Empathy means the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.
Those banging the drum about how more women should be promoted to senior management sometimes seek to support their position with sexist generalisations about how women tend to be more ethical, collegial, empathetic, and so on.
Earlier generations of Australian women were mostly empathetic to a fault.
Nowadays perhaps not so much.
Empathy with the resident citizens of overseas countries
Some time ago I was reading the results of a survey of overseas travellers. It found that most travellers were disturbed by displays of cultural insensitivity by fellow travellers. Unfortunately the survey did not breakdown its results on the basis of variables such as gender.
This got me thinking about my own experiences living and travelling in Asia.
Thai culture is quite conservative but Thais will rarely inform tourists when they have crossed the border of social acceptability, unless they venture far beyond the bounds of decent behaviour. Expressions of polite conduct such as kreng jai – the Thai version of our ‘good manners’ – is highly important to them.
Mention Thailand and most people think of men behaving badly. And indeed some men do … as do some women. The difference is that those western men who misbehave tend to do so within touristy nightlife areas, in many cases within recognised ‘red light areas’. Their behaviour generally involves drunken debauchery within the confines of go-go bars or the like. There is nothing laudable about this, but at least the local Thai people in such areas tend to be inured to witnessing this type of behaviour. Outside these areas I have witnessed exceedingly few examples of western male travellers displaying overt cultural insensitivity.
In contrast I have seen many examples of western women behaving inappropriately outside the bar precincts. A common issue is that of wearing skimpy and revealing clothing in and around temples, and in public places such as markets or parks. This occurs despite the fact that any guidebook on Thailand clearly states that such clothing is considered unacceptable, as well as there being signs installed in many locations.
On this note I happened across the following comments by a female editor of an English-language magazine in Thailand:
“Then there is the trio of English lasses who were found wandering around Wat Phra Singh a few weeks back in their bikinis! It has nothing to do with cultural insensitivity or ignorance. It is just a willful refusal to give a crap. Their grandmothers would have taken a wooden spoon to their bottoms had they trotted into the local church dressed that way.”
I have never confronted anyone about this particular transgression, but from discussions in online forums the attitude seems to be “this is my style, why should I have to change to suit them?”, or they are old-fashioned/sexist and *they* should change. I have also noticed plenty of instances of western women exhibiting exceptionally intrusive, pushy and loud behaviour in public places (particularly for example during community events).
Anyway that’s what this correspondent has noticed in going about his daily business, but discussions with Thai women revealed some other issues. These were women who either ran businesses, or worked in other peoples shop-front businesses (not bar-related, I hasten to add). I must first explain that Thai women are generally in awe of western women, and in general there is no underlying animosity whatsoever.
One after the other these women told me similar accounts of their dealing with western female customers, and of their surprise, dismay and occasional anger at the rude behaviour they often encountered. This included body language (like eye rolling and pained expressions) plus clicking noises of annoyance, and rude gestures and insulting words.
As noted, these were just my own observations – what do others think? Are western women travelling overseas less inclined to observe and maintain local cultural decorum, than western men? And if so, why? Do you think it might it be related to an increasingly overdone feeling of entitlement, and of being beyond criticism/censure? That sense of feeling oneself to be a ‘special snowflake’?
Singer ‘Bjork’ clearly thought she was a very special snowflake indeed when she saw fit to assault this reporter at the airport in Bangkok.
And in another blog post we can see that some western women also behave in a racist and/or culturally insenstive menner when they are at home.
Some other incidents involving selfish or otherwise unpleasant behaviour by women/girls:
‘Poison Ivy’, 17, bullies ‘weak’ men into degrading themselves online before encouraging them to kill themselves (26 October 2016) with related Reddit discussion thread here.
Women more likely to get angry behind the wheel (20 October 2016) UK
“Around half (49%) of all attacks were group based. Women were involved in most group attacks (men were more involved in lone attacks).”
Rotherham woman offered safe haven to troubled girls – then pimped them out (27 February 2016) UK
‘It was the worst flight of my life’ (11 December 2015)
Secret Service Agents: Hillary is a nightmare to work with (2 October 2015)
Anesthesiologist trashes sedated patient — and it ends up costing her (23 June 2015) USA
Russia jails three young women for WWII memorial twerk (27 April 2015)
American sisters deported for naked photos at Angkor Wat (9 February 2015)
Kiwi tourist smashed Buddha statue in Cambodian temple (14 October 2014)
Other sources related to women and empathy:
Gender differences in empathy (27 August 2016) Reddit mensrights discussion thread
Ringleader in Texas’ biggest sex-trafficking ring sentenced to life in prison (20 January 2016) USA. This is not a rare exception – many women are involved in the running of human trafficking operations like this one.
Health experts warn of dangerous trend as survey finds women self-criticise eight times a day (4 January 2016) Perhaps the most worrying thing about these research findings is how little of the self-criticism relates to the impact of a women’s own behaviour on others around them … it’s all me, me, me
A Plea to Women (28 November 2015) Australia
The Empathy Gap – Fiamengo File Episode 4 (3 September 2015) Video
Woman’s Hour and the lack of understanding or empathy (1 September 2015) Reddit discussion thread
The only two “Fairy Tales” you need to understand women (1 August 2015)
Why do women have such a hard time empathizing with men? (3 April 2015)
Are men inferior to women? Let’s check the data, by Christina Hoff Sommers (30 March 2015) Video
The angry men of the Internet, by Jasmin Newman (March 2015) Australia
Men are selfish, uncaring idiots (23 December 2014)
Feminist’s perverse game to misrepresent Anti-fem righteous outrage (Youtube video) 27 July 2014
Q&A: Women are nurturing? How about cruel, especially to one another (24 August 2002)
Sorry, Martin Amis – your kindly women can do cruelty too (16 July 2010)
Mom’s Abuse Makes Man Afraid Of Women (2 November 2010)
Elsewhere in this blog see: