Fictional Vice President Selina Meyer was adamant on a recent episode of “Veep”: A female politician should not remind voters that she is, in fact, a woman. “No, no, no! I can’t identify myself as a woman, people can’t know that,” Meyer told her staff.
With Meyer’s denouncement still fresh, Terri Lynn Land, the presumptive GOP nominee for the U.S. Senate in Michigan, released a new TV ad this week responding directly to attacks on Republicans’s “war on women.” Doing exactly what Meyer’s had exasperatingly said she couldn’t, Land tells voters, “As a woman, I might know a little bit more about women than Gary Peters [her Democratic opponent].”
Our friends at Post TV helpfully spliced the two in this awesome video:
[posttv url="http://www.washingtonpost.com/posttv/politics/terri-land-and-selina-meyer-of-veep-have-very-different-campaign-styles/2014/04/23/28eb217a-cb2c-11e3-b81a-6fff56bc591e_video.html" ]
But Land is not the first, nor is she likely to be the last, female politician to highlight her sex. Contrary to Meyer’s belief that drawing attention to your gender is bad politics, real life politicians have used “as a woman,” or some variation of it, as a defense.
Using the Sunlight Foundation’s Capitol Words tool, we found several instances of female members of Congress playing up their gender during policy debates. It came up in floor speeches at least twice during abortion debates, which was exactly the hot button issue the Meyer team was mulling when a staffer suggested she use the phrase “as a woman” to explain her position.
Here are examples we found (we’ve added the emphasis):
“Now, despite the legislation’s bipartisan support, we have heard more than a few mischaracterizations of this bill from our colleagues across the aisle, and as a woman, I reject these false attacks. This legislation is not about taking away anyone’s choice. It is about giving choice to the nearly two-thirds of Americans who don’t want their hard-earned tax dollars funding the destruction of innocent life,” Rep. Diane Black (R-Tenn.) said in January during debate over federal funding for abortion.
“In sitting here listening to debate, I want to get a few things straight. First of all, I am a woman, and I have not declared war on myself. Second of all, this is not a direct challenge to Roe v. Wade. This is a direct challenge to cruelty to unborn children. Currently, the policy in D.C. legally allows abortion for any reason until the moment of birth,” Rep. Martha Roby (R-Ala.) said in July 2012.
But abortion isn’t the only issue that puts female politicians on the defensive. In April, during a floor debate on equal pay for women, Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) said, “Frankly, as a woman, I would like the opportunity to outperform and to be paid more.”
And in June 2013, during a debate about sexual assault in the military, Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) said, “As a woman and as a strong supporter of our Nation’s military, I find it absolutely appalling that any woman who has been the victim of crime should have to fear reporting her perpetrator for fear of retaliation.”
Of course, “Veep” fans know that at the end of the episode, Meyer contradicted herself. During an appearance on “Good Morning America,” Meyer answered a question about abortion with, “As a woman myself …”.