Senator Brown Woos the Women of Massachusetts

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But does he really like us? His record suggests otherwise.

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Jessica Rinaldi/Reuters

I am an unaffiliated female voter in Massachusetts, and a cute guy running for Senate is sweet-talking me. Scott Brown wants me to know how much he cares. I'm playing hard-to-get, but his letters keep coming, assuring me of his commitment to equal pay, reproductive choice, and the rights of military women.

His letters are warm and friendly, filled with pictures of happy women. I feel like we're on a first-name basis, and if I didn't know better, I'd think Scott was a Democrat, or at least an independent like me. I'd think he was a feminist. If I didn't know better, I'd consider him a guy who respected women and could be trusted not to lie to them.

But I know Scott's record. I know that he voted against the Paycheck Fairness Act, a follow-up to the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which his mailers (and TV ads) claim he supports. I know that as a U.S. senator he voted against an amendment allowing women in the military to obtain privately financed abortions at military facilities and voted for the Blunt Amendment, allowing employers with moral qualms about contraception to deny contraceptive coverage to female employees. Knowing about votes like this, I'm not surprised that he won an 75 percent approval rating from the National Right to Life Committee. (John Kerry's rating, for reference, is 0 percent.)

I know, too, that in the Massachusetts state senate, Scott co-sponsored a measure requiring women seeking abortions to endure 24-hour waiting periods and review cautionary pictures and "information" about fetal development. I know that that he's strongly opposed by pro-choice groups and supported by Massachusetts Citizens for Life.

I don't know who will win the Massachusetts senatorial race, which remains much too close to call. But I think I know why Brown has pulled out of the third and final debate with Elizabeth Warren. Sandy gave him a good excuse for canceling: The debate was initially scheduled for October 30, the day after she stormed though (doing relatively little damage in Massachusetts).

Moreover, he has a good electoral reason for refusing to reschedule. Warren effectively challenged Brown's commitment to equal pay and choice at the last debate, and since then he's been furiously disseminating misinformation about his "strong record supporting women." Why risk being confronted with the facts in a televised debate less than a week before the election?

Brown has branded himself an independent, pro-choice, pro-women's-rights advocate, and I suspect that some unaffiliated women will believe his campaign claims. (Independents tend to be the least politically informed and interested of voters.) It's hard to imagine Brown cutting deeply into Warren's lead among women, but in this close race, he may need only to seduce a minority of female voters on the periphery. He's targeting those who don't know better -- betting that they'll vote for him today, in the belief that he'll still love them tomorrow.

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Wendy Kaminer is an author, lawyer, and civil libertarian. She is the author of I'm Dysfunctional, You're Dysfunctional, and a past recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship. More

Wendy Kaminer is a lawyer and social critic who has been a contributing editor of The Atlantic since 1991. She writes about law, liberty, feminism, religion and popular culture and has written eight books, including Worst InstinctsFree for All; Sleeping with Extra-Terrestrials; and I'm Dysfunctional, You're Dysfunctional. Kaminer worked as a staff attorney in the New York Legal Aid Society and in the New York City Mayor's Office and was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1993. She is a renowned contrarian who has tackled the issues of censorship and pornography, feminism, pop psychology, gender roles and identities, crime and the criminal-justice system, and gun control. Her articles and reviews have appeared in The Atlantic, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Newsweek, The American Prospect, Dissent, The Nation, The Wilson Quarterly, Free Inquiry, and spiked-online.com. Her commentaries have aired on National Public Radio. She serves on the board of the Bill of Rights Defense Committee, the advisory boards of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education and the Secular Coalition for America, and is a member of the Massachusetts State Advisory Committee to the U.S. Civil Rights Commission.

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