While most of the country is busy trying to get voters — and in particular, young ones — to the polls for the upcoming mid-term elections, Fox News co-host Kimberly Guilfoyle had a different message this week for young women: Don’t bother going.
During an episode on Tuesday of The Five, Guilfoyle said young women should be “excused” from their civic duties so they can “go back on Tinder and Match.com.” She added that young women don’t have the proper “life experience” such as having kids and paying bills that allows older women to make informed decisions, whether in the voting booth or the courtroom. “They’re like healthy and hot and running around without a care in the world,” she said.
Her statement led to an immediate outcry from politically active and plugged-in women who pointed out that young women are, in fact, involved in the democratic process and worried about issues beyond what their online dating profile picture looks like. Statistics show that young women — and really, women in general — vote in slightly larger numbers than their male counterparts, according to Mindy Romero, the director of the California Civic Engagement Project at the UC Davis Center for Regional Change. The issues they’re concerned about range from access to health care to ending pay inequality and gender discrimination.
Jess McIntosh, a spokesperson for Emily’s List, which helps Democratic women get elected to office, says, “I have a job where I get to see a lot of really awful things said about women and this really shocked me in a way that I haven’t been shocked in awhile. Republicans have a hard time with messaging to young women specifically, but to tell them to just stay home is the most insulting thing they could do. Young women are some of the most concerned and engaged segment in the electorate that’s out there. The idea that they’re hot and running around without a care in the world isn’t found in reality.”
Most likely, Guilfoyle’s statement was politically motivated: The young female vote skews Democratic, something many Republican strategists are aware of. “Hers is not a neutral political statement,” Romero says. “Only white, married women skew Republican. Unmarried women, women of color, and single moms skew Democratic. These groups are all more economically vulnerable, and more likely to be supportive of issues that are on the Democratic platform, like education, social services, and a social safety net.”
In 2012, single women voted for President Barack Obama over Mitt Romney by a margin of 36 points, and many experts say that single women could be the deciding factor in many of the upcoming midterm elections.
Romero also points out, however, that Guilfoyle might be making a tactical mistake. Voting is habit forming, and telling younger women to stay home is a good way of not ever getting them to polls. This means they won’t go even when, according to Guilfoyle’s logic, they’re old enough to make those informed decisions that come only from paying bills or having babies.
“If you start voting while you’re young, you’re likely to continue to be a voter for the rest of your life,” Romero says. “If you don’t, it’s harder for voting to become a regular thing. If you choose to ignore younger women, you are setting older women up to have a less of a voice in the electorate someday too.”
Beyond that, experts said it’s unsettling that the older woman’s message to women still finding their way in the world was basically to tell them not to get more involved. “It’s just so profoundly sexist to suggest that young women are incapable of understanding the decisions they make in the voting both, and it’s extra disappointing to hear a women saying that,” McIntosh says.
Romero agreed: “I think it terribly discouraging and irresponsible for anyone to make that argument, but particularly a high-profile woman who has a platform that could be utilized to encourage young women to have a greater voice. In fact, she’s discouraging them.”