What about the men?

By Amanda Marcotte
Tuesday, April 20, 2010 19:30 EDT
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Every few years or even months or so, you get another alarmist article about how young women are failing their feminist foremothers. Young women don’t call themselves feminists! Young women don’t care about history! Young women are dropping out of feminism! These articles have a few flaws in common, the big one being that they never seem to have historical information so we can determine if this is a trend or not. And the reaction is always the same—a handful of young feminist activists get pissed, even though the article wasn’t about them the exceptions but everyone else the rule.

The latest edition of this is this article in Newsweek chronicling young women’s failure to care about abortion rights. But this time the article had a lot of traction and response, in part because Newsweek has recently published on how they want to be more feminist, and also because they had statistics. Damning, scary statistics from NARAL. Statistics that showed how indifferent young pro-choice women are.

A survey of 700 young Americans showed there was a stark “intensity gap” on abortion. More than half (51 percent) of young voters (under 30) who opposed abortion rights considered it a “very important” voting issue, compared with just 26 percent of abortion-rights supporters; a similar but smaller gap existed among older voters, too.

Why, the percentage of enthused pro-choicers is half that of enthused anti-choicers. Young women really are letting the ball—-

Wait, did they survey young women? Or young people?

It only occurred to me after reading the article like 4 times that there was a bait and switch going on here. We’re being pointed in the direction of worrying about young women, but the actual research addresses young men and women. I looked at NARAL to see if there was some clarification on this, but got nothing.

The lack of information about gender on this is nothing to sneeze at. In my long experience with this issue, one thing has always struck me as a major reason that anti-choicers are better than pro-choicers at really rallying the troops, which is the gender inequities between the sides. There’s a huge gender gap in liberal circles on this issue, something pro-choice activists often joke about. It’s not that liberal men don’t care. It’s just that they’re more likely to think it’s a minor political issue than women are. There are exceptions to every rule, of course, but on the whole, male liberals tend to butt out. On the flip side, male anti-choicers are super-enthusiastic. They see abortion rights as a direct assault on their manhood, and they’re going to defend themselves. But female anti-choicers are also enthusiastic, if not quite up to the male levels. And that shouldn’t be a major surprise; women are as quick as men to judge female sexuality, even if they do it for different reasons. (Establishing themselves as good women compared to those slatterns, for instance.) When one side has two genders fighting for it and the other only has one (with a scattering of exceptions, of course), you’re going to see a major difference in the polling data. Like, oh, one side is going to show twice the enthusiasm as another.

Now, I may be off-base here. Maybe NARAL did break their data down according to gender, and found it was basically the same. Or maybe not. If we actually had access to that data, we’d be able to assess. But if I’m right, then it’s kind of screwed up to guilt young women for not caring when it might have been young men that skewed the results.

Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte is a freelance journalist born and bred in Texas, but now living in the writer reserve of Brooklyn. She focuses on feminism, national politics, and pop culture, with the order shifting depending on her mood and the state of the nation.
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