Thesis: politics is more appealing to men. Men enjoy political discussions more than women. Do you find it to be true? If so, why do you think men like politics more?

1 opinions, 3 replies
Add your opinion:
Preview:
(mouse over or touch to update)
Add your opinion
75
4 votes
Jan 14

Insofar as this is true, and I think that it might be true to some degree, the reasons all have to do with the way that those with power can relate to issues of life and death.

Back in high school debate, while both teenage boys and girls participated, it was definitely more of a man's sport. The girls in such situations tended to gravitate more towards critical arguments. I remember when my partner, a wonderful young woman, nearly got into tears debating giving care to rape survivors. (We were on the negative, opposing it, which was obviously not very pleasant because we both personally felt that this was an important issue. I hadn't become quite as much of an advocate for mental health care then as I would later; today, I would find it extremely difficult to argue, even as a devil's advocate, against providing care to rape victims).

More importantly, it was certainly a white man's activity, with white (and to some extent Asian) kids being very common and with the urban schools being much less successful and participating less.

Both Tim Wise, himself a former high school debater, and myself expect that this has a lot to do with the fact that privilege insulates you from issues and lets you pretend that there really are two sides to a topic. It lets you think of ideas that really affect people as more abstract, more distant and more theoretical.

This is the most common trajectory I see in online discussions as well. It's not that white men are necessarily the majority of the commentators: in most threads, I see a pretty even mix of people participating. But the kind of people who spend the time to sit down, cite studies, make insults, respond to each other, and really get into it tend to be white men.

I don't doubt that part of this is due to socialization where men are more likely to view conversations as competitive and women are more likely to want to be cooperative and just express their two cents without needing to convert or address other people. But I think this actually is less important of a factor than it seems, because it doesn't explain why unregulated comment sections so rapidly devolve into alt-right, anti-feminist, white male screeching against political correctness and diversity and repetition of racist myths: privilege does.

In most discussions I've had with people espousing hardcore racist positions online, when I would get personal, they would react with shock and surprise. "Hey, man, I'm just saying my opinion! No need to get rude!"

The idea that demonizing billions of people who weren't there was in and of itself rude, and I was reacting to a conversation that was already aggressive, didn't seem to register.

Pretending that the Holocaust didn't happen, or that truth is a game, or that it's okay to just make up whatever argument you need to win when talking about poverty and death... that much easier when you have privilege.

When you don't, when you're more used to the idea that other people's idle and misinformed opinions can really cost you or get in the way of those you know, when you're more intimately aware of how rapidly a situation can turn ugly and how fragile your environment can be, when you know the real costs of everything from ecological devastation to poverty... you're a lot more likely to not want to just have a conversation for funsies.

Turning politics into discussion material often makes politics into a game. And that's only appealing to those people who have the position that they can honestly view it that way, as a break during their tea time. It's the same reason why philosophy begins with the male elites of societies. It's the same reason why intelligent and informed people are so often those repeating reactionary nonsense. It explains the arrogance of British imperialists and Roman social elites.

The flipside, of course, is that the actual politics on the ground, the rallies and the provision of services, the shelters for domestic abuse... those are likely to be run by the poor, by women, by ethnic minorities. They don't have the time to make politics into a game. If they have to discuss politics, they only have long enough to explain the issue, dispel whatever myths they can, and get back out. They can't waste their time trying to convince people who will endlessly use motivated reasoning anyways.

In summary: It's privilege that guides who discusses politics, how and why.

subscribe
::unhide-discussion::
50
main reply
4 votes,
Jan 14

Politics is power, it's control, it's dominance. It's the extension of the nature of man himself. It's the same with religion, the need to control those around us. In any given group of men, there will always be at least one who wants to be in charge of all of the others, "Lord of the Flies" so to speak. The larger the group, the greater the need, the more energy it will require. Conversely, the "pecking order" in women is more social. While there may be a woman who wants to be "the boss", it's more likely they'll work into some form of committee to resolve issues.

From our earliest histories to today, that is how the genders resolve things. The men fight among each other to determine who is the best, the women work in groups for the common good. Tribal "manhood" rituals that are almost always violent, tribal women crafting circles, cooking/making things for the entire tribe. We can certainly rise above these basic natures, but that is the root of why men tend to want to discuss and be involved in politics more than women. It's our game, we invented it. The entire premise of the game is a masculine one, "who is in charge?"

subscribe
::unhide-discussion::
50
2 votes,
Jan 14

You can ask anyone who knew Margaret Thatcher or Hillary Clinton if they didn't care about power or dominance. These "Just So" stories don't explain the depth and breadth of human diversity in behavior and how gender norms changed over time, and there's no genetic evidence for it. It COULD be the case, just like it COULD have been the case in the 18th century that democracy was impossible... but when we had new social environments we found out that, surprise surprise, it wasn't.

See, your argument there is circular by virtue of your definitions. You define politics as this thing that men do then say that men are more interested in it. Well, gee, I'd hope so! But that's not a coherent definition of "politics". Politics isn't power: if it were, we would just call it "power". Politics is the way that we arrive at POLICY or the way that we arrange the POLITY: it's "the activities associated with the governance of a country or other area, especially the debate or conflict among individuals or parties having or hoping to achieve power". If that's the case, then women are doing politics. When you have a committee that discusses some solution to resolve issues. that's what we call politics.

Even if I bought that women are not predisposed to be Byzantine and men aren't predisposed to be able to cooperate, and I don't, both genders do politics. The more interesting question, then, is why do men and women do the politics they do?

And the problem with your response in reply to mine is that I'm identifying something that your explanation doesn't actually make any sense to explain. Why do I see gay men, or black and Hispanic men, or poor men, being a lot less willing to play armchair politics? Why do I see white women, or straight women, or affluent women, being willing to play armchair politics? Because that's what power predisposes you to do.

Privilege is just clearly one variable in this discussion. It's not the only variable, at all, but it's a big one.

subscribe
::unhide-discussion::
50
2 votes,
Jan 14

Not men, but masculine. Anyone that has seen Margaret or Hillary will say they have a lot of traditionally masculine traits. I'm not saying women can't, just like I'm not saying men can't be good caregivers. They're crossing out of the traditional "biological" or tribal gender roles. That's why I said we could certainly rise above the basic natures, but the majority of people don't, which is why Margaret and Hillary are also considered exceptional. Politics is a masculine, dominance-based structure, and in order to participate in it, women must adopt masculine traits in order to succeed. It's why everyone said Hillary was being judged by a "different standard", because she was under the vicious microscope of the Presidency. Just like Mitt and his 47%, which he wore like an albatross for his entire campaign and really his entire political life. That's male competition. Both genders do indeed do politics, but women are "allowed" to, and in order to succeed they have to do it like men, because the game is rigged in that way.

As for the minorities, gay men have feminine attributes, they identify with those attributes, so they are more into cooperation. Outside of the US, blacks and hispanics, and asians and all other men are hugely into politics, compared to their female counterparts, whether it's 1st world or 3rd world. How many women are in politics in Sr positions in Japan, Russia, China, any of the African nations, etc? Within the US, it's less so because of the construction of the game. In the US, politics is a white, land owner's game, which takes us back to your point.

I most certainly do agree that privilege is a variable, so I'm not disagreeing with you. I'm simply pointing out that biology and our base tribal origins play a part as well.

subscribe
Add your opinion
Challenge someone to answer this topic:
Invite an OpiWiki user:
OR
Invite your friend via email:
OR
Share it: