'War on women' comes to Wisconsin recall – and could be decisive
Several bills signed by Republican Gov. Scott Walker have angered women's rights activists and have motivated women to get behind the effort to recall him.
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Polls suggest that women have increasingly turned against Walker even as men continue to strongly back him. In 2010, when Walker first faced Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett in a gubernatorial vote, women preferred Mayor Barrett 51 to 48 percent – though male voters pushed Walker to victory. Now, the two candidates are facing off again in the recall vote, and women favor Barrett 52 to 42 percent, according to a Marquette University poll released May 30. By contrast, men back Walker 58 to 36 percent in the May 30 poll.Skip to next paragraph
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“The gender gap is very real,” says Charles Franklin, who runs the poll.
Karen Teegarden, the suburban Detroit-based founder of Unite Women, observes that the movement has drawn the most energized response from states like Wisconsin, where GOP-driven measures have sparked controversy. And as a child of the women’s movement herself, the 50-something notes that her generation his particularly moved to action.
At the April rally in Madison, the majority of the approximately 700 people who showed up in rainy, 40-degree weather clearly were middle-age or older. The leader of a group calling itself the Raging Grannies told protesters, “Fifty years ago, we were marching for the right of women to have some control over their own bodies. We fought that fight, all these grannies up here. We did not think we were going to be spending our old age doing it again, but we are not giving up this fight.”
This rallying cry has echoes throughout Wisconsin. At a noisy primary-election gathering in Milwaukee for Barrett, Joan Blaschke of Brookfield, Wis., stood out from the crowd in her elegant black-and-white suit and diamond jewelry – this at a gathering where many wore wore T-shirts and baseball caps sporting labor union logos.
Ms. Blaschke is a late convert to the Democratic cause, but she says Walker’s recent actions so appalled her that she volunteered to help his opponent. “I voted for George Bush,” she said, but now that she’s taken a closer look at national politics, she has decided, “I don’t think I like any of the Republican ideas.”
Blaschke, a retired teacher, says she paid little attention to the women’s movement in the ‘70s, but adds, “I’m feeling it now. I think there’s just going to be such a trickle-down effect.”
As for Kunkel, who had never before dabbled in political causes, she was motivated by reading the Unite Women Facebook page, which told of efforts around the country like those in Wisconsin to move toward abstinence-only education in schools and to add restrictions on birth control and abortions.
Within days of visiting the site, Kunkel had started a Wisconsin Facebook page for Unite Women group and volunteered to organize the Madison protest rally.
“My world is based on science. We know that, numerically, women are the majority, but in terms of politics, we’re still a minority,” she says. “The way women gain their biggest voices in general is to speak and act collectively.”