Tuesday, September 9, 2008

McCain-Palin and the Gender Gap

Well, even as Sarah Palin is accused of being too feminine (high heels, nice clothes, red lipstick) and too masculine (won't stay home with her baby), the New York Times prints yet another article--in its Science section--announcing surprising findings about gender differences.

A subject to which I'm attuned, as I'm writing (admittedly with great procrastination) a book with the message that those differences are the crux of marriage.
The Times reports on a massive cross-cultural study that sought to tease out whether undeniable and often-replicated sex differences will disappear once women are liberated from traditional roles. The results must be giving feminists apoplexy, as it found that the character trait gap widens with greater lifestyle freedom. As NYT writer John Tierney puts it, "The more Venus and Mars have equal rights and similar jobs, the more their personalities seem to diverge."

He goes into a silly attempt to explain these persistent differences with the work of Bradley University psychologist David P. Schmitt, who says that stresses of agrarian societies cause men "to adapt their personalities to rules, hierarchies and gender roles more constraining than those in modern Western countries--or in clans of hunter-gatherers."

I love the next part: Schmitt apparently blames "monotheism, agriculturally based economies and the monopolization of power and resources by a few men" for distorting the "natural" divergent tendencies of the genders, and now, with glorious liberation afoot, each of us can go happily back to our respective planets. Fulfilling John Lennon's fantasy: Imagine no religion. It's a "stressor" that artificially got guys acting more like gals.

Pretty funny. But anyone's allowed to guess at explanations. The important point is that even university scientists are conceding that the "natural" tendencies of each gender are very, very different.

How does this apply to Sarah Palin? From my perspective, it allows her to enter into a "marriage" of sorts with John McCain that can bring the best of both planets together. Surely lots of Democrats agree with that, as one of the benefits of Hillary's candidacy they touted was that as a woman she'd add something new and different to the office.

But if the scientists are to be believed, the "natural" tendencies of the genders are better served with a woman as Vice President rather than POTUS. A man as VP, with his often-proven need to be competitive, might have a tough time being second-fiddle (just imagine Bill Clinton as "first guy"!). Sarah Palin seems to have little problem sharing the spotlight with Todd and her family, or introducing John McCain. It also might be that women's natural nurturing and social bridge-building inclinations helped her make major changes in Alaska's ethical and political structure and remain well-loved--skills she'd likely bring to diplomacy and negotiation across parties and with foreign nations once elected to national office.

There's always the issue that Palin boosters (and Hillary fans) want it both ways--they want a strong woman who can hold her own with men, and yet one who will let her natural feminine proclivities show through. In other words--do we want a leader indistinguishable from a man (in this competitive man's world) or a woman? Hillary, in her pantsuits with her strident demeanor, seemed to cleave to the first model; Sarah Palin, I think, exemplifies the second. Comfortable in her skin; putting herself out there as who she is, pregnant daughter and evangelical faith and all, she seems to soften the GOP ticket in a welcome way. Will I support her in eight years when she runs for POTUS? I hope I get to make that evaluation. But in the interim, just observe how many heads have turned to admire, as an attractive woman walks into view.


  1. If you've had trouble posting your comments, (some have said so) maybe try to post one on a different day's blog...and I'll check this out...

  2. "A subject to which I'm attuned, as I'm writing (admittedly with great procrastination) a book with the message that those differences are the crux of marriage."

    My wife and I both look forward to reading the book upon release!