No’s problem with men

There’s been a lot of discussion in the media recently about the supposed problem that the Yes campaign has attracting the support of women. All opinion polls have consistently shown that men are considerably more likely to support independence than women are, and this has been discussed in the media as “the Yes campaign’s problem with women”. But the logically equal question is never asked, and doesn’t get explored in Newsnicht Scotland specials – why does the No campaign have a problem with men?

There are 2 reasons for the media’s peculiarly one sided way of looking at things. Only one is specific to Scotland.

The more general reason is sexism. In the media, as in society at large, men are more likely to occupy positions of power and influence than women, although this is not because men are genetically programmed to seek positions of power and influence and women are not – otherwise we wouldn’t have Johann Lamont making an arse of herself on a regular basis.

It is true however that there are differences between men and women – however the behavioural and attitudinal differences between men and women as groups are typically far smaller than the differences between any two random individuals. What this means is that you can’t use a person’s status as female or male as a predictor of that individual’s behaviour.

But the preponderence of men in politics leads to a mind set where the position of men is seen as the “norm” against which that of women is compared, and this is especially true in matters such as politics which were traditionally regarded as a male preserve. It could be argued then, that by putting the focus on “the Yes campaign’s problem with women” the Scottish media is reinforcing sexist stereotypes. And it wouldn’t be the first time they’d done that.

But there’s also the Scottish specific dimension. Framing the question as the Yes campaign’s problem with women puts the Yes campaign on the defensive. It’s the Yes campaign which has the problem, not the No campaign. The No campaign’s position is seen as the norm against which Yes is compared. The media doesn’t focus on the equally big problem that the No campaign has persuading men to vote its way.

Yet because the media outlet will trot out a pair of talking heads supporting Yes and a pair of talking heads supporting No, a heavily slanted report biased against the Yes campaign falls squarely into the box marked “balanced and neutral” in the BBC’s checklist. As a bonus, it subtlely reinforces sexist stereotyping while at the same time posing as an examination of it.

But it gets worse. For the purposes of argument let’s accept the media’s premise that men are more likely to be interested in politics than women. However if that’s true, then the real issue cannot be that “Yes has a problem with women”. It’s got to be “No has a problem with men”, because after all the media is touting the view that men are more likely to be politically engaged than women are. And if this is the case, then the No campaign is failing spectacularly to convince the group which is more likely to to pay attention to political messages. That’s a much bigger and more serious problem for a political campaign.

Men, it’s probably safe to say, are more prone to anorakish behaviours than women. Although you’ll find plenty of women in anoraks as well – often more stylish ones. However this being the case, it follows that men are more likely than women to follow politics as a hobby. When the referendum was a distant prospect, political hobbyists were those most likely to have engaged with the issues and arrived at an early decision, and those politics geeks were more likely to be male.

And that’s why it is the No campaign’s problem with men which is the real issue. The current pattern of higher support for Yes amongst men in the polls reinforces what the yes campaign has been saying. Once people start to engage with the issues around independence, they tend to see the advantages of independence and the weakness of the No campaign’s case. As the referendum becomes imminent, that pattern will repeat itself with the rest of the population.

So where are all the Newsnicht Scotland specials exploring No’s problem with men?



17 comments on “No’s problem with men

  1. hektorsmum says:

    Indeed, where are the explanations about the number of men who are supporting the Yes campaign and not the No considering that is where all the heavy hitters are, allegedly. I am coming round to thinking that very few women are being asked because if you look around the Scottish Parliament in particular, I see quite a number of women and are there not 40% in the Cabinet now, so hardly shrinking violets.
    More women are appearing on the Wings site, so obviously more women are wanting to be heard on this subject. I even spoke to my Hairdresser yesterday and she is a YES.
    We need to get on the offence and stop being so easily upset. I with you there that the No campaign answer that question, it will be the first one they have.

    • Olliethecollie says:

      ‘I even spoke to my hairdresser yesterday and she is a YES’!!! Nice one missus. Says a lot.

      • hektorsmum says:

        Well what I should have added that meant, as she said her whole family were for YES that it included at least another five women and I know this all now because I had my Proud Cybernat badge on. We are even trying to think of a way to fit our YES badge on the car, nae much in the way of windows on oor IQ, well none that would not block the drivers view.

  2. Sheila Rae says:

    I have to say that here in the Border’s our activists for Yes are equally split between the sexes. It has been my experience of my conversations on the Referendum that Yes supporters are upbeat and smiling, whereas any No supporters get angry and venomous and flounce off if they here anything they don’t like. Saor Alba

  3. Morag says:

    I’ve spoken to more men (than women) who say they have never voted before, but will be voting YES in the referendum!

  4. Les Wilson says:

    A very good article which has not been highlighted before, well done.

  5. Love the logic! Women, I suspect, have little interest in politics. Not sure why, but they seem to prefer to discuss nonentity celebs, clothes, and everyday fluff than engage with more serious issues. Glad Hectorsmum’s hairdresser is a yes. My hairdresser’s salon is full of OK and similar magazines. Not sure if the folk there would even know if there was a referendum in the offing.

    The disengagement of women is even more disappointing when the SNP, even in past times of pretty dire sexism, has always been a party where women were treated, mostly, as equals. Think of Winnie, think of Margo, Margaret Bain (Ewing) and all the others including many women passionately active at local level. So women in general have been able to see other women climbing up the ladder to senior levels in party and parliament. Why this hasn’t yet worked to the benefit of Yes, I don’t know, but hopefully this will change.

  6. Eilean says:

    I was leafleting in Uddingston today. A lady passed by and took a leaflet and after a couple of steps turned back to me. I must admit I thought that it might be to ridicule the leaflet or “Yes” or whatever. But no, she was genuinely worried about Europe. Thanks to what I have read here and elsewhere I was able to reassure her and explain Baroso`s standing on EU membership. It went down well with this lady and she went away with some Yes leaflets, Women for Independence leaflets and an “Aye Right” flyer. I won’t claim a convert but I think I made a good impression.

    It makes all the hours reading blogs and getting up early (ish) on a Saturday worthwhile.

    And to the choob hingin oot an upstairs windae shouting pish GIRFUY. How come Better Together activists arny leafleting? Cos you havnae f*****g got any!

  7. Megan says:

    Very well put that BT have a problem with men. Articles like this are very important.
    I was a little surprised by a couple of things that were said in the comments however. The ones about even their hairdresser voting Yes and that women being interested in fluff and making disparaging remarks about celeb magazines are sexist and dismissive of women’s interests – and these remarks from Yes supporters/activists!
    People are entitled to be interested in whatever they like! It’s great if you can find something that is a conversation opener and if it is celebrities, there’s nothing wrong with that.
    If you come across as someone who is dismissive of the interests of others or as judgemental of their jobs then you have far less chance of engaging them in the referendum.
    We are wanting to build a fairer, more equal Scotland so start that now by treating people equally instead of being dismissive of people who do not share the same career choices or interests as yourself.

    • JGedd says:

      For me, talk of celebrities is usually a conversation stopper.

      This is not just about being tolerant of other people’s interests. I have often found the opposite among the very people you defend. There is a hostile attitude to anyone attempting to introduce any other topic in such a situation. You are expected to be a yea-sayer in these conversations and a different opinion is frozen out. Try saying politely in the middle of a conversation among royalists that actually you take no interest in the doings of the royal family and see if you can detect tolerance in the frosty atmosphere which develops. ( Fulsome admiration of the royal family is a hot topic in many hairdressers’ salons among the clientele, so no one is getting at any one’s career choices here).

      Women’s conversations are more subtle than you suggest. You might think that talk of celebrities is an anodyne conversation opener whereas quite often it is to establish the range accepted in the conversation. Any deviation from that topic must be similarly anodyne and not controversial – which is why these conversations rarely mention politics because that might introduce dissent and disagreement. The one thing which women dislike above all things is any social disharmony and so they will strive for a smothering consensus. When I was younger i found this kind of conversation so suffocating I would say something subversive for the hell of it, now i just avoid the conversations.

      • Megan says:

        You could reach out and ask other people how they have successfully approached people with whom you have struggled to connect. Perhaps people were trying to deflect you from other conversations for reasons that have not occurred to you. You could be wrong in your assumptions. Try listening to what women say instead of making sexist comments and sweeping statements about women.

        • JGedd says:

          Well obviously I was just waiting for someone like yourself to point out where I was going wrong. i have been listening to women all my life, being one myself. You might take a leaf out of your own book and not make sweeping assumptions. How condescending of you to assume that I might have struggled to connect and would need help. Perhaps you could learn how to argue without making it personal.

  8. yerkitbreeks says:

    And yet in the living memory of the SNP, most cynosures have been female – Winnie Ewing, Margo MacDonald, Nicola Sturgeon – a good sign, as is the YES campaign now addressing the issue of female participation.

    Is the NO group doing the same for men ?

  9. I’m ashamed to say I hadn’t even thought of the significance of the media focusing on women being a problem for Yes and utterly neglecting to view it the other way around. Very perceptive article and it gives me hope.

    On the topic of women taking an interest in politics, of course it’s highly subjective depending on who you know but I’d say from the women I know there tends to be more who have no interest or inkling about politics, or indeed wider current affairs, compared to the men I know. It’s something that if it gets brought up in conversation far more women than men I’ve ever spoken to openly admit they know very little, some to the point where they effectively say it’s not for them. It’s a shame and it highlights a real lack of engagement at an earlier age, especially via school. For whatever reason men are inherently more interested in politics. Of course many are not and many women are, but generally it’s something I’m aware of and I hope it can change.

    The sheer level of engagement in the referendum debate is very encouraging and some of the best voices I’ve heard are women’s, the likes of Lesley Riddoch, Nicola Sturgeon (a fantastic politician that puts Westminster types to shame), and Elaine C Smith. With more exposure, which it seems we’ll never get thanks to extreme mainstream media prejudice, these women could definitely engage more women at home who are on the fence or simply feel that politics “isn’t their thing.”

    All round however the referendum is doing wonders for public engagement at large and hopefully this is another area where it can bring lasting positive benefits to Scottish society going forward. Hopefully we all vote Yes!

  10. hoppinghaggis says:

    I actually don’t think either side have an issue with either sex. I think it’s down to the differences in how we express ourselves. Men are more likely to advertise and crusade their views; women, though no less passionate and strong in their beliefs, are less likely to shout and make a big deal about it

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