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November 26, 2008


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Thom Brooks

I could not agree more with you. Thankfully, the initial signs are rather positive that Obama will have a number of women in key positions. Let us hope he follows your good advice, not least on Judge Wood!

Kimball Corson

Women themselves often invite some distinctions Jefferson suggested. While Keary may have spent a few hundred on his barber, while pushing the male envelope, Palin blew more than $150k on her appearance. We can better believe the positions presented here when women themselves come to believe them, not only in word, but in deed as well.

Uzair Kayani

Inglehart and Norris have an interesting (though dated) paper on the gender gap in voting across democracies, 21 International Poli Sci Rev 441 (2000).

They note that in developing democracies women vote more conservatively than men, while in post-industrialist democracies, women vote more liberally.

Assuming that developing democracies are more conservative than developed ones, women are more conservative in conservative democracies and more liberal in liberal democracies. I would have thought that they would be uniformly left-leaning.

Women's historical tendency to vote conservative is called the "traditional gender gap," while their recent tendency to vote liberal is termed the "modern gender gap." The traditional gap still prevails in post-communist countries and some other developing countries, like India, Mexico, and Turkey. Meanwhile, the modern gap shows up in Japan, Ireland, Denmark, and increasingly, the US.

Umm, I don't understand gender at all, though.

Uzair Kayani

Hypothesis for the gender gap: young women are likelier to vote than young men; old men are likelier to vote than old women. I'm sure someone has tested this.

On an unrelated note: I generally agree with the little feminist thought that I've read, but I do worry that it tends to be more aspirational or abstract (on average), and even moralizing, than literature as a whole. It just happens to be the case that I agree with feminist views, but I'm not sure they are particularly flexible. That might mean that women are likely to shut out dissent. But we are probably centuries away from that eventuality.

Uzair Kayani

I think this "women invited X" talk is wrong-headed. This is a misogynistic culture. Men have spent many centuries destroying any independent notion of female identity.

It is a mistake to think that women have the freedom to act that men do. It is too convenient how things turn out in the usual account: women being exactly what most men want; wanting exactly what men want them to; avoiding what men want them to avoid; and "inviting" what men would have them invite. This is an unacknowledged system of slavery. Suddenly it turns out that women invite invasions of privacy, slander, gossip, and even aggression: "You asked for this; this is what you want." Except that they really don't. They are pinioned from the start.

It is a vicious cycle: men expect how women ought to be, then they meet that expectation, and then men pat themselves on the back, because they've figured women out.

This has never been a level playing field.

Kimball Corson

Extending my position stated above, the rare woman who, by word and deed belies the Jeffersonian position in all regards, is fully entitled to all the protections conventional feminist thought would afford her. They are analogous to the blacks who you never really notice or care are black. But there is a problem, for it is a truly rare woman who does want to have it both ways at one time or another.


Perhaps, Professor Nussbaum, this is the time where you fully embrace your Aristotelian roots and leave the world of privatized social welfare and human rights, leave the Academy and the NGOs and get yourself a political appointment with the U.S. Government. Lord knows we need someone advocating on behalf of the United States government for basic human rights and fundamental human capabilities that go stunted under the many oppressive political regimes and cultures around the globe. There is a lot of work to do in the name of right and wrong around the globe given that our government was very wrong when it came to what is right over the last 8 years.

Uzair, like ethical and political thought in general, feminist thought is incredibly diverse and often conflicting. You can't really lump it all together because accounts for what gender and sex are and should be are vary widely. There are theorists who argue (poorly) that not just gender but sex itself is a completely contingent social creation and the best women can do is privately resist and subvert those norms with parody and performance. There are feminists who argue that women are fundamentally different, not just in biology but in the way they feel and reason ethically and that for society to change meaningfully, women need more that mere access to and superficial equality in the social and economic institutions of which they have been historically deprived. There are radical feminist thinkers who wait for the time when technology makes men obsolete and expendable. And there are humanist feminist thinkers who think men and women both stand to benefit from women's equality and less destructive gender norms. The meaning of equality in an unequal world is a very complex issue, and feminist thought is accordingly complex and varied.

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