What do women talk about when they get together? If you said men, sex and relationships, you've been reading the covers of too many "women's" magazines. That doesn't even begin to scratch the surface of an average female gab session.
When women gather, conversations can pretty much go anywhere. A book called "Women Talk," (which you can read huge portions of on line, thanks to Google's Book Search project) illustrates how female talk-a-thons veer wildly from one subject to another, by breaking down one such conversation into sub-topics including antiques, skiing, weekend trip fantasies, children, funerals, loyalty of men, child abuse and "removals" (of growths or age spots, NOT boyfriends or husbands, I'm assuming).
However, just by reading any of the thousands of blogs written for and by women, which you can find by going on BlogHer's blogroll or BlogsByWomen, the more pertinent question might be "what DON'T women talk about with each other?"
And the answer to that is politics, according to journalist and author Melinda Henneberger.
Henneberger, who writes for Newsweek and The Huffington Post, has a new book published this week called "If They Only Listened to Us: What Women Voters Want Politicians to Hear."
On NPR's Talk of the Nation this week, Henneberger elaborated on a road trip she took after the 2004 presidential election. In '04, women registered and voted at a higher rate than men (64% versus 58%), yet exit polls failed to ask key questions that would tell us exactly what issues drove them to the polls, to discover why they voted the way they did.
And what she found surprised her. For the most part, the women Henneberger spoke with - some 234 of them in 20 states - told her that no one had ever asked where they stood on the issues. And in fact, most never discussed politics at all, either with their friends, families or anyone else.
"Unlike sex or religion, politics remains surprisingly private and unexamined terrain for many of us," Henneberger says. "When I began my travels, I often asked women whether their friends felt the same way they did, and frequently, the answer I got back was, 'Oh, I wouldn't know; I never talk to anyone about this stuff.'"
Once Henneberger opened up the political discussion though - it was like a dam breaking. She chose not to ask any questions - and instead to just listen. And here are some of her purely unscientific but significant findings:
"If there ever were any security moms, they must have gone into hiding
in a well-stocked bunker somewhere within moments of the '04 election."
The women Henneberger spoke to, most of them in swing states, said they did not base their '04 presidential vote on which candidate they felt would keep them safer - which is something we kept hearing from both the media and the candidates. Rather, women said they based their votes on other key social issues, primarily abortion.
"I'm not sure the Democrats realize how many otherwise
quite liberal pro-life women, Catholics in particular, have switched
parties over abortion but continue to look for a way back to the
Democrats, with whom they agree with on almost every other matter."
This finding by Henneberger is particularly telling, as we listen to the current crop of candidates running, or considering running, for president in '08. While all the oxygen in the campaign is currently being consumed by the debate over Iraq...women are not only basing their votes, but their entire party affiliation, on this one issue. One woman in Denver told Henneberger that although she would qualify as a democrat on 90 percent of the issues, "if you're pro-life, they (the democrats) don't even want you."
Henneberger's road trip and resulting book tells me two things. One: if you want to get elected president - you need to pay more attention to what more than half the voters care about.
And two: we women need to fear confrontation with one another less -- and talk more openly about where we stand on political issues. If we don't speak up, even to each other, no one will take the time to listen.
And aren't you tired of not being heard?
Keep it locked up inside don't talk about it
Talk about the weather
So much to say, so much to say, so much to say, so much to say
Open up my head and let me out little baby
Do you talk politics with your friends? If you do, what issues do you discuss? If you don't, why not? Join the conversation here by clicking below on "Comments" and letting us know what you're thinking.