It’s the packaging – not the message – that must change for conservatives to reach more women, or so a panel of congresswomen agreed last week.
Congresswomen attended a Conservative Women’s Panel Discussion on Capitol Hill July 11 and deliberated how to best communicate with women – despite media opposition. During an interview with the MRC at the event, Rep. Ann Wagner (R-MO) stressed “we can’t count on the media” and that conservative women fight “three times as hard” in order to “have our voices heard.” Continues after video.
Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA) hosted the panel which included Congresswomen Diane Black (R-TN), Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), Renee Ellmers (R-NC) and Kristi Noem (R-SD).
Conservative women, Rep. Wagner noted, “can’t count on the media.” Media bias arises as “a reality that you have to face” she explained. “We have to fight twice as hard, three times as hard, not only as conservatives, but frankly as women to have our voices heard.”
As panel moderator, The Wall Street Journal’s Kim Strassel introduced the event by acknowledging, “Half the voters out there are women.” “This democratic ‘War on Women’ theme,” she continued, “has been the deciding factor in any number of races that the conservative movement has lost.” “Which we should’ve won, but we didn’t, in large part because women have turned away,” she added.
“The problem here is not necessarily conservative policies,” she admitted, but with messaging. According to Strassel, conservative women must “go on offense” and “explain that while our conservative policies help everybody, they particularly help women.”
When communicating with women, Rep. Noem said, “what resonates with them, especially, is they want us to be real people” or, in other words, “they want to see somebody who, yeah, has suffered, has struggled a little bit maybe, but wants to do work and will work hard.”
She continued, “Even if we talk about economic policy, or tax policy, we have to, in our brain, lock it in and think ‘This could change people’s lives. That’s why I’m talking about this today.’”
Other congresswomen, such as Rep. Blackburn, elaborated on women’s search to discover how policies affect them directly: “They say ‘tell me how this is going to affect me. Tell me specifically how these policies are going to change my ability to get a raise. The environment for jobs growth. Opportunities for my children.’”
What women want, she continued, “is an assurance that we have a course of action and a timeline and a plan that is going to change the environment.” She clarified, “Women understand government doesn’t create jobs. Businesses create jobs. Women understand that they don’t want government taking care of them, they want the opportunity to better their lives.”
In agreement, Rep. Ellmers described how “women by-and-large agree with us on all of the issues.” “It’s how we’re able to articulate ourselves, make sure that we’re getting the point across that we care before we do anything else, “she said, “that we relate to them.”
Suggesting storytelling, Rep. Black also emphasized how women “respond better if you can give a connection with a relationship.”
Former Rep. Marilyn Musgrave (R-CO), Americans for Tax Reform’s Mattie Duppler, College Republican National Committee’s Alex Smith and Independent Women’s Forum’s Amber Barno also spoke at the event.
— Katie Yoder is Staff Writer, Joe and Betty Anderlik Fellow in Culture and Media at the Media Research Center. Follow Katie Yoder on Twitter.