Guest post: “Equity feminism” explained


By embertine in a comment on You say tomato I say mascarpone.

My preferred version of feminism is pretty fundamentally different from the equity flavour, and I don’t think that’s a minor squabble. The conversation generally goes something like this:

Equity Feminists (EFs): Equality of opportunity does not equal equality of outcome.

Me and Mine (Ms): Hard to say until we have equality of opportunity.

EFs: We DO have equality of opportunity!

Ms: I don’t think we do.

EFs: The law says we do.

Ms:  That’s a good start!  But the law can’t erase bias and harmful stereotypes.  Those still exist.

EFs:  No they don’t!  You see sexism everywhere because you have a victim mentality.  You’re the REAL misogynist.

Ms: *sigh*

 

Comments

  1. says

    So true. For example, this is an argument that gets repeated whenever talking with “equity feminists:”

    Ms: It would be really nice if you’d stop using words that mean “woman” or “the sina qua non of womanhood” as the worst insults you can think of. That would help change social attitudes and improve the status of women.

    EFs: What, are you saying that women can’t HANDLE hearing the word “cunt”? You’re infantilizing women! You’re removing their agency! YOU’RE the real misogynist!

    Ms: *sigh*

  2. says

    So what science are equity feminists denying? I reckon –>

    1. Stereotype threat … Pretty well established? At least none of the equity feminists seem to explain how this fits into their framework neither have I seen them debunk it.
    2. Microaggressions/ microinequities … Again a real phenomenon that can be objectively observed repeatedly, and has. Recently blogged by Stef McGraw on RDFS – comments on there are awful.
    http://www.richarddawkins.net/foundation_articles/2013/9/21/why-women-will-save-the-atheist-skeptic-movement

    Any others? Harvard implicit, shows people are inherently biased and laws alone will not fix that?

  3. smrnda says

    @2 oolon

    I suspect some ‘equity feminists’ will argue that people who show evidence of their performance/choices being affected by stereotype threat are *choosing* to let it bother them. The problem is that fits into a worldview that kind of has to assume that all mental processes are under conscious control at all time, which I’d say is pretty well disproved, unless you want to ignore psychology almost entirely.

  4. hjhornbeck says

    I think it’s also worth pointing out that the term was coined by Christina Hoff Sommers to represent “good” feminists. “Bad” or gender feminists are pointy-head lefty academics who refuse to acknowledge the innate differences between the sexes, instead pushing a radical agenda far outside what the evidence supports and encouraging professional victimhood.

    Yeah. She’s the only feminist I know of that’s endorsed by MRAs.

  5. says

    @smrnda, Seems fairly easy to dismiss that concern, same as the view that taking account of it “infantalises” women. Given research also shows minorities, male and female, are subject to stereotype threat its the prevalence of the negative stereotypes that are the problem, not your gender. You are not saying “women are weak” by pointing to stereotype threat as a reason why women in STEM, for example, are under represented. It just happens the threat here works against people identifying as women.

    Are there studies showing that PHMT has a stereotype threat element? So men are poor at empathising when confronted with the patriarchal stereotype that you have to be “manly” and not care about emotions to be a “real” man?

    Seems clear stereotype threat is a cognitive bias and working against it is no more “infantalising” to women than using double blind studies to correct for confirmation bias is “infantalising” scientists.

  6. A. Noyd says

    smrnda (#4)

    The problem is that fits into a worldview that kind of has to assume that all mental processes are under conscious control at all time

    I dunno about all mental processes, but they seem to have a lot of trouble with the notion that enculturation (that is, the initial acquisition of beliefs and attitudes) is a predominantly unconscious/passive process—at least when it comes to themselves and their own minds. They take it as an accusation of extreme moral failing to point out that they’ve picked up negative beliefs and attitudes without realizing.

  7. Minnow says

    “1. Stereotype threat … Pretty well established?”

    I don’t think this is well established scientifically. The experimental data that I have seen is weak. Common sense says that there must be some kind of stereotype effect on behaviour and some trends strongly confirm it, like career choices among girls from single sex schools etc, but is it strong enough to explain broader social patterns and inequities? Not so sure about that. We still need to explain, for example, why women don’t choose physics degrees but do choose medical ones (the tougher choice). A medical career seems less ‘male’ to us now, but didn’t until very recently and only because women broke down the barriers.

  8. atheist says

    These “Equity Feminists” sound similar to those who believe we’re in a “post-racial” age, where racism has been defeated except for the occasional vestige. The folks who believe that must have a limited social circle, or be rather bad at listening.

  9. Shatterface says

    Equity Feminists (EFs): Equality of opportunity does not equal equality of outcome.

    That point is actually true since even a perfect meritocracy would be based on an inequality of outcome, i.e. that those with greater ‘merit’ would be more highly rewarded.

  10. FloraPoste says

    “is [stereotype threat] strong enough to explain broader social patterns and inequities? Not so sure about that. We still need to explain, for example, why women don’t choose physics degrees but do choose medical ones (the tougher choice). A medical career seems less ‘male’ to us now, but didn’t until very recently and only because women broke down the barriers.”

    Not saying there are factors at work with the physics degrees, but, dang, how could you blithely type those last two sentences one after another and not see the contradiction?

  11. FloraPoste says

    Not saying there *aren’t* other factors at work with the physics degree thing.

    Still shaking my head though.

  12. says

    Common sense says that there must be some kind of stereotype effect on behaviour and some trends strongly confirm it, like career choices among girls from single sex schools etc, but is it strong enough to explain broader social patterns and inequities?

    I don’t think anyone claims it totally explains anything, especially anything as huge and complicated as broader social patterns and inequities. Correct me if I’m wrong – maybe there are people who say “Hey!! Stereotype threat explains everything!!! Job done!”…but I doubt it.

    Of course it’s not a total explanation of anything, but (if it gets at something true) it’s part of the puzzle.

  13. says

    “1. Stereotype threat … Pretty well established?”

    I don’t think this is well established scientifically. The experimental data that I have seen is weak. Common sense says that there must be some kind of stereotype effect on behaviour and some trends strongly confirm it, like career choices among girls from single sex schools etc, but is it strong enough to explain broader social patterns and inequities? Not so sure about that. We still need to explain, for example, why women don’t choose physics degrees but do choose medical ones (the tougher choice). A medical career seems less ‘male’ to us now, but didn’t until very recently and only because women broke down the barriers.

    Stereotype is the best explanation we have so far. It has outperformed its most popular competing explanations, which are a.) women are just stupider/worse/less ambitious than men or b.) women just don’t like [physics/medicine/math/whatever].

    Do you have a better explanation than any of those?

    Also, you’ve presented no reasoning or evidence to explain why you think that stereotype threat and related phenomena are insufficient to explain the disparity between women’s preferences for medicine and pure physics. Here’s a hint: medicine involves taking care of people. What gender has that activity been historically stereotyped to?

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