Today the Columbus Dispatch newspaper published an op-ed from Mark Weaver of our team. In this essay, Mark addresses the view among many in the news media that women all think alike and how that misconception drove coverage of the "Women's March." Click here or read below:
Women’s political views range across the spectrum
By Mark R. Weaver
This week, millions of women rejoiced at the inauguration of Donald Trump, many of them trekking to Washington to be heard. Other women, also in the millions, decried President Trump’s ascension to power, some also heading to the nation’s capital or nearby venues to protest. What do these women — or women in general — have in common? Almost nothing. And, when it comes to politics, that’s a good thing.
For example, nearly every poll tells us that women are about equally split on whether they identify as pro-life or pro-choice on abortion. There’s no “women’s position” on that issue, or, for that matter, any issue. Every issue is a woman’s issue — and a man’s issue. And, while there’s a “gender gap” in some election results, factors like race, locale, and age are much stronger predictors of partisan leanings than a voter’s sex.
Even if a stray issue here or there does show a marginal difference between attitudes of men and women, there’s no intellectually honest claim that women’s views are monolithic. Yet news media coverage often suggests otherwise.
As my byline suggests, I’m not a woman. But the notion that only women can accurately analyze the views of women and politics is as wrongheaded and over-simplistic as the assumption that women are some odd species whose attitudes are fully in sync. Nowhere is that common fallacy more destructive than politics and policymaking.
When people who make laws believe that women think one way and men another, the result can be regulations that perpetuate a Balkanization of the sexes. In a nation where our motto is “from many, one” we must strive to turn away from this direction lest we all become denizens of division. Indeed, identity politics should have no place in a country where the only relevant identity is being American.
Several times a year, I speak at women’s leadership conferences. I help develop opportunities for young women to be more involved in public affairs and government. I was proud to see my wife and daughter become active in these programs and glad to see others benefit from them as well. I support these efforts not because women have a unique voice that must be heard. Female perspectives are multiple and varied, not uniform. To claim otherwise is to diminish women’s role as equal partners in politics.
So, women ought to be involved in the process of self-governance not because there’s a “woman’s viewpoint,” but because when we’re all in it together, our decisions are usually better. When women — conservative, moderate, and liberal — are less involved in a government of, by, and for the people, the resolutions of our republic may be rejected. Indeed, it was Founding Mother Abigail Adams who reminded her husband John that women “will not hold ourselves bound by any laws in which we have no voice or representation.”
Years ago, I moved to Ohio to work as the deputy attorney general for Betty Montgomery — the first woman elected as our state attorney general. Yet her place in history was secured by her character, vision, and dedication to this state. Her gender was more footnote than foundation.
Electing a woman simply because she’s a woman is as ill-considered and small-minded as voting against a woman for the same reason. And as we enter the era of President Trump, one-dimensional views of whether women support or oppose his policies have the ironic effect of advancing that which so many feminists reject: the notion that women should be of one mind on anything. Politically speaking, men are complicated. It’s not breaking news that women are, as well.
Women, whether in the era of Obama or Trump, should march on Washington to counter leaders and legislation they oppose. But that burden of representative democracy also falls to men. Americans are the shareholders of this nation and we ought not be silent partners in it. And this mandate applies without regard to gender, since the chromosomes of our body matter infinitely less than the DNA of our democracy.