Glass ones

Ruth Marcus has an idea why more women do not get involved in politics, and, surprisingly, punditry.  Considering what Hillary Clinton has had to suffer through (sometimes, someone said on CNN, it's "accurate" to call someone a 'bitch'"), Marcus' answer is surprising.  She writes:

The ambition gap also reflected an underlying, and pronounced, cockiness gap. One-third of men, but just one in five women, rated themselves "very qualified" to hold political office; twice as many women (12 percent) as men (6 percent) considered themselves "not at all qualified." Men were more likely to try for federal office, women for the local school board. Nearly half the women, but fewer than a third of the men, said they did not "have thick enough skin" to run.

Those responses resonated with my own experiences. Becoming a parent tempered my career ambitions in ways I never anticipated. There are jobs I once wanted — jobs I'd be good at, actually — that now I would not pursue.

If the gender tables were turned, would Michelle Obama leave two young daughters at home to run for president? How would voters respond if she did? Would her husband put his career on hold to manage the family?

When the governor of Alaska gave birth the other day to her fifth child, my initial, not-especially-enlightened thought was: How in the world will she manage that? I have just two kids to juggle and no state to run, and I'm dropping balls left and right.

The cockiness gap, too, has parallels in the opinion-writing business. The undeniable underrepresentation of women on op-ed pages has always struck me as more a function of limited supply (women willing to speak out) than inadequate demand (male chauvinist editors). It is intimidating to put your opinions out there, especially in an age of online, highly personal vitriol. It takes a certain unbecoming arrogance to believe you have something valuable to say — even one time, no less week after week.

Sometimes the hardest glass ceilings are the ones women impose, whether knowingly or unconsciously, on ourselves.

Women, I guess, don't like to be called names–that's deep thinking.

4 thoughts on “Glass ones”

  1. “Somewhat surprisingly,” write political scientists Jennifer Lawless of Brown University and Richard Fox of Loyola Marymount, women’s underrepresentation “is not because of discrimination against women candidates. In fact, women perform as well as men when they do run for office. In terms of fundraising and vote totals, the consensus among researchers is the complete absence of overt gender bias.”

    Rather, the “fundamental reason for women’s underrepresentation is that they do not run for office. There is a substantial gender gap in political ambition; men tend to have it, and women don’t.”

    There are so many gaps in this article that I am having trouble trying to figure out the conclusion. Basically, the problem with women is that they lack ambition. But Marcus then muses about what people would think if women had ambition–they wouldn’t approve. This contradicts the conclusion of the “researchers” who decree that there is no “overt gender bias” in elections. Its a classic double-bind that feminists have been writing about for some time now: women are lacking in ambition, and are judged differently from men, or rather more harshly, if they have ambition.

  2. Jem–

    I think you’re right about the double-bind problem here, and I also don’t see what conclusion Marcus hopes to draw from setting it up, because the one she does draw–that women themselves are largely to blame–doesn’t really seem to follow. It’s unfortunate that Sen. Clinton is subject this sort of analysis, as well, because a large part of the downfall of her campaign was poor choices made by her campaign managers, not necessarily due to some peronal defect she may or may not have. This sort of milquetoast psychoanalysis of American society that Marcus seems interested in engaging in ignores the fact that the failings of a political campaign are not always due to the failings, perceived or real, of a particular candidate.

  3. pm you’re absolutely right. I’m having a real hard time to see where this whole thing is going. It’s almost like someone forgot to publish Ruth’s conclusion. To me, it seems that she almost tries to defend and give credit to Sen. Clinton for sacrificing so much to fight for what she thinks it is right. She just points out what she sees as a dichotomy: career vs self-expectations. In my opinion, this is a false dichotomy. Not every woman has Ruth’s self-expectations. It’s is not “our own glass ceilings”, it is rather an individual glass ceiling that every person sets for themselves.

  4. It seems like a very strange argument. There is no measurable difference in political outcomes based on gender, hence no “overt gender bias.” Women do as well as men in elections….if said women choose to run, which they usually don’t, because the system is hostile to ambitious women (“How would voters react…?”)

    If I am representing the argument correctly, I fail to see how this logic supports a conclusion that there is no gender bias in the system. Perhaps she is splitting hairs on the meaning of “overt.” But that strikes me as exceptionally pointless if it is the case. I don’t expect airtight logic from Ruth Marcus, but to talk about how the real limit on female candidacies is women’s own lack of ambition while recognizing that the system treats ambitious men and women differently is……retarded? Is that too strong of a word?

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