Sunday, April 15, 2012

The Gender Gap: An empathy problem

I just ran across an interesting video. Two columnists from The Beast - Michael Tomasky and David Frum - talking about the gender gap in both its historical context and its present day incarnation between Romney and Obama.

First lets give due diligence to the idea of two white men talking about what drives women's votes. My reaction was that I value the contributions of both of these men to the class of political pontification (even though I don't always agree with either one of them). That speaks to me of the overall imbalance that still exists in this group when it comes to gender and race.

But lets take a look at what they had to say.

David Frum articulates something I've been thinking about for awhile now...that the gap isn't necessarily ALL related to women's reproductive health issues (ie, we now have to add contraception to abortion). A little over half way through he says this:

To the extent that we have a driver to voting behavior its that single women especially and married women less are less economically individualistic than men as a group.

That's his way of talking about what I would call the empathy gap - or the difference between the parties on emphasizing "pulling yourself up by your bootstraps" as opposed to "I am my brother's/sister's keeper." Whether its cultural or genetic, the truth is that women have always tended to focus more on the collective than the individual.

Tomasky explains that the gender gap in American politics began in the late 70's and early 80's. Because that is when the Republicans inserted a pro-life position into their platform, he attributes the gap to women's reproductive health issues. But that was also the beginning of the Reagan revolution with its focus on government (our collective endeavor) as the root of our problems. It was when Republicans began their march towards dismantling everything from the New Deal to the Great Society.

For many women, reproductive health issues DO drive voting behavior (although there is a conservative contingent of women on the right that is vehemently anti-abortion). So its important to consider those things when understanding the gender gap. But for awhile now I've thought that paints too small of a picture when it comes to understanding "women's issues."

Watch Sweet Honey in the Rock tap into some of them.

1 comment:

  1. The gender gap is a issue of society without solution, everybody knows it!