Ed West

A female culture war has begun

A female culture war has begun
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I didn't go on the women's march last weekend, and it's not the kind of thing I'd go to. However, Trump's previous form with regards the female sex is a reasonable cause for at least registering a protest. This is not to deny there are things I wish would be protested more, such as Rotherham, but I accept that's basically whataboutery and no reason to ignore Trump's behaviour.

But you'd think, looking at an event like this, that there was a sort of culture war in which women were set in conflict with the patriarchy, represented by the three-times married president. Lots of women were marching for the right to have abortions, for instance, and this came as the new president reversed Obama's policy on funding overseas abortion (as all Republican presidents do).

Yet despite the way it is portrayed, polls consistently show that more men than women are in favour of legal abortions, both in Britain and in America. In this country 59 per cent of women want to reduce the legal limit from 24 weeks, compared to just 35 per cent of men. In fact, 10 per cent of British women would ban abortion outright.

Pro-life women tend to be the most pro-life, while pro-choice women tend to be much more pro-choice than their male comrades. Overall abortion is not a male v female issue but a female v female one, with men much more dotted around the centre, or being totally apathetic. This obviously makes sense, since it is their bodies involved and so more emotive; I have my views on the subject, but when it comes down to it I'm pretty sure I'm never going to get pregnant and so my opinion carries less weight.

In general, culture war issues are more polarised among women than men because women have to make bigger life choices and sacrifices, whether it be career or baby. Therefore the path a woman takes, whether to have a family or not, and in particular whether to be a stay-at-home mother, might influence which side of the culture war she leans to, since we all try to rationalise our behaviour. This explains why the marriage gap is far bigger than the gender gap. Men don't have to make such sacrifices, generally speaking, although being married with children probably pushes them towards a more conservative outlook.

Mainline feminism might deny or downplay this intrasexual culture war. Yet intrasexual competition explains a lot. For example, more men than women oppose the horrible practice of female genital mutilation, while more women than men support mandatory hijab-wearing in Iran. This matches research in the West, where it is women who show most hostility to other women wearing revealing clothes - 'slut-shaming' - and where the majority of misogynistic abuse online is done by females. The exception to this general rule is with violence; most violence against women is done by men, but only because men commit the vast majority of violence across the board, most of it against other men, who are twice as likely to be murdered.

Intrasexual solidarity is very weak indeed. Trump lost many university-educated white women voters, but he still won 53 per cent of white women overall, despite making some appalling comments and standing against a woman who made much of her sex. When it comes to identity politics, gender is easily the weakest player in the game.