Pick of the Week

Feminized Politics

At 23, Katherine Adam has had more than a taste of politics.

She's heaped up experience, including volunteer work for the Howard Dean and John Kerry presidential campaigns, work with local campaigns in Tucson and Boston, and an internship with Sen. Kerry. She's also been heavily involved in women's-rights activism at Boston College.

And these days, she has a book on her plate.

The New Feminized Majority: How Democrats Can Change America With Women's Values, co-authored with Charles Derber, was released in April. It's an adaptation of Adam's senior honors thesis on the influence of feminized values on America's political landscape.

Adam was born and raised in Tucson and is a graduate of University High School. She left Southern Arizona to attend Boston College, where she obtained a bachelor's degree in sociology. That's where she met her co-author Derber, a sociology professor and the adviser for Adam's thesis.

Derber urged Adam to expand on the thesis after her graduation in 2007, and the two worked together throughout the summer to produce the book. Adam and Derber spent hours daily collaborating over the phone--he was in Boston, and she was in Tucson.

"What we're arguing is that a new moral majority exists in America, and that Democrats can harness the power of this majority. They can take back the White House and lead America into a new era of progressivism," said Adam.

In their research, Adam and Derber examined voting trends with special attention to gender gaps--the percentage of women versus the percentage of men who support a specific political position or candidate--and found significant differences.

Starting in the 1980s, men and women have been increasingly diverse in their political opinions. In the past several presidential elections, a majority of men and a majority of women have voted for different candidates, said Adam. According to much of the research Adam has seen, women are more inclined to vote Democratic, while men tend toward conservative values.

Research revealed that large gender gaps exist surrounding issues related to the social safety net, foreign policy, militarism and social equality.

"We believe that the reason these gender gaps exist is because when feminized voters ... vote, they're essentially value voters," said Adam. "Feminized value voters vote based on the values of empathy, equality, community, cooperation and a preference for nonviolent solutions to conflict"--values that make up the feminized framework, Adam said.

Part of the reason for the trend, said Adam, is not nature, but nurture. "These are values into which women are generally socialized, but men can be socialized, too," she said.

Adam explained that she believes the political differences between men and women have nothing to do with inherent gender. "It's really important to point out that we're not arguing that the 'new feminized majority' has anything to do with DNA," she said. "Feminized values are nothing more than the values that are at the heart of the position held by a majority of women."

So why are feminized values so important to the political scene now?

"The reason we call it a new feminized majority is that in the past few years, research has shown that the 'feminized position' ... is now becoming the majority position in America," said Adam. "Women definitely make up the core of the feminized majority, but it also includes millions of men."

Adam said women make up 54 percent of the electorate and the majority of the Democratic Party--but recent Democratic presidential campaigns haven't catered much to their own majority.

For the past couple of decades, posited Adam, the Democratic Party has pursued an amoral political strategy. She and Derber argue that an approach that steers political conversation away from value-based strategy has negatively affected the Democratic Party in elections, and that the key to their success depends on their use of the feminized framework to attract voters.

"Rather than women going toward Democratic values, we're saying that Democrats should go toward women's values," said Adam. "Democrats would be wise to understand and harness the power of women's values."

The new feminized majority is an important rising trend that should be embraced by candidates and reflected in their campaign strategies, said Adam. "We identify this as being a major cultural shift with the potential to create major political change," said Adam.

She hopes the book will inspire "long-lasting, progressive change" in Democratic Party politics.

Adam will speak about The New Feminized Majority: How Democrats Can Change America With Women's Values at 7 p.m., Friday, Aug. 29, at Antigone Books, 411 N. Fourth Ave. Admission is free; call 792-3715 for more information.

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