The ‘damaged women’ vote

Recently we were being trolled by an Australian economist, Dr Steven Kates about the Obama win in the United States of America. Among his conclusions, that the Obama vote was made up of the medicants (ie. people who need significant medical treatment and can’t afford it, as in, I guess any of us at some point in our lives), the resentful and the envious (ie. anyone not feeling the ‘trickle down’ buzz these days), the abortion-rights lobby (apparently those unjustifiably concerned about reproductive rights), social science know-nothings ( hah! from one economist to another) and damaged women (ie. my personal favourite).

The interesting thing to note about Kates’ hate is that it includes almost everyone but older white men, like himself. This is funny only because the failure to understand the needs and perspectives of people other than your own little cohort is precisely what’s biting the US conservatives on the arse right now. It’s even starting to bite conservatives in Australia, where the mainstream media and the political opposition have both been taken by surprise by the groundswell response to Gillard’s misogyny speech and other recent events in political and public sexism.

But the peculiar thing about Kates is not his thorough dedication to supply-side economics – a school of thought being increasingly side-lined by the last decade or so of interest rate and inflation rate data, and where the debate about government policy and unrestrained markets has moved to such an extent that even the IMF is publishing working papers on revisiting the Chicago Plan – there’s still plenty of supply-siders around and economics is split on almost every issue; no, the really peculiar thing is that Kates wrote such a nasty piece about voters. Trash the other political side, sure, but trash the people you want voting for you? Not so smart. This kind of nastiness scares voters away.. as well it should.

Miss 31 voted for Obama and is representative of the women who are in massive agreement with the cries of misogyny and the lack of respect for women. There is no point going too far into this, but the most influential social philosopher of the twentieth century was Hugh Hefner and his Playboy Philosophy. You would have to be at least as old as I am to recall what a shock it was to read Hefner’s “philosophy” in the pages of Playboy back when I was about 14 in the 1960s. Here’s the gist: all those uptight girls hanging onto their virginity ought to liberate themselves and get into the sexual scrum with the boys. In an era when a goodnight kiss was a big deal this was magic. And with the likes of Germaine Greer and her buddies saying the same just as the birth control pill was becoming readily available, a new world opened for which neither the young women of the time or the young men were really prepared.

But who has come out of this genuinely hurt by the changed attitude to women. Both men and women are worse for it, but if you ask me, it is women who have been psychologically damaged far more than the men. And I suspect Miss 29 has not avoided the deep and fearsome pains of commitment-free sexual relations either.

These are the attitudes that Obama was tapping into. Watching the Middle East burn and the American economy trashed by debt and deficits are irrelevant to such women whose anger is beyond all understanding, particularly for men of my and Romney’s generation.

There is quite the hint of ‘hysterical’ in this nonsense description of women. It is both insulting and patronising to argue that women, as voters, are people who obsess over contraception, abortion and sexual assault at the expense of caring about, or even understanding, economics. For starters, all those factors actually impact directly on economic outcomes for women. And secondly, a lot of men care about reproductive rights, too. After all, not many men only want to have sex for making babies these days. For that matter, contraception and abortion are not just issues for women having “commitment-free sexual relations”, they’re also issues for married women, possibly more so given people in relationships have more sex than single people. This is something Kates might want to consider when he is trying to understand “deep and fearsome pains”.

The gross over-simplification of women and the issues we care about is something I am seeing a lot in Australian media discussions of women voters at the moment. We’re about to head into an election year for the country and I suspect the stereotyping of women is only going to intensify. Women, being blinded by their silly, little causes. Women, angry and irrational. Women, not understanding economics. While that’s happening it’s worth remembering this. Kates, and others like him, tend to think that people didn’t vote for Romney because they didn’t hear the Republican message. They like to think their message was obscured by reactionary left-wing causes and Obama-inspired, greedy self-interest. (It’s amusing to reflect upon how appalled these people can be by others voting in self-interest when they invest so much in notions of self-interest to deliver positive outcomes for all in an environment of ‘small government’). So let’s be clear here, the problem isn’t that ‘damaged women’ aren’t and weren’t hearing your message, the problem is we heard it and we really, really don’t like it.

Cross-posted at blue milk.



Categories: economics, gender & feminism, media, parenting, parties and factions, relationships

Tags: , , , , ,

10 replies

  1. The whole thing was head-up-his-arse whiny privileged white guy nonsense, like an MRA with the rare ability to construct a sentence. But this bit made me laugh: “Here’s the gist: all those uptight girls hanging onto their virginity ought to liberate themselves and get into the sexual scrum with the boys.”
    Um, if the girls were so uptight, who were the boys having sexual scrums with? Each other? He doesn’t even suggest there were “bad girls” (blech) around.

  2. to such women whose anger is beyond all understanding, particularly for men of my and Romney’s generation.

    Um…Obama’s not that much younger than Romney is he?
    Also ‘whose anger is beyond all understanding’ is clearly just another way of saying ‘irrational’.

    • Angharad, Romney was born in 1947, Obama was born in 1961. Strictly speaking that makes them both Boomers, but they’re at different ends of the Boomer spectrum.
      I’m only a few years younger than Obama. I definitely think of him as my generation. I definitely think of Romney as the previous generation.
      All this while I think of “generations” as a suspect trope.

  3. such women whose anger is beyond all understanding

    Lordy, I feel so patronised. How silly must I be? Clearly, it should not be important to me to be able to decide what to do with my own body, get equal pay for equal work, have universal healthcare. I probably should leave those decisions to some wealthy white man, most likely my husband or father, and probably the state if I don’t have one of those. They’re just bound to have my best interests at heart…

  4. Watching the Middle East burn and the American economy trashed by debt and deficits are irrelevant to such women whose anger is beyond all understanding, particularly for men of my and Romney’s generation.

    Typical [redacted]ic — and misogynistic — over-generalization.
    1. I don’t know if I count as “Romney’s generation” (I was born in 1953), but the anger I think he’s trying to refer to is hardly beyond _my_ understanding. (I’m also “white”, male, and USA-an, so I am definitely in the demographic he was targeting.)
    2. FWIW, the reports I saw indicated that the “white women” demographic actually _favored_ Romney slightly. In the USA, the Republicans are generally assumed to be “better on economics” than Democrats (for no reason I can discern, but, whatever), and this was an issue for middle-class (white?) voters of both genders. Anecdotal evidence suggests that, for a lot of women in this demographic, it was a question of which was more important: an improved economy, or a government that didn’t hate them.
    My point is that reality is so much more complicated that that quote admits that it makes the guy sound like a wooden-headed fool (as in, my mind is made up, don’t bother me with facts.) It would sound dumb even coming from a Joe Six-Pack at a neighborhood bar. From someone whose profession supposedly involves understanding complex systems, it makes me wonder whether his professional work (whatever it is) has any basis in reality at all.

  5. @tigtog – I didn’t realise Romney was that old. I’m Gen X myself, and I wouldn’t really classify either of them in the same generation as me, but the point, as you say, is that it is clearly possible for people of different generations to have common understanding of one another’s issues.

  6. The Obama quote on the picture was funny. During which campaign did he say that? What he actually does as Prez is the opposite. (See BS about selling Plan B over the counter, giving bishops power over the civil rights of women unlucky enough to be employed by them, Stupak, it just goes on and on and on and on.)
    Still, at least he sometimes, when campaigning, pretends that women are people. That’s more than the other side does. But if it’s only to get women to vote for him, is that actually a good thing?

  7. Just to be clear, my point isn’t that there’s anything wrong with your argument. We have heard, and we do reject. I’m only trying to say that a real candidate who really stands up for our rights would be great.

  8. Looking ahead (I originally wrote “looking forward”, but let’s be honest, I don’t think anyone looks forward to elections) to the Australian election season (I’m in WA, we have two to deal with – one federal, one state), I have to wonder why the hells the Liberal party thinks they’re going to get me to alter my long-standing preference for them at the bottom of the list through their current behaviour.
    On the federal side, we have Tony Abbott, whose behaviour in the Slipper affair makes it clear that with a “friend” like him on your side, you don’t need any enemies. He’s a known misogynist, a politically connected thug and bruiser who has made it very clear repeatedly that his attitudes about the place of women in society belong in the fifties – the eighteen-fifties – and I don’t care how much of a domestic angel he is for his wife, I don’t want him in charge of making any policy decisions that can affect my life and livelihood.
    On the state side, we have our current premier, Mr Barnett, and our state Treasurer, Troy Buswell. Now, Mr Barnett is mostly harmless, in that he’s a standard Liberal with the ‘born to rule’ mentality and all the rest, and he’s the member for one of the more swanky beachside suburbs. Buswell, on the other hand, is a menace. He has a history of behaving inappropriately toward female colleagues and staff, a history of speeding (which caused him some definite problems when he was Transport Minister), and a history of behaving inappropriately while drunk toward potential Liberal party donors. He currently has a multi-million dollar defamation case in action against his former partner, Adele Carles (Independent member for Fremantle). The reason he’s treasurer at present is because he’s one of the few MPs in the state Liberals who could handle the job.
    Again, why would I want to vote for them?

  9. If “damaged women” vote for Obama, maybe it’s because they realise how much damage the Republicans did them.

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