Obama Only Answers Women at Conference: Is This Really News?

by Holly Trantham


If you do a quick Google search for “Obama’s year-end press conference” you will notice one very big trend in the results: each headline, rather than quoting the President or taking note of the nation’s biggest changes over the past year, focuses on the fact that he only took questions from female reporters.

This move drew a lot of outrage from conservative pundits, which in turn—and  as expected—caused many a response from liberal news sources. Conservatives of course felt that the move to only answer questions of women to be unfair, perhaps merely a publicity stunt, while other news sources were quick to point out how consistently male-dominated these press conferences (and political news in general) tend to be.

What I would like focus on is how completely normal this press conference was. Here are the topics covered by the eight questions asked of President Obama by female journalists:

  • Opinion on Sony canceling The Interview in response to threats from North Korea
  • Tax reform and the new Republican Congress
  • Committing to reform in Myanmar but not Cuba
  • The possibility of a relationship with the Cuban government
  • The possibility of meeting with President Castro
  • Changing his approach to executive reform in areas like immigration, equal pay and climate change in light of the Republican Congress
  • Facing the possibility of a Keystone Pipeline bill
  • The state of Black America six years ago vs. now

Maybe this was entirely on purpose, but none of these questions are exactly “female skewing.” So why would only women reporters asking questions be newsworthy? Because the very idea that women might have the same concerns in regards to the national state of affairs as men is, apparently, news.

Maybe this would have been a noteworthy occurrence if the questions were skewed to only discuss issues about which only women supposedly care. It goes without saying that barely anyone—from larger news corporations, anyway—would make a story out of it if Obama only fielded questions from male reporters. It would just be press conference business as usual. I’m glad these ladies were the reporters chosen to ask questions, not only because they are women but because they do not represent the major news networks. I hope this move signals a shift towards a place where we’re less surprised when women are fairly represented, in the press and elsewhere.

Watch the full press conference below.


Image courtesy of NBC News.

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