DECONSTRUCTING WOMEN IN AMERICAN POLITICS

If American politics is advicates  empowering women, where's the progress for women in american politics? As Chris Cuomo and Alyson Camerota questioned Carly Fiorina about her elect-ability, I couldn’t help but wonder, while we think we're progressive when it comes empowering women, why aren't we progressing?What invisible forces account for the incongruity that sixty-three of 142 nations studied by the World Economic Forum have a female head of government or state at some point in the 50 years up to 2014, except the USA?

Electing a woman president may have less to do with a sincere wish to see a woman lead the country than with the invisible hand of culture that drives our behavior in ways you never imagined.  Not visible culture like food, dress, language, or traditions, politics and religion, but hidden culture. The invisible dimensions of it we can't see like our beliefs, attitudes, and assumptions that account for how we make decisions, how we communicate and how we regulate ourselves.

Culture is why people do what they do based on where they live. Culture hides more than it reveals and strangely enough, what it hides, is most effectively hidden from its owners. While anthropology has been taken out of the trees and into the boardroom, I'd like to put it in the living room. Knowing what makes you tick is a human birthright. 

American politics presents a “president’s paradox”. It’s not that Americans won’t elect a woman president, it can’t. Unlike countries such as Denmark or Britain, India and the Philippines that have a higher tendency to care for others, the USA is highly “Competitive” culture. Political and religious choices are the results of cultural values, not the cause of it. What’s more, people sincerely believe they are solely responsible for political or religious choices when in fact these decisions have already been made by culture.

Culture is a series of historical events in a particular geography

Competition, for Americans means striving to be the best, often at the cost of what's best. This dimension is a key driver in our decision making process and helps account for, at least in part, why a woman president may still be a ways off. We say we support the idea, but a woman doesn’t meet our (unconscious) expectations for Commander in Chief who is must be “tough, assertive, and competitive”. 

Americans are the exception to the world norm because they live to work while 85% of the rest of the world works to live

The Masculine cultural value refers to the distribution of emotional roles between the genders that range from assertive and competitive. The norms of society enable us to self-police and maintain order. In this case they determine how you should feel as a boy or a girl by the majority of the population. Societies fall on the Masculine side of the spectrum when emotional gender roles are clearly distinct. Men are supposed to be assertive, tough, and focused on material success in countries like the USA, Japan, and Mexico.

Masculinity/Femininity is especially about interactive style and explains how assertive or modest people tend to be. Nordic countries tend to display the opposite, Femininity, and are nurturing. Here society values caring for others and quality of life. Quality of life is the sign of success and standing out from the crowd is not desirable. The fundamental difference is between the two is what's more important: being the best (Masculine) or liking what you do (Feminine).

Women and societies that embody feminine-like qualities are Feminine when emotional gender roles overlap: both men and women are supposed to be modest, tender, and concerned with the quality of life. 

The Netherlands and France are Feminine countries where the work-life balance is a priority and so is consensus. France is dialogue-driven and decision making is achieved through involvement. This explains their major role in history as diplomats. The French language also contained the necessary components for reaching diplomatic consensus, most notably with the use of the third person singular “on”. If there was a crisis, blame was place on neither you nor me, but on “one”.

These societies strive for consensus and people value equality, solidarity and quality in their work life. Conflict is resolved by compromise and negotiation. The Dutch are known for their long discussions until consensus has been reached. The types of cultures embed social safety nets and sympathize with the weak, unlike the USA where weakness is disdained.

If you think about it, Americans can seems heartless when it comes to the marginalized, but the invisible hand of culture drives our behavior which is why we go along with our inadequate social policies. Americans expect people to care for themselves so they have a relatively low level of social welfare, healthcare, and public services.

Culture is how people solve problems

The American mindset of voters unconsciously scan for compatibility to match their expectation of “Competition”. Carly Fiorina doesn't compute because we cannot suspend our disbelief that she’s capable of it despite her fighting stance rhetoric. This is why although American woman can succeed, they often don’t because American culture expects a higher than average degree of Masculinity from heads of state which is inherently absent from her gender according to our culture code.

This cultural expectation is not limited to women. Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders shares a similar perception by voters because "socialists" represent the same invisible high Feminine values. Neither one reflects the American “winner take all” values. Yet while both are eminently competent, they may not get elected until a high Masculine expectation is lowered. 

As a card carrying feminist, I've been waiting for a woman in the oval office since Geraldine Ferraro ran for veep and lost in 1984. I'd be remiss if I didn't say I hope (how American of me) that a woman or a socialist will make it someday, but I know culture is to blame. I also know that it’s a learned behavior, so it can be unlearned. This takes time.

The first step toward solving social quandaries like women's persistent and pervasive inequality is to recognize our existing explanations are inadequate and consider alternatives. Electing a woman has nothing to do with Carly Fiorina. It's strictly cultural.