and the
Citizens Economic Research Foundation


Barbara's Column
September 2002 #3

Pols should listen to the voters,
regardless of their gender

by Barbara Anderson

The Salem News
Friday, September 20, 2002

How come racial profiling is politically incorrect but gender-profiling is not?

I'm referring here to pandering, presumptuous political ads that profile me because I'm female and assume this means I vote differently than the guys do.

None of that instinctive issue-grasping for me, I guess; leave it to men to understand that "for the children" is manipulative, not sincere; that "security" doesn't exist anyhow, so let's not sacrifice our freedom for it. I'm just your basic dumb broad who believes that baby-kissing is an intelligent way to campaign.

Honestly, I'm not easily offended. But I was profiled and targeted and very offended by the very large postcard "Barbara Anderson" received from a candidate for district attorney.

John Burke -- a guy would probably recognize that he was only running because he thought people would confuse him with the last two popular Burkes who were Essex County DAs -- sent me a photo of himself surrounded by a virtual harem of female voters. There were elderly females, middle-aged females, young females, and baby females, all but the latter pumping their fists in the air in support of his candidacy. Why?

Because, the card explains, "the District Attorney has an obligation to the women of Essex County". Because he is "a candidate women can be proud of."

Did men get this same card? Did they get one that pandered to them -- for example, Burke surrounded by boisterous elderly, middle-aged, young and baby males? Did they get a standard political piece that showed a crowd of "people" supporting the candidate? Or were they ignored while women were targeted?

On the backside of the card, candidate Burke lists all the reasons that women are proud to support him. He has called for making domestic assault a felony. He wants mandatory minimum sentences for drug dealers and violent felons, post-incarceration supervision of child abusers and other violent offenders. Has made the education of our children about Internet safety a priority of his campaign.

Good for him. But does he assume that most men want kids to be victims of drug dealers, child abusers and Internet stalkers? Aren't we all in this together?

I admit I've never understood why domestic assault is any different from assault in general, aside from being harder to prove because there is less likelihood of witnesses. And some female part of me does kick in to wonder: Why hasn't the male-dominated political system made it a felony?

My brain responds: Because men are rarely victims of domestic assault, so it's not high on their priority list; because men have more reason to fear false allegations and that nasty question, "Do you still beat your wife?"

But my male friends are the ones who usually state a plan for women whose lives are threatened: Arm the women. Do you think that most of the women in the Burke ad agree? I didn't notice "arm vulnerable females" on his list of priorities.

Since I voted in the Democrat primary, I could have chosen him, but I prefer not to support candidates who indulge in gender-profiling. However, I really don't blame him too much; male candidates are very much aware of the gender gap, and respond to the oft-mentioned assumption that women voters are different from men voters.

My partner, Chip Ford, calls it "ovary voting," though he is usually referring to women who support women candidates for no other reason than that they share body parts that the male candidates don't have.

I'd like to think that he's wrong. Surely there's another explanation for Shannon O'Brien being the Democratic candidate for governor. Isn't there?

Kerry Healey won, I hope, not because Republicans engaged in "ovary voting," but because their gubernatorial candidate, Mitt Romney, wanted her on his ticket.

Let's pretend he was not thinking like John Burke when he made his decision. Let's all have a serious discussion, now, about Romney/Healey vs. O'Brien/Gabrieli without worrying about anyone's gender.

Being a woman wasn't enough for Maryanne Lewis, the incumbent state "representative" in Dedham, by the way, who lost to Selectman Bob Coughlin. This was a significant loss, since Lewis became a member of Speaker Tom Finneran's "leadership team" when he gave her a $15,000 bonus to count heads during the occasional House rollcalls. Citizens for Limited Taxation put an issue ad in her local newspaper reminding voters of that honor and of her vote for the biggest tax hike in state history and repudiation of three ballot initiatives that were passed by her constituents. I like to think her defeat is the beginning of a Beacon Hill revolution against the Finneran oligarchy.

Some other incumbents lost too. Salem's Mike Ruane was forced to campaign vigorously by someone who normally wouldn't have even registered as a threat, female or not. It's time for him to reward all those constituents who love him by respecting their decisions on ballot questions -- no matter what Tom Finneran wants.

"Respect for the voters and taxpayers," that should be the fall campaign slogan for men and women candidates alike.

Barbara Anderson is executive director of Citizens for Limited Taxation. Her syndicated columns appear weekly in the Salem News and the Lowell Sun; bi-weekly in the Tinytown Gazette; and occasionally in other newspapers.

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