Republican men have been advised to bring policy “down to a woman’s level” because women do not really understand complicated things like pie charts or money. On Friday, July 11, a group of Republican women, mostly members of the RSC, the Republican Study Committee, met to discuss how the GOP can entice the support of more women voters. The RSC acknowledged that the Democrat narrative of the “war on women” has been largely successful. The Republicans seem to feel they need a way to combat this narrative and help women to see that the Grand Old Party serves their interests.
Most of the talk centered around reaching women on a more personal level; making an emotional connection. Rep. Diane Black of Tennessee offered, “We have got to do a better job of [telling stories], whether it’s talking about social issues or whether it’s talking about the financial issues and the jobs and the economy.” Kim Strassel of the Wall Street Journal, the panel moderator, and Rep. Kristi Noem of South Dakota agreed that the problem was not policy but messaging. “We just don’t do a very good job of talking about [GOP policies] sometimes,” said Rep. Noem. Rep. Black added, “Females will respond better if you can get a connection with a relationship.”
The dialogue took a sharp turn when Rep.Renee Ellmers from North Carolina stated, “Men do tend to talk about things on a much higher level. Many of my male colleagues, when they go to the House floor, you know, they’ve got some pie chart or graph behind them and they’re talking about trillions of dollars and how, you know, the debt is awful and, you know, we all agree with that. …We need our male colleagues to understand that if you can bring it down to a woman’s level and what everything that she is balancing in her life — that’s the way to go.” Ellmers then stated that what women really want is more time to get ready in the morning.
One cannot brush the remark off as another example of Republican male chauvinism because it was stated by a Republican woman. This is a woman that the GOP often puts in front of the cameras to give a female perspective on healthcare, the economy and other important issues. Women might be used to men thinking males are their intellectual superiors, but women need to fight against that mindset rather than adopt it.
Recent studies have shown that women apologize much more often than men, usually as a way to soften an interruption or for things that are not their fault. Other studies prove that women have trouble making their voices heard in mostly male situations. Women are often patronized and offered unnecessary help with academic or business pursuits. Every day women confront chauvinism and belittling attitudes. The idea that the Republican Party should, “bring it down to a woman’s level,” because if women just understood the GOP’s political positions they would agree with them, is terribly insulting.
One might give Rep. Ellmers the benefit of the doubt and assume she meant that women want to know how grand political plans will affect their daily lives; that they want to know how public policy would translate into the running of their households, their work and their families. The insult here is that Ellmers either does not think that other women can make this connection for themselves, or they cannot understand the language of government. A greater misconception is that the Republican Party does not need to listen to women when it creates its platform; rather, it just needs to continue telling women what to do in a more delicate way. Basically, Republican men have been advised to bring policy down to a woman’s level, especially because women do not understand pie charts or money.
In 2012, shortly after the Republicans lost the presidential election, conservative pundit Charles Krauthammer stated, “The problem here for Republicans is not policy but delicacy – speaking about culturally sensitive and philosophically complex issues with reflection and prudence.” His advice to the party was not to change its platform, but to communicate its ideas without giving offense. However, women are not going to be fooled by the same old policies cloaked in a new language. When Republican men are advised to bring policy down to a woman’s level it is likely to offend more women.
The new spokespeople for the Republican Party have been well-groomed, bright-eyed, smiling women, giving their message is very calm, moderated tones. Whether it is Rep. Ellmers speaking on healthcare, Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wa) giving the Republican response to the State of the Union Address, or Joni Ernst of Iowa giving the most recent Republican Weekly Address, not a hair is out of place and a frown never mars the countenance. No angry Elizabeth Warren or forceful Nancy Pelosi for the GOP. They seem to want to create an ideal of a happy middle class matron. This image may appeal to many women who have strong beliefs about being ladylike or women who believe the Republicans can gain them access to the middle class, but it leaves out the millions of women struggling with poverty and other real world stresses. These Republican women are very earnest and warm, but their message is still not addressing the needs, goals or desires of the majority of women.
Ellmers has defended her statements, saying they have been taken “out of context” and that those commenting on her statements are engaging in “gotcha” journalism. What she needs to understand is that there is nothing to “get.” She said the words in the context of how Republican men can better appeal to women, and she said her colleagues “talk about things at a higher level.” That is not out of context. It is very much in the context of the overall war on women that continues to proliferate today. The Republican Party needs to change its views of women and not just how it speaks to or about them. Rather than speaking down to women they should be listening to them. Women have a wide variety of views about different topics. Some are staunch conservatives and some are dedicated liberals, but all women want respect from the party they support.
Ellmer’s advice to Republican men to bring policy down to a woman’s level because women do not understand pie charts or money will not bring more women to the Republican Party. Honesty and true interest about what women are thinking would be a better strategy to win women voters.
Opinion by: Rebecca Savastio