Brennan Pope: Naming the nameless

Wednesday, August 2, 2017 - 6:28pm

Last week, another attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act failed in dramatic fashion. A video of Sen. John McCain (R–Ariz.) voting down the initiative showed overwhelming shock and surprise from the senators present. The liberal world met McCain with praise and gratitude for stepping over party lines and defending health care. And this is for good reason; his vote helped save health care for millions of Americans.

However, what a lot of liberal publications are criticizing is that Sens. Susan Collins (R–Maine) and Lisa Murkowski (R–Alaska) also voted against the bill and are not praised to the same extent. While McCain is being heralded as the force that saved health care, these female senators aren’t given any credit.

This is a prime example of the media throwing women into the shadows of men. This happens every day, but many poignant examples came from the 2016 Summer Olympics. The media coverage of women athletes often was centered on their husbands or their male coaches. For example, when Katinka Hosszu of Hungary set a world record and won her first gold medal in the 400-meter Individual Medley, the media focused their attention on her husband and coach, Shane Tusup. An NBC commentator went as far to say, “There's the guy responsible for turning Katinka Hosszu, his wife, into a whole different swimmer.”

So, to criticize the coverage of McCain and the lack of coverage of Collins and Murkowski is completely valid and necessary. There needs to be a reform in the media’s coverage of women, and women need to be given the credit they deserve. What Collins and Murkowski did was equally if not more courageous than what McCain did, as these less established senators have much more to lose than McCain does.

This being said, while the rest of the public has heard primarily about McCain, myself, being in a liberal circle, have mostly heard about these two women. I have read many articles about these two women and have heard many of my friends complain that these two women aren’t getting any credit. But when I say I have mostly heard about these two women, I literally mean that I’ve heard about “these two women.” Whenever I have heard about this from my liberal friends or my liberal publications, they all fail to even say Murkowski’s or Collins’ names. It’s sad that issue of credit is compounding itself on both sides. On one side they don’t exist, and on the other they are nameless women who are praised but are still silhouettes in the shadow the household name John McCain casts.

In fact, so many of the articles fail to even mention Murkowski or Collins in the headline. The Independent reads, “Forget John McCain — these two Republican women saved Obamacare.” It’s hard to forget John McCain when he’s the only name in the headline. Refinery29, a publication about and for women, published a headline with a similar message, “Thanks John McCain, But These Women Are The Real Heroes.” The sentiments are pointed in the correct direction with these articles but even some publications looking to shine the light on Murkowski and Collins chose to leave them nameless. This is probably part of “clickbait” culture, using the more-popular-than-ever McCain to draw in more readers and in turn more revenue. So “these women” are very well casualties to clicks in this instance.

It’s great to see a push back against their lack of coverage, but let’s also push to remember the names of Murkowski and Collins. Their contribution toward the fight to preserve health care could not be overstated. Additionally, if you ever see the phrases, “these women,” “this woman,” “the wife of” or anything in between, take a moment to think of the names behind these silhouettes and push to reform how the media treat the nameless.