Daughters: reinforcing the moral fiber of a nation
I think I wrote about the research that’s been done showing that having a daughter moves politicians to the left on issues regarding women’s health and well-being, but now there’s research extrapolating this trend to the larger population on political persuasion, not just on “women’s issues”. Andrew Gelman quotes the research paper by Andrew J. Oswald and Nattavudh Powdthavee that says:
We document evidence that having daughters leads people to be more sympathetic to left-wing parties. Giving birth to sons, by contrast, seems to make people more likely to vote for a right-wing party. Our data, which are primarily from Great Britain, are longitudinal. We also report corroborative results for a German panel. Access to longitudinal information gives us the opportunity — one denied to previous researchers — to observe people both before and after they have a new child of any particular gender.
This is the sort of thing that shows why I don’t think feminism is or should be treated as a sub-topic under the main topic “general liberalism”. Gender is a fundamental aspect of politics, and it’s impossible to separate people’s feelings and anxieties about gender from the reasons they vote this way or that. Specifically, one’s tendency to be a right winger is quite dependent on whether or not someone is into phallic worship, coupled with a strong fear of castration. Digby has an amusing post about how the new meme is that not only will Obama confiscate your gun-based phallic substitutions, but also your gas-guzzling phallic substitutions.
I knew the wingnuts were having a meltdown over a non-existent threat to take away their guns, but I hadn’t heard they were freaking out because the government was going to take their hummers.
Why don’t they just admit they are afraid Democrats are going to confiscate their dicks and be done with it?
Having a daughter can, for some men (and bafflingly, women) change things for those who buy into this mentality, even on a small scale. Or, at least, that’s the theory that this evidence points towards. Your self-interest gambles change significantly when you have a daughter, which could only be true if gender is a fundamental issue shot throughout the political landscape, and not something that can be sewed up with one equal pay bill here or one abortion rights bill there. And certainly can’t be sewed up strictly through individual actions, like encouraging this particular girl to get an engineering degree and use two forms of birth control every time she has sex, though that sort of intervention is probably helpful.
What’s sad is that people buy into the ridiculous idea that right wing politics are good for men. Right wingers prioritize protecting male privilege, but I disagree that having that privilege is necessarily the best thing for men, if it comes at the high price of having to put up with other right wing policies. It’s true that male privilege means access to better, more secure jobs than women have access to, but is that really an adequate substitute for having a decent social safety net and universal health care? Male privilege lessens but doesn’t extinguish the chance that you’ll find yourself down and out one day.
When you look at reproductive rights, you really see how this works. Sure, eliminating women’s reproductive rights creates more of a power and opportunity gap between men and women. But it does so at the price of dragging men down, trapping them in unhappy marriages and situations where they have to reduce their career expectations or education in the name of stability. Male privilege means that it does this to you less, and you have the chance to run away, but it doesn’t do what feminism does, which is significantly reduces the chances that an unintended pregnancy screws your plans up in the first place. That’s not nothing.
Ideally, people wouldn’t be so dichotomous with regards to gender, and would realize that men and women do better if they aren’t put at odds artificially. Changing people’s minds so they see it that way is the feminism I back. And it seems that it would have the benefit of draining gender anxieties from politics, so that people could vote their actual self-interest, instead of pitting men vs. women, and believing if women do better then men somehow do worse.