Amazingly, there are still people out there who claim that women just aren’t interested in politics. I discovered this when I started nosing around on Libertarian blogs where they wondered why there weren’t more women in their midst.
Allison Brown says “I personally know no other female libertarians, and when I discuss the topic with other women they’re generally apathetic on the topic of politics in general, and libertarianism in particular.” Rather than actually looking for information on women and political interest, Allison just proceeds into some drivel about women being emotional and less independent (more on that in upcoming posts).
Terje, a commenter at Thoughts on Freedom, also wonders about our interest in political debate, saying:
The extent to which women are involved in political debate at all (libertarian or otherwise) is a relevant consideration. Maybe men are more prone biologically to expend energy scaning the horizon for signs of trouble/opportunity whilst women are more interested in more immediate concerns.
Let’s break this down a bit shall we?
First of all, we have to define “political”. You don’t get to define political as only that which entails a theoretical circle jerk between privileged people with way too much free time. Politics isn’t only that which has no immediate application to reality. “Immediate concerns” like being able to feed your family are political. It isn’t that women aren’t interested in politics. It is that some people define politics so narrowly that it only applies to pseudo philosophers.
Access to water is an immediate need and a dilemma often left up to poor women to grapple with. Who has access to water sources, whether or not water is privatized or a public utility, whether or not water sources are protected from pollution – these are all very political issues connected with a very immediate need.
So lets look at a few proxies for women’s political interest. Do women:
- participate in public protest?
- follow the news?
- study political science?
- run for public office?
Women vote. In fact, in the United States, women vote in higher numbers and in higher proportions than men do. Even in Afghanistan, 40 – 55% of women braved the polls this year, despite Taliban threats. And in 2004, when things seemed somewhat safer, 70% of Afghani women voted.
Public protests are filled with women. Perhaps the most famous protester in the United States is Medea Benjamin of Code Pink. And it was s a woman, Neda Agha-Soltan, whose death became the symbol of Iranian protest. Even in the most repressive regimes, women like the Madres de Plaza de Mayo continued stand up when nobody else was.
Women follow the news. Women are more likely to follow network news (morning shows, nightly news, and news magazines). They are almost as likely to watch cable news. What women are somewhat less likely to do is read newspapers, listen to talk radio or get their news online.
Perhaps women don’t read newspapers like the Washington Post because 90% of the Post’s opinion pieces are written by men. Perhaps they don’t want to listen to vile shmucks like Rush Limbaugh on the radio. Perhaps women don’t spend as much time online because they are actually working at their desks (not me, obviously, but some women). Whatever the reasons for the differences in news sources between men and women, it is clear that women are following the news.
As for political science, according to the American Political Science Association, 42% of all PhDs in political science go to women. It is true the number of women who complete the tenure track to become full professors is only a fraction of the number of men. As the APSA report shows, that isn’t due to lack of interest, but to less support and more responsibilities.
Obviously, there are far less women in public office than there are men.* There are people who would like to claim this is due to lack of interest. There are people who would like to claim that women are less ruthless and power hungry. I would like to believe it is because all those women are secret anarchists, but I think we all know it is much more likely a result of the barriers to women being elected to office.
So no, my Libertarian friends, a lack of political interest is not the reason there aren’t more women in your midst.
*Only Rwanda has near parity in male/female political representation.