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Women Don’t Belong in the Public Sphere

February 20, 2012

Women are better than men socially. They read social cues better than men, are more attentive to the strengths and weaknesses of others, are better at managing relationships, and better at caring for people’s needs. It is impossible to imagine human society without women’s contributions to the private sphere.

Women’s attention to relationships means that women tend to avoid saying or doing things that might cause awkwardness or offense. (On the other hand, women are also capable of much greater cruelty than men, as most of us learned in elementary school.) An implication is that women tend not to care very much whether something is true or right. What they care about is how people will feel if someone says or does it.

This is the source of much inter-gender misunderstanding, but, in itself, it’s neither good nor bad. In public life, however, it’s mainly a problem. For example, the observation that not everyone is capable of the same level of accomplishment since half of people have an IQ under 100, though an obvious and incontrovertible truth, is shocking to a woman’s conscience. Women are constitutionally incapable of giving up on people in that way. That someone is ineducable is for them a motive to invest more time in their teaching. This is exactly the approach you want your wife to take with your children, but applied to public policy it entails all manner of disastrous misallocation of resources: in education, immigration, hiring practices, and so on and on. And women’s participation in public life also degrades the quality of men’s participation. When women are a large part of the public discussion, many men seek to appeal to women, and become less honest themselves.

How ought men really to respond? Let’s consider an example. Last week on In Mala FideSimon Grey dismantled a Feministing post which claimed that all women are equally beautiful. Grey’s argument was perfectly sound, but in a sense his engagement with Feministing is pointless. The author of the original post is a woman. Of course she’s going to say absurd things in order to ensure that no one feels bad. We should accept that. Often we ought to praise women for their sensitivities while ignoring their so-called arguments.

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Update: Read Skarphedin’s comments.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. February 20, 2012 2:41 pm

    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.

    • February 20, 2012 2:55 pm

      I think that men at their best are governed by a concern for truth. Women at their best are not.

      • erica permalink
        February 23, 2012 7:42 pm

        Nah–I agree with the first commenter.

  2. February 21, 2012 4:30 pm

    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.


  1. More on Women in Public Life « Johann Happolati

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