Ken Fredette, Republican leader for the Maine House of Representatives, appeared on the House floor on Wednesday to oppose an expansion of Medicaid, saying that it was his “man’s brain” that allowed him to recognize the costs of expanding federal funding for the program. Referencing a book titled, “Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus,” Fredette claimed that men and women see the world in radically different ways and that as a man, he knows free doesn’t really mean free.
Though it is true that countless studies have found that men and women respond differently to various stimuli, Representative Fredette’s remarks are blatant gender stereotypes masquerading as scholarly findings.
While this probably comes a no surprise to most readers, a study conducted by The American Psychological Association disputes the very premise of Fredette’s statements, finding that men and women are essentially the same in terms of personality, leadership, and cognition. The study instead attributes societal expectations and gender roles as the causes for the perceived differences between men and women, making Fredette’s remarks self-perpetuating.
More than just a scientific misstep, Fredette’s remarks are also yet another sign of what Democrats are labeling as the Republican Party’s “war on women.” The party of Todd Aiken and Richard Mourdock seems increasingly unable to escape its label as the party of “stuffy, old men,” a critical problem in an era of a growing female, and minority, presence at the polls.
However, this is a problem with a relatively simple fix. The Republican Party is not inherently misogynistic. Politicians such as Kelly Ayotte, the junior senator from New Hampshire who is respected by both sides of the aisle, are a testament to this fact. Hence, the solution lies in a need to overhaul and recalibrate the GOP’s messaging.
Consequently, the solution lies in a need to overhaul and recalibrate the GOP’s messaging. Setting a clear zero-tolerance policy for the remarks such as the ones referenced above would distance the Republican Party from its current image of insular narrow-mindedness and towards one of a more inclusive, open party. Going so far as to pull funding (or at least threatening to do so) from members who make comments similar to Aiken's or Fredette's sends a clear signal to both politicians and the American people that the party takes this issue seriously. In doing so, it would leave its image problems behind.