What a difference 5 years makes.
When I stepped in as the About.com Women's Issues Guide in October 2007, the 2008 election was still over a year away, the U.S. had never had a viable female candidate for president, and the Republicans had never had a female VP on their presidential ticket.
The world had never heard of Octomom or a pit bull with lipstick, binders full of women, Adele or Sandra Fluke. Tina Fey was still a year away from doing her impersonation of Sarah Palin, and her hit show 30 Rock was growing in popularity instead of going off the air.
I'm no Jeanne Dixon, so I can't predict what the world will be like for women in the next five years. But here's what I'm hoping:
- The U.S elects a woman president. (Hillary 2016!)
- There will be so many women in Congress on both sides of the aisle that the Republican War on Women will be a footnote in history.
- The threats to women's healthcare will be a thing of the past, and reproductive choice will be maintained and strengthened.
- Women like Kathryn Bigelow and Tina Fey will become the norm rather than the exception in film and in television.
- We never see another Palin family member on reality TV, and Sarah never again runs for public office.
No, this isn't a wacky wish list I've come up with to salute Women's History Month -- it's my way of burying my goodbye to you and to the About.com Women's Issues site in a post that focuses on the future of the wider world and not just my own small corner of it. After 5 years of being your Guide, I'm off to make a different history for myself trying out new things.
For those of you who told me this site was your first introduction to feminism, thank you... and I'm glad you weren't scared off by that "F" word.
For those of you who argued with me thoughtfully (and no, calling me names isn't thoughtful behavior), thank you...and though I'm not convinced, I respect your views and your willingness to try to find common ground.
And for those of you who continue to fight the good fight on behalf of women everywhere... thank you for your continuing courage and strength. I'll see you on the front lines -- if not here, then somewhere, someday. Press on!
How can this be? A hit TV series and pop culture phenomenon in which half the female cast wear little if any makeup and sport hair so bad it's worse than 80s hair? Can we say O'Brien? Can you believe that the actress who plays her is pictured above? (O'Brien, we hardly knew ye.) But it's a credit to Siobhan Finneran that looks don't matter on Downton Abbey -- only acting chops.
Downton Abbey is like gummy vitamins -- it goes down so easily that you may not realize it's got stuff that's good for you. At the heart of this story about the Grantham family estate, with the lords and ladies upstairs and the servants below, are a handful of feminist themes that remind us that the rights we take for granted are ones that were not around at the time this period piece takes place. Women couldn't vote, women couldn't inherit property or a title, and if a woman was pregnant out of wedlock, welcome to the streets. (What the Dowager Countess might have made of Teen Mom would be something to consider.)
The women are the stars of the show -- even if the men seem to be in control -- because for the most part they rise above their travails. Sure, we root for Mary to overthrow the entailment and enjoy a bedroom romp without bringing shame down on the family, Gwen to get her secretarial job, Sybil to become a nurse and marry Tom the chauffeur, Edith to drive that tractor and write that column, and Isobel to right every injustice in the world including getting Mr. Moseley's father to win the Grantham Cup for his roses.
We root for them because we know these battles have already been won. At a time when women are open to criticism for wanting contraceptives covered, voting for a President who won't put them in binders, trying to fly around the world and maintain peace, and entering Congress in record numbers, it's good to know that somewhere in a world of beauty, privilege, fresh cut flowers and breakfast in bed, even wealthy women slim beyond reason have it hard.
While the women are busy trying to better themselves and the world around them, the men of Downton Abbey are acting like spoiled children.
Lord Grantham is busy dreaming of diddling the new maid, moping that he can't really go to war, and now getting his daughter killed because he had to pal around with another old boy from the club who was a doctor with more ego than medical common sense.
Thomas is trying to screw up Bates' life, get out of service by becoming a medic, get out of the war by getting his hand shot off, screw up Bates' life once again, make everyone's life miserable and throw his weight around, make a go of it in the black market, clean up the mess in the storage area he made after the black market thing failed, find the dog he hid so he could find her and impress Lord Grantham, get into the new footman's pants.
Matthew is moaning about honor and not taking Lavinia's father's money under false pretenses, moaning about his sperm count, moaning about the mismanagement of the estate.
I could go on.
Notice how the women save the men on Downton Abbey? Cora marries Lord Grantham and gives him a huge influx of cash to save the estate. Mary finds out that Daisy mailed Lavinia's letter so that Matthew can take his huge influx of cash and save the estate with a clear conscience.
Anna finds out that Bates wasn't responsible for the theft he was charged with. Anna finds out that Bates wasn't responsible for the murder he was convicted of; a neighbor saw that Bates' wife had pie crust under her nails, so she made the arsenic pie that poisoned her. (Earth to Batesie: it's not honorable to keep quiet and not implicate your conniving, grasping wife. It's stupid.)
Mrs. Hughes doesn't marry the farmer so Carson's perfectly-ordered household won't be upset by her departure and he won't have a heart attack. (He does anyway.) Jane quits so she won't "distract" Lord Grantham. (At least he still has his dog.)
And I could go on.
If you're not a fan, your head is reeling. If you're a fan, you're nodding your head.
For every powerful man, there's a woman who makes his success possible. For Lord Grantham, there's five -- his wife, daughters, and his mother. For Carson the butler, there's at least five. There is no throne at Downton Abbey -- after all, they're nobles, not royals. But if there were, women would be the power behind it.
Photo © Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images
Photo of Democratic women of the House © Mark Wilson/Getty Images
Like many, I'm excited about the 113th Congress because of the inclusion of so many women and because of its diversity and its many firsts. However, we ought to be mindful of the overall history of women in Congress and get better acquainted with those progressive women whose trailblazing efforts nearly a century ago broke the glass ceiling at the federal level.
Did you know that:
- the first woman elected to Congress won her seat even before women had the right to vote?
- the first female Senator only served for one day?
- or that she holds the record as the oldest person to begin serving in the Senate at age 87?
And who is it that holds the record for length of service by a woman in Congress?
Here's an easy one: which political party has women serving in Congress at nearly twice the rate of the other party?The answers are in the article History of Women in Congress.
Everything you'll ever need to know about women in Congress:
There's always a great deal of hoopla at those press events surrounding the signing of new policies and legislation in Washington. Sometimes when you scan the faces of those involved, the smiles are fixed and the cheer reads false -- but it's a politically expedient move and so mote it be.
But when Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin E. Dempsey addressed reporters and news outlets prior to signing the document that would remove the ban excluding women from combat, both men spoke with honesty and strong conviction.
Secretary Panetta told of his visits to ground troops and hospitals and his conversations with service members: "[E]veryone, men and women alike -- everyone is committed to doing the job. They're fighting and they're dying together. And the time has come for our policies to recognize that reality."
These and other words of his have been widely quoted, but perhaps Gen. Dempsey's were more moving if less polished.
His two most heartfelt first-person observations came during the Q&A following the news conference. He told one story of his landing in Baghdad as the commander of the 1st Armored Division and then boarding an armored Humvee. In a mood of camaraderie, he slapped the leg of his turret gunner assuming he was a man, only to have the gunner introduce herself as Amanda. Another story involved his return to West Point years after his graduation, and his opinion that with the admission of women, "it had become better in almost every way."
News outlets have found and given air time to dissenting voices -- as they always do -- but this was an internal decision that reflects the changing face of the military. Even Senator John McCain, a prisoner of war in Vietnam, said it was "the right thing to do." McCain, along with Panetta and Gen. Dempsey, stressed the need to maintain physical standards so that soldiers met the necessary qualifications with no reduction in expectations based on gender.
Women have seen combat in Iraq and Afghanistan, and 152 body bags of female soldiers attest to that fact. Saying that women aren't already in combat disrespects their service and their commitment to protecting the rest of us who aren't on the battlefield. With this decision, the military is finally giving credit where credit is due.
Female marine recruit training at Parris Island © Scott Olson/Getty Images
- With Ban on Women in Combat Lifted, Policy Catches Up to Reality
- Lifting the Ban: Quotes, Highlights from News Conference Transcript
- New Rules Open Up More Roles for Military Servicewomen
Anniversaries usually prompt reflection and celebration. But most anniversaries aren't as controversial as Roe v. Wade. A Supreme Court decision that was supposed to settle the issue of abortion once and for all continues to divide the country. Today as we observe the 40th anniversary of the legalization of abortion, the event is shadowed by widespread protests planned throughout the week.
Over the years on nearly every Roe v. Wade anniversary, I've reflected on certain aspects of the decision within a historical context.
In 2008 on the 35th anniversary, I observed that "Roe has never moved from the front burner of national political debate," and linked to the story of Gerri Santoro, whose grim story was often cited by pro-choice activists as an example of why safe and legal abortion needed to be protected. Santoro had separated from her abusive husband and was trying to build a new life with a new boyfriend, but when she found out she'd become pregnant she feared her ex would kill her if he found out. Her boyfriend attempted to perform abortion in a hotel room but after Santoro began hemorrhaging uncontrollably, he left her to die.
In 2009 on the 36th anniversary of Roe, I noted abortion was extremely rare on TV and in film, and that "entertainment media won't touch abortion with a ten-foot pole, even as other cultural taboos have fallen by the wayside." I followed this up with questions for newly-inaugurated President Barack Obama, wondering if he'd live to his campaign pledges as a pro-choice candidate.
In 2010 on the 37th anniversary I turned to other women for their thoughts, including Robin Marty who questioned the validity of the "fetal personhood amendment" because of her own personal story. When her baby died during the 8th week of pregnancy yet her body wouldn't miscarry, at 12 weeks she had a D & C, and at 24 weeks she was still "pregnant" based on her hormone levels. She wrote, "If the end of a pregnancy can be this fluid, how can 'this is the exact moment that a human begins and has rights?' Pregnancy is far too complicated for that."
In 2011, on the 38th anniversary I focused on the generational divide between older women who grew up in a world in which their friends and acquaintances died from illegal abortions and younger women who take choice for granted and seem disinclined to fight for reproductive rights. I linked to an essay by Dorothy Powell, a senior at Ohio State University, who worried over the growing apathy of her college peers at the same time lack of access to abortion was on the rise.
On this 40th anniversary of Roe, it's important to remember the history that led to Roe and understand the circumstances that women lived under prior to the Supreme Court decision. As Linda K. Kerber, past president of the American Historical Association notes, "Every state--and indeed every locality--has its own history of abortion: every state and every locality is less than a half-century removed from a time when abortion was illegal everywhere."
In her essay "The 40th Anniversary of Roe v. Wade: A Teachable Moment," Kerber encourages undergraduate and graduate students -- and those that educate them -- to continue to pursue lines of inquiry in order to "reconstruct a history that is in grave danger of being lost." She writes, "Roe's 40th anniversary is both a warning of rapidly fading memories and an opportunity to capture a history that still shapes American lives and politics."
Forty years ago, the Supreme Court could not have known that their decision would continue to reverberate for decades and be debated every time supporters and opponents clashed in front of abortion clinics and inside statehouses across the nation. If there's one thing we can can agree on regarding abortion, it's that we disagree.
How are things shaping up for women in 2013? Are the headlines from the first two weeks of the new year any indication of what's to come?
Three stories that have topped the list: a new Congress chock-full of women -- more than ever before, particularly in a Senate that's now 20% female; a changing Cabinet where the notable women who have chosen to step down are being replaced by white males -- appointments President Obama is being criticized for; and a departing Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, whose ill health has been the cause of much speculation.
My former colleague Deborah White, who recently left as About.com's Guide to Liberal Politics to blog at Liberal Politics USA, asks whether more women in politics means more protections for women. She focuses specifically on VAWA (the Violence Against Women Act which failed to be authorized by the House in 2012); the Paycheck Fairness Act; House hearings on birth control and women's health; and whether bills that will benefit women will be passed this year. Her conclusion is not heartening: "[U]ntil women hold 50% of Congressional seats, and not 18.3% as in the new 113th Congress, the presence of a handful more Congresswomen does not portend more bills passed to provide protections, security, and equal opportunities for women. "
At The Broad Side, Joanne Bamberger addresses criticism of Obama's most recent Cabinet appointments to point out that throughout U.S. history, only 26 women have been members of a presidential Cabinet. She writes, "It's not unusual for cabinet-level appointees to leave the White House in a second term. Those jobs have high burnout factors," and shares some facts about the women who've served in Cabinets past and present through an info-graphic courtesy of NerdWallet.
As for Hillary Clinton's poor health at the end of her time as U.S. Secretary of State eclipsing her accomplishments, syndicated columnist Froma Harrop praises Clinton while also condemning her for failing to "show more dedication to self-preservation." In her most recent column "Can Hillary Pace Herself?" Harrop observes:
The football helmet that State Department staffers presented Hillary Clinton upon her return to the office was cute, but only sort of. Same went for the "Clinton" football jersey bearing the number 112. That's how many countries she's visited since becoming secretary of state....
No secretary of state had gone to that many countries. In her nearly 1,500 days as America's top diplomat, Clinton traveled on 401 of them. During one famous 48-hour period, she met with Palestinian officials in Abu Dhabi, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem and, after doing an all-nighter in Morocco, a group of Arab leaders.
Of course, she got sick. Who wouldn't?...
What's not cute about all this is the underlying -- shall we say? -- irresponsibility of so overstuffing the agenda. This blows against Clinton's reputation as the ultimate Responsible One. It's thus disturbing that many of her admirers portrayed the resulting sickness as a tribute to her work ethic.
About that work ethic...my biggest issue with Harrop's piece is that she conveniently ignores the fact that gender bias remains an inherent part of the political system.
A female political figure, whether elected or appointed, has to struggle against criticism of whether she's fit for the task because she may possibly be distracted/compromised because she's a mother of children still at home, a wife with a husband whose job is demanding, or a 'crazy woman' whose menstrual cycle makes her unfit during her time of the month.
Every successful woman I know has a work ethic that far outstrips the majority of her male colleagues. She has to...otherwise she wouldn't succeed because the deck is stacked against her.
This is the same work ethic that put more women in the House and Senate and got them appointed to Obama's first-term cabinet in record numbers. Criticizing Clinton's work ethic -- and saying it may make her unfit for a presidential run in 2016 -- is a form of gender bias. Would Harrop feel this way about a man?
We're still within the early weeks of 2013, still feeling our way forward in a year that looks like it may bring greater opportunities than ever before. Here's hoping that they pan out.
Back in December when the New York Times published an in-depth look at a stomach-churning case of alleged gang rape and sexual abuse of an unconscious 16-year old girl involving members of a small town's much-revered high school football team -- and how photos and videos of the assault were disseminated through social media and Twitter -- the matter of the Steubenville, Ohio assault was far from an open-and-shut case despite ample video, visual evidence, and plenty of witnesses.
What's especially upsetting is that adults were present at one of more of the parties at which the assaults occurred, alcohol was being served to minors, none of the dozens of witnesses stepped forward to intervene, and many associated with the football team are defending the players and blaming the underage victim from nearby Weirton, West Virginia, for attending an after-game party and getting drunk.
Months after the August 11 assault, allegedly at the hands of the team's two star football players, the case continues to evolve and rally supporters across the internet, and its latest champions are none other than Anonymous, the international hacktivist collective -- specifically an arm known as KnightSec which targets rapists.
Earlier today Salon reported on Anonymous's leak of a disturbing 12 minute video of a young man describing the 16-year-old victim as "deader than Trayvon Martin," laughing about how she had been repeatedly violated, and telling friends he knows she's dead because "there's a naked picture on her, a wang in the butt and she wasn't moving. There's usually a reaction."
The off-camera giggling over these disgusting details and total disregard for the girl's life is hard to watch.
The Anonymous leak follows on the heels of the group's demand that a public apology to the girl be issued by January 1 or it would go public with names and information of the football players and staff who defended the teen perpetrators accused of the crime. No apology was issued.
The incident reveals the influence social media can have in crimes of rape, sexual assault and sexual violence. Groups like Hollaback!, the international movement to document and end street-level sexual harassment of women and girls, are actively using cell phone technology with its video and still-photography capabilities, to identify and publish photos of perpetrators caught in the act.
While these teens thought it was fun and cool to photograph an unconscious teenage girl being handled like a sex doll and dragged from party to party where she was violated and raped repeatedly, they were unwittingly documenting the commission of a crime and spreading these images to their circle of friends without realizing what they were doing. Although many subsequently deleted the photos, as reported by the NY Times a national crime blogger captured screen shots and continues to cover the case extensively on her blog,
Social media is quickly becoming a valuable weapon in the struggle to end violence against women. Police in the small insular town of Steubenville, Ohio, who might have been inclined to minimize the situation since there is little physical evidence to prosecute the alleged rapists, are now being held to a greater degree of accountability thanks to the visual records of the assault and the pressure of the whole world watching. What happened in Steubenville no longer stays in Steubenville. Thanks to social media, it's now all our concern.
Photo of Steubenville, OH © Rick Gershon/Getty Images
What exactly is a religion-based corporation? Can a for-profit private company claim the religious beliefs of its founder and CEO to avoid certain mandates under the law -- mandates every corporation is expected to follow? Would you need to know what the company did to form an opinion?
According to Forbes.com, Hobby Lobby began as a picture frame company founded by David Green in 1970 and "now has 524 superstores in 42 states....stock[ing] more than 65,000 items including arts and crafts supplies, fashion fabrics, baskets, silk flowers, party supplies and furniture." It has annual revenues of $3 billion and ranks at #147 among America's largest private companies. If Hobby Lobby has its way, its 22,000 employees (the vast majority of them women) will not have the same kind of basic coverage under the Affordable Care Act that other women working for other corporations will enjoy.
If you've never been in a Hobby Lobby, the actual retail stores are very much up front and in the customer's face with their religious views. They plainly state that they're not open Sundays so employees can be home with their families and worship. Their shelves contain many home decor items that proclaim the glory of God and Jesus Christ. This is probably what makes them very successful in some circles, bit it can be a bit much to take if you're Jewish, Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist, or any of a number of faiths that are based on non-Christian principles.
We accept the fact that there are Christian bookstores. So why not consider Hobby Lobby a Christian craft store? I'm not taking this position -- I'm merely playing devil's advocate in light of a situation that's been brewing since late last year. Hobby Lobby doesn't want to follow the Affordable Care Act provisions that require businesses to provide free contraceptive coverage (including the morning after pill) because they're claiming to be a religion-based corporation.
When I shared my opinion in a heated status update on Facebook that turned into this post, I expressed my dismay at the hubris of CEO Green in believing that his personal beliefs should trump public policy; and I also pointed out that this sort of thing is a two way street. If he wants to deny women (namely his employees) the benefits of the many essential women's health care services covered by Obamacare, I can deny him my hard-earned dollars, and as I mentioned in the post I've spent thousands of dollars on crafts over the years as it's my one true vice.
Recently Hobby Lobby's request for an injunction to block implementation of Obamacare's employee contraception mandate was blocked by Sonia Sotomayor; but as my colleague About.com Guide to US Government Info Robert Longley explains, "When Supreme Court Justice Sotomayor issued her opinion denying Hobby Lobby's request, she was actually acting in her capacity as 'Circuit Justice' for the 10th U.S. judicial district....[and] in no way represents the opinion of the full Supreme Court on the constitutionality of the Obamacare employer contraception mandate."
As Longley noted, "Justice Sotomayor based her ruling on the inability of Hobby Lobby to prove that it would suffer 'irreparable harm' without the injunction, rather than on the constitutionality of the contraception mandate itself. Short of hearing before the entire Supreme Court, Hobby Lobby could continue to seek injunctions from other circuit courts serving areas in which they have stores. Should such a request be decided by a more conservative Supreme Court justice, the result could be very different."
And he's right. This is the same Supreme Court that decided corporations are persons under the Citizens United ruling, and if they can be granted the same free speech rights as individuals, perhaps that may extend to religious freedom as well.
I stopped shopping at Hobby Lobby once I learned about this threat to women's health care. So have many of my friends. Over the weekend at a group gathering, when one woman mentioned she'd gone to Hobby Lobby for picture framing, she was gently but firmly educated by the rest of us.
I can't fault Hobby Lobby's CEO for his beliefs, but I'm not supportive of them when they presume to know what's best for his female employees so I'm going elsewhere these days. What's his loss is Michael's, Jo-Ann's and A.C. Moore's gain.
Every conference has one -- the workshop that outshines all others because it's chock full of concrete take-homes, practical advice, and real-world applications. The best of these workshops involves audience participation and a chance for a willing victim to step up and try a few of the presenter's tips and tricks so that the rest of us can see that they really work.
When I went to a 3-day retreat for women back in October, that workshop was "Speaking with Power and Passion" and the presenter was Robyn Hatcher. I knew nothing about her before attending her presentation, but she'd already made a strong first impression. This is how she did it.
During the dinner hour on the first night of the retreat, each of the 20-odd presenters was given the chance to stand up at the front of the room and pitch her workshop. Some gave the typical elevator speech -- 90 seconds of who they were and what they offered. Others seemed unprepared and uncomfortable with extemporaneous speaking; it was clear they needed a podium and their prepared index cards.
But when Robyn walked up and turned to face us, she exuded presence and power without sacrificing warmth and authenticity, and spoke to the group of 50 women as if she knew us all personally. Unlike many public speaking professionals, she was free of any affectations or mannerisms that felt forced and artificial.
When I walked into her workshop the next day, she'd already been thrown a curve ball; the morning keynote address ran long and had eaten up a third of her allotted time frame. But you'd never have known it from her attitude or her presentation. I took notes as fast as I could, only stopping to soak up those "aha!" moments when seemingly random bits of information fell into place. So much of what she said was rooted in psychological and scientific research, yet these details weren't dry or academic. Instead, they gave credibility to her words.
To be honest, I'm a lousy conference attendee because if I don't like a presentation, I'll sneak out. Most workshops bore me because I don't care for the style, delivery, or presence of the speaker. Having worked in radio and television as a producer and talk show host, I know when someone's got the goods and when they don't. Robyn Hatcher has the goods, and she's graciously sharing her tips and tricks here on About.com because I told her that I wanted to start the new year with smart advice any woman can use.
And I'm not embarrassed to admit it -- I can certainly benefit from more confidence and presence in many areas of my life. If you feel the same, follow the link below.
If I had a dime for every year that some pundit, op-ed columnist, advertiser or thought leader pronounced as "The Year of " female this or that, I'd have $5.10.
Okay, granted, I just gave up my age and named an amount that isn't all that impressive, but you get the drift.
At one time or another during the course of any given year, somebody gets the bright idea to say how marvelous, how terrific, how groundbreaking something is by declaring it to be instrumental to the advancement of women in that particular span of time.
To which I say, yada yada yada...then yawn in their general direction.
This past year we've been force-fed the syrupy notion that the London Olympics was "The Year of the Woman" because (supposedly) every nation had a female Olympian on their respective teams. In the case of first-timers Qatar and Brunei, I'll agree...but Saudi Arabia's two "Olympians" were tokenism at its worst.
The first was a judo "champion" who had never competed but instead had trained with her father, a international judo referee, in the privacy of her own home. (Had she attempted to physically interact with real-world competitors in her home country, she would have violated every law on the books regarding proper contact between unrelated females and males outside of marriage.)
The second was a California born-and-bred college student at Pepperdine University who had dual Saudi/American citizenship by dint of her father who'd retained his Saudi citizenship while living in the U.S.; Sarah Attar thus "qualified" as a runner even though her times were nowhere near Olympic qualifying times. Both got on the Saudi team due to special dispensations issued by the IOC.
Here in the States, we're being told to open wide and swallow the candy-coated idea that women did so well in 2012 (exemplified by the fact that more women than ever before will be seated in the Congress next year) because "gender bias is declining!" declares Danny Hayes in the Washington Post Wonk Blog. Danny decided this was the case based on studying local newspaper coverage of U.S. House candidates and a congressional election study of voters' attitudes toward U.S. House candidates.
How is his assumption flawed? Let me count the ways.
First of all, by focusing his research on candidates who've already earned their major party's nomination, he ignores the larger picture: political newbies who are "female while running" find it hard to even compete at the early stages because they don't have access to the same types and amounts of funding as male candidates who are already hooked into an old boys' network of financial resources and patronage. (This is why groups like Emily's List and the National Women's Political Caucus exist -- to offer support to women candidates.) Because a successful run for public office relies more on the candidate's ability to fund raise than her/his ability to make wise decisions, the "best" candidate isn't always the one who gets the slot on the ballot. Hayes may not "see" gender bias, but the bias is inherent in the system and is tough to overcome.
Second, his research is based on local newspaper coverage. In small cities and towns where candidates are rooted in the community and hail from families with long local histories, there is a level of civility and courtesy that is lacking in media coverage of candidates not personally known to newspaper publishers, editors and reporters, such as statewide candidates or national figures. Newspaper articles are also prone to more rigorous fact-checking, editing and scrutiny because the words on the printed page are more permanent than the sort of "here then gone" reporting that happens on radio and TV where it's harder to obtain a transcript of what's said.
Third, there is a type of gender bias that is insidious and hard to spot; words that may appear innocuous can be delivered with a wink and a nod, and sexist innuendo of this sort, especially that of radio talk show hosts who blather on over the course of several hours, can be much more damaging than the news report that is delivered in under 90 seconds. This kind of "media coverage" is tremendously biased, and to ignore the impact of these sources is akin to reporting a story with blinders on.
As for voter attitudes toward their local House representatives, again they differ from attitudes toward statewide or national figures because we tend to be more accepting of -- and lenient toward -- our own candidates who are frequently local boys and girls who made good. This would fall under the category of "some of my best friends are (fill in the blank)" -- examples of support for a group or class of individuals based on a single relationship with one person that offers convenient cover for a preexisting bias.
If gender bias were on the decline, men would understand women better -- well enough to know that we can't just "shut down" unwanted pregnancy from rape or don't agree that babies born out of rape are part of God's plan for us. If gender bias were on the decline, Mitt Romney would not have experienced as big a gender gap as he did with women voters.
Danny Hayes tried too hard to make 2012 a great year for us "gals" when in reality we had to fight to keep Planned Parenthood solvent and convince Susan G. Komen to not pull funding; boycott the advertisers on Rush Limbaugh's radio show to send a message that calling a woman a slut and a prostitute is not acceptable behavior; break out of the binders that one presidential candidate thought was the proper place for competent, capable professional women; constantly reach out to our representatives and senators to keep the Affordable Care Act from being overturned; and protest ignorant rape remarks from men who seem to not understand basic human biology.
Like every other year I've witnessed, 2012 had its good and bad moments. In the end, it's another ten cents added to the total. We'll know we've reached "The Year of the Woman" only when it's so obvious that it doesn't need to be said. Until then, hold onto your dimes. You'll need 'em.