Perspective: If gender doesn’t matter, why do female politicians say they’re better because they’re women?
Politicians always say ridiculous things, but lately they’re getting worse
Is there something distinctive about women? Yes, but only when it’s convenient.
In an interview with New York Gov. Kathy Hochul earlier this week, WNYC host Brian Lehrer asked, “Is there anything you think specifically that you as a woman have brought to New York state policy that Governor (Andrew) Cuomo or any man might not have?”
Her answer was head-spinning but also completely representative of how feminists want to have it both ways.
First, of course, Hochul said she can “govern with the same strength and the toughness required to run a state as rough and tumble as New York truly is, the politics and the government.” She can go toe-to-toe with any man when it comes to getting things done but also, because she’s a woman, she has other qualifications.
“What I bring is a sense of compassion and empathy when I’m going out to settings where people … had to endure extreme tragedy. Whether it was consoling people after the subway shooting in Brooklyn or going up to Buffalo after the massacre there. … What (women) bring also is strength, but also a perspective from the point of view of a mother who has to sit there and figure out how she can afford to fill up her kids’ backpack in the next week.”
So to be clear: as a woman, Hochul is just as tough as any man, but because of her “lived experience,” she has more compassion than her male counterparts and also understands household finances better.
Is there anything men can do better because of their lived experience? She doesn’t say. And if anyone did, they’d be labeled sexist.
Meanwhile, Democrat Carolyn Maloney — who recently lost a newly redistricted congressional seat in New York City to her longtime colleague Jerry Nadler — took a similar approach in her campaign. She explains, “You cannot send a man to do a woman’s job … I am a fighter. Women fight for women.”
Never mind that she and Nadler voted in lockstep for 30 years.
Upon losing the race, Maloney said she “is really sad that we no longer have a woman representing Manhattan in Congress” — because “when women are the decision-makers, the agenda changes to include things that directly affect our lives, our children and our families.”
Remind me, what exactly is the agenda of the men in Congress that doesn’t affect our lives and our families?
Politicians will always say nonsensical things to get elected, but this sloppiness is getting ridiculous. You cannot say at the same time that women are just like men and also that they do everything better than men.
Did Andrew Cuomo’s experience as a father inform his ability to govern before Hochul replaced him? If Cuomo had said he wanted to keep criminals locked up because, as a father, he feared for the safety of his daughters, people would have called him sexist. His “lived experience” would not have mattered.
Indeed, if a male politician had said he was in charge of his family’s finances and so had a better understanding of whether they could afford to fill up a child’s backpack, that too would have been labeled sexist.
To live at a time when Supreme Court nominees cannot even define what a woman is and writers for The New York Times believe there is no such thing as maternal instinct, it is funny that we are also supposed to think women politicians bring something unique to the job. Which is it?
During the pandemic, some researchers claimed that countries led by women did better in protecting citizens than those that were led by men. The study was eventually debunked, but what exactly was the claim? That women care more about people’s lives than men? That men’s lived experience didn’t include the tragedy of people dying? That they were too busy thinking about things that don’t “directly affect our lives”?
When it comes to living in a representative democracy, we will all have to depend on people who don’t share our lived experience to govern on our behalf. If we judge every politician by checking off how many demographic features they share with us, we will be making some awfully superficial decisions at the ballot box.
But that’s apparently the strategy.
Later on in her interview with Lehrer, Hochul described meeting her state’s voters: “Not just moms but fathers come up to me with their little girls and say to their daughters like, ‘Look, nothing can stop you now. This woman is our governor, a woman governor.’ Even at the state fair in Syracuse yesterday people just wanted to touch my hand and seem to have their little kids see that there’s nothing they can’t do now.’”
Leaving aside the fact that if these parents had wanted their kids to meet a woman governor, they could have gone to Texas and met Ann Richards 30 years ago — or to Alaska to meet Sarah Palin 15 years ago, or to South Carolina to meet Nikki Haley 10 years ago — the idea that just electing a woman governor is an important message to our children is dumb.
What matters for any politician — man or woman — is this: What do you stand for?
Naomi Schaefer Riley is a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, a Deseret News contributor and the author of “No Way to Treat a Child: How the Foster Care System, Family Courts, and Racial Activists Are Wrecking Young Lives,” among other books.