Along the well-travelled road — 6 Comments

  1. One of my worst blog-discussion experiences was at a feminist blog – any dissenting voices were silenced with a claim that they must come from a “troll.” How the heck are we supposed to learn anything if we can’t ask questions?!? Of course, there are people who are simply trying to divert the discussion but assuming up front that’s what all commentators are interested in doing is just as destructive to constructive discussions as the trolls would be…

    The Pinker/Spelke goes into interesting details. Spelke suggests the following experiment to sort out what is nature’s influence and what is societal influence:

    We should allow all of the evidence that men and women have equal cognitive capacity, to permeate through society. We should allow people to evaluate children in relation to their actual capacities, rather than one’s sense of what their capacities ought to be, given their gender. Then we can see, as those boys and girls grow up, whether different inner voices pull them in different directions. I don’t know what the findings of that experiment will be. But I do hope that some future generation of children gets to find out.

    In other words, remove all subtle and not so subtle was we influence people and then see what happens. Theoretically at least, whatever is left after we remove social influence is nature…

  2. Awesome! Thanks for the examples. I am really enjoying this blog because I can ask questions and not get attacked for being a guy. i don’t know and I am trying to learn about stuff! Some blogs descend into yelling matches (or I guess typing matches) and here I get real examples of the things I am asking about. Top notch. I am learning lots!

    I have heard about “nature vs nuture” and about how we have hundreds of thousands of years of evolution working to help define us. I don’t know – I believe in evolution but I wonder how much of the “men vs. women” differences are evolutionary or biological and how much is based on what we learn in the community. I am guessing a lot of it is based on how we are raised. I know everyone has stories about boys are taught not to cry and women are always praised for looking pretty and not getting dirty in the mud puddle when they are 3 years old.

    Great schtuff!! Keep up the good work!

  3. Thanks, Wiebes!

    The pay differential between men and women is a pretty well-documented fact. I know where it’s documented here in the US but can dig for international data. The Institute for Women’s Policy Research publishes data regularly on the gender gap in the US. Their latest fact sheet shows an overall wage gap of 20.1 (women earn 79.9 cents on every dollar men earn) based on median weekly earnings. This is based on large scale data, not anecdotal evidence like your example from your own experience. (They also outline reasons for that gap, some of which have to do with women dropping out of the labor force to raise children).

    There are also studies that have shown that the number of female musicians increases dramatically when auditions are performed behind a curtain. The people making the decisions cannot see the gender of the musician (nor the race, nor personal ticks etc). Women have been hired to play brass instruments, for example, usually considered too difficult for women to play. Remarkably, they could play them well enough to make it into an orchestra! The problem in hiring decisions is that all sorts of stuff, includes gender, influences how we feel about a candidate. The idea that a woman is better at something will impact those decisions.

    Your last paragraph addresses exactly what I was trying to convey in the post (and based on the comments didn’t do a good job of!): I believe that women are reared to want to be attractive and men learn to want to feel useful. One way of breaking through this cultural conditioning is for women to start opening doors and gentlemen to expect that the woman picks up the bill. Incidentally, I rather enjoy holding doors open for people…

    (Please see another post if you’re interested in the nature vs. nurture discussion around gender discrimination).

  4. OK I am a guy so I am going to jump in and get ready to take the heat. Here’s my 2 cents:

    – Whoever gets to the door first should open it and hold it for the next person.
    – I like it when a lady offers to pay her share if we are out for an evening. Or one of us pays for one night and the next time out, the other person pays it.
    – I work in a finance department and there are 11 women and me. My boss is a woman, her boss is a woman, and her boss is a woman. So I can’t help but take some exception that somehow guys are keeping women down all over the place. I’m just saying it has not been my experience. I get along great with the women in my department and in the company overall.
    – Which “tough, well-paying jobs” are you referring to? I am not saying you are wrong, I am honestly asking. I work in a unionized office, so everyone is paid according to the collective agreement. In the health care field, for example, the majority of nurses in Canada are women. That is a tough job – weird shifts, double-shifts, overtime, on call, etc. They get paid pretty well – the deal is that you have to stay in that job for a few years to get your union steps up and your pay rate increases, but some of these nurses make some great money! So I am not sure I understand specifically where the women are being treated terribly.

    If a woman can dead lift 150 lbs. and carry it through a window on to a ladder, then definitely sign her up for the fire department. I could not do it. I am not part of the fire department. It’s not discrimination, it’s because I couldn’t pass the test. They discriminate against wimpy dudes just as much as women in this case. It’s a tougher call on the police force. I’ve seen women cops out on the street and I wonder if they can do the job as well as a big hunky policeman. I’m thinking about chasing people, or subduing suspects, etc.

    I don’t know if it is the same all over the world, but I’ve noticed on television that white males are discriminated against versus women. (I know this is slightly off topic). If you watch any TV commercial, the white dude is always the dumb guy screwing up and the black guy, black women or native-american women are always the smart ones using the proper product. That gets a bit annoying.

    Here’s a question I would love to get women’s opinion on: It’s no secret that, generally, women like to feel attractive and men like to feel useful. So opening a door, holding out a chair, offering to pay for the meal, etc. are all examples where the guy is trying to make the women feel special. Can you honestly say that women would rather that none of these happen during a night out? I don’t believe that for a second! We may be equal but are definitely not the same.

    Great post as always!!

  5. Thanks, April!

    I am not sure but I think the “petty” issues like door-holding and the continuing salary differential might be connected. I think the underlying ideas are the same: Women are too weak and fragile to get the real tough, well-paying jobs and/or they aren’t the ones responsible for supporting a family. I wonder how much would change if men no longer felt they had to open doors for women…

  6. I loved this post! And Barbara Ehrenreich also makes an excellent point.
    My take is, whoever gets to the door first opens it. I’ve opened doors for many a man and many a man have opened the door for me. The key should be seamless traffic. I do, however, get annoyed when a man deliberately closes the door when he could very well have held it open! I have more patience for a woman who does that because she was probably not taught to hold a door open.
    At the same time, I think we waste way too much time on petty issues like door-holding and not nearly enough on whether or not we’re being paid for equal work, and standing up for our rights as single women, and having better child care for all children.

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