Opinion

Team Obama needs to stop condescending to women

Photo of Kate Obenshain
Kate Obenshain
Author, "Divider-in-Chief"

On Monday, Obama deputy campaign manager Stephanie Cutter said that American women “are not really concerned about what’s happened over the last four years. They really want to know what’s going to happen in the next four years.”

But American women are concerned about what’s happened over the last four years. We’re concerned about the sluggishness of the recovery. We’re concerned about the female poverty rate, which under Obama has risen to its highest level in decades. We’re concerned about the fact that unemployed women have been finding work at a slower pace than unemployed men. We’re concerned about gas and food prices, which have soared since Obama’s inauguration. We’re concerned about rising health care costs, a problem made worse by Obamacare.

Cutter’s patronizing tone toward women is typical of Team Obama. Since the beginning, Obama’s White House has been known as a boys’ club. Multiple women have made that point in books and articles — including former White House communications director Anita Dunn, who compared Obama’s White House to a “frat house,” and former Council of Economic Advisers head Christina Romer, who said she “felt like a piece of meat” whenever she visited the president. Dunn said, “Looking back, this place would be in court for a hostile workplace … because it actually fit all of the classic legal requirements for a genuinely hostile workplace to women.”

Obama seems to have brushed off the concerns of his female staffers. When one suggested he fire former chief of staff Rahm Emanuel because of his rough and chauvinistic manner, Obama said, “Look, I really need Rahm.” And Obama began a dinner with his female staffers — a dinner that was ostensibly designed to address the growing concerns about the sexist atmosphere at the White House — by looking at his watch and asking, “Are there genuine concerns that I need to know about?”

For evidence of Team Obama’s condescension toward women, look no further than the “War on Women” meme, which is based on the assumption that women are simple-minded and easily confused. Democrats assume that women can’t grasp the facts in the debate over religious freedom, and whether it is appropriate for this administration to compel religious organizations to offer health insurance covering procedures and medications that are antithetical to their religious beliefs. That’s why Obama and his surrogates are going around telling women that Republicans are “trying to roll back basic rights that most of us thought were won more than a generation ago” and that the GOP is perpetrating “vicious misogyny and anti-women hate speech.” Without fact or reason to back them up, they have contended “women’s health needs are under attack” by Republicans. They even think women will believe the absurdity that Republicans want to ban contraception.

And how can we forget the utter condescension of “The Life of Julia.” Not, please note, “The Life of Bob,” but “Julia.” The presentation was part of an effort by the Obama campaign to convey how fortunate American women are to have the beneficent hand of government lifting them up from cradle to grave — for, as Obama clearly believes, women are in particular need of government’s guidance and mercy.

This past spring, former CNN anchor Campbell Brown wrote a piece in The New York Times criticizing the “paternalistic” attitude of the president. Brown wrote that Obama has failed to connect with “tens of millions of Americans, many of them women, who feel economic opportunity is gone and are losing hope. In an effort to win them back, Mr. Obama is … employing a tone that can come across as grating and even condescending. … Most women don’t want to be patted on the head or treated as wards of the state. They simply want to be given a chance to succeed based on their talent and skills.”

We’ll see in November whether women will settle for a pat on the head.

Kate Obenshain is the author of “Divider-in-Chief: The Fraud of Hope and Change.”