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October 19, 2010

Women in Politics

Grim and Elise are discussing the treatment of women in politics (in particular, the use of sexist and sexually demeaning language against female politicians):

... we've all been thinking about the problem of female politicians, right? To whit, sexist remarks appear to be highly effective against them.

Especially among women. Look at any poll you like, and you'll find that the Sarah Palins and Christine O'Donnells poll far worse among women than men. Men are willing to give them a chance, along partisan lines -- in other words, as ready to vote for them as for any other person who came along in their preferred party. Women are much less willing.

I think there are a number of things going on here. First and foremost, I don't think we can disregard the enormous degree to which people - male or female, machts nichts - are influenced by physical appearance and body language. For men, height is a huge asset. You can see vestiges of the notion that physical dominance is a leadership trait in the body language of men and women:

... men's nonverbal training is often directed specifically toward showing strength, not weakness. Allowing someone too close or into his space would render a man vulnerable. A man can better control his environment by creating more space around him. Boys are told to "stand tall" in order to show confidence and assertiveness, and even occasionally aggressiveness.

Women cannot command as large a personal space as men. Consequently, they are often perceived as having "lower status."

The same phenomenon crops up in our speech:

... several other paralinguistic features of women's nonverbal communication work against them.

Take, for instance, the notion of being soft-spoken. How often have we heard this term applied to a man? Almost never. No, it's women who keep their voices small and delicate. Part of that is biological, as explained above. However, when men and women's voices are compared to the respective size of their vocal tracts, women talk as if they are physically smaller than they actually are. Their voices are pitched to the upper range, the decibel level is reduced, and vowel resonances are thinned. These paralinguistic elements are not the effect of biology but of socialization and learning-the imperative to be soft-spoken.

In fact, according to communication professors Deborah Borisoff and Lisa Merrill, "Women, like children, have been taught that it is preferable for them to be seen rather than to be heard." Following this line of reasoning, Borisoff and Merrill point out in The Power to Communicate that when not held in check, women's louder voices are considered abrasive or displeasing: "carping, brassy, nagging, shrill, strident, or grating." And female conversation may be referred to as "babbling, blabbing, gabbing, or chatting"-none very serious endeavors. Unfortunately, however, a woman's quiet voice is rather ineffectual-a credibility robber.

There are ways women can compensate for the undeniable fact that we are neither as tall nor as physically imposing as men, but doing so requires us to override some very powerful social conditioning. And women walk a fine line here - the postures and tones of voice men use so effectively to command respect almost invariably provoke hostility when women use them. Then there are the things women do that are perceived one way by women and quite another way by men.

I do believe women in general operate at a slight disadvantage in politics, but I also think it's on us to play to our strengths and minimize our weaknesses. Grim mentions the problem (though I'm not at all sure it *is* a systemic problem) of women supposedly refusing to give other women a chance. I can't speak for other women, but personally I'm not seeing this.

The fact is that right now women are still a minority in political life. There simply aren't that many of us, so the idea that we can infer any broad, overarching conclusions about the willingness of women to support female politicians from our reactions to a handful of cases seems a bit problematic to me.

When the buzz started over Condi Rice as a possible candidate back in 2003, I didn't think she was ready. I looked at her record and she simply didn't have the experience I expect in a candidate for the Presidency. Had she run in 2008, she would most likely have gotten my vote. I watched Rice blossom in office, but more importantly her mental toughness and verbal acuity grew by leaps and bounds. She projected confidence, competence, and a masterful grasp of world affairs (one of my #1 requirements in a President).

Palin is undoubtably intelligent and charismatic and she does project assurance, but she has been consistently unimpressive in her responses on certain issues. She might well just need more time, but for now my assessment of her is that she's simply not seasoned enough.

O'Donnell mystifies me. By any of the criteria I use to evaluate male candidates, she's a disaster waiting to happen. I don't trust a woman who takes 10 years to pay off less than $5000 of college debt. Her inability to handle her own finances doesn't inspire me to trust her with public money and it raises serious questions about her character. I couldn't possibly care less about her youthful opinions on masturbation, porn, or Wicca. They're irrelevant, except to the extent that they make it far too easy to dismiss her as a flake. I'm not at all sure she's electable but fortunately that's for the voters of Delaware to decide.

Sharron Angle seems competent enough. I haven't paid enough attention to her to comment knowledgeably but I'd love to see her beat Harry Reid. Carly Fiorina seems likewise competent and were I a California resident I'd gladly support her over Babs Boxer.

Overall, I am dismayed by the suggestions I've seen in many quarters (no, I'm not referring to Grim) that we ladies ought to vote with our lady parts. If you want my vote or my support, convince me you deserve it on the merits. Appealing to identity politics is the wrong tack - it's insulting and ultimately counterproductive. Likewise, I fail to see the point in going on and on about how we bold, strong, New Age Womyn are taking the political world by storm.

We're. not. Not even close, people.

Are there more successful female candidates these days? Sure. Is this a good thing? Probably, although I find the notion that women will be any less of a mixed bag than male politicians to be highly suspect. It's a brave new world and I have every confidence that, given the opportunity, women are just capable of making jackasses of ourselves as any man :p

Finally, on the sexually demeaning rhetoric thing I think this is just something women will have to learn to deal with. It's clearly wrong and even more clearly extremely effective, dealing as it does with entrenched perceptions of women and our uses. We live in a culture that has very little respect for women and unlike Grim, I don't believe we can - or should - expect men to defend us.

Leaders don't look to others to do what they ought to do for themselves. If a politician can't even defend herself, she's not going to be seen as a leader. This is going to be a tough nut for women to crack, but if we want to be taken seriously in what is still very much a man's world, we're going to have to figure it out.

Politics is a dirty, ugly business. We should object when politicians hit below the belt, but what I find most disturbing isn't sexist language but the vicious and deliberate attacks on the children of female candidates for political office.

Women are particularly vulnerable to such tactics and if anything will keep women out of politics, it will be that kind of collateral damage. It is used against women because it's more likely to succeed against us. I'm not sure what we can do about that, except to make sure the perpetrators pay dearly.

Posted by Cassandra at October 19, 2010 09:07 AM

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Comments

"...unlike Grim, I don't believe we can - or should - expect men to defend us."

Let's be clear on what I do expect. I do expect a man to stand up to another male who is behaving badly. A man who won't is no man at all.

How many real men are there in politics, then? Damn few. There could be more, though: and I suspect that there would be more if people saw a few examples. If it happened just a few times, a lot of men who now are keeping quiet because they figure 'the culture' is against them might start standing up.

Ductus exemplo.

The problem I see, though, is that even if we get there, we still haven't fixed the problem. It really does seem to be the case to me that women hold women to higher standards than they expect of men. Women seem to be harder on these candidates than men are.

O'Donnell, for example, is doubtless everything you say. She is also running against a man who once embraced Marxism, in a race that may decide control of the Senate.

If she were some idiot guy, we'd probably hold our nose; and the left would treat him like Tancrendo (i.e., there'd be occasional snide remarks, but it wouldn't amount to anything). Being female, though, she gets skits every weekend on Saturday Night Live mocking her, and it becomes a point of pride to put her down.

That puts me in the position of having to defend her, because she's being treated unfairly. Unfairly, even given every genuine problem she brought with her. I have a duty in these matters: to defend the weak against the vicious.

Posted by: Grim at October 19, 2010 02:25 PM

The only limitations on women are the ones they place on themselves. I didn't see Margaret Thatcher wringing her hands over whether she was sufficiently ladylike, or "empowered" to express her political views. Politics is essentially war by (usually) non-violent means. It was never meant to be a quilting bee. Some women can handle that, some can't. Some men can't handle the stresses of war either. Gender issues in this area are overblown, IMHO. It all comes down to the strength and fortitude of the individual. Hell, I'd rather have the tough old broad that works in the Waffle House down the street in a foxhole with me, than trust losers like Alan Alda or Michael Moore to fight alongside me.

Now, Cass, are you ever going to address the Tea Party vs the Republican Establishment issues? I double-dare ya. Chicken. Bwak-bok-bok-bok.:)

Posted by: a former european at October 19, 2010 02:32 PM

I do expect a man to stand up to another male who is behaving badly. A man who won't is no man at all.

Well, I agree with you 100% there.

My main concern with that particular sentence was twofold:

1. The possible inference (not saying this is what you meant, but that it's not an unreasonable interpretation) that men should stick up for women simply because they're women.

This falls under the general rubric of why I think hate crime laws are dumb - the act in question, if it's genuinely a crime - is objectionable in and of itself. The identity of the victim is irrelevant.

2. The idea, which I've also seen expressed, that men will only pay attention to/be reigned in by other men.

Are men somewhat more likely to pay attention to other men due to the threat of violence? Sure, but how many men credibly threaten violence these days?

I've actually found men to be quite responsive to moral suasion, even from a woman. It's one of their finer qualities :p

Not saying men ought to hold back when they see another man behaving unacceptably. As you know, I've often taken men to task for remaining silent on such occasions. I guess I just think that if women want to move into this sphere and be taken seriously, they must learn to handle attempts to intimidate them and put them down.

I think that leave plenty of room for men to follow their consciences.

Posted by: Cassandra at October 19, 2010 02:35 PM

afe, I almost brought that up in this post but I thought it would get too long.

Will do a quick off the cuff response :)

Posted by: Cassandra at October 19, 2010 02:39 PM

Overall, I am dismayed by the suggestions I've seen in many quarters (no, I'm not referring to Grim) that we ladies ought to vote with our lady parts.

I would recommend against voting with your lady parts. Not only will you get VERY odd looks from the voting officials, it's not very sanitary for those in line behind you.

Posted by: MikeD at October 19, 2010 02:58 PM

It really does seem to be the case to me that women hold women to higher standards than they expect of men. Women seem to be harder on these candidates than men are.

Again, unless you are limiting your comment to *these very few candidates*, I think you're inferring something I don't believe is supported by the evidence.

I don't think one could argue, for instance, that I was any harder on any female candidate than I was on Barack Obama. He was unqualified and I pointed that out... repeatedly. If O'Donnell were a man, I'd have exactly the same objections to her. If I lived in DE, would I hold my nose and vote for her over her opponent?

Probably. But not happily.

The truth is that the only reason we're discussing this at all is that women are still a minority in politics. I don't normally comment on state elections.

If one takes the long view, electing poorly qualified candidates can be more harmful in the long run. At the risk of getting myself in a world of trouble, I see two possibilities here:

1. Men in general constantly remind everyone around them that men don't understand women. Women, on the other hand, generally understand other women extremely well.


2. I believe men have lower expectations of women than they do of other men. Is this a problem of women not being willing to "give other women a chance"? Or is it one of men holding women to a lower standard (that you don't view as a problem since it supports an outcome you favor)?

That sounds harsh, but I am honestly not trying to be adversarial - just throwing it out there.

Posted by: Cassandra at October 19, 2010 02:58 PM

Doesn't possibility 2) run counter to the excerpted portion here: Men are willing to give them a chance, along partisan lines -- in other words, as ready to vote for them as for any other person who came along in their preferred party.

This seems to say that men (if the statistic is correct, and it very well may not be) aren't holding women to a lower standard, they that are, in fact, holding them to the exact same standard

A very low standard indeed, of having the correct R/D behind their name, but it is at least the same.

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at October 19, 2010 03:14 PM

There is a distinction you missed I think. It's vicious attacks on conservative female candidates. Does anyone honestly believe that if the same sort of filth was thrown at liberal women candidates there wouldn't be a huge outcry?

Also, remember that lovely little political cartoon about Condi? What if you showed the same caricature using Maxine Waters saying "I don't know nothing about no ethics scandals." Do you think it would fly? Oh, heck no.

The simple fact of the matter is that conservative women are considered deserving of that kind of attack, by some.

Posted by: Allen at October 19, 2010 03:25 PM

I agree, Allen.

The thing is, liberals view women as helpless victims who need government protection. Since conservative women reject that role, they are fair game.

But just as all conservatives aren't alike, neither are all liberals. The link from Anglachel shows that. I'm pretty sure she isn't a huge Meg Whitman fan, and yet she applied her principles and came to Whitman's defense.

There are plenty of liberals who are intellectually honest. I know because I'm friends with a lot of them and I respect them. Also, the fact that Elise respects her is huge in my book because I think the world of Elise.

Posted by: Cassandra at October 19, 2010 03:34 PM

Doesn't possibility 2) run counter to the excerpted portion here: Men are willing to give them a chance, along partisan lines -- in other words, as ready to vote for them as for any other person who came along in their preferred party.

I'm not sure it does. Grim seems to be saying that men are willing (in general) to vote for conservative females.

I think what I was trying to suggest is that there may be several different reasons why that might be true (if indeed it is true).

Posted by: Cassandra at October 19, 2010 03:52 PM

I read Anglachel's two pieces on this, and it's not clear to me she was exactly defending Whitman. It struck me more that it was about how this harms Brown's election efforts. You are exactly correct though that her principles hold up.

Posted by: Allen at October 19, 2010 04:09 PM

I don't think she was defending Whitman personally, but there's no reason to expect that.

I do think she was objecting to Brown's tactics. It's pretty clear she thinks they're wrong, and also counterproductive.

Her statement that Whitman's behavior is in NO way "whorish", and that Whitman didn't act any differently than a man would, seems to me just about as fair a defense as we have any right to expect from someone who I doubt agrees with Whitman.

Posted by: Cassandra at October 19, 2010 04:43 PM

I think what I was trying to suggest is that there may be several different reasons why that might be true (if indeed it is true).

I don't really have a problem with the hypothesis that there may be different reasons why conservative vote for women vice men, it just would seem unlikely (though not impossible) that a lowered standard would exactly make up for the difference.

Of the two hypothesis:
1) Men vote equally likely for men v/s women because they don't see a difference with regard to gender
or
2) Men vote equally likely for men v/s women because they do see difference with regard to gender but those difference are exactly off-setting

Occam's Razor would suggest the former is probably more likely than the latter.

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at October 19, 2010 06:05 PM

Now if the polling is incorrect and Conservative men are *not* equally likely to vote for men v/s women, (whether that be more likely *or* less likely) then all bets are off.

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at October 19, 2010 06:07 PM

I'd be surprised if men were equally likely to vote for women, but that's just my personal opinion. I have nothing to back that up :)

Posted by: Cassandra at October 19, 2010 06:20 PM

Cass:

Let me start off by pointing out that you're doing something here you used to warn me against doing:

Again, unless you are limiting your comment to *these very few candidates*, I think you're inferring something I don't believe is supported by the evidence.

I don't think one could argue, for instance, that I was any harder...

From time to time in our early discussions, you would point out that I was somewhat of an outlier -- and therefore that it was not entirely fair to judge "how men are" by "how I am."

Allow me to suggest -- as a compliment -- that you are subject to the same critique here. Surely it is fair to say that you were just as hard on Barack Obama as anyone else. However, if we look at women in general, and not your own good self, I think we might see that he did not in 2008 receive... ah, the same level of criticism from women (in general) as did Sarah Palin.

To some degree I suppose I have to limit my remarks to 'these few candidates,' because they are the only ones in front of us. It does seem to be the case, across the board, that conservative/Republican women are doing worse with women than with men.

Grim seems to be saying that men are willing (in general) to vote for conservative females.

I certainly am. (Oops! Same fallacy!)

But seriously, here are some numbers.

Posted by: Grim at October 19, 2010 08:05 PM

Perhaps women are more likely to be swayed by slime-attacks? Women pols are more likely to have personal attacks and attacks on their children.

Posted by: Foxfier at October 19, 2010 08:25 PM

The truth is that the only reason we're discussing this at all is that women are still a minority in politics. I don't normally comment on state elections.

So why weren't we talking about how unfair the military attacks mounted on Barbara Boxer were?

So why weren't we talking about how unfair the stuff said about PillowC was, before PillowC was PillowC? They were certainly around before Sarah Palin came on the national scene, I recall.

This doesn't seem to be much about women as a minority in politics so much as it is about conservative women as a minority in political positions.


2. I believe men have lower expectations of women than they do of other men. Is this a problem of women not being willing to "give other women a chance"? Or is it one of men holding women to a lower standard (that you don't view as a problem since it supports an outcome you favor)?

Men give women a break for the same reason women give men a break. Men treat other men harsher because they compete directly with other men. Same reason why women treat other women harsher. "She stole my boyfriend". "My best friend took my girl". It works perfectly.

There is no evolutionary benefit for men to beat the snot out of women and for women to constantly try to overpower men in the social hierarchy. That didn't seemed to have brought bountiful food to the table. Not as much as men competing with men, women competing with women, for each other.

But just as all conservatives aren't alike, neither are all liberals.

They, like you Cassandra, are outliers. That is not the same as 68% of the sample population.

Allow me to suggest -- as a compliment -- that you are subject to the same critique here.

That's pretty funny. Grim made the same point as me.

Posted by: Ymarsakar at October 19, 2010 09:33 PM

Allow me to suggest -- as a compliment -- that you are subject to the same critique here. Surely it is fair to say that you were just as hard on Barack Obama as anyone else. However, if we look at women in general, and not your own good self, I think we might see that he did not in 2008 receive... ah, the same level of criticism from women (in general) as did Sarah Palin.

You are entirely correct here, and you're also correct that using myself as one instance doesn't prove anything wrt women in general.

What I intended to say, though, was that I'm not sure the fact that the candidates you mention are being slighted by women to a degree that a man who ran on the same principles would not be, or that if (by some miracle) suddenly half the candidates in this election were women, that we'd see the same results.

The thing these candidates have in common, Grim, is that several of them are running as "real" conservatives. You are attributing the lack of support from women to the candidates' gender when in fact it may very well be their policies (or just the fact that women are less likely to support anything perceived as far right policies).

It does seem to be the case, across the board, that conservative/Republican women are doing worse with women than with men.

Ah, but are these conservative/Repub females doing worse with women voters than conservative/Republican men? I think that's the real question - if we don't know that, I don't think we have enough information to conclude that women don't want to vote for other women.

Posted by: Cassandra at October 19, 2010 10:30 PM

A fair point, but confer this: women seem to be avoiding the traditional 'gender gap' this year, and willing to embrace Republicans across the country. (The WPost reports this is an even split, down from a usual 9-point advantage for Democrats among women.)

Except, of course, in the races aforementioned -- those where conservative women are the candidates. As the article notes, the few bright spots where the gender gap holds strong includes Reid v. Angle, and Coons v. O'Donnell.

Page two of the article notes a race (Ayotte, NH) in which a conservative woman leads among both men and women... though her lead is smaller with women.

It could be the abortion issue, of course. I'd like to think better of womankind than to believe so given the wickedness of the practice, but it's one clear distinction on policy.

Posted by: Grim at October 19, 2010 10:44 PM

Even that doesn't quite account for the even split among male candidates, compared to the "smaller lead at best, with support for the D more common" among female candidates.

We'd have to read it as women (in general) taking pro-life positions as acceptable among men, but a kind of treason coming from another woman.

Posted by: Grim at October 19, 2010 10:46 PM

is that several of them are running as "real" conservatives.

Tea Party candidates.

Although I wouldn't call Carly F a Tea Party candidate. She did not get the pass unless she did.

. You are attributing the lack of support from women to the candidates' gender

Only partially to the gender. More importantly, to the slander aimed at the gender's weaknesses.

If it was just a strange woman on scene, things would be neural... probably. But once the character assassination starts, women reward such tactics more for women than for men.

The key issue is negatives. There is no accurate control on why Republican men or women might find a Republican female candidate positive. But there is a direct correlation between how they see her Negatives.

Posted by: Ymarsakar at October 19, 2010 10:49 PM

If nothing else, my dark side revels in the apoplectic reaction of the Left to people like Sarah Palin and Christine O'Donnell.

Call it a character flaw; I've got a veritable plethora of those... ;-)

Posted by: camojack at October 20, 2010 01:06 AM

Link

On a different topic. Those that have taken Tai Chi here might be interested to see this video.

Posted by: Ymarsakar at October 20, 2010 07:19 AM

I'd be surprised if men were equally likely to vote for women, but that's just my personal opinion. I have nothing to back that up :)

Same here. Simply because given the numerous meaningful observed differences in tendencies between men and women, the hypothesis that male candidates and female candidates are *not* likewise different (and thus deserving of different voting patterns) or that they are different but that those differences are exactly off-setting also violate Occam's Razor.

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at October 20, 2010 10:07 AM

Cassandra, I have long held the idea that the men who are truly selfish and sexist are in the Democratic party. I held that notion because of the ease which abortion removes responsibility from the man, how 'women's bodies, women's choice' makes it a lot easier for responsibility to be the sole responsibility of the woman and not the male.

That is one side. While Letterman's attacks on Palin's daughter show him to be the cad that he is, it amused me vastly that Letterman was every bit the slut he portrayed her daughter to be.
Projection is so true in this case.

However, Obama did something that surprised me. He did not take the attacks on his daughters personally. He returned fire, but not to the attackers by naming them; only their agenda.
In other words, the 'daughters and families of candidates are off limits.' That would mean both sides, no?

When Trig was being picked on, Palin attacked the ones who did it, not the ideology. That is where I think Obama won points and she didn't.

I could be totally wrong, and this level of thought this early in the morning is unusual for me, so if any of you disagree, feel free to do so, but remember my synaptic connections.

Posted by: Cricket at October 20, 2010 10:40 AM

Ack. I meant 'shared responsibility',not to put it all on men. I do apologize.

Posted by: Cricket at October 20, 2010 10:42 AM

I'm still not sure we can disentangle gender preference from party preference or perhaps ideological stance, perceived flakiness, or even media attacks. For example, women are not supporting Rand Paul either. Men are supporting Paul 59% to 38%; women are supporting Conway 55% to 39%. This cannot be a case of women refusing to give (Republican or conservative) women a break but it could be a case of party preference; Paul being seen as too ideologically extreme (which might apply to Angle and O'Donnell also); Paul being seen as flaky (ditto); or media attacks (ditto).

What I'd like to see to really dig into this is (are?) results for all the House, Senate, and governor races with breakdowns by how men and women voted. If we find that women consistently voted at lower rates for Republican women than for Republican men, we'll have something - assuming there are enough Republican women running to give us a decent sample size.

Posted by: Elise at October 20, 2010 12:41 PM

Hello Cassandra,
This is my first time posting here, since I ran accross your blog earlier this morning while looking for something else (actually, it was The Fifth Horseman's "The Misandry Bubble" paper he wrote for his blog; I ran accross your rebuttal to it, and found it interesting, if somewhat off the point). Looking forward to commenting here early and often!

Here's my take on the topic at hand:

I think that any Woman who wants in on the rough and tumble of the political, military or business worlds, should and will have to deal with what comes as a result of said "worlds" - which, when it comes to politics, means nasty "going negative" attacks. I think it demeans Women on a whole when a Woman candidate stands for office, but then hides behind a Man in one way or another when the slings and arrows come her way. We saw this back in 08 when Hillary trotted out her hubbie Bill every chance she got, and we saw it again recently when Meg Whitman was able to hide behind Chris Christie when Whitman should have handled the heckler herself; after all, Christie's already a governor (though how effective remains to be seen; his 400M screw up doesn't acquit him well, that's for sure). She did it again with the whole "whore" comment on the part of the Jerry Brown camp. I mean, really.

Nikki Haley handled herself masterfully when she was accused of conducting an affair; she demanded hard proof of the allegations, and when her enemies couldn't produce the goods, she kept right on getting up. She called their bluff, and they folded. That's how smart politicians handle theirs.

As for Palin, I argue that she's probably one of the smartest political minds out there right now - not only did she quit her job as governor halfway through her term, but she essentially upgraded in position, pay and status in the what, barely two years since she was a serious VP candidate? She can say that she's had a serious hand in changing the political landscape of the USA without ever running herself - eclipsing folk like McDonnnell (KY) and Rove?!?. The Woman is no joke.

Christine McDonnell? I say she's got a shot, albeit a long one. Still, the very fact that she can mount such a serious challenge in a very blue state like DE, spells serious trouble for the Dems. Guys like Mike Castle are supposed to basically die in office, not get bounced out on their behinds.

As for Sharron Angle? The lady is on some other stuff, but again, that's more a commentary about just how weak Reid is if anything. He can't shake this lady for anything, so what does that tell you?

Overall, I see the Tea Party as a force of nature not to be misunderestimated, as GWB would say. Contrary to the views of some, that the youth and/or Hispanic/Black/Single Woman vote(s) would become more and more pivotal in the times to come, if anything it seems that the Flyover/White/Baby Boomer vote(s) is where the action is...if the TP has anything to say about it.

We'll see...

The Obsidian

Posted by: Obsidian at October 20, 2010 01:30 PM

We'd have to read it as women (in general) taking pro-life positions as acceptable among men, but a kind of treason coming from another woman.

I don't think we have nearly enough evidence to conclude anything of the kind, Grim.

Women do make decisions differently than men. I have often been told (by men) that I think like a man but I don't. I think like a woman.

I think women take a more holistic approach to most things. We see reality as a complex and interconnected system whereas most men I've spoken with in my lifetime seem to work more on a compartmentalized model that oversimplifies or even ignores a lot of things entirely.

While I do believe the female view of how things work is actually a far more accurate representation of reality, it doesn't always lead to better decisions because too much analysis can lead to paralysis or moral dumbfounding.

This is in itself a gross oversimplification, but in general I think men just want life to be simple. But it isn't simple, and ignoring the messy or inconvenient bits doesn't make them go away. And I see those messy/inconvenient bits bite guys on the ass all the time and they're never more surprised than when something they decided to ignore turns out to be really, really important.

Women, on the otter heiny, understand that life isn't simple but that knowledge tends to make us less sure of ourselves and our own rightness. It makes us hesitate and hedge our bets. It also makes men disinclined to listen to us.

There was a fascinating study out a while ago that showed that groups make better decisions when they include women, and moreover that it was better to have a "dumber" group that included women than a uniformly "smart" group that did not.

In real life, I've noticed that if you take gender out of it, people who are slower and more thoughtful often have a better grasp of complex issues. They ask a lot of questions and often manage to nail the crux of an issue. Though it may sound as though I'm implying that I'm one of those folks, that's not what I'm saying at all.

I'm not absolutely convinced I'm right in my ultimate conclusions. What I'm saying is that I truly believe we as a society need BOTH kinds of people to make wise decisions.

There's a reason federal spending and federal power have been growing out of control for the last 100 years and I don't believe electing a handful of Christine O'Donnells is suddenly going to reverse the federal juggernaut that has been gathering speed for longer than I've been alive.

And I don't think it's wrong or traitorous or lily livered to try and put our present predicament into historical perspective. I'm not making the case for inaction, but for a more realistic appraisal of the way forward.

Emotion is useful in politics, but it shouldn't be driving the bus. I am no less passionate about reigning in the federal government than any of you are. I just see some things differently, that's all.

All I know is that I have to say and do what I believe is right.

Posted by: Cassandra at October 20, 2010 01:33 PM

Nikki Haley handled herself masterfully when she was accused of conducting an affair; she demanded hard proof of the allegations, and when her enemies couldn't produce the goods, she kept right on getting up. She called their bluff, and they folded. That's how smart politicians handle theirs.

Couldn't agree more :)

I think women will eventually figure it out, but we have some unlearning to do. I'm not one who thinks that electing women - in and of itself - is a good thing.

I'm more interested in electing effective leaders. That said, I think we'd be better off with a group of effective leaders that included more women, but I'm not willing to endorse any kind of political affirmative action to make that happen.

Anyway, enjoyed your comment.

Posted by: Cassandra at October 20, 2010 01:40 PM

we saw it again recently when Meg Whitman was able to hide behind Chris Christie when Whitman should have handled the heckler herself;

I have not yet found a clip of this incident that runs continuously from when the heckler started until when Christie finished dressing him down and the conversation moved on. However my understanding of what happened is that the heckler started in, Whitman "appeared to be handling him", then Christie jumped in. If that's the case, I'm not happy about what Christie did but it's hardly a case of Whitman hiding behind Christie.

This put Whitman in a bit of a bind. Christie was essentially her guest - she couldn't exactly tell him to sit down and shut up - so I'd love to see a clip of what she did after he finished. I think ideally I'd try to handle it lightly, something like, "What he said" and then go on to make whatever additional or supporting points I wanted to make.

And I'm not sure how Whitman was hiding behind anyone with regard to the "whore" comment by Brown's staff. She found it objectionable and she said so. If your point is that women in politics should not cry and whine when they're called "whores", I agree. If your point is that women should not find being called "whores" objectionable and/or should not say so clearly, I disagree.

As for Christie's "400 million screwup", he fired the guy who not only made the mistake but lied about it. I'm not sure what else he could do. Christie picked the guy he thought would do the job, the NJ Senate approved him overwhelmingly, he turned out to be a big mistake, and Christie got rid of him. I can live with that and I imagine the next Education guy will pay a wee bit more attention to his job.

Posted by: Elise at October 21, 2010 02:06 PM

... my understanding of what happened is that the heckler started in, Whitman "appeared to be handling him", then Christie jumped in. If that's the case, I'm not happy about what Christie did but it's hardly a case of Whitman hiding behind Christie.

I didn't comment on the Whitman/Christie thing because I honestly didn't pay that much attention, but I appreciate the clarification.

Women are often in a bind in that kind of situation. A man would naturally just defend himself. It's not perceived the same way when a woman does it, though.

My sense is that the best response for a woman to sexist or vulgar attacks is that it plays better to take a humorous swipe at the perpetrator than to cry, "sexism". If you can play it off with a clever quip, the other person looks like even more of an ass than he did when he said it in the first place.

That's very difficult to do, though. I think a woman *ought* to be able to do as you say (clearly state that such language is unprofessional and lowers the tone of the debate). The problem is that she could say it exactly the same way a man would and it would backfire on her.

I've never understood that but I've watched it happen too often to doubt that there's a double standard.

Posted by: Cassandra at October 21, 2010 03:34 PM

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