Everyone seems to be all agog about Dan Abrams' new book, "Man Down," which touts the superiority of women in myriads of categories. Its full title is, "Man Down: Proof Beyond a Reasonable Doubt That Women Are Better Cops, Drivers, Gamblers, Spies, World leaders, Beer Drinkers, Hedge Fund Managers and Just About Everything Else." Well, that got my attention!
Abrams, a bachelor and chief legal analyst for NBC News, has been pitching his new book as based on studies, polls and other forms of evidence that prove his assertion. He says that women are also better at bearing pain. Of course we are!
It is deeply affirming to see the strengths of women celebrated in print, especially by a well-known man. But for all the strengths Abrams touts, why are so few women actually perceived this way in everyday situations and treated as equals by others? Why are so many of us still undermined by subliminal messages that women are undeserving of real gender equity, undeserving of equal pay for the same jobs, undeserving of serving in elective positions and undeserving of more senior level corporate positions? Undeserving!
It was disturbing to hear Abrams say on the March 4 "Today Show" that despite superior credentials and character, women are less likely to be selected for a particular purpose when people are given the credentials of both a man and a woman. Add to that the fact that women are still paid only 77 cents on the dollar earned by men for jobs with equal qualifications and assignments. This statistic is supported by many studies but was mentioned most recently a March 3 post, "White House: Women Still Lag Behind Men In Pay." Based partially on a report released by the White House Council on Women and Girls, the article also says that because of lower earnings, women, who are usually raising and supporting their children, are more likely to be in poverty than men. The consequences on families are devastating!
Abrams also states that women are more effective in many areas. We vote more than men do, for example, and we make better candidates overall. But, Abrams says, women don't necessarily vote for women, much less run for office themselves. No kidding! Women often need to be invited at least six or seven times to even consider running for office!
Nationwide, women occupy only 17 percent of elective offices. That is an outrageous statistic! Do women feel unworthy to run for office and for that reason defer to their male counterparts? We surely don't lack the skills, so why do we lack the confidence?
The AAUW is addressing this issue with a collegiate based program called Elect Her: Campus Women Win. The program encourages women to run for a college office and provides some basic skills for running a campaign. It is hoped that with some experience, women will feel more confident to run for local school boards, town councils and move on to state and national offices. This is a good first effort.
But the nagging question is, why do so few women feel qualified or confident in running for elective office? And when a woman does run, why don't more women vote for her?
In my research for "Put the Blame on Eve: What Women Must Overcome to Feel Worthy," I learned that many women retain a residue of guilt after centuries of being held accountable for the downfall of humankind. It seems to remain in the psyche of women and men who use the Judeo-Christian biblical story as a means of keeping women in their "proper places." Fortunately there have been strong female leaders who have broken the chains, but the residue seems to remain.
It seems ironic, given all the female qualities Abrams points to as superior to those of men, that most women don't view themselves as better than men, or even equal. Could it be that some of those characteristically feminine traits may be undermining the success of women in business and political battlefields. Is it modesty? High ethical standards? Fear of public scrutiny along with loss of privacy, or guilt about time away from the family? Fear and guilt, weapons long used by patriarchies and femiphobes against women, have profound roots, like some of the weeds in the garden that persist even when we tug and tug to remove them.
So why is it that women don't often vote for other women who do get nominated for elective office? Some pundits make the mistake of assuming that women will automatically line up to vote for other women, despite their political affiliations and ideology. Even though we want to be supportive of our sisters, we certainly shouldn't vote for anyone strictly because of gender. We should vote for a candidate because he or she espouses the views and political philosophies that we voters espouse as individuals. Where does the candidate stand on issues that are important to women? We definitely need more women running for office (and winning) who stand up for those issues that are important to all women.
I'm not really sure what Dan Abrams' motivation was for writing "Man Down." But good for you, Dan, for calling to our attention that women do indeed possess skills and qualities that are as good as, or superior to, those of our male counterparts. We will need many more books and articles such as yours to change the cellular memories of six thousand years of perceived female inferiority!