Welcome to Political Confessional, a column about the views that Americans are scared to share with their friends and neighbors. In an increasingly polarized political climate, adherence to party or ideological orthodoxy on the issues of the day seems de rigueur. Social media serves only to amplify that perception at times. But Americans’ political views are often idiosyncratic and sometimes offensive, and they rarely adhere neatly to any particular party line. In this column, we want to dig into Americans’ messy opinions on politics, morality and social mores. We hope that this exercise gives readers a glimpse into the minds of those with whom they might disagree — or agree! If you have a political belief that you’re willing to share with us, fill out this form — we might get in touch.
This week, we talked to Patricia, a 75-year-old white woman from Ohio. Patricia wrote: “When given a choice between female & male Democratic candidates, I’ll choose the males, all things otherwise being equal.” She hasn’t shared the opinion much with friends because, as she put it, “I’m a relic from another era, knowingly biased, which embarrasses me.”
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Clare Malone: So, how did you get to this opinion?
Patricia: I would love to know. If I had to guess, I would say it’s because I was born in 1944, and coming up, I had male people in all the roles that I was apt to use. Like a doctor, my father was a CPA so he did my taxes, and you know, having handymen around the house — they were men not women, and I just came to believe in them and I have a prejudice. It’s just there.
CM: Do you think that men are more competent and capable?
Patricia: It’s just where my mind would go first, if given a choice. Like, I had a female doctor and she really wasn’t very good. I have an excellent doctor now and he’s male. And I think if two doctors are standing in front of me in the future — one male, one female — I would choose the male.
CM: When did you start noticing that about yourself?
Patricia: I think in the 1970s when I was working for a man who was talking about a colleague who had left the company and gone elsewhere. And he said, “Can you believe it, he’s working for a woman — what kind of man is that?” And I was instantly offended and I thought how wrong what he said was. But then came flooding through to my head was the acknowledgment that yeah, if I looked at my boss being a female, I wouldn’t have as much confidence in her as I would in a male. Because I’d always had male bosses and they were good. And I don’t want to say that I dislike women because I do like them and I do feel that there are women who are spectacular, but it’s that initial thing, seeing the two compared, that’s when it hits me, and I have to talk myself down from that ledge because I know that it’s nutty and I know that there’s no logic to what I’m doing so I know that I need to rethink a choice I might be making.
CM: Do you think that any of this has to do with your own self-confidence?
Patricia: No, I’ve been pretty self-confident all my life. It never occurred to me in some instances to even doubt that I could do what I set out to do. I wanted to be a disc jockey, so I became a disc jockey. I wanted to have a TV show, so I applied and I got that. I wanted to work in advertising, and I worked in that. I think I can do anything basically, except fly an airplane.
CM: Do you think sexism has been a big part of your life? Do you think people in those jobs you just talked about ever thought that you weren’t as competent because you were a woman?
Patricia: No. In fact, men have stood up for me and supported me in jobs for decades. I don’t know why I got here. I really do think it’s a function largely of the era when I was born.
CM: Have you talked to other women of your era about this, and do you know if they feel the same way?
Patricia: Well, since this is a thing I wouldn’t confess to my friends, no. I had a close friendship with two women who are extremely accomplished, and I just would not have brought it up with them.
CM: Do you feel lonely in this thought? Do you think other people have it?
Patricia: Well, I haven’t really discussed it with women, so I don’t know if others do. I have expressed this to is my daughter, and she just shakes her head and wonders where she went wrong.
CM: How did you talk to your daughter about gender bias, if you did?
Patricia: I didn’t when I was raising her. She’s almost 50 years old, and it’s only in recent times [that they talk about it]. For instance, this current run for president I told her that I support Joe Biden because he gives me the feeling that Daddy’s home and everything’s going to be OK again. We’re going to be sane for a change. And she’ll bring up, “Well what about Elizabeth Warren?” And I say, I just don’t want to be lectured by a school marm for four or eight years. But the fact is, I like a lot of what she stands for. And I feel like going with Joe Biden is a step backward but for me it’s a comfortable step. I think we need to regain some footing.
CM: How did you feel about Hillary Clinton in the last election?
Patricia: I voted for her, but I love Hillary. She’s just so competent. And I’ve admired her for decades. And I envied her being married to Bill Clinton.
CM: What do you think the difference is between Hillary Clinton and Elizabeth Warren?
Patricia: One thing is how they come across when they’re speaking. I feel like Warren’s talking down to me. I think Hillary is up on a higher plane, and I just love her, and I think it was just being exposed for decades to her competence.
CM: Do you think your like of Hillary Clinton has to do with your like of her husband as well?
Patricia: I really didn’t pay much attention to Bill Clinton until the impeachment stuff. I’m really not someone who pays attention to extramarital sex. Some of my best lovers were married. Who worries about extramarital sex? I really liked the fact that Hillary stayed with him because I thought, “What better companion could you have after dinner when you sit down to talk?” That man is fascinating. And I would have hated to see her throw him away. A lot of people find fault with the fact that she stayed with him. I think it’s a plus after her name.
CM: Do you like any of the other women who are running this year?
Patricia: I like Kamala Harris. I think she has a lot of male characteristics. She seems solid when she’s not being giggly in interviews and she answers questions seriously. I admire her and I like what she’s saying. I did like Amy Klobuchar until it came out how she treated her staff. And my liking of her, by the way, was largely started because she didn’t ask Al Franken to resign.
CM: So I’m assuming you don’t like Kirsten Gillibrand?
Patricia: Oh my God, no. All she needs is horns and a tail and she’s the devil.
CM: Have you talked to men about your bias toward men over women?
Patricia: I don’t think so, but if someone looked at my whole life, they would see that most of my friends have been male.
CM: Why do you think that is?
Patricia: I don’t know! I guess I just like men. I worked for a corporation where I was the only woman in management. The men there, especially my boss, treated me very well, and the women treated me badly. I had a secretary who refused to answer my phone, refused to make copies for me, she was just hostile. I remember going to my boss, and I said, “What can I do about her?” And he had a good question for me. He said, “What would you do if you were a man?” I said, “Oh, I’d fire her.” And he said, “So there you are.”
I remember in that company they were having a retreat for all the managers, I remember my boss saying I was certainly invited, but he wondered if I wanted to go — it was at a lodge with all these men and they would go fishing and have mutual support kinds of exercises. And I chose not to go.
CM: Do you wish you could have been friends or friendlier with the women at your office? Would that have made things better for you?
Patricia: I would have liked to have them have a better sense of who I was. I didn’t really want to hang out.
CM: Do you think there’s ever a way you grow out of this way of thinking? Is it something you could change?
Patricia: I think that I at least pause and think now, versus how I would have been automatic in the past. But as far as changing — even sitting here right now, I know that my preference is for men.
CM: If I were a man asking you these questions, do you think you would think about this interview differently or answer questions differently?
Patricia: No. I kind of chuckled when I thought about a female calling me — we’ll find out just how much I trust men over women! But no, I don’t have that impression at all.
CM: Would you consider yourself a feminist?
Patricia: No, I wouldn’t. Not consciously. My daughter is. I am not. My granddaughter is. But no. And in fact, the MeToo era has really not registered with me. I like men, and I don’t want to see careers ruined over somebody making advances toward someone. There are the egregious examples that we’ve seen in the news that are assault — they’re horrible, they’re detrimental to a woman’s career. But overall, when I hear younger women, they seem to have set up men to a certain point as almost the enemy. And in all my years in business, I couldn’t even count how many times men made passes at me. I was never offended, and some were a little more than just a couple of words, you know. I had a boss who pulled me onto his lap. All I did was laugh and get off.
CM: You’re saying you learned how to deal with those things?
Patricia: It felt like I could deal with it and at times liked it, depending on the man.