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Candidates must drop lip service to woo women

THE WOOING of the women -- that has turned out to be an appropriate title for this year's presidential race. We are the undecideds, we have the swing vote, the focus is on us. And apparently, the way to win us over is through kisses, charm and perhaps a few "women's issues," because we could care less about anything else. Funny, I thought that equality stuff had been worked out in the '70s. Unfortunately, the media and the candidates still think that being touchy-feely and super sensitive is the way to win women over -- an insult to any woman's intelligence.

The most obvious example is "the kiss" at the Democratic convention between Vice President Al Gore and his wife Tipper. Whether or not it actually was staged in order to attract women --through showing a passionate and loving relationship in contrast to the Clintons' -- the problem is that the media interpreted it that way.

The kiss and the relationship it symbolizes were given too much credit for the fact that the majority of women support Gore. Other factors certainly are more pertinent, namely that women are more likely to vote Democrat than men, anyway. And Gore actually doesn't lead Texas Gov. George W. Bush (R) among married women, who presumably would be most drawn to the concept of a passionate middle-age couple.

One kiss leads logically to another -- or the lack thereof -- on Oprah Winfrey's talk show. Gore didn't kiss Oprah after his interview while Bush did, and the media thinks that this is news. But a kiss on the cheek -- or any kiss, anytime, anywhere -- is not going to be what women vote on. It's a nice change from the ice queen and the adulterer, but it's not what really matters. Women are not that superficial, and we expect our nation's leaders to do more than smooch.

We also expect them to do more than chitchat to earn our votes. Yes, we tuned in to Oprah's interviews, and yes, we were curious about our candidate's favorite sandwiches and boyhood memories. But curious is the key word. Women are interested in quirks and personal experiences -- and men probably are too, although they won't admit it -- but personality tidbits are no substitute for issues.

Of course, Gore and Bush do spend time talking about issues, and sometimes use them to try to appeal to women. The problem is, they think women only care about a select few "women's issues."

The Gore/Lieberman Web site ( is a prime example of the attitude the Democratic ticket takes towards women. The site has a search engine of issues, and one of these is "women's issues." The first article it contains is titled, "Host a Women for Gore Watch Party." Because women are hostesses and women like to get together and gossip, right? Why shouldn't there be a "Men for Gore" party complete with beer and pretzels? Maybe that's an overreaction to an innocent idea, but candidates who want to appeal to women shouldn't rely on appealing to stereotypes.

Education, gun safety and abortion are among the issues that Gore claims as women's. Although Bush and Cheney don't have a comparable "women's" site, Bush's extensive, repetitive pro-family rhetoric is what he believes will attract women voters.

Certainly, women care about these issues, but it's wrong to think that issues involving children -- the quality and safety of their schools and the decision to have them -- are solely in the women's domain. Men should be offended that they're not expected to have opinions on these issues, and women should protest the expectation that they don't care about anything else.

Some women care most about foreign policy, the economy, the environment or any given issue, as do some men. To categorize women as having a domestic mindset does them a disservice, implying that there are policy issues on which they can't hold their own.

The media furthers this stereotyping through feature stories attempting to delve into the minds of women. The Washington Post's "These Are a Few of Their Favorite Things" (Oct. 7) characterizes the candidates as "eager to reveal their feelings about Wheaties and tacos" in order to attract women, and frames the entire piece based on Oprah's questions.

This setup forces superficiality onto the women it profiles, overshadowing their opinions on issues with their opinions on sandwiches. "Forget issues," the article demands at one point. It's true that the writer -- more than the women interviewed -- forgot them.

We are in a category called women, but it is as diverse as the category called men. There are no "women's" issues, and there are no issues of concern only to men. But there are issues -- and they should be enough to keep our would-be leaders' lips busy without all the kissing.

(Jennifer Schaum is a Cavalier Daily opinion editor.)


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