The Sexist

28 Percent of Women “Unsure” of Basic Facts of U.S. Independence

July4

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Last month, the Marist Poll asked 1,004 U.S. residents: From which country did the United States win its independence? The results varied based on region, household income, race, age, and gender—while 81 percent of men responded that the U.S. won independence from Great Britain, only 67 percent of women could say the same. Twenty-eight percent of women were "unsure," compared to 12 percent of men. I'd love to see a study charting women's "unsure" levels across different categories [Via The Awl].

  • kza

    w..t..f....

  • Kim Chi Ha

    i mean... you know...

    shit, i don't know.

  • Elise

    I'm going to put this down to activity similar to that of my history-geek friends - they love to talk about the complexities of each event in the United States' history (well, if it involved a war, and didn't involve women) and, when asked questions, mansplain the question away. Even for someone who's pretty adept at history, between the muttering about the Polish, the French, and various other things that may or may not have anything remotely to do with the question asked (I have a couple anecdotes I could offer, but really, I think everyone has had at least one friend like this) it's hard to feel smart enough to ask for clarification, IF you can get a word in edgewise. Heck, until I put my foot down, one of my (non-feminist, and very much ignorant of issues around women in history) friends loved to try and mansplain that "Feminism Ruined X" where X was something he liked.

    I can just imagine what sort of confusion this would bring to, say, an elementary-school-aged child who has barely heard about George Washington, much less anything to do with the Declaration of Independence and our revolutionary war.

    Oh, and I've had several women try and "mansplain" about history to me, so I guess this would go for either sex, though the biggest perpetrators in my life have been men.

  • TT

    Elise - huh?

    Also, can we please stop using "man" to replace the first syllable of words (i.e. "mansplain")? It is so, so dumb.

  • kza

    She was womansplaining excuses for not knowing who America became independant from.

  • Elise

    I've been trying to think of a good example of what I'm talking about, but it'll probably have to be a completely made-up one, because I can't remember much of what my friends tried to explain to me off the top of my head.

    Lets take the United States' revolutionary war, for instance. It seems simple: the US rebels from Great Britain, George Washington does some cool stuff crossing the Delaware, etc etc etc. One day, I hear my friends talking about the French at the battle of Saratoga. Not knowing history like they do, I ask them, "What were the French doing at Saratoga?" and the response I get is something like, "Well, Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin got the French involved. And so France and Spain joined in and attacked Great Britain from the south . . ." at which point I ask, "Wait, what? I know France and Spain didn't like Great Britain, but why would they attack England to help us in the war." because they didn't mention that France and Spain were attacking British holdings in North America. They chuckle and explain that, no, Spain and France didn't invade England when they were helping the United States in the revolutionary war; France helped us by reinforcing our attempts to retake Savannah, GA from the British, and Spain helped drive the British from the Mississippi. By this time, I'm so embarrassed by my mistake that I either don't notice that they haven't explained why the French were at Saratoga or I just don't ask because, well, it's embarrassing (the French weren't at Saratoga, but they gave us guns that were particularly useful in that battle, in case anyone was curious). So I'm somehow left with the vague notion that the French were at Saratoga, and probably completely unsure as to what they actually did in the war, and wondering how in the world Spain got involved in the revolutionary war but completely unwilling to ask and elicit further amused chuckles.

    No one really meant to keep me from learning, but there were definitely some really incomplete/bad/poorly worded or non-elaborated explanations flying around, all resulting in total confusion and (on my part) some serious embarrassment. After one of these conversations, I tend to avoid any history-like talk and articles for at least a week - and I'd bet others would be turned off of history too.

    I don't know if that gets the point across to anyone else, but that sounds almost exactly like every history conversation I've had with my friends, ever.

  • kza

    Rambling womansplaining.

  • Charlie

    While 28% of women are "unsure" and men are only 12% "unsure" 7% of the men get it wrong while only 5% of women get it wrong. Can't something be made out of that?

    The are the kinds of polls that are done when someone wants to grab some headlines. (The equivalent is when local TV news stations do reports on what bacteria can be found on the glasses you drink out of in bars.) Seems to have worked.

  • http://www.washingtoncitypaper.com/blogs/sexist Amanda Hess

    @Charlie I don't think much can be made of that with a +/- 3 percent margin of error.

  • Charlie

    Ouch. I've been schooled in statistics.

  • Em

    I'm more terrified by the 26% in the South that were unsure. My representatives back home were way more concerned with impending socialist doom than education--turns out this is a problem. Sigh.

  • http://www.washingtoncitypaper.com/blogs/sexist Amanda Hess

    @Charlie You're right about the other stuff though! This chart could inspire concern-trolling for nearly any demographic. Ten percent of 30-to-44-year-olds are sure that the U.S. fought for independence from some other country, possibly Mexico! What does it mean that today's 30-to-44-year-olds are confident and wrong!

  • Jim

    Uh.... It wasn't Great Britain until 1801.

    Everyone gets a fail!

  • http://toysoldier.wordpress.com Toysoldier

    The gender disparity is not surprising. What is shocking is that the younger the age group, the more unsure they are of who the United States won independence from. One would think that since they recently learned this information they would retain it.

  • pipi long stockings

    people are most interested in subjects that:

    1) they are told that they are good at
    2) are encouraged to participate in

    Girls are generally not encouraged to be geography whizzes or history buffs. It's probably no different than the disparity between math scores. Different levels of support.

    From reading Elise's first post, I think it's pretty obvious what she is saying, so there's no need to be jerks Kza and TT.

    When you are a girl in a room full or overconfident boys who either know more about history than you do or act like they do, it can be very daunting to ask questions. Especially when you know that they will look down on you for asking a "dumb" question.It's the same reason girls don't speak up in classes as often as guys. It's a matter of not taking girls' opinions seriously, resulting in a lack of self confidence when it comes to speaking in class.

  • Elise

    kza - What IS a womansplanation?

    (Crosses fingers that the response is, "What you wrote," so I can retort, "Well, that's a mansplanation. So how can I avoid womansplaining if you mansplain to me what womansplaining is?" because, well, that's too funny to pass up.)

  • http://toysoldier.wordpress.com Toysoldier

    people are most interested in subjects that:

    1) they are told that they are good at
    2) are encouraged to participate in

    Actually, people are most interested in subjects they find interesting. Boys are not encouraged to be geography whizzes or history buffs, and many who do find that stuff interesting learn very quickly that it makes them targets for bullying and mockery from girls and other boys.

    As for the other bit, if you do not know something, you should ask for clarification. If you are too embarrassed to admit you do not know something, either set aside your ego and ask the question or go to library or on the internet and read up on the subject. Do not blame other people for you disinterest in a subject or vilify them for being more interested in it than you do.

  • upk

    We really gonna chalk this up to "dude history"? Do you know anyone who got so discouraged in calculus class that she forgot how to add?

  • Valkyrie607

    @upk

    I never forgot how to add--but I did get so discouraged in algebra that I completely gave up on the idea of even taking calculus. Until 15 years later, when I realized that being a whiz in math was not necessary to be a scientist. Just a basic grasp of the concepts. Were it not for my feminist awakening, I might not have even considered such a career option. Because, you know, I'm a girl, who's bad at math.

  • Elise

    I know several brilliant women who have had the experience of being told they were "Too pretty to be good at math." or "Too pretty to be smart." And you know what? Because they listened to their teachers, and because their parents did nothing to challenge this notion (they were children when told this) they decided to not do math. I'm lucky enough that my parents heard that said and told the teacher to shove her idea of who could and could not do math . . . well, somewhere rude. And you know what? I graduated pretty much top of my class in Physics, with a Mathematics minor. I'm darned good at math - regardless of my attractiveness or sex, and despite the best efforts of some of my earliest teachers. Not everyone has parents like mine.

  • upk

    But all that discouragement didn't stop you from acquiring a grade-school level of understanding of any subject, right?

  • Prix

    You americans are pathetic. The women are ignorant and the men are impressionists. I wont say much . U people have some idiotic reply for everything.

  • CTD

    "Uh…. It wasn’t Great Britain until 1801."

    Uh...no. It was Great Britain beginning in 1707 with the Acts of Union between the kingdoms of Scotland and England. It became the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland in 1801.

    Less snark, more book larnin'.

  • Keith B.

    Elise, I don't see how getting a rambling, off-topic and tangential non-answer from history nerds is the patriatchy's fault. That's the kind of answer you get when you let any [subject] nerd give you an in-depth response on a topic you're painfully unfamiliar with. I might find it helptitsful if you cockelaborate.

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