There's an old saying "To make a man a feminist, give him a daughter." And for the most part, I think it's true. Sure we have the George W. Bush and Dick Cheney's of the world - both with only daughters and both determined to drag the USA into the dark ages - but then I think of my own dad. An old school man who immigrated to the USA from Mexico and chock full of the ideas on how girls behave. Yet he also was gifted with three daughters and no sons so he did what I've heard other men do in the same situation - He taught me to love sports. And honestly that's where my feminism sprouts from.
Thus the news of a report by Andrew J. Oswald and Nattavudh Powdthavee out of the UK made headlines like:
* Daddys with Daughters end up more liberal?
* From Personal Views to Politics, Only-Daughter Parents More Liberal
* Will Daddy's little girl alter his vote?
* Having daughters can make you a lefty
* Having Daughters Rather Than Sons Makes You More Liberal
While I did rejoice when I heard the news, I'm also a big nrrd who needs to read the report [PDF warning] and dig deeper. Was there any indication why having daughters does this to men? What about moms?
Well us moms are also prone to this influence -- only in the opposite direction.
"Similarly, a mother with many sons becomes sympathetic to the 'male' case for lower taxes and a smaller supply of public goods, and becomes more right-wing."
WHA?? Then I started to think of moms I know with sons. Feminist, feminist, kinda, wavering, ummm...shit.
While most of the blogs and news stories focused on the Warner & Washington study cited about US Congressional voting records, the Oswald & Powdthavee study actually looked at UK and German voting patterns because it was able to give us evidence of a right-leaning man switching once a daughter entered his life. AND it also showed that this daughter-effect is lost once she moves out.
The biggest conclusion I took from the study that Oswald & Powdthavee didn't seem to highlight was the socialization of children and families. The fact that women, on the average, see more worth from social programs like public safety makes them more willing to pay taxes for them. Men, on the other hand don't and thus don't like paying taxes. I know, huge generalizations.
So instead of "proof that conservative policy agendas hurt women" we need to look at why men don't connect with social programs? Do we raise them more to depend on just themselves or on a community? And what does that mean for our country?
Many feminists I know are raising boys and have raised some amazing feminist boys. I don't think we are so influenced by the gender of our children as influenced by the social environment that our children are headed into. Thus parents of girls know or learn that it's freaking tough to be a woman in a man's world. What we need to do a better job is helping parents of boys see that it's tough for men in a man's world...when man = self-reliant, unemotional, hyper-masculine.