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Females Tend to be Risk-Adverse. Is This Why Women Often Support Totalitarian Policies?

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Females Tend to be Risk-Adverse. Is This Why Women Often Support Totalitarian Policies?


April 3, 2024

Dozens of studies over the last 30 years have consistently found that women are more risk-averse than men. These are three of many examples:

Daring Differently: Gender Differences in Risk-Taking Behavior, NeuroScience News (May 2023):

“The research reveals women are more averse to risk than men due to heightened sensitivity to potential losses. Conversely, men, exhibiting greater optimism, are more willing to engage in risk-taking.”

Gary Charness and Uri Gneezy, Strong Evidence for Gender Differences in Risk Taking, J. Economics, Behavior & Organizations (June 2012):

“Are men more willing to take financial risks than women?…We find a very consistent result that women invest less, and thus appear to be more financially risk averse than men.”

Chris Dawson, Gender differences in optimism, loss aversion and attitudes towards risk, British J. of Pyschology (June 9, 2023):

“Systematic differences in the attitudes of men and women towards risk is well established.  … Exploiting large-scale panel data from the United Kingdom, we find that gender differences in financial optimism and financial loss aversion – the stronger psychological response to monetary losses than monetary gains – explain a substantial proportion of the parallel gender difference in willingness to take risks.”

These proclivities are reflected in sex-specific differences regarding attitudes towards censorship and free speech, as well as compliance with COVID mandates.

Censorship and Free Speech

Cory Clark, The Gender Gap in Censorship Support: Research Suggests Women Favor Inclusivity over Academic Freedom. Psychology Today (April 28, 2021). “Two recent studies of online adults revealed that women were more censorious than men.”

Knight Foundation, Free Expression on College Campuses, (May 2019). A 2019 survey found that 59% of women said protecting free speech was less important than promoting an inclusive society, while 71% of men believed the opposite.

COVID Mandates

Virginia Commonwealth University, Poll: Majority of Virginians Support Mask Mandates, (September 27, 2021): “Female respondents were more supportive of a mask mandate than male respondents (62% to 51%).”

MedScape, Men and Women Differ on Masks During, After COVID-19: Survey, (April 6, 2021): “A much higher percentage of women plan to wear a mask because of COVID-19 as long as public health experts such as those at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend it — 73%, compared with 63% of men.”

PBS Wisconsin, (November 30, 2021):  “What’s causing a gender gap in Wisconsin’s covid vaccinations?  More women are getting COVID-19 vaccinations than men around the state, and factors like age, job, politics and attitude toward health care each play a role in this persistent phenomenon.”

Attitudes Towards Totalitarian Governments

More provocative are analyzes of women’s support for totalitarian governments that promised “safety” to its citizens.

The Holocaust Encyclopedia’s account of “The Nazi Rise to Power” reveals that the years leading up to Hitler’s election in 1932-33 were a period of widespread violence in Germany as paramilitary organizations aligned with different political factions, especially the Communists and the Nazis, fought in the streets. Indeed, it is well documented that fear of a Communist takeover prompted the more establishment political parties, especially the center-right Christian Democratic Party, to suppress their strong distaste for the Nazis and form a government with them as the least-worst alternative to a Communist takeover.

A documentary that recently aired on the American Heroes Channel chronicled how Hitler’s rise to power relied heavily on the support of women.

Richard J. Evans (German Women and the Triumph of Hitler, 48 J. Mod. Hist. 123 (1976)) once noted, ‘It was the women’s vote’, remarked Hermann Rauschning in 1939, ‘that brought Hitler to triumph.’  Like Rauschning, many commentators have seen a connection between the achievement of the vote for women in 1918 and the victories of the Nazis at the polls in 1932.

Scholars have struggled for years to explain why women supported the Nazis in such high numbers. Richard Evans recounts,

“Yet this connection has also struck observers as paradoxical. The Weimar Republic is popularly regarded as the heyday of the emancipated woman. Many social groups had good reason to be anxious and resentful in Germany between 1918 and 1933, but the female half of the population, newly equipped with the vote and reveling in the new atmosphere of sexual liberation and constitutionally guaranteed equality, was surely not among them. All the more remarkable, then, that it should vote in such numbers for the Republic’s demise. The paradox, however, is deeper still than this. For the Nazi party was undoubtedly a dedicated opponent of female emancipation, the ultimate in male chauvinism, firmly committed to a view of women as inferior beings whose main task in life was to bear children and look after the home. Thus the emancipated women of Weimar Germany, it seems, voted quite happily in 1932-3 for their own enslavement. Here, then is a paradox; a paradox, moreover, of very considerable significance, especially in view of the fact that women formed the majority of the German electorate in the years in question.”

In the face of this widespread violence and unrest, could the risk aversion of German women have contributed to their strong support for Hitler?

More recently, Jordan Peterson commented on the expanded participation of females in the political sphere and the potential rise of totalitarianism. In the name of curbing online harassment, feminist groups such as UN Women are now supporting policies to rein in free speech in Germany, the United States, New Zealand, Scotland, and elsewhere around the world.