By Caitlin Mock
I recently read an article published after the 2004 campaign examining the effect of the so called “sex and the city” voter. Project Muse discussed the importance of the young woman vote and how many of the political strategists in 2004 were eager to attract and lure in these young women. Women have always been a major force in U.S. politics through history and I would argue that many more decisions are being made by women behind the scenes then are actually credited.
In 2004, the “Sex and the City” voter was targeted as a single, white, professional and fashion forward figure. These women were shown more as consumers than citizens and their sex appeal was played up.
Exit polls from 2004 show that 23% of unmarried women showed up to vote, up from 19% in 2000. However, Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research Inc. says that unmarried women remain the largest demographic group underrepresented at the polls.
The editor in chief of Ms. Magazine said that this generation of women is well understood by marketers but completely misunderstood by politicians and I think this goes both ways. My closest friends are all in their low to mid twenties, all single and all completely apathetic and confused about politics. My male friends seem to embrace the competition in the political sphere more while women seem to be searching for a common ground so they don’t feel so alienated and turned off by negativity. My female friends get marketing, however. So it makes perfect sense that in 2004 voting was being sold to single women like a sexy pair of heels. In fact, the cover of Newsweek in 2004 showed four people’s lower torsos cut off by the voting machine curtain and the young woman was easily identified by the tight skirt, sleek legs and bright pink heels. I couldn’t find a picture of this cover but I’d imagine most of you can recall what I’m talking about.
Another part of the article that I found interesting was in the description of this third wave of feminism. It’s almost anti-feminine because it isn’t focused on collective action. They describe these sex and the city voters as being completely alone in their political practice. Politics is a lifestyle decision but only for a season and even though political awareness was a must have item it was almost so special you kept it under wraps. It reminded me of being really excited about a new pair of shoes but also hesitant to wear them in case it rained.
My question is what was the must have demographic for 2008? I didn’t hear anything about the sex and the city voter until after the election this year. I think this was definitely an election about personalities and with all the notion of celebrity, and in fact the many ads produced by and featuring young, mostly single, mostly white, celebrities urging people to get out the vote, I am surprised the sex and the city voter wasn’t mentioned more often. In 2007 there was an article published about the importance of single women but by the time election season really began it seems to have been traded out for the hockey mom and security mom and all the joes; sixpack, Biden and the Plumber.
Single women did favor Obama however they just seemed to be less of a target or force to be reckoned with than in 2004. I hate that single women are often depicted in these strategies as sexually available and just seeking affection from their elected officials. Do most single women live in a world mostly about women? Yes, I’d admit it. But if that’s the case then it’s even more important for women to become involved in the political process. With issues like reproductive rights being used as a right left bargaining chip every election cycle it is way too important to sit on the political sidelines.
We continue to show up more and more each election cycle and I hope that we will show up again in 2012 even if we aren’t as disgusted by the last four years. Please ladies, discuss politics. If you have to do it wearing heels and drinking cosmos more power to you. As Rebecca Traister of Salon.com said, “The secret isn’t to be a woman. The secret is don’t be a moron.”