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.