorists, which garners the attention of law enforcement. Like many other freedom fighters and revolutionaries throughout history, they are subjected to government surveillance, imprisonment and torture while fighting for their rights. These suppressive actions, enacted by a group of men scared to lose their power, only inspire the women to fight back with even more ferocity.

The torment that Maud is put through is devastating, but Suffragette, as a film, often robs itself of its own emotional power. The film is shot with hand-held cinematography, which helps to bring an immediacy to early 20th century London. But during dramatic moments, the handheld close ups are chaotic and confounding. During a powerful scene where Maud stands up to her nemesis, Inspector Steed (Brendan Gleeson), her face is partially obscured by his shoulder. It could be a visual metaphor for the continued presence of oppressive patriarchy that obstructs her path, but it’s also a frustrating obstacle in the audience feeling Maud’s vigor when she fully comes into her own power.

Despite these questionable aesthetic choices, Suffragette successfully ties together varied themes that place the movement within a wider context of civil rights struggles. The right to vote is motivated by economic and labor issues, and stoked by government persecution. This revolution looks like others that we’ve seen on screen, and the film legitimizes it while also offering a stark reminder that the fight is far from over.

— — —

‘SUFFRAGETTE’

3 stars out of 4

Rated PG-13 for some intense violence, thematic elements, brief strong language and partial nudity.

Cast: Carey Mulligan, Meryl Streep, Helena Bonham Carter, Brendan Gleeson, Romola Garai, Anne-Marie Duff, Ben Whishaw

Directed by Sarah Gavron

Running time: 1 hour, 46 minutes

— — —

Photo: (From L to R) Actresses Ramola Garai, Helena Bonham-Carter, Anne-Marie Duff and Carey Mulligan pose at the Gala screening of the film “Suffragette” for the opening night of the British Film Institute (BFI) Film Festival at Leicester Square in London October 7, 2015. REUTERS/Luke MacGregor

Female Voters Will Be Pivotal In Key North Carolina Senate Contest

By Renee Schoof, McClatchy Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON — Women were the key to Senator Kay Hagan’s election in 2008, and in what is likely to be a close race for re-election this year, she is stressing issues aimed at them — equal pay, health care, birth control and education.

The strategy is part of the North Carolina Democrat’s efforts to attack the policies pushed over the past three years by the Republican-controlled state legislature, where her GOP opponent, state House Speaker Thom Tillis, has played a major role.

Hagan’s game plan tries to capitalize on her party’s strength among women voters and gives her campaign a message that it hopes will appeal to women who vote independent as well. Boosting the Democratic turnout in the November mid-term election is crucial for Hagan, and Democratic candidates across the country. Midterms are traditionally low-turnout elections and often hurt the party in power, and this year it’s Hagan’s.

“In all close Senate races, male or female, Democrats win by winning women more than they lose men by,” said Democratic political strategist Celinda Lake. “So women are key to their victory.”

Particularly important for her will be the groups that traditionally drop off in off-year elections — unmarried women under 55, younger women and women of color, Lake said.

In a recent interview, Hagan said she would have “the biggest, most effective turnout operation North Carolina has ever seen in a Senate race.” She said it would include “neighbor to neighbor” visits to women by campaign volunteers.

On Monday, the campaign will unveil another piece of her strategy, the formation of “Women for Kay,” which will fan out seeking support and post campaign news on Facebook.

The group’s chairs are Betty McCain of Wilson, the former head of the state Department of Cultural Resources; Nelda Leon of Charlotte, a criminal justice consultant and president of the Hispanic American Democrats of Mecklenburg County; civil rights leader Minnie Jones of Asheville; and youth advocate Constance Hyman of Wilmington.

Hagan’s message will be pointing out policies that Tillis supported in the state legislature that her campaign believes are detrimental to women. Among them, according to the campaign, was his opposition to a state equal pay measure; and his opposition to a proposed increase in the federal minimum wage — from $7.25 an hour to $10.10 –that Congress also rejected.

Tillis also voted for restrictions on abortion services last year, and for a veto override on a budget bill that cut funding for Planned Parenthood. Hagan’s campaign says that Tillis has said states should have the right to ban contraception, though he hasn’t said whether North Carolina should do so.

Her campaign has also criticized him for supporting a constitutional amendment on “personhood,” which would grant legal protections to a fertilized human egg and possibly ban some forms of birth control.

Under Tillis’ leadership, the legislature’s 2013 budget also cut spending on education, opposed raises for teachers and ended a pay supplement for teachers with master’s degrees. In the current legislative session, however, Tillis supports an across-the-board pay raise for teachers for the coming year. Republican Senate leader Phil Berger and Republican Governor Pat McCrory also have said they support the raise.

Tillis spokesman Jordan Shaw said that the Republicans will “target our message” to women as well, and will portray their Senate nominee as someone who can “get the nation’s economy back on track.”

“I feel that Speaker Tillis has done that during his three years in Raleigh, in showing an ability to pass balanced budgets,” Shaw said. “We also feel like there needs to be a demonstrated ability to put more money in the pockets of taxpayers and less money to the government.”

Hagan’s campaign, meanwhile, ticks off a list of measures that she has supported that it says benefit women: raising the minimum wage; the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act in 2009, which restored rights to sue for pay discrimination stripped away in a 2007 Supreme Court decision; and the Paycheck Fairness Act, which, among other provisions, prohibited retaliation by employers against workers who disclose the wages of others in response to complaints. The measure failed to get the 60 votes it needed in the Senate in April.

Her campaign also says that she supported “measures that increase women’s access to preventive care and stopped insurance companies from charging women more than they charge men.” Both are part of the Affordable Care Act. Republicans have attacked Hagan and other Democrats for voting for it and assuring voters that they could keep health care plans if they like them, when instead some, whose plans didn’t comply, were forced to get new coverage.

Hagan also voted against a bill to defund Planned Parenthood in Congress, which failed to pass.

Planned Parenthood North Carolina plans to spend $3.3 million on Hagan’s re-election. It’s major effort will be to target a group of 135,643 voters in Wake and Mecklenburg counties, many of whom vote infrequently.

Tillis, according to Paige Johnson, vice president of external affairs for the Planned Parenthood Action Fund of Central North Carolina, has “run this legislature far to the right and has really pushed through extremist policies. And we are a moderate state. The extremism going on in Raleigh has, I think, sort of woken up people and they’re paying attention.”

Republican strategist Katie Packer Gage, a partner at Burning Glass Consulting in Alexandria, Va., who focuses on political messaging to women, said she wasn’t surprised that Hagan has made women a priority. She suggested that the senator is trying to divert voters’ attention from the health care law and the economy.

Gage said that many women feel worse off under the Affordable Care Act, or have heard stories of others who say they’re paying more or have found their doctors aren’t included in their insurance plans, she said.

The reason for all the political attention is that women vote in higher numbers and make up a bigger part of undecided voters than men do, according to the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University, which provides scholarly research and data.

They are also more likely to support Democratic candidates than men are, and they make their choices on the basis of the candidates’ policies, not their gender, said Debbie Walsh, the center’s director.

Noting that they earn less, save less for retirement and tend to live longer than men do, “Women feel more economically vulnerable than men do,” she said. “That sense of insecurity tends to lead women voters toward the party that supports the social safety net.”

When Hagan won her seat in 2008, she carried 55 percent of the women’s vote in North Carolina, compared with 41 percent for the Republican incumbent, Elizabeth Dole.

Still, Walsh said, this year will be a jump ball.

“I think you’re going to be seeing all over the country on both sides of the aisle a big push to reach women voters,” she said. “They have been a pivotal vote in elections.”

Photo: Third Way via Flickr