The natural basis for gender inequality

Naturalism is a potential source of guidance for our behavior, morals, ethics, and other more mundane decisions such as how to build an airplane and what to eat for breakfast.1 When it comes to airplanes, you’d better be a servant to the rules of nature or the airplane will go splat. When it comes to breakfast, it has been shown that knowing about our evolutionary history can be a more efficacious guide to good nutrition than the research employed by the FDA, but you can live without this approach. Naturalism works when it comes to behavior too, but there are consequences. You probably would not like the consequences.

The question at hand is this: Should men and women be given fundamentally different rights? Would it be OK if men and women had different pay for the same job, or different access to jobs? Would it be OK if men and women were treated differently by the law in a way that accounted for the behavioral differences between them that arise from their biology? Should men and women have different status because of their gender? Similar questions can be extended to people that are biologically different in other ways, such as by age, gender orientation, physical handicap or, should it be proven a valid categorization, race. But for now, let’s stick with the basic adult male vs. female difference.


Naturalism here is meant as what is sometimes called Sociological Naturalism or Naturalistic Philosophy. The idea is very simple: That which we observe in nature is the best guide to how things should be. We see that in mammals mothers nurse their young. Departures from this (bottle feeding, early weening, feeding young something other than mother’s milk, etc.) are risky and typically have negative consequences. In the modern, Western, industrialized world, there is a socially constructed balance between natural and non natural choices. A child that is fatally allergic to mother’s milk would be left to die with a pure naturalistic philosophy. Typically, the life of such a child is placed at a higher value than one’s philosophical purity, and non-natural intervention (feeding the child soy milk from a bottle) is chosen as the ‘correct’ decision. In truth, day to day, we are utterly arbitrary in adherence to or ignorance (willful or otherwise) of the naturalistic premise. We do what is convenient, what feels good, what provides us some good (money, status, etc.). Then later we explain our decision rhetorically as necessary. But that, dear reader, is a whole other post.

Naturalistic perspectives are often invoked when considering political or economic decisions. Free market capitalism is a form of naturalism. Social Darwinism is a form of naturalism.

This post … the post you are reading now … was inspired by a series of statements by a commenter on this blog in which a naturalistic framework was applied to justify differential pay between men and women. The premise is that women get paid less than men. There is plenty of room for clarification here … do women get paid less than men for the same exact job? Do women get paid the same but end up with a lower salary because they take unpaid leave to have babies? Do women get paid the same but end up with lower pay because they take unpaid leave which indirectly contributes to slower (in calendar time) advancement on the pay scale? Are women kept out of jobs, or even entire professions, that tend to be higher paid? Some or all of the above? For the present purposes, none of these questions matter, as you will see (but these distinctions would be a fascinating exploration for another time).

To orient you, I’ll provide a list of the comments in question:

  • Is every way we treat the two genders differently insulting? Why stop at 24% lower salary? How about holding the door for the weaker sex? How about only women getting to improve their daily look with make-up, while men doing it are ridiculed? Why must the stronger sex always carry all the groceries?
  • Is paying men and women equally really fair? Women and men are different, have different strengths and advantages, and different limitations. Those are obviously a very large part of the reason why salaries are skewed.
  • …it is evolutionarily more important for men to earn money, as money is earned for status, and not for consumption.
  • …physically … Men are stronger, taller, and don’t get pregnant.
  • Psychologically … Men are more aggressive, more ambitious, more authoritative, more psychopathic, less caring of others …
  • …being more aggressive, more ambitious, more authoritative, more psychopathic, less caring of others are “qualities” that are sought in CEOs…
  • …hiring a woman in a job involves the risk that she will be unable to work if she gets pregnant. The “worth” of that employee is thus modified as a result.
  • …if you hire a person who is likely to die soon is worth less to an employer than someone who is guaranteed to live for a long time and work in that job.
  • …in divorces it is usually the wife who gets the children. …. I choose to view the higher salary of men as compensation for that fact.
  • Bottom line is that I think the salary difference has a biological basis. Until it is thoroughly understood why there is that difference I will not come out and say it should be abandoned.
  • Women are on average less strong than men. That there is variation doesn’t change that the probability that a random man is stronger than a random woman is above fifty percent.

I am not going to fault the person who has made these remarks. I happen to believe that this individual is someone who is undergoing several transitions at once … a cultural transition moving from one country to another, a lifestyle transition moving from the real world into graduate school, a personal transition having to do with his family and relationships, and an intellectual transition in grappling with behavioral biology for the first time. So, I’m not going to fall into the blogospheric trap of “calling him out” … presumably on the proverbial carpet … to cause damage to him and make myself look smart or powerful. After all, my power comes from my extraordinarily high salary (NOT!). All I will say at this time is the following: This individual is a graduate student in the biological sciences. If he was my graduate student, he would not be cruising past the qualifying exam stage with such a poor understanding of the relationships between biology and society. These are not matters of opinion nor are they matters of political correctness. The discussion at hand has a deep and rich intellectual history, and embracing pure and unadulterated naturalism in such a male-biased way (or any way for that matter) as a PhD in biology is no more acceptable than embracing a heliocentric universe as a student of physical sciences. We’ve been there, done that, and we called it the Middle Ages. That was when the phrase “calling out on the carpet” came into being, by the way.2

A naturalistic basis for proper or justified human behavior may take into account the fact that we are mammals. Our mammalness encompasses many of the critically important facets of our lives. We have two sexes, a male (producing sperm) and a female (producing ova). Pregnancy lasts a long time relative to the overall life cycle of a given female. The females nurse the young, adding significant time in the form of child care. In mammals, males fight or display for sexual access, and females are either herded or harassed by males or choose males with which to mate, and males provide virtually no offspring care in most species. In some species there is courting and female choice, in others, hormonally mediated sexual arousal and activity, in others, what we might call rape.

That is a pretty wide range of behaviors, but one must use this wide range to describe ‘typical’ mammals, as they do vary somewhat. There are key characteristics that do pertain to all mammals, however: Pregnancy and nursing being entirely female, longish period of offspring care, and internal fertilization which results in a certain amount of paternal uncertainty (unclear attribution of fatherhood) for all males.

Given this, we may expect human males to be less choosy (sexually) than females, we may expect males to be promiscuous, we may expect females to be more cautious, we may expect males to be show-offs and often more violent than females, and we may expect males to be bigger and stronger than females.

But really, we are mammals but we are also primates, which is a subset of mammals. Would it not be more appropriate to look to primates, rather than mammals, for our fundamental naturalistic natures?

Well, most primates are either solitary or monogamous, with males and females not differing very much in size. Mating happens as a matter of female choice more than male fighting in most primate species. In many primate species, especially the polyandrous ones (where a single female has two or more male mates) there is a certain amount of male care of offspring, while in others, not so much. There is not a big difference in the danger level of males vs. females in most primates. So, our evolutionary heritage as primates actually looks quite different than if we look more broadly at mammals. We might expect male humans to track females very carefully, be more or less at their service with respect to child care, and very little difference between the sexes in who gets to use force or coercion for personal gain. Males and females would roughly share the job of protecting home and hearth (proverbially or otherwise). Males in many cases would not know if they are the father of a particular female’s offspring, but they would remain devoted to the female and her young because the young are related in some way (the multiple males hooked up to individual females would typically be half brothers, for instance).

But really, while we are in fact primates, we are actually Old World Primates. If we remove the prosimians and the New World Primates from the mix, we get a different picture.

Looking more narrowly at the Old World Primates, we actually drop all of the polyandry and most of the monogamy. We now get a pretty large difference, on average, in body size of males vs. females, but male coercion is rarely a means of sexual interaction … rather, females and males both engage in quite a bit of politics (these are smart animals) and these political interactions are mediated by quite a bit of biting and poking (within both males and females, but maybe more so in males). The result is often a parallel (male vs. female) set of hierarchies, and position in these hierarchies determines for males who gets to mate and for females who ends up most successfully raising offspring.

From this perhaps we can understand such human behaviors as guys getting together to do sports and gals getting together to shop and compete over makeup and shoes. Gossip, politics, personal status, etc. are all expectable pastimes or passions from such an Old World Primate ancestry.

But wait, the Old World Primates diversified a VERY long time ago. Maybe we should look at the subset of Old World Primates of which we are a part … the apes.

The majority of ape species are monomorphic in body size (the males and females are the same size) and life-long pair bonding. Both males and females are physically equipped (strong bodies, big canines) to defend the territory and the young, and both take similar roles in this regard, though the females nurse the young so there is some difference in male vs. female role in offspring care. A considerable effort is put into care of offspring overall, and with setting them up in new territories, etc., and this sort of care involves the males at least as much as the females.

So we might expect humans, as apes, to be highly monogamous and to put huge amounts of efforts into offspring … somewhat different in style but with similar levels of effort for males vs. females.

But hold on a second there… we are apes, yes, and this characterizes the average ape because gibbons and siamangs are all apes. But we are great apes! The great apes constitutes a smaller taxonomic group. Maybe we should look at the great apes only and forget the gibbons and siamangs.

OK, when we do that, we are looking at orangs, gorillas, chimps, and bonobos. Orangs have a very high level of sexual dimorphism, are primarily vegetarian, and the most typical form of sexual interaction is either forced copulation (rape) or females swooning over gigantic, and presumably very sexy, but rare, super males. All offspring care is female. In fact, the largest social group among these apes is the mother and offspring with a random male busy raping the female while the offspring hangs out on a nearby branch eating some wild figs. Gorillas also have a high level of dimorphism in body size, but live in large groups with the key group structure consisting of a silver back male and a harem of females who are totally devoted to and sexually monogamous with the male until a lone silver back starts to show up and kill the female’s infant offspring now and then. When that happens, the females join the infanticidal male and abandoned their devoted and gentle silver back.

These two apes provide very different models, but are similar in that females are either raped or have their children killed (and they can stop that by joining the killer) and when push comes to shove, the enormously large males get to do all the pushing. This would suggest that humans get comfortable with a very male dominated society and that the females should just get in line. Fast.

But hold on, we are much much more closely related to the chimpanzees … common chimp and bonobo … than to these other apes. So let’s look at their lifestyle.

Both groups have the unusual and interesting feature of adult and potentially sexually mature males and females living in the same group. When a female is in a state of ovulation, she also enters a state of estrus … the visible display of ovulation. Some of the males may be forced to not mate with this female (forced by dominant males) but for the most part every male mates with such a female. Over time, all of the females go into estrus one or two at a time. So, over the course of a few years, every single male will eventually have potentially baby-making sex with every female. This is done in the form of giant orgies in which only one female participates.

That is true for common chimps, but it is also true for bonobos, with an added twist. All the chimps have lots of what I will call erotic interaction all the time, including auto erotic. But for bonobos, there is the added feature of almost every possible gender and age combination of erotic interaction, and every combination of body part interaction. So a young female may provide oral sex to an older male. An older male may provide oral sex to a young male. Two adult females may engage in genital-genital rubbing. And so on and so forth. Young male chimps do not seem to have sex with their mothers. Otherwise, pretty much every combination happens.

So, given the chimp model, we should all be bisexual and disregard age of our sexual partners. Almost all baby making sex should involve a gang bang lasting several days. We should have strong male hierarchies and female hierarchies that determine, ultimately, who gets to be the father of each child (more or less) not by who has sex with whom, but by regulating exactly when in the ovulatory cycle intromissive sex with male orgasm happens. If we lean towards the common chimp model, all males should be dominant over all females. If we lean towards the bonobo model, all females should be dominant over all males.

So, that is the sum of our naturalistic models … where they come from and how we might use them … assuming that our evolutionary heritage, our phylogenetic framework, our Darwinian determinism, should provide us with the best naturalistic guidance.

But hold on one more time: There is another thing we should think about in building our naturalistic model: Birds.

We might be mammals, but we act like birds. Like chimps, we exist in societies with multiple potentially sexually mature males and females. But we tend to pair bond (or nearly so) within this framework. In this sense, we are very different than our closest living mammal relatives (who, by the way, are relatively very distant in relationship compared to many other pairs of species!). We are not that closely related to birds, but if we look at a wide range of human societies who are known to live off the land (‘preagricultural’ groups, either in the present or ethnohistorically known), we see that human societies are often very close to bird societies. We have some kind of monogamy that occasionally develops into a bit of polyandry (like traditional Tibetan highland groups and the phalaropes (birds) of the arctic) or a bit of polygyny (like many cattle keeping groups or the oft-studied oft-cited red winged blackbirds and many other birds). But even in societies that do allow polygyny, most families are based on monogamy, though it is serial monogamy (like the vast majority of bird species including almost all song birds). Yet, when certain economic features … like land (nesting sites) and professional or social milieu (territories) are essential to status and wealth, we have very long term monogamous systems in humans such as the immutable Christian Victorian marriage (or in birds the life long bonding of raptors). In all cases, there is a LOT of care invested in offspring, and males and females deliver similar levels … and in some species very similar kinds … of this care in birds. In humans, there is also considerable care in offspring but … alas … we are mammals so males can’t nurse the young, and this starts a cascade of male-female differences. Perhaps females care for the young directly while the males busy themselves defending the territory.

Why, it is rather remarkable how birds map human variation in society in so many ways. But not all. Birds rarely live in tightly knit, spatially close groups of sexually active pairs. One example of this is nesting sea birds like gulls and terns. And for gulls and terns, the big risk with respect to producing offspring is not so much that your neighbor has slept with your mate. Rather, the risk is that your neighbor eats your babies when you are distracted. Happens all the time with those creatures.

Dear reader, if you are still with me (and I would understand if you’ve gotten bored or frustrated and gone away by now) then you can easily see this point: We have a rich supply of models from which we can draw naturalistic conclusions, and these models can be used to ‘justify’ or explain almost anything.

A better question might be: What is the premise we choose, as a society, to be the basis of our ethical and moral codes, our laws, etc.? For many people, this premise is mutualism. We agree to equality of all individuals (with special exceptions). This equality does not mean individuals are identical. Indeed, there may be categorical differences among groups. Females do have babies, males do not. But equal rights are to be preserved.

This does not mean that the naturalistic consideration goes away. What it should mean is that naturalistic models can not be used to justify systematic social, cultural, legal, economic, philosophical, or political inequalities. But they can be used, if used properly (and that is an academic, not political issue), to explain some things. In my opinion, we are very very far from being able to explain much with what we currently know, and certainly not at the pop psychology level seen in the comments cited above.

But I do want to make an attempt at a naturalistic consideration of modern human society with respect to two realities. One, females have the babies and males do not, and two, males tend to be more violent and aggressive than females.

The fundamental reality of these propositions needs to be tested first. Do the females really have the babies, and what does this mean? Well, it is not so simple. For the most part, females do have the babies but with modern approaches it is possible and indeed quite common, and in some cases, necessary, for males to have much more input in offspring care in humans than one might otherwise predict from a purely naturalistic model. For example … and very few people know this, and learning this is your reward for sticking with me this far along in this post … I personally fed my daughter for her entire nursing period. I held her, I gave her the milk, we stared into each other’s eyes and bonded, the whole nine yards. Not her mother. Me. So, while the female clearly has a major biological commitment to the process, it is not as absolute as one might assume.

With respect to male violence and aggression: Margaret Mead was wrong but not totally wrong. Males are always, without exception, more violent and aggressive, on average (and bigger and stronger too) than the females in the same society. But the absolute level of aggression and violence among both males and females is highly variable to the extent that there are societies with females who are more violent and aggressive than the males in other societies. Most importantly, the level of difference between males and females in a given society … and especially the level of male control over females … varies greatly. There are societies in which there is very little difference between males and females, and there are societies in which the difference is great. Americans: You live in a society where the difference is considerable, more than the average. That is not how it has to be.

So, with respect to our individual selfish Darwinian reproductive goals, our broader social (territorial, economic, etc.) goals, and our cultural fixations, babies and aggression are both important. Offspring are our Darwinian legacy; sons are guns; little girls grow up and give their parents more Darwins (a unit of fitness). Sexual access must be ensured and paternity managed. Territory must be held, resources protected. And so on.

The problem is that only the ladies can have the babies, and it mainly falls to the gents to be the tough guys. On top of this, when a woman has a child she may fall short in some other responsibilities such as carrying all the firewood and water and other physically demanding tasks (as occur in most societies where women do the vast majority of hard labor). For their part, this aggressiveness of males comes in handy for defending the group territory, but becomes a nuisance when male aggression turns to beating, raping, murdering, and threatening others, mainly women.

So how do we deal with this? Start out by admitting that we as a society owe women a great deal for being the baby bearers. It is hard, painful, and you can die doing it. But no. In our society, we take away a woman’s rights because she is the baby bearer. She is paid less, and as our commenter above suggests, her value is diminished.

..hiring a woman in a job involves the risk that she will be unable to work if she gets pregnant. The “worth” of that employee is thus modified as a result….

We also deal with this by admitting that aggressive male approaches are not necessarily a good thing. Yes, it may be true that “… men … earn money … for status, and not for consumption.” But that would be because men are being assholes. If it is true that “…being more aggressive, more ambitious, more authoritative, more psychopathic, less caring of others are ‘qualities’ that are sought in CEOs..” then we have to stop doing that. We have to stop seeking and rewarding those qualities.

Compensation works both ways. We must compensate, as a society, for the burden of our evolutionary past as manifest differentially by gender. Our behavior is flexible, and thus it is incumbent on our society to attenuate violent leanings. Childbearing is fundamental and essential but cannot be totally outsourced by the women who do it. Punishing women for having this responsibility is exactly the opposite of what we should do.

A review of our evolutionary context is interesting to me (it is what my professional research life is entirely about) and this context is causative. But a realistic look at our evolutionary biology does not give any simple answers, and never, ever does it provide justification for unfairness or violence.

There is a reason they call it the Naturalistic Fallacy.


1The entire conversation related to the evolutinoary context of modern human health and behavior can be researched by beginning with the work of Eaton, Konner and Shostack and working backwards and forwards from there. Here are two of the key references to get your started.

ResearchBlogging.orgS Eaton (2003). An evolutionary perspective on human physical activity: implications for health Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology – Part A: Molecular & Integrative Physiology, 136 (1), 153-159 DOI: 10.1016/S1095-6433(03)00208-3

Eaton, S. Boyd, Konner, Melvin (1985). Paleolithic nutrition: A Consideration of its nature and current implications. New England Journal of Medicine, 312 (5), 283-289

2The origin of the phrase to be “called on the carpet” or “called out on the carpet” is controversial. If you “Google” it you will find a number of explanations, all of which refer to a time that post dates the 16th century, when the term “on the carpet” or “of the carpet” was already in use to refer to knights or nobles who had both status of pleasure in the king’s court or who were hanging around in the king’s court and not ‘afield’ (searching for grails, or whatever). I was told by a scholar of the middle ages, in or about 1977 (before the internet) that “to be called on the carpet” referred to the circumstance when a person of noble status was either lashed or beheaded by a victor following said Noble’s loss of honor in battle. As a person of noble status, such an individual, by the laws of chivalry, was allowed to be beheaded on a carpet as a symbol of his status. So, apparently, the beheading part is retained in it’s modern (though metaphorical) use, while the noble status part is dropped.

Comments

  1. #1 Mike Haubrich, FCD
    December 31, 2008

    I’m glad that I read all the way through this for the “reward.” I had the same experience with my son. Part of it had to do with the fact that his Mom is a much heavier sleeper than I am, but also because she did her duty for a year as the breadwinner while I stayed home as a housedad.

    I wish I could have done that with his sisters, but, well, there you have it.

    Naturalism is a potential source of guidance for our behavior, morals, ethics, and other more mundane decisions such as how to build an airplane and what to eat for breakfast.1 When it comes to airplanes, you’d better be a servant to the rules of nature or the airplane will go splat.

    This beaut is now in rotation as a quote on my blog.

  2. #2 Lisa
    December 31, 2008

    Thank you so much for writing this! It so nicely illustrates a fantastic point. I printed it off so as to assign it in my Debating Controversial Issues in Sexuality class next semester.

  3. #3 M.Schirmer
    December 31, 2008

    Where is the choice in this “inequality”; or is there none ?
    Is it forced ?
    Just wondering in New Years Eve.

  4. #4 Jonathan Simmons
    December 31, 2008

    Wow, this is an amazing post, one of the best I’ve read on your blog.

  5. #5 Aaron Luchko
    December 31, 2008

    I think those comments weren’t far off the mark.

    At the end of the day there are two possibilities for why men earn more than women.

    1) There is unjustified discrimination.

    2) For a variety of reasons, possibly the ones listed as comments, men in the workforce are able to produce more value than women.

    I suspect the latter reason has a bigger effect than the former. It is true women bear a big burden in the bearing and raising of children. However, they also gain additional compensation, men are expected to provide more and to work longer hours to provide extra value to the household instead of spending it with their children. In addition with custody battles women have a significant advantage in gaining custody of the children (and possible continued monetary support while the man has lost most of the benefits).

    As for your statement
    “If it is true that “…being more aggressive, more ambitious, more authoritative, more psychopathic, less caring of others are ‘qualities’ that are sought in CEOs..” then we have to stop doing that. We have to stop seeking and rewarding those qualities.”

    What if those qualities are actually valuable in CEOs and other managerial positions?

    The fact is that capitalism is extremely efficient at distributing resources and assigning value. When you start interfering with that function there will be a cost.

    If there is actual evidence that women are under compensated for their work than an organization should be able to do quite well hiring away those undervalued assets. But if they are on average compensated appropriately for their labour than artificially seeking an equivalence through some kind of law will cost everybody.

  6. #6 Julie Stahlhut
    December 31, 2008

    Greg, this is a terrific post. Thanks!

  7. #7 Ethylene
    December 31, 2008

    “never, ever does [evolutionary biology] provide justification for unfairness or violence.”

    Hi Greg. You could have concluded this pretty quickly without the whole spiel before it!

    For one thing, because if something is “justified” then by definition it’s not unfair.

    And for another, meta-ethical, thing, because factual premises alone can’t ground normative conclusions. I.e., nothing you can say about what the world is like can, by itself, yield morals or values or commandments, etc.. That’s a fair staple of ethics 101 and I haven’t found a convincing refutation.

    If you’re interested in the moral consequences of evolution, you’ve got to combine your values with your view of the facts, and see what you get. If you’re down with liberty and human equality then I don’t think you’ll get many problematic moral consequences from current evo-socio-anthro thinking.

    Though you might get a bit more pessimistic about society realising your values.

    Sorry that I haven’t read the entire thing here, but I have read a bit on this topic.

    I hope you don’t mind if I name-drop a recent book that I think makes a very effective and balanced case for natural sex differences (at least to an amateur like me): Anne Campbell’s “A mind of her own: The evolutionary psychology of women”.

    IMO even in a society that substantially realises equal freedoms and opportunities for all, you would likely still see macro-level differences between men and woman as groups. E.g. in self-chosen work/family-life balance.

    I reckon there are lots of things that will still show a macro-level imbalance between the sexes, as long as the sexes are free and equal. It’s the “free and equal” bit that matters, not any commitment to sexually balanced outcomes if that’s not where people’s free and equal choices lead.

    Anyway, HNY.

  8. #8 daedalus2u
    December 31, 2008

    One of the things that I have struggled with trying to understand is why violence against women increases when she is pregnant. That includes violence by the male who got her pregnant; that includes her relatives (especially male). In some places this behavior is virtually universal and is considered completely natural. I looked and was unable to find any examples of this type of behavior in any other mammals.

    I was only able to come up with 2 possible explanations. The first is that the violence epigenetically programs the fetus to be more violent and to be better able to cope with a more violent environment. Violence does decrease NO, and so will cause neuronal hyperplasia (a larger brains). Larger brains are observed in animals exposed to violence/stress in utero. Violence against women by their partners does increase during their economic hard times. There has been some work suggesting that there is an association with a specific monoamine oxidase genotype; MAOA and a susceptibility to be more susceptible to the cycle of violence (that is exposure to violence as a child being associated with violence as an adult). It turns out that the MAOA gene is on the X chromosome so a male fetus would have a 50% chance of having the same MAOA genotype as his mother’s father and as his uncles (her brothers). Cultures where there is the most violence against women also tend to have the most violence and where the epigenetic programming of a more violent phenotype would be advantageous.

    The other possible explanation is to reduce birth weight. Violence against pregnant women is associated with reduced birth weight, and birth weight is associated with cephalopelvic disproportion, which before the 20th century was essentially universally fatal for the fetus and often fatal for the mother. Having the crap beat out of you and surviving a first birth is a lot better than dying of cephalopelvic disproportion. This might explain why a woman’s relatives might have more incentive to be violent against her than the father of her fetus. The father has a large investment in this particular pregnancy because he is the father. He might not be the father the next time she gets pregnant. Her relatives are more interested in the total number of children she has over her entire reproductive lifetime, not just this pregnancy. The father wouldn’t want to induce premature birth before the fetus is viable.

    I am not saying that any of these are conscious plans.

    In no way, shape, or form am I suggesting or implying that violence against women is ever justified. I believe it is never justified. It may explain why it is so difficult to deal with. It may help explain why victims sometimes act the way they do.

  9. #9 Courtney Ostaff
    December 31, 2008

    Nicely done! I’m curious about what you think of Sarah Blaffer Hrdy’s work, or Lise Eliot, Margot Sunderland, Sue Gerhardt, Meredith Small, Alison Gopnik, and so on. It’s really difficult to find parenting information that isn’t “common sense” or “expert”-driven.

  10. #10 khan
    December 31, 2008

    I am a heterosexual female, never wanted or had children, glad that contraception and abortion are legal, value the ability to get an education and support myself and have sex with a consenting adult on my (and his) terms.

  11. #11 Mike Haubrich, FCD
    December 31, 2008

    Aaron, my (unscientifically tested) observation is that in economic matters, humans do not actively accept the dictates of “The Invisible Hand.” We overrule the Hand with our cultural biases. An easy example of this was the division of retail services between “White” and “Colored” in the Apartheid State of South Africa as well as in the United States. Sellers declined to do business not on the basis of economic self-interest but because of social pressure and/or personal belief in the division of races.

    The differential in pay is all ready artificial because the basic rules of compensation for labor are violated for the reasons Greg outlined above.

    An additional point if I may:

    Regarding the idea that the situation will sort itself in the marketplace of recruitment. We have a culture of compensation secrecy, so if an HR recruiter spots a talented woman at a different organization, what is to stop the recruiter from being “magnanimous” enough to offer the talent a %10 icrease to entice that person to move? They will still save money, and create the illusion that both parties are “winning.” The talent is still being treated unfairly, right?

  12. #12 jay
    December 31, 2008

    There is a difference between legal equality (which should be a given), and identical behavior and results (which doesn’t happen). No one of either gender be coerced by society to behave ‘appropriately’ to that gender. But it should not be surprising that on the overall the genders have very different priorities.

    Males and females (on overall) optimze very differently because the payoffs are different. A male that takes advantage of opportunistic ‘outside’ matings gets more copies of his genes into the next generation, a female does not. Is it surprising that men are more likely to persue fleeting relationships? It’s currently in vogue to condemn male aggressiveness (I’m not talking about pathological aggressive violence), but in evolutionary time frames that behavior did probably protect the interests of the troupe.

    I came of age in the 60’s, and lived through (and tried to adopt) the first wave of feminism. Equal rights was a no brainer, but the belief at the time that we were all identical except for socialization (somehow enforced by a ‘male agenda’–which is hard to rationalize with the concept that we are really identical) caused me no end of internal stress. At some point, I began, finally, to not be ashamed of being a male, that treating women with respect and consideration did not require me to pretend to be a woman. We are all a product of our evolution, with baggage both good and bad and it’s up to us pick the good parts and still be true to ourselves.

    We must compensate, as a society, for the burden of our evolutionary past as manifest differentially by gender.

    I think we part company here. You seem to be calling for a kind of ‘male guilt’, and instead of equality, you are advocating a new inequality. Pulling us even farther from our evolutionary roots is a mistake. Evolution does not entible me to be a jerk, but I do not need to apologize for who I am.

  13. #13 Ana
    December 31, 2008

    Great post, Greg – I loved ALL of it!

    Reading the comments of Aaron Luchko, son of Bjorn Ostman (I get the feeling they tagged-out here – though Luchko adds to the elder’s “aggressive, more ambitious, more authoritative, more psychopathic, less caring of others” bent by issuing threats against your “interfering with” the “function” of capitalism with such a post!), I wonder if the discussion here is more a naturalistically-veiled argument against that “premise of mutualism” you mention?

    I also think it is important that you touch on the variation across human societies with regard to gender equity, and hope to hear more from one of your French readers, maybe, about how we Stone Aged Americans could find solutions to our Mommy Problem?

  14. #14 Stacy S.
    December 31, 2008

    Wow!!
    ” But for bonobos, there is the added feature of almost every possible gender and age combination of erotic interaction, and every combination of body part interaction. So a young female may provide oral sex to an older male. An older male may provide oral sex to a young male. …”

    Who knew?? Not me, that’s for sure. I thought oral sex was entirely “man” made. :-)

    Sorry for zoning in on the sex part! The rest of the post was beautiful as well.

    I wish my husband would have woken up for midnight feedings – that would have been awesome, but he did change the diapers for the first couple of weeks because I was afraid to hurt the baby. (and the umbilical cord freaked me out a little)

    Happy New Year!!

    Stacy

  15. #15 Sean Nicolle
    December 31, 2008

    “# Is every way we treat the two genders differently insulting? Why stop at 24% lower salary? How about holding the door for the weaker sex? How about only women getting to improve their daily look with make-up, while men doing it are ridiculed? Why must the stronger sex always carry all the groceries?”

    The differential in which men are expected to carry groceries or not do make up is maintained by men themselves. There is the factor of choice. Women do not have a choice of taking the same job for a higher or lower salary. Men can choose whether or not to hold open doors for women. If they do not have the desire to hold open a door for a woman, and find themselves doing it because of social expectations, they have their own weak wills to blame.

    # Is paying men and women equally really fair? Women and men are different, have different strengths and advantages, and different limitations. Those are obviously a very large part of the reason why salaries are skewed.

    All people have different strengths and limitations, inter and intra gender. As our society develops and begins to eliminate the artificially man-imposed boundaries between the sexes, we see where the real differences lie: there is no genetic predisposition associated with either sex for a higher capacity in almost any career or position.

  16. #16 Courtney Ostaff
    January 1, 2009

    Capitalism depends on the unpaid domestic labor of women in the home. See also: The Feminine Economy and Economic Man – By Shirley P. Burggraf-Addison-Wesley, 1997

  17. #17 Aaron Luchko
    January 1, 2009

    Ana,

    I’m afraid I didn’t get the Bjorn reference but I want to explore the “premise of mutualism” a bit.

    What does it mean to “agree to the equality of all individuals”? I think it’s right to say everyone should be treated according to their ability. I’m not going to claim I’m the equal of an Einstein, Marie Curie, or even an Eliezer Yudkowsky, furthermore any system that says I am their equal is flawed and is in fact bad for me as it removes my motivation to improve myself. Of course if one determined value through curling I’d whoop em all!

    Mike,

    That’s a valid point with the comparison to racial discrimination which is why I think it’s important to see how much of the effect is pure sex discrimination and how much is based on actual economics.

    Though while on that comparison I think one should include affirmative action and in fact I don’t think affirmative action is actually a good strategy. I actually saw a study referenced that determined that affirmative action had actually reduced the number of black lawyers, the reason being that it allowed an average student, who would normally go to an average law school, to instead go to a top school on the basis of them being black. Naturally at the top school the competition was much stronger and they had a higher drop out rate. I don’t think the reason racism is dying is because businesses can’t discriminate, I think it’s because society decreed it to be completely unacceptable.

    I really think of capitalism as a bit like memetics, successful business models will replicate and there’s no need for an external intelligent designer. In general I think that government interference in the economy should be restrained to scenarios where there are real externalities at work and I’m not convinced this is one of those scenarios.

    I would love if we could remove all inequalities from the workforce with one fell swoop, but I just don’t think it’s possible.

    Frankly a lot of Greg’s post seems to me as rationalizations for the reality he wants.

    My honest opinion is that the left has an unfortunate habit of viewing business as a bit of a bottomless piggy-bank that one can reach into to smooth out perceived inequalities and no one will notice the missing cash. It reminds me of fire departments who lower fitness requirements for female applicants ignoring that the fire doesn’t care what your gender is. These factors don’t go away in other professions, they just get more abstract which is why we need capitalism to detect them. When you meddle you get unintended consequences such as missing black lawyers.

  18. #18 Moody834
    January 1, 2009

    Bravo! Well said and thought provoking. Thanks for writing it.

  19. #19 Paul Battley
    January 1, 2009

    Excellent piece. One corrigendum:

    We have some kind of monogamy that occasionally develops into a bit of polygyny (like traditional Tibetan highland groups and the phalaropes (birds) of the arctic) or a bit of polygyny (like many cattle keeping groups or the oft-studied oft-cited red winged blackbirds and many other birds)

    I think you meant to type polyandry the first time, rather than ‘a bit of polygyny [...] or a bit of polygyny’.

  20. #20 anand
    January 1, 2009

    It is a fake capitalism that doesn’t recognize the domestic labour of anybody man or woman……………
    Ayn Rand makes it very clear in her novel “Atlas shrugged”..
    While Dagny Chooses to cook at Galt’s gulch…… it is made explicitly as a job to earn her keep there…… In our society it is not made explicit and therefore leads to trouble……..:P

  21. #21 Greg Laden
    January 1, 2009

    Aaron: Thanks for the comments.

    Regarding differences: Please note that I did not suggest that there were not any. I’m not talking about ideal jobs for people. I’m talking about rights and presumptions, and the erasure, because it is the right thing to so, of a priori sexist rules and behaviors. My arguments are not being designed to support my point of view. My point of view is very simple: Basic equality. I don’t need to support it. It is an a priori assumption and it happens to be the constitutional guarantee in the system of government I live in (and similarly, for many others). The biological discussion in this post is designed to address the biological argument for gender inequality (thus the title of the post) and to show that it is a spurious, pick and chose, post hoc argument that has no real meaning the way it is generally applied, has no use for determining a priori rights, but can be used if further refined to help explain certain things, like why women are generally much much less criminal than women and why women are generally smarter than men (based on college test scores).

    Sure, treat Einstein as an extra smart guy if you want, me, you, or Ana are not going to get the job of theoretical physisist, but if we did, we should each have equal pay, or more to the point, gender should not be used to determine that the females get lower pay because they are females.

    You are falsely shifting this argument to one of equality in performance and ability and other traits, and at the same time, trying to continue the strength of predictable differences based on gender. There may well be gender related factors overall, as there are also age related factors, etc., but in a fair world individuals get to work that out on an individual bases, as it should be, because intra-gender variation is huge.

    Indeed, there is more intra-gender variation in psychopathy among males than there is intra-gender variation in business acumen in females, but the argument has been made that occasional psychopathy among males somehow qualifies males generally to get 24% more pay than females generally. In what way can this argument NOT be seen as a mere power/money grab by males and nothing more?

    I’d bet that firefighters will usually be men but a woman who heads in that direction should not be stopped a priori because of her gender. Jobs like firefighting are gendered in more ways than one, but we can as a society lift the selfishly motivated patriarchal male-favoring unnecessary bullshit and let the kick-ass women who can handle hoses and ladders as well as the tub-bellied aerobically challenged guy standing standing in line next to her at the dunkin-donuts.

    (Have you ever been to a fire? An actual fire with actual firemen, most middle age and obese and letting (rightly so) the machines do most of the work for them? The myth of physical fitness = fire fighting = men is stale. Back when the standards were being ‘lowered’ it is also true that artificial increased enforcement of standards was employed for women applicants to avoid letting them in the companies. The whole fire department thing really is a loss leader to a broader argument.)

  22. #22 Xavier
    January 1, 2009

    Gender bias as a form of profiling is never efficient in a Human Resources setting. Those who insist on it are never those actually involved in carrying out the task of hiring people.

  23. #23 jim
    January 1, 2009

    We might be mammals, but we act like birds.

    which kind of obviates (which I guess is your point) the whole idea of using species models to predict human behavior

  24. #24 Ken Hirsch
    January 1, 2009

    (Have you ever been to a fire? An actual fire with actual firemen, most middle age and obese and letting (rightly so) the machines do most of the work for them? The myth of physical fitness = fire fighting = men is stale.

    That’s not what I’ve seen. I’ve seen firefighters in heavy protective gear carrying heavy equipment doing hard physical labor.

    The whole fire department thing really is a loss leader to a broader argument.

    Huh? I’m not even sure what that’s supposed to mean, but it sounds like you support lowering standards just because this may be one job where reality does not conform to your ideas of fairness.

    I’m all for treating individuals with equal qualifications equally, but you’ve lost me if you’re trying to reduce valid job requirements to get group outcomes that you consider fairer.

  25. #25 AnnieT
    January 1, 2009

    *I am not going to fault the person who has made these remarks.*

    OK, I’ll take your word for that!

  26. #26 Greg Laden
    January 1, 2009

    Ken: You are misrepresenting or misunderstanding what i am saying. I believe that you wan to paint part of my argument as unfair or inaccurate because you really want to reject the whole thing out of hand.

    Sorry, you can’t get away with that right here in the comments of the actual post. If you want to do that you need to go somewhere where I can’t see you!

    I do not think that fire departments should have standards that are not appropriate for the job. I also think that they should a) not raise standards moments before a round of trials for women or b) have standards that are not enforced for male members. Do you have a problem with either of those assertions?

    You watch too much TV and attend too few actual fires, perhaps.

  27. #27 Joshua Herring
    January 1, 2009

    Does anyone have any numbers on the total amount of money paid by men to women as alimony and child support? Those strike me as a built-in legal compensation mechanism of the kind suggested by Dr. Laden for the “burden of our evolutionary past.” It would be interesting to take the total dollar amount of alimony plus child support paid by men to women, subtract from it the total dollar amount paid by women to men, and see how much of the wage gap that accounts for.

    In response to this last comment from Dr. Laden:

    My point of view is very simple: Basic equality. I don’t need to support it. It is an a priori assumption and it happens to be the constitutional guarantee in the system of government I live in (and similarly, for many others).

    You don’t need to defend “basic equality,” no – that’s fair enough as an “a priori assumption.” But you do need to defend your choice of measurements for equality and any proposed remedies to the problem you put forth. IN particular in this case, simply averaging up the amount of money that women earn in a profession and the amount that men earn in the same profession and noticing that one is higher than the other is a pretty crude metric, and it does not follow from it as stated that systematic discrimination of the kind you are concerned with is taking place. All it really means is that an aggregate of individually-negotiated price contracts came out that way – one has to dig further to make any pronouncements as to the cause. Properly speaking, the manager at a paper clip factory is not paying anyone to have babies or go off to military service – he is paying them to make paper clips. Being off of the job for 9 months to act as an incubator – or being off the job for 9 months to act as a draw for sniper fire – is not furthering the factory’s goal of producing paper clips. It seems irrational to expect the factory to pay the same wages to people who are absent for significant periods of time pursuing goals other than making paper clips at the same rate that it compensates people who were there all the while helping the compnay profit. Such externalities are not properly addressed by individual employers, but by more global mechanisms, I should think.

    The institution of marriage is the compensation mechanism for child rearing. Perhaps that institution is broken currently and needs fixing – that’s a different discussion. The point is that the person who is responsible for compensating a woman for having a child is not her employer, but rather her husband. Or – naturally in those increasingly common cases where the woman earns more than her husband, it could be the woman who compensates the husband for staying at home and raising the child. (Fill in similar qualfiers for same-sex couples, etc.) Child rearing IS an inefficiency from the point of view of making paper clips (growing food, whatever). Part of the purpose of the economic system is to designate tasks to those people who are best fit to achieve them. If there are some tasks that women are better at than men (for example, in my experience, women are better at learning foreign languages and thus probably make better translators), then we would expect an aggregate of economic employment decisions to result in a situation where more women are employed in these professions than men. Likewise for those professions where men are in generally better disposed to the task than women. A rational economy will not pay people who are primarily engaged in reproduction as though they were engaged in another activity (like making paper clips, to continue the previous example). Just as compensation for producing paper clips is paid by the people who care about that (i.e. the people who buy the paper clips and the managers of the companies that most successfully/efficiently produce them), compensation for having babies is best paid by the people who care about THAT (i.e. the parents of the children in question).

    I would not consider it a social problem if I were to discover that there are some professions for which women are better compensated than men; I would require more evidence before coming to such a conclusion. The null hypothesis in these cases is simply that women were, generally speaking, better suited to the task than men for whatever reason. The burden of proof is on the person claiming discrimination, and it is a burden that has not been met here.

    So yes, I think it is fair to take equality as an a priori assumption. But there are some dots that still need connecting. “Equality” is a nebulous term that covers a much wider scope than simply employment compensation, and I think you do need to justify your choice of equality metrics – in particular your exclusion of other potential such metrics (in this case, for example, why not correct for things like alimony, and why measure compensation in terms of individuals rather than households?) – and certainly you need to justify any proposed remedies.

  28. #28 Jennifer B.
    January 1, 2009

    Greg,

    Fantastic post. Thank you for taking the time to write this; you summed up much more clearly what I was trying to get across on the other thread.

  29. #29 Greg Laden
    January 1, 2009

    Joshua: I have not proposed a metric or used one, nor have I specified a remedy.

    I do not agree that if, for instance, child support equaled a differential in pay due to gender that things equal out. That is not how HR law works. In fact, it is rather an absurd idea that this would be considered and is akin to our original commenter’s idea that he feels bad because of who usually gets custody and thus feels justified taking a bit extra out of female paychecks in general.

  30. #30 jr
    January 1, 2009

    “Free market capitalism is a form of naturalism.”

    Actually I think statism is a form of naturalism. In nature it is rare to see cooperation outside of small groups which is an important reason I think for the skepticism shown towards free market capitalism by many.

    I think the case of free trade is most obvious. Mercantilist views, despite their stupidity, are popular since they fit with the our implicit view of nature as one where are tribe must be the enemy of other tribes.

    In contrast the idea of mutually beneficial cooperation with strangers, that is the very basis of capitalism, is deeply unnatural.

  31. #31 Aquaria
    January 1, 2009

    The irony is that the advance of technology means that most jobs are definitely not exclusive to men or women. The number of gender oriented jobs is dwindling all the time, attitudes are changing about the nature of work, and thank goodness for that. Some of us remember when things were a lot different.

    My mother was a CRNA (nurse anesthetist) for about 35 years. When she first got her license, it was common for a man to come into the job at a higher pay rate than hers, regardless of his experience or qualifications, and for my mother to get told that he deserved better pay, hours and promotions because, well, he was a man and therefore had a family that needed him. It didn’t matter if she had been doing the job longer or well.

    Never mind that Mom was a single parent of three children and caretaker of her elderly parents. She worked for about 60% of what a male co-worker earned (which only got worse when men passed her up for promotions), and she got all the weekend call. Unpaid leave? Vacations? Don’t make me laugh! We didn’t go on vacations, and forget taking unpaid leave. She couldn’t afford to do either when she was getting shafted with her pay! Re-marriage later in her career didn’t change any of that, although how she found time to have a love life amazes me.

    Anyway, the job required things like science/technical knowledge, the ability to stand on one’s feet for prolonged times, good patient relations, etc. Maybe the science/technology thing was “traditional” male ability, but the good patient relations thing was definitely considered a traditional “female ability. So it evened out. Ergo, the unequal pay had zero to do with the job and everything to do with sexist notions about work.

  32. #32 clinteas
    January 1, 2009

    Equal skills,equal pay,I fail to see what the big deal is.

    And as to “naturalism”,is that like me going to the nude beach on the weekend?

  33. #33 jay
    January 1, 2009

    Capitalism depends on the unpaid domestic labor of women in the home.

    Actually, civilization as a whole depends on the ‘unpaid’ domestic labor (by whomever) in the home. Without that labor, human society, with its long reproductive cycles, would fail. Successfully bringing the next generation to adulthood is hardly “unpaid”

  34. #34 jay
    January 1, 2009

    (Have you ever been to a fire? An actual fire with actual firemen, most middle age and obese and letting (rightly so) the machines do most of the work for them?

    I suspect your perception of reality is molded by ideology.

    Many fires are relatively easy. You never know when the hard one will occur.

    Much of the equipment (including protective and breathing equipment) is very heavy. Try walking around with 75-100 lbs of load, and managing heat and stress.

    Occasionally (at unpredictable times) it is a matter of life and death to carry someone out of danger. To require that a firefighter be able to do that regardless of gender is not disciminatory.

    Perhaps one of the reasons it does not seem so hard to you is that the professionals (regardless of gender) actually have the strenght and skill to make it look easy.

  35. #35 Greg Laden
    January 1, 2009

    Jay: You are falling into the same trap, or perhaps trying to bring others there. Where have I claimed that we should hire unqualified fire fighters? I have not. Where have I said firefighting is not hard? It can be very hard. It is a job with many facets. I have known several people in the business, of both genders, and I think few would see this conversation as particularly relevant or interesting.

  36. #36 Lisa Palmer Fleming
    January 1, 2009

    Why does “naturalism” choose a male vs female dichotomy? That prescribes a completely UNnatural viewpoint. It is clear now that gender is a genetic spectrum, not “either/or”. More interesting to me is why people are compelled to simplify everything in the world, to round off the edges and corners. So many peoples’ brains are filled with (as Malvina Reynolds wrote) “little boxes made of ticky tacky and they all look just the same”

  37. #37 Greg Laden
    January 1, 2009

    Lisa: I essentially agree with your point, but it is not true that there is a spectrum. Only metaphorically. There are many specific things that could be thought of as ‘gendered’ and any one of them by defnition has either a range of or two or more states, and the result is a very complex and divers set of possibilities. But, a) the range of actual probabilities of manefestation of each possibility is not uniform, and the b) there are two or three (or one or two, anyway) things that are inextricably binary.

    But yea, naturalism does not presume 2 genders if done right, but that is how it is usually done, and since it is an ineffective strategy, it is not surprising that it doin’ it wrong!

    Funny, we were just talking about Daly City the other day….

  38. #38 eduxrox
    January 1, 2009

    TX. I don’t often save blog entries in PDF format, but this one is a goldmine.

  39. #39 JuliaL
    January 1, 2009

    A really excellent post. Thanks.

    When I went to graduate school in 1964, I was hired as a teaching assistant. In those days, that meant actually teaching two freshman classes a semester while taking one’s own graduate classes.

    I had graduated from a small college in the same program at the same time as a close male friend. My grade average was considerably higher than his. I had specialized in the areas needed for teaching the freshman classes; he had not. My Graduate Record Exam scores were considerably higher than his. My references were better than his. We did exactly the same work. He was paid about a third more than I was because, as the male Department Head explained to me, “We always pay the men more than the girls.”

    Eventually I married and got pregnant. I missed no days of work during the pregnancy, not even when it went 19 days overdue. I worked on a Monday, had the baby on Tuesday, took four days of the two weeks of sick leave I had accumulated, went back to work the following Monday and missed no further work. I couldn’t afford it, as I was supporting myself, my child, and my husband (who was a graduate student but had not been hired as a teaching assistant.)

    My husband cared for our child during the twelve hours a week I was actually in class; I cared for our breastfed baby the rest of the time. No, my husband never fed the baby or got up with him at night. Nor did he clean the house or cook the meals, other than in a very occasional brief effort to “help” me with “my” responsibilities. Neither he nor I had ever known a man who did.

    Perhaps Aaron could explain to me just one more time why it was right and proper for me to be paid less than the males I worked with (90% of whom weren’t even married).

  40. #40 Tully
    January 1, 2009

    Reply from a Philosophical Naturalist.

    Greg, let me begin by saying I read your blog almost daily and it is one of my favorites. Having said that, I think in this post you have made a serious error that requires clarification. Using the term Naturalism to describe the position taken by the commenter in your blog is at best misleading and at worst insulting. There are many types of naturalisms out there with the one commonality being the denying of supernatural phenomena. The commenter’s world-view could be more accurately describe as Social Darwinism or Naturalistic Fallacism but in no way could be called Philosophical Naturalism. In fact, the naturalistic fallacy fits more easily within the framework of supernaturalism by invoking a consistent intelligent designer.

    Consequently, I would like to defend the good name of Metaphysical Naturalism by giving one Naturalist’s position on some of the questions posed in your post. As I mentioned, there are many types of naturalistic philosophies (for an excellent discussion, see John Shook?s site naturalisms.org) and I do not propose to speak for all or even any of them but merely give my position, which would be considered a form of pragmatic naturalism.

    Men, women and pay. That women in the United States, on average, are paid less than men is not conjecture, it is an undeniable fact. How does a Naturalist approach this fact? She asks, “Why”? and then gathers the data to determine the root causes. I don’t happen to have all the relevant data available to me but let’s look at two commonly stated reasons for the phenomena and one way a naturalist would suggest to respond to each.

    Women earn less for performing the same job. Then the only questions that are left are, “Are they performing at the same level and in the same fields?” If the answer to those questions is yes, then it is wrong! (The reasons why a naturalist would consider this wrong are numerous and beyond the scope of this reply). Because it is wrong it deserves to be corrected using the social, civil and criminal justice tools available to us.

    Women tend to go into fields that are valued less in the economy. Again, this leads to new questions. Is this do to social pressures or inherent differences (the data to date suggests some of both)? The answer to the social pressure cause is again to use the available tools to effect a change. No one should be discouraged from entering a career field based on gender. This would even be true if it were shown that, on average, one gender consistently out performed the other in the skills required for the job. You don’t interact with an individual based on statistical norms! On the other hand, you don’t deny the data because it is socially uncomfortable either. And that leads us to the second possible cause, “What if due to inherent brain differences women are much more likely to chose career fields that earn less?” Well, all other things being equal, there is not much that can be done about it. The possible solutions are wrought with moral hazards. Do you force women into fields that they have talents for but are uninterested in? Do we pay female nurses more than male nurses in an effort to equalize overall national pay? (I personally feel that the fields that women predominate in are highly undervalued such as primary and secondary education and the care of our children and elderly. But, I would argue this from a societal health standpoint and not from an equality of national pay).

    So, to quote Greg, “Naturalism works when it comes to behavior too, but there are consequences.” Yes there are. And I believe them to be good ones.

    Thank you for giving me an opportunity to reply.

  41. #41 Tully
    January 1, 2009

    Reply from a Philosophical Naturalist.

    Greg, let me begin by saying I read your blog almost daily and it is one of my favorites. Having said that, I think in this post you have made a serious error that requires clarification. Using the term Naturalism to describe the position taken by the commenter in your blog is at best misleading and at worst insulting. There are many types of naturalisms out there with the one commonality being the denying of supernatural phenomena. The commenter’s world-view could be more accurately describe as Social Darwinism or Naturalistic Fallacism but in no way could be called Philosophical Naturalism. In fact, the naturalistic fallacy fits more easily within the framework of supernaturalism by invoking a consistent intelligent designer.

    Consequently, I would like to defend the good name of Metaphysical Naturalism by giving one Naturalist’s position on some of the questions posed in your post. As I mentioned, there are many types of naturalistic philosophies (for an excellent discussion, see John Shook?s site naturalisms.org) and I do not propose to speak for all or even any of them but merely give my position, which would be considered a form of pragmatic naturalism.

    Men, women and pay. That women in the United States, on average, are paid less than men is not conjecture, it is an undeniable fact. How does a Naturalist approach this fact? She asks, “Why”? and then gathers the data to determine the root causes. I don’t happen to have all the relevant data available to me but let’s look at two commonly stated reasons for the phenomena and one way a naturalist would suggest to respond to each.

    Women earn less for performing the same job. Then the only questions that are left are, “Are they performing at the same level and in the same fields?” If the answer to those questions is yes, then it is wrong! (The reasons why a naturalist would consider this wrong are numerous and beyond the scope of this reply). Because it is wrong it deserves to be corrected using the social, civil and criminal justice tools available to us.

    Women tend to go into fields that are valued less in the economy. Again, this leads to new questions. Is this do to social pressures or inherent differences (the data to date suggests some of both)? The answer to the social pressure cause is again to use the available tools to effect a change. No one should be discouraged from entering a career field based on gender. This would even be true if it were shown that, on average, one gender consistently out performed the other in the skills required for the job. You don’t interact with an individual based on statistical norms! On the other hand, you don’t deny the data because it is socially uncomfortable either. And that leads us to the second possible cause, “What if due to inherent brain differences women are much more likely to chose career fields that earn less?” Well, all other things being equal, there is not much that can be done about it. The possible solutions are wrought with moral hazards. Do you force women into fields that they have talents for but are uninterested in? Do we pay female nurses more than male nurses in an effort to equalize overall national pay? (I personally feel that the fields that women predominate in are highly undervalued such as primary and secondary education and the care of our children and elderly. But, I would argue this from a societal health standpoint and not from an equality of national pay).

    So, to quote Greg, “Naturalism works when it comes to behavior too, but there are consequences.” Yes there are. And I believe them to be good ones.

    Thank you for giving me an opportunity to reply.

  42. #42 Aaron Luchko
    January 1, 2009

    I want to start a slight meta-discussion on my objective.

    I believe everyone should be compensated according to what they provide. If someone is being over or under compensated we must understand why, if it is due to discrimination we must fight it, and if it is due to biases we must discover and expose them.

    What I suggest is what I believe to be the best path toward this ideal.

    When discussing issues with others I find it useful to know their objective on the topic to know if just our approaches differ or if we are going to different destinations.

    anand,

    That’s a good point (I actually have about 100 pages left in Atlas Shrugged so don’t ruin the ending!). The value difference I’m talking about is in the work force, the amount of housework you do does not actually benefit your employer so I don’t think your employer should compensate you for that housework.

    If a compensation should be made to women for the additional work they do to maintain households and raise families that compensation should not come from employers but from their families.

    Greg,

    I’m not arguing that one should ignore unjust discrimination, certainly examples like Aquaria’s mother are deplorable.

    However, what I am arguing is the way to address in-equalities where they exist. The case of Aquaria’s mother was of someone being paid less than their ability demanded, for a firefighter on the other hand I don’t care what their gender is, as long as they can perform the job, if that entails a strong bias toward males that is reality. For unjust inequalities the burden lies not on government, but for people to explain the bias, for businesses to pay a fair wage, and for women to demand it

    As for current wage discrimination how much of that gap is for doing the same jobs? As someone from computer science it’s clear to me that there’s nothing wrong with female programmers, but there is a significant shortage of them. In general postsecondary education contains many more females in the arts and males in the sciences and engineering. I think the reasons for this are in large part to cultural, not biological (in many countries women outperform men in math). And in general arts degrees are valued less by the workforce meaning a lower average salary.

    Therefore, there is an inequality with a cultural basis, but it’s not in discrimination but rather in encouraging women to pursue less valuable lines of work.

    I think the biological argument is orthogonal to what I’m talking about, clearly there’s a lot of variation among other species but we’ve had several million years of tribal living to create out own patterns. And in general those patterns bias women toward caring for children and males toward acting as providers. Modern society has allowed us to erase much of this difference. But certainly some of it is innate and the key to success is not in fighting nature but exploiting it.

  43. #43 Anne Gilbert
    January 1, 2009

    Greg, you have written an extremely thought-provoking, yet informative post. I am really glad I took the time to read it. I’m still pondering a lot of this, but from some of the things I’ve seen on other venues where there is a strong interest in supposedly evolutionary traits(I say supposedly, because some of the traits, such as the fact that we are mammals, and primates, and closely related to great apes, are in fact, evolutionary), people who have such interests tend to fall into this naturalistic fallacy of assuming that it’s “natural” and therefore right to discriminate in some of the ways you have described.

    And while it’s true that toward the end of a pregnancy, a woman can’t or doesn’t always, do hard physcial labor, it’s also true, I think, that in many “traditional” societies, the pregnant woman also has helpers who can take on at least some of her duties, at least until she has the child and can come back to work. Even there, there may be a kind of “collective” of female relatives and associates who help out with a very young child. In more modern societies, the physical labor, in general, isn’t so hard, so theoretically, a woman can keep working practically until the day she gives birth. OTOH, she still needs a lot of extra care and feeding, and so does the child she produces. This is where an attentive partner comes in handy. She can’t do it all by herself, though she may find herself thinking she does. But that’s another story. To justify paying women(or anyone else, for that matter), less for their supposedly lost working value — which, in a “modern” ocntext, just doesn’t make sense — is idiotic at the very least. And it’s even more idiotic, IMO, to try to justify this by claiming there is an “evolutionary” reason for this. Yeah, evolution has designed the female half of society to get pregnant and care for kids, and that’s all well and good, because without at least some of this, the human race would have died out a long time ago. But culture modifies evolution. Surely these “naturalists” would understand this, you would think. Apparently, as you have shown, they don’t.
    Anne G

  44. #44 jay
    January 1, 2009

    As someone from computer science it’s clear to me that there’s nothing wrong with female programmers, but there is a significant shortage of them.

    At least the current generation of programmers are dominated by those whose developing years included obsessive amounts of time gaming and hacking their machines. This is a behvior that is far more common in boys than girls. So that is not surprising. It’s not about intellect, but about psychological orientation.

  45. #45 Stephanie Z
    January 1, 2009

    Therefore, there is an inequality with a cultural basis, but it’s not in discrimination but rather in encouraging women to pursue less valuable lines of work.

    I would like to take this opportunity to say, “What the fuck?!”

    Discrimination is not just barring the clubhouse door and leaning on it lest the women discover they’re strong enough to break in. Look at the word itself, Aaron (and others). Discrimination is treating people differently based on some characteristic, like gender, unrelated to the matters at hand. Looking at a little girl or a young woman and suggesting that she may not want to do something that the boys want to do is the definition of discrimination. Same with applying pressure to a guy who might want to go into art because he “might need to support a family some day.”

    Get off your asses, people, and challenge your assumptions every now and again. Stop assuming you’re a free-thinking radical just because you’re reading the same stupid book that has made legions of teenage boys feel like counterculture heroes for the last few decades. “It is the way it is and ever should be” is about as stolid and sheeplike a thought as this world has ever produced.

  46. #46 Distingué Traces
    January 1, 2009

    One thing we have seen this past year is how terribly wasteful and destructive the model of business based on the “aggressive CEO type” management style is for the economy.

    It is a deeply unrealistic fantasy that this behavior is useful in business or good for society – a story we use as cover for destructive behavior.

    Events have now torn off that cover. Will we continue to lie to ourselves in order to protect our bad habits?

  47. #47 Greg Laden
    January 1, 2009

    Tully:

    Thanks for the comments about naturalism. I’m sure you are correct in that I should have chosen a different term than naturalistic philosophy. If I revise this post (which is likely) I’ll update that part of it.

  48. #48 jay
    January 1, 2009

    Looking at a little girl or a young woman and suggesting that she may not want to do something that the boys want to do is the definition of discrimination

    If there’s coercion, yes. If people, as a group, gravitate one way or another, then no. At one time, back in the 70s it was assumed that boys and girls were almost interchangeable, and that society ‘made’ them different. Decades of educational experimentation (some ideologically driven) has pretty much ruled that out. While there are individuals of each gender who step outside the ‘norm’, it is virtually universal that boys socialize by competition, girls socialize by cooperation. Even very progressive parents I have known were amazed how their children, with ‘gender neutral’ upbringing, still cut their own path.

    No one conditions young people to drive recklessly, but young men do so far more aggressively than young women. This lack of concern for self is probably a throwback to young males challenging the older generation, establishing their own status. The ones most successful were often the ones most aggressive (when young) and they got to breed the next generation.

  49. #49 Stephanie Z
    January 1, 2009

    Jay, you’ve seen the research on how gender-neutral “gender-neutral” upbringings actually are, right? People do, in fact, excuse reckless behavior in males that they would not in females, even when they think they are treating people the same way. This stuff is pervasive and difficult to counter, but that’s still no excuse to say, “C’est la vie.”

  50. #50 Aaron Luchko
    January 1, 2009

    Stephanie,

    I think I either mis-communicated or you misread (possibly both as I typed much more than I intended).

    “Discrimination is treating people differently based on some characteristic, like gender, unrelated to the matters at hand. Looking at a little girl or a young woman and suggesting that she may not want to do something that the boys want to do is the definition of discrimination. Same with applying pressure to a guy who might want to go into art because he “might need to support a family some day.””

    That is essentially what I said. One of the reasons women make less is they’re encouraged to enter fields that pay less, if males and females do the same job, just as well as each other, they should make the same money.

    However, if there are reasons why a member of a particular gender may be better at a certain job than I have no problem with a member of that gender getting paid more to do that job.

    I think the best thing we can do is let children know the real consequences for their actions. If your daughter is debating between studying biology and comparative literature don’t lie and say that she’ll make just as much money either way!

  51. #51 Greg Laden
    January 1, 2009

    However, if there are reasons why a member of a particular gender may be better at a certain job than I have no problem with a member of that gender getting paid more to do that job.

    If you were an employer in the US or an HR officer, you would be liable for serious damages acting on this belief. Assuming you are saying what I think you are saying.

  52. #52 Aaron Luchko
    January 1, 2009

    Greg,

    I’m not sure how the law works but I don’t think that’s correct. I wouldn’t be saying “I won’t pay you as much to be a firefighter because you’re a woman”, I’m saying “I won’t pay you as much to be a firefighter because you don’t have the same physical capabilities as the other applicant”. A female firefighter who did have the same physical capabilities as a male firefighter would receive the same compensation as the male firefighter (assuming other performance vectors were equal).

  53. #53 Barn Owl
    January 1, 2009

    there are two or three (or one or two, anyway) things that are inextricably binary

    Which things, regarding gender, are inextricably binary? The obvious answer might be presence or absence of a Y chromosome, but even that is not inextricably binary, IMO. Androgen insensitivity syndrome is the first non-binary possibility that comes to mind, and Klinefelter Syndrome (XXY) would be the second. Turner Syndrome (XO) and ambiguous genitalia conditions also fail to fit neatly into a binary chromosomal or anatomical definition of gender.

    Since I’m not omniscient, I don’t know what you intended to describe with “inextricably binary” things, Greg. Your post is an interesting read, and thanks for that, but I disagree with “inextricably binary” applied to any aspect of gender, at least in the context of modern Western cultures.

  54. #54 JuliaL
    January 1, 2009

    Aaron,

    I wouldn’t be saying “I won’t pay you as much to be a firefighter because you’re a woman”, I’m saying “I won’t pay you as much to be a firefighter because you don’t have the same physical capabilities as the other applicant”. A female firefighter who did have the same physical capabilities as a male firefighter would receive the same compensation as the male firefighter (assuming other performance vectors were equal).

    Please try for just a moment to let go of the gender issue in your mind. In a typical work situation (including firefighting), we nowadays have this:

    If a PERSON cannot fulfill the requirements of a job, that PERSON is normally not hired. Thus every PERSON on the job has a shared basic level of competency. If one PERSON over a period of time demonstrates an increase in competency over the basic requirements, that PERSON normally gets a raise that results in a paycheck higher than that of other PERSONS who have not moved as much beyond the basic requirements.

    See, nothing to do with gender at all. Think how pointless it would be to bother posting on a blog:

    I wouldn’t be saying “I won’t pay you as much to be a firefighter because you have blue eyes”, I’m saying “I won’t pay you as much to be a firefighter because you don’t have the same physical capabilities as the other applicant”. A blue-eyed firefighter who did have the same physical capabilities as a brown-eyed firefighter would receive the same compensation as the brown-eyed firefighter (assuming other performance vectors were equal).

    It’s about competency, not about whatever extraneous physical characteristic you happen to keep thinking about.

  55. #55 David Harmon
    January 1, 2009

    When you refer to all those various species, you’re assuming that gender inequalities come directly from adapted traits! It’s not clear to me that this is a valid assumption, and it may be worth looking for more indirect links. In particular, It seems to me that most or all of the current gender inequalities could be explained by one dominance rule and a certain amount of positive feedback.

    Using the four-level dominance hierarchy, the rule would be: “on equal ground, a male has a half-level advantage over a woman”. That is, a beta male will have weak dominance over a beta female, and an alpha female will have only weak dominance (instead of the full grade) over the beta male. (The “equal” ground clause is because territorial considerations count for much more than a half level!)

    The feedback comes in because dominance interactions are everywhere in our society, so that half-grade difference shows up in almost all aspects of life. Moreover, when someone has a weak dominant relationship, it’s “only natural” for them to consolidate their position, taking measures to increase the power differential. Those actions can range from scheming and backstabbing, through “solidarity” (ganging up), intimidation, bullying, and other forms of force… sound familiar?

    The difference between this view and your prior discussion, is that while dominance hierarchies are nigh-universal among social animals, the details can vary widely — and can probably be “fine-tuned” much more easily than new behaviors could be developed. So instead of having a reason specifically to beat pregnant women, you have a dominance conflict which fits into the larger pattern. One possibility might be: “the woman now controls the “prize” of the relationship, and is furthermore redirecting her attention toward herself and the baby-to-be. To a mate who’s only weakly dominant over her, that looks like a challenge”. (Yes, this pits dominance against reproductive success. With both goals dubious, that’s not such a surprise.)

  56. #56 Oran Kelley
    January 1, 2009

    Greg: Don’t know if you saw the recent articles in the Economist on this subject.

    Aaron: I think it is always important to remember that evolutionary biology was importantly influenced by economic thinking. Memes are like genes are like species are like homo economicus.

    And as far as memes go, you might as well be talking about unicorns and angels as far as I am concerned. They’re really just an attempt to elide the issue of human intentionality by pretending that idea replicate themselves without the intervention of an “intelligent designer” (us, with all of our wants and fears and hopes and greed).

    But, anyhow, as one of the greatest market bubbles of our history goes bust, it is rather amusing to read someone with so much confidence in the ability of capitalist systems to blindly create fair outcomes. It is clear, now more than ever, that capitalist systems can carry on for quite a long time on the basis of nothing but prejudice and sheep-like conformity. Huge rewards get doled out on no material basis whatsoever. Why? Because human arbitration plays a huge role (not a marginal one) in these systems.

    Fires may no care whether a firefighter is male or female, but did you ever look into the origins of the standards that firefighters were asked to meet? Were they worked out scientifically asking what should be the minimum standards for this sort of work, or were they worked out informally by men who thought that this was a job for big, strong men and that the test should weed out those who weren’t?

    The reason why the standards were altered for women was not because firefighting would be different for them, but because the standards were created by men, not by fires.

  57. #57 Ana
    January 1, 2009

    OK Aaron, so you won’t “say” it, but…

    Let’s just keep with your firefighter a moment, and by ‘your firefighter’ I mean a man because he is your standard in the field. He is physically capable, or strong, right? Because he’s a man? Let’s say he’s the biggest baddest man in the firehouse, great with the hose, he can knock a wall down just by looking at it; for that he gets the highest compensation of the bunch, right? Because in firefighting, physical capability is of the utmost importance (and by physical capability we mean muscle-mass). Lest there are big burly guys in the uniforms, the world will go down in flames. But wait, what about the petite, gentle and nurturing firefighter (I’m sure you recognize her as a woman) who gets sent into small, structurally unsound areas for to rescue the little baby?

    I guess what I’m driving at is twofold – there’s the male standard (and this goes as well to those CEOs mentioned earlier) which measures females as inferior, and there’s also the monetary valuation and compensation based on those standards.

    Check your assumptions and try again.

  58. #58 Catherine Brown
    January 1, 2009

    An interesting post. However, all you really demonstrate is that there’s enormous variation in gender roles between species. You then make an enormous leap of faith to suggest that the existence of these differences invalidate any evolutionary psychology around gender.

    Leaving aside your conclusions/interpretations. There are a number of inaccuracies – you make statements such as “Males are always, without exception, more violent and aggressive, on average (and bigger and stronger too) than the females in the same society.”

    This notion that males are always more violent than females (in the same society) is dated. There is a difference between violent urges and violent behaviour. Numerous studies have demonstrated that men and women have equal violent urges. However, women are forced by physical differences to subdue these urges or use delayed/passive violence against males (for example poisoning rather than axe wielding).

    Otherwise, some interesting comments but far too much is derived from gender studies interpretations which are no more enlightening than the naturalistic view. It’s one thing to call for equality, quite another to suggest that biology justifies either discrimination (whether negative or positive)

  59. #59 Greg Laden
    January 1, 2009

    Which things, regarding gender, are inextricably binary?

    Barn: I was thinking specifically of whether or not an individual can implant a fertilized egg and carry it to term, for instance.

    JuliaL and Aaron: Right. The truth is that consideration of gender is illegal. It does not matter what the logic is or is not. The thing is, this is not really an issue that is debated from the logic or experience of a given situation. Rather, this is a straight forward legal matter.

    David: Yes, this is a good theoretical way to approach it, but let me clarify that when I refer to all of these models I am explicitly saying that species models as a rule suck. General principles are good.

    Oran: Please note that some of the key economics theories that influence evolutionary biology orignally came from evolutoinary biology. Game theory, for instance, is an inventionof evolutionary biology.

    Regarding standards for both police and fire: It is my impression that standards have been changed more often to exclude women than to include them. One great state, for instance, raised the height requirement for being a state trooper to about the mid point of existing male troopers in order to get rid of the pesky women who were starting to apply. That sort of thing happened quite a bit back in the 1970s.

  60. #60 Greg Laden
    January 1, 2009

    Ana: In addition, the females, being both cheaper and smaller, have advantages. You can load a whole pile of them into a fire truck. Then, when they get to the fire they can build human pyramids to get into second story windows, etc.

    This fight was once held by Gloria Steinhem and Patricia Whatshername (conservative lawyer who also represented the Brown family in the civil suit against OJ Simpson).

    Whatshername said “If you are rescued by a female fire fighter, she can’t pick you up, so she drags you down the stairs with your head bumping on every step. The American Taxpayers deserve to be carried down the stairs.”

    Gloria Steinhem replied “Actually, it’s better to be dragged down the stairs, there’s breathable air down there.

    I’ve got this on tape. I’ll show you some time.

  61. #61 Greg Laden
    January 1, 2009

    Catherine: Not at all. I’m suggesting that picking and choosing among this panoply of models is inappropriate.

    Regarding male vs. female violence: I could have said that better. Within any given society, applying a number of measures of aggression/violence/etc. there has never been a role reversed society found or studied.

    It’s one thing to call for equality, quite another to suggest that biology justifies either discrimination (whether negative or positive)

    I agree. Which is why I did not say that.

  62. #62 the real cuntard
    January 1, 2009

    “body size of males vs. females…”

    Um, usually during the pre-mating, that is true, but seriously, then the women turn into bigg butted Barbara Bushes…come on-now bossy, you know thats ‘ largely’ true.

    “Start out by admitting that we as a society owe women a great deal for being the baby bearers. It is hard, painful, and you can die doing it. But no. In our society, we take away a woman’s rights because she is the baby bearer”

    But Greg, the male apologist viewpoint is usually coming from top down, and rarely from the bottom up–unless you count the ranks of the single mother raised boys who will fight at the drop of a “yo mama”.

    In this case, some trickle down misandry from you, a man who 1) is a higher ranked male than the man you are taking issue with 2) from a man who stands to gain further status in the ranking group–and from females in that herd 3) from a distinctly white collar perspective-( granted it is only your latest incarnation–I give a nod of respect for the roots you have described in other discussions).

    For instance, the womens lobby has always outsourced violence, and been willing to inflict social violence on uncooperative males (operative word ‘co-op’); in this case the last twenty plus years of denying that women initiate violence against males more often, and also that they are the primary disciplinarians and physical abusers
    of infants to 18’s.(re: discussions by Martin Feibert, et al, and the manufactured controversy of “statistics that were the product of patriarchy”, etc.)

    The result of overlooking those ‘little’ issues had been the growth of the largest prison industrial complex in history, and as your grad student maintains, a basic inequity in child rearing revenues–child support is almost always payed by men; 90% os single parent households(baby farms) are still women owned and run.Baby farming is still an industry here at home, where women are rewarded for child bearing on the lowest socio-Ec levels, and men at the same levels are victimized and socially shamed; women in the mid-level sosio Ec levels compete with each other in ‘competitive birthing’ scenarios, and are allowed to outsource baby farming to India; Men could do this too, if we rescheme the paradigm of apology, but we don’t.

    Venture a guess as to why males of the human herd seldom willingly choose to plant an infant? THe old saw of ‘if men could choose they wouldn’t’…

    “we are mammals so males can’t nurse the young, and this starts a cascade of male-female differences. Perhaps females care for the young directly while the males busy themselves defending the territory.”

    but then you contradict yourself and your own generalization above:

    “I personally fed my daughter for her entire nursing period. I held her, I gave her the milk, we stared into each other’s eyes and bonded, the whole nine yards. ”

    Yeah, me too, but during the heart and the heat of all of those baby butthe custody wars, when those baby butt sniffing orgiastic and clamoring bonobos who you enable with your self serving wiewpoint( I’m not trying to dis you, but factually, you must admit that adopting such an male-apologist stance has gains for you)were busy burying Dom-Vi stats, and casting paradigms that deny and dismiss even your own infant-parent bonding experience.

    Sure “thanks girls for all of those nice infants; I am sure that it was harder than pushing a watermelon out of my ass; but likely not as risky as the jobs–the dirty sloppy and underpaid jobs–that men do every day. Those jobs that women aren’t clamoring for or complaining about, like high rise steel welding, and trench warfare…and probably a little less painful than my kidney stones or that damn bullet lodged in my thigh…

    And we are indeed on the verge of having the ability to outsource babymaking too,and men could easily relegate the role of women as birthers into obscure and dismissive references to cunt farts and watermelon seeds, but the womens lobbies, and the laws of the country have spent countless hours defining male behavior as criminal and or perverse(even that last statement which is a paraphrase of two oft repeated phrases about birthing)–and you too in your examples of ‘raping’ males, and a calculated[?] denial of females who rape –ever watch a cowherd for a day? Dem bossies are always at it, and dominant cows don’t think twice before humping young females, and don’t ask permission either; and why is it that you accept the definition of rape as singular and exclusive to males?

    Don’t female chimps and bono’s and many other species kidnap, rape, molest, and harm infants too? Penguins steal the egs of other penguins–your own examples show that in some species the females eat the young of other females–but why do we always perpetuate this ‘ male as rapist’ paradigm?

    I venture a guess that males who adopt such an apologist stance attain more status with a seemingly select group of females, and at THE EXPENSE of other males. Maybe even, you have adopted their paradigm that the penis is a weapon, or are you sometimes kind of a tool?

  63. #63 the real cuntard
    January 1, 2009

    discussion with links on Martin Feiberts research and controversy
    http://www.dailybruin.ucla.edu/news/2000/jun/02/dont-distort-domestic-abuse-st/

  64. #64 Stephanie Z
    January 1, 2009

    Okay, Aaron, time to look at your individual arguments against “meddling” in the system. Let’s start by summarizing: they don’t hold up.

    Men get paid more than women because women produce less in the workplace because men have to work longer hours to make up for the fact that women have babies? You realize that this is not only circular, but exactly the kind of naturalistic fallacious thinking that Greg is talking about, right? “It is this way because this is the way it is” is not an argument. It is a refusal to argue.

    As I asked someone else elsewhere, do you want people to continue to have and raise children? If so, you treat it as a valuable contribution to society, not a liability to the pace of a career–a pace that was set to exploit a social arrangement that is no longer in place. Instead of looking at this and saying, “Pity those mothers just can’t keep up,” why aren’t you asking, “Why aren’t we giving paternal leave, since taking care of a newborn is more than a one-person job?”

    As for the CEO argument, you’re a bit behind the times. Businesses, and particularly successful businesses, are starting to recognize that what makes them successful is having a wide range of talents and skills to draw from–that the novel viewpoint is a competitive advantage in the information age. The reasons there are so few female CEOs are mostly inertial at this point. It takes time to convert an institutional understanding that a cutthroat attitude is not a prime qualification into day-to-day practices that reward the other qualifications organizations are looking for. Particularly when people keep arguing that there’s only one qualification for the job and the menz haz it.

    As for the idea that capitalism, particularly free-market capitalism, is efficient or understands value, well, what Oran said. (Never thought I’d say that.)

    There is plenty of evidence that women are differentially compensated. Even after adjusting for differences in experience, much of which is brought about by discriminatory practices in parental leave, 4% to 10% differences in pay rates have been found. So why don’t women just go to companies that don’t do this? Because it’s pervasive, so finding companies that don’t do it is difficult. (Incidentally, much of work of fighting unequal pay has been done by unions.)

    This, by the way, is another place where your “capitalism is good for people” argument breaks down. There is a whole industry dedicated to providing companies comparative compensation information. What is it used for? Largely, for making sure that a company doesn’t pay “too competitively.” It’s bad for companies in the long run, yes, but our economy is geared to reward short-term planning only. No market that it beholden to shareholders is free.

    I’m very tired of the “oh, look, these great people aren’t the equals of everyone else” arguments. Until we provide opportunities of education and employment that allow people to achieve the best of their potential, we don’t know how many geniuses we’re squashing. Do try to remember that Einstein is appreciated much more in hindsight than he ever was by his teachers. He was crappy at a lot that he did, and if he’d been shut out from further opportunities because of it, we’d all be much poorer in knowledge today.

    The conclusions about black law school students didn’t hold up (pdf) when examined in detail instead of by assumption. In short, matching students by test scores prior to law school showed that the ones at more challenging institutions did better.

    For firefighters, Greg isn’t just talking in hypotheticals about attempts to keep women out of the industry. The industry itself recognizes this, even if it hasn’t figured out how to put it into practice. Firefighters romanticizing the job the way you do is one of the big problems.

    Obviously, fire suppression remains a dangerous, difficult task. However, the shifting balance between fire calls and medical calls brings to prominence skills and abilities, which the traditional occupational self-image ignores. Medical calls typically invoke treatment skills and knowledge more than strength or courage, as well as caregiving skills and aptitudes often associated with nurses or social workers.

    One thing you’ll notice in the firefighting article is that the pressure of legal remedies is the lever being used to urge change. Without that lever, the system shows a lot of inertia. This is why it’s important to recognize this fallacy. Something being the way it is does not mean that this is the best way for it to be, and we can’t assume it will change just because change will be for the better.

    As for the value of housework, companies have long recognized the value of a spouse at home, at least for executives. At least since the fifties, single managers looking to advance to the executive level have been told to get married. They needed someone to help with the entertaining after all. The worth of a stable home life has also been recognized in health insurance for the whole family and things like seminars on work/life balance.

    On the question of which degrees and jobs are valued, the answer is easy. Historically, it’s the prevalence of women in a profession that determines its worth. Clerkships used to be prized positions. Men would consider themselves lucky to get one. Now that mostly women do the job, the pay is crap and the prestige is nonexistent. The same thing has happened with teaching.

    Salaries across professions are, in part, determined by the gender of those in the profession. This is true for physically demanding jobs as well. Take dance. Because it’s a female-dominated industry, it pays less than sports, even though it arguably produces a more lasting product. Unless we fix the basic assumptions, the same thing will happen to any job that comes to be filled mostly by women.

    Things are wrong. Things have been wrong for a long time, and simply saying that they’re wrong hasn’t been enough to change them. This isn’t about digging money out of some corporate fat cat’s pocket (I’ll do that for other reasons) but about changing artificial structures that have become self-maintaining once they were put in place.

  65. #65 Metro
    January 1, 2009

    “Whenever women have insisted on absolute equality with men, they have invariably wound up with the dirty end of the stick. What they are and what they can do makes them superior to men, and their proper tactic is to demand special privileges, all the traffic will bear. They should never settle merely for equality. For women, “equality” is a disaster.”
    ~Robert A. Heinlein

    … Whose quotes may also be used to support a variety of contrary positions.

    I suppose someone (though not me) could advance the position that reducing the incentive to work by paying women less states a societal approval of mothers staying home to raise families, which might be regarded as a privilege.

    Of course, my wife makes half again what I do …

  66. #66 Oran Kelley
    January 1, 2009

    Game theory: I’m referring to the Invisible Hand, population pressure and related themes, which are strongly reflected in Darwin because he was reading the early political economists as he wrote Origin. People often seem to think the similarity between capitalist economics and evolution is serendipitous, when it was built into the latter.

    “Whenever women have insisted on absolute equality with men, they have invariably wound up with the dirty end of the stick . . .” Where’s the list of the times & places where women at large insisted on absolute equality?

  67. #67 Stephanie Z
    January 1, 2009

    Yeah, C, cause daddies never end up with a beer gut. They don’t even have baby weight as an excuse. :p Kids are just hell on the system all around.

    By the way, the bit about nursing wasn’t a contradiction. It was the point. We have no good reason to accept the limitations of our biology, so we have no good reason to make assumptions based on it.

    As usual, you have some good points going about unequal criminalization, but I don’t see how challenging standard definitions of gender is going to do anything but make people take a hard look at individual behavior instead making assumptions about who did what based on what bits jiggle.

    And I knew female dogs did dominance humping. I don’t know why it never occurred to me that cows would too. I guess those folks who preach that sexual behavior is only for procreation (all six syllables of it), have some explaining to do.

  68. #68 Aaron Luchko
    January 1, 2009

    JuliaL,

    I agree, I don’t care about the gender, colour, weight, or height of the person, only about their ability to do the job.

    Oran,

    I won’t say that capitalism is flawless (neither are my knees as it happens). But on the whole it’s an effective system and we need to be very careful when interfering with it. I’m nervous of the line of thought that says “system X isn’t flawless so we can do whatever we want to it”.

    Ana,

    Yes there exceptions where qualities that generally female are better for fighting a fire. And when those exceptions are important enough someone (male or female) who has those qualities should be hired to do that job.

    I guess what I’m driving at is twofold – there’s the male standard (and this goes as well to those CEOs mentioned earlier) which measures females as inferior, and there’s also the monetary valuation and compensation based on those standards.

    Leadership is a trickier issue, doubtlessly evolutionary forces mean that males have a stronger motivation to seek leadership. However, that males have a stronger desire to seek positions of leadership doesn’t necessarily mean they are better at it.

    It’s also known that people (at least men) are less demanding of male leaders though I’m tempted to assume this is more cultural than biological.

    I’m really not sure what the best way to remedy this other than cultural pressure to support and encourage women in leadership positions (which seemed to work well in the last US election).

    Barn Owl,

    We use generalizations because they’re efficient. There’s exceptions to gender being binary, there’s exceptions to almost every rule. But if we spent our time covering every single exception we’d never have time to decide anything.

  69. #69 Susan
    January 2, 2009

    Thank you for this, Greg; it’s a wonderful post, and you are spot on with your observations on the exclusionary responses to women entering previously all-male fields. I’ve worked doing HR analysis for a large municipality for decades and seen many changes, usually in response to lawsuits, but sometimes in response to good leadership. Specifically as it relates to women Firefighters, a couple of important studies were released in 2008, largely due to some excellent work by Denise Hulett. There are pdfs and articles related to her findings, here:

    The National Report Card on Women in Firefighting
    http://www.i-women.org/

    Enhancing Women’s Inclusion in Firefighting in the USA
    http://denisemhulett.cgpublisher.com/

    Thanks again– I’ll be passing the link to this post around for quite awhile!

  70. #70 the real cuntard
    January 2, 2009

    Steph: I’m sorry, but a beer gut is something I have never had the misfortune of aquiring–and no one would know if I had one anyways, as it would be disguised by eye-choking belly fur; but no way! are ten pound saggy boobs, and wall to wall ass cheeks WITH the belly weight(babygut)smaller than one lone beer gut! It ain’t possible!

    But I don’t think that Greg feeding the infant is the point, exactly. I mean, I loved that new Greg factoid, and admire him the more, but despite his being a great example in his own right of the defiance of naturalisms seemingly rigid laws, the example falls kind of flat in the sea of refutation of the other guys primary point: there is no equality to be had out there, primarily because we live in the world of academic hopes which posit the fallacies of equality in a paradigm that has blinders on.

    The day I see women in foxholes gettin blasted by mortars is the day we have real equality, and anything up to that point defies one other of natures laws: that species rise and fall.

    In this case, I am questioning his heavy emphasis on the stereotype of males as rapists, and violence prone beasts etc–while overlooking female rape behavior and female initiated violence.Dominance seems to be the goal of rapists according to the common profiles of them, and there is little doubt that there is much evidence to point to women as perpetrators of this domination, whether it is physical, or sexual, but Greg and so many others refuse to phrase it in terms of rape, and minimizes the violence of women.

    This marginalizes open discussion of that topic at the highest levels and gatekeeps, sidelines, or dismisses further discussions about other possible explanations of social phenomenon, and/or social possibilities.

    For instance, men as a whole don’t–and never did–have the option of farming out procreation to third world women, and then co-opting those womens rights via the legal system–in essence, bypassing a womans opinion in the whole matter,
    but women do have that right, always did. So if procreation is truly something that we need to all do (ahem), then men should also have the right to rent lesser entitled womens bodies and buy progeny–a right that entitled wowmen have and use all the time, but a right that apparently opens doors to the slippery slope if men had the same right as individuals.

    “We have no good reason to accept the limitations of our biology, so we have no good reason to make assumptions based on it.”

    Here here, and raise you two bits: about the time that the stereotyping of men as violent, perverts and rapists is done and over, is about the time biological destiny arguments stop ruling images of women. When hell freezes over…

    In the meantime, we have a society that is based on not discussing the top-down social engineering that constitutes what we think is our biology, or its limitations. Hence, the continuing paradigm of males as harmful, and women as limited by biological arguments put forth by harmful men, rather than women ruled by biological arguments because of the greedy need to breed of other women–or, put another way, women are ruled by women who are breeders; those breeder women are every bit as territorial, and violent as any man, but perhaps even moreso, because they use the children as human shields, a prima facie evidence that they, not you or I or non-breeders, need protection. Men–those raised by these women, all agree that these competitive breeding women deserve protection, and kill in its name.It’s a tradeoff that the gatekeepers agree to for now.

    “I guess those folks who preach that sexual behavior is only for procreation…” um, get what they deserve when the bottom drops out? Or their boobs hit the floor, or their beer bellies growl”stomach cancer”…?

  71. #71 Barn Owl
    January 2, 2009

    I was thinking specifically of whether or not an individual can implant a fertilized egg and carry it to term, for instance.

    That still leaves out those individuals with Turner or androgen insensitivity syndromes. And what about women who are infertile, or for whom a blastocyst can implant, but is never carried to term?

    But if we spent our time covering every single exception we’d never have time to decide anything.

    Who are “we”, and why should we “decide” anything about anyone’s gender, especially if the expectation is that gender should be binary? Also, if you believe that sex chromosome aneuploidies, AIS, and ambiguous genitalia are extremely rare and unworthy of consideration, then you’re engaging in that common, but nevertheless childish, interwebz ignorance also known as “egocentric thinking”.

  72. #72 Bonnie J.
    January 2, 2009

    If you are suggesting some sort of pandering or special treatment (though elevated) given to women because they have babies, you are in the wrong century, I’m afraid. The planet is approaching 9 billion in the next 5-10 years (or less) and having babies is exactly what women will be doing less and less, by necessity. It is not, at this moment in time, necessary for most or even any women to have babies. The planet can’t support the people that women are producing. So please stop encouraging women to have babies, even in this round-about way. It is nothing to hold sacred at the moment. We should be moving toward zero or net-minus population.

    Once you take that away from the equation, the rest is incidental and should be overcome by the fact that we are “civilized” and not, in fact, monkeys. The fact that monkeys rape each other is completely irrelevant to any talk of human begins. Rape is never, ever, relevant to a discussion of humans and as a woman I’m pretty offended it even came up in the story.

  73. #73 Stephanie Z
    January 2, 2009

    Bonnie, one of the most effective ways to drop birth rates is to fully open education and engaging employment to women. Also, civilization never, ever happens through us not talking about things.

  74. #74 Greg Laden
    January 2, 2009

    That still leaves out those individuals with Turner or androgen insensitivity syndromes. And what about women who are infertile, or for whom a blastocyst can implant, but is never carried to term?

    Barn, give me a break, please! I have acknowledged the diverse nature of gender along numerous axes, and since this is something I make a study of, I’d wager there are not too many people who can come up with with too many more biological (not even getting near cultural) diversifying mechanisms. However, I think that the set of outcomes is not “just anything” and “could be anywhere on a spectrum” etc. No. The framework for various aspects of gender … or at least a framework that I would prefer, which is the framework that does not leave anyone out … is not a random dust cloud or a smooth continuum. It is a complex thing. I agree with your comment to Luchko, and that is exactly my point .

    Bonnie: If … Actually, no I wasn’t saying that, or suggesting it. You don’t know me, but if you did, you’d know that I adamantly refuse to accept responsibility for shit people make up that they think I said but that I did not say!

    And rape is totally relevant. It happens all the time and I refuse to ignore that. I wish you would not ignore it. Perhaps you are causing it by ignoring it!

  75. #75 Stephanie Z
    January 2, 2009

    C, one of the few good things to have come out of the last few years of messy warfare is the recognition is that the “combat” designation is ridiculous. When even USA Today takes note that women are doing de facto combat jobs, it’s time to drop the discriminatory policies.

    You’ll also get no argument from me about stereotyping males as violent. I do, however, think that Greg made it clear (“There are societies in which there is very little difference between males and females, and there are societies in which the difference is great.”) that these differences have a large cultural component. Nor did he say that women aren’t also violent. (“But the absolute level of aggression and violence among both males and females is highly variable to the extent that there are societies with females who are more violent and aggressive than the males in other societies.”)

    As for progeny without females, we are making progress, but we’re in a state of flux. I have a couple of male friends who are working on adopting, but they’re finding it much easier to go through the process to get an “undesirable” child than a “desirable” one. It’s a bit hard to tease apart which barriers have to do with money and time and which have to do with them being gay men. There is also the surrogate motherhood option, which is close to what you describe, but I haven’t looked at the case law on it lately. A couple of high-profile cases of regret have certainly made this a less-attractive option than it could be. Still, I think a lot of the problems with both of these choices is that they’re new rather than that they’ll never work.

  76. #76 Jeff Darcy
    January 2, 2009

    Your point about women practically always getting custody of children (often unconditionally and despite obvious arguments against it in many cases) is IMO more significant than its superficial snarkiness might indicate. I think it was Warren Farrell who opened my eyes to the distinction between bringing home a bigger paycheck and being rewarded more. Working to bring another comfort or leisure is servitude, not privilege. If I work hard and bring home a big fat paycheck but my idle ex-wife controls how it’s spent, I’m not in a privileged situation. Here’s the kicker: the same is true if it’s my *current* wife who controls how it’s spent. Privilege is determined by who spends the money, not who earns it.

    Traditionally, men’s pay has been intended and expected as pay for the family, not for the man alone, and it was assumed that the man was the sole source of external income. Obviously this is not true any more, but it’s not entirely untrue either. Women cutting back or dropping out for reasons related to child care is a statistical reality with a tangible economic impact on employers. (It’s also something for which women cannot escape some responsibility either, BTW; if you don’t believe that part of the reason is the condescension any “Mr. Mom” gets from “real Moms” who assume any man is unqualified to be a primary caregiver, you’re just not living in the real world.) If it’s not valid to address this statistical and economic reality in the form of a tax or insurance premium that affects all female workers in the form of lower pay, what’s the preferred alternative? Ignore the effect as though it doesn’t exist or is too small to matter? Better be prepared to make those measurements, and make them honestly, before claiming that. Explicitly associate higher pay with sole-breadwinner status? I think that’s actually defensible from a social-utility perspective, plus it would have avoided the injustice done to JulieL above and would make me personally richer, but good luck getting that past the “supply and demand must rule everything” crowd and the childless workers who’d get the short end.

    Yes, there are forms of pay inequity that have nothing to do with breadwinner status. However, ignoring or dismissing these income differences attributable to child-care strategies and choices is as dishonest as claiming that they explain all income inequality. Similarly, ignoring the inequity of divorce laws and courts that allow so many women to capture male income (in a way that somehow never gets considered in a debate about income) but almost never vice versa, only distorts the picture further. Do men, statistically, *take home* more income *on paper*? Yes, but that’s the wrong question. The right question is whether men, statistically, get to *enjoy* more income *in reality*. From where I sit, that doesn’t seem to be the case. I see some men making too much, and some women making too little. I also see some stay-at-home moms seeming rather relaxed, and some office-bounds dads seeming rather stressed, and I can’t help but think about how deaths from conditions that we *know* are stress-related seem to be overwhelmingly male deaths. Ironically, many of these men might once have chosen to stay home, if not for the familial pay cut compared to the “traditional” arrangement. Come on, tell me again how much we men benefit so much from income inequality. I could use a laugh, even if it’s gallows humor.

    BTW, before the personal attacks start, I’ve never been divorced so I can’t be bitter about it and my comments on the subject can’t be dismissed on that basis. Also, I’ve never been a “Mr. Mom” myself. I still find my work interesting and my wife had ceased to (same field) even before our daughter was born, so a “traditional” arrangement made emotional as well as financial sense – *for us*. Of course I’d like to stay home more. I’d also like a million dollars and a perfect body and a pony (OK, not really). In the real world, though, I made a choice and I’m content with it even if my wife and I still argue about who should clean the dishes. The above is about how these issues affect people *in general*, not me personally.

  77. #77 Oran Kelley
    January 2, 2009

    I won’t say that capitalism is flawless (neither are my knees as it happens). But on the whole it’s an effective system and we need to be very careful when interfering with it. I’m nervous of the line of thought that says “system X isn’t flawless so we can do whatever we want to it”.

    Well, I don’t hear too many people calling for people to do “whatever we want” to the economic system. Just to make some conscious decisions and undo some already-made conscious decisions to make things more fair.

    The problem with a lot of opportunities in our society is that the market has never governed them. I think this is the case with firemen. What’s being dismantled is an artisanal old-boys network that has persistently resisted attempts to rationalize their work or to expose it to the sort of open competition you seem to assume was already in place.

    No, indeed. In one city I know about, firefighting is still dominated by one ethnic group. Minorities and whites who are not of that ethnic group are allowed in a) as tokens or b) as payment earned through political infighting. (For instance, the black party leaders, if in a position of power, will demand more hires in the department.)

    Individual merit comes into play, but the standards applied are questionable and there’s far more going into it that who’d actually do the job best.

    THAT’s the kind of context in which we’re intervening, a rat’s nest of human power-play and arbitrariness, not some sort of optimized-by-evolution process.

    I’d agree that we must seek not just to add to the rat’s nest. And I think it may be that firefighting will never be 50% female. But I think that those women who are interested and who meet rationally constructed standards should get a fair shake, which is not what had been happening.

  78. #78 Pyre
    January 2, 2009

    Barn Owl: I think it’s significant, a “tell”, that the ‘women should earn less because pregnancy/childraising reduces their work time’ argument makes no allowance for the women who don’t get pregnant or raise children at all (whether due to choice or inability).

    Just as the ‘men should earn more because they’re supporting families’ argument makes no allowance for all the single men, without families, still earning more than the women who actually are supporting families (as single mothers or sole wage-earners).

    If either of those arguments had been sincere, the wages would have been based on actual time lost, or actual families being supported, not on a presumption about the entire gender group.

  79. #79 daedalus2u
    January 2, 2009

    Jeff, you say “If it’s not valid to address this statistical and economic reality in the form of a tax or insurance premium that affects all female workers in the form of lower pay, what’s the preferred alternative?”

    I think it is not valid to address a statistical difference through individual adverse consequences. I presume you don’t either, unless you are willing to report to prison for your “share” of the male excess in crime.

  80. #80 Jeff Darcy
    January 2, 2009

    Daedalus2, are you aware that our tax system is already very involved in addressing statistical differences by levying individual costs, or that there’s a whole industry – insurance – based on essentially the same principle? It’s hardly a notion without precedent. I for one would find a discussion of sharing the cost of the so-called male excess in crime quite interesting and apropos, so long as we’re talking about financial cost and not curtailment of liberty. You do know the difference, don’t you? You weren’t playing false-analogy tricks, were you? Also, don’t try to blame me when the conversation turns toward the “black excess in crime” as it inevitably will.

    Nonetheless, I’m not proposing that we address the issue of gender-based income inequality that way. I thought I was rather clear in presenting it as something to which an alternative should be sought, so again I ask: what do you propose as an alternative? Do you propose ignoring the issue, or requiring that people who leave the workplace “early” to care for children repay their employers for the cost of training etc.? Those aren’t the only options, but most others tend to involve reimposing the injustice currently borne by women on some other group instead. Who would you impose it on?

  81. #81 Nicole
    January 2, 2009

    Yes, men and women are different. Individual men are different from one another. Two humans working the same hours to the same end require the same compensation. Period.

    As a neurobiologist, I disagree with this post. Being paid less per hour because of gender is real and is unethical. This salary inequality has nothing to do with maternity leave. Childless, unmarried women face salary discrimination.

    Nothing on the Y chromosome makes men smarter or more capable in an office. Nothing in testosterone makes a man more able to manage a team.

  82. #82 e-mouse
    January 2, 2009

    [delurk] Nicole: Please read the post. You have reversed Laden’s meaning. You are disagreeing with what he disagreed with. You read sloppily or not at all. [relurk]

  83. #83 daedalus2u
    January 2, 2009

    “Also, don’t try to blame me when the conversation turns toward the “black excess in crime” as it inevitably will.”

    When you take the conversation there, talking about it being inevitable becomes self-fulfilling and disingenuous. That does that not surprise me in the slightest given your remarks. Now I know where you stand on race politics as well as on gender politics.

    How I would deal with the gender disparity in income is by not having any.

  84. #84 Stephanie Z
    January 2, 2009

    Jeff, who’s saying that all men benefit from inequalities or that working to fix the system will only benefit women? It’s nifty that you and your wife were able to make choices that worked for you, but the point of this post is that modeling work and pay on assumptions about how things should work limits choices for many people.

    When you’re complaining about payments after divorce, are you concerned about child support or alimony? Because, really, only about 4% of divorced women are receiving alimony, and it’s mostly a phenomenon among older couples and the wealthy, both of whom tend to have much wider earnings gaps. Besides, the proportion of men receiving alimony, while small, is growing. If you’re talking about child support, you’re going to need to make a much better case why either parent should be able to “enjoy” all their income. In both cases, continued work to equalize pay and custody considerations would only even out the disparities you’re complaining about.

    In fact, your entire argument seems to be “Things aren’t fair. Why should we try to change them?”

  85. #85 Aaron Luchko
    January 2, 2009

    Stephanie,

    I’m not saying it’s proper that men work longer hours and women tend to raise the children (though there may be a genetic bias toward that).

    I’m saying because of that the average workplace compensation for a women would be lower. I figure there are 3 general solutions to that

    1) Force workplaces to compensate.

    2) Change society so that men and women share the responsibilities and the workload.

    3) Acknowledge the difference, and the fact that women are contributing more outside the workplace and compensate them on that basis.

    For the reasons I’ve mentioned I prefer approaches 2 and 3.

    For management I will acknowledge that women are likely underutilized. I feel this occurs due to sexism and males being naturally more ambitious in seeking positions of power. I’m not sure how to fix this other than continued cultural pressure to show women are good leaders and mechanisms to make it harder to gain power on the sole purpose of ambition.

    As for professions that’s an interesting point though there’s also the fact that higher level jobs are constantly being created and I suspect that’s why those fields lost their prestige.

    “Take dance. Because it’s a female-dominated industry, it pays less than sports, even though it arguably produces a more lasting product.”

    Nope, sports trump dance because sports trigger tribal identification instincts.

    “Do try to remember that Einstein is appreciated much more in hindsight than he ever was by his teachers.”

    Actually Einstein was a great student.

    Jeff,

    Good points.

  86. #86 Stephanie Z
    January 2, 2009

    Aaron, kindly explain the differences between 1 and 3, please.

  87. #87 Lilian Nattel
    January 2, 2009

    Interesting and well thought out analysis of the different models that might be used. I would add that the naturalistic approach tends to find the model in nature that most closely approximates the speaker’s bias to justify it. It’s not only the model available, but the interpretation, that frames the justification. The whole problem could be looked at in a different way. Men, by their nature bigger, stronger, and more aggressive are more suitable to physical labour. The fact that men are also more naturally promiscuous illustrates that they are driven by their sexual desires and therefore not rational. How can you trust social decisions to a man distracted by his lust? No, no. Women who are smaller physically are obviously more intellectual and should be the ones to hold leadership positions and run educational institutions. Women by their nature are more reliable. That long-term raising of a child, that bond to the baby, gives women a natural edge in an advanced and technological society. The big lusty male was suitable to wandering in the ice age and chasing down mammoths. But in this age of information and intellect, one can only trust society to women. Naturally, then, women, as rational leaders devoted to ensuring the sanctity of the next generation, should earn more than men. Don’t worry, guys, we love you–just because you’re not that smart doesn’t mean you aren’t needed. In your natural place. Doing manual labour. Operating heavy equipment. And when we institute “Men’s Studies” in the universities, those of you who are exceptional men, will of course, be allowed to study your own history.

  88. #88 Pyre
    January 2, 2009

    Lilian, re your last sentence: don’t give away the store.

    Remember, “Give ‘em an inch and they think they’re rulers.”

  89. #89 Jeff Darcy
    January 2, 2009

    Pyre: “If either of those arguments had been sincere, the wages would have been based on actual time lost, or actual families being supported, not on a presumption about the entire gender group.”

    I for one directly addressed the disconnect between the expectation and reality of wages being used to support a family. Are you willing to make that “sincere” suggestion yourself, or is ignoring the existence of an economic effect your only alternative to the status quo?

    daedalus2u: thanks for ducking. I know nobody ever explicitly concedes a point on the internet, but your implicit concession will do.

    Stephanie: “When you’re complaining about payments after divorce, are you concerned about child support or alimony?”

    It might be more of a distinction if money ordered for child support were actually used for child support, and if fathers’ ability to pay were given weight equal to mothers’ demands in determining the child-support amount. Neither is the case. In even the best situations, “child support” money is actually used to support an entire household including the mother. In the medium cases, this support is at a level inconsistent with the added cost of the father maintaining a separate residence (against his own will), and the courts turn a deaf ear to the father’s pleas for reasonable reductions. In the worst cases, the father’s money is practically stolen for whatever purpose the mother desires, leading to financial ruin for all parties including the children, while the courts actively assist in the enterprise. Don’t tell me these things don’t happen, because I’ve seen them happen to friends. If you want to make a distinction between alimony and child support, then let’s make a distinction between real child support and alimony (or worse) disguised as child support.

    But you know what? That’s not the form of “income capture” that most concerns me. What concerns me is the effect all this has on men who are still married. *Every* man who loves his children knows that they can be taken away from him for practically no reason at all, and that he might be kept from seeing them (visitation-rights enforcement is a joke in every state) or having any voice in how they are raised indefinitely. It’s like a huge Sword of Damocles over every caring father’s head – sadly, the lousy fathers remain oblivious – keeping them from having an equal voice in family decisions. She can take jobs, leave jobs, decide what job he should have, put the kids in a different school, plan expensive family vacations, make any number of decisions that are based on him providing the primary income, and if they ever disagree then she’s the one with the nuclear option. To their credit, most women never even mention it, but it’s there. That’s how the “income capture” works, and men can’t do it because they can’t hold the kids hostage. You can only dismiss the effect if you haven’t felt it. I haven’t been a woman, and can’t speak for women. I would appreciate it if women would similarly refrain from speaking for men.

    To sum up: not all of the income disparity between men and women, even after adjusting for work hours and experience, is attributable to men being pigs. Some is, and the pigs should be roasted. Some isn’t. Some is related to hard economic facts, which we can either deny or try to address. If we mandate equal pay for men and women, and mandate equal custody grants and child-support payments by the courts, and levy a tax on families (not men or women specifically but whichever is still earning income) where one person cut back hours or left the workplace early to be with family, would that make anyone happy? Or will we just continue to shift injustice around by insisting on the first part and denying any necessity for the others to go with it?

    I pick fairness across the board. Anyone else?

  90. #90 Stephanie Z
    January 2, 2009

    Jeff, again, who’s talking about pigs? People don’t have to be slavering villains for the naturalistic fallacy to have an effect on their thinking and behavior. You know, it’s part of the reason that men can find it so hard to get custody, too.

    And yes, maintaining two households in which to raise children is tough, but that isn’t the fault of “grasping” women. It’s the fault of an economy that doesn’t pay living wages. Trust me, divorced mothers get screwed too.

    As for the hard economic facts, that isn’t as true as you might think. We’re still in a society that values face time in the office or lab or whatever as a measure of productivity, despite the fact that when it’s studied, that’s shown to be a poor measure. The assumption that active parents are less productive is just that, an assumption. What we actually know is that they tend to put in less time in a chair in the office. That’s it.

    For the record, I have no interest in mandating equal pay. I do think that pay and hiring (and other gatekeeping) decisions need to be based on actual, relevant measures of performance, not assumptions.

  91. #91 Aaron Luchko
    January 2, 2009

    Stephanie,

    Approach 1 involves government intervention in business, ie affirmative action, forced closure of wage gaps, quotas, etc.

    Approach 3 is trickier, compensation by workplaces can be given but it shouldn’t be forced. Generally I believe if a man or women, chooses to put their family first the obligation falls on their partner to compensate them in some fashion (ie joint bank accounts). If I place family before work it’s not my employers obligation to compensate me as well as the person who does more work. If either chooses the single life and perform the same work just as well than I don’t see a valid reason for wage discrimination.

  92. #92 daedalus2u
    January 2, 2009

    Well Jeff, I am a man who has been divorced about 10 years and has never missed or been late with either an alimony payment or a child support payment and I haven’t seen my children in years (through no action or inaction on my part). My children’s welfare is more important to me than my own. It is more to me important than seeing them. It is certainly a lot more important to me than “getting back” at their mother, or doing anything to hurt her in the slightest bit. To hurt my children’s mother is to hurt my children. There is nothing that she or anyone else could do to me that would cause me to hurt my children.

    You don’t understand the way that fathers like me think, fathers who actually care about their children’s welfare, not pretend just so they can use it as a weapon. You don’t have the standing to speak for me or for men like me, so why don’t you just STFU!

    If you are so worried about your wife leaving you, why don’t you be a better husband to her? Or is keeping her financially dependent your strategy? Is that why you want women to have lower incomes than men? Because men like you can only maintain a relationship via dependence? You must be pretty insecure if you feel the need to keep your wife dependent on your income. That also explains why you want unmarried and single women to have lower wages too. In isn’t about what is “fair”, it is about what you (and men like you) can use to exert dependence.

    I did answer your question. Gender should not be a factor in wages.

  93. #93 Jeff Darcy
    January 2, 2009

    Yeah, I knew the personal attacks would come. Let’s take a closer look at what dead2u has to say.

    “My children’s welfare is more important to me than my own. It is more to me important than seeing them.”

    Why does it have to be either/or? Are you saying you wouldn’t like to see your children, or that sending a check is the sum total of what you’d like to do for them?

    “It is certainly a lot more important to me than “getting back” at their mother”

    Well, it’s nice to see that ‘getting back’ is on your mind, because it certainly wasn’t on mine and was in no way evident from anything I’ve posted. Methinks someone doth protest too much.

    “You don’t understand the way that fathers like me think, ”

    You’re right, I don’t. I don’t understand how you can think that sending a check is a substitute for being there, I don’t understand how you could *possibly* interpret this as a dependency issue, and I certainly never screwed up badly enough to end up divorced like you. You are in absolutely no position to lecture anyone on being a better husband or parent. Stop projecting your own monumental failures onto others and take your own advice to STFU before you make even more of a fool of yourself.

  94. #94 Pyre
    January 3, 2009

    Ad personam (i.e. ad hominem abusive) alert.

  95. #95 Catherine Brown
    January 3, 2009

    I think part of the problem I have with the simplistic approach to gender roles and equality (the so called ‘slugs and snails’ approach) is that gender inequality is not simply the patriarchy treating women as second class citizens, with a poorer quality of life. It is manifestly clear that men also pay a high price for their predominant gender role – just look at the enormous health inequalities, suicide, mental health problems and substance abuse amongst men.

    This is reflected in the view that women are the primary care givers in parenting and that this has been forced on them by men / “the patriarchy” or biology.

    It is true that this is the predominant role in many societies but there are exceptions where men and women are permitted to take equal responsibility for parenting. This is reflected in legal arrangements. In Iceland, it is typical for both parents to be given equal custody following divorce and men are entitled to paternity leave almost as generous as that given to women. These factors have had wholly beneficial effects in terms of parenting and social cohesion.

    Excluding women from the workforce has in the past awarded us a priviledged position in terms of rearing our children. I would suggest that men are unlikely to relinquish dominance in the workplace while they continue to be alienated – via custom, law or otherwise – from the raising of their offspring.

    So no, we shouldn’t be awarding women special exemption from time out for child rearing. We should be encouraging shared child rearing and enabling both parents to do this without jeopardising their career.

  96. #96 Susan
    January 3, 2009

    Great post, I really enjoyed reading it. Discussions reguarding gender issues always get me down. I see way too many people trying to use intellectual arguments to justify their own personal bigotry. (I don’t think black people are inferior, but there was this study done…) Anyone who tries to claim that an equal society is a just one is going to be challenged by some asshole who read some study somewhere that suggested that women are happier if their personal feedoms are restricted or that it’s more natural to have specific laws that are different for different sexes, races etc. Yes I agree that, over all, there are physical and biological differences between men and women. But statistics are not individuals and there is a broad range of differences between individuals of the same sex. Most women don’t choose to be fire fighters, it’s a sexually skewed industry. But there are some individual women who are big and strong who really want to be fire fighters. If they are equal to their male peers then they should be allowed to to follow their hearts. I believe that things like female fire fighters were frowned upon, not because women were not up to the task, but because it made people uncomfortable to imagine a woman in a dangerous, potentially fatal, situation. If a woman dies, all the babies she was going to have die with her. Men traditionally put out fires, imposed the law or went off to war because they were more expendable. But with almost 7 billion people on the planet, I don’t think the human race is in any danger of dying out soon. So hey, why not let some women participate in some dangerous, previously male dominated jobs. Speaking of babies, there seems to be some rather thinly disguised contempt for the solely female act of giving birth. One poster seems to believe that an employer shouldn’t have to compensate if an employee “chooses” to have a baby and take a few months off work. (I don’t think there is a shortage of temps to fill in at the paper clip factory) The poster also suggested the the employer shouldn’t have to compensate if the employee enlists in the militaty, I guess to show what a hip politically correct guy he is that this comment isn’t restricted only to women. Last time I checked you didn’t get any kind of “military leave” from your job. (Don’t most people join the military because they can’t find a job?) So I guess in the good captialist world employers shouldn’t have to pay women maternity leave. I guess that means that employers shouldn’t have to pay for vacation time either, or sick days or overtime (You choose to stay late at the office)or holiday pay or medical/dential think of how all those expenses are eating into the potential paper clip revenue! (Oh yeah, there’s also paternity leave offered by some employers as well, at least in Canada) But then don’t all good captialists want there to be lots of babies being born? You need all those potential workers paying into social security when you’re old. So isn’t it a good idea to give them a leg up their first few months of life? Kind of an investment? Don’t good captialists like people enlisting in the military as well? Making sure their interests are protected by the power of the armed forces?

  97. #97 the real schlemiel
    January 3, 2009

    daedelus2:”To hurt my children’s mother is to hurt my children…”

    what crap. “Hurting children” is such a faux shield protecting parental and societal incompetence.It is as if the FBI and Cointelpro, plus a little CIA shenanigans with foreign children has become the shame of us all; them that waged psych warfare at the expense of every kid that made it through their damaging MKULTRA experiments actually has some form of a voice, via you and this sort of “its for the children’ mindset. Spoken by a very hurt, very sadman who has become a poster child for non-egalitarian courtroom induced Stockholm Syndrome. Ever wonder why your dollars here at home can’t buy college for a kid, but in China could pay for the k-12 education of a dozen?

    Steph:”When even USA Today takes note that women are doing de facto combat jobs”

    ‘ de facto’ is not “en todo”. See? My solution would kill more worthless militaristic women, right along with those ticking pendulums they call bootleg privates who chose such a fate ( and deserve it–the Darwin in action aspect of feminism and its rare collusion with reality), and save the human race their baby-killing-for-freedom militant mindset.

    De facto in your context means ‘more USA Today Rupert Murdoch brand over substance soundbite journalism, de facto factoid journalism; flag waving Murdoch propaganda guaranteed to do anything BUT tackle the truth, or rally for democratic causes ( can you cite one article where dear Ruppy was against the wiretapping of American citizens? Or can you tell me why Amerikkas most popular news paper never once stuck up for the constitution when Bush and his justice statue draping perverts were shredding it? How about you tell me why it was the last newspaper to get caught with a CIA op writing for it as a ‘journalist’?)

    “do you want people to continue to have and raise children?”

    Um, not really. If we had equitable laws here at home, I could outsource that job–and not have to hear from some Amerikkan woman about watermelons sqishing out my ass.

    Most people, being part chimp, part bonobo, should be licensed to have children, what with the way they raise them here ( as Republicrats and Demopublicans, torn between whether they should worship a dead Jew and his Virgin mother, or merely comply when hip, new age auntie Rita asks them to disrobe)Not to mention that this whole discussion reeks of subtle nationalism–are we really rallying for the “peoples right” ? I mean, after all, Hezbollah, the Mossad, and the dear heirs of Lincoln Rockefeller (*sigh* ANOTHER ‘part-jew’..) are people too…

    Um..you fuckin bet I do. American women: full of jaded viewpoints devoid of actual hardship(the hardship that they lament in Darfur; the hardship they lament in Calcutta-none of which they have a fucking clue about because they are in the most jaded position in the entire world, that of protected species in protected environment, within legally codified, heavily protected, non-egalitarian culture }

    I uphold women from other cultures to bear my children.A calculated choice, if for no other reason than that I am simply tired of primarily white, middle class women and their nationalistic, propaganda infested moinds whining all the freakin time about how bad women got it. Women from other cultures “get it” about how fucked up it is that your government pays low income women to have ANYBODIES baby; women from other cultures GET IT that American middle class women whine for a living, and get paid to demonize valid and valuable males( which is why Demopublicans used the so-called VAWA to stop American men from courting foreign brides) ; women from other cultures are hard pressed to understand why it is that American women bitch as loud, or as much as they do in the ‘land of plenty’, much less understand why women here whine so loud about abortion ‘rights’ but never use them–and use them even less when a paycheck is involved; women from other cultures are fortunate to remember that they had fathers in the singular–not in the plural, as American culture seems to deem neccessary( what with the national debt requiring men to work harder and longer here to pay child support–the average child support paying male in Amerikka could support five or seven kids in Brazil,Chine, or the Phillipines, AND send those kids to college, compared to going broke over one child and one complicit consumerist mother with a desperate need for a Lexus here.

    “When even USA Today takes note that women are doing de facto combat jobs”

    De facto is not a fact Steph, et al.

    and…
    “Because, really, only about 4% of divorced women are receiving alimony,”

    Who needs alimony when your brave new world has re-envisioned it as “child support”? 90% of child support( and its cousins of ‘earned income credits’, and welfare/workfare incentives )receiving single parent homes are “led” by women?

  98. #98 the real cuntard
    January 3, 2009

    Jeff Darcy: You jerk.
    “I don’t understand how you can think that sending a check is a substitute for being there, I don’t understand how you could *possibly* interpret this as a dependency issue, and I certainly never screwed up badly enough to end up divorced like you”

    First, you presume this guy fucked up all on his own. You must be an academic, with your completely ‘head in your own ass’ viewpoint. No, I understand that you guys live in a world of sexual desperation, pandering for the attentions of some completely anorexic and academic women who couldn’t find a real man if their lesbian mothers picked one out of the shrpnel heap of Iraq or Pakistan, or Afghanistan–tomorrow the world!!!(WHERE THE SINGLEMOMS AND THE NATION PROTECTING [hehehe] ‘homeland security’ telephone peepers, FBI SIMPS, NSA broom room heros AND THEIR COMRADES SEND THEIR BELOVED, MANLY SONS) for them–so your head in your own ass makes sense. But don’t fault this poor sop for the way that your blindness, and your calculatedly misandrist fauxminist colleagues have skewed the family court system, or its lover, the local police. After all: anal rape with a thermometer is just mom doing her hard job, and a savings of almost 92 dollars at the HMO.

    And: males in crime? Dude, you are so sold on the fauxminist propped definitions of so-valled ‘male behavior’ and its companion ‘ definition of criminal’ that it is impossible for you to see that womens behaviors, particularly if we look at them with children, would make the average criminal (hmmm…some 70% of prisoners were raised by singlmoms) look like an understudy…

  99. #99 the real cuntard
    January 3, 2009

    Susan: “seems to be some rather thinly disguised contempt for the solely female act of giving birth”
    This pondering apparently self-fulfilling query is only matched by your previous, misandrist comment:

    “If a woman dies, all the babies she was going to have die with her. Men traditionally put out fires, imposed the law or went off to war because they were more expendable.”

    Dude: first things first: if a woman dies she dies with eggs in her ovaries, like a chicken, not babies.

    Second, even if she lives, and then dies, she dies with all kinds of(thousands of) ‘children’ left in her, if indeed we call eggs kids and kids, eggs.

    Third: Men are expendable in your mind. bad idea. Get rid of it for your own ( and your ‘unborn babies’ sake) So, I have taken such cues from women who have similar ideas, and realized that baby making can be outsourced to women from other countries who don’t view me as expendable, and appreciate me for the billions and billions of unborn children festering in my swollen nutsack.

    Get it? It has very little to do with some sort of primal jealousy over women who can push people out of their cunnus, and more to do with realizing that all cunnus are not created ‘equal'( but the much maligned Bruno Bettleheim can give you some apologist clues about this discourse of supposed jealousy, if you want more).

    Meaning of course, that western cunnus are always dis-satisfied, and ever hungry for more self-effacing discussions about how relevant they are to procreation; when actually, the world is full of women far less self involved, and less self aggrandizingly redundant; thus, likely more helpful to all of the worlds ‘unborn children’.

  100. #100 Jeff Darcy
    January 3, 2009

    Looks like I’m drawing fire from both the rabid misogynists in the last few posts and the rabid misandrists in several before. That tells me I must be doing something right. Truth be told, I find the idea of a tax on families where one parent dropped out of the workforce early rather interesting but not compelling. It puts the economic cost of child-care-related departure from the wageforce back on those who incurred it, and it’s even progressive because it would hit mostly families affluent enough for one income while two-worker families wouldn’t be affected. Note that it’s not gender-specific at all, as it would apply regardless of which parent was staying home.

    Since the “more pay for women, ignore any related factors that don’t work to women’s benefit” crowd have done such a characteristically piss-poor job of pointing out the drawbacks of such a proposal, I’ll do it myself. No, it’s not that the tax would fall mostly on women who choose to stay home. It would fall on the *whole family*, and would come out of the remaining wage-earner’s – usually a man’s – income. It could even be specifically worded to be a tax on wage earners receiving child-care services at the wage-earning economy’s expense, so it would in fact be mostly a tax on men. That should make the misandrists happy, but I’m sure it won’t because of the other effect such a tax would have. That effect would be to discourage people – of either gender – from staying home to look after their kids. No, it’s not a matter of a conspiracy to limit women’s freedom to make that choice, since nobody’s freedom should come at another’s expense anyway (something the misandrists should try harder to remember). It’s more a matter of stay-at-home parenting being a social good. If it’s a social good, though, why not have society pay it? In other words, maybe society should swallow the economic cost after all.

    Note, however, the difference between this and simply ignoring or dismissing the economic cost of child-care-related departures from the wageforce. A conscious and explicit policy decision can be discussed, even in quantitative terms if necessary, and adjusted according to how the actual results compare to those desired. If some employers end up bearing an unfair share of the cost for a social good, for example, that can be addressed within such a framework – something that simply ignoring the issue does not allow. “Do nothing” is a policy decision too. Those who try to dismiss or ignore an issue are pushing a policy choice just as much as those who highlight it, but they’re pushing it in an underhanded way. Autocrats always want to have their policies – which often “just happen” to benefit themselves – implemented without debate.

  101. #101 Stephanie Z
    January 3, 2009

    C, I think we’re talking past each other on this one. Not surprising. There’s a bit of noise in here. I think the differences in what we’re saying on the military issue are largely that I’m focusing on the steps that have been made, and you’re focusing on the gaps that still exist.

    Aaron, once again, you’re ignoring that social systems that are set up to run one way tend to be self-justifying and don’t change easily. That would be one of the points of this post.

    Yes, Jeff. Anyone who disagrees with you is rabid, especially when you ignore the substance of everyone’s arguments. Yes, that is a super big accomplishment. By the way, there’s this guy named Bjorn you really ought to meet.

  102. #102 KnockGoats
    January 3, 2009

    The fact is that capitalism is extremely efficient at distributing resources and assigning value. When you start interfering with that function there will be a cost. – Aaron Luchko

    No, that’s a controversial ideological claim, not a fact. What is a fact is that no capitalist society has ever been without state “interference” in business practice. When we were nearest to that “libertarian” utopia, in the first half of the 19th century, we had slavery, children working 14-hour days, adults earning near-starvation wages, lethal pollution of air and water…

  103. #103 Jeff Darcy
    January 3, 2009

    No, Stephanie, not everyone who disagrees with me is rabid. I do tend to apply that term, though, to people who make minimal efforts to address the subject in any substantial way and instead offer only fallacies, personal attacks, and misdirection. I think your points about alimony and child support have been misleading at best, for example, but I don’t think you’re rabid. Even Pyre, despite his/her rather hypocritical attempt to portray others as insincere, doesn’t seem rabid. If you don’t think that term applies to *anyone* here, though, then you just haven’t been paying attention. These discussions bring the rabid folk on both sides out of the woodwork, even if there are also reasonable people trying to have a real conversation.

  104. #104 Stephanie Z
    January 3, 2009

    Jeff, I don’t see a single rabid person in this thread. I see someone telling you he can speak for himself, thank you very much, as he is an actual interested party. I see someone not bothering to translate his thoughts into longhand because he doesn’t think you’re dealing with the argument honestly. I see a bunch of people ignoring your “modest” tax proposal as disingenuous. I see Pyre doing an excellent job of saying the martyr has no clothes. Nobody rabid.

    What I don’t see is you actually addressing why challenging assumptions about “natural” gender roles is a bad thing or why it wouldn’t benefit men just as much as women.

  105. #105 Pyre
    January 3, 2009

    Susan: “Last time I checked you didn’t get any kind of “military leave” from your job. (Don’t most people join the military because they can’t find a job?)”

    You’re thinking of people who enlist for full-time active duty: their job is military service, period.

    But think of the reservists, the people who have full-time civilian jobs, and spend only periodic weekends on training — until they’re called up into active duty.

    There’s supposed to be a legal protection for them, that they can’t be penalized by their employers for this “moonlighting”, and that they get their civilian jobs back when they return from active duty.

    Of late, this protection has not been ironclad, but I think that’s another shame of the Bush Administration, and I hope it’ll soon be corrected.

  106. #106 Pyre
    January 3, 2009

    … spend only periodic weekends on training….

    I neglected to mention the longer annual (two-weeks-a-year) training, which is what “military leave” is generally needed for, so it doesn’t use up “vacation time”.

    Employers are expected to provide this leave because it’s in the interest of the nation.

    The argument could well be made that maternity leave is too, since that results in the next generation of citizens (and soldiers).

    Since employers are required not to discriminate against reservists, why shouldn’t they be required not to discriminate against mothers?

  107. #107 Pyre
    January 3, 2009

    Aaron Luchko: “One of the reasons women make less is they’re encouraged to enter fields that pay less….”

    It may also be that those fields themselves are paid less because they are regarded as typically “women’s work”.

    In the USA, a medical doctor has stereotypically been male, and it’s a high-paying job.

    In Russia, far more medical doctors are female, and the pay is much lower on the overall scale of jobs.

    Same field, different gender presumption.

    When job fields in the USA have been compared by their work requirements, so that one might expect comparable pay levels, there’s been a tendency toward lower pay in the female-dominated versus the male-dominated fields.

    It’s hard not to suspect that gender presumption is the reason for the pay differential.

    Women being steered toward those “woman’s work” jobs makes that gender presumption a self-fulfilling prophecy.

  108. #108 shelly
    January 3, 2009

    I learned a great deal about the primates in your blog and I appreciate the complexity of the whole issue but it does nothing for my reality. I am a woman engineering manager with all the degrees and licenses, which i earned to help protect me from discrimination. I found out i am being paid 25% less than the previous man at this job (i have more experience,and more years at the company too). I went to a lawyer, sure i’ve got a case, cough up a few thousand and maybe i’ll get satisfaction but it’s guaranteed i’ll lose my job, or get miserable raises forever and be black balled from a job anywhere in town. oh, and i don’t have any children. i think they looked at the statistics when they hired me, “we can pay her 25% less because that’s the way it is.” it makes me sick.

  109. #109 Silver Fox
    January 3, 2009

    Excellent post!

  110. #110 McDuff
    January 4, 2009

    Aaron Luchko

    As for your statement
    “If it is true that “…being more aggressive, more ambitious, more authoritative, more psychopathic, less caring of others are ‘qualities’ that are sought in CEOs..” then we have to stop doing that. We have to stop seeking and rewarding those qualities.”

    What if those qualities are actually valuable in CEOs and other managerial positions?

    The fact is that capitalism is extremely efficient at distributing resources and assigning value. When you start interfering with that function there will be a cost.

    We are in the middle of a breakdown in the global economy caused not solely, but principally, by the penis-waving, hyper-aggressive, seeking of short term gain and adrenaline pumping risky behaviour at the expense of caution, nuance and society-benefiting reciprocation. That even now you would push the idea that the typical alpha male irrational aggression is sought because it is better rather than sought because it is the norm is nothing except evidence that you are wedded to an idea you personally find attractive because it benefits you and fits your biases.

    The overwhelming evidence we have about “markets” – and this predates the current credit crunch by centuries – is that the excessive speculation, risk-taking and concentration of wealth that epitomises the Western “laissez faire” feudalistic tradition is not good for anyone except the small group of dominant males who get to rule over an increasingly impoverished and desperate society. Markets are only as efficient as the people making the decisions, and if the chief decision makers are irrational, aggressive and obsessed with status then you end up running whole societies into the ground.

    Personally, my own biases would be to fire every white male above a certain pay band in the financial sector and replace them all with black lesbians and disabled hispanic women. It might go wrong but at least we wouldn’t have to listen to them bleat about how they are the most masterful managers we can trust to get us poor proles out of the mess, and we especially wouldn’t have to listen to them try and tell us that the circumstances their big, strong, male, dominant hands have wrought is the best of all possible worlds as we watch our jobs and pensions go down the shitter, would we?

    Ken Hirsch

    That’s not what I’ve seen. I’ve seen firefighters in heavy protective gear carrying heavy equipment doing hard physical labor.

    Then you were probably looking at firemen like my friend, currently serving with the guard in Iraq, who always complains that 80% of his colleagues are, shall we say, a touch portly around the midsection and let him do all the work. Or that fitness standards are applied at hiring but at no stage after that, meaning a 20 year man can eat as many donuts as he likes.

    I very much doubt that my friend has a particular interest in badmouthing the fire department as a whole, since it employs him and all. I’d suggest you check your eyes for confirmation bias.

  111. #111 McDuff
    January 4, 2009

    Hmm, my closing blockquote tag happened two paragraphs early, for those who may be confused.

  112. #112 Renee
    January 4, 2009

    TL;DR

    But I think you fundamentally misunderstand some major things. Re: breast milk, nature has designed breast milk to maximally provide nutrition to infants. You claim that the naturalistic perspective would say even if an infant is allergic to its mother’s milk it should just drink it and die. Straw man alert! I don’t think it says that (or anyone who believes that) would say that.

    The “intent” of nature is for the infant to be as well protected as possible. In most cases, breast milk achieves this. In cases where it does not, it just means that an ERROR was made; the intent of nature was for the infant to survive as well as possible. It’s natural for a mother to want her baby to thrive, so the best thing to do is find a substitute for breast milk.

    I personally fed my daughter for her entire nursing period. I held her, I gave her the milk, we stared into each other’s eyes and bonded, the whole nine yards. Not her mother. Me.

    You bonded, huh? And did you experience the release of oxytocin in your brain as a result of your nipples being stimulated by the breast-feeding? Maybe the infant was fooled, but her mother missed out, and so did you, because you simply do not have the physical apparatus. (And there’s some question as to whether the infant was actually fooled. I would never take anything out of a bottle. I went straight from boob to sippy-cup.)

    Sure, in our modern society we want to think that males and females are the same. It’s pretty obvious that they’re not. And sure, not everything natural is GOOD. But it’s not obvious that just because males and females are different, it is good to treat them as if they were exactly the same. In fact, it’s obvious that it isn’t.

  113. #113 Greg Laden
    January 4, 2009

    nature has designed breast milk to maximally provide nutrition to infants.

    You mean optimally, not maximally. Human milk is far from the most nutrient rich or calorie rich milk. People often confuse the words “maximal” and “optimal.” The difference is very important.

    The “intent” of nature is for the infant to be as well protected as possible.

    Actually, the whole thing is a compromise of conflicting interests. In an evolutionary (=nature) context, mothers “want” to distribute resources and protection in a certain way that is not the same as what the infant “wants,” and both are “concerned” (in an evolutionary sense) with the other potential or previous offspring of the mother.

    You bonded, huh? And did you experience the release of oxytocin in your brain as a result of your nipples being stimulated by the breast-feeding?

    Are you certain that bonding requires the release of oxytocin and involves nothing else? That’s it? Then I guess not.

    But it’s not obvious that just because males and females are different, it is good to treat them as if they were exactly the same. In fact, it’s obvious that it isn’t.

    I agree completely with you on this. Which is kinda random because I don’t think you quite have a handle on this topic. But you are trying, and that is the important thing!

  114. #114 Ardy Hagen
    January 4, 2009

    Gregg

    Thanks for your excellent postings.

    “But a realistic look at our evolutionary biology does not give any simple answers, and never, ever does it provide justification for unfairness or violence.”

    Even though “nature” is no justification, never the less it seems worthwhile to acknowledge that biological nature may predispose us toward behaviors that our social nature would reject. And so, for instance we might have a social consensus that rejects rape… even as we understand that total elimination of these behaviors is not likely a realistic goal. And, to the extent that we have a social consensus against such behaviors… it is also unlikely that that social consensus along with self discipline will be insufficient control these behaviors. And so when we consider male sexual aggression towards females… we can agree that society should control such behaviors … even while understanding that there is a certain (regrettable) natural predisposition toward such behaviors. Acknowledging that reality is somewhat different than justifying the behavior.

    There is another further area that you did not cover (IMO): the distinction between social predisposition as compared to biological predisposition.

    Biological predisposition tends to link us with very basic animal instincts… fear, sexual attraction, etc. Biological predisposition tends to be most resistant to short term change.

    However many of the specific social behaviors that we see are rooted in social patterns. These social patterns gradually become entrenched in the genome if they persist for a long period and are somehow functional for the survival of the species.

    These sorts of social constructs can emerge in a much shorter time frame than would be true of biological predispositions. And for this reason, direct comparison with non-human primates is problematical.

    For example… the 6000 years of human civilization are a blink of the eye from the perspective of biological evolution. But those same 6000 years have dramatically re-shaped human society. For example…. a Bushman/village social structure MAY be better adapted to monogamous relationships that give the best chance for offspring to survive.

    On the other hand, as we move toward a city type civilization, it becomes more possible for social inclinations to change. For example in a small village, probably everyone pretty much knows what is going on between whom… where as there relatively anonymous activity is facilitated in city type social structures. And so the change of human social circumstance would easily lead to changes in standard human behavior patterns.

    It seems likely that there were past human social structures where there was a competitive/survival advantage to a social arrangement where men specialized in activities like hunting and animal care; activities which required their absence from the village…. even while women specialized in activities that did not take them far from the village or endanger their offspring. This sort of social structure would be mostly adaptive and possibly independent of comparisons with other primates who might have chosen different adaptive paths.

    In any case, it is clear that humanity has a rich social history. And it is not at all clear that changes in resulting social inclinations can be instantly revised based upon current social agreements. Consider the time frame required for changing something like slavery and racial discrimination. One could wish that Lincoln’s emancipation proclamation would instantly charge society. But I think we all recognize that such an expectation would not be realistic.

    As one extends that analogy to social relationships between genders, one can imagine that it will likely take some considerable time to work out the details… no matter how enthusiastically we may wish for absolute gender equality. I would expect the gender equality problem to be even more deeply rooted than racial issues… which after all have probably been a recent social innovation which only enabled when enhanced transportation technology that facilitated previously rare contact between races.

    Given the above considerations, I think it is important to remember that readjustment of gender relationships is likely to be a long-term process, rather than a magic bullet solution. Acknowledging that reality is not intended to justify inequality.

    ——–

    It is true that there is a rather wide set of behaviors that may be construed as “natural” based upon examples from other species.

    However, we have a broad and probably more relevant example of human experiences which we may contemplate as a reference for “human nature.” I would make the assertion that if we see a common stream of human behavior across time and differing societies… then it is reasonable to infer that there is some “natural” inclination which is behind that common manifestation.

    So, for example… human males with power have a tendency to have multiple female sexual partners. It seems not fetched to surmise that human males are naturally inclined to have multiple partners if given the choice. We could speculate about why this is the case. But the “natural” reality seems beyond dispute based upon the pervasive evidence for this assertion.

    Further, as reliable birth control has become available; and as social norms have been eroded… it seems to be the case that human females also prefer to have sexual relationships with more than a single lifetime mate.

    And those apparent realities… it would seem that absolute monogamy does not map on “natural” human inclinations despite our social predilection to pretend otherwise.

    Again, the above is not intended to “justify “infidelity.” On the other hand, it does seem a little silly to pretend that humans are naturally monogamous.

    Likewise, a review of societies across time and geography tend to provide strong evidence that human females are (on average) devoted caregivers of offspring to a greater extent than the human male.

    And, in this respect, I recall your own discussion of your role in raising your child. I would observe that in less industrialized societies you might have encountered some difficulties in feeding your child without the help of a female. Again, this is an example of how the evolution of human society will also impact the possibilities of what is natural human behavior

  115. #115 Oran Kelley
    January 4, 2009

    Greg:

    I think it is important to note that all of your talking of evolutionary “wanting” things is just misleading shorthand. Evolution doesn’t want anything, and the wants of those subject to evolution–if they have them–may or may not matter.

    The fact of the matter is, evolution is the survival of those who happen to survive best in the given circumstances. In most cases “want” doesn’t enter into it. There’s no intention in it and no value judgment. The whole want thing is BS and ought to be left out, particularly in context like these where it is apt to be misinterpreted. Genes don’t want anything, and most species don’t want anything as we understand it. Certain traits tend to survive in a given (changing) environment and those are the ones that get passed down. Period.

    It’s an algorithm, not a story.

    But it’s not obvious that just because males and females are different, it is good to treat them as if they were exactly the same. In fact, it’s obvious that it isn’t.

    The proper answer to this is not “I agree” for God’s sake, it’s “OK, tell me precisely what the differences should be in how we “treat” the two sexes based upon definitive research.”

    Answer to that: crickets. Because we don’t know enough about what the differences may be to say, and therefor provisionally treating everyone as if they are the same is the answer. Just as I may treat you wish respect in spite f the fact that you have close-together eyes, which is related to assinity in my latest research–because the research isn’t good enough to overcome the principle that I ought to give someone the benefit of the doubt in spite of preliminary findings.

    Men and Women are different? Thanks! I hadn’t noticed! I’m glad you are around!

    But precisely how are they different? Can you give me a complete and definitive answer? How should social policy be altered in response to this information, can you give me a precise and definitive answer, based on the best science?

    Or are you rather at the point of saying, vaguely, that men & women are different, without which knowledge the human race would have died out a million or so years ago?

  116. #116 Renee
    January 4, 2009

    Ah, Greg Landen uses the classic argumentative method: misdirection.

    nature has designed breast milk to maximally provide nutrition to infants.

    You mean optimally, not maximally. Human milk is far from the most nutrient rich or calorie rich milk. People often confuse the words “maximal” and “optimal.” The difference is very important.

    This semantic difference does not bely my point. It still stands.

    The “intent” of nature is for the infant to be as well protected as possible.

    Actually, the whole thing is a compromise of conflicting interests. In an evolutionary (=nature) context, mothers “want” to distribute resources and protection in a certain way that is not the same as what the infant “wants,” and both are “concerned” (in an evolutionary sense) with the other potential or previous offspring of the mother.

    I simplified things. Yes, she won’t sacrifice her life for the kid if she has any future reproductive potential, but I think we can say that mothers are willing to invest more into their offspring than any other individual. Happy?

    Again, this does not in any way compromise my point. Mothers do a great deal for their children, as demanded by natural selection. A child is her method of passing on her genes. Deal.

    You bonded, huh? And did you experience the release of oxytocin in your brain as a result of your nipples being stimulated by the breast-feeding?


    Are you certain that bonding requires the release of oxytocin and involves nothing else? That’s it? Then I guess not.

    No, and I never claimed that it did. But there is a reason that that stimulation releases oxytocin. If there weren’t, the mechanism wouldn’t exist. If you were the only one that fed your kid, both your wife and the kid missed out. It’s like having sex without an orgasm.

    I’m not claiming you’re remiss in doing this. Far be it from me to criticize someone’s parenting. But the equivalency claim does not hold.


    But it’s not obvious that just because males and females are different, it is good to treat them as if they were exactly the same. In fact, it’s obvious that it isn’t.

    I agree completely with you on this. Which is kinda random because I don’t think you quite have a handle on this topic. But you are trying, and that is the important thing!

    I’m glad you feel that way, because I find condescension a turn-on.

  117. #117 Pyre
    January 4, 2009

    “… I find condescension a turn-on.”

    How happy you must be, in the blogosphere.

    What a rich source of stimulation!

  118. #118 Renee
    January 4, 2009

    Please excuse my iffy tagging in the previous post. Should have previewed that.

    Now, onto Oran Kelly:

    I think it is important to note that all of your talking of evolutionary “wanting” things is just misleading shorthand. Evolution doesn’t want anything

    He knows that. I know that. You know that. Let’s all just assume that everyone knows it and move on, eh?

    Men and Women are different? Thanks! I hadn’t noticed! I’m glad you are around! But precisely how are they different?

    Women have the larger gamete size. Women have a greater investment in parental care. (This is not to say that men have no investment; they do, if their offspring are conceived in the context of a relationship) Women are better at multitasking; men are better at remaining focused on a single task. Men are more ambitious. Men are more violent. Men prefer to have more sexual partners than women. Women are better communicators. Women have a higher pain tolerance. Humans show female dispersal, not male dispersal, so it’s somewhat of a puzzle why males have better spacial abilities (as is the case with ground squirrels.) Males naturally gravitate towards technology. (It’s not that women aren’t capable. They just aren’t interested. And that’s why men are better programmers.) Oh man, I could go on forever. Really. That said, however…

    we don’t know enough about what the differences may be to say, and therefor provisionally treating everyone as if they are the same is the answer.

    …I agree with you. But of course, that’s not we do. We have the federal Violence Against Women act. We have paid maternity leave. Female engineers get NSF fellowships easy as pie. My graduate institution is an “affirmative action/equal (ha!) opportunity employer.” I agree that we should TREAT women like equals. But we don’t treat women like equals.

    Sometimes we treat them like children, because violence towards a woman is just like violence against a child- all the more despicable because the victim is weak.

    Sometimes we try to force them to become indiscernible from men. Anywhere there is a statistical difference, we most make them “better” even if it means making everything overall “worse.”

    Or are you rather at the point of saying, vaguely, that men & women are different, without which knowledge the human race would have died out a million or so years ago?

    I’m pretty sure that having that knowledge is completely irrelevant to human survival, especially given that humans have only been around for 200,000 years. But good try.

  119. #119 Pyre
    January 5, 2009

    “Males naturally gravitate towards technology.”

    Making tools (especially weapons) was ever so necessary to the “men’s work” of fighting and hunting — especially those damn mammoths, which took real engineering work just to convey home (for the women to clean and cook).

    Meanwhile, avoiding technology came in handy for the women, to say “I don’t know nothin’ about no carvin’ up mammoths!” and hand that job back to the men with their stone knives.

    Then of course mounting the mammoth on a spit over a fire took more engineering — for the spit and for the firepit — so again the men got handed that job. Likewise carving up the cooked pieces for dinner.

    To this day, men do the cooking on outdoor grills and barbecues, and carve up the large meats at dinner.

    Naturally men are very proud of their ability to do these traditional tasks.

    And naturally women are happy to let them feel that way.

    Which may indicate what sort of skills women got instead.

  120. #120 Aaron Luchko
    January 5, 2009

    KnockGoats,

    If you look at GPD and standards of living there seems to be a lot of evidence that capitalism is highly effective. Of course the optimal balance of government regulation has yet to be found.

    Note that the 19th century example isn’t quite valid as that was at least partly caused by peasants being forced off their land by governments to create more labour for the factories. As to pollution serious externalities like that are definitely a place for government intervention (I’m not convinced the gender issue is an externality).

    Pyre,

    Good point on the pay differentials, it would be interesting to see some studies analyzing if this is a detectable, and quantifiable, trend.

    I’m afraid I shall have to retire from this discussion as it’s taking up too much time. So long and thanks for all the perspectives!

  121. #121 Oran Kelley
    January 5, 2009

    Women are better at multitasking; men are better at remaining focused on a single task. Men are more ambitious. Men are more violent. Men prefer to have more sexual partners than women. Women are better communicators. Women have a higher pain tolerance. Humans show female dispersal, not male dispersal, so it’s somewhat of a puzzle why males have better spacial abilities (as is the case with ground squirrels.) Males naturally gravitate towards technology. (It’s not that women aren’t capable. They just aren’t interested. And that’s why men are better programmers.) Oh man, I could go on forever. Really. That said, however. . .

    You state these as free and easy conclusions: But how many studies have shown these things, under what social conditions. Two years ago, people like you were just as breezily saying that women were obviously inferior to men in mathematics by a significant margin. Saying that as if Moses came down from the mount with it etched on a stone tablet, and . . . well, now it looks a bit more complicated than that, no?

    Men are more ambitious? What do you mean by that? What, precisely, have studies shown? How have they controlled for social factors? How is this not just the latest overstatement of what we really know about innate sex differences?

    And if you think that it is absolutely conclusive that men and women are different in all the ways you suggest, it seems absurd for you to hold up the idea that they should be treated equally: why should they if it is so certain that they aren’t and that we know exactly how and we know which components of these differences are biological and which cultural. It seems ridiculous to then say, but we should provisionally treat them as equal. Why?

    What we do know, to my mind: men and women are indeed different. Men have dominated more-or-less every society ever recorded in history. Why? Well we have some candidates, but the important thing to notice is that in a great many societies, and this is pretty easily demonstrable, Male domination has led to hugely inefficient (and unjust) allocations of social resources and suppression of female talent and ambition both through law and (especially) through ideology.

    Our current society is muddling through the after-effects of this situation, and trying to come up with an allocation of social resources that better reflects our capacities. What will be the final outcome of this? I don’t know. Neither do you.

    So, anyhow, as an example . . . those who decide how we approach these things–elected politicians, bureaucrats (which I use in the non-pejorative, Weberian sense), social science folk–say “There aren’t enough female engineers.” And they are probably right, whatever you believe about the current science, the numbers do seem lower than is to be expected. And it’d be nice to have more American engineers. So how to accomplish this? The typical American approach is outcome-oriented–what I mean is that the stages of the engineering-creation process closest to the final outcome (woman in engineering job) are incentivized.

    Personally, I think this is generally a bad approach because it significantly advantages a small group of people who happen to be at the end of that process at the moment, it causes acute resentment for those DISadvantaged in what are usually zero-sum games, and, I think, it is a pretty ineffective strategy for getting more women to BEGIN the long process. On the other hand, it’s cheap and it’s easy to show quick, marginal results. Working hard at the grade/middle/high school level to overcome the significant ideological currents blowing against women in math & hard science careers and to shepherd people into the process and to support them against opting out early and even using those support systems for other populations under-represented in the engineering corps (all native born, pretty much!) is an expensive, long-term solution–the kind of solution that our elected officials seem rather disinterested in at the moment.

    But, as much as I may disagree with the method employed, I think it is weird to see someone defending the current outcomes as if they were ordained by nature. Pretty clearly they aren’t. And pretty clearly something more than biology is at play in the current outcomes. And, pretty clearly, if our social decision-makers see it in our national interest to alter those outcomes they can and will and should. The working assumption of these efforts is not necessarily that the natural order ordains a 50/50 sexual split in engineering, but we aren’t anywhere near that yet (15%?). The working assumption is that that number should be higher.

    Scientific studies that seek to finely detail innate differences between men and women, I find, generally are very good at demonstrating differences that may or may not be innate and that may or may not be innate to the degree manifested. Generally speaking, I think a lot of science on this matter shows an inherent bias toward finding innate differences. Why? Because they are conducted largely by people who are interested in expanding the purview of their own field of study–biology–at the expense of purviews such as politics, traditional sociology, etc. That is researchers strongly WANT to believe in innate differences and their colleagues (their potential reviewers) do, too.

    This isn’t a conspiracy, merely what is to be expected with researchers who (horrors!) do have personal & institutional interests to advance.

    So my usual attitude when someone tells me “Science says X” about an issue with potential social and biological explanations is skepticism. I ask, how hard did they work to truly control for social and ideological factors here? And the answer is usually, “not very.” Or I ask, does the study truly support the broad claims people are making on the basis of it? And the answer is usually, “not really.” And when I ask Why aren’t scientists putting down all this overstatement? The answer usually seems to be that they generally LIKE it (to a degree, of course) when someone claims undue explanatory power for their field’s preferred tools.

  122. #122 Renee
    January 5, 2009

    The working assumption of these efforts is not necessarily that the natural order ordains a 50/50 sexual split in engineering, but we aren’t anywhere near that yet (15%?). The working assumption is that that number should be higher. -Kelley

    Anecdote time! For some reason I know a lot of engineers. A lot. And this is a question that I’ve always been curious about. I participated in a free pilot “girls in engineering” program when I was 12, and of the 5 of us hand-picked pre-teens, none of us became engineers. I had one of the best times in my life doing that program, but I still didn’t become an engineer. Why?

    I know a lot of guys who are C.S. graduate students. One of them was telling me how technophobic his father is. This piqued my curiosity, because I always wondered that if my father hadn’t been a history major, maybe I’d be more technical. My friend’s father was also a history major. This friend had started programming at 14, because he liked it.

    When I was 14, I had had access to a computer. I had access to a computer much, much earlier than that. I did play around on it; I played with paint a lot, and played some freeware games. I did my homework on it. At 14, we had just gotten the internet, and I made some stupid webpages on Yahoo! geocities. Occasionally I made changes to the html, but for the most part I used the GUI.

    I had access to everything I needed. But I didn’t make that leap.

    My friend at Berkeley was a late bloomer. Most programmers I know his age started a lot earlier- 10 usually, but as young as 7. This is true of every male undergraduate CS major I knew when I was in college. They had all started programming on their own, without ever having taken a class on it. The girls were a different story. Some of them were fortunate to go to high schools with programming classes (as I was not) but none of them had the same male origin story.

    Males naturally gravitate towards the more technical. Take baby humans, and the males go for the trucks and the females for the dolls. Take baby primates (the study was done on rhesus monkeys) and the males go for the trucks more than the females do.

    People who are naturally attracted to something- who devote time to something because they enjoy it, not because it would make a good career choice-are always better at it. Men are better programmers than women, not because they’re smarter, but because they’ve spent hours exploring programming. Goal oriented programmers don’t have time to learn more efficient and better ways to do things.

    Of course, childhood interest in something doesn’t correlate 1-to-1 with success in that field later in life. A friend of mine, a graduate student in biology, majored in electrical engineering as an undergrad. I asked her if she had played with circuit boards or anything as a kid. She told me, “No, I never did… I never touched a circuit board until I got to college. My little brother did that kind of thing though.” I asked her what her brother did now- he was an English major at some crappy university.

    So clearly innate interest is not the be all and end all. But you have to admit, it is there. (If you don’t believe that an interest in the technical versus the interpersonal is biological, try interacting with a kid with autism or Asperger’s. Ever wonder why males are more susceptible to the syndrome? In fact, there’s a theory that autism is simply “extreme maleness.” While I don’t buy it, it does bolster the idea that the interest in the technical is hard-wired.)

  123. #123 Renee
    January 5, 2009

    Men are more ambitious? What do you mean by that? What, precisely, have studies shown? How have they controlled for social factors? How is this not just the latest overstatement of what we really know about innate sex differences?

    There are lots of studies on this, and yes, all studies are imperfect. But a lot of these statements I feel fairly confident making, because they’re consistent with what we know about what being male and female is all about- throughout the animal kingdom.

    We know- KNOW- that in humans, males have greater variance in reproductive success. This is pretty obvious. All women can manage to have, oh, 2-8 kids survive to adulthood. Males? Let’s see- 0 to Genghis Khan. Women spread their genes by being cautious. Men do better if they take risks. This means in pretty much any parameter you measure, males will have greater variance. This means that the folks at the top are- you guessed it- male. The folks at the bottom? Also male. This is true in everything- IQ, salary, health, etc. Women like to play it safe. This is because for increases in success, there are diminishing returns. A women who can support 20 kids does just as well as one that can support 40 kids. She can’t have 40 kids. The difference between a man who can support 20 versus 40 kids is, well, a twofold increase in reproductive success.

    It makes sense for men to be more ambitious, because it can actually get them somewhere. So it’s not surprising that women who are offered jobs of high status (i.e. CEO) disproportionately turn them down compared to their male counterparts.

  124. #124 H3likon
    January 5, 2009

    Interesting to look at societies with selective preference for male offspring– India and China. Will women increase value with scarcity, or will men become more violent?
    “China now has 41 million more men than women. These surplus men are concentrated in the youthful age range of 15 to 34. They are over-represented among poor, transient and unemployed men who will be drawn together into “bachelor subcultures.” Citing other scholars, Ms. Hudson and Ms. den Boer speculate that the young-male surplus will translate into higher rates of crime and violence and possibly more political instability. If the government recruits surplus men into the armed forces to keep them under control, it may become more willing to engage in aggressive military actions.”

    http://www.opinionjournal.com/la/?id=110005345

  125. #125 Oran Kelley
    January 6, 2009

    The difference between a man who can support 20 versus 40 kids is, well, a twofold increase in reproductive success.

    Does this happen often enough–40 kids–to matter?

    Also getting back to the pathetic fallacy: Yes, I now Greg knows what I said, I know you know. The problem is that it doesn’t matter that we know the pathetic fallacy is a fallacy, it influences the way our thought tends to run anyway. I think if there is one realization that biology has to come to these days, its that evolution is nothing but an algorithm, and that deploying all the narrative tropes that we know from literature desire, ambition, conflict, personal success, etc. etc. queers our thinking about what evolution is, how it works and how it applies to us.

    Let’s be frank, even if the man with 40 kids happens often, what does it mean to him? He dies and . . . that’s it. He doesn’t get a prize for having “succeeded.” He doesn’t go to Darwin’s heaven. His genes soldier on into the future, but he himself? He’s dead. And that “he himself” is the overwhelmingly important figure in all those narrative tropes. Without that moral self getting punished or rewarded, reaping the benefits or costs of his actions, those tropes wouldn’t exist. By using these tropes you are dragging in all kinds of connotation that have nothing at all to do with evolution, and as much as folks insist “Oh, I know that” the slippage of evolutionary discourse into moral discourse happens constantly.

    The best way to drive home the really messages of Darwinism is to give over the traditional tropes and to openly express the essentially nihilistic quality of the process.

  126. #126 the real dyckslexus
    January 6, 2009

    Jeff: disliking yet another viewpoint (yours) that limply fails to understand, much less accomodate, the facts that the so-called child support system and the accomplice court is just another way of saying “$alimony$” is why you are just redundant in your bullying attempts at another man who has been victimized by that system.

    Not to metion that research and data collection is skewed with a distinctly misandrist slant.

    Neither of these observations is anti-female, or massage…miso-gyno..er……massa’…er, whatever -istic.

    But I would bet a million that everty piece of ass(every breeding opportunity) you ever had came from one of those belly-aching second status cows in the herd that whines about how the bulls are so full of it, otherwise you wouldn’t be so quick to analyze every view that contrasts with your own as anti-woman.

    In fact, you might even be able to see that the grass really IS greener on the other side of the pasture: for every ‘reproductive success story’out there killing for resources (“G-d,MOTHER and country,” as the marines and army DI’s like to put it…), there are fewer ‘reproductive fitness’ stories–unless of course we look into the males whose genes populate the homes that every whiny second-third-zillionth-mating interloper inhabits ( and interlopers are often beneficiaries of so-called ‘child support’) The anti-massagyna-ists are ‘co-parenting’ households that are merely reproductive success stories, but often philosophically bankrupt, save for the rallying cries of breast cancer awareness and massa’..er…miss…um…wutever.

    So, every time some Iraqi mommie, or Calcutta prostitute bites the dust, I think of you, and others who are truly, truly he-man-woman “woman haters”.

    But a nod to you for a blink of understanding: “puts the economic cost of child-care-related departure from the wageforce back on those who incurred it”

    but: “it’s not gender-specific at all, as it would apply regardless of which parent was staying home.”
    you fail again to realize that the court system is skewed towards women as single parents,and as child support( and its host of other social advantages) recipients, as 90% of single parents are women–by social design, and often women who breed whatever sucker comes along: the court system, and single parent definitions are almost exclusive to ‘women’, both as reciepients of legal protection in custody wars, and in social expectations of bearing fruit(s) with benefits.To say it’s not gender-specific at all” belies the facts.

    “nobody’s freedom should come at another’s expense anyway”

    But as it exists today, the system does indeed tax men heavily, and deny children decent parenting ( again: social design)

  127. #127 mjaybee
    January 6, 2009

    What nonsense. Men constitute the majority of the homeless in US society, the majority of suicides is male, and there are numerous social programs and government agencies that exclusively service women’s health and wellbeing, all subsidized by revenues generated primarily from men’s labor.

    Men subsidize women in America, not the other way around.

  128. #128 Stephanie Z
    January 6, 2009

    mjaybee, what part of the post are you saying is nonsense? Also, you might consider the cost of replacing unpaid women’s labor in your calculations.

  129. #129 sara
    January 9, 2009

    Men and women are different, but also necessarily equal. So no one owes me anything for having a womb and PMS and all of that.

    And we cannot accuse society of “punishing” women without demonstrating first that women are really trying just as hard as men (from my personal experience, I would write that all of the women I know are not; the men I know are more ambitious, more enthusiastic, and more focused about their work/research). It is not clear how much of the wage gap is due to voluntary factors or occupational segregation.

    I suspect that episodes of pure discrimination are random, just as personalities are, rather than systematic. And systematic efforts to compensate for the fact that there are fewer female programmers or that women have to deal with mucus plugs and episiotomy and recurrent urinary tract infections are not so beneficial and can have negative secondary consequences.

    Anyway, rather than punishing them or excluding them, I am sure that the programmers, for example, would be happy to have more girls walking around in their department/offices. In science/engineering, I think that girls already receive special enough treatment. Sometimes, I think that it is annoying; sometimes it seems just. It is just so, and I cannot imagine what will change. The fact that I do not share the wall of urinals with my advisor/colleagues does affect our relationship somehow but I doubt that it is a dominant factor.

    By the way, what else is known about origins of oral sex? Are Bonobos the only non-human animalia who engage in this?

  130. #130 Stephanie Z
    January 9, 2009

    Oh, Sara, pure discrimination? How pure does it have to be before it’s a bad thing and worth doing something about? And why is it “special treatment” to tell employers they have to treat the possibility of women’s pregnancies and urinary tract infections like the possibility of men’s heart attacks and prostate problems–statistically more likely, but legally irrelevant to employment and compensation practices?

  131. #131 Shaheen Lakhan
    February 6, 2009

    Thanks for submitting this post to our blog carnival. We just published the 43rd edition of Brain Blogging and your article was featured!

    Thank you.

    Sincerely,
    Shaheen

Current ye@r *