by Phyllis Chesler
Democratic women rejected the only woman candidate, Christine Quinn, who ran for Mayor of NYC. According to the New York Times, women voted for Bill De Blasio instead, “by more than two to one.”
Democratic women also deserted Hillary Clinton when she was running for the Presidency. And, media pundits on both sides of the aisle judged both Hillary and Sarah Palin in ways they did not judge male candidates. In sexist ways. Long ago, when I wrote Women and Madness, (1972) it was clear that mental health professionals had a double standard for mental health, one that women could not achieve. If they were appropriately “feminine” they would be viewed as dependent and annoying, definitely not Presidential material. And, if women were not feminine enough, they were seen as “angry” and inappropriately “masculine.” The same double standard, and more, applies in custody battle cases today. We expect much more of mothers than we do of fathers and if mothers fail even one of twenty chores, if they are less than absolutely perfect, they may be seen as unfit mothers. We expect fewer things of fathers.
Thus, while it is disappointing, we should not be surprised that women do not mainly vote for women. Like men, most women have also internalized sexist attitudes; in addition, women are expected and empowered to “keep other women in line,” to compete with and behave aggressively towards other women, both at home and on the job. Like men, many women also mistrust, dislike, and do not respect women. Unlike men, women are also jealous of any woman who rises above the herd. They do not experience her triumph as symbolically their own but rather as a condemnation of their own more anonymous status. Mean girls become mean women.
Many prosecutors in rape trials still do not want women on the jury because they tend to disbelieve and dislike the victim and to feel sorry for the nice young man. Globally, collaborate in the honor killing of their daughters; I am working on a study which documents women’s roles as collaborators and perpetrator in honor (horror) killings. A New Delhi prison has a special wing for mothers-in-law who have murdered their daughters-in-law for their dowries; we have heard too many stories about Afghan mother-in-laws who beat and even torture their daughter-in-laws to force them into prostitution. When I lived in Kabul, long before the Soviets, the Taliban or Al-Qaeda invaded, I saw up close the cruelty with which female servants were treated by their female employers. (I write about this in my new book, An American Bride in Kabul). By now, we are all familiar with examples of diplomats or wealthy people from southeast and central Asia who starve, beat, and imprison their household servants who came with them from their home countries.
Of course, this is paradoxical because women also rely on other women for intimacy and “best” friendship. Psychologically, both things are true: Women can betray their best friends, and women can only count on their best friends. Women can steal their best friend’s spouse, and women can comfort their best friends when they are in distress. This all takes place in the private realm.
What’s still missing: Most women have not yet become a voting bloc based on gender or sexual preference. Most people do not yet vote for a candidate in terms of where they stand on a particular issue, including women’s issues.
Women trust, respect, and turn to men for protection. This includes male candidates. Women are not yet sure that other women can protect them or their families in the public realm. They view other women as they view themselves: As in need of protection.
And, we tend to think of God as male, not female.
Until some of this begins to change, psychologically, women candidates will have a hard time attracting the “female” vote.
Dr. Phyllis Chesler is the author of 14 books including the best selling Women and Madness, Mothers on Trial. The Battle for Children and Custody and Woman’s Inhumanity to Woman. Her new book, An American Bride in Kabul may be purchased here. She may be reached at her website www.phyllis-chesler.com.