Depending upon what surveys you read, a majority of women voted for Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election, but not by a wide margin. (Click) Thirty-nine percent went for her opponent, a certifiable misogynist. One woman explained she was uncomfortable with her support for Trump, given his statements about women,but she was more interested in economic issues. I wondered, at the time, why she didn’t consider equal pay for equal work an economic issue? Or paid family leave? Or childcare assistance? Another woman, parroted Trump. “She’s a crook.” Again I’m baffled. How does a reasonable mind account for the absence of any proof to the charge, even though Clinton has been prosecuted in the court of her political enemies for years?
Cognitive dissonance may explain how a woman can dismiss the candidacy of a competent female and help elect a man who denigrates her sex. Cognitive dissonance arises when the brain faces contradictions it can’t resolve and so chooses to ignore the contradiction. Certainly, this coping mechanism has therapeutic intent. Otherwise, the psyche might split apart and create a psychotic episode. We witnessed cognitive disorder on a grand scale in the Catholic Church. Aware that pedophilia is a crime, it nevertheless used its offices to protect pedophile priests.
Among the class of imponderable women who supported Donald Trump, I exclude those who see opposing abortion as their reason for being. Their premise, which I do not accept, provides a logic that is consistent with their behavior. But I am puzzled about the rest. Each time a glass ceiling looks to be shattered, a number of our sex will rise in opposition to that achievement.
Could the answer lie in our DNA? We know part of a woman’s brain differs from a man’s at the cellular level. (Blog 11/7/2016) We also know that environment affects DNA. (Click) Is it possible that women, who for centuries have been treated as inferiors, have come to believe in that inferiority at the cellular level? Is there a cognitive dissonance which resides within females? Even if we say we believe women are equal, do our choices reflect a deeper belief that we are not? If so, then the road to equality lies far into the future.
As absurd as my suggestion might strike some, there is a reason to consider it. In “Bond of Brilliance,” bestselling author, Michael Lewis writes about two Israeli psychologists, Daniel Kahneman, 2002 Nobel Prize winner, and Amos Tversky, who attempted to apply statistics to human behavior. (Vanity Fair, December 2016 pgs. 132-137, 176-179.) Their aim was to allow experts to become aware of any bias or cognitive dissonance that impaired their decision-making. (Ibid pg. 178.) For a time, their work met with success. In the end, however, they discovered, “Important people didn’t want their gut feelings pinned down even by themselves.” (Ibid 179.) Discouraged, the scientists gave up their work. Human beings, they concluded, had no desire to understand the workings of their mind. Human beings wanted to make decisions congruent with the stories they told themselves. This revelation raises a larger question. What does it mean to be free?