Evolutionary History: A Constraint on Elections Today
Election newcomer, Michael Bloomberg, standing at 5’8”, has been repeatedly teased for his height, as he lied about it on television and even requested a stool for tonight’s debate. People seem to see him as less strong, and less Presidential, because of his height. But if Bloomberg can’t be taken seriously because of his stature, how will any female candidates stand a chance?
According to a study from Amsterdam University in 2013, taller people are viewed more positively as leaders, for both men and women. This already gives men an advantage. Further, the effect of height on perceived leadership ability is even greater for men. Based on evolutionary psychology, this is because in the past humans were safest under a male leader who was strong and physically imposing. So, even though we are no longer seeking a leader to hunt buffalo for us, we are still acting as such when electing a President. We will not be able to successfully approach women’s issues until we break out of our evolutionary past and become attentive to the issues our leaders need to confront today.
In 2016, Donald Trump, standing at 6’3”, triumphed over Ted Cruz in the primary, who is 5’11”, and in the general election defeated Hillary Clinton, who stands at 5’5”. Gregg R. Murray, a Texas Tech University political scientist, found that the taller of the two candidates has won 58% of U.S. Presidential Elections since 1789.
The good news is, not only are we not confined by our evolutionary instincts, but we are often happier when we break out of them. Consider healthy eating. We crave sweets because sugar was a rarity that humans needed more of in the past. However, now, limiting sugar consumption contributes to better mental health and a longer life. This same logic applies to women’s issues. The Women in the Workplace study found that workplaces closer to having 50% men and 50% women employees are more profitable and suited for growth. Likewise, we will only be able to improve our modern society when we ignore our evolutionary instincts and elect candidates suited to confront the problems of today.
At the Bipartisan Feminist Project, we look to identify subconscious biases and where they come from, so all people can understand the logic behind feminism and contribute to a more equal future.