Interesting article in yesterday’s Sunday Times (link here) about the Conservative party seeking advice from a marketing agency on “deciphering the female psyche”. Apparently:
The consultants use research drawn from brain science, anthropology and marketing to help their clients to improve their understanding of women consumers. Their big idea is that while men regard the world as a stadium in which they compete, women are more “altruistic” and “utopian”.
The consultants, who are close to Steve Hilton, [David] Cameron’s director of stategy, have been holding regular meetings with the Tory leadership for the past 18 months. Their influence can be seen in the Tories’ changes in marketing, political style and policies. The replacement of the “phallic” Tory torch logo with the “organic” oak tree brand was a clear attempt to create a more female-friendly image.
Partly at the suggestion of his new advisers, the Tory leader has played down traditional Conservative “masculine” subjects such as tax cuts and Europe in favour of more “feminine” issues such as maternity nurses, schools and care for the elderly.
The consultants point to scientific research which shows that while men use only part of their brains, women are more “whole-brained”.
Men are described as active, analytical, competitive and interested in things, while women are more concerned with feelings, relationships, people and empathy.
“Women have a stronger sense of moral order and justice and are, as a result, driven to improve the world at large,” the consultants write.
So are they really saying that taxation and European issues are subjects which don’t appeal to women voters, and that women can’t be analytical and “interested in things”? – whatever that means.
“Whereas men are most likely to think the nation’s most pressing issues are budget and cutting spending, women […] are more inclined to favour social programmes and services such as education, healthcare and childcare, poverty, joblessness, environment, world hunger and the United Nations.”
The report specifically mentions the party’s intention “to woo the middle-class mothers whose votes are likely to determine the outcome of the next general election”. Given the condescending attitude which seems to pervade the strategy, it’s amazing they think that the targetted voters are even going to be able to find their way to the polling station without the help of a man, let alone manage to put one’s ‘X’ in the right box as well.
I really can’t help but wonder why politicians think that a campaign apparently based on hopelessly outmoded and inaccurate stereotypes is likely to be more successful in attracting a specific group of voters than a campaign which considers the real needs of real women in real life.
Cross-posted at The F-Word on 20 October 2008