An answer can be found in a long-standing piece of social research. Contrary to what the radical feminists say, there are differences between men and women. While we are, of course, the same species, there are consistent disparities in how the genders address problems.
In general, men tend to be more instrumental than women, whereas women tend to be more expressive than men. While these orientations overlap, there are observable discrepancies in how they are distributed.
What then is the difference? An instrumental approach is primarily concerned with getting a job done. The goal of an activity is kept firmly in mind and pursued with single-minded determination.
Conversely, an expressive approach is more concerned with keeping the peace. The objective is to prevent relationships from becoming too contentious. In order to achieve this, women are sensitive to the emotional ambience in a group and notice when it becomes antagonistic.
Thus, while men are apt to plow ahead and seek to defeat a foe, women are likely to placate potential adversaries. As a result, women may be hostile to those perceived as disturbing the tranquility of a group.
Research also shows men are more likely to think in a linear manner, arriving at a conclusion step by step. Meanwhile, women are more caring in their attitude. They don’t want people to get hurt, so they embrace solutions that seem to do the least harm.
As a result, young women are attracted to liberal rather than conservative causes. Because they want to be nice, they take seriously political claims about being compassionate. And since these are the bread and butter of Democratic politicians, they are apt to vote for them.
Men, in contrast, are more interested in results. They want to know if a policy works. If it does not, they are likely to reject it. Nor are they deterred if this requires them to be harsh in opposing those who support a losing strategy. They do not mind the confrontation and therefore fight back.
So when men look at the Obamacare muddle, they protest the incompetence. Young women, however, hear the good intentions and want the program to succeed. With their eyes fixed on who might be helped, they become its cheerleaders. Besides, they don’t want to be unkind to the president.
Notice I have suggested these attitudes apply mostly to young women. They, after all, are the ones inclined to vote liberal. Older women, on the other hand, have doubts about Democratic programs and therefore trend Republican. But why is this the case?
Here the answer lies in their life circumstances. Older women are apt to be married and have children. Hence, they care about their families. They don’t want them injured and are alert to when they are. While they too don’t appreciate controversy, they are prepared to defend their own.
Young women, however, are apt to have no such attachments. Absent these responsibilities, they can thus afford to be idealistic. With no one around them being hurt and intent on doing good, they are vulnerable to siren songs seriously detached from reality.
Consequently, young women, when allowed to make political decisions, often steer the ship of state onto rocky shoals. They don’t mean to hurt anybody, but in their obliviousness to what works, mistake bald-faced lies for compassion. Then they blame those who warned them of the danger for being cruel.
The answer to this dilemma? Everyone, including young women, must be alerted to what works and what hurts. Phony calls to fantasy solutions must be called out and identified for what they are. Lies, no matter how attractive, cannot go unchallenged — even if this entails contention.
Melvyn L. Fein Ph.D. is professor of sociology at Kennesaw State University.