I’m so forgetful. Sometimes I get so enamored of my own writing that important things slip my mind. The pragmatic argument is not the only reason I’m a feminist. There’s also the empirical one:
The SAT I is designed solely to predict students’ first year college grades. Yet, despite the fact that females earn higher grades throughout both high school and college, they consistently receive lower scores on the exam than do their male counterparts. In 2001, females averaged 35 points lower than males on the Math section of the test, and 3 points lower on the Verbal section. A gender gap favoring males persists across all other demographic characteristics, including family income, parental education, grade point average, course work, rank in class, size of high school, size of city, etc.
There are a number of pieces of evidence that suggest a systemic bias against women. I am familiar with dissecting these biases because they show up in the same kinds of places we find biases against black people. The pernicious thing about these kinds of non-obvious forms of sexism is that they have immense staying power. As the test causes women to underachieve, it means that fewer women are accepted into elite mathematics programs, which means fewer elite-level female mathematicians are produced, which means that math remains a “man’s field” for the next generation of students.
But it doesn’t simply stop at the SAT:
Like the SAT and ACT, graduate school admissions exams also reflect score gaps between males and females. On the 1999-2000 Graduate Record Exam (GRE), the most widely used graduate school exam, females scored lower than males on all three sections of the test (each with a range of 200 to 800 points) – 9 points lower on the Verbal portion, 97 points lower on the Quantitative section, and 25 points lower on the Analytic section.
The exam widely used in medical school admissions, the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT), also shows a persistent edge for male test-takers in 2000 – males outscored females by .1 points on Verbal Reasoning, 1.0 points on Physical Sciences, and .7 points on Biological Sciences, on a 1-15 point scale. Both groups received comparable scores on the Writing Sample.
It is important to remember that this is about performance on the test, not of whether or not women are qualified to enter grad school or medical school. The gaps seen on these tests cannot be explained by academic achievement or socioeconomic status or any other factor you might think of that is related to future job performance. It is entirely based on the structure of the test. The authors of the above article suggest that the differences between how men and women behave on tests, and how the solve problems, explains the differences, at least in part.
But a larger component of the pragmatic argument shows up when we examine the way we think of women, and the way they think of themselves. Ophelia over at Butterflies and Wheels gives us a brush-stroke look at stereotype threat – a psychological phenomenon wherein reminding people of stereotypical beliefs causes them to internalize those beliefs in such a way as to affect their performance:
Think about tv and movies. One, women are mostly not there at all, and two, the women who are there are mostly acting in air-headed ways. Stereotype threat is everywhere. And it’s no good thinking well you can just resist it, because resisting it itself is bad for performance – it takes up cognitive space that can’t be used for better things. Frankly this makes me even more pissed off than I already was at all the smug gits who put so much energy into talking sexist shit on the intertubes. They’re doing real damage. It’s not just a matter of bruised fee-fees, it’s a matter of creating real obstacles.
Our myths about women don’t just make them feel bad, they actively handicap them. And as we discussed yesterday, claiming that women are good at some things and men are good at the opposite might be a nice workaround, except that we place greater value on the “men’s stuff”, meaning that even under the complementary theory (which is hard to demonstrate, given what we know about stereotype threat), women get the short end of the stick.
But even then, the things we do claim to value about women also put them in the hole:
Women who wear more makeup at work are perceived as more competent, likeable and trustworthy by their colleagues, according to a new Harvard study. The study, which was also designed by Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, flashed the images of 25 women – of different races and ages and wearing different levels of makeup – to more than 250 people. The main conclusion was that people judge women who wore noticeable lip and eye makeup as more competent than their démaquillée counterparts.
This study is hardly a ‘smoking gun’, since the halo effect operates in men too, but it does show us that our gestalt evaluations of women are influenced heavily by their physical appearance – a trait which arguably has absolutely nothing to do with competence or trustworthiness.
There are structural, cognitive and psychological forces stacked against women (among many others). We can observe and demonstrate them. Being born female means you start your life off with the deck stacked against you. Feminism recognizes this and seeks to find ways of re-shuffling that deck to even the odds. We know that societies that recognize the equity of the sexes do better, and we have a mechanism to explain why that might be a cause/effect relationship. The evidence all points us in the direction of feminism.
So the question isn’t ‘why are you a feminist’. It’s ‘why the hell aren’t you?’
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I’ve heard about biased questions on standardized tests before (usually with things like promotion exams and race) and never really understood what that meant. The FairTest article provided just enough information to really pique my interest in the topic. Would somebody be so kind as to point me to a more comprehensive source on the topic, preferably with specific examples of biased questions? I find it remarkable that the peripheral fluff in a math problem could have such a dramatic impact on the results.
I was wondering largely the same thing. I’m quite aware of my own ignorance of how tests “work” from a cognitive standpoint, so I’m not going to make any bold assertions about what I think “should” be true. I am, however, surprised by the extent to which there’s an apparent biasing effect, even (especially?) for people graduating college. That GRE Quantitative gap is truly massive. So, what’s causing it? I suspect a variety of factors, but I’m interested in whether the test itself is one of them to any great degree.
Michael Swanson says
I think if you’re not a feminist, you don’t like women or think poorly of them, and I don’t know how anyone could argue otherwise. And if it’s true that you don’t like or think poorly or women, of slightly more than half the fucking species, then there is something seriously wrong with you.
There are only two kinds of women you should ever think poorly of: 1) the ones who are actually petty or willfully ignorant or violent, etc., because, news flash, women are people and a notable percentage of people in any culture will be any of those things, regardless of gender; and 2) the ones that you’re seeing through your own stupid preconceptions — which cancels #2 because you’re obviously just a sexist jerk!
Until we live in a world where the mere question of women’s equality need never be asked, feminism will be necessary. (Unless, of course, we end up in a post-apocalyptic Thunderdome future where all men are treated as mere chattel by the female warrior class. Then masculinism could be a viable philosophy.)
I had a math professor in college who would frequently ask questions relating to a large variety of sports. I got many of those wrong- I don’t know how to play them, I don’t know how to score them, I don’t know the length of fields, distance from goals, or even the number of players in any given sport. He refused to offer any sort of clarification during testing as well- it was a test, after-all.
The other thing I noticed with this particular professor was his almost exclusive use of men in his story problems and examples.
That said, I think it was unconscious. He didn’t appear overtly sexist in any other way.
Is it just me, or does this article seem a little hostile?
“The answer is C, neither boys nor girls. Surprised?
Don’t feel bad if you are. For years, national media stories have talked about a “gender bias” in college admissions testing. The stories noted higher scores for boys and suggested the cause to be a bias in the tests.
Now, thanks to progressive ACT Assessment® programs in Colorado and Illinois that administer the test to all public high schoolers, there is a new story to report. The differences are due not to a bias in the test, but to the composition of the groups who take it.”
See, this just makes me confused. The SAT is mostly a massive machine-graded multiple choice test, so there’s very little opportunity for grading bias. And if that was the problem the differences would be less stark on the math than on the english portion, due to the essay. So, if it’s not the grading, maybe it’s something about the questions. Now, having taken the test relatively recently (2-3 years ago), I’m pretty sure it didn’t contain stuff that was overtly more likely to be known by boys (there were no questions on dongs or sport) and certainly didn’t contain anything you didn’t see in high school. So that basically leaves the general culural atmosphere, which could be discouraging girls through stereotypes, but if that were true, these results should also be visible in High School grades, and you say the opposite is true. So what is there left? Are girls just “worse” at multiple choice tests? That seems unlikely. Are there actually cultural factors that are simply masked by a bias towards girls in High School? That seems unlikely too. Are we entirely certain this isn’t a self-selection or other statistical artifact?
Robert B. says
Now, don’t jump to conclusions. You also might not be a feminist because you completely fail to understand what feminism means or how misogyny/patriarchy works. Never underestimate the power of ignorance. 🙂
Charles Sullivan says
Let me be the first to say that I don’t think that your only motivation for being a feminist is to have sex with women. Someone had to say it.
Why aren’t you a PETA member? You must be for animal torture. Why aren’t you a Greenpeace member? You just love destroying the environment, don’t you?
Not sure if trolling, or just stupid.
Membership in an organization and practicing a philosophical stance are two different things. I am for ethical treatment of animals, and whenever animal cruelty crosses my path I speak up about it. Ditto for environmental causes (incidentally I am a member of Greenpeace, but that’s entirely beside the point).
Point is, feminism is to equality what PETA is to animal rights advocacy. Equating not being a feminist to being a against equality (or better yet, misogynist) is just as disingenuous as equating not being a card carrying PETA member as being for animal cruelty.
PETA – organization. Feminism – philosophical approach to gender equality.
Yeah those are totes the same thing.
“Feminism – philosophical approach to gender equality.”
O rly? Feminism has no social/political baggage that people might object to? None at all?
Assuming you’re serious…
PETA – an organization that was built out of the philosophical approach of animal rights / treating them kindly, and does things in their own way, which you can disagree with (and I do, in many cases), but still be against animal cruelty.
Feminism – a philosophical stance. Someone could build an organization, political group, or whatever else from there, and I could agree or disagree with what was built and still be a feminist.
Animal rights / anti-animal cruelty also has social and political implications, so I’m not sure what point you’re trying to make, exactly…
“Feminism – a philosophical stance.”
Again, disingenuous. It is that, but it’s also widely recognized as a social and a political movement. Even as a philosophy, feminism has a rather narrow view of equality. I’m not very interested in debating the merits (or demerits) of feminism in as openly hostile environment that Freethoughtblogs has become, but I’ll throw out an example of what I meant about narrow feminist equality:
According to the much touted Global Gender Gap Index the “most equal” country in the world in terms of education is Qatar because 30% of women have higher education as opposed to just 5% in men. The most equal country in “expected healthy years of like” is, surprisingly enough, Russia (women: 65, men: 55).
Anyway, if you care to continue your No True Feminist Scotsman song & dance, the stage is all yours.
looking back, I think it was a combination of stereotype threat and a “chilly environment” that pushed me out of Computer Science. Luckily I had a enough support to continue in mathematics. I was double majoring for a while and dropped CS. At the school I was the ONLY woman majoring in CS, but there were a few other women in Math. (And no female faculty in either subject.) Just a few others made the difference to staying in and dropping.
I wish I had taken more classes or learned more. I’ve been programming some Visual Basic recently and really enjoying it. But it is hard to get a well paying job in that field with little experience and a few computer science classes so long ago. So yes, stereotype threat has tangible effects on people’s lives.
1 – fail to admit central flaw in argument (PETA is not a social and political movement either, so your comparison is still stupid)
2 – poison the well by playing victim card (waaaah… FTB is so meeeean to anti-feminists! Also, ‘has become’? The site started 4 months ago with a handful of unabashed feminists…)
3 – fail to define or provide source of definition for central criticism (your so-called ‘narrow definition’, which is a crock because feminism isn’t a unified movement any more than atheism or humanism are)
4 – provide unsourced, cherry-picked piece of data
5 – mount high horse, and ride off into sunset having done nothing but mildly irritate everyone else
You, sir, argue like a theist. Feel proud of that.
“fail to admit central flaw in argument (PETA is not a social and political movement either, so your comparison is still stupid)”
PETA represents a narrow view of how to advocate animal rights. PETA promotes some rather ill-received methods of achieving its goals and has some PR problems as a result.
Feminism represents a narrow view of how to advance equality. Feminism also has some well known PR problems, raging misandry of the extremists for one (dunno about US/Canada but in Finland we still have feminists extolling the SCUM manifesto, for one).
“poison the well by playing victim card (waaaah… FTB is so meeeean to anti-feminists! Also, ‘has become’? The site started 4 months ago with a handful of unabashed feminists…)”
I don’t really have anything to add to that, except that I hope you’re not deluding yourself into thinking that FTB isn’t a total echo chamber when it comes to discussing feminism.
“fail to define or provide source of definition for central criticism (your so-called ‘narrow definition’, which is a crock because feminism isn’t a unified movement any more than atheism or humanism are)”
I thought my example where the metric of gender equality means the advantage women hold over men instead of how well they match up was rather self explanatory but I guess not.
“4 – provide unsourced, cherry-picked piece of data”
The Global Gender Gap Report is published by the World Economic Forum. This isn’t exactly some hidden, inconsequantial study commissioned by anti-feminists.
“5 mount high horse, and ride off into sunset having done nothing but mildly irritate everyone else”
“You, sir, argue like a theist. Feel proud of that.”
As long as we’re trading insults, you’re defending (feminist) dogma.
I’m baffled at your inability to differentiate PETA and feminism. PETA : animal rights advocacy :: National Organization for Women : feminism. Feminism in an approach – it is not an organization. You can disagree with the actions of PETA but still recognize the merits of animal rights advocacy. They’re not comparable.
Wrt “echo chamber” – most people here are outspoken feminists, yes. FTB is also, by your logic, a capitalist echo chamber because we don’t have any anarchists, an atheist echo chamber because we wouldn’t let Fred Phelps blog here, and a black supremacist echo chamber because we don’t have any outspoken racists. The people blogging here were not selected for their feminism, nor (to my knowledge) were people who aren’t outspoken feminists excluded. Feminism is a consequence of skepticism applied to gender roles. I’m sorry you feel left out.
Your example of the feminist utopia of Qatar doesn’t illustrate at all what you’re trying to convey. You’re attempting to draw the conclusion (from one data point, which is sloppy) that feminists are about elevating women above men. While there might be some female chauvinists out there who call themselves feminists (I’ve never met any), nobody here at FTB advocates that position, nor is it a logical conclusion from feminist principles. You’re making the same argument that theists make when they say that atheists will raze all the churches and force Christians to have to practice in secret for fear of police – it’s a stupid argument when they make it, and the same applies here.
Wrt feminist dogma, I suppose I am. I recognize the widespread systematic, cognitive, psychological, and often active oppressive forces that cumulatively work to the disadvantage of women. I recognize the existence of male privilege, meaning that simple passivity on the part of men will still result in the preservation of the misogynist status quo. I recognize that if I want to be a friend to women, I have to listen to what they say, and most of the ones I respect say things that align with the feminist perspective. If that’s dogmatic, then I am defending feminist dogma. I feel no shame at that.
I suppose to play devil’s advocate, I have to mention that many women who engage in political activities to promote human rights for women actively refuse to wear the label “feminist” because of the racist, homophobic or transphobic stances that many leaders of feminist philosophy have espoused.
In Canada (and the US too, of course), there was a schism in the budding feminist movement because the anglophone, white, middle-class, university-educated women driving the movement were pushing for the right of women to go to school and to work outside the home. Laudable, except to the immigrant women and women of colour who were expected to nanny their children when they went to work. At the top of the “if we had equality” list for pretty much all the women except the white middle- to upper class was the right to stay home and look after their own children for once; rather than working in the laundry, the factory, the corner store, as a maid, a servant, whatever.
The First Nations women had been turned off feminism much earlier, with the whole “women’s right to vote” thing, because up until 1960, the Feds set it up so that an indigenous person would lose her Status if she voted in a Federal election – she had to choose: participate in Canadian politics, or get to keep your legal identity. There was also all the other parts about losing your status if you married a white man, not being able to pass your status to your children, etc., wanting the right not to be raped and murdered at twice the national rate…. little things that First Nations women saw as more important than the right to a post-secondary education.
As a white, middle-class, heterosexual woman with an M.Sc. under my belt, I definitely hadn’t realised how narrow my feminist philosophy was, until I read this anthology about the development of women’s studies in Canada (I have been googling, but I can’t find the damn book. I’ll have to ask my mother-in-law, her friend did the cover, that’s the only reason I thought to even read it in the first place). I definitely hadn’t realised how many women the philosophy had actively harmed through exclusion, or even outright derision and attacks (see: treatment of trans-women). I was taught that feminism was “The radical notion that women are people” – but the problem has been – is still, to some women who call themselves feminist – that not all women have been recognized as women under the feminist banner. Feminists were still classist, still racist, still all the -ists save one.
I totally get what you’re saying – I have met far too many women who have actually said, in a bid to make my head explode, they’re not feminists because feminists don’t have fun and think women should achieve things, and achieving things is hard – but the urge to point out Intersectionality Issues(tm) on this blog was too great to refuse!
That is an entirely fair criticism, and insofar as feminism ™ has left behind women of colour, it needs to be reminded of that. However, that is not a problem of feminism qua feminism, it is a problem of failure to recognize the harmony between feminism and anti-racism (and anti-classism and anti-ableism and so on). There are some who are seeking to work within the feminist community to raise these other issues, and who meet opposition (“oh we’re not talking about that right now – let’s stay focussed”). I get it. I am also aware, however, that the black civil rights movement was highly feminist, from its infancy around the turn of the 20th century. Even they had problems.
If that’s the reason why people eschew the feminist label, while I understand their grievance, I do not agree with their decision. Feminists can (and do, and should) criticize other feminists if the situation warrants.
“You can disagree with the actions of PETA but still recognize the merits of animal rights advocacy. They’re not comparable.”
But apparently I can’t be for equality while not self-identifying as a feminist (since I find much of their actions and postmodernist theory objectionable). Instead I’m demonized as a misogynist/rape apologist and “probably a rapist”.
I’ll concede there is a disparity of organization between PETA and feminism. But the analogy works in many other ways, at least if you don’t labour under the misapprehension that feminism == gender equality advocation.
“FTB is also, by your logic, a capitalist echo chamber because we don’t have any anarchists, an atheist echo chamber because we wouldn’t let Fred Phelps blog here, and a black supremacist
echo chamber because we don’t have any outspoken racists.”
No, by my logic FTB would need a whole lot more blog posts demonizing anarchists and black supremacists to be an echo chamber concerning those topics.
“You’re attempting to draw the conclusion (from one data point, which is sloppy) that feminists are about elevating women above men. While there might be some female chauvinists out there who call themselves feminists (I’ve never met any), nobody here at FTB advocates that position, nor is it a logical conclusion from feminist principles.”
So do you flat out deny that misandry is an issue, or is ignorance your excuse? Are you defending such heroines of early feminism like Valerie Solanas without any knowledge of what their writings consisted of?
I’d agree that violent misandrist fantasies are an aberration of feminism. You seem content to pretend they don’t exist, since they don’t logically follow from your definition of feminism.
“You’re making the same argument that theists make when they say that atheists will raze all the churches and force Christians to have to practice in secret for fear of police – it’s a stupid argument when they make it, and the same applies here.”
Really? Is it me who is labelling a demographic (feminists) as morally deficient or are you (all men, for perpetuating rape culture/patriarchy/privilege/etc)?
“Wrt feminist dogma, I suppose I am.”
Indeed you are. Patriarchy and the universally lower status of women are givens in feminist theory, much like God’s existence is a given in theology. This gives rise to absurd conclusions such that if the men in Qatar were even LESS educated or men in Russia died even younger, “equality” would go up.
Call me “unjustifiably skeptic” if you want, but don’t call me a “theist”. I’m not the one who’s accepting things at face value here.
I don’t know who’s been demonizing you as a rape apologist, but they don’t live at this blog.
“the analogy works in many other ways*”
* – ways not included
Wrt misandry – point it out to me and I’ll condemn it. I have no idea who Valerie Solanas is, and I make it a point not to defend all of anyone’s writings.
From whose definition of feminism do they follow?
I’d really appreciate it if you didn’t put words in my mouth, especially when they have no relationship whatsoever to anything I’ve said. I have not demonized men, nor have I claimed that all men engage in the things you list there. Privilege is a passive force, not an active decision – demonizing someone for being brought up in a male-dominated society is stupid. I don’t demonize men any more than I demonize white people or straight people for their (our) associated privilege. Please stop projecting your issues on me.
Except that we can, and do, demonstrate their existence. In lots of places. With numbers. In this post. The conclusions you draw are completely invented out of whole cloth to serve your bizarre and unjustified anti-feminist agenda. I’m not sure why you’re so angry. Show me on the doll where the feminists touched you.
I’m not calling you unjustifiably skeptic at all – I’m calling you deluded.
I agree – I thought that eschewing the label of feminist because some feminists have been wankers was a little like eschewing the label atheist because of the sexism that erupted during the vertical transportation device fiasco.
I just had to state for The Atheist Record (which I assume you keep here on FTB? In between wanting men to die early and not go to school, and being reverse racists, of course) that there may well be women who don’t hate themselves (or male allies) who don’t identify as feminists for legitimate reasons.
“Wrt misandry – point it out to me and I’ll condemn it. I have no idea who Valerie Solanas is, and I make it a point not to defend all of anyone’s writings.”
Seriously? No idea about Valerie Solanas, or the SCUM manifesto that advocates gendercide?
Since you’re unwilling/unable to google her up, I’ll paste some choice bits for you:
“Ti-Grace Atkinson, the New York chapter president of the National Organization for Women (NOW), described Solanas as “the first outstanding champion of women’s rights” and as “a ‘heroine’ of the feminist movement””
“Another member, Florynce Kennedy, represented Solanas at her trial, calling her “one of the most important spokeswomen of the feminist movement.””
Again, I’m not accusing you of holding these extremist views. But certainly you’re whitewashing them.
“I don’t demonize men any more than I demonize white people or straight people for their (our) associated privilege. Please stop projecting your issues on me.”
Rather disingenous, since the last words of your blog post are basically asking “what the hell is wrong with you if you aren’t a feminist?”
“Except that we can, and do, demonstrate their existence. In lots of places. With numbers. In this post.”
What you’ve actually proven is that women do worse when graded by a computer (=SAT) rather than a human. Any conclusion that follows is your own fabrication.
“Show me on the doll where the feminists touched you.”
Are you sure you want to go there? Even in the case your interlocutor might be a victim of domestic violence even when he could’ve chosen not to be simply by countering violence with violence (while being obviously physically superior)?
Brian Macker says
“I agree – I thought that eschewing the label of feminist because some feminists have been wankers was a little like eschewing the label atheist because of the sexism that erupted during the vertical transportation device fiasco. ”
Atheism isn’t a label indicating belief. It is one indicating non-belief. Feminist as a label does not serve that function at all.
Disagreeing with “feminists” isn’t sexism, BTW. They tend to be quite irrational which is exactly why they are not well received by the long standing skeptics. In fact, many of us see our universities X studies programs as churning out a bunch of dogmatists with quite ridiculous and disprovable beliefs.
Brian Macker says
Are you claiming he didn’t provide all the information needed to solve the question? I doubt it because most of the male math geeks I knew didn’t know or care about the rules and distances in football, and baseball. Simple solution is that during the exam to ask the missing information to be written on the board. Another would be to take the homework or exam to the principle and point out the problem. There are plenty of guys who don’t know this stuff either.
Brian Macker says
… or you might know lots about it and reject the dogma on rationalist grounds.
Brian Macker says
It’s you. Many of these statistical claims made by feminists (and the left in general) are in fact due to biases in their methods. Thomas Sowell is great at pointing them out.
Brian Macker says
“Membership in an organization and practicing a philosophical stance are two different things.”
So does that mean if someone doesn’t self identify as a “animal rightist” or a “environmentalist” they must therefore be for torturing pets, and polluting rivers? Those are “philosophical stances”, and not particular organizations.
If you were to ask me whether I was a “feminist” I would have to say “yes and no”. “Yes”, I am for equal rights for women, and that “no” any professor teaching feminist studies would not consider me one.
“Not sure if trolling, or just stupid.”
You’re the one who couldn’t figure out the implications of your own article. You spent quite a bit of time on particular dogma of a particular sect of feminism. You then topped it off with this sentence, “So the question isn’t ‘why are you a feminist’. It’s ‘why the hell aren’t you?’” So it was you who had conflated your particular narrow issues with the entirety of historical feminism. A position held mostly by PETA-like organizations, but that is however not important to his (or her) point.
What your last sentence really means is, “So the question isn’t ‘why don’t you agree with the worst reasoning produce by feminism that I’ve swallowed, hook, line, and sinker’ the question is ‘why the hell don’t you agree with me?”.
The reason is that it is based on irrationality, bad math, and other intellectual failures to prevent error.
BTW, are you communist, a follower of Oliver Cromwell, named “Crom” or is the title of your blog some kind of joke I’m not getting? Perhaps it is a combination? You a communist admirer or Cromwell, or a communist named Cromwell.
It’s quite relevant to the issue of feminism because the entire X studies area is rife with the bad reasoning that Marx used to use. Mainly his use of various types of ad-hominem and equivocation.
Privilege studies being an an example of both ad-hominem and equivocation packed into a single concept. You used the term “privilege” in that special way so I assume you are on board with such irrationality.
Brian Macker says
Brian Macker says
“I think if you’re not a feminist, you don’t like women or think poorly of them, and I don’t know how anyone could argue otherwise. ”
Perhaps because you can’t reason your way out of a wet paper bag. You sound exactly like many Christians who wonder why I’m not Christian. No I don’t “hate god” and no I don’t “hate women” because I don’t worship at the feet of your quite apparently false ideologies.
Brian Macker says
Funny, I went to a predominately Jewish school in the Catskills and “stereotype threat” had no effect on my grades. In fact, I outperformed everyone in both math and science. The one Jewish guy who provided any competition whatsoever was my best friend and his claimed IQ was 157 (or some such as it’s been 30 years).
The stereotype was definitely that Jews were smarter than a raccoon like me. In fact, I walked up behind one particularly odious Jewish kid who was new to the school during a class trip and he was talking about me to two Jewish girls. He specifically called me a raccoon, and a lucky for him a teacher walked up, heard me repeat “What do you mean, I’m a raccoon”.
I can see how being stressed out could effect performance on the test but “Stereotype threat” sounds more like an excuse than anything else. Especially because the word “threat” is used improperly. There is no threat when your scores and grades are secret.
Besides, if it is a true effect the exact opposite conclusion might be drawn that what is desired. If someone performed less well around Jews then perhaps they need to be segregated from Jews. Perhaps they should be looked over for a job if I were to apply in Israel because I couldn’t perform well around Jews. Then again the conclusion that they weren’t performing well around Jews because of a negative stereotype might just be a false deduction. It might just be that the real reason is that they resented Jews and couldn’t get their minds off hating them, or maybe they have a Jew fetish and spent the test time on sexual fantasy.
I looked up several of these psych studies and they are not at all impressive. Fraud is prevalent in the field and there is a total lack of skepticism for many of the results. So much so that the leaders in the field, like that Dutch fellow, turn out to be frauds.
When I said stress could be a factor I meant something that would take your mind off of the test, like your mother was dying in the hospital and your thoughts kept turning to her. Which would show as a failure to finish the test in the allotted time, not as an inability to know the correct answers on a multiple choice test.
Brian Macker says
Oh, and I misremembered the derogatory comment. I was referred to as a “possum”. Which is the equivalent of a calling me a hill billy.
Brian Macker says
There are plenty of variables left that go unexplored by such studies. That’s the whole point of these bias studies, to be biased themselves. Actually it’s not at all ironic that people bitching about how unfair math and science are would do the math and science all wrong.
Keith Harwood says
One maths lecturer announced to the class he would award a block of chocolate to the first person who worked out the algorithm for a series. He gave us one number from the series each week. After the second week he anounced the chocolate had been won. What! After just two numbers you don’t even know if it’s arithmetic or geometric. The series was, in fact, the score of a particular football team in the match the previous Saturday. I think this was supposed teach us that series could come from almost any source.
Keith Harwood says
Many years ago when he was at the University of Texas, Edsger Dijkstra was accused of being sexist when he said that software engineering students needed to learn logic and mathematics. The reason being that “everyone knows that women can’t do maths” and therefore insisting that software engineers learn it was discriminatory.
In the ensuing discussion (which was mostly even sillier than the original claim) it was pointed out that in Italy it was the women who were supposed to be the logical and rational ones and men the emotional ones and, as a consequence, roughly half the software engineers in Italy were women.
I should also point out that when I studied pure maths in 1963 (or thereabouts) one of my lecturers was a woman. So, even before feminism hit its stride, the barriers to women in mathematics were not insurmountable.
The standard is not, nor should it be, whether or not barriers are insurmountable. It is whether or not, on the balance, there is a discrepant effect that puts one group at a disadvantage for reasons other than merit. If there were systematic discrimination against male software engineers in Italy, then that’s something that needs to be discussed. There is some evidence (which I don’t have at my fingertips at the moment) that there is systematic discrimination against young boys in elementary schools with regard to behaviour and discipline in North America. Boys are seen as rowdy and in need of a firm hand, whereas girls are given a longer rope. That’s a problem, because it leads to more boys being labeled as “bad seeds”.
Well! I’ve been away for the weekend, but I thought I’d reply anyway…
And I didn’t deny that animal rights were widely recognized as a social and political movement. Actually, I commented on that very fact. I see many differences between animal rights and feminism (you know, one involves people the other doesn’t…), but in that regard, they are quite similar.
Well, since I’ve posted all of maybe a dozen comments on FTB, hopefully I’m not representing this openly hostile environment that you see, I’m just a random person that decides to drop by sometimes. I was curious about clarifying your stance – I honestly was not sure if you were serious, trolling, being sarcastic or ironic, or whatever. It was easy to ask if you were relating feminism (the movement) to PETA (the organization) incorrectly, since a better comparison would be feminism (the movement) to animal rights (the movement) or National Organization of Women (the organization) to PETA (the organization).
Again, the Gender Gap Index people are an organization that may stem from feminism. Yes, people and groups take feminism to extremes – see my point about PETA taking animal rights to extremes. This doesn’t make the concept of feminism a bad thing, any more than it makes the concept of animal rights a bad thing when PETA throws blood or red paint on someone wearing a fur coat.
Well, everything you’ve posted that I’ve read seems to indicate that you don’t want to be called a feminist, so it’s hard to apply the No True Scotsman fallacy to you. You never said you were a Scotsman, after all. I say I’m a feminist because I believe in equal rights / treatments of the sexes. I say I’m in favor animal rights, despite not liking everything PETA does, as I also said earlier. Am I a no true animal rights favor-er?
Brian Macker says
Ok, so in that example the teacher realized that basing the grade on it was unfair and instead gave out a piece of chocolate.
Keith Harwood says
It had nothing to do with grades. In those days grades were determined strictly and solely by examinations.
Keith Harwood says
I agree about the barriers. However, I was pointing out that the barriers were falling (the lecturer I referred to was paid for her work, not like Emmy Noether a couple of generations earlier) and she did provide a role model for those few girls in the class. That girls were under-represented illustrates that barriers still existed then and observation suggests that while they still exist, they are lower. The sooner they are gone completely, the better.
My point about the software engineering is not that the maths is a barrier to girls, it’s a barrier to everyone; if you can’t do maths you shouldn’t be a software engineer. The barrier in the US is society’s expectation that girls can’t do maths. In Italy (reportedly) society’s expectations were different and there was no such barrier.
Brian Macker says
Ok, so no big deal. There is nothing in your example that would have caused a grade or test disparity. I think a girl is perfectly capable of understanding the point of the exercise, and those girls who actually like and follow football had an equal opportunity to get the chocolate, with those boys who didn’t. I would NOT have won the chocolate.
I remember my teachers using lots of examples that could be related to one stereotype or another. The use of recipes or dress sizes being two examples. I also remember getting a lot of stuff in school that other guys didn’t get specifically because of my particular interests. For example, I like plants and flowers in particular, so I was able to get all those questions about flowers that the boys should be, according to stereotype, worse at.
Every single math test I ever took in school contained all the information required to solve the problem if one read the book or paid attention in class.
Now mind you if you have intelligent parents who actually interact with you, read you bedtime stories, keep books around the house (like a science encyclopedia), teach you carpentry, then you will have an advantage.
For example, there is a method in carpentry used to find the center of a board by drawing two lines on the diagonal. I learned that long before I took geometry, and it gave me an advantage. Girls that were not interested in carpentry won’t have that.
I remember coming upon my sister trying to build something out of wood and using a slow method to do something like find the center of the board. I tried to show her the fast way (like I was shown) but she wouldn’t have it. Didn’t even listen and told me “I’ll do it my way”. So in her case the unwillingness to listen to her inferiors (I was younger) kept her back.
She also just naturally had less interest in the subject of carpentry although my dad was super liberal and she had full access. Hell so liberal he even encouraged my brother to play with dolls.
Mind you I did lots of other activities as a kid that gave me advantages over other kids. Like solving puzzles that my dad would provide (or I would seek out). Thing was he would show them to my sister at the same time and she just couldn’t solve something like a tavern puzzle even though she was older. My initial superiority lead me to like it, which lead to even more exposure.
Valerie Solanas is the woman who shot Andy Warhol. She wrote a rather angry book called the SCUM Manifesto (Society for Cutting Up Men). You can find the full text here: http://www.womynkind.org/scum.htm
If there was ever any doubt about my stance, let me clear it up right here. I am opposed to people being cut up. I’ve never mentioned Valerie Solanas, or expressed any support for anything she’s written. Introducing her into this argument is a red herring, designed to derail the conversation.
I agree! Just trying to inform you.