More on Women in Public Life
Skarphedin wrote this in response to my post on how Women Don’t Belong in the Public Sphere:
You could also argue that the combatative nature of men is largely directed towards pointless or self-aggrandizing ends – not ‘truth’.
Most people don’t care about truth – or, they do only when it suits themselves. In the ruthless competition between men, selective use of truth is just another possible weapon.
Even if these blanket claims about the sexes can hold up, and it is the case that women are more swayed by how people feel about a claim, surely men are just as swayed by power, or the desire for it.
It’s not like past movements (pre-feminist) were very reasonable. They were pretty much always a series of false claims made for the sake of gaining power.
In other words: man claims to have noble message of truth – look into him and you’ll find a fleet of cars and a harem in the background.
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As for those political positions, in many of these cases women are simply being more consistent with what everyone claims to believe. These beliefs were developed by men in the enlightenment, and can’t be attributed to womanly sensitivity. It’s the party and policies of white men – the Republicans – that don’t seem to make any sense.
Ie. Popular opinion is firmly on the side of the importance of environment. If this is how one sees the world, turning around and denying resources to the underprivileged is simply selfish. The fact that men are more likely to take this approach, despite having beliefs that seem to undermine it, doesn’t show greater rationality, it shows greater self-interest.
Also, in many of these cases, social welfare, affirmative action, etc. it’s more important to women for obvious reasons – traditionally, women are going to need it more.
Also, take immigration. Looking over a few polls, there is not much difference between men and women’s views on the benefits of immigration. If anything, women generally see it as slightly more negative than men do.
Skarphedin has also put up a post on Gender and Attitudes Toward Immigration (just to further scold me, I guess).
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Having a background in philosophy, I sometimes pursue an argument without knowing whether I myself entirely accept it. This is one of those cases. I’ve quoted Skarphedin’s comments at length because they’re a good corrective, not because I’m going to rebut them comprehensively.
Still, I do have a few things to say in response:
1. I think that men at their best are governed by a concern for truth. Women at their best are not.
2. Self-aggrandizement and truth are not incompatible. Many men succeed by discovering things, or by gaining expertise in things, or by saying genuinely interesting and at least arguably true things.
3. Even a combative spirit isn’t always hostile to truth. Lawyers in a sense don’t, but in a sense do, serve the truth.
4. The feminist movement is surely itself partly responsible for the commitment to nurture over nature. Femenists are the most die-hard nurture-ists.
5. Likewise female participation in politics itself has shifted the whole political landscape.
6. Some Enlightenment ideas work better (indeed just fine) in homogeneous European societies—and not as well in multicultural societies.
7. Republican motives should be understood along the lines I described in Why American Politics is Such a Mess.
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Update: The original post is now up at In Mala Fide, and I’ll be joining the discussion there.