Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Women less interested in politics than men! Something must be done! Apparently!

I’ll often be reading an article these days and find myself wondering whether it’s a vicious right-wing parody of silly liberal attitudes – but it invariably turns out to a genuine article written by a silly liberal. Today’s example was provided by Channel 4 news presenter, Cathy Newman, in an article entitled 'British women know less about politics than men - but why?’ (read it here).

The answer, of course, is that politics tends to bore them rigid.

This is the first time I’ve been aware of reading anything by Ms Newman. I’m disappointed, because she’s very attractive, looking as if she’s stepped out of the pages of a 1930s Agatha Christie novel: she could be the cold-eyed killer whose cool mask only slips at the last moment when Miss Marple identifies her as the poisoner – or she could be one of those frightfully chipper girl heroines called something like Farthing Nightingale who discovers that her bluestocking Aunt Lavinia’s seemingly accidental death was actually an assassination carried out by the dastardly agents of a foreign – probably Bolshevik - power.

Anyway, I digress – and fantasise.

Research carried out in ten countries by the Goldsmiths Leverhulme Media Research Centre at University of London (try squeezing that on your business card) reveals the astonishing fact that women generally know less about politics than men do. The Professor in charge of all this concludes that that's because women are only “interviewed or cited” in 30% of TV news stories. Britain is above the international average at 34%, but that, of course, is still appalling: “If there was more about health and education and less about the Westminster bubble, it would be more interesting to women,” James Curran (yet another man, presumably) tells us. “It’s enormously off-putting for women to be looking at the news as always being about men. Politics is projected as a man’s world and that encourages a sense of disconnection.” Women, he assures us, live and breathe politics, but "they experience it in a different way.“ (Presumably by not paying any attention to it.)

Further analysis by Women in Journalism (no, I've no idea) showed that, in general news, 79% of all victims featured were women, while three-quarters of the “experts” interviewed were men.

Ms Newman concludes: “On Channel 4 News we try to make sure we get the balance right. But despite our best efforts, men are frequently over-represented on the programme. So I believe women who have managed to shatter those glass ceilings need to stand up and be counted. A gender gap in political understanding and more importantly interest, will persist if women in positions of knowledge and power repeatedly leave the blokes to hog the studio.”

Might I suggest a radical new approach to this  issue? Yes? Okay, as you insist, I will. What about letting women go on deciding for themselves what they’re interested in. Political obsessives tend to be men, just as most beer-mat collectors and music nuts and compilers of lists of interesting trivia are men. This sort of behaviour is distinctly masculine. We’re not brought up to behave this way – it just comes naturally to us. Most women find Westminster politics boring – when a news report about the latest Commons ding-dong comes on, their eyes tend to glaze over and they reach for the crossword or remember they’ve got something frightfully important to do in another room. Their lack of interest in day-to-day political shenanigans and political theory isn’t the result of upbringing – for instance, my wife’s father was an MP for 20 years and her mother was deeply involved in politics, but I’ve never known Mrs. G to shout “Hurry up! The Daily Politics is about to start on BBC2 - and they've got an exclusive interview with Jeremy Hunt!” (If I were to shout the same thing at her, she would undoubtedly ask me if I'd gone mad.)

The majority of men and the majority of women are hard-wired to have different interests. There is nothing wrong with this. There is no reason on earth why anyone should seek to change this state of affairs. It isn’t a problem. It’s fine. Relax. The only thing that matters – and the only thing that politicians and media pundits need concern themselves with  - is to ensure that women who want to be politicians have the same chances as men.

The other incredibly annoying assumptions underpinning the bizarre conclusions drawn from these two bits of research is that women are so stupid and passive and unimaginative that their attention can only be engaged by increasing the number of news reports involving social issues (of which there are already far too many) and by stuffing them with male victims and female “experts”, and that the only reason women aren’t interested in Westminster-style politics is that they involve lots of pompous, shouty men. How bloody patronising! Does our left-liberal politico-media elite seriously believe that woman are only capable of responding to hard-luck stories designed to leave them sniffling into their hankies, or that Westminster politics would be more appealing to them if only a few more Theresa Mays and Harriet Harmans involved were involved?


Thanks, Cathy and James – but our here in the real world, men and women tend to appreciate and cherish their differences. If you want to sort out some genuine "gender gaps", there are dozens of countries where women and girls are treated abysmally. I suggest you focus your attention on those, and leave the rest of us damn well alone.

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