Friday, July 07, 2006

Men are emotionally retarded

Natalie Bennett muses on Comment is Free (The personal is political) about women political bloggers (my gossips tell me she was in Militant, but that may be totally untrue, and her biog only mentions that she is now in the Green Party).

Typical female political activistThe real question is, of course, about women's political involvement in general, not just whether they have a blog or not (no matter how good it is). It's certainly true that a large proportion of political organisations don't have anything like 50/50 male to female activists although different areas and branches will, no doubt, have their own shape, and obviously women have always played significant roles in political organisations.

Certainly in Cambridge many of the leading political activists are women. The University and Town Palestine solidarity groups are both run by very formidable women. The Green Party is blessed with leading member Margaret Wright. Greenpeace is organised by a young and energetic female student, Campeace and the old Socialist Alliance branch have/had leading women organisers, the list goes on.

I don't think any of these groups are organised in a particularly 'female' way, and all these activists seem to share exactly the same problems and gifts as their male counterparts.

When I've discussed the problem of under-representation with women activists before they often come up with the very things that annoy me about politics. Sectarianism, people who love the sound of their own voice, jargon, cliques, underhandedness, dishonesty, machismo. It does seem pretty rare that (progressive) groups are actually described as down the line sexist (although Gemma from Ipswich told me her anarchist branch was sexist, and for all I know it is) even when everyone recognises there is a problem.

There are particular issues that may hinder women becoming involved more than men, childcare for instance, but when this was brought up in one local group a female activist was 'rather irritated' by the suggestion as it made the assumption that childcare was solely a woman's responsibility. Fair point, although I still think we should be sensitive to needs like this and ensure no one is denied access to political involvement because of this kind of issue.

He thinks he's being 'scientific' but in fact he's just squeakingMy personal theory, which no doubt has many holes, is that men are just more likely to be emotionally retarded than women and politics (and blogging, cough) are ideal ways to get social interaction without wandering into territory where you have be emotionally open.

You can be 'in charge' even if no one likes you, you get to have a whole room full of people sit in silence politely listening to your contributions no matter how dull you are, you may even get to win arguments without actually having to persuade anyone of your point of view. The internet is likewise an arena where you can have friends that you've never had to meet and you get to debate people even if you're utterly obnoxious - and no one gets beaten up (unfortunately).

So when it comes to political blogging you've got double bubble when it comes to women's involvement - but the problem with my theory is I'm not sure it gets us very far.


Renegade Eye said...

We need a lefty Michelle Malkin.

stroppybird said...

What I find most depressing is often being in the position of arguing why womens/LBGT and other equalities issues should be part and parcel of the fight for socialism.

I feel a lot of damage has been done recently by sections of the left sidelining and dropping these principles when it is expedient.

It feels likeion the left, although I accept many seem happy to go along with it.

The attitude often is that we need to deal with the 'real' issues and womens stuff will somehow just get sorted along the way. Given the attitude and behaviour of some of the men on the left I very much doubt that.

The blogs reflect the left in general. The issues you raise think apply to both blogs and the 'real' world.

btw thanks for the link in this piece to stroppyblog :-)

Louisefeminista said...

"is that men are just more likely to be emotionally retarded than women"

Jim, is the above a bit of an excuse? Can't help it as I am emotionally screwed philosophy? The Left like the rest of society reflects the power relationships which exist. The Left is not sealed tightly from conditioning whether on a conscious or unconscious level...

Btw: Self-promotion Jim, sorry, but I wrote a piece for the feminist website, The F Word, on the Left, women and feminism some time again. the website is and it is called Left Behind - should be in Nov archive 2005

stroppybird said...

Louise, you should update it and put it on stroppyblog.....

Jim Jay said...

Louise - re: is it an excuse?

Well, when I said at the end that I'm not sure how far it gets us I was recognising exactly this point - if it's genuinely a cultural thing (that's the way men are) then it could be used as a cop out (although I hope I'm not going to use it that way).

I think if my little pet theory is true it means we should try to change the culture of the left (or politics more generally) and that the left needs to try to influence the culture more generally.

Ultimately we need to fundamentally change society - but I don't believe that means there is nothing we can do closer to home.

Jim Jay said...

You can jump directly to Louise's piece here

Jim Jay said...

Stroppy - there has definately been a slide in the last fifteen years (or more) on the left away from "women's issues". But this has definately occurred at the same time as a massive slippage in society in general.

The accepting of porn, lap-dancing and prostitution into the mainstream is really noticable I think.

Renegade - I couldn't remember who Michelle Malkin was so I found her website... shudder

stroppybird said...

Agree society has moved away and the whole media debate about post feminism and so called 'lap dance' feminism. Feminists need to be more proactive on these issues.

But the left is an area that should know better. The opportunistic move away from secularism and to link with people who spout homophobia and sexist statements speaks volumes about how deep any commitemnt ever was to equality issues. I have been in a number of RL and blog debates where male lefties have more or less said shut up about it there are more important issues at stake.

Jim Jay said...

It's rude rude rude to tell people to shut up (either literally or metaphorically) - although I will say that Respect has leading women and in particular Salma Yaqoob and Lindsey German what do you say about their role in this?

stroppybird said...


It also has Yvonne Ridley .

In my earlier post I did say there were women who go along with this. Personally I could not , for me it would be selling out my principles and make socialism, if thats what it would entail, meaningless in terms of a means to having an equal society for men and women and groups who do not fit neatly in.

Jim Jay said...

Hmmm... yes, I'd blocked YR from my memory... I think you're right of course.

But the other point is the left is, thankfully, much larger than Respect - which is why I'm always a little cautious of blaming them for the way the left is as they are just a small part of it.

I think the traditional left is having problems with women's issues in particular because the political terrain has changed and they can't adapt - if it doesn't fit the situation in the 1970's they either ignor it or pretend nothing has changed - and I think with women's place in society this has severely wrong footed them/us.

Natalie Bennett said...

Hi Jim. Just to set the record straight, the Green Party is the only "political" organisation I've ever been involved with, and indeed I've only lived in Britain for about eight years.

Interesting blog - I'll be back.

Jim Jay said...

Hi Natalie - thanks for visiting and the kind words - you're welcome back anytime :)

oh and thanks for clearing up political affiliation - the gossips are always wrong! I did think after writing this that there is a CATHERINE Bennett - maybe she was in Militant (the inaccuracies spread...)