Elections and Women

In a passionate article, Dionne Brand noted the patriarchal, “family values” flavour of our Canadian Federal election.  The concerns of more than half of Canadian voters (or potential voters, given the low voter turnout) were virtually ignored.  As Equal Voice has noted, more than one third of sitting members of the House of Commons will have to be female before women’s issues will be dealt with seriously.

Seems the US is having the same problem.  It’s a matter of great note that Bob Schieffer didn’t use any of the questions submitted to him by the Women’s Media Center when women will play such a huge role in electing the next president.  “Gender” is a significant issue in modern elections, yet women have not yet acquired the power to make women’s issues visible in candidates’ debates:

Well, the final Presidential debate is now over. We heard so much about “Joe, the Plumber” this debate-and we know all about “Joe Six-Pack” but once again, we have heard almost nothing about “Josephine” in America. Not one question, other than Roe v. Wade, dealt specifically with women’s problems. Barack Obama did, on his own, talk about the courageous Lilly Ledbetter and the Supreme Court decision against her-and the effort to achieve fair pay-and fair play in our country.

The debates have not done well by America’s women-still looking for answers to their questions about what either future administration has to offer. Curious, as pollsters continue to say that the women’s vote will determine the Presidential outcome.

The WMC wants to thank you so much for your tremendous response to our “Show Me The Women” campaign. With your help, the WMC was able to push for women’s voices to be heard in the Presidential debates. Through your participation – both your direct advocacy with the Commission on Presidential Debates and your thoughtful questions for the candidates – we were able to have a dialogue with the final moderator, Bob Schieffer.


As you know, on August 14, 2008, the WMC launched “Show Me The Women,” an email campaign challenging the Commission on Presidential Debates in its selection of three men – Bob Schieffer of CBS, Tom Brokaw of NBC, and Jim Lehrer of PBS – to moderate the upcoming Presidential debates. The WMC urged the public to insist that each moderator have a partner reflecting the diversity of our country — which is more than half women.

You enthusiastically responded to “Show Me The Women,” and so did one of the moderators – Bob Schieffer of CBS. In preparation for last night’s debate, Schieffer invited the WMC to contribute questions of particular relevance to women for consideration for inclusion in the debate.

The deadline to submit questions was October 1, 2008. Thanks to our members, The Women’s Media Center collected hundreds of thoughtful questions and submitted ten of them to Schieffer. Most of these questions addressed issues important to women, like pay equity, sex trafficking, paid sick leave, childcare, reproductive rights, and other topics.

Although Schieffer did not utilize any of our questions, our actions have been at the forefront of a national movement to push for greater diversity and inclusion for the 2012 debates. The WMC has begun working with other diversity organizations such as UNITY: Journalists of Color and the National Council of Women’s Organizations to set up a meeting with the Commission on Presidential Debates so we can address changing the current debate format. Stay tuned for more on that.

Thank you so much for your participation in this successful initiative. The WMC values your willingness to take action. And, please, if you haven’t already, join the WMC’s 500 Campaign by making a monthly donation of $25 each month for a year. Every contribution makes a difference, and there is strength in numbers! By meeting our goal of 500 people in this campaign, we will raise $150,000 to create our own media, train and support groups and individuals, advocate with the media and educate the public, all in service of our mission to make women more visible and powerful in the media.

Sincerely Yours,
Carol Jenkins
Women’s Media Center

Truly, womens’ work is never done!  Keep on keepin’ on.

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