Congratulations, it's a girl and you're a liberal!

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.

by Veronica Arreola
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Professional feminist, former Bitch Media board member, mom, and writer. Creator of #365FeministSelfie.

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7 Comments Have Been Posted

Sorry...feminism doesn't have to mean liberalism....

I am a huge advocate of independence, self-reliance, supporter of stay-at-home and working moms, equal rights for women globally and I am conservative.

For me, feminism is about protecting women from oppression. It is not about expecting the govt to raise my children or relying on govt. programs....I believe independence is the cornerstone of feminism so when I see progressive feminists today support government dependence so strongly I cringe a little. To me, govt dependence hardly equals freedom.

There are so many facets to feminism and I suppose feminists along the gamut have their own personal causes: for some it's abortion rights, or equal pay for equal work, or breaking glass ceilings that still exist. For me, personally, I'm devoted to global equal rights, access to all types of birth control, and fighting chauvinism and sexual exploitation - especially as it pertains to self-regard of young American girls in a very sexually charged pop culture.

Please don't stereotype all feminists as liberals and all conservatives as women-haters - it's simply not true. While I also agree that it is tough for women in a man's world, the last thing I'd want to advocate is to go from women's reliance on men to women's reliance on Uncle Sam.

And I was raised by a single father with two other sisters and perhaps that is where my feminism sprouted - just a different kind of feminism then yours....and I love sports too but I don't know why that is a feminist trait.

Speaking of cans of worms...

I realize this is a long-standing debate...but, I would argue that there is a connection between feminism and liberal thought, while there is a disconnect between feminism and conservative thought. Feminism as an anti-oppressive social movement that challenges tradition, hierarchy and the status quo of power, is in opposition to conservative ways of seeing the world, which preserve tradition, hierarchy and status quo of power. While it may be a positive thing in your life that you have managed to resolve your conservative viewpoints with your liberal ones, it doesn't make anyone else incorrect or insensitive for linking feminism and liberalism. I would argue that the linking of "feminism" and "liberal" that you see in the world is not an oversight, it stems from political and historical reality.

Liberal to feminism in a few easy steps

Yes, liberal does not equal feminist, but the spheres of ideas overlap a lot. And I don't equate liberal men with feminist men...that said liberals do vote for feminist issues moreso than conservatives. But thanks for the comments!

Veronica I. Arreola

Also at

True, but....

I would argue that generalizing conservatives and blankly advocating liberal political agendas will only reduce numbers of feminism by excluding or putting down feminists with conservative or traditional leanings.

>>Similarly, a mother with

>>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.<<

um, in what way are lower taxes and a smaller supply of public goods good for men? i mean, are they measuring how much more or less liberal people are with sons and daughters from when they didn't have them? or are they just noting that women with sons are less liberal than women with daughters?

i just really don't get the part about lower taxes. why would children (the sons) have an effect on adult women that makes no sense? are the little boys just so precious the mom can't imagine them some day having to pay taxes and suddenly realize that we totally need 'small government' to keep boys safe and healthy?

lower taxes is a man's issue?

Not being a polisci expert, I'm assuming that it was a marker that the researchers chose in terms of conservative vs liberal. I think we can say that conservatives want lower taxes and then that men vote more conservatively, well it's a bit of a jump, but sometimes needed in research.

One of the other important aspects of the study I cited is that it shows that children have a larger effect on parents' political views than vice versa. I like to think of it in terms of homophobic parents who learn to change their ways after their child comes out to them. Children have a great influence on their parents and apparently moreso than we have on them.

As a mom, this is fascinating AND scary.

Veronica I. Arreola

Also at

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