When I saw this piece at the Atlantic, written by someone named Alexis Madrigal, I assumed I was dealing with a woman writer, and I was interested in what other topics she had covered, so I clicked through her name. Well, lo and behold, Alexis is a man who generally covers technology. That makes the following article even more perplexing, if you ask me.
Alexis in italics.
Pew’s out with an international poll that shows, across countries and overall levels of support, a striking gender gap exists on support for American drone strikes.
Gosh, you don’t say. I wonder why that might be?
Women were much less likely to approve of “the United States conducting missile strikes from pilotless aircraft called drones to target extremists in countries such as Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia.”
Pilotless. Let’s keep that in mind, shall we?
In Japan, for example, support for drone strikes was 30 percentage points lower than their male counterparts. The smallest gaps — in France, South Korea, and Uganda — were 14, 14, and 13 percentage points, respectively. On average, there was a 22-point gap between male and female support for drone strikes, and it didn’t matter if there was considerable overall support for strikes or not.
“Gender gaps are also often seen in global surveys over the use of military force, with women far less likely than men to say that force is sometimes necessary in the pursuit of justice,” wrote Bruce Stokes, Director of Global Economic Attitudes at the Pew Research Center’s Global Attitudes Project, in introducing the data. “But the gender difference over drone strikes is unusually large.”
Women far less likely to support the use of force? Really? Let’s take a look at that a little more closely. It appears that how you spin the rationale behind a conflict has an impact on how much support you can expect to gain from women. According to Richard Eichenberg at Tufts University,
Gender differences do not vary as a function of the “war system”, as cumulative historical battle deaths are uncorrelated with the support of either men or women.
What is the “war system”? That is when a society responds to instability by socializing men into the role of warriors and defenders; something that both men and women support.
Not terribly surprising.
When a conflict is cast in terms of humanitarian concerns, and the troops are ordered under the aegis of the United Nations, more women support the actions.
Women respond more positively to humanitarian interventions and to interventions involving United Nations troops (which men do not respond to at all). These findings suggest that a liberal worldview is more strongly held among women.
A liberal worldview, or a worldview in which the inevitable sacrifices and casualties of war are spread around? I suppose that is merely semantics. A liberal world view IS a view of the world in which responsibilities are diffused across as many people as possible.
Men react more strongly to the idea of “terror” than women, although it is not a huge effect.
Men respond more strongly to questions that mention “terror” or “terrorism” (usually phrased as part of the “war against terror”). Men also increase their support more strongly when the question mentions military actions involving the NATO Alliance. Note that women do respond positively to such actions –the magnitude of their reaction is simply less.
NATO is an alliance calculated to maximize strength and effectiveness. The United Nations is an effort to involve everyone in a decision. Strength versus consensus. Again, I don’t find it surprising that men come out more strongly in favor of alliances designed to maximize power, while women want the appearance of consensus and cooperation.
That’s part of women’s desire to avoid any ultimate responsibility and to sidestep any ethically fraught or morally complex decisions.
Ultimately, how you rationalize an action and whether you can attach a strong association with accord will affect how men and women respond.
Eichenberg himself seems to disbelieve his own results, claiming that “there are many commonalities in the views of men and women, but the direction of gender differences is always and everywhere that women are less supportive of using military force than men”.
Well, except when it comes to the “war system” of socializing men to actually gear up and put their asses on the line. Then we have no observable gender differences at all.
The most directly comparable poll we could find focused on conflict in the Persian Gulf in the early 90s. Researchers asked whether respondents would support US military action if the embargo in Iraq failed. On average, men supported the option more than women by 7 percentage points. But there was considerably more geographic variation. Women in Ankara (the researchers surveyed by city rather than country) showed more support for the intervention than men there. Musocvites were roughly even, too. The differences were small in Lagos and Rome; largest in Stuttgart (-17), Tokyo (-15), and Mexico City (-15). The drone data, by contrast, shows a much more consistent pattern.
In 2003, Tufts University’s Richard C. Eichenberg conducted a meta-analysis of polling on gender differences in the United States related to war. He found that what he called “baseline average foreign policy restraint” differed between men and women by an average of 12 percentage points. That is to say, women were less likely to support military action by an average of 12 percent.
That’s the study I just quoted. Yes, women are less likely to support a military action IF an embargo fails, and IF the United Nations is not involved and IF the action is not cast in humanitarian terms, but when all those factors are in place, then there is NO difference in the level of support.
The “war system” is supported in equal measures.
Madrigal acknowledges that.
But he also showed that the polling language could create big changes in how much support men and women were willing to give the use of force. Here’s his original table:
Fascinatingly, the closest corollary to a drone strike – air or missile strikes – did not remarkably change the gender difference numbers. In fact, none of the *methods* of military intervention seemed to change the numbers very much in Eichenberg’s study.
Only one method seems to trigger a large gender gap.
Which means, perhaps strangely, that drones really do seem to be different. They’re a way of waging a war that men support far more than women. One reason might be that, as Eichenberg summarizes earlier research, “women were far more sensitive – and negative – about the prospects of civilian and military casualties in the war.”
Civilian AND military casualties? If women were concerned about military casualties, wouldn’t it stand to reason that they would PREFER drone strikes?
Pilotless. There is no male body to perish in a flaming wreck. The only bodies that will be destroyed will be the ones on the ground. The targets.
So much of the discourse over drones has focused on the possibility and reality of civilian casualties that perhaps this has tinted the subject for women across the globe.
Perhaps? Think about it. In a drone strike, there is no soldier to gallantly sacrifice his life in service to his country and liberty. There are only targets. And if the drone gets it wrong, the targets could be civilians.
Women. Children. The elderly. The disabled. The ones who do not expect to fight. The ones who expect to be protected. With the lives of men.
The possibility that women will be casualties, with no corresponding man to offer up in blood retribution becomes very, very real. For once, women will die, and men won’t. Unless they happen to be caught on the ground, too.
Another might be that men just really *like* drones and the prospect of troop-less war.
NO SHIT SHERLOCK! For centuries, men have been socialized, cajoled and outright FORCED to die in armed conflicts that made their deaths inevitable and more or less unremarkable. The “war system”. Men fight. Men die.
Men, and only men.
Drone strikes take the requirement of male sacrifice out of the equation. Civilians are still at risk, as they always are in any armed conflict between nations, but suddenly, the soldiers’ lives are spared.
Since it is MEN who are cannon fodder, is it really the tiniest bit surprising that they might approve of military methods that save their own lives?
Perhaps there are other, more technologically specific reasons that have not been tested by previous research.
No, jackass, there are not. Every pilotless aircraft saves the life of a man who would otherwise be required to risk death.
It’s really not more complicated than that.
Do you want to live?
I have a hard time understanding how it is that Alexis does not see that his OWN life could be the one spared. How does he not see that?
Pew’s study is important and broad, but people’s attitudes about drones are only beginning to form. The prospect of killing with semi-autonomous airplanes remains a new phenomenon in our world.
And the prospect of waging a war in which the soldiers sit comfortably in offices far away from the conflict, manipulating pilotless aircraft at no personal risk to themselves, while the women on the ground wait quietly to discover just where those strikes are going to hit is an entirely new phenomenon, too.
Suddenly, it is women’s blood that will run.
That inverts the social contract women take for granted. The entitlement to male protection, the guarantee of male disposability, the knowledge that any man who engages in conflict does so with the understanding that he may lose his life, is broken.
It’s not surprising that women don’t like drone strikes. It has nothing to do with being the “kinder, gentler” sex. Bullshit. It has to do with fear.
They stand to lose what millions of men have already lost:
And that’s not the kind of equality women are interested in.
Lots of love,