Sometimes you need a trip to America to remind yourself what it is we’re fighting for. That’s what I’ve been doing in Las Vegas this last week. (One of them. You needn’t know about all the other stuff).
First I’ve been at the Heartland Institute’s annual Climate Conference (lots of audio with Evil Climate Denial ScientistsTM to follow shortly; now I’m at the libertarian-leaning FreedomFest. What you realise on coming to the US is that their wars are our wars. But our angles of attack are sometimes different and we have much to learn from one another. Tactics in the so-called “war on women”, for example.
The War on Women is a leftist construct which has almost nothing to do with reality. This isn’t to say that there aren’t terrible injustices being inflicted on women around the world – FGM being one of them. But the War on Women crusaders have much more pressing issues to campaign against like men saying horrid, sexist things on Twitter and the appalling injustice whereby just because they go off and have families or choose jobs in the caring professions rather than say hedge funds women end up earning less on average than men.
Oh, and the fact that there aren’t nearly enough famous women on banknotes – that was another hideous injustice I forgot to mention, now happily remedied after some heroic campaigning from our modern Emmeline Pankhursts.
Anyway, at FreedomFest I was very inspired by an all-female panel talk I attended given by two related organisations called Independent Women’s Voice and Independent Women’s Forum. “That was far more interesting than one had any right to expect from a bunch of chicks,” I told the girls afterwards. And they took it well a) because they knew I meant it and b) because one of their organisations’ raison d’etre is not to see women as victims whose role is constantly to be offended by our phallocentric society’s patriarchal sexism.
The left loves to co-opt women as one of its oppressed “minorities”, which ought to be risible given that, in the US for example, they constitute 53 per cent of the population.
But depressingly, on both sides of the Atlantic, the “war on women” meme is gaining broader and broader currency with its own hashtag (natch) and the development of a cultural climate in which even fairly routine male behaviour is increasingly seen as unacceptable and misogynistic, and where eunuch-like men of a leftist persuasion now fall over themselves to demonstrate how feminist they are, in order to differentiate themselves from the right, who are of course all Neanderthals.
What I see almost nowhere in Britain is anyone fighting back. The men don’t because they’re too scared of being targeted by the feminist harpie rent-a-mob; the women don’t either because they’ve jumped on the bandwagon themselves or because they’ve been culturally brainwashed into thinking that maybe the more the extreme members of the sisterhood have a point and are correcting a long-entrenched social injustice.
And it’s not helped by the way politicians pander to this female militant tendency – as we see, for example, in the way David Cameron and Nick Clegg suck up to MumsNet – because they think it shows how enlightened and post-sexist they are; and also because there are votes in it.
This is because when it comes to voting, women and men behave differently. Men tend to be much more rigid in their political views, where women are more likely to be swing-voters, less swayed by politics or ideology than by mood music. And it’s swing voters, as we know, who are the ones that shift the electoral balance.
So how do those of us on the right respond to this problem? Well, I’m afraid, if we’re men, we probably can’t. As one of the women on the panel pointed out, the standard male response to issues – which is also the default response of the conservative movement – is to fight with a chainsaw or a sledgehammer.
This is not the kind of argument, unfortunately, which works terribly well with the more subtle female brain. So essentially, what is happening is that the right is perpetuating its reputation as a place where women just don’t belong and aren’t understood or welcomed.
Which is where Independent Women’s Voice and Independent Women’s Forum come in. As their president and CEO Heather Richardson Higgins explained to me, they’re not in the business of confrontation (which is why, for example, they don’t take a position on hot-button issues like abortion) but of presenting information in a way that appeals to the female way of thinking. Seduction not assault.
So, for example, when Governor Scott Walker was having his battle with the unions in Wisconsin, they didn’t present as a vital right/left issue. Rather, they simply ran a campaign gently pointing out that actually union workers were not hideously exploited or underpaid. Far from it, in fact.
What this had the effect of doing was making the campaign’s target audience feel they had reached their own conclusion without being bullied. And also, it enabled them to feel good about themselves because they weren’t adopting a position which was “uncaring.”
“Before I care that you know I need to know that you care,” is essentially women’s approach to politics. There is no reason why the right can’t manage to speak to women in this way, without having to jettison any of its core ideology.
Really, there still are women out there who don’t think it’s weird or oppressive or unfair that one of their roles is to make families and nurture and cook and clean (because, hell, most men don’t even notice dirt), who recognise that they live in an amazing world where they’re free to decide whether to become an astronaut or a CEO or a housewife and that there’s no shame in whatever they choose, and who feel actually pretty comfortable in their skin.
In fact, in the West they’re probably the majority. Shame we don’t hear a bit more from them.