Ambivalent Annies and Fickle Fannies

Ambivalent Annies and Fickle Fannies

Scientists have now proved that women are the less decisive sex – I know it’s true ‘cos I read it in the Daily Mail. Any chance to reinforce an unqualified social stereotype and the Daily Mail Online whips out a megaphone. Just another bit of harmless chauvinism based on pseudo-science from embarrassing uncle DMO – no truth in it –right? Researcher Dr Zachary Estes, of Warwick University doesn’t seem to think so. And a name like that can be devilish persuasive…

Undecided on a subject for my column this week, I did a bit of Googling around about a puzzling trend that seems to have popped up a few times this summer. The first time I noticed it was whilst choosing the colour of my bedroom walls. Not a particularly monumental moment, some may think – they would be wrong – but, nonetheless, it was a choice I couldn’t quite make my mind up over. I knew I wanted to paint it blue. But little did I know what I was getting my self into. There’s a world of difference between Cornflower, and, say, Periwinkle – I can tell you that for free (well, as it turns out, the tester pots are pretty expensive…).

“Don’t worry. It’s always the same with women, they never know what they want,” said the painter, knowingly.

The second occasion was after I finished my jury service during the holidays (big shout out to Ipswich Crown Court! (where three weeks of my summer went to die)).

Some lingering curiosity prompted me to read a Ministry of Justice report about the impact of personal characteristics on jurors (race, gender, age –those types of things), which included a case study called ‘Juror Gender: a woman’s prerogative to change her mind”. It was basically a list of statistics that showed a strange pattern in female decision-making, or rather, the lack thereof…

According to the study, women jurors were significantly more likely to be swayed by others and to change their verdicts than the men. In the study, 41% of females sitting on a case decided the defendant was “guilty” before deliberating with the rest of the jury, but after deliberation only 33% of the ladies came out with the same verdict. Men on the other hand were more likely to stick to their guns, with 35% going in with a “guilty” conviction and a strong 34% coming out without changing their minds.

The final instance of wobbly-women/Sheila-shallying that I encountered was, of course, the Scottish Referendum. Political commentators were saying that dem galdem would be the ones to tip the scale from Yes to No. As they worked feverishly to try and predict the results of the vote, the opinion polls showed a higher percentage of undecided votes among women than among men in the run-up to the big day (9% of undecided women compared to 6% men, four days beforehand) and a female propensity to swing from one side to the other. Erratic – just like their driving. Tears were welling in my egalitarian eyes. But could it be true? The dreadful association that pairs the weaker sex with self-doubt and vacillation? Accurate all along? I felt quite faint…

Multiple gender ‘traits’ have been offered as explanations for this strange trend. Is it just that girls are generally more careful? Perhaps they are more risk averse? Less blasé about the fate of future generations?

I don’t know about you guys, but this idea of gender ‘traits’ makes me feel all itchy and uncomfortable. A  Scottish Social Attitudes survey in 2013 suggested that “the difference arises because women are less likely to feel they already know enough about the referendum, while they are more likely to agree that the referendum is a rather complicated issue.”

I haven’t made up my mind on it just yet, but I would wager that a history of underestimation of the female intellect might have something to do with a woman’s persisting lack of confidence in her final word. Don’t quote me on that though – it’s a rather complicated issue, and I’m not sure I know enough about it to be able to say for sure…

Ellie Parkes

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked. *