This week, September 21-27, is National Singles Week. If you think it is unnecessary to do a bit of consciousness-raising about people who are single - especially in their role as single voters - then consider recent issues of Newsweek and Time.
The September 22 issue of Newsweek had "What Women Want" handwritten across the cover - in lipstick. Inside, Julia Baird's feature story was a Palin puff piece adoring enough to make Sean Hannity proud. If you don't want to be bothered reading all 7 pages, or the page of polls under the laudatory heading, "The Power of Palin," just consider the quotes that were pulled out of the text and set in bold, such as this one:
"She's like an action figure...giving Democrats hell: Gals can do anything!"
In the story, we get paragraph after paragraph about what women like about Palin ("for women of whatever party, Palin is one of them, a working mother"). We are treated to paeans introduced with such fawn-fare as "This is the extraordinary thing about Palin" and "This is her great skill."
Baird joined the self-humiliating circle of reporters who feel compelled to track down a former Hillary supporter who is now with McCain (no matter how unrepresentative of all of the other former Hillary supporters she may be), and give her an entire paragraph, complete with the cringe-worthy statement of values. This Palinista is pro-choice (her mother had an illegal abortion and nearly died from it) but she believes it is "more important to take a stand for her gender."
But I digress. What I really wanted to see in the cover story about "what women want" is what would be said about single women. They are the ones who, unlike married women, vote overwhelmingly for the more progressive candidate; but they do not vote in the same proportions as married women. What they want, and what it would take to get them to vote in greater numbers, could be far more consequential to the outcome of this election than that one Hillary turncoat that Baird so gamely hunted down.
But single women do not rate a paragraph in this Newsweek feature. Hey, there are only 50 million or so of them. They are mentioned in passing with regard to past campaigns, as when Republicans targeted single working women in their ads in 1984.
As for the present, single women get two words devoted to them (and that's only if you count the word "the" as one of them), on the last page, when Baird finally concedes that perhaps issues will matter after all:
"Whether it's the Wal-Mart mothers and grandmas, the unmarried or the happily wed and over-50s, the economy ranks first for all female voters."
(Also notice how the unmarried are simply "the unmarried," while married people are "the happily wed.")
Time magazine does something similar, only on a smaller and less loathsome scale. On the cover of the September 29 issue, in the top left corner, is the tease, "The race for women voters tightens." Inside, though, it is once again clear that Time's "women voters" do not include single women voters. The title of the story is, "Maxed-out moms." True, more than 10 million of the 50 million single women are mothers, but they aren't the topic of this piece. The article begins with the story of a married woman and her husband and daughter. It continues with the stories of other married women and their kids.
So if you want a serious consideration of single voters, you will have to go somewhere other than Newsweek or Time. Alternet is a good choice. There, Don Hazen takes on the press for its coverage of the Palin convention speech:
"They glossed over the false content in the speech - the rampant lies and striking omissions - and focused on the fairy tale, the pugilism and the delivery."
He underscored what was missing:
"Palin showed no empathy for the many millions of single moms, widowed women on social security, women abandoned by partners, or simply independent women who have a challenging time in an economy where 80 percent of inflation-adjusted income has shifted upward and away from them."
It was Alternet that noted that the gender gap in voting is small compared to the marriage gap; that single women earn only 56 cents for every dollar made by married men; and that single women are less likely to have health coverage than are people who are married.
It is 2008. Major publications such as Newsweek and Time should not need to be reminded that stories with titles such as "What Women Want" and "The Race for Women Voters Tightens" should perhaps include the 40-some % of all women who are single.
In the meantime, keep reading here for 14 more reasons why we need to maintain a focus on people who are single.