Election 2012 Results Show Women Voters Making Huge Impacts in Politics

Happy Friday!

In case you were worried that the millennial feminists are gone — all gone! — fear not. I am still here, and I am still a feminist. I know you’re relieved. Plus, Mila Kunis is planning to create a feminist version of That ‘70s Show, so we’re all good, right? Right. We're all alright, we're all alright.


The election is over, but pontificating about its outcomes and the meaning of those outcomes is not. While we won’t have accurate electorate data for a long, long while (as PolicyMic’s own Amy Casil points out in her piece on voter turnout), pundits across the interwebs have turned to exit polls to further analyze trends in the infamous “women’s vote.” Buzzfeed has an awesome infographic showing different election outcomes based on suffrage which is definitely worth a look. Some even claim that women won the election.

I was particularly enamored of this excellent piece of long-form by Lisa Hix at Collector’s Weekly, which showcases postcards from the era of the suffragettes. From the article:

“The social pressures that resisted suffrage can’t be underestimated.” Palczewski says. “It wasn’t just that women had to fight for the right to vote, but women had to fight for the right to speak in public to be able to advocate for their own rights. The phrase ‘public woman’ actually referred to prostitutes. The assumption was, if you were out in public as a woman, unescorted, you were a prostitute. The battle for suffrage wasn’t just about the legal right to vote, but it was also about women’s ability to be public figures, not confined to the home. It was more broadly about women’s role in society.”

Hence why I was so determined to vote.


And so were others, like Mecca Jamilah Sullivan at the . She writes, “[T]o vote is to practice a strategic embodiment. It is to lodge one’s body in a deeply flawed system as part of a larger commitment to developing a world we all might be better able to live in. As feminists of color, we know that politics neither begin nor end with the casting of the ballot. But, for us, right now, the ballot must be part of the process. And so, when the dust settles on this particular moment in history and the two of us return home from the polls, we know that we will continue to voice dissent, to engage in acts of self-care, and to practice a set of politics anchored in the belief that liberation is something we must fight — in all possible ways — to attain.”

As Nate Silver — who is now widely known to probably not be a witch — accurately predicted, the gender gap this election was considerable.


But what does said gender gap mean?

 At the Nation, Jessica Valenti argues, “There’s no doubt that an upswing in feminist activism had a demonstrable impact on the election. From the Komen/Planned Parenthood controversy to transvaginal ultrasounds to ‘binders of women’—the vociferous energy surrounding women’s issues is indisputable. But there’s an argument to be made that women’s silence also contributed to Democrats’ resounding wins on Tuesday … Women’s issues that are seen as ‘fringe’ were actually central. And it may be that women who don’t like talking about how personally these issues affect their lives were not afraid to be loud in the voting booth.”

In contrast, at the New Yorker, John Cassidy argues that white women actually went red in the last election. (Note: The comments on this article are fascinating — definitely worth a look.)

He asks, “Why did so many white women vote for Romney despite his shift to the right on women’s issues during the G.O.P. primaries? One way to tackle this question is to ask why so many white men voted for him. Surely, many of the same factors that motivated white male Romney supporters played into the decision-making of white female Romney supporters. After all, in many cases, the members of the two groups are married to each other, and are shaped by the same cultural and economic environment.”

Again, it will be very difficult to suss out what the gender gap really was until we have solid data on how voters voted. Attempting to determine how and why certain demographics went for particular candidates will be near impossible, because it requires a certain degree of mind-reading. What I find encouraging, however, in these analyses of exit poll data is that they reiterate the fact that women voters are not a homogenous group.

You don't say.


In other election news, I was a little discouraged to see that according to exit poll data, women were the ones who decisively voted against Richard Mourdock and Todd Akin, though I was glad to see them defeated. I was even more depressed because Mourdock’s opponent has a very similar stance on reproductive and abortion rights. But, on the plus side, women made historic gains in Congress. (Here at PM, Meg Miller does an excellent job investigating the Warren campaign, just one of many historic gains in diversity in the 113th Senate.)  

A friend of mine at Nerdwallet sent along this graphic, which summarizes the race well.


One last piece of election-related coverage, from Rachel Maddow:


What did I miss this week? Leave it in the comments!