2/20/08 Ark. Times
Barack Obama's inroads among white voters are
explained, in part, by a gender divide. Given the choice between him
and Hillary Clinton, a majority of white men in many states have
voted for Obama.
The numbers suggest to me that some gender bias is at work. Others
argue that it's less about Hillary Clinton's gender than it is about
But forget the specific example and consider a bigger picture. How
often have you heard a male candidate for public office described as
a bitch? When's the last time you heard a male candidate derided for
his"cackle." How many comments do you hear about male candidates'
clothing, weight, cleavage and hairstyle relative to those about
women? Have you ever heard Chris Matthews suggest a male candidate
was a threat to the genitals of a woman?
America hasn't erased racial divisions, but Obama's success lends
evidence to the belief that gender barriers are sometimes even more
Elsewhere in the Times, we've recounted the recent resignation of a
female state editor at the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. She wrote an
intemperate resignation note, circulated to all on the staff (and
beyond), about what she believed to be a sexist atmosphere at the
paper. I have no idea if she's right. I do know that the supervisory
ranks at the newspaper are overwhelmingly male, except in the
But the state's largest newspaper is no different than the vast
majority of the state's major businesses. Men dominate the top
management positions. The publicly traded companies in Arkansas have
few female board members. The states' colleges and universities,
where females predominate in the classroom, are headed by men.
Surveys show that male faculty members tend to make more money. I'd
guess that no woman in government employment in Arkansas, except
possibly at UAMS, makes as much as the defensive football coach at
the University of Arkansas. (I know. Football is really important.)
Most school superintendents are men, though most teachers are women.
The state's largest law firms didn't add women partners until the
mid-1970s. You needed only a couple of fingers to count the number
of female judges in the state until the late-1980s. Women have never
led either house of the legislature.
Women who do succeed in business and politics generally continue to
shoulder"traditional? household responsibilities -- primary child
caregiver and house manager. There are some new-age men out there,
but a whole lot more men are in the deer woods. Good luck finding a
man who does the Christmas shopping and gift wrapping.
Male dominance in business and politics isn't a product of superior
intellect nor is it an accident. It's a continuing reflection of the
attitude that gave black men the vote decades before women, who
didn't achieve full U.S. voting rights until 1920. Times have
changed, but I bet you'd still find plenty of men sympathetic -- if
more quietly today -- with the infamous Arkansas legislator who said
the proper state of womankind was barefoot and pregnant.
Many men are afraid, or resentful, of strong women. The amateur
psychologist might speculate that the men who complain about an air
of superiority in female leaders are saying more about their own
fragile male egos. In the South, the typical antidote is to call the
woman a bitch and go buy a few more guns.