In any event, he is now telling women about all of the “free” stuff they will be getting because of his medical initiative. Never mind that, as any thinking person should know, the promised benefits are not free. They will actually be financed by new taxes and increased insurance premiums.
Nevertheless they may appear free because they are not paid for directly. The same was true of the “free” birth control promised during the campaign. It too would ultimately come out of the pockets of the recipients.
My question is, therefore, this: Were these promises the real reason so many young women voted for Barack? In fact, I doubt it. They may have believed our campaigner-in-chief was more concerned about their welfare than his opponent, but it is unlikely they could have been bought off with a few trinkets.
The central motive why so many women favored Obama is more profound. It has, I believe, to do with some basic differences between males and females. Feminists may be appalled by what I am about to write; yet there is good sociological evidence to substantiate it.
First, I see this difference in my KSU classrooms. By and large female students are more diligent than males. They are more likely to read the assigned books and to research the assigned papers. Indeed, on average they get better grades.
Lest it be suspected this is a local phenomenon, women nationwide also obtaining better grades and graduating more frequently. They are simply more respectful of authority than are men; hence they do what is asked.
This disposition can be attributed to a deep-seated difference between the genders. A half-century ago social scientists began discovering a significant disparity in how the sexes dealt with the world and with other people. They concluded that men were likely to be “instrumental,” whereas women were apt to be “expressive.”
What does this mean? It refers to the fact that men are generally more concerned about getting a job done, while women are more interested in maintaining good social relationships. Women, in short, tend to be peacemakers, men more task-oriented.
And so let us return to Obama. Because women like peace, they are less inclined to challenge authority. Obama, as president, is obviously an authority. Therefore challenging him was apt to feel uncomfortable to many females. Attacking him plainly rocked the applecart and hence seemed dangerous.
But there was more than this. Men disliked the fact that the president had not accomplished his mission. He made many promises that he did not fulfill and consequently was judged incompetent. Women, on the other hand, liked the tone of his promises. Thus they wanted to believe him when he spoke of helping the downtrodden.
From the female perspective, Obama and the Democrats were compassionate, whereas Romney and the Republicans were mean-spirited. Evidently liberals wanted people to get along, while conservatives were nasty, selfish and demanding.
What then can these uncaring Republicans do to attract women voters? The task is daunting, but they can begin by making it clear that failing to keep one’s promises is not compassionate. Help that is pledged, but not delivered, is not help. It is manipulation grounded in a perceived vulnerability. Nor is getting a job done inherently callous. If that job is getting our economy going again, and/or protecting us from external enemies, then achieving it will bring the peace and prosperity that women too desire.
If this is so, then the challenge is to communicate in ways that are understood by both genders. Responsibility is not inherently mean, nor are honeyed-words inherently kind. Consequences matter and must be seen to matter.
Melvyn L. Fein, Ph.D., is a professor of sociology at Kennesaw State University.