May 25, 2004

Politics and "the testosteroned."

After writing that last entry, I was struck by this Andrew Sullivan statement:
Josh Marshall has just done a survey of his readers. It's an interesting contrast with mine. First off, the similarities. Josh's readers are 81 percent male; mine are 85 percent male. This is no big surprise: for some reason, political opinion sites (and magazines) always skew toward the testosteroned....

Last night, after Bush's big speech, I listened to some of the analysis, flipping back and forth over the cable news channels (avoiding commercials), and the one comment I kept hearing is that Bush needed to put something in his speech to engage women, and he didn't. Dick Morris leaned on this point. He (or someone else) seemed to think there needs to be special woman-friendly material, something warm and emotional. Maybe some anecdotes about an Iraqi child at school or an Iraqi mother who smiled because of some damn thing we did?

Speaking for myself, but maybe reflecting a few conversations I've had with other women, I just think there are many enjoyable aspects to life, and soaking up political material has a place, but not a huge place. Politicians can't get more of my attention by blabbing about those other aspects of life, though. And I'm annoyed when they waste my time and try my patience by thinking they can appeal to me with such tripe. It's not necessarily that women don't care about the traditional hardcore political issues like war and the economy, just that they are not as interested in spending time going over and over it. Enjoying politics as an avocation is different from caring about the actual political issues.

I've certainly noticed that I get the most traffic on this blog when I've written about a political issue and get linked by another blog that is much more political overall than mine is (e.g., Instapundit). But usually if I say something about politics, I'm speaking as more of a distanced observer of human nature and human folly. I'm interested in the way language is used in politics, because I like to analyze how it affects the human mind and because there is so much humor to be found. And I'm certainly interested enough in human nature to want to contemplate whether I would feel quite differently about all of this if only I was--in Sullivan's slightly inaccurate locution--"testosteroned."

So "for some reason, political opinion sites (and magazines) always skew toward the testosteroned." What is the reason? Well, of course, there's reason not to speculate about the reason. You can't do it without seeming sexist. Sullivan is perhaps well-advised to say "for some reason" and leave it at that. But if I had to speculate, I'd say that men might generally enjoy the feeling of being inside the big conflict, being in the game, and women generally experience politics as stress and discord. I don't think it's that women are more emotional than men, but that different emotions are being felt. I'm a big advocate of reason and think reason is a bridge between the (positions stereotypically associated with the) sexes. Both are concerned about problems and would like to find solutions. Some people feel stimulated by the fight itself and some feel moved to avoid conflict, but all want solutions.

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