2012shift

13 Sweeping (And Sometimes Contradictory) Statements People Have Made About Women This Year

Can they have it all? Did they decide the presidential election? It’s been a confusing year for the large, diverse, yet frequently generalized-about group that is women.

1. They rule the world.

Or at least, they will soon, argued Hanna Rosin in her much-discussed The End of Men, released this year. Basically, she said, women are better at developing the social skills necessary in the modern workplace, meaning they’re on the way to economic domination.

2. Or maybe they don’t.

A host of critics suggested men might not be exactly over yet: Women still make less than men a year after graduating from college, even in the same jobs; that women are more likely to live in poverty; and that moms tend to make less money than dads, in part because of discrimination against working mothers.

3. They say they want Alan Alda, but they really want John Wayne.

Henny Ray Abrams / AP

Matthew Dowd advanced this notion in the fall at ABC, as part of a commentary on female voters and the election (Alda = Obama, Wayne = Romney). It’s unclear if his predictions were borne out (did Obama turn into John Wayne during his campaign’s more aggressive final weeks?) and equally unclear — sorry, Alan — why Dowd did not choose more culturally up-to-date celebrities.

4. They “aren’t women anymore.”

ollyy / Via shutterstock.com

Suzanne Venker claimed that women today are scaring men off, because they “pushed men off their pedestal (women had their own pedestal, but feminists convinced them otherwise) and climbed up to take what they were taught to believe was rightfully theirs.” Her solution: “All they have to do is surrender to their nature — their femininity — and let men surrender to theirs.”

5. Or they need to man up.

A slew of stories this year focused on teaching women to negotiate their salaries more like men. And some in the media opined that to close the gender gap in bylines, female journalists needed to pitch stories more confidently and aggressively (again, like men).

6. They yearn to be dominated.

Writing in the Daily Beast, Katie Roiphe chalked up the popularity of Fifty Shades of Grey to powerful career women’s desire to submit to someone: Perhaps, she wrote, women were “especially drawn to this particular romanticized, erotically charged, semipornographic idea of female submission at a moment in history when male dominance is shakier than it has ever been.”

7. They can’t have it all.

Anne-Marie Slaughter’s Atlantic cover story on how hard it is for women to reach the top of their professions and also have kids went mega-viral, sparking criticism, debate, and a slideshow of sad white babies with mean, feminist mommies.

8. Or they can, kind of.

Ninety-six percent of respondents to one survey by LinkedIn and Citi said “having it all” was possible. And at Forbes, Lisa Quast wrote, “You CAN have it all…just not all at the same time.”

9. They can either be moms or feminists.

But not both! The “motherhood vs. feminism” debate (at least this particular round of it) was set off by Elisabeth Badinter’s critique of attachment parenting, continued in The New York Times and eventually critiqued on Salon: “There shouldn’t be any room for debate that being a mother and being a feminist are very much in harmony.”

10. There’s a war against them.

Jason Getz/Atlanta Journal-Constitution / MCT

Early this year, the concept of a Republican “war on women” (focusing on their reproductive rights) gained steam with commentators — and was endorsed by sitting politicians as well. The idea of a war on women became a defining aspect of the election cycle and was even adopted by Republicans who alleged the real person waging it was Obama.

11. The war is fake.

Some Republicans called the notion of a war on women ludicrous — RNC Chairman Reince Priebus, for instance, argued, “If the Democrats said we had a war on caterpillars, and mainstream media outlet talked about the fact that Republicans have a war on caterpillars, then we have problems with caterpillars. The fact of the matter is it’s a fiction.”

12. They decided the election.

The idea that women would pick our next president started well before Election Day, though which women was sometimes a subject of debate (was it married women? “Waitress moms”?). Romney’s “binders full of women” comment and its attendant parodies were some of the most visible manifestations of this notion. And post-election, many credited the female electorate with handing Obama his win.

13. Or they didn’t.

Before the election, some contrarians claimed it was really men’s votes that mattered, because they were more likely to vote differently than they had in 2008. And afterward, Hanna Rosin pointed out at Slate that marital status, rather than gender, appeared to be a more reliable predictor of voting behavior.

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