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Our national economy, the common objectification of women’s bodies by the mainstream media, presidential candidates, and the now infamous 47 percent comment: These topics may seem like they don’t fit together, but they do. On this program we tackle these issues which are at the center of our contemporary culture and democracy.  That’s right, we’re doing hard-hitting political analysis from a very different perspective than the mainstream media.


Let’s face it:  The mainstream media plays a powerful role in shaping our collective understanding of issues across the nation.  It also plays a powerful role in shaping the understanding that leaders and candidates have about what’s going on in our homes throughout the country.  Yet too often the mainstream media focus is on fluff, celebrity gossip, and the objectification of women’s bodies, while our Main Street realities are ignored.  And to make matters worse, there are too few women in the media overall.  In fact, according to one study, only 24 percent of the people interviewed, heard, seen, or read about in the mainstream broadcast and print news outlets are female.  Having women’s voices in the media makes a difference.  Interestingly, news stories by female reporters are almost twice as likely to challenge gender stereotypes than stories by male reporters.

Women’s voices are missing and they’re missing at a critical time, a time when the U.S. Census just reported that there has been no forward movement at all in closing the gender gap between women and men; that it remains stuck at 77 cents to a man’s dollar, with moms and women of color experiencing increased wage hits on top of that.

We’re joined on this show by authors, experts, economists, and hard-hitting analysts as we ask a key, critical question.  If the media portrayed women’s real issues instead of focusing coverage on fluff and on objectifying women’s bodies, then would that impact what the candidates say--and even impact what policies move forward in Congress?  Would we, for example, have better educated leaders and fewer candidates doing things like say, dismissing 47 percent of our population, many of whom are women, working parents, seniors, and veterans?

**You can hear all about it by clicking here to get the podcast:

Special guests include:

  • Tamara Draut,  Vice President of Policy and Research for Demos
  • Jessica Valenti,  Author and Blogger
  • Elaine Maag, Research Associate for The Urban Institute
  • Melissa Silverstein, Editor of Women and Hollywood and the Artistic Director of the Athena Film Festival.
  • Tifany Dufu, President of the White House Project

***LISTEN to the “MomsRising with Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner” radio show here:



Media Coverage of Women’s Issues, Presidential Candidates & The Infamous 47 Percent Comment: MomsRising Radio With Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner Highlights:

Tamara Draut is the Vice President of Policy and Research for Demos

On the 47% comment: (At 5:00 on iTunes

“The 47 percent is accurate in terms of the number of households that don’t pay federal income taxes. The overwhelming majority of people who are working are paying some type of federal tax. For workers that don’t pay any federal income taxes, we should actually celebrate because one of the reasons why is after they file for the earned income tax credit, the child tax credit, they often end up not owing, or paying any federal income tax… And these are the types of “let’s help people make ends meet” policies that have been championed by both Republicans and Democrats. The idea that there’s half of the American population that isn’t paying any type of federal tax is simply false…”

“Let’s keep in mind that the taxes that everybody pays, whether they pay federal income tax or not, are often some of the more regressive taxes, like the sales tax and the payroll tax.  So it’s really misleading and it’s part of a new sort of strategy where it seems like we’re trying to divide the country into makers and takers but, Mitt Romney turned that strategy on its head. Usually we define the makers as the people who get up and go work for a living and the fat cats as the people in the top one percent who are taking too much of their share.  Romney has completely turned that idea on its head and it’s really confounding.”

Jessica Valenti is a Blogger and feminist writer, known for having founded the feminist blog Feministing in 2004.

On how she responded to a big media outlet that asked her to talk about losing her baby weight: (At 20:25 on iTunes

“I pitched a story to a big news organization, a major news organization, about the Mom-in-Chief conversation and the various ways that motherhood has been coming into the national debate through the conventions. So the pitch was for a pretty political story, and I got an email back saying, “Can you please write a story about how you lost your baby weight?” which I found so outrageous and so awful.  You know, just as a general rule but also because I actually did lose all my baby weight in one day because my daughter was born almost three months premature.  So on top of just being offensive to all women, it was particularly offensive to me as well.”

“I responded in a blog post and in a video.  I didn’t name them because as I said on the video, “You know, we all have to eat.  You don’t want to burn any bridges with big media organizations.”  But I just put a video out there and it got a lot of attention and I’m really glad that it did because I want people to realize that when you’re a female writer and you put pitches out, this is often what comes back to you.  I’m hardly the first person to get an ask like this. I think it’s important that people understand that when you’re a serious writer and you’re putting serious pitches out there, often what comes back are these kind of nonsense stories that really make the world a worse place for women.”

Elaine Maag is a Research Associate for The Urban Institute

On her reaction to the 47% comment: (At 31:00 on iTunes

“I was definitely surprised.  He gets that number from the Tax Policy Center, which says that 47 percent of people in any given year aren’t paying federal income taxes.  But I don’t think Romney understands who those 47 percent are; and those 47 percent are basically people who are either old and have income that we don’t tax, like Social Security, or they are often single parents with children or young families with children, and low incomes.  So to write off such a large chunk of the population seemed like a poor political strategy at best.”

On how the earned income credit works: (At 32:22 on iTunes

“The way the earned income tax credit works is for every dollar you earn, you get either a 34 cent or 40 cent, or even 45 cent bonus from the federal government through the tax system; and that bonus depends on how many children you have.  So let’s say you’re a single mom of two children.  When you start working, your wages will be augmented by 40 cents on the dollar.  You’re gonna continue to get this earned income tax credit matching every dollar you earn with 40 extra cents until you hit a threshold that’s legislated, and in 2012, you can earn up to $13,000 and you’ll get this bonus.  That will give you a tax credit worth $5,200, which is a lot of money for a low-income family.”

“And then you’re going to continue to receive that $5,200 until you have earnings that are up to about $17,000.  So now instead of taking $17,000 home, you’re gonna take $22,000 home and people see that in their tax returns and they are encouraged to work.  The credit then starts to phase out as your income raises; and by the time you hit about $42,000, you won’t be receiving an earned income tax credit anymore.  And that’s important because what the credit does is it pulls you into the labor market.  When your job is low paying, you receive the subsidy.  As you gain experience and move to better jobs, you will no longer be eligible for the credit but you’ll be making more money and you’re going to start to actually pay income taxes back and on net over your lifetime, you’re going to pay more in income tax than you received in tax credits these early years of employment.”

“The earned income tax credit makes sense because people have more money.   They have more disposable income and the research is very clear that low-income families spend the money that comes in.  They spend it on food, housing, transportation -- these basic needs.  If you give the same $5,000 to a very wealthy person, chances are they’re going to save it, which is not going to necessarily boost the economy right now, but low-income families will be spending that money because they need to.”

Melissa Silverstein is the editor of Women and Hollywood and the Artistic Director of the Athena Film Festival.

On how the media and Hollywood, reflect what our culture thinks about women and how that reflection permeates all of us:  (At 44:57: on iTunes:

“As you said in the introduction,  women work 25 hours a day and never stop, so not valuing women’s work is what goes on in all of our culture.  But what I think we need to do in order to look beyond the negativity is really think about your media diet.  I go to the gym -- I’ll read US Magazine when I'm there, but I think people really need to understand what it means when you inhale these magazines, these tabloid shows, on a constant basis.  That means that everything you’re seeing in a sound bite, it’s all focused on the top tier celebrities.  It’s usually all focused on romance, on fashion, on dating, on nothing of substance.  And then, occasionally you’ll see a story on Entertainment Weekly about how blah blah blah showed up at an Obama fundraiser, but it never has any meat to it.  So it’s these little nuggets that you get, and our job as humans who care about issues is to dig a little bit deeper and to educate ourselves and that takes work. That’s why you have to find places that can give you information that can get you through the day without feeling like you want to just never open a magazine or watch TV again.

Tiffany Dufu is the President of the White House Project

On the White House Project:  (At 50:15 on iTunes:

“The White House Project ignites leadership of women in politics and business.  The reason why we’re focused on trying to get more women into positions of leadership is because there’s enough research now and we all know that it’s common sense when you have diversity in leadership, you’re able to produce better outcomes and more innovative solutions that are going to help all of us.  We see women’s leadership as a means to a larger end, which are solutions that are going to really impact all of us and we’ve been working very hard across this country in all sectors of our society.  Women are only in about 16 or 17 percent of the highest leadership roles and positions, so we have a lot of work to do and this is why we’re so focused on it…”

“It’s incredibly important that we understand the role of women’s images.What we see really impacts our consciousness and our culture.  We like to quote Marian Wright Edelman around here.  She says, “You can’t be what you can’t see.”  And we know that especially in our culture. Though we’re in 2012, people still fundamentally believe that women’s primary role is of wife and mother in the private sphere and not necessarily the public sphere.  But it’s very important that in the media, on television, in magazines, in movies, that people are seeing images of strong, authentic women leaders so they can actually get their brains around it and really understand that those women can be normal -- that they’re average -- that they’re a part of our culture.”

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