The effect of women on politics
The story about Rice’s statements in Annapolis dovetails neatly with your recent discussion of women’s suffrage. Before women voted or held high government positions, would a meeting to negotiate peace include a representative from the world’s most powerful country saying things such as, “I know what it is like to go to sleep at night, not knowing if you will be bombed, of being afraid to be in your own neighborhood, of being afraid to go to your church…. I understand the feeling of humiliation and powerlessness…. There is pain on both sides.” This is the way women speak of issues, and the way men only learned to speak of issues once they had to pander for women’s votes. [Emphasis added.] Are men from traditional Arab societies supposed to be disarmed by this sentimentality, this appeal to niceness? Does Condoleezza imagine that bleating about her childhood woes would touch the hearts of Third Worlders who, based on their own approach to minority groups, must wonder what the hell she has to complain about?
In 1985 Poland’s General Jaruzelski, gave an interview to Barbara Walters. It was a good “get” for her and she treated him with courtesy and deference. Things went well until she asked him, “How do you think the Polish people feel about you?”
With an amused smirk he responded, “That is the sort of question only a woman would ask.”
Barbara was livid. His imposition of martial law, his doing the dirty work of the USSR, the crushing of Solidarity—that she could accept. But to mock the equality of the sexes—unforgivable!
I can already hear Mary Jackson over at New English Review saying: “But Rice is only one woman. Auster and his commenters have taken one statement by one woman and generalized from that to the entire sex.” It would be interesting to know what Mary Jackson would see as valid evidence that women tend to have a different way of thinking than men, and that this different way of thinking matters politically.
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Lydia M. writes
I appreciate your pillorying Rice’s unremitting silliness. It’s the kind of thing that is almost a punishment for sensible people to read about.
Re the theme of females in politics, I do think there are characteristic virtues and vices to the sexes. For this reason, I think it is not an insult but a compliment in many fields if a woman is told that she “thinks like a man.” I would take that as a compliment in probability theory, for example, and in chess (which the other members of my family play), I think it is important for girls not to have their emotions catered to but to learn to take tough competition, losses, wins, etc., with professionalism, sportsmanship, and aplomb. If I’m not mistaken, Elizabeth the First was careful to be referred to as a “prince.” All this doesn’t mean that there are not women who can think “like men” and so be hard-headed, clear-sighted, unemotional, and sensible in their professions (including politics). It probably does mean, though, that they will be statistically relatively more rare than men with these virtues. The feminization of our political processes and public discourse is much to be regretted. I’m not convinced that avoiding it requires formally keeping all women out, but avoiding it does require selection of important figures (including the Secretary of State) for “masculine” virtues. If this means they all end up being men, that should not be a problem.
There’s a further interesting implication in Lydia’a argument: if it is valuable to women and to society as a whole for women to be able to “think like men” in certain contexts, then the liberal empowerment of women as women, as the assumed complete equals of men in all respects, takes away the very standards that women need to live up to their highest potential. If we want appropriate and normative standards to prevail in traditionally male areas of life, such as science or politics, and if we want to allow women who are proficient in those standards to participate in those areas, then the “male” way of thinking and reasoning must remain dominant. As someone said recently at VFR, assimilation requires discrimination.
To paraphrase my mantra about liberalism, equality is only viable and non-destructive of the good of society when it operates within a social and moral system that is non-egalitarian.
Dimitri K. writes:
Though it is not the main point of the post, I want to say a few words in defence of Jaruselski. The situation in Poland was as follows: either Jaruselski takes power and stops the rioting, or USSR will move in troops. Jaruselski who was the defence minister, said to USSR, that if they interfere, Polish army would resist. Polish army was 500,000 and USSR was involved in Afghanistan, so they agreed. Jaruselski crushed the rioters, but not that hard. When Perestroika started, they all were alive and active.
So Jaruselski took the responsibility on himself, and also took the blame on himself, which not many leaders can do. He actually saved Polish opposition from the Soviets. And now people feel safe and protected by NATO, they call him names. That is unjust.
Ken Hechtman writes:
Let us not forget who introduced the phrase “I feel your pain” into the political dictionary. It was of course Bill Clinton. Bill may have wanted to be known as “the first black president,” but if you ask me, “first woman president” is closer to the mark. A man doesn’t say “I feel your pain.” That’s what a woman says. A man says “I will fix the problem if I can.”
There are two very well done scenes at the beginning of Primary Colors that show both sides of what Lydia M. is talking about here:
The scene that establishes the character of Jack Stanton (Bill Clinton) is pure “female politics.” Jack delivers an emotional, empathic speech to the adult literacy class and then breaks down crying. The new aide who doesn’t know him says, “We have to get him out of here.” The aide who’s been with him a while answers, “No, he likes it.”
A few minutes later, Jack is gushing to Susan (Hillary) about the inspirational teacher he’s just met at that same class: “It was so great today, the reading program … You should have seen the people. And the teacher was inspirational—”. Susan cuts him off in classic “male politics” style—hard-headed, clear-sighted, unemotional and sensible. She’s completely impatient and dismissive with his emotional, idealistic, head-in-the-clouds nonsense: “Give me a break. Tell me how good the curriculum was. We can replicate a good curriculum.”
Primary Colors as a whole was not a strong movie, but it is worth seeing for John Travolta’s performance as the Clinton character. He captures some of Clinton’s qualities.
Mary Jackson at NER has commented on this blog entry. Her entry begins:
Condoleezza Rice has been pretty useless as a Secretary of State, no doubt about it. So it was only a matter of time before Lawrence Auster said that she was useless because she’s a woman. Plenty of useless Secretaries of State have been men, but that doesn’t matter. Jack Straw was a useless—and disgustingly anti-Israel—Foreign Secretary. Last I looked, he was a man. Doesn’t matter.I posted this comment at NER:
Mary Jackson, always thinking like a liberal in terms of individuals and of the imperative to avoid unfair generalizations, remains uncomprehending of my point. I did not say that Rice as an individual is silly because she’s a woman. I said (1) that there are differences between men and women that matter, (2) that the specific kind of silliness Rice exhibits is something that is characteristic of women, not men, and (3) that this kind of silliness would not have been seen in politics prior to the entry and ever-increasing influence of women in politics. Does this mean that men are politically wise? No. It means that the female influence in politics adds an additional layer of silliness that was not there before. And the more influential females are, meaning the more free women feel to manifest their female nature in political life and political office, the worse this silliness will become.
As further examples of my point, can we imagine any male leader carrying on as Tzipi Livni did at Annapolis, crying out to a room full of Arab leaders, “Why are you treating me like a pariah? Why won’t you shake my hand?” They refuse to shake hands with her and they treat her like a pariah because they despise her and want to destroy her country, something she evidently doesn’t understand. Now, does Livni’s silliness make Olmert less silly? No. He’s a walking catastrophe. But Livni brings in an additional level of fatuousness that was not there before.
Or can we imagine a man exposing his body like Theresa May, the Tory Leader in the House of Commons?
Mary Jackson writes:
I totally agree with Lydia M, and have no problem with the idea that men are, in general more suited to leadership roles, better at maths, or whatever it is. But—and this is a big but—let’s not pre-judge. Judge, by all means, but not pre-judge.
I am not exactly a liberal, but a meritocrat. Each individual should be considered on merit, rather than what one or more members of her—and it usually is her—sex has said or done.
By the way, Lawrence, I really liked your post on “Youth,” and said so here.
You should do stuff like that more often.
Is Miss Jackson telling me my true gifts are as a humorist? (Joke.)
Terry Morris writes:
I also disagree with Lydia to the extent that she says it’s a badge of honor for a woman to act more like a man in certain respects. She thinks girls should be taught to be more man-like. I think this is just absolutely wrong. It’s certainly not a traditionalist conservative point of view. Women have been endowed by their Creator with great womanly gifts that men, as a general rule, do not possess and can never possess. Among these gifts, from my perspective, is their greater emotionalism. If they are raised in a traditional family and society, these raw endowments are improved upon so that they (women) can be of most use in their future stations as wives and mothers and home makers, and even in more public roles as wives, mothers, home makers. If they are raised to be more man-like, then they are being raised to be less woman-like. I think this is bad for society, and is certainly no badge of honor for women brought up this way, or women in general for that matter. Beyond that, I think it is simply impossible to divorce from a woman her womanhood in this respect and the other. She is a woman irregardless and her nature is to be womanly as opposed to being manly. The best you can accomplish is to make her less of a woman than God intended, and this superficially. And as I said, I don’t believe this can have any positive effect on society. None.
By the way, I have three daughters and three sons, so I know a little bit about the distinctive natures of boys and girls. I also know that you’re defying nature if you attempt to treat boys and girls exactly alike.
I don’t think Lydia was saying that “girls should be taught to be more man-like,” and she certainly wasn’t saying that we should “treat boys and girls exactly alike.” I think she was saying that there is value in women being able to think logically. I don’t think that necessarily entails their becoming manlike.
Posted by Lawrence Auster at November 29, 2007 03:15 PM | Send