Film & Television · Politics

‘The Gender Gap’: 30 Years of Women’s Voices at the Polls (Film Review)


Publisher’s Note

Women’s Voices: Today we present two serious posts about the importance of covering women’s voices. One is this review of a 16 minute short film produced and directed in 1984, “Women’s Voices: The Gender Gap Movie” that covers the early change in voting patterns between men and women. The second post lets us know how women’s voices in sports journalism combined with the anonymity of social media continues to produce a frenzy of hate filled tweets and threats aimed at women who dare to have a voice in the world of male dominated sports. Women’s Voices for Change, indeed . . . — Patricia Yarberry Allen



hqdefaultWomen’s Voices: The Gender Gap (1984, KTQ50 films)

Whether you consider yourself a Republican or Democrat, Liberal or Conservative, women’s issues have been at the forefront of this year’s political race — from equal pay and family leave to polarizing positions on abortion and Planned Parenthood. No matter how vocal any particular candidate has been regarding his or her stand, it’s interesting — and, perhaps, a bit disheartening — to stop and think about how long these same issues have been debated.

In 1984, more than thirty years ago, Ronald Reagan was running for re-election and a young filmmaker named Jenny Rohrer produced and directed a 16-minute short entitled Women’s Voices: The Gender Gap Movie in conjunction with Kartemquin films.

Kartemquin was (and is) a collaborative center for independent filmmakers, dedicated to documentaries that deepen our understanding of society through everyday human drama. Focusing on people whose lives are affected by political change, but are often overlooked by the media, Kartemquin’s films open up a dialogue between the public and policymakers. The organization has won numerous prizes, including Emmy, Peabody, Independent Spirit and Director’s Guide awards, and an Oscar nomination (for 1994’s Hoop Dreams). In 2016 Kartemquin will celebrate 50 years of “sparking democracy through documentary.”

RELATED: On the Bright Side: The Winning ‘Woman’s Card’

To celebrate this milestone, Kartemquin is offering free access to Rohrer’s film through Friday, May 6th.

You can watch it online here and below. 

Women’s Voices: The Gender Gap Movie explores what had already become a growing difference in the voting patterns of men and women. By the mid-1980s, this “gender gap” could no longer be discounted. In fact, reaction to Reagan’s first term demonstrated it in a statistically significant way — with women feeling greater dissatisfaction on virtually every topic. There was an 18% discrepancy in approval of Reagan’s handling of the economy; an 11% difference in approval of his policies in South and Central America; and a 13% gap in approval rating overall. More important than ratings was the growing number of women voting. As Rohrer’s film points out, in 1982, 6 million more women voted than men, and were directly responsible for the outcome of 5 major gubernatorial races that year.

The film uses an engaging combination of then current statistics and heartfelt personal stories. These come from a broad cross-section of American women, including a dairy farmer, educators, students, a retiree, a community activist, union stewards and a former RNC Co-Chair, Mary Crisp, who left the Republican party in 1980 when it formally denounced the ERA. These women share their feelings about defense spending, compensation equality, the environment, cuts in education, childcare and healthcare. What is particularly striking about all these conversations is that, if it weren’t for each speaker’s clothing, hairstyle and eyeglasses, you might think the film was made last week. The exact same concerns could be — and are being — voiced right now.

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  • Elizabeth Hemmerdinger May 5, 2016 at 12:13 am

    Thanks so much for bringing this film to our attention, for giving us easy access to it, and for allowing us to contemplate the irony of how slowly the wheels turn, slowly enough that we sometimes feel we’re still mired in muddy ideas.