Women in the Public Sphere
Throughout this book I have attempted to justify women's "difference" in terms of an alternative, nonmarket or nonindustrial set of standards, that is, general humanistic standards that de-emphasize difference and hierarchy and emphasize interdependence between women and men. These are the standards that women as mothers have fostered, and if more typically maternal values predominated
in the public sphere, idioms of kinship and friendship might begin to take precedence over male-dominated heterosexual relationships and over the male peer group. In the workplace mutual egalitarian respect could counteract the "old boys' network" and the expectations that women workers are merely displaced "wives." If this is to happen, "femininity" as it is currently defined, and the definition of women as wives, must go.
The overall impact women can make in the public sphere may be to introduce a way of interacting that cross-cuts "politics" to some extent and changes men's own approach. The overall result could be that women will be truly included in the category of "people" as opposed to "wives" and that instead of being assimilated to the category of men, women's presence can cause men to alter their own approach.
It is also possible that women can make a direct political difference, but so far the voting gaps between age, class, and race groups are far greater than the voting gap is between genders. The main impediment to women's solidarity with each other is their vested interest in marriage, which forces their economic "class" interests to coincide with their husbands', even as the unwritten rules of marriage penalize women. Exciting as the prospect may be, in view of marriage and the emphasis on couples in this society, it is not likely that women as a group are going to band together to vote as women, but the other side of the coin is that men are also in a position to be influenced by "their" women. As William Goode has pointed out men have been converted to feminism by witnessing discrimination against their "own" wives and daughters. Although I view this proprietary attitude with some ambivalence, conversion by this means is better than no conversion at all.
I do not expect to see a mass movement led by women without men, because many men may join them. Part of feminist movement means supporting increasing individualism; the other aspect is bringing maternal values into the public sphere. Because of men's orientation to economic "rationalism," they may be most likely to join women with regard to issues supporting increasing individualism.
For example, there was little "gender gap" between women and men with regard to the ERA proposal, which was based on mini-
malist and individualistic assumptions. In spite of earlier reports to the contrary, Ronald Reagan's 1980 anti-ERA stand lost him votes from about equal proportions of male and female supporters of the ERA. Women did indeed vote against Reagan because of the ERA, but so did men. In fact a greater percentage of men than women reported supporting the ERA. Men who favored the ERA were likely to have wives who worked, whereas men who opposed the ERA were married to housewives. Women who were housewives were not less supportive of the ERA, however, than were working women. This is probably because many housewives see themselves as potential workers and can identify with employed women. In sum, men are more likely to support measures that fit with individualism for women if their wives work.
With regard to maternal values, the issue on which almost all researchers agree there is a consistent and persistent gender gap is the use of force and violence. Women tend to differ from men in being against aggression, both domestic and foreign. Feminist and nonfeminist women alike were more likely than men to have opposed the Vietnam War, and women are more reluctant than men to prescribe the use of force in the event of urban unrest. In view of the orientational differences between women and men I described earlier, these findings would certainly be expected. Women's more relational stance clearly involves a stance against aggression.
The next largest gender difference occurs with regard to women's tendency to favor policies that regulate and protect consumers, citizens, and the environment. Women's interests in peace and environmental issues coalesce in their strong stands against nuclear power. Finally, there is some tendency for women to vote favorably on so called "compassion" issues, such as spending on social programs to improve social welfare, education and health, but this tendency is cross-cut by voting that shows that women are still more traditional and conservative than men.
In sum, although the differences between the voting and opinion patterns of men and women are relatively small, the differences that do show up reflect women's association with nonaggression and preservation—the maternal or humanizing values. It is likely that child welfare issues, including good day care, will prove to be another cause around which women as a group can rally. Women in executive positions are already concentrated in the human ser-
vices, and political support for these services (the liberal agenda) should increase their power.