We're well into the 21st century, and both the leaders and candidates in the Republican Party are well into their respective adulthoods. How is it that they are still reaching for some Dobie Gillis-style handbook on How to Talk to Girls?
The GOP did not do well with female voters in 2012, and lost a theirs-for-the-taking Senate race in Missouri because of some truly remarkably stupid comments the party's Senate candidate made about "legitimate rape." Since then, we have had a sitting Republican U.S. senator talk about the "hormones" that lead men in the military to sexually assault their female comrades, and we have seen the party's last presidential candidate, Mitt Romney, discuss how he's learned that when one employs women, one must be flexible to make sure they can be home at 5 to cook dinner for their families. Perhaps he found those job candidates in one of his binders full of women. And maybe he should ask Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, a member of the House Republican leadership who just gave birth to her third child while serving as a congresswoman.
There's no better example of how women can be parents, spouses and lawmakers, but others in the GOP are still not getting it, and it's baffling why. Speaker John Boehner recognizes the problem, and spoke to Politico for a story about how the GOP was in training to learn how to win over females' votes. The party, Boehner said, is:
trying to get them to be a little more sensitive. You know, you look around the Congress, there are a lot more females in the Democratic caucus than there are in the Republican conference. And some of our members just aren't as sensitive as they ought to be.
The problem here is that the mostly-male members of the GOP establishment sit around and try to deal with women as though females are some kind of bizarre and baffling other species, as though they couldn't possibly care about the same things men do or have informed opinions about them. Instead we continue to see evidence that GOP candidates are unable to stop patronizing women and treating them as though females have some extra, irrational gene that must be handled. Iowa Senate candidate Mark Jacobs, asked on a radio show how he would reach out to female voters in a way that differs from talking to male voters, said:
I think you have to connect with women on an emotional level. And with a wife of 25 years and an 18-year-old daughter, I've had a lot of coaching on that.
Jacobs makes himself sound like the hapless male victim of a home full of surging estrogen. And worse, he implicitly buys into the fallacy that kept women out of positions of power for years – the idea that men think but women feel, ergo we need to put the thinkers in charge of the governments and economies of the world. They'll need to think a little harder if they want to get electoral support from women, who make up the strong majority of voters. Because if Republican men lose women voters again, how will that make them feel?