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Aug 11 2013

Fascinating logic

Manboobz finds an explanation for the shortage of women in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) fields. It’s because women are inferior, of course. It’s written by a guy going by the name “IHaveALargePenis”, which just screams academic authority.

largepenistemhighighted

So what’s the problem for women? Many jobs require discipline and stamina.

Many fields have horrible deadlines and any person not finishing their work on time can slow an entire project and become the weakest link. When you’re holding up something that thousands of people are working on, relying on, etc and they’re all waiting for you, not fun. Additionally you’ll be pushed to do overtime, heavy overtime. When it comes to software development for example, in the last few months leading up to release, you’ll be better off bringing extra clothes and a sleeping bag to work. This can apply to virtually all other fields in different ways for different reasons.

OK, that’s nice. As someone who teaches in a STEM field, however, my experience has been that the women, in general, are more likely to be responsible and get their work done on time than men (this is a broad generalization, of course: some women are slackers, some men are meticulous and focused). Somehow IHaveALargePenis thinks the demands of a field predispose it to favor men, when I’d suggest the opposite is true.

But then, men must be just plain smarter than women?

Women and men study differently. Women are great and memorizing but don’t focus on understanding. This is why there’s a relatively equal amount of girls/boys in STEM the first year, but then it significantly favors the boys as time passes. The problem is that women do great on tests, but don’t bother to understand that knowledge, which is fairly important later on and everything you learn will be used in the future (as you move from first to 4th year). This is why girls have been doing better (or so it seems) ever since standardized tests.

Errm, I don’t do standardized tests. In fact, quite the opposite: as students progress from the multiple choice/short answer tests I give to first year students to their senior year, I rely increasingly on open-ended essay tests and take-home exams so that I can better evaluate their deeper understanding. Women do just fine on such exams. In fact, my upper level courses are packed with women, they’re always the majority, and when I look at my grade distributions, women sort out towards the top of the class.

I’m a little confused, though: IHaveALargePenis first claims that STEM curricula favor men over women, but that women are favored by the standardized tests he claims are in use. Which is it?

At this point, IHaveALargePenis’s neurons must have been exhausted, because he lapses into even more degenerate idiocy.

What exactly is there to attack? There’s 50% more women in college than men. Women have infiltrated every major out there outside of STEM. Do you know how HUGE STEM is? Let me tell you how huge it is. Go look up any non STEM focused University out there (MIT or Standord) and check the faculty for STEM or other majors. You’ll find out quickly that the entire STEM curriculum has fewer faculty than a single major like business.

So the source of his argument for the inferiority of women in STEM is basically that there are more men than women in the field, therefore women must have less aptitude. But now he claims that there are many more women in college than men (although I think his 50% is off; my university is a liberal arts college, which historically tends to attract more women, and we have roughly a 60:40 distribution of women:men). Doesn’t that imply by his own reasoning that women must be smarter than men?

I hate to inform IHaveALargePenis of a fact that might cause some shrinkage for him, but we also have more women than men in our biology and chemistry disciplines, although physics and math are still male-dominated; computer science here is interesting because we have more women than men on the faculty. The trends are all going in a way that IHaveALargePenis is going to find very uncomfortable: enrollments by women in STEM are going up, relatively. If I thought like IHaveALargePenis does, I’d have to conclude that men are dumber than women, and getting dumber year by year (fortunately, I don’t think like he does).

I don’t even understand his last point — it makes no sense at all. Since when are MIT and “Standord” [sic] non-STEM focused? What does the size of the faculty in different disciplines have to do with his issues? I can tell you that the math discipline at my university has more faculty than the psychology discipline does, but far fewer majors…and that’s because math has to teach service courses that provide classes to students across many disciplines.

I wouldn’t be surprised if there were more business than science faculty at some universities — business is a popular major. So? What does that have to do with the relative merits of men’s and women’s brains?

I’m afraid that IHaveALargePenis must learn to focus on understanding, rather than spewing words on a page. Perhaps the fact that he has a penis indicates that he also has some mental deficiencies? I’m going to give his paper an F.

193 comments

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  1. 1
    Pierce R. Butler

    Um, my math skills aren’t highly skilled, but isn’t 60 50% more than 40?

  2. 2
    Johnny Oizys

    MIT is not STEM focused. Right.

  3. 3
    Ace of Sevens

    PZ: I think we are seeing STEM-snobbery combined with sexism, here. He’s admitting women dominate a lot of non-STEM academic fields, but he thinks they are all bullshit. Engineers in particular are prone to thinking that everything great about society comes from STEM and everyone else is just riding their coattails.

  4. 4
    ChristineRose

    This is an excellent example of why I got out of the STEM fields and moved to business. Guys like him not only think it’s okay to behave badly, they think it’s a badge of honor. The very fact that he’s talking about his penis in a grossly inappropriate forum shows that his modus operandi is to harass and marginalize. When the women complain they say we’re whining because we are aware of our intellectual inferiority. I have even have men tell me that sexism makes better engineers and that’s why women aren’t good engineers.

    I can tell you this though. His MBA overlords only invite him to one party a year. I’m amazed at how parties I have to go to now that I’m an accountant.

  5. 5
    PZ Myers

    I should have clarified: my university has a 60:40 ratio, but we are in a genre that attracts more women, so I doubt that that ratio holds up nationwide.

  6. 6
    AlanMac

    IHaveALargePenis

    See? It’s parked right there in his driveway.

  7. 7
    naturalphilosopher

    Amazing. I’m not a STEM professional. But in my teaching experience, female students tend to be AT LEAST equal to males in reasoning ability. I say “at least” because, in part, I think a lot of guys get credit for being smart just out of presumption, not out of actual smarts.

    And my own field, philosophy, is still the whitest and malest of all disciplines (unless I’m mistaken and one thing has changed pretty sharply). It certainly isn’t because women can’t do it. It’s because much of our broader culture discourages women from developing the necessary skills, and whenever a woman does develop them, she’s treated as no longer feminine enough, not a proper woman, too mannish. Plus, the discipline tends to devalue things traditionally associated with women, too (emotion = bad, domesticity = bad, etc).

    There are tons of reasons why women don’t go into philosophy (and STEM). As far as I can see, it has diddly squat to do with any inherent qualities of women. But it has shit-tons to do with wht sexist cultural and professional values tell women what they should or shouldn’t do with their lives, and how uch sexist values affect various structural aspects of academic fields themselves.

  8. 8
    naturalphilosopher

    I almost wonder, based on the handle, if the guy is serious. I mean, he certainly could be. But if so, holy compensation, batman.

  9. 9
    Ace of Sevens

    @naturalphilopher: He posted on an MRA board. That’s considered a perfectly normal handle i such an environment.

  10. 10
    Seize

    @8 – His nym is entirely serious. I have spelunked through the wilds where he is a common tater. MRA dogma divides the world has “alpha” and “beta” males, and I think he’s taken on the nomer “Big Penis” in order to self-identify as an “alpha.”

  11. 11
    kevinalexander

    At this point, IHaveALargePenis’s neurons must have been exhausted,

    Should neurons be plural here?

  12. 12
    Artor

    Someone’s penis is so large it obviously displaced his brain. If either organ were any larger, they might even be visible to the naked eye. I won’t be looking though.

  13. 13
    Becca Stareyes

    I’m at home (os it’s marginally harder for me to look up the citations), but I recall that at least in the sciences, people have studied whether the women who leave the field are the result of under-preparedness or lack of ability. It turns out that the ‘leaky pipeline’ in STEM has little to do with ability to do the job, at least at the upper levels; women who know their stuff and are good at it are as likely to leave as women who are struggling academically, and most cite non-academic reasons.

    I need to dig up those links tomorrow when I’m back on campus…

  14. 14
    Bill Gleason

    Always nice to hear from someone who actually teaches undergrads.

    PZ a hella good teacher.

  15. 15
    zenlike

    Damn my morbid curiosity, but this guy is seriously deluded:

    Remember folks, abuse women because secretly they want you to.

    And on female protagonists in video games:

    I’ll start accepting female protagonists when 1) they’re based on real people in the real world 2) are badass enough to respect (in a “i can believe that” fashion) and finally 3) when women represent half of the people you’re putting bullets through, throwing molotov cocktails at, smacking around, and generally “putting out of their misery”. Show me one game where I can take a flamethrower to a woman’s face.

    So, all those male protagonists are based on real people? Or just a whopper of a double standard? What an idiot.

    Oh, and of course he is a rape apologist ‘bitches be lying’-kinda fella. How surprising.

    And did you know no female ever was even a bit involved in the development of the smart phone?

    Those women better throw away their favorite toy, their smartphones. Another useless invention created by men. And social media, and whatever else they’ve taken for granted.

    And sexism is over people, at least in the USA!

    They could focus on women in other countries where you know, women have it bad. But then they would lose their victimhood status over here and that just won’t do.

    It’s sad that a complete douchenozzle starts to sound like one of the ‘leaders’ of the atheist movement.

  16. 16
    davidgentile

    I hate this guy just for existing.
    /disgust
    He is grossly misled on this: Manufacturing, of which I can speak with authority, is in no way a meritocracy. Most companies are ridiculously dysfunctional and idiots can prevail.. I think the same is true of most human endeavor.

  17. 17
    DLC

    Dear Mr/Ms P Zed Miers. kindly turn in your doodbro card immediately. your mangina card is in the mail.
    ————————————-
    Seriously though : “IhaveALargePenis” ? Um… sure you do. and I’ll be you drive a Ferrari too.
    ———————————–
    I also have to agree with PZ on the “who does the work” in group study. Every group study I was in roughly 80% of the work was done by me (nerdy dood) and the women in the group. the other men almost never contributed or if they did their contribution was late or incorrect. Women also tended to be more meticulous and more likely to spot errors than men. – - not saying this is always the case, just explaining my personal experience. So, I would propose the alternative scenario for why there are fewer women than men in STEM fields : Guys like IHaveALargePenis.

  18. 18
    Alexandra (née Audley)

    Obviously having a big penis is wildly overrated.

    Additionally you’ll be pushed to do overtime, heavy overtime.

    LOL, wut? I know a lot of engineers, software developers, and IT people and I hate to say that (of the small sample I know), they’re no more likely to have to do overtime than anyone else. In fact, the people I know that do the most overtime are retail employees, most of which are women and most of which aren’t college graduates.

    So, not only is BigDick wildly wrong on the “hurr durr, girls R flaky” count, he certainly has an overinflated view of what is demanded of STEM jobs.

  19. 19
    naturalphilosopher

    Ace and Seize:

    All I can say is wow. Never having visited an MRA board, if that’s considered normal, that’s pretty fucked up. I mean how transparently fragile does a man’s ego have to be to feel a need to nym himself thus? I mean, who knows, maybe he really does have a big dick — but to feel a need to remind everyone at all times? Fucked up, ain’t the half of it.

  20. 20
    tuibguy

    I have worked in various aspects of different industries and I have seen very little in the way of “meritocracy.” Instead I have seen that the traits most likely to lead one up the corporate ladder is still patronage and politics. It’s all a game and the winners are the ones who come into it with the most pieces. Privilege, money and family all trump labor, dedication and ability.

  21. 21
    SallyStrange

    Your naivete would be amusing if it hadn’t led you to spout rape aplogetics elsewhere, naturalphilosopher. Yes, this (and lots worse) is the kind of thing women have been expected to just deal with, everywhere, for centuries, with the possible except of the past 20 – 30 years, to a limited extent. I guess you haven’t been paying attention, have you? Kind of puts the onus on you to shut up and listen without attempting to pass your judgment, which is skewed by an utter lack of relevant information about the real world.

  22. 22
    Daz: Experiencing A Slight Gravitas Shortfall

    His nym is entirely serious. I have spelunked through the wilds where he is a common tater. MRA dogma divides the world has “alpha” and “beta” males, and I think he’s taken on the nomer “Big Penis” in order to self-identify as an “alpha.”

    I can follow the, erm … “logic,” but the thought that there’s an environment where it would be taken as meaningful and wouldn’t get him laughed out of the room…

    I’ve finally found a comparison that makes an E Doc Smith novel look realistic.

  23. 23
    rtp10

    60:40 is 50% more women than men.

  24. 24
    Johnny Oizys

    IHaveALargePenis shouldn’t be posting with a boner, it clearly redirects the blood flow from his brain.

  25. 25
    Marcus Ranum

    I guess “Ihaveanaveragepenisthatiswithinonestandarddeviationofthemean” is too hard to type.

  26. 26
    Thomas Holtz

    According to the stats I just checked, we have a 52/48% M/F ratio at University of Maryland at College Park. I can’t say off hand what the particular demographics are department to department, but my impression for those units with which I am most familiar is that Geology is slightly (although not strongly) higher M/F (but was at parity in the late 1990s/early 2000s), Bioscience close to parity, and Physics, Math, CompSci, and the School of Engineering definitley male-skewed. I can’t speak with anything like accuracy for Astronomy or Chemistry to round out most of the STEM departments/colleges.

    There are weird historical shifts as well. Computer Science, although always male dominated, had higher percentages of women students in the 1980s (when my wife and I were undergrad, and she an EE/CS major) than later in the 1990s (when I started teaching). That was already a nationwide trend, and CS faculty were already concerned about it.

    It would be great if people could find some possible causal reasons for these shifts and so forth backed by evidence, but for the most part it is mere speculation.

    NOTE: this is a different situation than the marked drop off between the number of women who complete PhDs to the number of women faculty in STEM departments. People have identified some of the important factors in this realm, but many of these do not apply to younger people in their undergraduate careers.

  27. 27
    naturalphilosopher

    SallyStrange wrote: “Your naivete would be amusing if it hadn’t led you to spout rape aplogetics elsewhere, naturalphilosopher. Yes, this (and lots worse) is the kind of thing women have been expected to just deal with, everywhere, for centuries, with the possible except of the past 20 – 30 years, to a limited extent. I guess you haven’t been paying attention, have you? Kind of puts the onus on you to shut up and listen without attempting to pass your judgment, which is skewed by an utter lack of relevant information about the real world.”

    Jesus fucking Christ. Even when I point out the kinds of sexism that I do see, in my own field and in my wider experience, I’m called “naive” and uninformed about the world?!? And accused, yet again, of rape apologrtics?!? Told, for the umpteenth time, that I should shut up?!?

    WHAT. THE. FUCK.

  28. 28
    Scr... Archivist

    Maybe this is a good place to ask a question about engineers, and why engineering departments seem so resistant to women.

    Do a lot of engineers in the U.S. have military backgrounds? I’m wondering if the historical exclusion of women there, and the non-parity of women even now, has fed into stereotypes about women being unable to do that kind of work. If some of them go into private business or academia after their military careers, they might be carrying sexist attitudes with them, concentrating them in fields that attract comparatively large numbers of ex-servicemen.

    Am I onto something, or are these just my own stereotypes about the U.S. military?

  29. 29
    SallyStrange

    Jesus fucking Christ. Even when I point out the kinds of sexism that I do see, in my own field and in my wider experience, I’m called “naive” and uninformed about the world?!? And accused, yet again, of rape apologrtics?!? Told, for the umpteenth time, that I should shut up?!?

    WHAT. THE. FUCK.

    Well, you have confessed to lacking information that women commonly possess about the prevalence of woman-hating attitudes, sexual harassment, and rape. You have also demonstrated a willingness to speak from ignorance to pass judgment on matters which are directly related to the area where you have both confessed and demonstrated ignorance.

    So yes, shutting up would be a wise thing for you to do right now, and no, your recognition of sexism in your professional field doesn’t excuse you from that, nor do you get a cookie for it.

  30. 30
    leni

    NPR had a really interesting story about this last week.

    “What we find is that there are many schools where boys and girls take high school physics at the same rate,” Riegle-Crumb said in an interview. “And that there are many other schools where more girls actually take physics than boys. And so when you look at the aggregate, you see a pattern where boys are taking physics more than girls, but there is a lot of variation around that.”

    There are some obvious things that could cause those variations. If parents of some kids are scientists, or highly educated, they might push their daughters to take tough courses in high school. Wealthy families might be able to afford tutoring, or have one parent stay home to help kids with homework. Better funded suburban schools might be at an advantage over inner-city schools.

    But when Riegle-Crumb controlled for those and other possibilities, she found one reason remained: “What we found is that in communities that had a higher percentage of women in the labor force who are working in science, technology, engineering and math, that in those schools, girls were as likely as boys to take physics, or even more likely.”

    (Emphasis mine.)

    So the reason there aren’t as many women in STEM fields? Probably because there aren’t as many women in STEM fields, which is both depressing and inspiring at the same time.

    (Note: the first comment on this story explains the other reasons.)

  31. 31
    paleotn

    This one is pretty easy to distill. “Women scare me! They’re mysterious and have scared me since I was 10. To compensate, I must degrade women and talk endlessly about my penis! ”

    Don’t even get me started about white guy’s fear of black males. Centuries of privilege has extensively fucked up our brains.

  32. 32
    Naked Bunny with a Whip

    No doubt the acronym “STEM” was itself created by feminists to de-emphasize the importance of huge penises in science and technology.

    /snark

  33. 33
    Rey Fox

    This is an excellent example of why I got out of the STEM fields and moved to business.

    How profoundly depressing.

  34. 34
    Moggie

    First with STEM, the hierarchy in the workforce always favors the smartest/most knowledgable people.

    I pretty much knew from this line that the guy isn’t writing truthfully from a position of experience. Either he doesn’t work in STEM at all, or he’s fresh out of college and still wet behind the ears, or he’s just plain making shit up. Come back and splain to us again when you’ve had a few years of genuine experience, Mr Penis.

  35. 35
    mx89

    It seems to me that strict gender roles hurt men in the university situation a fair bit as well, in addition to the institutional and more subtle barriers in STEM fields presented to women, so I don’t understand why these people complain about thinking about these issues from that perspective. Theoretically, at least, you’d think the amount of males/females enrolled in ANY field would be roughly 50/50, but in a lot of non-STEM fields the amount of women has been exceeding that of men of late. I am sure many here can give a more detailed reason or point me toward the literature but I suspect “what it means to be a real man” as defined by the dudebros is not quite as compatible with “succeeding in the 21st century” as you’d expect. Of course, rather than blaming how they’re told to act and what to value in life for leading them astray, they blame women/feminism and join MRA groups. Sigh.

  36. 36
    Ace of Sevens

    @Moggie: You missed the possibility that he works in STEM, is fairly successful and has convinced himself he deserves it.

  37. 37
    tim rowledge, Ersatz Haderach

    This is so obviously someone that is a kid – whether actually in age terms or just in maturity terms – that we can at least hope he grows up someday. Unfounded optimism? Yeah, maybe, but it’s better than the alternative.

    I’ve worked with quite a few women in assorted engineering organisations over the last 30 years and I’ve never noticed much difference in work ethic, skill or intelligence that would even slightly justify claiming superiority either way. Women are possibly a little less frequently obsessive about the work, but males with an actual life outside work also commit the sin of not working 16 hours a day, so perhaps it’s simply that reality has a better grip on women? On the other hand I’ve know a few women whose obsessiveness could give any “alpha geek dude” a run for his bitcoin.

    And what tuibguy@20 said. Meritocracy seems to be about as common as common sense. (And about as sensible. How does one measure ‘merit’? How would being a truly great writer of software make you a good manager of software writers? Or CEO?)

  38. 38
    Jackie

    OT:
    I’m thinking of changing my nym to “COLOSSOLTOWERINGVAGINA!”.

    That’s how people know to take you seriously on teh intrawebs, right?

  39. 39
    Pteryxx

    Becca Stareyes @13:

    but I recall that at least in the sciences, people have studied whether the women who leave the field are the result of under-preparedness or lack of ability. It turns out that the ‘leaky pipeline’ in STEM has little to do with ability to do the job, at least at the upper levels; women who know their stuff and are good at it are as likely to leave as women who are struggling academically, and most cite non-academic reasons.

    It’s likely that citation is the 2010 AAUW report Why So Few:

    In an era when women are increasingly prominent in medicine, law, and business, why are there so few women scientists and engineers? A 2010 research report by AAUW presents compelling evidence that can help to explain this puzzle. Why So Few? Women in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) presents in-depth yet accessible profiles of eight key research findings that point to environmental and social barriers — including stereotypes, gender bias, and the climate of science and engineering departments in colleges and universities — that continue to block women’s progress in STEM. The report also includes up-to-date statistics on girls’ and women’s achievement and participation in these areas and offers new ideas for what each of us can do to more fully open scientific and engineering fields to girls and women.

    Basically, bias, chilly climate, and invocation of stereotype threat gradually chip away at women in the fields, resulting in steadily increased attrition at all levels from girls in school to professionals at the peak of their careers.

    Full PDF (it’s 134 pages) linked here.

    Here’s another research paper from 2005 (direct PDF link) discussing the leaky pipeline:

    Introduction

    A metaphor frequently used to describe the fact that women are under-represented
    in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) careers is to propose a
    ‘leaky pipeline’ carrying students from secondary school through university and on to
    a job in STEM. This pipeline leaks students at various stages: students who express
    interest in science careers sometimes change their minds when applying to colleges
    and universities and select other areas of study. Others begin their post-secondary
    education in a STEM program, but change majors before graduation. Finally, some
    students leave the pipeline after graduating with a STEM degree when they select
    another field as a career. One interesting feature of these leaks is that women leak out
    more than men do. The effect of differential leaking is to create a sex-based filter that
    removes one sex from the stream and leaves the other to arrive at the end of the pipe-
    line. No one in a position of power along the pipeline has consciously decided to filter
    women out of the STEM stream, but the cumulative effect of many separate but
    related factors results in the sex imbalance in STEM that is observed today.

  40. 40
    javawench

    As a woman working in the Comp Sci field for the past 20 years I have anecdote but not hard stats on why women might not want to hang around.

    Twenty years ago when I started working in what was then called Computer Engineering, it was because I was looking for a husband (I was already married) or getting by on my looks. It couldn’t possibly be because I had any aptitude or the ability to solve problems. If I went to a conference it was automatically assumed I was the booth babe, did not matter how conservatively I dressed. Even opted for glasses with clear lenses to look older at one point. The shocked responses of “You do understand ” really get old after awhile.

    Add to that going to technical conferences as an attendee was and remain a mine field. I would stay in the BOF (birds of a feather) meetings at the conference but would rarely leave with anyone unless I knew them outside the conference. I am very adept at grabbing someone’s thumb and twisting painfully when my ass or other body part is patted. I can do this with either hand. I’ve already taught my oldest daughter the same skill. I keep waiting for the point when I get old enough that this becomes a non-issue, but now I get the younger jackasses who’ve been sold on the all older women are looking for a younger man. Nope married quite happily and my hubby is capable of having a conversation with me that doesn’t involve staring pointedly at my chest as if my blouse will disappear by shear force of will. Hubby was capable of that trick 30 years ago too.

    In the past 10 years it has gone somewhat underground but technical fields are not woman friendly. In one office the interns (all male) were meeting in a central office space, door open with two advisers also male. The conversation went to getting women drunk and ways to get laid. Yes in an office setting with two supposedly adult professionals present. I popped my head in because I could hear the meeting from 3 cubes away. They started meeting offsite because you know freeze peach.

    In the past 5 years working in very close quarters while co-workers (yes I’m the only woman in an office of 8) loudly discuss a rape case where the accused is a famous Frenchman and the accuser is a maid. When she dropped the charges I was regaled with various “bitches be lyin” it of course had nothing to do with the power differential or the likelihood of conviction just bitches lie. I demanded that the conversation be taken outside the office because I didn’t want to hear anymore of it. They claimed freeze peach fortunately one of the managers wandering by (also male they aren’t all assholes) had heard part of the conversation and said no that would be workplace harassment the discussion ends.

    My daughters are both STEM track. They are gifted at math and one is particularly gifted at solving mechanical problems. The one good at solving mechanical problems is not good at taking tests. They have already saw the problems endemic in the system in elementary school. My experience has been in 3rd grade there are an equal number of girls and boys doing lego league or computer summer camp or such. By 5th grade half the number of girls are showing up. Not because they don’t get the material but because it isn’t girly to be interested in science or math or they’re tired of being pushed by the boys. Boys are allowed to push girls out of the way and grab things away from them. Its excused with that tiresome trope of boys will be boys. Girls are supposed to be nice and roll with it. I didn’t raise my girls to be nice, they push back. I then have run ins with parents. I don’t care I have sharp teeth. But most parents are still instructing their girls to be nice.

    I have explained to my daughters that this is what they are signing up for. If their dream is to be an engineer or a mathematician they will be surrounded mostly by men. Men who don’t think they should be there, don’t think they have the ability and think you should give up your space for a deserving man. Your intelligence will be discounted if you’re attractive. Your sexuality will be called into question and when you stand up for yourself you will be called a bitch and a man-hater. So far they are up for the challenge.

    Javawench

  41. 41
    naturalphilosopher

    Sally wrote: “Well, you have confessed to lacking information that women commonly possess about the prevalence of woman-hating attitudes, sexual harassment, and rape”

    When did I ever make such a “confession?” Even in my posts over on the grenade thread, I pointed out repeatedly that I understand sexism in general and harassment and rape especially to be very serious problems, in which all too often, a women who does report the crimes against her is made to feel like the perpetrator herself, and in which, again all too often, the system fails to provide justice. I said these things, BECAUSE I BELIEVE THEM. I’ve seen too much and studied too much to think anything else. These problems are prevalent and disturbing, and we have to do more. I really don’t know what else I can say.

    Sally wrote: “You have also demonstrated a willingness to speak from ignorance to pass judgment on matters which are directly related to the area where you have both confessed and demonstrated ignorance.”

    I have been quite unwilling to pass judgment on any particular individuals whom I do not know, based on what I do not know about them, and what they did or did not do, and what did or did not happen to them.

    But not feeling that I possess enough information about a particular case does not mean that I fail to recognize the broader problem. Nor does it mean that when I have more information about particular cases, I refuse to act.

    Regardless, as people keep saying, this really isn’t about me. I agree: IT’S NOT ABOUT ME. This thread has raised the issue of what exactly might account for gender discrepancies in fields like STEM. It’s about that.

    My answer is, sexism in the wider culture and in the particular fields has kept women out. I offered a few thoughts on that above. And hopefully, as sexism decreases, we will see a lot fewer women being kept out (as PZ notes, things are getting better).

    So let’s talk about THAT, not about what a horrible person I am or am not.

  42. 42
    carlie

    I’m glad that guy did such a good job of citing references to back up all of his opinions.

    Oh, wait.

  43. 43
    naturalphilosopher

    mx89 wrote: “… I suspect ‘what it means to be a real man’ as defined by the dudebros is not quite as compatible with ‘succeeding in the 21st century’ as you’d expect. Of course, rather than blaming how they’re told to act and what to value in life for leading them astray, they blame women/feminism and join MRA groups. Sigh.”

    Remember when Rick Santorum called Obama a snob for wanting everyone to go to college? Santorum isn’t an MR guy, per se (I don’t think). But he’s certainly a sexist with indefensible ideas about both femininity and masculinity. Perhaps it’s indicative of a wider tendency to disidentify masculinity and education.

  44. 44
    naturalphilosopher

    Carlie: “I’m glad that guy did such a good job of citing references to back up all of his opinions.”

    Of course, even if he had cited any actual studies (as opposed to ideological prop-pieces), I doubt there’d have been much in the way of quality interpretation or quotation going on.

  45. 45
    dianne

    There’s 50% more women in college than men

    A quick trip through google will debunk this one. I suspect that someone told him that there were more women than men in college, i.e. more than 50% of college students are women, and the statement mutated in his mind to “50% more women in college”. Math is hard and IHALP is stupid.

    Though, to be fair, some sites claim a ratio as unbalanced as 57% to 43% which is not so far off as one might think…

    The bottom line is that there is no such thing as “reverse sexism”. If more women than men are being admitted to college it’s because more women are excelling academically, not because they are being given some advantage by colleges. On the contrary, there is still significant sexism in the admissions process. Sorry, guys, the bottom line seems to be that you’re not good enough to compete.

  46. 46
    Brian

    @Ace of Sevens: Hear hear. As someone who’s been in the industry for decades, it is surprising how easy it is for some guys to continue to believe that it really is largely a meritocracy. (I suppose it shouldn’t be too surprising, though, when holding that belief flatters the believer so.)

    But if that is the case, then I’d say there’s a fair likelihood that this he will improve with time, as maturity and a larger range of life experience broadens his horizons. I see it a lot.

    (Though that likelihood is a bit dimmed by the fact that he’s publicly proclaiming “IHaveALargePenis” … Talk about doubling down.)

  47. 47
    raven

    First with STEM, the hierarchy in the workforce always favors the smartest/most knowledgable people.

    If that has ever happened, I have yet to see it.

    Quite often it is the opposite.

    I saw one prominent company where a new management identified all the key scientists who had contributed to its success. And then fired them all. AFAICT, they thought they were hard to deal with, cost money in salaries, and didn’t dress up enough.

    Oddly enough it worked about the way you expect. A few years later, they almost went bankrupt. There was a short investigation and the CEO and his lackeys were fired for cause. It took the new management most of a decade to recover.

    Hmmm, I’ve also seen it at least twice more at lesser known companies.

  48. 48
    Rob Grigjanis

    Going through undergrad and grad physics in the mid-70s to mid-80s, it was painfully obvious why women were underrepresented. There were always students and faculty quite prepared to tell them to their faces that they didn’t belong, and/or sexually harass them. The determination, courage and humour required to get through the never-ending gantlet amazes me. I couldn’t have made it under those conditions.

  49. 49
    raven

    Hmmm, I’ve also seen it at least twice more at lesser known companies.

    Make that three.

    The most obvious example was a VP of Research that I knew from elsewhere. He was an idiot who could only do one thing well. Identify key people and get rid of them. And that company did go BK.

    Unfortunately for him, those people he fired were only fired, not dead. And they talked to all their friends. He never got hired anywhere again.

  50. 50
    vaiyt

    I’ll start accepting female protagonists when 1) they’re based on real people in the real world 2) are badass enough to respect (in a “i can believe that” fashion)

    Therein comes the rub. Both criteria are designed to be impossible to fulfill.
    1) is designed to weed out any female characters that are put on roles dominated by men.
    2) can never be true because any “badass” enough woman will be considered as too unrealistic to be “believable”.

  51. 51
    ludicrous

    Tim, You wrote in part: “This is so obviously someone that is a kid – whether actually in age terms or just in maturity terms – that we can at least hope he grows up someday.”

    I expect this has not occurred to you and it doesn’t occur to most people but it just gets me that folks who are careful not to disrespect women, men, people of color, the physically challenged etc etc are still willing to gratuitously disrespect young people. Negative stereotyping the young seems to me just unfair and not accurate either.

    I hope there are young people reading and contributing to this site, but I cringe when these insults appear. I apologize to them and hope to see this disappear soon.

  52. 52
    Rip Steakface

    MRAs love anecdata – clearly they must, because they’re so averse to actual data. So here’s mine:

    My grandmother is an old-school programmer. One of the best in the business in her day, working directly alongside Steve Wozniak (a man she despises, for some reason, by the way). If a woman can succeed as much as she did back in the god damn 80s as a programmer, there’s no internal limitation for any woman these days preventing her from being a STEM field professional. All limitations are external – and must be rectified.

  53. 53
    Moggie

    carlie:

    I’m glad that guy did such a good job of citing references to back up all of his opinions.

    But he did! His opinions are correct because penis!

  54. 54
    The Vicar (via Freethoughtblogs)

    @Jackie, Ms. Paper if ya nasty, #38:

    I’m thinking of changing my nym to “COLOSSOLTOWERINGVAGINA!”.

    Actually, on this board people would get the joke. And it would be funny. (This comment made me laugh, on a day when laughing actually physically hurts and I’m grumpy about it.)

    And, besides: in reality that should command fear.

  55. 55
    Cold

    Isn’t that the same thing PZ is doing here?

    He does admit it’s a broad generalization, but it’s not only a broad generalization of his own particular experience but of men an women in STEM as a whole.

    This ridiculous counterargument by PZ is about as bad as me using my limited experience as a STEM student to make the claim that there are more male STEM majors than female. Which is completely true by the way, but my claim would be merely anecdotal.

    What exactly does PZ have a problem with by the way? Does it offend people’s sensibilities to know that there are more men than women in STEM related fields? Also when did PZ stoop to tearing apart poorly disguised troll posts on Reddit? PZ it seems to me like a lot of your most recent posts belong on somewhere like Jezebel with all of the male guilt going on.

  56. 56
    Cold

    Whoops, sorry about that last post’s formatting. Posting on a phone is weird.

    Should read:

    “MRAs love anecdata – clearly they must, because they’re so averse to actual data. So here’s mine:”

    Isn’t that the same thing PZ is doing here?

    “OK, that’s nice. As someone who teaches in a STEM field, however, my experience has been that the women, in general, are more likely to be responsible and get their work done on time than men”

    He does admit it’s a broad generalization, but it’s not only a broad generalization of his own particular experience but of men an women in STEM as a whole.

    This ridiculous counterargument by PZ is about as bad as me using my limited experience as a STEM student to make the claim that there are more male STEM majors than female. Which is completely true by the way, but my claim would be merely anecdotal.

    What exactly does PZ have a problem with by the way? Does it offend people’s sensibilities to know that there are more men than women in STEM related fields? Also when did PZ stoop to tearing apart poorly disguised troll posts on Reddit? PZ it seems to me like a lot of your most recent posts belong on somewhere like Jezebel with all of the male guilt going on.

  57. 57
    Rutee Katreya

    Isn’t that the same thing PZ is doing here?

    Well, not when he says “Women are going to college more”. Mostly, he’s turning the jackasses’ logic to the data he has available, and saying what conclusions he’d be forced to draw if he applied it to the data he had.

    Does it offend people’s sensibilities to know that there are more men than women in STEM related fields?

    Are you incapable of reading? Because he clearly says what the problem is; it’s with the idea that women aren’t suited to STEM. It’s a harmful, bullshit idea.

    First with STEM, the hierarchy in the workforce always favors the smartest/most knowledgable people.

    REally? My father’s an electrical engineer who’s quite highly placed, and he’s quick to say he isn’t the best engineer in his division: How could he be? He doesn’t have time to go learn all the new shit, with the management he has to do.

  58. 58
    Cold

    I agree with you that the idea that women aren’t suited to STEM is a ridiculous claim to make, and that correlation =/= causation, but if the idea that “the hierarchy in the workforce always favors the smartest/most knowledgeable people” is wrong (which I know full well it is wrong, as does anyone – things like nepotism and cronyism exist), and also cannot be applied to performance in a university environment, perhaps this provides some kind of insight into why there are more men in STEM than women.

    Even if it’s as simple as perhaps STEM fields interest more men than women and not particularly anything to do with the mental acuity of the different genders.

  59. 59
    carlie

    But he did! His opinions are correct because penis!

    Hee. Now I’m picturing a literature cited section that has nothing but this repeated over and over:

    Iamapenis, 8=====D, 2013.

    (that is the first time I have ever drawn an ASCII penis, I swear on a stack of Grey’s Anatomy first editions)

  60. 60
    Rutee Katreya

    perhaps this provides some kind of insight into why there are more men in STEM than women.

    It’s pretty well understood where the bulk of the problem is – it’s in STEM fields’ sexism, and the sexism of culture at large (The process of pulling women out of those fields does not begin at college, as one of my acquaintances in STEM was quick to point out). We’re not asking where the problem is, so I’m not sure why you see the need to pontificate.

  61. 61
    Cold

    “It’s pretty well understood where the bulk of the problem is – it’s in STEM fields’ sexism, and the sexism of culture at large (The process of pulling women out of those fields does not begin at college, as one of my acquaintances in STEM was quick to point out).”

    I guess I’m going to have to ask for clarification on this then before I make a response. When you say that sexism is responsible for pulling women out of STEM fields both in college and the workforce, what exactly do you mean?

  62. 62
    Seize

    @tim @37: I’m going to back up ludicrous @51, but expand a little bit more on why I disagree with your assessment that HRH King Penis is a juvenile, and your statement that, even if his age is unknown, you’re entitled to such optimism.

    Zenlike’s mango hunt trophies @15 hint at the truth: IHALP is a major commentator in the manosphere, and he’s generally considered insightful by other MRAs. He’s active on many sites but the stats on his Reddit profile help demonstrate his relevance. He’s an adult, and moreover, he’s a participant in a major discourse with well-developed dogma. The main tenet of the MRA dogma is misogyny. Commentators like IHALP riff on the central tenet, and popular riffs are shared, repeated, and become part of the dogma.

    This MRA dogma currently offers satisfying, simple, wrong answers for gnawing questions like “Why did my wife leave me?” or “Why can’t I find a sexual partner?” IHALP’s shitstain of an argument is farcical on it’s face, but we need to take it seriously, because it provides a simple, wrong answer for another common anxiety: “Why am I not successful in my area of study?” You should notice that this anxiety falls right in our backyard. This argument is an attempt a notable MRA to gain traction with individuals in STEM fields.

    As religion and superstition easily show, the absurdity of a belief has nothing to do with its believability. A much more salient effector of believability in a naive audience is the psychological utility of the new belief. A belief that women have taken control of most education and that STEM is the threatened final professional refuge for a male underclass is laughably absurd. At the same time, this belief is of tremendous potential psychological utility to any young man who is failing in school or at work and wants a simple, false explanation why.

    Laugh, but laugh publicly, and with a well-cited fisk. Dismissing this argument as being below comment opens up our own ranks to extremely poisonous, overt misogyny.

  63. 63
    smhll

    Math is hard and IHALP is stupid.

    I kind of love that the acronym for “IHaveALarge…” is IHALP. It makes me picture a kitten or a puppy in a predicament, with a funny caption.

    (Thanks for the giggles!)

  64. 64
    skemono

    I studied Computer Science in college, and one of my professors at one point remarked on how the number of women in the courses decreased the more advanced the courses got. But not because women were too dumb to deal with them. In fact, he told us that one woman approached him about changing majors, and when he looked her up, he found she was one of the highest-scoring students.

  65. 65
    Rutee Katreya

    I didn’t say ‘workforce’, I said ‘culture at large’. The workforce is part of that. It begins in grade school, with teachers playing up boys’ mathematical and scientific accomplishments while ignoring girls, as well as with girls engaging in mockery of their peers for being particularly interested in maths and sciences (This is targetted – not merely anti-intellectualism, but at girls not conforming to a particular type of intelligence). If you’ve gotten through all that and still want to do STEM, you then go to college. The backdrop at the college level is pretty well known; Professors continue the work of theiir grade school colleagues in ignoring women, but their male peers are the ones now engaging in the mockery and jeering of the outsiders. Get through *THAT* and you hit jobs that discriminate against you (As in, similar qualifications, less pay, less consideration for work), disbelieving looks from people in general (Any time you might have let a stranger or distant family member know what you do, f’rex), jackassery from your coworkers and your bosses (Who are predominantly male and don’t believe you belong)… and I’m really only giving you the digest version because my time is limited.

  66. 66
    kantalope

    @40 Javawench

    I am not sure if I should cheer or cry….maybe both.

  67. 67
    Jackie

    Thanks for sharing the comic, Vicar.
    Change made.

    Run in terror, Dudebros!
    It walks among us!

  68. 68
    carlie

    When you say that sexism is responsible for pulling women out of STEM fields both in college and the workforce, what exactly do you mean?

    Look up “chilly climate STEM”. Then read the results.

  69. 69
    Cold

    I didn’t say ‘workforce’, I said ‘culture at large’. The workforce is part of that. It begins in grade school, with teachers playing up boys’ mathematical and scientific accomplishments while ignoring girls, as well as with girls engaging in mockery of their peers for being particularly interested in maths and sciences (This is targetted – not merely anti-intellectualism, but at girls not conforming to a particular type of intelligence). If you’ve gotten through all that and still want to do STEM, you then go to college. The backdrop at the college level is pretty well known; Professors continue the work of theiir grade school colleagues in ignoring women, but their male peers are the ones now engaging in the mockery and jeering of the outsiders. Get through *THAT* and you hit jobs that discriminate against you (As in, similar qualifications, less pay, less consideration for work), disbelieving looks from people in general (Any time you might have let a stranger or distant family member know what you do, f’rex), jackassery from your coworkers and your bosses (Who are predominantly male and don’t believe you belong)… and I’m really only giving you the digest version because my time is limited.

    Discrimination of this type happens to both sexes for wildly varying reasons, and some not even having to do with gender.

    Are we to believe that most women drop out of STEM courses because of discrimination and not because of poor performance? Several posts in this thread have derided males for “not being able to compete” but at the same time the excuse is being made that there are a shortage of women in STEM because of the “culture” surrounding it.

    So which one is it?

  70. 70
    zenlike

    Thanks Seize for the heads-up. I just assumed IHALP was just one of the many MRA whiners, and had no idea he is actually somewhat of a figurehead in the movement. If this is the logic displayed by one of the ‘leaders’ we will not have any problems on that front (eg counter-arguing the logic), but indeed, the greater problem is that there is a somewhat significant contingent out there that take this flimsy bullshit as gospel, whatever the bs logic or facts, because it confirms what they already ‘know’.

  71. 71
    Rutee Katreya

    Discrimination of this type happens to both sexes for wildly varying reasons, and some not even having to do with gender.

    No, it doesn’t. A man will never be told “Men don’t belong in STEM”.

    Are we to believe that most women drop out of STEM courses because of discrimination and not because of poor performance?

    Yes, given that’s what actually happens. A dude will frequently not drop out with a D. Women will with a C or a B, because of asshattery.

    Several posts in this thread have derided males for “not being able to compete”

    Apparently you’re so smart you can’t understand satire.

  72. 72
    blf

    My own experiences in one area of STEM certainly don’t support the un-evidenced assertion that there is a correlation between STEM-capability and (higher-)position.

    What one might expect is the higher-up in the hierarchy the more managerially-capable, but my own experiences also call that into question. Indeed, of the people I’ve refused to ever work with again (to the point of even turning down a job offer when I learned the company employed one of these people), all are managers “promoted” from R&D, and all considered themselves to be “good” managers. I have no idea how good any of them were when doing hands-on engineering, but if the sheer crap they spouted about the R&D work they were managing is any guide, they weren’t any good.

    What they all seem to be, however, is good extemporaneous talkers; i.e., bullshiters. Which, broadly, seems to be true as one observes people higher-up in the hierarchy.

    All of them (the bullshiters I will never again work with) happen to be male. Not all of them are elderly. Some of them (claim to) have high-quality degrees.

    I suspect that these useless lumps can be undercovered by insisting on evidence, but also suspect they have a different definition of “evidence”, one which is not used by STEM-competent people.

  73. 73
    SallyStrange

    Are we to believe that most women drop out of STEM courses because of discrimination and not because of poor performance?

    If we are to believe their own testimony and the results of surveys asking why women leave STEM fields, then yes.

    The alternative is that there’s something about being a woman which makes you incompetent at doing work in a STEM field. Care to detail whatever your hypothesis is?

  74. 74
    hotshoe, now with more boltcutters

    Cold was banned by PZ in the “Grenade” thread but apparently the ban didn’t take effect correctly.

    Probably no point in replying to Cold in this thread, though, as it’s not likely xe will be here much longer …

  75. 75
    javawench

    @kantalope
    I’m not sure if I should cheer or cry….maybe both.

    I usually end up doing both but at least I’m not sending them unarmed.

    @cold you are JAQing. Seriously what sexism I don’t see it. Well dude let me help you with that case of rectal cranial infarction. Those of us that stay in the STEM field and happen to have breasts rather than balls tend to gather reputations of ball busters not to be messed with. That would be because there were balls and we busted them. If you happen to be female and have a confrontational in your face attitude you may make it to a senior position. Less confrontational types rarely make it.

    Once there you have dealt with having your ideas discounted until a man states the exact same idea in the same meeting and suddenly its a great idea. I personally during an engineering meeting after a company was bought sat through several iterations of new VP stating “we need to have an engineer look at this” looking at all the male faces, being directed that’s javawench’s code and starting over. Because dumb fuck could not grock the concept that women can be engineers. If as a woman you cannot deal with the near constant belittling, sexual innuendo and my personal favorite the engineering meeting that was a strip club then you are the problem. Just stop being precious and toughen up. Why? Why should it be necessary for women to go through a gauntlet of crap to prove themselves worthy of the mens club? If all it took was a penis there are numerous mail order places where I could buy a big flesh toned monster and I’d have the biggest one at the table.

    Fuck off until you pull your head out of your ass.

    Javawench

  76. 76
    mnb0

    The logic of Ihavealargepenis is flawless: if women do better it’s because they fuck their way upward as they are not smart enough and if they do worse it’s because they are not smart enough.

  77. 77
    unclefrogy

    I have a large penis = donkey

    uncle frogy

  78. 78
    Seize

    @zenlike @70: I wouldn’t go so far as to say he’s a leader or figurehead. Think of him more as a “preferred commenter” on a large social blog. The opinions and thoughts of a handful of regular commentators can be used to “take the pulse” of any blog. If you’re on the right blog, you might even be able to get reference “pulse” that is roughly at pace with the rest of that particular blogosphere. IHALP doesn’t have any structural importance in the movement, but if he’s saying something, you can bet that the rest of the MRM isn’t far behind.

  79. 79
    Pteryxx

    Why? Why should it be necessary for women to go through a gauntlet of crap to prove themselves worthy of the mens club? If all it took was a penis there are numerous mail order places where I could buy a big flesh toned monster and I’d have the biggest one at the table.

    Javawench, when I hack a dildo in future I’m dedicating it to you. *salute*

    proof of concept

  80. 80
    Seize

    Pteryxx @ 79: Well there goes my evening.

  81. 81
    javawench

    Pteryxx aw shucks. Could you make sure its an anatomically correct one :-) perhaps a little lean to the left.

    Javawench

  82. 82
    Pteryxx

    I better clarify, that link’s not by ME but I saved it for *cough* future reference.

  83. 83
    Ichthyic

    What exactly does PZ have a problem with by the way? Does it offend people’s sensibilities to know that there are more men than women in STEM related fields

    that you cannot even comprehend what the problem is, is exactly why nobody cares what you think.

    come back in 20 years, when you finally figure out what the word “privilege” means.

  84. 84
    marinerachel

    BUT, YOU GUYS! HE HAS A LARGE PENIS!

  85. 85
    javawench

    BUT, YOU GUYS! HE HAS A LARGE PENIS!

    But does he know how to use it properly? And what about the problem with lack of adequate blood flow to the brain?

  86. 86
    javawench

    and blockquote fail. Damn

  87. 87
    Inaji

    Javawench:

    If all it took was a penis there are numerous mail order places where I could buy a big flesh toned monster and I’d have the biggest one at the table.

    That might not be a bad strategy. Have the monster ready, and when you’re in a meeting, say “before we start, place the penis on the table, and say “okay, my penis is on the table, ready to go”.

    Yes, I know that in reality land that wouldn’t work at all, but it’s nice to think it would.

  88. 88
    mouthyb, Vagina McTits

    Javawench: I’ve actually told people that. *cough*

    I asked them if a cock was necessary for inclusion and opted that I have a multitude of sizes, shapes and colors at home.

  89. 89
    carlie

    Cold – go look up “chilly climate STEM”, read the results, and report back to us why exactly you think each of the studies reporting that women leave STEM fields because of sexism is wrong. Otherwise, you’re just talking out of your ass. It doesn’t count if you can’t cite and reference the actual studies.

  90. 90
    mouthyb, Vagina McTits

    Anyone got any tips about how to avoid being totally demoralized by the bullshit behavior of men in STEM fields?

  91. 91
    Sili

    Since we’re on the subject of colossal, towering vaginae: http://nonadventures.com/2013/08/03/hakuna-dentata/

  92. 92
    Sili

    Anyone got any tips about how to avoid being totally demoralized by the bullshit behavior of men in STEM fields?

    Tazer.

  93. 93
    Muz

    No one really needs any help understanding why this guy is full of it. But it really doesn’t sound like he’s had that many jobs. If he’s ever been around film and television, or nursing, certain branches of medicine too, he’d hardly be able to pull that crap about “It’s hard and the hours are long and everyone is depending on you, so women don’t do it” (actually if everyone is depending on you the the management is kinda crap too, but that’s another thing)

  94. 94
    ChasCPeterson

    I think considering ‘STEM fields” as a monolith is uninformative. My experience suggests plenty of variation among (as well as within) subfields of Biology alone in terms of the chilliness or warmth of the climate to women.

    That said, the publications and citations of I. Havealargepenis are so numerous and so well known and so famously eclectic that he clearly deserves deference as the Authority here.

  95. 95
    Inaji

    Chas:

    famously eclectic

    Wonderfully subtle. You have a great way with words.

  96. 96
    mouthyb, Vagina McTits

    Okay, how to not be totally demoralized in math, statistics and computer science courses.

    Unfortunately, tazering people for boob staring, insulting comments, groping, grabbing, standing behind me and commenting loudly on the failures in my work or otherwise being assholes is considered excess force.

    Not that using a tazer doesn’t appeal to me.

  97. 97
    marinerachel

    One wonders if there’s a Mrs. Havealargepenis.

  98. 98
    Stacy

    Crossposted from ManBoobz (where I’m Lady Mondegreen):

    Two recent experiments that provide strong evidence of unconscious sexist bias in STEM hiring (I’m linking to articles that reference the studies):

    http://thesocietypages.org/socimages/2012/12/27/gender-and-biased-perceptions-scientists-rate-job-applicants/

    http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2013/jan/14/sexual-discrimination-science

    I heard about these studies last year from Sean Carroll (the physicist, not the biologist,) who discussed sexism within STEM during a talk on the search for the Higgs Boson for CFI-Los Angeles.

    Hmmm, whose argument do I give more weight–Sean fuckin Carroll’s (backed by evidence) or a dude who calls himself “IHaveALargePenis” (backed by assfax)?

  99. 99
    javawench

    On surviving the STEM field. I’ve never tazered anyone for cleavage staring. I have chucked them under the chin to get their eyes back on my face, stared fixedly at their crotch in retaliation or asked if they had ever encountered breasts before or mine their first. They usually get really embarrassed and avoid me entirely or learn to maintain eye contact.

    In meetings if I am talked over I talk over the person who interrupted (unless they’re VP class. I do need my job). I have a carrying voice and I will be heard or I will make you look like an ass for continuously interrupting.

    As far as emotional well being, concentrate on the guys that aren’t ass holes. The first person to let me on a keyboard to change configuration was an old school programmer that retired 2 years after I started working with him. There are men and women that are supportive dwell on them. When there are just too many assholes expand your network to online communities. Nothing like other women to confirm that you are not imagining the bull shit, its there and it stinks.

  100. 100
    mouthyb, Vagina McTits

    javawench: Thanks. Since I’m not “officially” an engineer or computer scientist, though I’d like to make my next Masters degree a CS degree, I hadn’t joined any organizations. I’m thinking I may see if they’ll let me hang around online, just so I have some field-specific people to talk to.

    It’s good to know that it’s okay to be aggressive. I’ve been hampered (unless I get angry, like I was when I made the cock comment) by not knowing how much aggressive behavior was going to cost me. If it can be done without being totally kicked out, I’ll gladly default to that.

  101. 101
    Monsanto

    You may be interested in a feminist from outside your usual circle. She is a woman who is a PhD student in engineering who goes by Scientific Femanomaly. A couple posts of interest are Why I Won’t Stop Talking and Women Have Small Brains and Other Biases of Science. Ironically, the comments in the second post mention the intelligence gained by having a huge penis. That must spill over into the STEM fields as well.

    One of the things Femanomaly writes about on a semiregular basis is women in STEM programs.

  102. 102
    John Phillips, FCD

    @blf, #72 QFFT. As an R&D engineer I wasted far too much time in the electronics and computer industry arguing with incompetent managers promoted well beyond their capabilities and their technical knowledge, but they could bullshit with the best.

  103. 103
    abusedbypenguins

    Had no idea that women were lazy, scatter-brained professional test takers.

  104. 104
    LykeX

    Women have infiltrated every major out there outside of STEM

    Note “infiltrated”. This is a person who doesn’t think women have a place in any major. They’re outsiders who have infiltrated the domain of men. He’s a western version of the Taliban.

  105. 105
    No One

    @ 90 mouthyb, Vagina McTits

    Anyone got any tips about how to avoid being totally demoralized by the bullshit behavior of men in STEM fields?

    That’s a good question. I’m an old white guy, so all I can say is what I think might work. I could be totally full of shit for all I know…

    1) Remind yourself why you are doing this. Go back and touch stone when you have to. In particular when you are reaching a low point.

    2) Create a FEM-STEM online forum for support and resources.

    3) At times you might be the only adult in the room. If they act like children, respond like an adult.

    4) Use tit for tat strategy. If they cheat or “defect” don’t tolerate it, but don’t hold a grudge. Give the assholes room to correct and become better people.

  106. 106
    Lofty

    IHALP, meet IhaveadrawerfuloflargepenisesathomethatIdon’tneedtocarryaroundwithme. I’m sure you’ll get along fine so long as you keep your trousers on.

  107. 107
    carlie

    I think considering ‘STEM fields” as a monolith is uninformative. My experience suggests plenty of variation among (as well as within) subfields of Biology alone in terms of the chilliness or warmth of the climate to women.

    Absolutely. And as we’ve seen recently, other fields aren’t doing so well either (I’m looking at you, less than 4% of citations by women authors in philosophy).

    Which might explain the level of dropouts the further one gets into the field of study.

    D00d. You do understand that this stuff has been actually, you know, studied, not just talked about over drinks, right? You comprehend that the ideas you have off of the top of your head probably aren’t as probable to be true explanations as actual data collections and analyses are? Seriously, you’re embarrassing yourself here.

  108. 108
    carlie

    Anyone got any tips about how to avoid being totally demoralized by the bullshit behavior of men in STEM fields?

    I was lucky to be in trained an area that has very little sexist behavior, but I have certainly seen it since going out into the wider world of academe. There are many possible tactics, but all depend on the level you’re willing to put up with, the power dynamic between you and the other person, your own personality, etc. I’ve found some success in blaring right past the behavior as if I didn’t notice – speaking up more loudly when I’m not called on (“EXCUSE ME, AS I WAS SAYING”), giving bemused looks at sexist statements (I’ve gotten good at the “wow, I think I just watched bullshit but I’m not sure” smile). I’m not as good with the direct “stop being a sexist jerk” comments, but I know some people who that’s worked well for. In terms of just not being demoralized by it, find other women anywhere you can swap terrible stories with. It’s cathartic.

  109. 109
    cartomancer

    What has always puzzled me is the simultaneous existence of the stereotype currently under discussion (that all women are ditzy airheads who don’t know one end of a screwdriver from another) and an almost polar opposite stereotype (that them thar book learnins is for schoolmarms and sissies, and teh real menz don’t do smart). I suppose it is likely that the former is current among pro-intellectual misogynists, while the latter is the preserve of anti-intellectual ones, but they do rather cross the wires there don’t they?

  110. 110
    carlie

    Rote memorization doesn’t imply understanding.

    Which might explain the level of dropouts the further one gets into the field of study.

    You know, there aren’t a lot of black STEM professionals either. Are you willing to say that black people don’t know how to do higher level thinking too?

  111. 111
    cartomancer

    Also, why is it that so many of these MRA types are obsessed with the size of their penises? Is that normal in US heterosexual culture (which I’m guessing is where most of their behaviour patterns come from)? Or in any other culture for that matter? I mean, sure, I know that penis-measuring is sarcastic conversational shorthand for pathetic contests of trite machismo, but surely nobody over the age of seven actually does that very thing to make a show of machismo, do they? Or do they? Yet it does actually seem to be taken seriously among the MRA crowd. What’s up with that?

    Perhaps I have just avoided this kind of thing somehow, but just about the only other people I’ve ever encountered who give two hoots about penis size are a tiny subset of gay men on sex-date websites, for whom it’s an actual sexual turn-on. Yes, there are jokes about it being a ubiquitous fetish among the gay male community, but it really isn’t.

    Are the MRA folk just deriving their ideas of what is important in macho culture by failing to get the sarcasm?

  112. 112
    blf

    Anyone got any tips about how to avoid being totally demoralized by the bullshit behavior of men in STEM fields?

    Sorry, I don’t really have a clew on that. Two suggestions, however. First, please use the modifier “some”, as in some men. Second, I know there are various sorts of support groups (but I am afraid that’s all I know…).

  113. 113
    Seize

    First, please use the modifier “some”, as in some men.

    You’re right. There are some men who don’t support institutionalized sexism. They work to help women in the sciences feel welcome by offering them substantial support in the face of sexism.

    Second, I know there are various sorts of support groups (but I am afraid that’s all I know…).

    My point has been made.

  114. 114
    Inaji

    Seize:

    My point has been made.

    Ouch. Perhaps this would be the time for the good guys in STEM fields to familiarize themselves with a few good support spots for women in STEM fields, so they could bring them out when they see a fellow worker in need.

  115. 115
    docfreeride

    A short (13 minute) film that packs in a lot of food-for-thought on how to improve gender ratios in STEM fields came out on Monday: A Chemical Imbalance.

    (If you prefer a transcript, mine is posted here)

  116. 116
    tim rowledge, Ersatz Haderach

    ludicrous @ http://freethoughtblogs.com/pharyngula/2013/08/11/fascinating-logic/comment-page-1/#comment-666088 (hmm, is that making a happy link?) – A good and decent point and I certainly didn’t intend any insult to young people. I was one, once, so long ago that no humans had set foot upon the Moon.
    I guess I might have better used ‘naive’, or ‘immature’ to make my point. Except that, as Seize suggests it seems IHALP is in fact a ‘grown up’ and thus ought not qualify for either.

  117. 117
    carlie

    A short (13 minute) film that packs in a lot of food-for-thought on how to improve gender ratios in STEM fields came out on Monday: A Chemical Imbalance.

    (If you prefer a transcript, mine is posted here)

    Thank you, and thanks for the transcript! I teach a middle school girls science daycamp in summers and it’s good to have stuff like this at hand.

  118. 118
    No One

    docfreeride @ 115

    Thanks for the transcript. I read it.

  119. 119
    Seize

    Thank you, Caine, for having the patience to take an educational stance. Here is a list of women’s STEM organizations. However, my Googling has actually been kind of unproductive.

    Does anyone else have links to message boards or online education and support groups for brilliant women who are facing sexism in the workplace and don’t want to let it get in the way of their work?

  120. 120
    crocodoc

    Sorry PZ, why do you mention such… erm… dicks… here? Is this guy relevant in any way? More science, more great women and men, less MRA assholes who got more attention than they deserve on manboobz anyway, please!

  121. 121
    Seize

    Crocodoc @120 – see my reasoning @61 and let me know if you disagree. I’m of the opinion that these individuals deserve a LOT of air time.

  122. 122
    javawench

    @Mouthyb I’m not officially an engineer either, if that means having a degree in computing or engineering. Back in the dark ages when I went to college computing degrees weren’t commonly available. What I have is 20+ years of OJT beating equipment, software and fellow engineers into submission.

    @caine Don’t think I haven’t fantasized about making just such an exit. I’m currently in a space where my skills aren’t in question, I can trade snark with co-workers and sexism isn’t tolerated. I’d be happier if my current situation wasn’t the exception.

    @crocodoc MRAs need to have a bright light shone on them and pulled out of there happy little echo chambers. This idiot doesn’t spout anything I haven’t heard before and he has a lot of similarly minded buddies that contribute to the atmosphere in STEM fields. I also use them as examples for my munchkins (who are apt to think I exaggerate).

    Javawench

  123. 123
    Ysanne

    mouthyb,

    Anyone got any tips about how to avoid being totally demoralized by the bullshit behavior of men in STEM fields?

    * Behaving in a reasonably self-confident way when it comes to technical questions, and being able to ignore/shrug off rudeness to a certain extent worked for me. I was lucky to be somewhat spoiled and insensitive in this respect, so I didn’t even notice the sexism and subtle “women can’t do X” messages in a lot of my experiences at school and uni. I guess just rationalised it as jokes or, at most, easily met challenges: After all no one could mean anything like that seriously!
    By now I’ve learned to not take sexist behaviours personally, and see people who exhibit them as welcome targets for taking out a bad mood on.
    * Make contact with the other women in your field, you can lend a lot of support each other just by being there, even if you’re not close friends otherwise.
    * There are lots of decent guys in STEM, too, who are great to hang out with. Unfortunately some of them start off with MRA-influenced views (facilitated by the fact that many nerdy guys are scared to death of women and have never had girls in their circle of friends before), but a lot of these sort themselves out just by getting to an actual woman and realising we’re people too.

    About the nym…

    the thought that there’s an environment where it would be taken as meaningful and wouldn’t get him laughed out of the room…

    Exactly. Especially since this is probably one of the fields where self-reported data just doesn’t cut it. I hope there’s an accredited MRA forum measuring committee.

  124. 124
    mouthyb, Vagina McTits

    Sorry about the time lapse. I host a Sunday night tabletop gaming night.

    blf: Okay, you’re right. The problem is some men in STEM disciplines, not all of them. I just seem to run into a lot of men with problems.

    I admit I am incredibly embittered by the last two years of classes. The subject matter was fascinating, but wading through the other bullshit has been demoralizing and humiliating. I’m struggling not to be more embittered than I currently am.

    I really appreciate the responses I’ve gotten so far. Thank you all.

  125. 125
    Cerberus is working overtime at the outrage factory

    A relevant anecdote:

    My girlfriend got shoved out of Math, a subject she loved due to endless sexism. She had consistently high grades, understood the mathematics of high-dimensional physics, and did complex math problems for fun (still does to a lesser degree). Absent anything else, she should have continued on unimpeded. But after repeated professors treated her like a joke and an interloper, multiple colleagues made her feel sexually threatened, and the culture exasperated her existing depression to the point where she could barely concentrate, well… one less woman in the sciences.

    Another relevant anecdote:

    A female friend of mine in undergraduate was a physics major. Not only did she have to grow hard as she advanced in her classes, every class meant one less woman in the major and professors and colleagues who saw this decrease as an excuse to try and push her out of the major through belittling, hatred, and straight up ignoring her contributions or forcing her to do group projects alone. She nonetheless persevered, though she never looked as happy as she should have been for working in her dream major and the sexism she endured weighed heavy on her and cost her many of her friends in the major.

    These are but individual stories related to me, but the current research on the subject shows that these stories aren’t uncommon.

    And beyond that, we’ve got the anecdotes of the men of STEM. The angry gatekeepers who rant about how women are “genetically” incapable of competing in the sciences. The men who scoff and smile at how men are artificially buoyed by the sexism and women hobbled. The constant belittling of women in the sciences, the angry targeting of any in a science or technology field or a related subject who dare point out issues of sexism such as sexual harassment, rape, hostile atmospheres, or even creepy moments. We’ve seen it again and again in our little corner. Just as we’ve seen the incredulity among such men at the very concept of a female grasping STEM subjects to an equal or greater degree. The weird psychosexual privileging of “STEM” over “soft sciences” based entirely on which has a perceived greater percentage of men. And so on.

    We can see with our eyes the number of men who literally feel that “STEM” is a male bastion to defend against feminine corruptions. And seen the lengths such men will go to try and dissuade women out of any such “male spaces”. This is a thing that is happening and a thing where both sides: enforcers and victims are saying the same thing. That women are being deliberately shoved out of STEM fields through raw sexism in the name of defending the last “natural” fallacy for arguing in men’s inherent superiority.

    A bit of hope:

    All the other bastions have fallen in time. It may have required endless generations of women smashing their bloody scalps against the brick wall of the status quo to break down. But break down it has. Many other fields had the same problem. The same gatekeepers ranting about women’s inability to handle the sophisticated subject matter of say literature or art. The same angry defenses of male domination that slowly gave way to those who refused to be shaken off.

    With effort, with women willing to stay in and men willing to stand up against the sexism in their subjects, this can change, though the transitional time will be brutal for all women who make this change with their blood, sweat, and tears.

    The sexists are terrified, lashing out. They know why. They know how little time they have left and what little room they have to trumpet their false claims of inherent male superiority.

  126. 126
    blf
    Second, I know there are various sorts of support groups (but I am afraid that’s all I know…).

    My point has been made.

    Since there seems to be some confusion about what it is I do, allow me, please, to explain, albeit only in outline. I do two things, one reactive, the other proactive. The reactive action is to not tolerate the behaviour. The specific reaction depends on the specific instance observed.

    The proactive action is to not engage in such activities (nor in anything similar, such as racism, ageism, et al.).

    Actually, there is a third thing I do, which I will call a “reaction” albeit it has proactive elements: Listen when I am called out on something. That has happened to me, three times that I can now recall, with each instance multiple decades ago (the last being in c.1996). One was a misunderstood comment; one was an ill-considered comment; and the earliest was a genuine brainfail on my part. As far as I know, since that 1996-ish incident, no-one has had any reason to call me out on any of the sort of behaviours discussed in this thread.

  127. 127
    Nemo

    I think IHALP meant MIT and “Standord” as examples of places that were STEM-focused. It’s just badly written.

  128. 128
    Ryan

    Oh my! So much stupidity and rampant sexism in one post and so little time to respond. Lets see if I understand the gist of that rant.

    So men get to the top by virtue of the fact that they are
    a: Smart and hardworking.
    b:They don’t fuck around – literally.

    Women don’t get to the top because they are
    a: Stupid and flighty.
    b: They spend to much time flirting and sleeping their way to the top.

    I agree, absolutely – all the men I have ever met, in any field, deserve to be there because of their awesomeness. None of them whatsoever are incompetent, stupid or just plain lazy.

    What a stupid little fuckwit.

  129. 129
    crocodoc

    @121 Seize:
    Probably you’re right. I didn’t know this IHALP is some kind of celebrity among MRAs. Never heard of this guy before. But I still think Pharyngula would be a perfect platform for presenting evidence that women aren’t inferior. What would you think about a “female scientist of the week” series? Wouldn’t that be more effective than pointing at individual MRAs and the nonsense they spew out?

  130. 130
    abewoelk

    I think the specific arguments made by IHaveABigPenis are not very good arguments, but I’m not sure that the idea that women as a group have less aptitude for some subjects than men as a group (and vice versa, by the way) should be dismissed out of hand. And, even if it is true that aptitude for certain subjects has a gender-based component, obviously that doesn’t mean that women who do have an aptitude for math and science should not be encouraged to go into math and science; individuals should be treated as individuals whether their individual gifts happen to comport with the rest of their group or not.

    First of all, the rejoinder that “I know/teach/work with plenty of women with an aptitude for science” is simple selection bias; the women one encounters in a graduate biology class are probably no more representative of women as a whole than the men one encounters in a nursing program representative of men as a whole.

    And as a general matter, men and women do look at the world differently; one need look no further than the disproportionate presence of women in religion, or polling data broken down by gender on any controversial political issue, or the sweeping social changes to which women’s rights was a catalyst. Is it really that much of a stretch, then, to at least entertain the possibility that women as a group may have more aptitude for some subjects than others, even if there are individual women who are exceptions?

  131. 131
    abewoelk

    And one more thing: Having an aptitude for one subject but not another has nothing to do with being inferior. It simply means we all have different gifts.

  132. 132
    Pteryxx

    …but I’m not sure that the idea that women as a group have less aptitude for some subjects than men as a group (and vice versa, by the way) should be dismissed out of hand….

    Well, someone hasn’t read the research, obviously.

  133. 133
    Chie Satonaka

    Having an aptitude for one subject but not another has nothing to do with being inferior.

    Funny then how all the things that our culture has decided that women have an “aptitude” for end up being things that are culturally viewed as inferior….like unpaid domestic work, caring for others, and of course shopping. We mustn’t forget women’s natural inclination to shop.

    It’s almost as if there are certain forces at work trying to keep this status quo in place….hmmmm….mysterious. Nope, must just be Nature.

  134. 134
    abewoelk

    At pteryxx 132: I’ve read several articles on the subject and mostly didn’t find the ones that support your position to be persuasive; if you have something specific you’d like me to look at, I’ll be happy to do so.

    At Chie 133: I never said there’s no sexism in our culture, but that’s a separate question from whether there’s a biological basis for why men and women seem to gravitate toward different tasks. If there is, the solution is to educate people to value domestic work and caring for others (no so sure about shopping), not to ignore what may be a biological fact.

  135. 135
    Anri

    abewoelk:

    I think the specific arguments made by IHaveABigPenis are not very good arguments, but I’m not sure that the idea that women as a group have less aptitude for some subjects than men as a group (and vice versa, by the way) should be dismissed out of hand.

    Quick question: is that what’s happening here?

    (That’s ok, maybe whatever group you’re in just happens to have less aptitude for paying attention. Don’t think anyone’s calling you inferior because of that, right? When it comes to thinking, maybe you just have different gifts.)

    *sigh*

  136. 136
    zenlike

    At pteryxx 132: I’ve read several articles on the subject and mostly didn’t find the ones that support your position to be persuasive; if you have something specific you’d like me to look at, I’ll be happy to do so.

    Sorry abewoelk, but the null hypothesis is women and men have the same aptitudes. It’s up to you to prove that this hypothesis is false.

  137. 137
    ChasCPeterson

    PZ, why do you mention such… erm… dicks… here? Is this guy relevant in any way?

    Posts tagged as both Equality and Stupidity are intended as Red Meat for The Horde.

  138. 138
    daniellavine

    abewoelk@130:

    I think the specific arguments made by IHaveABigPenis are not very good arguments, but I’m not sure that the idea that women as a group have less aptitude for some subjects than men as a group (and vice versa, by the way) should be dismissed out of hand.

    Why not? Do you have any evidence that suggests it shouldn’t be dismissed? Citations please.

    And, even if it is true that aptitude for certain subjects has a gender-based component, obviously that doesn’t mean that women who do have an aptitude for math and science should not be encouraged to go into math and science; individuals should be treated as individuals whether their individual gifts happen to comport with the rest of their group or not.

    Commenters have already provided a wealth of both studies and anecdotes suggesting that women who are interested in math and science are in fact discouraged from pursuing those interests. Furthermore, that discouragement seems often to be justified by the assertion that “women just aren’t good at X”. In other words, they are not treated as individuals — they are treated as members of a class who have “less aptitude for some subjects than men.” If this is being used as a justification to discourage women from these fields regardless of individual ability then how do you suggest we fix this without challenging the stereotype that women as a class aren’t very good at these fields.

    First of all, the rejoinder that “I know/teach/work with plenty of women with an aptitude for science” is simple selection bias; the women one encounters in a graduate biology class are probably no more representative of women as a whole than the men one encounters in a nursing program representative of men as a whole.

    In what sense aren’t men in nursing programs representative of other men? What mysterious quality is it that is failing to be “represented”?

    And as a general matter, men and women do look at the world differently; one need look no further than the disproportionate presence of women in religion,

    Citation please.

    or polling data broken down by gender on any controversial political issue, or the sweeping social changes to which women’s rights was a catalyst.

    What reason is there to believe that differences in politics are not the result of women being treated differently than men in the first place? In other words, why should I believe that this indicates an intrinsic difference between women and men rather than a conditioned difference predicated on self-fulfilling prophecies such as low expectations?

    Is it really that much of a stretch, then, to at least entertain the possibility that women as a group may have more aptitude for some subjects than others, even if there are individual women who are exceptions?

    It’s not a “stretch”, but since it’s an attitude commonly adopted on the basis of absolutely no evidence and then used to discourage women from pursuing careers in technical fields I think there’s some reason to push back on this possibility and demand some actual evidence for it before blithely accepting it. I can “entertain the possibility” just fine but since you provide no evidence I’m not seeing any reason to actually believe it.

    Do you have any evidence or are you just talking out your ass?

  139. 139
    Leo Buzalsky

    I don’t know if anyone has pointed this out (didn’t read the existing comments), but I notice one flaw PZ made:

    I’m a little confused, though: IHaveALargePenis first claims that STEM curricula favor men over women, but that women are favored by the standardized tests he claims are in use. Which is it?

    Actually, he seems to be saying that women have been doing better in STEM curricula because of a supposed transition to standardized testing. It would seem he believes that testing practices are changing and those changes are favoring women. At least that’s how I’m interpreting this: “This is why girls have been doing better (or so it seems) ever since standardized tests.” I grant, though, that his train of thought is hard to follow.
    I would also guess that, in his mind, it’s all due to standardized tests why women outnumber men in college. (Guessing that he believes that all those other non-STEM degrees rely heavily upon standardized tests.)
    In summery, I personally don’t question his logic near as much as his premises.

  140. 140
    Chie Satonaka

    Do you have any evidence or are you just talking out your ass?

    It’s assfax. We know of professions that were once male-dominated that are now female-dominated (secretarial work and teaching were both male dominated in the 19th century). And in the case of teaching, it’s the “lower” level jobs that tend to be dominated by women, while men still retain control of the highest levels of the field. Similar to religion, which is another example given by assfax. Women may attend and participate in church functions more frequently than men, but church authority is still male dominated.

  141. 141
    Tony! The Queer Shoop

    abewoelk:
    Bang up job living up to the title of this post.

    (Pssst, that was snark, btw. You could benefit from examining your biases)

  142. 142
    Alexandra (née Audley)

    Chie Satonaka:

    It’s assfax.

    So stolen.

    We know of professions that were once male-dominated that are now female-dominated (secretarial work and teaching were both male dominated in the 19th century).

    Not only that, but in the early days of computer programming, women did the bulk of the work. They’re the people that were making/feeding the punchcards into the machines, not men.

    I’d love to know what ClaimsToHaveABigDickButIsProbablyAverageSized thinks about that.

  143. 143
    Chie Satonaka

    So stolen.

    No problem, I stole it, myself!

  144. 144
    mouthyb, Vagina McTits

    seize: They don’t know because they don’t have to know. I get it–I also know why that’s frustrating. Must be nice to go one’s entire schooling and career without ever having to go searching for support systems because yours is built into the standard make-up of courses and work by virtue of being alive and male. :(

    Experience determines an awful lot of what people care about, or even are aware of. Sometimes I wish I had the power to touch people and give them a copy of my experiences, so that they could see what their behaviors are costing the women around them.

  145. 145
    Rutee Katreya

    At Chie 133: I never said there’s no sexism in our culture, but that’s a separate question from whether there’s a biological basis for why men and women seem to gravitate toward different tasks.

    It’s only a separate question if you raised a bunch of kids in a bubble with no culture whatsoever. Else it’s an intimately connected question you have to deal with.

    If there is, the solution is to educate people to value domestic work and caring for others (no so sure about shopping), not to ignore what may be a biological fact.

    Ah, so you’re just assuming what women are good at after all, since you’re going after shit we already know for a fact is based on cultural upbringing, and then claiming that cultural upbringing is the totes supar important nature of women. I am shocked – SHOCKED – that you didn’t base this on actual data.

  146. 146
    abewoelk

    First of all, just to be clear, I have not taken a position on whether there is a biological basis for why men and women tend to gravitate toward different fields and am in fact agnostic on the question. I’ve read several articles on both sides of the question and didn’t think either side blew the other one out of the water. My position, in its entirety, is that at this point I don’t think the biology argument can be dismissed out of hand, which is not the same thing as saying that I think it’s an established fact. And since the first rule in science is that nothing is ever settled, I’m frankly surprised I don’t have more company on a science blog.

    That said, I do have to wonder the extent to which the shrill hostility to the mere possibility that it might have a biological component is driven by politics rather than by adherence to science. Most of the people here don’t __want__ there to be a biological component, and so I have to ask: Suppose science identified cold, hard conclusive proof that it is biological; would those of you condemning me as a sexist pig for merely keeping the question open accept that proof? My suspicion is that for many of you, the answer is no, and to the extent that the answer is no, what you’re pushing isn’t science; it’s dogma.

    And finally, as a practical matter, I don’t see that it makes any difference if it’s biological or not. Suppose, for sake of argument, that there is a biological component. Let us go even further and suppose for sake of argument that the biological component is the lion’s share of it. Now, does that mean that individual women who do have an aptitude for science shouldn’t be encouraged to go into science? Of course not. Every individual, male or female, is entitled to be treated as an individual and encouraged to go wherever their talents take them. Even if that person is an exception to what is otherwise true about the group. The only practical difference that having a biological component would make is that you’ll end up with more males in STEM fields than females, but so what? Where is it written that every field must have equal numbers of men and women?

  147. 147
    LykeX

    I have not taken a position on whether there is a biological basis for why men and women tend to gravitate toward different fields and am in fact agnostic on the question

    Of course you are.

    And since the first rule in science is that nothing is ever settled, I’m frankly surprised I don’t have more company on a science blog

    It may have something to do with the fact that you don’t understand the concept of a null hypothesis.

    That said, I do have to wonder the extent to which the shrill hostility to the mere possibility that it might have a biological component is driven by politics rather than by adherence to science

    Have you forgotten? You’re supposed to be pretending to be an impartial observer.

    My suspicion is that for many of you, the answer is no

    My suspicion is that no matter how many times each new idea about essential gender differences is disproved, you’ll still cling to the possibility that maybe, somehow, there could still be a scientific basis that would allow you to say that women are inferior.

    And finally, as a practical matter, I don’t see that it makes any difference if it’s biological or not/

    Right. That’s why you’re so unconcerned with it. Why it almost slipped your mind entirely.

  148. 148
    Chie Satonaka

    shrill hostility

    You stay classy, buster.

  149. 149
    daniellavine

    abewoelk@146:

    First of all, just to be clear, I have not taken a position on whether there is a biological basis for why men and women tend to gravitate toward different fields and am in fact agnostic on the question.

    So far you have definitively argued on the basis of no data whatsoever that there is a biological component:

    And as a general matter, men and women do look at the world differently; one need look no further than the disproportionate presence of women in religion, or polling data broken down by gender on any controversial political issue, or the sweeping social changes to which women’s rights was a catalyst. Is it really that much of a stretch, then, to at least entertain the possibility that women as a group may have more aptitude for some subjects than others, even if there are individual women who are exceptions?

    What can I take that as except as an extraordinarily weak argument that there is a biological difference after all?

    I’ve read several articles on both sides of the question and didn’t think either side blew the other one out of the water.

    Feel free to link them at any time. Your opinion is, as far as I can tell, worth just about nothing in settling this question.

    My position, in its entirety, is that at this point I don’t think the biology argument can be dismissed out of hand, which is not the same thing as saying that I think it’s an established fact. And since the first rule in science is that nothing is ever settled, I’m frankly surprised I don’t have more company on a science blog.

    1. Studies and personal testimony both attest to the fact that disparity in numbers and performance between genders in STEM fields are at least part a result of differences in how men and women are treated (i.e. not the result of intrinsic differences between the genders). That is, we know that sexism accounts for at least some of this difference.
    2. So far as I have seen, no solid case has been made for biological or intrinsic differences between the genders contributing to this disparity in numbers and performance.
    3. The assumption that there is such an intrinsic difference is often used as a justification for treating women in STEM fields differently from men circling back to (1). That is, the assumption that women “just are” worse at math, etc. becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy without anyone having established that there actually is an intrinsic difference between the genders w.r.t. accomplishment in STEM fields.

    Putting it all together, the idea that women “just are” bad at STEM is harmful and reinforces itself by ensuring that women are discouraged from succeeding in STEM. Moreover, it is entirely possible that there are no intrinsic differences because none have been established, though it has been established that the assumption of such differences causes a difference in performance in STEM fields for cultural reasons — how women are treated differently from men in those fields.

    All together, I’d say that puts the onus on anyone claiming there is such a difference to establish it beyond reasonable doubt. Since it affects how women are treated in STEM fields now agnosticism is not an option. One must assume gender has an effect or one must assume it doesn’t have an appreciable effect.

    That said, I do have to wonder the extent to which the shrill hostility to the mere possibility that it might have a biological component is driven by politics rather than by adherence to science.

    I think this is an unfair characterization.

    Most of the people here don’t __want__ there to be a biological component, and so I have to ask: Suppose science identified cold, hard conclusive proof that it is biological; would those of you condemning me as a sexist pig for merely keeping the question open accept that proof?

    Please quote someone calling you a “sexist pig”; otherwise this is another unfair characterization.

    As for why people show such resistance to the idea that there is a “biological component” to gender discrepancies in STEM fields, I have already explained this: the idea is actively and demonstrably harmful but not demonstrably true.

    My suspicion is that for many of you, the answer is no, and to the extent that the answer is no, what you’re pushing isn’t science; it’s dogma.

    You’ve already rejected evidence offered on this question suggesting that there is no intrinsic difference. That is, I do not need to conjecture, as you do, that the folks on the “not intrinsic” side are rejecting evidence. You have demonstrably rejected evidence. Isn’t it therefore even more fair for me to accuse you of dogmatism than it is for you to accuse anyone on the other side? After all, we’ve produced evidence which you rejected out-of-hand without justification whereas you have produced no evidence whatsoever for us to either reject or accept.

    Maybe you should produce some evidence to that end to test your own hypothesis. You wouldn’t want us to think you’re dogmatic, would you?

    And finally, as a practical matter, I don’t see that it makes any difference if it’s biological or not. Suppose, for sake of argument, that there is a biological component. Let us go even further and suppose for sake of argument that the biological component is the lion’s share of it. Now, does that mean that individual women who do have an aptitude for science shouldn’t be encouraged to go into science? Of course not.

    It doesn’t lead to that logical conclusion, and yet we’ve already established that the mere belief that women are worse at STEM leads to assumptions, biases, and behaviors that discourage women from entering or persisting in STEM fields. That is, as a “practical matter” you’re entirely wrong about this. It does make a demonstrably difference. What you’re saying here is complete theory, not praxis, and it contradicts the evidence we do have.

    While one can talk a good game about such biological differences making no difference for individuals, we inevitably end up with situations like this. How do we get out of this trap? I would suggest that if we assume there is no intrinsic difference between the genders in terms of ability then such stereotyping and biases will have less effect on the performance of individuals.

    Every individual, male or female, is entitled to be treated as an individual and encouraged to go wherever their talents take them. Even if that person is an exception to what is otherwise true about the group.

    Perhaps, but the world is not fair and so people are only infrequently rewarded with the treatment to which they are “entitled”. Sucks, but people are often subjected to treatment informed by bias and stereotype. That’s reality.

    The only practical difference that having a biological component would make is that you’ll end up with more males in STEM fields than females, but so what? Where is it written that every field must have equal numbers of men and women?

    It isn’t written and it isn’t the case, but as has already been demonstrated, the assumption that women are worse in STEM creates a self-fulfilling prophecy that results in women actually doing worse in STEM. Should we not combat this unfair result of making assumptions about people based on cultural stereotypes and biases? Should we remain agnostic in the face of assumptions that do real harm in the real world?

    For about half the world’s population this isn’t a fun little intellectual exercise — this is real life. This is their education and their futures.

  150. 150
    vaiyt

    First of all, just to be clear, I have not taken a position on whether there is a biological basis for why men and women tend to gravitate toward different fields and am in fact agnostic on the question.

    So agnostic that you already know what women and men are good at. Piss off.

  151. 151
    abewoelk

    At vaiyt 150, no, I don’t claim to know what men and women are good at. The poster to whom I was responding used domestics and shopping as her examples, so when I responded I simply used the examples she had given without endorsing them. But then, ifyou’d read carefully you’d have already known that.

  152. 152
    daniellavine

    abewoelk@151:

    Then isn’t it just as reasonable to assume women are intrinsically better than men at STEM fields? If you’re truly agnostic on the question isn’t that just as good a possibility? And if so, why aren’t you mentioning that possibility to underscore your “agnosticism”?

  153. 153
    Chie Satonaka

    The poster to whom I was responding used domestics and shopping as her examples

    And your examples were nursing and volunteer work. It wasn’t much of a leap for me to discuss our culture’s insistence that women are biologically determined to be the unpaid nurturers of society.

  154. 154
    Chie Satonaka

    @151

    And don’t think I didn’t notice how you completely ignored me bringing up the fact that there are other fields that were once male dominated that are now female dominated….apparently our biological aptitudes have completely flipped in a mere 150 years.

  155. 155
    abewoelk

    The problem with making this into a null hypothesis issue is that the null hypothesis will tell you that there’s a correlation but not necessarily why there’s a correlation. The null hypothesis will tell me, for example, that there is a statistical correlation between being Japanese and having raw eel for breakfast (if indeed there is a correlation; I just made that up to illustrate the point), but it will not tell me if the preference is based on biology, culture, nature, nurture, or something else.

    At daniellavine 152, yes, that might be just as reasonable, but since that wasn’t what we were discussing I didn’t change the subject. This is a blog comment board, not a doctoral dissertation, so nobody covers the entire field in a comment.

    At chie154, yes, there are fields once dominated by one gender now dominated by the other, but that doesn’t mean that EVERY field has that phenomenon. As far as I can tell, men have dominated STEM pretty much in all of human history. That may be sexism rather biology; I’m not saying it isn’t. Just that so far, I’m not convinced.

  156. 156
    docfreeride

    abewoelk @155:

    As far as I can tell, men have dominated STEM pretty much in all of human history.

    You might want to read some history of science and technology, then, since your take does not match the historical evidence in any useful way.

    (The book reviewed here gives an accessible discussion of how women were, in the 1800s, presumed better suited for all manner of scientific and computation task.)

  157. 157
    daniellavine

    abewoelk@155:

    At daniellavine 152, yes, that might be just as reasonable, but since that wasn’t what we were discussing I didn’t change the subject. This is a blog comment board, not a doctoral dissertation, so nobody covers the entire field in a comment.

    Excuse me but you’re the one insisting that everyone needs to seriously entertain the possibility that women are congenitally worse in STEM than men. Doesn’t it stand to reason that one must also entertain the converse possibility for the exact same reasons? If so, why not mention it?

    Also, can you respond to my rather extensive rebuttal to your position pointing out that women are demonstrably poorly served by the assumption that they are congenitally worse in STEM fields? You asked why there was a bias against that position here and I made a fairly good case for why such a bias would exist justified by the ethical argument that the position itself does harm and that combating it is therefore a means of ameliorating that harm. Given that this is a fairly direct answer to a question you yourself asked don’t you think you should acknowledge it?

  158. 158
    daniellavine

    abewoelk@155:

    The problem with making this into a null hypothesis issue is that the null hypothesis will tell you that there’s a correlation but not necessarily why there’s a correlation. The null hypothesis will tell me, for example, that there is a statistical correlation between being Japanese and having raw eel for breakfast (if indeed there is a correlation; I just made that up to illustrate the point), but it will not tell me if the preference is based on biology, culture, nature, nurture, or something else.

    Actually, that’s exactly the reason for the null hypothesis. There’s good reason to believe that there are cultural/nurture reasons for the disparities between genders in STEM fields but there is no good reason to believe there are any biological/nature reasons for these discrepancies. Therefore, the baseline assumptions should be that such differences can be attributed to culture which has already been demonstrated to be a factor rather than biology which shouldn’t. Hence the burden of evidence is on someone claiming a biological component to the disparities.

    This argument is supplemental to the ethical argument I already made against the assumption of biological differences contributing to the disparity which still stands.

  159. 159
    Ms. Daisy Cutter, General Manager for the Cleveland Steamers

    Ludicrous, #51: Regardless of what Seize said about IHAP, teenagers and very young adults tend to lack life experience and also still have to finish maturing cognitively. Yelling “ageism!” every time someone points this out is… ludicrous.

  160. 160
    Chie Satonaka

    At chie154, yes, there are fields once dominated by one gender now dominated by the other, but that doesn’t mean that EVERY field has that phenomenon. As far as I can tell, men have dominated STEM pretty much in all of human history.

    That is immaterial to my point. You have argued that fields that are dominated by one sex or another indicate the natural and biological “aptitude” of that gender “as a whole” and that any examples we could raise to refute your argument are mere outliers (and you give the example of male nurses). As a rebuttal, I have provided two fields which were once overwhelmingly dominated by men that are now dominated by women. If, as you have argued, it is biological “aptitude” that leads to one gender dominating a field over the other, it stands to reason that the field should remain dominated by that gender.

  161. 161
    A. Noyd

    abewoelk (#146)

    That said, I do have to wonder the extent to which the shrill hostility to the mere possibility that it might have a biological component is driven by politics rather than by adherence to science.

    First, d’you really think you’re the first one to come to this blog and blather on about how maybe chicks are into chick stuff because it’s, like, in our genes, man? Is it beyond your comprehension that people here might be dismissing your (idiotic) hypothesis not because the possibility unsettles us but because we’ve faced it so often that we know all too well just how idiotic and unfounded it is? Are you under the impression that we’re as unfamiliar with the literature behind this as you are, thus we’re restricted to pitting our guesses against your guesses?

    Second, fuck you for “shrill.”

    (#155)

    The null hypothesis will tell me, for example, that there is a statistical correlation between being Japanese and having raw eel for breakfast (if indeed there is a correlation; I just made that up to illustrate the point), but it will not tell me if the preference is based on biology, culture, [...] or something else.

    I’ll let someone better equipped go into why you’re a failure at understanding null hypotheses. But this…

    Japanese people eat their eel cooked and generally partake of it for lunch or dinner rather than breakfast. (I guess you wanted to season your sexism with a dash of Orientalism?) But, given what we already know about food preferences, you’d have to be a massive fucking idiot to go around assuming that Japanese eel eating habits are biologically based rather than culturally based. You don’t get to say that, well, sure, every other instance of difference in food preference between cultures that we’ve put to the test has turned out to have a cultural explanation, but “that doesn’t mean that EVERY [menu item] has that phenomenon.” Or, rather, you can say that as justification for your attempt to demonstrate that eel eating is an exception to the rule, but not in lieu of attempting to demonstrate it.

    Also, you need to give an honest and thorough response to daniellavine’s post #149. No one else is going to ignore that you got smacked down like a toddler in an MMA tournament. Trying to handwave the post away just emphasizes the vacuity of your position.

  162. 162
    LykeX

    It’s been demonstrated that even the presence of stereotypes may impair performance and learning. It’s not just that they create a chilly climate in which women feel uncomfortable or are overlooked for promotions; it may actually harm their ability to learn properly.
    That alone seems to be a pretty good reason not to entertain such notions unless we’re pretty sure they’re correct. They tend to become self-fulfilling prophecies.

    From here:

    Through a series of experiments involving Chinese characters and color judgment tasks, the researchers were able to show that actual learning had not occurred in the group of women who had been reminded of the negative stereotypes involving women’s math and visual processing ability. Instead of finding it difficult to express learning, which is a typical effect of stereotype threat, they had not learned the same skill that women in the control group, who had not been exposed to the negative stereotypes, had learned.

    Combine that with the long, long history of completely unfounded ideas about gender essentialism being proven wrong, why on earth would we even spend a second giving credence to the notion of a biological component?

  163. 163
    Cerberus is working overtime at the outrage factory

    It’s also worth noting the simple fact that for much of human history, especially modern human history, we’ve turned to “natural” assumptions about what “women are good at or are” and what “men are good at or are”.

    Women can’t possibly handle the delicate act of reading, the amount of information will surely cause their poor brains to inflame. Oh noes, women couldn’t possibly manage the craft of writing as their inherent skills are too disparate and unmalelike to master the art. Women voting? Surely you jest, for a woman’s natural domain is her home and to force her out of that to focus on external non-home issues will surely break her due to the sheer force of how much her biology resists. Women in college? Again, do you want their brains to blow up?!? I mean, surely they cannot biologically handle such loads. Women in college to learn and actually expecting careers? Haven’t you seen the test scores that show that women are genetically inferior at all manner of academic thought. Okay, now they are actually doing really well in a bunch of subjects… Uh, well, that’s because they aren’t real subjects or have been feminized to artificially support wimmin folk. All that matters is this small cluster of “real” sciences that clearly by virtue of their male dominance show the inherent superiority of men in the things that matter. Oh fuck, women are starting to do the same or better by test scores and it’s become obvious to any looking academically that the problem is an enforced culture of sexism exasperated by insecure men thinking that STEM is the “last bastion” of male biological dominance… Hey, why isn’t anyone “open” to the notion that this time, against all historical tradition and evidence, it really is women’s inferiority after all? I mean, what’s the odds that this train of thought is 0 for 5 trillion versus us being randomly right for the first time ever? Clearly you are misandrist or anti-science if you don’t agree!

    We’ve been through the dance and every time, as cultural barriers to women’s participation have decreased, “genetic differences” have shrunk and vanished. Almost like they were never there to begin with and cultural assumptions have made up the entirety of historical imbalances.

    And it’s also worth noting that this bullshit hurts men too. The way female-dominated subjects are coded as “lesser” or worthless is a cudgel often used to question the “maleness” of any man who enters those subjects because that’s where their passion lies. They have to deal with patriarchy-enforcing jokes disparaging their chosen passion, bullying, and of course their career options being less well-paid or assumed to be non-existent.

    And it doesn’t help the men who are in the “proper” subjects, because they are mostly force-fed with the patriarchy’s desperate enforcement to become fearful of any feminizing influence. Which yeah, might be a little hard to live up to when you are in essence a “geek” major and none of you meet cultural ideals of what a “manly man” looks or acts like.

    But hey, it’ll never stop us clinging until the last bit of evidence falls, and then continuing afterward trying to blame the equality on “unfair favoring of girls”.

    Oh and as one more bit of evidence, I present me. I am female both internally and chemically. But I was raised male. I had male socialization. As such, culture largely bypassed me the messages that I wasn’t supposed to be interested in science. As such, I found my passion there. Since taking hormones, I have not in any way shape or form lost my aptitude for science, found it more difficult or lost my love of the subject. Nor has any other science-interested transwoman I’ve known. Similarly, among transmen, I have seen no increase in science or math aptitude.

    In fact, in trans* people we see exactly what are the total biological differences between our biological sexes:

    Bigger/smaller breasts
    Bigger/smaller junk
    Body hair amount/softness
    Erogenous zone migration
    Some cancer susceptibilities
    Some X-linked or Y-linked genetic factors such as color blindness

    That’s it. That’s the list. No decrease in intellectual aptitude, no change in emotional focus, no changes in love of shopping, no sudden sprouting evil due to the inherent sinful nature of women.

    Just mostly a few secondary and primary sex characteristics.

    So yeah, in every way, in every how, this hypothesis is unsupported by reality, is not null, and is highly unlikely to be accurate.

    But we’re supposed to accept it as “TRUTH” every time, no matter it’s poor history, lack of scientific accuracy, and the complete inversion of the null.

    Now why might that be?

  164. 164
    heatherlynn

    I started laughing when he described MIT as ‘not STEM focused.’ Okay, so you have no real idea how academia works. KThanxBye

  165. 165
    Cyranothe2nd, there's no such thing as a moderate ally

    abewoelk@146

    I have not taken a position on whether there is a biological basis for why men and women tend to gravitate toward different fields and am in fact agnostic on the question.

    What a privilege it must be for you to be “agnostic” on things that bear on my human rights and dignity.

    One also wonders if you’re equally agnostic on the idea that different races have “different biological talents.”

    And since the first rule in science is that nothing is ever settled, I’m frankly surprised I don’t have more company on a science blog.

    This is not the first rule of science, diddums.

    …the shrill hostility…

    I’ll take sexist tone-trolling for $200, Alex.

    … is driven by politics rather than by adherence to science.

    Saw that in your crystal ball, did you?

    And finally, as a practical matter, I don’t see that it makes any difference if it’s biological or not.

    Your ignorance of history is almost as astounding as your ignorance of science, than. You might want to look into how scientific racism and scientific sexism have been used to oppress POC and women for centuries.

  166. 166
    mouthyb, Vagina McTits

    abewoelk: If we’re going to talk about the null hypothesis, I’d like to point out that by definition, the null is that there is no relationship of the kind specified, NOT that the relationship is opposite of what’s specified. Since you have apparently not had that education, I’ll give an example:

    hypothesis: There is a negative relationship between biology and women’s aptitude for science.

    null hypothesis: There is no relationship between biology and women’s aptitude for science.

    Even if you were using (from intro stats) a two-tailed z test on that sucker (which you couldn’t because the data will not be normalized), you’d still have a hell of a time demonstrating firm linkage between ‘biology’ and performance. I’ll be generous and suppose that by biology, you mean standardized test scores and demographics of college majors, neither of which are considered a proxy for biology, FYI. Also, neither can be compared in the rough–you cannot compare men and women in one category but not in all. Your unit of measure must be standard.

  167. 167
    abewoelk

    For those of you who are complaining that I haven’t responded in detail to your points, you’re right; I haven’t. That’s because I only have 30 minutes for lunch and my employer does not pay me to hang out on blogs when I’m supposed to be working. I am now about to go cook supper for my husband, after which I will do my best to respond to everyone.

    In the meantime, could I ask that you all not collectively engage in a tag-team game of moving the goalposts? Before my lunchtime posts, two people told me I was wrong because of the null hypothesis. I then explained why the null hypothesis isn’t relevant — it tells us about correlations, but not about the reasons why, and the reason why is the central issue on the table — only to then have three people jump in to tell me that I’m a dodo for having raised the null hypothesis. (By the way, to the person who gave the dissertation on Japanese dietary habits, did you miss the part in my post where I explicitly said I wasn’t claiming an actual correlation between being Japanese and eating eel?) If you want to have a conversation, then please don’t (1) impute to me positions I haven’t taken; (2) quote me out of context; or (3) move the goalposts. Thank you.

  168. 168
    LykeX

    @abewoelk
    In reading back, I can see I’ve actually been a bit wishy-washy with my definitions and since I brought it up, I think the onus is on me to clarify as well. Use of the null hypothesis probably just muddled things. I was thinking more in line of a default position.

    Specifically, I had in mind the simple fact that we know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that culture has a huge effect on how people act, what they choose to devote their time to, the abilities they train as a result and the jobs they end up in.
    We know that culture has this effect. We know that this effect is big.

    We furthermore know that there’s a long history of various qualities being proposed as essential to this gender or the other. The list is longer than I care to write out, but common among all these are that they’ve all turned out to be complete bunk.

    Now, given that the biological explanation has such a shitty track record and given that the cultural explanation looks to be doing just fine, explaining more and more, why the hell wouldn’t you be perfectly happy to assume, preliminarily, that biology has nothing to do with it?

    It would seem to me that the most simple and parsimonious explanation is to just accept that it’s mainly a matter of culture. Why are you still agnostic on this?
    Your appeal to the fact that nothing is ever truly settled in science misses the point. It’s not like we don’t have evidence, nor do I think anyone would dogmatically assert that their minds could never be changed.

    The reason you’re getting such a strong response is that it sounds a lot like you actually have taken a position. It sounds like you’re strenuously resisting the conclusion which all the available data points toward: No significant biological effect.

    And to bring in the example of Japanese eel eating habits, are you also agnostic on that point? Do you think there might be a biological cause for that? If not, why not?

  169. 169
    mouthyb, Vagina McTits

    abewoelk: You’re getting the null hypothesis information because you appear to be radically unsure how it works.

    As far as correlative work, I have bad news for you: when it comes to human behavior in societies there is not and cannot be because of laws against human experimentation. In order to START to get information that is causal, we would need to isolate babies so that we could be sure that their behavior was not being confounded by social information. These babies could not be allowed to speak naturally to caretakers, in case they were accidentally acculturated in that fashion.

    If you pay attention to extreme abuse or neglect cases, that’s as close as we can get to a truly isolated variable, and studying those children is incredibly unlikely to yield results that are useful for an acculturated population.

    The tl;dr version: correlation is the only thing we can have with humans. All causal studies are hampered by culture, which you cannot escape if you are studying humans without violating the shit out of the Nuremberg Principles (eg: committing a war crime).

    Rejecting correlative measures as impure is incredibly silly when you discuss human behavior.

  170. 170
    mouthyb, Vagina McTits

    “cannot be clear causation”. Sorry, in a hurry.

  171. 171
    A. Noyd

    abewoelk (#167)

    That’s because I only have 30 minutes for lunch and my employer does not pay me to hang out on blogs when I’m supposed to be working.

    So say that you saw it and will be replying later when you have time. Simple enough.

    By the way, to the person who gave the dissertation on Japanese dietary habits, did you miss the part in my post where I explicitly said I wasn’t claiming an actual correlation between being Japanese and eating eel?

    I was criticizing you for how your made up an example smacked of racist exoticism. You couldn’t illustrate your point with English people eating beans on toast; ohhhh no, it had to be those whacky Japanese eating raw eels. And I spent a single sentence on how Japanese people actually eat eel. If that’s a dissertation, the world owes me a few hundred thousand doctorates by now.

    ~*~*~*~*~*~

    LykeX (#168)

    Your appeal to the fact that nothing is ever truly settled in science misses the point. It’s not like we don’t have evidence, nor do I think anyone would dogmatically assert that their minds could never be changed.

    Right, and “never truly settled” doesn’t mean that the relative probabilities of competing hypotheses perpetually stay the same. The more evidence that accrues against a hypothesis (such as most ladybrains can’t hack it in STEM), the more we should be willing to boot out that hypothesis in favor of a better one.

  172. 172
    Cerberus is working overtime at the outrage factory

    abewoelk @167

    For those of you who are complaining that I haven’t responded in detail to your points, you’re right; I haven’t. That’s because I only have 30 minutes for lunch and my employer does not pay me to hang out on blogs when I’m supposed to be working.

    Well that’s just cute. Not only do you get the bullshit excuse for why you can’t back up your shit when you come over to our house to smear your oft-disproven horseshit, but you also get to passively-aggressively smear as many regulars as you can by suggesting that we aren’t professional at our work places and are clearly not as busy and full of life as the sad sack of shit who felt the need to invade another blog to be an ignorant piece of shit at it.

    Sorry, fuckweasel, but thanks for playing. Do let the door hit you on the way out.

  173. 173
    abewoelk

    At Cerberus, No. 172: “You also get to passively-aggressively smear as many regulars as you can by suggesting that we aren’t professional at our work places.” One of the things I love about some of the posters here is the hilarious wayd they continue to outdo themselves by taking offense where none was intended, and where no reasonable person would have been offended. I said nothing at all about anyone else’s schedule; I was talking solely about mine. Honestly, some of the people here give Islam a run for its money as being the religion of the perpetually offended. Maybe I should limit myself to saying “Good morning” just to see the creative ways that some people will find to be offended. Don’t worry, Cerberus, if I intend to insult you, you’ll know it.

  174. 174
    abewoelk

    A. Noyd, how does it smack of racism to use as an illustration that there might be a correlation between being Japanese and having eel for breakfast? And how would it have been any different had I used your example of the English and beans; in that case I would also have been commenting on people’s dietary preferences based on their national origin. Maybe if I’d said there might be a correlation between being Southern and having grits for breakfast? Please see my comments to Cerberus about being perpetually offended even where no offense was intended.

    And by the way, the problem with being perpetually offended about everything is the boy who cried wolf syndrome — when something really and truly offensive does come along, you get written off as the person who always takes offense whether justified or not.

  175. 175
    A. Noyd

    abewoelk (#173)

    Don’t worry, Cerberus, if I intend to insult you, you’ll know it.

    If you’re as adept with insults as you are with everything else, it’ll end up the verbal equivalent of you stabbing yourself in the eye with a fork.

  176. 176
    abewoelk

    To the several people who are complaining that I haven’t backed up what I’ve said with citations, neither have any of you. Again, this is a conversation on a blog, not a formal dissertation. If you want me to back up everything I say with citations, you first. I said at the very beginning that if someone had a specific citation they wanted me to look at, I’d be happy to do so.

  177. 177
    abewoelk

    Lykex, No. 168: I don’t doubt that culture has a lot to do with it. I will even entertain the possibility that women may be better at math and science than men but have been held back by sexism. But there are a number of reasons why I think biology can’t be ruled out:

    1. As many others here, I disbelieve free will (except maybe to a very limited extent under limited circumstances), which means that I think a great deal of what we do and are interested in is biologically determined. Since people who are members of the same groups tend to have at least some similar characteristics, is there any reason to think that group membership might not have some interplay with at least some characteristics?

    2. We know that different people have different aptitudes about a whole host of things, and we really don’t know why. How can you be so certain that gender has zero to do with it? Remember, you’ve placed yourself in the position of proving a negative, since you are cheerfully asserting that it is a fact that gender has zero to do with it; you are mistaken if gender ends up having anything at all to do with it, be it ever so tiny. That’s a pretty hefty burden for you to carry, and so far I haven’t seen any indication that it’s been done.

    3. There is some research indicating that one gender tends to use its left brain more and the other tends to use its right brain more. Whether that’s biology or generations of socialization, who knows, but it suggests biology can’t be ruled out. And all I’ve said is: It can’t be ruled out.

    Finally, I am in sympathy with those who claim that the practical effect of it having a biological basis is that women will be treated unfairly. However, if in fact there is a biological basis, then that’s a biological fact regardless of what impact it has on the culture. And if it’s a biological fact, then the solution must be to change the culture, not ignore what would then be a biological reality. It’s really the same type of argument as theists who claim that without God there can be no morality: Even if true, it’s beside the point of the factual yes-or-no question of whether God exists.

  178. 178
    abewoelk

    Cerberus, No. 163: Regretably, you are exactly right that biology has been misused to keep women, blacks, and others “in their place” and that was wrong. However, the fact that Hitler re-invented genetics as eugenics and then misused it as an excuse to gas people does not mean that genetics isn’t a legitimate science. If there is a biological component to gender differences in the STEM fields, that does not mean that women who are interested in science shouldn’t be encouraged to do science.

    Look at it this way: You can blame science for America’s obesity problem since science gave us high-fructose corn syrup and trans-fats, or you can lay the blame on people who take those discoveries and are irresponsible with them. I don’t doubt that if a biological component were to be proven, that there would be sexists who would use that as an excuse to justify their sexism. But the problem would be with their misuse of science and not with science itself.

  179. 179
    abewoelk

    Chie, No. 160, all I said about male nurses is that they are probably not representative of males as a whole. I did not take the next step of claiming that their presence in a field dominated by women makes them outliers.

    If we live long enough, we might see the day when a majority of nurses are men; now that the pay for nurses is better than it used to be, it’s more attractive to men, for whom it’s usually all about the money. (I just said that to see if anyone criticizes me for saying something sexist if it’s directed at men.)

  180. 180
    abewoelk

    OK, at this point I think I’ve hit most of the high points directed at me; if I’ve missed anything, it wasn’t intentional; let me know and I’ll respond in the morning. Going to bed now. Good night.

  181. 181
    mouthyb, Vagina McTits

    abewoelk: I gotta tell you the truth. I keep trying to compose a response to what you’ve been typing, but at this point it looks like you need educating in enough subjects to prevent a short answer format from being useful.

    This is a list, at last count, of subjects you need more time with to have the discussion you seem to want to have: statistics and statistical limitations, conservative interpretation of statistics and reasons thereof, the scientific method, the history of human experimentation, roughly 40 years of social sciences research including the controversies and successes of measuring human social behavior, a sense of what can be measured (hint: the term ‘biology’ is very, very general and never measured directly; there’s a lot to be said about the proxy classes for biology and how poor the choices of researchers often are)

    More importantly, you seem to need to be told that you are actually (whether you believe it or not) in a highly researched subject. This means that your opinions are subject to comparison to the gist of research, which mostly disagrees with you. For some, this would be incentive to try and read up on missing material.

    The good news is that Pharyngula, on the left side of the window, has a small link called “social justice links”. If you click on that, it takes you to a wiki stuffed with academic papers and stats tutorials. You should probably start there.

  182. 182
    A. Noyd

    @abewoelk (#174)
    Intent isn’t magic. As you’ve already amply shown, you’re more than capable of being a bigot, whether you realize it or not. No one should have to wait around for you to catch on to how bigoted you’re being before calling you on it. I mean, a) what would be the point? and b) no one is going to live that long.

    As for Japanese cuisine, what the fuck makes you think that “Japanese people eat raw eels for breakfast” is anything like “Southern people eat grits for breakfast”? The former is an Orientalist stereotype born of your racist imagination of what those zany Japanese people might eat in the morning, and the latter, while still something of a stereotype, is close enough to reality that you’ll actually find grits on the breakfast menu at Waffle Houses and Cracker Barrels all over the South.

    Now you could try to answer the questions in the first half of my #161. Or deal with what I was getting at about cultural vs. biological explanations in the second half. Because the bit about how you said something racist was meant as an aside.

  183. 183
    A. Noyd

    mouthyb (#181)

    I keep trying to compose a response to what you’ve been typing, but at this point it looks like you need educating in enough subjects to prevent a short answer format from being useful.

    I know, right? I started a reply to #177, but there’s just too much wrong. And it’s not just ignorance of facts and the literature to date, it’s also sloppy, fallacious thinking. Like the bit about no free will means things are biologically determined. Major false dichotomy there which overlooks environmental causation. Which is a funny thing for abewoelk to overlook when that’s what their opponents are arguing in favor of.

  184. 184
    mouthyb, Vagina McTits

    A. Noyd: I kept coming up with something, then I’d realize that I needed to start further back. And further back.

    And further back.

    And then I realized I was in a 100 level explanation of the scientific method and statistics and decided that there was no practical way to get from that to the sort of very late undergrad/graduate education necessary to parse the papers I wanted to link.

    For sociology, I was at a 99 level explanation, and I don’t really know how to get someone to those papers in a short answer form.

    Followed by realizing I was educating someone for free again and I thought “oh hell no. I get paid for that, damn it.” :D

  185. 185
    SallyStrange

    It’s also worth noting the simple fact that for much of human history, especially modern human history, we’ve turned to “natural” assumptions about what “women are good at or are” and what “men are good at or are”.

    Women can’t possibly handle the delicate act of reading, the amount of information will surely cause their poor brains to inflame. Oh noes, women couldn’t possibly manage the craft of writing as their inherent skills are too disparate and unmalelike to master the art. Women voting? Surely you jest, for a woman’s natural domain is her home and to force her out of that to focus on external non-home issues will surely break her due to the sheer force of how much her biology resists. Women in college? Again, do you want their brains to blow up?!? I mean, surely they cannot biologically handle such loads. Women in college to learn and actually expecting careers? Haven’t you seen the test scores that show that women are genetically inferior at all manner of academic thought. Okay, now they are actually doing really well in a bunch of subjects… Uh, well, that’s because they aren’t real subjects or have been feminized to artificially support wimmin folk. All that matters is this small cluster of “real” sciences that clearly by virtue of their male dominance show the inherent superiority of men in the things that matter. Oh fuck, women are starting to do the same or better by test scores and it’s become obvious to any looking academically that the problem is an enforced culture of sexism exasperated by insecure men thinking that STEM is the “last bastion” of male biological dominance… Hey, why isn’t anyone “open” to the notion that this time, against all historical tradition and evidence, it really is women’s inferiority after all? I mean, what’s the odds that this train of thought is 0 for 5 trillion versus us being randomly right for the first time ever? Clearly you are misandrist or anti-science if you don’t agree!

    Ah Cerberus, this is a work of art! May I quote it, with attribution, on my FB page?

  186. 186
    SallyStrange

    But the problem would be with their misuse of science and not with science itself.

    I see that it hasn’t yet occurred to you that when you reach for the Women are X Because Biology Hypothesis, it is you who are misusing science.

  187. 187
    A.k. Whitney

    @Cerberus von Snarkmistress, I’m a journalist who is writing a book on math education and cultural attitudes toward math. I’ve been talking to members of the trans* community about their attitudes toward math and science pre and post transition. So far, the trans* women report no change in their perception of their interest or ability in STEM. But the trans* men told me their interest and confidence increased once they transitioned. These men were not in STEM fields to start, nor are they in STEM now. Some of the women are in STEM, others are not. I am obviously still at the beginning of my research, but I just wanted to tell you I found your comment very interesting.

  188. 188
    Tony! The Queer Shoop

    abewoelk:
    You are the one positing a biological basis for gender differences in STEM fields. The onus is on you to back that up.

    Also, you do not get to determine for others what is or is not offensive. Your dismissiveness is assholish.

    As to your comment @172, you may not have intended insult but the fact that insult was perceived is an indication that it may behoove you to be more careful with your wording so as to avoid any splash damage. That is if you care at all about inadvertently offending others. If you do not, by all means, continue telling people they are complaining over nothing. That will get you oh so far.

  189. 189
    LykeX

    @abewoelk
    You make three neatly numbered points, so I’ll address them in order:

    1. Irrelevant. Both men and women are human. The biological similarities far outweigh the differences, so this doesn’t really support idea about specific differences. If you want to support a specific biological difference, you have to show evidence for that difference. You can’t just handwave about different groups.
    If this was a good argument, then surely you’d also have to seriously entertain the notion that Japanese people do have a biological predisposition for eating eel. I hope you’re not that silly.

    This sounds like another attempt to find some reason why women are inferior and, as I mentioned, this is part of the reason why you’re getting a lot of push back. You don’t seem like you’re agnostic. You seem like someone pretending to be.

    2.

    How can you be so certain that gender has zero to do with it?

    I’m not. I’m saying that I’m certain culture has something to do with it and that every time in the past when gender has been proposed as an explanation, it has turned out to be bunk.

    since you are cheerfully asserting that it is a fact that gender has zero to do with it

    I’m not asserting it as fact. I’m pointing out that it’s the most reasonable conclusion based on the available evidence and that, in the absence of new evidence, there’s no reason to seriously entertain any other option.

    3.

    And all I’ve said is: It can’t be ruled out.

    And all I’ve said is that your insistence that it can’t be ruled out indicates your bias. There are lots of things that “can’t be ruled out”; things that we nevertheless don’t take seriously for a moment. “It can’t be ruled out” is not a rational reason for seriously considering an explanation. At most it can be a reason for doing more research (or, as a layman, keeping an eye out for new research).

    The point still stands; the rational, preliminary conclusion is that biology plays no significant part in this.

    Maybe it would be helpful to compare this with psychic powers. I’m sure you’ll agree that psychic powers haven’t been ruled out. I mean, it’s not as if we know everything about the universe and the laws of nature. Maybe there are some unusual ways in which the brain can obtain information. Maybe it’s rare, maybe only a few people have it, maybe it only works occasionally, but you can’t rule it out absolutely.

    Now, in every past case where we have investigated psychic powers, it has turned out to be fraud, unconscious bias, self-delusion, or simple mistakes. Despite the many people claiming psychic powers and the many different sorts of powers, every case that we’ve looked into has been shown to be bunk.

    On the other hand, research into the brain has given us much knowledge on how bias and fraud works; explaining the phenomena we see. Research into the laws of physics has ever debunked the ideas proposed for a physical basis for psychic powers. Every time, the psychic explanation has been wrong and the natural explanation has been right.

    Are you agnostic about psychic powers?

  190. 190
    zenlike

    Look abewoelk, I will spell it out for you:

    Either, on average:
    - women have less aptitude for STEM fields then men;
    - women have the same aptitude for STEM fields then men;
    - women have more aptitude for STEM fields then men.

    A very valid null hypothesis would be the middle one. Why? Because if for example you take the third one, and it is shown to be statistically false, then you still don’t know whether the first or second statements are true. If you take the middle one, and this proves to be statistically false, then it is determinable whether either the first or last statement is statistically significant.

    What you are stating is that the null hypothesis should be that statement one is true. You support ‘IHaveABigPenis’ therein. Yes, I know, you cloak it in language that seems to say that either 1 or 3 could be true, but it doesn’t come over very convincing, and that also seems to be a strange stance: you try to support a viewpoint that either one of two ‘extremes’ is true, but the middle, you outright reject as a valid base to start from. That doesn’t really make sense to me.

  191. 191
    Anri

    Well, given how few women have been President of the US, I think we can all agree women aren’t really cut out for positions of high leadership. I mean, ok, some, (presumably mannish), women have made it decently high in government, but it’s safe to assume they are the outliers, and not really representative of what women actually have evolved to do.

    …right?

  192. 192
    daniellavine

    @abewoelk:

    Before my lunchtime posts, two people told me I was wrong because of the null hypothesis. I then explained why the null hypothesis isn’t relevant — it tells us about correlations, but not about the reasons why, and the reason why is the central issue on the table — only to then have three people jump in to tell me that I’m a dodo for having raised the null hypothesis.

    No, no one told you you’re a dodo for having raised the null hypothesis. Some people criticized you for getting the null hypothesis wrong which you have. I explained rather clearly how and why, if your thesis is “biology is the cause of disparities between the genders”, the null hypothesis should be “biology is not a cause of the disparities between the genders.”

    If you want to have a conversation, then please don’t (1) impute to me positions I haven’t taken; (2) quote me out of context; or (3) move the goalposts. Thank you.

    Perhaps you should take your own advice. Since you’ve posted here you’ve certainly done (1) and (3).

    For those of you who are complaining that I haven’t responded in detail to your points, you’re right; I haven’t. That’s because I only have 30 minutes for lunch and my employer does not pay me to hang out on blogs when I’m supposed to be working.

    I take that as moving the goalposts. You make an argument and then refuse to address the rebuttals. I don’t really care about your personal life — as far as I’m concerned those are just excuses for not acknowledging rebuttals to your arguments.

    One of the things I love about some of the posters here is the hilarious wayd they continue to outdo themselves by taking offense where none was intended, and where no reasonable person would have been offended.

    Of course by the time you said that you had already said this:

    That said, I do have to wonder the extent to which the shrill hostility to the mere possibility that it might have a biological component is driven by politics rather than by adherence to science. …My suspicion is that for many of you, the answer is no, and to the extent that the answer is no, what you’re pushing isn’t science; it’s dogma.

    That seems calculated to give offense and it is a rather early comment by you in this discussion. Is there any wonder then that people are getting frustrated with you? This seems to me a clear example of “imputing positions” as well. Do you expect everyone to be really patient with you while you ignore salient arguments against your own and ignore your own advice on polite, constructive discourse?

    To the several people who are complaining that I haven’t backed up what I’ve said with citations, neither have any of you. Again, this is a conversation on a blog, not a formal dissertation. If you want me to back up everything I say with citations, you first. I said at the very beginning that if someone had a specific citation they wanted me to look at, I’d be happy to do so.

    By your own admission you’ve been ignoring arguments against your own so this reads like more excuses to me. Besides that, you’re the one claiming that we must consider the possibility that women are inferior to men in some respects (but not, apparently, that women are superior to men in some respects). The onus is on you to back that up. Why then, the insistence that we provide evidence first? However, evidence was provided in comments 98, 101, and 158 against your position. Your demand has already been met. I think it’s your turn now.

  193. 193
    daniellavine

    abewoelk@177:

    1. As many others here, I disbelieve free will (except maybe to a very limited extent under limited circumstances), which means that I think a great deal of what we do and are interested in is biologically determined. Since people who are members of the same groups tend to have at least some similar characteristics, is there any reason to think that group membership might not have some interplay with at least some characteristics?

    A completely empty argument. There is good reason to think that group membership has “some interplay” with some characteristics and good reason to think that group membership has NO interplay with other characteristics. This doesn’t demonstrate anything at all.

    2. We know that different people have different aptitudes about a whole host of things, and we really don’t know why. How can you be so certain that gender has zero to do with it? Remember, you’ve placed yourself in the position of proving a negative, since you are cheerfully asserting that it is a fact that gender has zero to do with it; you are mistaken if gender ends up having anything at all to do with it, be it ever so tiny. That’s a pretty hefty burden for you to carry, and so far I haven’t seen any indication that it’s been done.

    If that position is really “proving a negative” then that position should be the null hypothesis. The onus is on the one claiming gender has “something to do with it” to demonstrate the claim.

    3. There is some research indicating that one gender tends to use its left brain more and the other tends to use its right brain more. Whether that’s biology or generations of socialization, who knows, but it suggests biology can’t be ruled out. And all I’ve said is: It can’t be ruled out.

    “Can’t be ruled out” is not equivalent to “should be seriously considered.” I can’t rule out the existence of God either. As far as this “research” you mention perhaps you should, I dunno, cite it so that we may assess the validity of that “research”. Another non-argument.

    Finally, I am in sympathy with those who claim that the practical effect of it having a biological basis is that women will be treated unfairly. However, if in fact there is a biological basis, then that’s a biological fact regardless of what impact it has on the culture. And if it’s a biological fact, then the solution must be to change the culture, not ignore what would then be a biological reality.

    Then the answer is “changing the culture” either way. This isn’t an argument at all.

    It’s really the same type of argument as theists who claim that without God there can be no morality: Even if true, it’s beside the point of the factual yes-or-no question of whether God exists.

    You don’t understand the morality argument, then. The argument is that morality exists, it can only come from God, and therefore God exists. It’s nonsense because the second premise is almost certainly false but it’s logically valid. Apparently you can’t even keep up with simple theological arguments. You should tone down the pomposity a bit given how piss-poor you are at argumentation and apparently thinking in general.

    @178:

    If there is a biological component to gender differences in the STEM fields, that does not mean that women who are interested in science shouldn’t be encouraged to do science.

    And yet it inevitably is used as a justification for discouraging women from entering STEM fields. Not only that, it’s a source of unconscious bias that almost certainly further discourages women from entering STEM fields. Do you have a solution for this? I seriously doubt it. In light of the fact that this assumption does serious damage in this respect I still maintain the onus is on proponents of this hypothesis to demonstrate its validity. I doubt you’re capable but maybe you can get a friend to help you.

    I don’t doubt that if a biological component were to be proven, that there would be sexists who would use that as an excuse to justify their sexism. But the problem would be with their misuse of science and not with science itself.

    “Were to be proven.” So prove it and I’ll consider it. Goddamn but you’re tedious. You go on and on about the possibility but won’t raise a finger to actually lend any credence to the possibility. In other words you argue like a theist.

    Chie, No. 160, all I said about male nurses is that they are probably not representative of males as a whole. I did not take the next step of claiming that their presence in a field dominated by women makes them outliers.

    And I asked in what sense are they not representative. You never answered. Do you actually know any male nurses personally?

    If we live long enough, we might see the day when a majority of nurses are men; now that the pay for nurses is better than it used to be, it’s more attractive to men, for whom it’s usually all about the money. (I just said that to see if anyone criticizes me for saying something sexist if it’s directed at men.)

    I would have pointed out its sexist and almost certainly incorrect if you weren’t trolling.

    OK, at this point I think I’ve hit most of the high points directed at me; if I’ve missed anything, it wasn’t intentional; let me know and I’ll respond in the morning. Going to bed now. Good night.

    You’ve failed to acknowledge all the most salient arguments against your position and completely failed to support your position with anything but opinion and apparent bias. To judge by your performance so far you’re essentially incapable of argumentation. You seem to operate on the same “it just feels true to me” principle as religious believers.

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