But that statistic does not show that 93 percent of black women who voted supported Clinton, that 67 percent of Hispanic women who voted supported Clinton, and that 78 percent of other non-white women who voted supported Clinton. It also doesn't show that just 43 percent of white women who voted supported Clinton, while the majority—53 percent—supported Donald Trump, a blatant misogynist, racist, and xenophobe.For the past 35-plus years, politicians, the media, and many US citizens have clung to the myth that the "women's vote" is a potent political force, one that skews liberal. In reality, though, women are not, and never have been, a unified voting bloc.
As time passed, he only became more anxious. During the 1984 race, the National Organization for Women announced that they backed Democratic candidate Walter Mondale, and local chapters of the organization started protesting Reagan around the country. The Republican candidate and his team couldn't wait any longer—they had to come up with a way to make their politics palatable to women.This wouldn't be easy, as Reagan's policies were far from female-friendly. His 1981 Economic Recovery Act enforced tax cuts and budget cuts in nearly every government department, which badly damaged the lower class—and in 1979, 62.4 percent of service workers were female, according to Jill Rubery's Women and Recession. In addition, as president, Reagan had taken no action to close the gender pay gap at a time when women were making between 59 to 63 percent of their male counterpart's salaries; he opposed the Equal Rights Amendment; he proposed a Human Life Amendment, which would've banned abortion, IUDs, and some forms of birth control pills; and he once said the working wife "threatens the very structure of family life itself."
Republican advisor Lee Atwater wrote that the gender gap was "one of the most severe challenges facing the Administration."
To understand the elusive "woman's vote," Reagan's team spent a significant amount of time and resources studying women's political interests: In 1985, Reagan pollster Richard Wirthlin told the Washington Post that they had polled 45,000 potential female voters about which issues mattered most to them, coming to a truly shocking conclusion: "We realized all women aren't the same," he said.As such, Wirthlin's strategy involved dividing women, as a whole, into 64 categories based on their marital status, age, and employment status. (Notably, race went unmentioned.) After more research, the dozens of categories were condensed into eight groups, given names like "Betty" and "Carolyn," and then targeted according to the voting issues they prioritized, such as an improved minimum wage or education. The "Helen" group, which represented single, unemployed women under 25, was Reagan's toughest sell; conversely, the Alices, who were young and employed, tended to have more faith in the GOP candidate.Ultimately, Reagan and Wirthlin identified three groups of women were as the most persuadable and therefore the most deserving of their time: single working women, employed married women, and elderly or widowed women. The strategy worked, and in 1984, Reagan was elected president, again with a majority of women's votes. As a surprisingly prescient New York Times op-ed from that year put it: "Even though the attitudes on public policies of a majority of American women are generally more progressive than men's, it should not be assumed that women are motivated in elections by a cohesive ideology that arms them against demagoguery."
At the Democratic National Convention in July 1984, Ferraro stood in front of a crowd and said, "by choosing an American woman to run for our nation's second-highest office, you send a powerful signal to all Americans… if we can do this, we can do anything." It was, apparently, a signal that didn't resonate with the American people."Feminists had to face the fact that most women apparently preferred Reagan, though Reagan had spent the last four years trying to run back the clock on women's rights," Flora Davis writes in Moving the Mountain: The Women's Movement in America Since 1960, "while Democrat Walter Mondale not only supported those rights but had chosen a woman as his running mate."And after this year's results election results, piece after piece came out with a similar take on the same message: How could the majority of white women pick a misogynist over an actual woman? "Dear Fellow White Women: We F**ked This Up," read a headline on the Huffington Post, Slate went with "White Women Sold Out the Sisterhood and the World by Voting for Trump," and the New York Times ran the more straightforward "More white women voted for Donald Trump than for Hillary Clinton."As the exit polls plainly show, the majority of white women don't consider themselves sisters with the non-white, class-separated, LGBTQ female voters; instead, many of these women identify more closely with white men. In an article in the Nation, Joan Walsh argues that Clinton's loss can come down a multitude of reasons: that she didn't paint herself as the "economic change agent" that white working-class women wanted, that she was too "dreamy" and not "punchy" enough, and that ultimately, many white women either hold racist views or tacitly support them.
When we're talking about the 'women's vote,' it's very rare we're talking about issues on top of the agenda for women of color, poor women, and LGBT women.
Clinging to the idea of gender as a discrete, unifying factor actively erases other—often far more salient—social realities. "The truth is that there is a gender gap," Seltzer writes in Sex as a Political Variable. "Women do differ from men in their views on the issues and in their voting behavior…[but] focusing narrowly on the gender gap and being obsessed with differences between women and men can obscure the deeper divisions within the US electorate that the gender gap reflects."As Williams argues in a blog post written after the election results, the dominant media narrative leading up to November 8 had centered on angry white men, who were believed to be Trump's most ardent supporters, motivated by a desire to regain and reaffirm their dominance over marginalized groups. "This story made sense, except that it failed to account for the formidable political power of all the mothers and wives and daughters living alongside those angry white men," she says. "Just because some of those angry white people also happen to be women doesn't mean they should have been written off or taken for granted—or that their votes wouldn't count just as much as their male counterparts' surely did."