Who Won the Debate: How Women's Issues Dominated the Presidential Debate, As Narrated in GIFs


Tonight's presidential debate at 9 p.m. EST promises to be as wild a ride as the first. If you're watching from home, skip ABC, CNN, and MSNBC and watch the debate live here at PolicyMic. Why? Because your entire debate experience will be...


Oh, debate season. How you have toyed with our collective emotions (and our collective intellects) for the past few weeks

We laughed.

We cried.

We fact-checked.

We waited to hear about a variety of important issues.

And we all used GIFs — dare I say it — pretty liberally.

As a self-appointed feminist GIF-fiend, I'll be GIF-blogging the debate tonight live from the PolicyMic office. As ever, expect me to keep an eye out for teh womenz.

The time for nuanced analysis and articulate deconstruction is tomorrow. The time to react is now. 

PolicyMic will be covering the presidential debate — with GIFS aplenty— live. For live updates, bookmark and refresh this page.


11:45 p.m. So, what does it all mean?


While two minutes (plus time for rebuttal) is not really enough time for either candidate to fully get into their policies or their views — again, a result of the town hall format more than anything else — the questions in tonight's debate addressed a much broader range of policy concerns. If sacrificing time for variety in the line of questioning is a trade-off we have to make in debates, I'm ok with it. Not a moment too soon, as far as I'm concerned.

 And I got what I was waiting for. No, not just an acknowledgement that women make up the majority of registered voters in America, though that was nice too. 

Rather, what I've been waiting all election to hear is that the economic issues that we've been hearing so much about are inextricably linked to the social issues we've also been hearing so much about. This is true when it comes to women, it is true when it comes to men, it is true when it comes to people who don't fall into either of those categories. And finally, a candidate explicitly tied these issues together.

President Obama said, "This is not just a women’s issue. This is a family issue. This is a middle-class issue. And that’s why we’ve got to fight for it." 

"Now, there are some other issues that have a bearing on how women succeed in the workplace: for example, their health care," continued Obama.

"A major difference in this campaign is that Governor Romney feels comfortable having politicians in Washington decide the health care choices that women are making. I think that’s a mistake. In my health care bill, I said insurance companies need to provide contraceptive coverage to everybody who is insured, because this is not just a health issue; it’s an economic issue for women. It makes a difference. This is money out of that family’s pocket.

"When we talk about child care and the credits that we’re providing, that makes a difference in terms of whether they can go out there and earn a living for their family. These are not just women’s issues. These are family issues. These are economic issues. And one of the things that makes us grow as an economy is when everybody participates and women are getting the same fair deal as men are."

Mitt Romney, to his credit, acknowledged that improving conditions for working women was imperative to improving the nation's economy. He said, "What we can do to help young women and women of all ages is to have a strong economy, so strong that employers are looking to find good employees and bringing them into their workforce and adapting to a flexible work schedule that gives women the opportunities that  they would otherwise not be able to afford."

I'm glad Romney mentioned women specifically, even if he didn't address how he would solve the gender wage gap. Further, I'm extremely glad that he called out the Obama administration regarding the problem of women and poverty.

And despite his weird binder thing, I generally count it as a win that Romney further explicitly stated that the issue of gender parity in politics was one that he a) believed in and b) had experienced personally as the governor of Massachusetts.

But still.

It's good that Mitt Romney knew that it was a problem that he didn't have as many female employees. It's good that he knows how important adequate employment is for women. And it's good that he recognizes that the burden of child care falls disproportionately on women in most cases. But his solution to these problems — a better economy for everyone — may not really get at the heart of what's causing these problems now, in the dismal economic state that we're in. These issues were issues before the recession. 

Obama has taken the first step in framing the issues as existing across several dimensions of both men and women's lives. But new and better policy to address said issues must follow.

Both candidates need to carefully assess their policies when it comes to issues of gender equality. There is a fine line between describing the state of affairs as it is — economic and social issues currently impact people differently along gender lines — and perpetuating it. Both candidates need to push themselves to think of new solutions to these problems.

Mitt Romney is right. We will not settle for the America we have now.

10:37 p.m. Closing statements. Pay close attention.

Romney plays up his faith, asserting again that he cares about all Americans and wants to help them equally. He urges us not to settle for the America we have now.

Obama counters by finally bringing up the 47% comment and arguing that the way to uplift America is to pay attention to how to put everyone on an equal playing field.

10:32 p.m. Look! A Binders Full of Women Tumblr!

10:27 p.m. China and U.S. business (particularly small business) in the spotlight again.

10:19 p.m. Is it just me, or all the issues that haven't been discussed coming up now?

When it comes to gun violence in the U.S., Obama asks, "What can we do to intervene?" In response, Romney wants to know about Fast and Furious.

10:14 p.m. Does the buck stop with Hillary Clinton when it comes to Benghazi? Nope.

Obama clarifies that he is ultimately responsible for whatever his administration does. Romney tries to fact-check Obama, to no avail.

10:05 p.m. Arizona always comes up in immigration debates.

It's my home state, and I think still Jan Brewer is totally nuts. But shockingly, new polls have Obama leading in the Grand Canyon state. I have no idea what to make of that.

9:57 p.m. In case you missed it, Romney has binders full of women.

Because what else do you stock your library with?

9:55 p.m. Yes, Obamacare has already been passed.

While the Affordable Care Act may be controversial, it is law, and should be treated as such in the debates.

9:46 p.m. Hmm. Apparently Romney thinks every woman in America should have access to contraception.

Let me get this straight.

Romney has said he will overturn Obamacare on day one, thus overturning birth control coverage — which, let me reiterate is not the same thing as free birth control for everyone — and has vowed to cut both Medicaid and Title X Family Planning Funding, which make birth control accessible to low-income women and/or women without insurance.

Please explain. What does access mean, exactly? And who gets to have it?

9:37 p.m. OMG the glass ceiling. Women, they're finally talking to you.

Obama trots out the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. "This is not just a women's issue; this is a fmaily issue, this is a middle class issue. And that's why we've got to fight for it."

Romney says that he went out of his way to recruit a binder full of women, and that he further went out of his way to be "flexible" with their schedules. Does he mean that women have to be flexible because they often have to "do a little bit more," as his wife put it? Because I'd love to see him endorse, say, better child care options for working mothers and fathers. That'd be really flexible.

In retaliation, Obama slams Romney for failing to strongly support the Lilly Ledbetter Act, and goes on to explain that adequate health care is part of women's economic struggle.

No kidding.

9:31 p.m. In discussing tax plans, Romney mentions women living in poverty; Obama retaliates with Big Bird and Planned Parenthood.

Romney is absolutely right that poverty is a huge issue for women. (Sorry, Hanna Rosin! This economy isn't quite feminized yet.)

But Obama is right that health care costs, including reproductive health care costs, which Romney plans to cut, are a huge factor in women's poverty.

9:14 p.m. Energy policy differences between Romney and Obama.

Romney wants to dig, and dig, and dig, and dig. Obama wants to paint with all the colors of the wind.

9:08 p.m.  A 20-year-old student asks whether his unemployment opportunities are dismal.

Short answer: yes.

Romney sympathizes. "More debt, less jobs. I'm going to change that."

Obama says, "Your future is bright," and then proceeds to expound on how we can make America's future brighter generally, without addressing jobs for college students.

9:00 p.m. Let's rock this.

8:55 p.m. Only minutes to go.

I'm so ready for this. I can shake hands with the best of them.

8:45 p.m. I'm excited. Are you excited?


8:40 p.m. I know why the caged bird votes.

So you might have somehow missed this, but Maya Angelou wrote a pretty powerful op-ed about the power of voting on Monday.

"You may be pretty or plain, heavy or thin, gay or straight, poor or rich. But nobody has more votes than you. All human beings are more equal to each other than they are unequal. And voting is the great equalizer.

It is important. It is imperative. There is no time for complacency."

8:24 p.m. On women and the economy.

It's an important question. As I have argued before, many "women's issues" are both social and economic.

And when it comes to gender parity and equal, the U.S. economy is shifting rapidly, and generally not for the better. The wage gap for women has actually increased during Obama's presidency. Bloomberg Business News reports:

"The White House is not disingenuous about their equal pay bona fides but I think sometimes Ledbetter is overstated,” said Lisa Maatz, the director of Public Policy and Government Relations at Washington-based American Association of University Women. Maatz said that while Obama is “right to claim this as part of his legacy,” whenever “anyone says the Ledbetter bill ensures that women get equal pay for equal work, that’s not accurate.”

8:00 p.m. Chicas to the front.

Only an hour until Candy Crowley spices up our lives. I admit to not being a huge fan of the town hall format — it can get a little chaotic, in my opinion — but I can't help but be happy that a woman will be moderating a presidential debate for the first time in 20 years.

Still, as Sarah Dropek aptly notes, this does not mark the end of sexism in journalism. The problems are more complex than equal representation (though that is a start). And while it may be true that female moderators are more likely to bring up "women's issues," I find myself wondering why male moderators don't.

7:28 p.m. Speaking of the town hall format...

I'm excited to see how Candy Crowley fares as a moderator, but unfortunately, it's likely she'll be hampered by both the presidential campaigns and the debate format. As Meg Miller laid out yesterday, neither campaign wants her to go all Tom Brokaw (or Martha Raddatz) on the candidates, and neither does the Commission on Presidential Debates.

6:32 p.m. Guys. Did you know that there are great GIFs of Hillary Clinton?

The secretary of state has had a rough day today, but she may have headed off one of the Romney campaign's newest attacks on the Obama administration. We'll see if Benghazi comes up again in tonight's debate, but I would expect that domestic issues will take precedence in the town hall format.