A Style story Monday misspelled the name of Fawn Evenson, president of Footwear Industries of America. (Published 2/21/91)

"I wouldn't like any life to be lost, but in war you're going to have casualties," says the man.

"If my husband were there, I can't imagine what I'd do," says the woman.

"I'm really almost thrilled to see what our technology has done," says another man.

"Thank God my brothers are too old," says another woman.

"It's not going to be fun; it's not going to be bloodless," acknowledges a man, somewhat bloodlessly.

Says a woman: "I keep thinking of their mothers."

If you set aside the shoe-polishing machines in the ladies' room, the Footwear Industries of America seems a fairly typical Washington office: gray carpeting, beige walls, potted plants with leaves the thickness of fine leather. This office, like every other small community in America, swims in the strange sea of war news. Like the U.S. population overall, the 10 women and five men who work here on behalf of the nation's shoe manufacturers are largely in favor of Desert Storm. All express support for the men and women fighting the war; with only two exceptions they say they support the president and the war itself.

But they also reflect a more subtle trend in the overall population, one widely studied by pollsters and widely discussed over water coolers and kitchen tables and in front of television screens.

As the Persian Gulf War dominates the airwaves, it defies some of our modern assumptions about how much the lives and sensibilities of men and women have converged, even after 25 years of the women's movement. Men and women feel differently about this war.

They speak about the war in different language, they respond to polls about it in different numbers, and they think about its future in different ways.

Women tell each other they feel alienated by the war, frightened by it, angry over it. Women are, literally, losing more sleep over it. In a recent Times-Mirror poll released by the Center for the People and the Press, 21 percent of the women reported having trouble sleeping because of the war, compared with 4 percent of the men. Sixty-four percent of the women reported being depressed over the war, compared with 33 percent of the men. As with men, a clear majority of American women express some degree of support for the war and the president's conduct of it. But their support is lower -- in a recent Washington Post-ABC News poll, for example, 71 percent of the women approved compared with 85 percent of the men.

And to the extent that women do support the war, many pollsters and analysts say, their support is "soft." If questions are asked in a way that tests the subjects' reactions to the inherent violence of war -- especially to the prospect of U.S. casualties in a likely ground war -- the gap dramatically widens.

It's not as if men are clamoring to see people killed, or as if women don't sympathize with the aims of the war. In a day of conversations, the staff at Footwear Industries mirrored what pollsters describe around the country. Men decried casualties, and women often spoke critically -- even venomously -- of Saddam Hussein.

But for the most part there were differences in the priorities men and women expressed, and striking contrasts in the way they expressed them.

Start with Brad Hurlbut, 28, the footwear trade association's public relations manager. He is a Republican, though "not a hard-line one," he says. Sitting at his sleek desk in shirt-sleeves, tassel loafers and crimson suspenders, he could serve as model for the group that supports the war most solidly: affluent, white male baby boomers, who are more polarized on this issue from their female counterparts than any other men in the country.

"I come down on the side of the president," he says. "And not just -- 'I support our troops 'cause they're over there.' I really support their mission. I really believe President Bush, that {Saddam} Hussein is an evil person. And he has to be stopped now, instead of later." Brad acknowledges that a ground war would mean heavy casualties but says, "I think in the end that's one of the consequences of war."

Contrast him with Molly Duet, assistant to the Footwear Industries president. She is also a Republican, but her very first statement is a menu of moral response, full of ambivalence. "I'm absolutely against war. I absolutely am supporting Bush and our troops, though, if that makes sense. I wish war hadn't been one of the choices in the beginning. I think it's wonderful that Americans are supporting our soldiers, though. But you see on television the pictures of Iranian soldiers gassed by the Iraqis, in their war, their flesh just burned, and it's horrible."

Men do consequences; women do burning flesh.

Men do technology; women do husbands and brothers, mothers and sons.

This is, of course, the stuff of stereotype: Men are warlike, women are nurturing. Men take risks, women avoid them. Men take the long view of world affairs, balancing woeful sacrifices against worse outcomes, while women feel more immediately, more intimately, the pain of those who fight and die.

Pick your stereotype, and pick your reason: nature or nurture, too much (too little) testosterone, too many (two few) GI Joe dolls. The Persian Gulf War will not solve the age-old debate about whether and why and how women and men are innately different beings. But in startling ways it may sharpen that debate. For it is already posing an interesting conundrum: Why, after a revolution in their voting patterns, their political affiliations, the very conduct of their lives, do women's attitudes about war seem basically unchanged?

"The gender gap on party affiliation and voting is a post-feminist-movement phenomenon," says political scientist Jo Freeman. "But what you have here is a pre-feminist gender gap that hasn't changed."

It's not so much that this gap presents a fresh surprise, pollsters say: Their findings about this war are in keeping with gender differences not only on past wars, but on a whole cluster of issues related to death, violence and risk -- gun control, the death penalty, the nuclear freeze, nuclear power.

But as an obsessive national concern that radically highlights a continuing gender gap, the war is throwing men's and women's differences into stark new relief. And before it is over, according to some who track public opinion, the war may polarize men and women much further.

The Violence Connection

To most of the people here the war, though upsetting, is a distant problem.

To Fawn Everson, Footwear Industries president, it means business is bad, for war has worsened the recession wracking her industry -- that is, wracking all those except the four member companies who manufacture military footwear.

To Barbara Singer, the vice president for marketing, it means the queasy relief of remembering that at the last minute she declined the "Arabian Nights" theme -- complete with tents and djellaba-clad staff -- that a resort proposed for the spring conference she is planning.

Production assistant Talitha Gifford, 24, is the only member of the staff with a blood relative in the Middle East. Her brother Kevin is an emergency medical technician mobilized through the Air Force reserves. "He's like my best friend in the world," she says. In addition, her father is in a reserve medical unit that will shuttle casualties from Saudi Arabia to hospitals in Europe, and her sister is an Air Force hospital administrator who has been sent to Great Britain for the duration.

Gifford, like Molly Duet, is a mass of articulate conflict. "I've said from the beginning, I don't like what Bush is doing, but I like the way he's doing it," she says. Meaning: "I still feel it would be best for us to not be at war. But if that's what we have to do, it's right to be doing it a hundred percent."

She has always thought of herself as "the lone liberal in a very conservative family" and is surprised to discover that she has "a lot more stomach for {war} than I thought I would."

Then again, she volunteers, "I would feel very different about my brother's and sister's and father's involvement in the war if they weren't in medical units, if they were in the infantry or something. Men will be hurt, and my family is there to care for them. That somehow makes me feel all right about it." If her family was there to kill instead of cure, she says, "I would have a harder time morally with the war."

In poll after poll, women have shown that their level of support for U.S. policy in the gulf is inversely linked to the level of violence or suffering that policy is likely to involve -- for both sides. Back in September, after Iraq invaded Kuwait but before the war began, a CBS News-New York Times poll queried men and women on their levels of support for various policy options. There was only a slight gap -- four percentage points -- between men's and women's support for an economic blockade of Iraq. But when CBS changed the question to test support for a blockade that would include food and medicine, the gap widened, with men's support 13 points higher than women's; and when that question was expanded further -- subjects were asked whether they would support a blockade that included food and medicine even if it meant that American hostages then held by Iraq might suffer -- the gap jumped again, to 23 points.

After the war began, the same principle quickly showed up in polls. The Roper Center for Public Opinion Research recently collated questions from various surveys and ranked them according to gender gap. Sure enough, says Senior Research Librarian John Benson, "the more graphic the wording, the larger the gender gap."

At one end of the scale was the relatively mild question, "Do you think the United States did the right thing in sending troops to Saudi Arabia, or should we have stayed out?" The day after war broke out, 73 percent of women and 83 percent of men said the United States had done the right thing. But at the other end of the scale was the question, "Should American bombers attack all military targets in Iraq including those in heavily populated areas where civilians may be killed, or should American bombers attack only those military targets that are not in heavily populated areas?"

On that question, the gap more than doubled, to 24 points: 37 percent of the women chose "all targets" compared with 61 percent of the men.

"The more threatening the action, the more potentially violent the action, the more possible suffering it proposes, the bigger the gender gap," says Kathleen A. Frankovic, director of surveys for CBS News.

Imagery and Morality Wars are usually described by their leaders in traditionally masculine imagery, a language of persuasion that can leave women cold. "If you read the literature of mobilization, during Vietnam there was a lot of imagery that emphasized macho themes," says Myra Marx Ferree, professor of sociology at the University of Connecticut. Perhaps the best example was President Nixon's April 30, 1970, speech defending the bombing of Cambodia, in which he explained that "when the chips are down," the United States must not act "like a pitiful, helpless giant."

In this war, President Bush's rhetoric has included the observation that "a line has been drawn in the sand" (August); a promise that Saddam is "going to get his ass kicked" (December); and the prediction that a coalition victory in the gulf will teach future tyrants "that the U.S. has a new credibility, and that what we say goes" (February).

Men and women tend to report different responses to this imagery. "To the extent you can mobilize men around the idea that they might lose their manhood, you may not be able to mobilize women the same way," says Ferree.

"I think the media right now totally reflect men's views of the war," comments pollster Celinda Lake, "in the degree of their coverage of technology, in their early euphoria over the technology. I say that as a woman now, not as an empiricist. It was macho and almost sexual, in the early days. I thought it was bizarre."

But men and women may also be responding to a difference far deeper than language, one explored in the research of Harvard psychologist Carol Gilligan, whose work suggests a basic difference in the moral imaginations of men and women.

Men's psychological development encourages them to deal with questions of morality in logical, hierarchical terms, she argues, while women's development encourages a conception of morality as embedded in a web of human relationships.

Thus, men's views of the war tend to emphasize that a stake has been declared; there is now no backing down. In the words of Lee McKinley, 63, "We're committed, so we've got to get it done with now."

McKinley is Footwear's vice president for technology. More important, he is the office Marine. He was in an infantry assault platoon "mopping up" in the Pacific at the end of World War II and trained as a fighter pilot during Korea. After war broke out in the gulf he brought his Zenith radio into the office, and every day he listens to all the war news he can get.

Among women at Footwear Industries there is a contrast: Even those who support the war can readily conceive of circumstances in which their support would falter.

Economic analyst Tracie Hoeffel, for example, describes her support elaborately, as conditioned on the anti-Iraq coalition's addressing the festering Palestinian problem in the wake of victory; also, she says she would withdraw support if the United States were to leave the U.N.-supported coalition and act alone.

Barbara Singer says she would cease to support the war "if all of a sudden things occurred that were not 'becoming' " -- and here she sketches quotation marks in the air with her fingers -- "to this country." She cites "inhumane killings" as an example -- which she defines as clear instances of atrocity.

One of the things that best exemplifies a difference in world views is men's and women's ideas of soldiers' duties. Again and again, without being asked, men at Footwear Industries point out that Operation Desert Storm is being carried out by volunteer forces. In Lee McKinley's words, "You took the oath, and you knew there were risks involved. You did it on your own."

Women, on the other hand, seem quicker to see soldiers' choices as functions of their circumstances -- the desire for a college education, say, or a job in a bad market. McKinley says his wife disputes him all the time on this point, pointing out that enlistees were encouraged to see military service as vocational training and didn't know they would be asked to fight.

"To me," he says, "that's sort of an illogical argument."

The Impact of 'Liberation' In 1920, the first presidential election year when women could vote, the Democratic National Committee took out a full-page ad in McCall's magazine to try to exploit the influx of new voters who might be mobilized by the political battle raging over whether America should join the League of Nations: "Women voters, the future of a war-worn world is yours to decide. Nearly 27 millions of you have the right to say whether it is to be a continuing peace with the League of Nations, or a dishonest deal with Germany and never-ending chaos. ... Go to the polls and show that America keeps faith with her sons who sleep in Flanders."

Says CBS's Kathleen Frankovic, who keeps a framed copy of the ad on a wall of her office: "As far back as 1920, when women first got the vote, the political leaders expected women to make a statement about the use of force. They expected women to be more pacifistic than men."

Women bore out this hunch for years and years. Through Korea, when their support ran behind men's through every month of the war. Up through Vietnam.

But as the women's movement of the '60s and '70s made itself felt, students of public opinion waited to see its impact on how women thought about issues of war and violence. And waited.

University of Rochester political science Prof. John Mueller, an expert on war and public opinion, was one of those who suggested that women might become more "hawkish" as their roles in society changed. In the early '80s, he cross-tabulated some responses to a Korea-era poll, comparing results of a theoretical question about using atomic artillery shells with a question about the subjects' attitudes toward the then-current Kinsey report on sexual behavior: Should the report be discussed openly? There was also a question about the subjects' driving habits: Had they ever driven over 40 mph?

Mueller's cross-tabulations showed that by these quaint indexes, there was a high correlation between women's degree of "liberation" and the aggressiveness of their views on war. Women who favored fast driving and discussions of sex were evidently more like men in their opinions of atomic war than their "unliberated peers."

The data suggested that women's opposition to war was less a matter of their innately peaceable natures than of their inhibitions: the possibility that they thought, as Mueller phrased it (and as Barbara Bush has since declared), that war isn't "nice."

Today, however, Mueller believes the data were misleading. "Speculation was that as sex roles became more muddled, the logic would be that women and men would have more similar attitudes toward war," he says. "But it doesn't seem to have happened. And that's very intriguing."

At Footwear Industries of America, Fawn Everson is arguably the most "liberated" women. She is 46, single, one of the few top-ranking women executives in a deeply male-dominated industry, and she addresses herself to any question with brass-tacks directness. "I said all along," she explains, smacking her desk with her fist, "until they're eating rats in Baghdad, you're not going to get those people to turn against their government."

But she is also the only frankly anti-war member of the staff. "I really believe it is big oil," she says. "If Ecuador had invaded Peru, we wouldn't have gone in."

At times she sounds like a woman of decades ago. "My gut feeling is that women are the ones who are going to feel it most. Men understand war. They understand violence, they understand the logic of why we're there. ... I think men are able to compartmentalize, maybe, better than women are."

But she may reflect a more subtle shift in women's opinions. Traditionally, according to Mueller, women have not opposed wars so much as withheld support for them -- a distinction expressed in a greater number of women than men who reply "don't know" or "no opinion" when polled on war.

It remains to be seen whether women who oppose this war will mobilize against it, or simply withdraw from it. The war is still just one month old, the numbers still rough. Few pollsters are comfortable hazarding guesses about the future.

One exception is Democratic pollster Celinda Lake, who predicts that women's and men's views of this war will diverge in ever-larger numbers. "I think there will be two points where it matters dramatically: the point of ground war and the point where it is perceived that the war has bogged down. I think you will have dramatic jumps at those two points," with women's support declining far more rapidly than men's.

There is never much precision to be had, of course, in the realms of opinion and belief. Parsing the polls is one way of going after it; another is to talk to those who spend their professional lives teasing apart the human aggregates, separating them into the pains and fears of individual men and women.

Psychiatrist Helen Singer Kaplan says that when you strip away men's and women's differing systems of belief about war and violence, they harbor the same anxieties. Clients of both genders are dreaming about the war, she reports. "They're dreaming of burning buildings, of chasms opening," she says. "People are really frightened, I think, both men and women, that this is going to explode. On an unconscious level, nobody likes this war.

"No matter what they say, unconsciously they all hate it."