Tuesday, July 24, 2007

YouTube Debate: Men Ask the Questions

Last night, the Democratic presidential candidates faced off in a forum that featured questions submitted by regular folks, in video format, via YouTube.

A few days ago we urged women to submit questions to YouTube for the debate because the numbers of women-submitted questions was pitifully low. (If you missed the CNN/YouTube Democratic debate last night it can be found here on YouTube.)

I don't know whether YouTube received a last-minute rush of submissions by women, nor do I have a count of the final tally of the submitted videos broken down by the ratio of men versus women.

But I do have the number of questions CNN picked that featured women: eleven. Out of the 42 viewer-submitted videos aired by CNN, 30 featured men speaking and only 12 featured women. (There were 39 questions but one question, #33 showed four clips, two women and two men.)

The questions women were shown asking: question #7 on race and class being a factor in the Katrina disaster, #9 on gay marriage, #13 a mother asking how many soldiers have to die in Iraq, #19 a young woman asking the candidates to name their favorite teacher, #22 a Planned Parenthood worker from Pennsylvania asking whether the candidates talk to their kids about sex, #25 about energy consumption by the U.S., #27 about whether they would work for minimum wage, #29 a quick one on paying Social Security to those earning over $97,500, #33 featuring two women and two men asking health care-related questions and, lastly, #34 a woman asking, she said, on behalf of "friends," about whether their health care plans would include undocumented workers.

Among the 28 video questions posed by men were three that focused specifically on women. In question #8 a man asks Obama and Clinton to comment about being asked if they are black enough or female enough. In question #15 a man asked if the candidates felt a woman should have to register for the draft when she turns 18.

Question #16 shows a man serving in the military asking Senator Hillary Clinton whether she would be taken seriously by the leaders of Arab and Muslim nations. I transcribed the man's video in full. Here is the text of his question:

Hello, my name is John McAlperin. I'm a proud member of the United States military and I'm serving overseas. This question is to Senator Hillary Clinton: The Arab states and Muslim nations believe [in] women as being second-class citizens. If you're president of the United States, how do you feel that you would even be taken seriously by these states in any kind of talks negotiations or any other diplomatic relations?

I feel that's a legitimate question.
I wonder why CNN picked this question. It's not as if nations other than ours -- even Muslim nations -- have never had a female head of state. Pakistan had a woman prime minister as did the Muslim nation of Bangladesh. India, home to one of the world's largest Muslim populations, just elected its first woman president. (In the mid-20th century, Indian politics was dominated by the figure of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.)

UPDATE: Jennifer L. Pozner on WIMN’s Voices offers her take on the debate formatting, particularly the example of Stephanie Mackley, the woman who posed a question about energy policy to the candidates from her bathroom.

---Rachel Joy Larris


Flying Junior said...

I heard that question too. It left a bad taste in my mouth. It showed an astonishing lack of knowledge of the 20th century as well as blatant chauvinism. Kind of hard to believe CNN picked it out of so many entries. What do you suppose is up with that?

m said...

Great Post! I too was wondering why there were so many men and barely any women asking the questions. Hopefully that will change in the September 17th Republican debate – but then again it is the Republican debate.

I do have to point out one thing – you forgot to mention the women who asked the candidates about voter reform. I believe it was a fantastic question and something that needs fixing before the 2008 election cycle.