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June 14, 2013

"More Women = More Female Friendly Policies"

How would this debate go if America had a female POTUS and Commander -in-Chief?

What could she do with her executive power without the legislature or judiciary meddling?

But unlike India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Brazil. Costa Rica, Germany, Ireland, Argentina, the U.K., Russia, China, and Australia, America has never had a female head of state or government.

- Comment on Military Rape article

One of the more amusing themes that crops up in gender punditry is the notion that getting more women into X (whether X is government, corporate leadership, positions of power, or the male dominated profession de jure) will magically lead to more female friendly policies and outcomes. If some of the astoundingly tone deaf utterances we've heard from both sides lately are any indication, the idea isn't completely without merit. It's always somewhat appalling to the Editorial Staff how quickly humans of both sexes dismiss problems that uniquely or disproportionately impact the other half of humanity.

But there's plenty of evidence against the notion that simply getting more women (or more men, for that matter) involved in policymaking will result in policies that are fairer to people of the same sex. Furious denunciations of feminists (a notable minority in government) aside, most of the laws deplored by the "manosphere" were in fact passed by overwhelmingly majority-male legislatures bedazzled by the tantalizing possibility that passing Female-Friendly Law Y will get them laid attract hordes of lust-filled women clutching well thumbed copies of the Kama Sutra and dreaming of breaking all 10 Commandments at once. The mind boggles at the possibilities: "Come here, Mitch McConnell, you big female friendly law-slinger, you!"

Or maybe they're just afraid of having to sleep on the sofa when they get home, men being innately so much more logical and rational than women but yet utterly at the mercy of their hormones. Unsurprisingly, we find ourselves confused by the irrefutable logic of such arguments. Perhaps they're just too complicated for a woman to grasp :p

The thing is, contra the comment cited at the beginning of this post, nations that have had one or more female leaders are not exactly noted for the unusual freedoms and rights granted to the women living under female rule. Many of these nations are downright backwards in their attitudes towards the oft-debated humanity of women.

Believing as we do that neither men nor women have a monopoly on gender sensitivity or objectivity, imagine our delight at this mellow-harshing passage from an article on the military "rape" crisis:

When Senator Carl Levin of Michigan stripped a measure aimed at curbing sexual assault in the military out of a defense bill this week, it was widely seen as a trampling by a long-serving male committee chairman on female lawmakers seeking justice for victims.

But the truth reflects a more complex battle driven by legislative competition, policy differences and the limits of identity politics in a chamber where women’s numbers and power are increasing.

The vote to replace the measure offered by Senator Kirsten E. Gillibrand, Democrat of New York, in favor of a more modest provision pushed by Mr. Levin, the Democrat who is chairman of the Armed Services Committee, did not break down along gender lines: of the seven women on the committee, three, including a fellow Democrat, Senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri, sided with Mr. Levin. “I think all of us need to acknowledge that this isn’t a gender issue,” said Senator Deb Fischer, Republican of Nebraska, during a recent hearing on the issue.

Nor was it particularly partisan. Senator Ted Cruz of Texas and Senator David Vitter of Louisiana, two of the most conservative Republicans on the committee, sided with Ms. Gillibrand, while seven Democrats and an independent peeled away.

This carefully crafted narrative dies so beautifully.

Posted by Cassandra at June 14, 2013 06:04 AM

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It complicates matters that "female friendly" can mean two quite different things: a propensity to favor protective legislation to lessen the burden on poor, helpless women, or a preference for gender-neutral treatment that assumes women are entitled to the same hard-knocks treatment that men have been accustomed to.

Posted by: Texan99 at June 14, 2013 11:19 AM

A couple of things:

But unlike India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Brazil. Costa Rica, Germany, Ireland, Argentina, the U.K., Russia, China, and Australia, America has never had a female head of state or government.

What female head of state has Russia or China had since the days of monarchy (I'll give you a hint, the answer is none)? And secondly, if the theory is that a female head of state means an enlightened, woman-friendly society, then clearly the stories of gang rapes in India and the stoning of rape victims in Pakistan cannot POSSIBLY be true, right?

Posted by: MikeD at June 14, 2013 11:25 AM

If women made the laws, just imagine being hauled into court where the judge tells you, "If you don't know what law you've broken *I'm* not going to tell you."

Posted by: Archie Bunker at June 14, 2013 11:49 AM

Hi Cass,
*Excellent* post!

BW, MikeD is correct that neither China nor Russia has had either a female head of state (President) nor head of gov't (Prime Minister).
. . . though the Ukraine did have a female PM; that's actually a huge political mess right now.

IMHO there is a great deal of irony/schadenfeude involved in these arguments . . . plain fact is that men and women are different in some ways, and therefore ought to be treated/regarded as different under specific circumstances (this is explicitly why I strongly believe that men need to be held to a higher (and yes, in some ways unfair) standard wrt to domestic violence)(the converse example is that women shouldn't have a lower physical standard if they wish to compete for public safety positions like police, firefighters or military).

I also quite agree that it is helpful to have women in congress, though I disapprove of arbitrary proportionality rules, which are inherently undemocratic. I've been shocked at some of the ignorant misogynist language used by legislators in open session, and having women present tends to discourage that foolishness.

Very Best Regards,

Posted by: CAPT Mike at June 14, 2013 06:41 PM

Heads of state? I was told today that the real question is why women aren't in the movies.

Posted by: Grim at June 14, 2013 09:15 PM

For some reason I can't get upset about not enough movies where women are the main characters. Maybe it's because it has been that way my whole life and I long ago gave up expecting anything else.

Maybe it's because I just can't work up that much righteous indignation, or maybe my sense of grievance is broken again.

I guess I will say that this is exactly the kind of thing I think of every time I read yet another anguished opinion piece about how there aren't enough positive male role models, or how commercials make fun of men too much, or yada yada yada yada....[head explodes].

Are these things real problems? I don't know, but if they're real problems when they affect one sex then it stands to reason that they're real problems when they affect the other sex. Or as I said in the post above, both sexes feel the sting of what affects them and airily dismiss what affects the other sex.

I suspect that all of these things have some effect, but I also expect people to rise above such heartbreaking events and carry on.

Perhaps the only good thing to come out of all this gender-based navel gazing is that people finally seem to be recognizing that the world isn't terribly fair to either men or women :p It's just unfair in different ways, often in ways that actually have a very rational basis.

Some people also seem to be realizing (finally!) that quite a bit of what we attribute to gender differences is more situational than biological. We see this in the many ways in which men and women are behaving differently - against type, so to speak - when they find themselves in situations or roles that used to be off limits for their sex.

Posted by: Cassandra at June 15, 2013 10:35 AM

howdy grim,
if you don't see many women in movies, then you are watching the wrong movies . . . :)

Best Regards,

Posted by: CAPT Mike at June 15, 2013 07:35 PM

I didn't realize that you summer in Cannes, Captain.

Posted by: Grim at June 16, 2013 11:12 PM