50 Shades of Prudishness


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BigNorseWolf wrote:
Lord Snow wrote:
Still problematic because many cultures evolved under similar environmental stresses - a very prominent example is that women always get pregnant and men will always be physically superior and thus occupy jobs like farming and hunting. That means that pretty much any ancient society is much more likely to naturally lean towards placing males in more prominent roles - they are the soldiers, hunters, farmers.

Well, Why are those roles more prominent?

Not a sociologist, but common sense seems to dictate that the people with the weapons have the power - especially in more brutal times in the past where notions such as "civilians" meant much less than today. If men are those who are doing the heavy lifting (often literally) of producing food and of fighting the wars - and many good looking ideas are yet to be cemented - then they will have the political power, too.

Of course I'm speaking from my gut here, but I don't think these ideas can be offhandedly dismissed without some serious research (that was, surely, already conducted, even if I do not know about it).

The broader point though is what I opened my post with - with just about every society we know, we have to consider that every time period and level of technology had stresses that were common among many different cultures. That makes the idea of identifying innate traits by looking at separate societies problematic because it relies on the assumption that each culture evolved independently from each other, which is quite a hefty assumption that could easily turn out to be false.

It's not unlike someone visiting earth at some early stage of life and noticing that all animals are fish. That someone might conclude that living underwater is an innate characteristic of life, which we know to be false - the mistake made was not taking into account that all the observed life forms had something in common, a short distance in time from the very first existing organisms, not enough time to evolve into land dwellers.


Well, women as a group tend to be better at empathising (setting themselves in emotional tune with others, thus understanding them better), while men tend to be better at systematising. This does not mean every man and woman follows this, it does not mean women can't be amazing at empathising or vice versa, what it does mean is that if you look at those who are best at either, you're going to have a pretty sharp sex disparity among them. Just like body height. Of the tallest people in the world, the vast majority is going to be men.

As for brain function, there are biological correlates. One of these is, apparently, the uncinate fasciculus, the connection between the amygdala and the prefrontal cortex, which correlates to the functioning of the individual regarding ability to empathise. See, almost everyone has a functioning left one, but whether you have a right one, and its size, varies.

This is just an example, and it is new science, but claiming there are no sexual differences in the brain is increasingly a fool's errand. The only reason it's been accepted so far is because there are a lot of people who knee-jerk if they hear anyone claim there are such differences.

The sad part is that the general reasoning seems to be: If there are differences, there is no reason not to discriminate, so there must not be any.

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Sissyl wrote:


The sad part is that the general reasoning seems to be: If there are differences, there is no reason not to discriminate, so there must not be any.

That is kinda sad, as it's an utter failure to grasp logic, statistics, and the concept of equality.


Exactly.


Lord Snow wrote:
Sissyl wrote:


The sad part is that the general reasoning seems to be: If there are differences, there is no reason not to discriminate, so there must not be any.
That is kinda sad, as it's an utter failure to grasp logic, statistics, and the concept of equality.

On the other hand, the flip side of that is even worse, even if it isn't as much of a failure of logic:

Pointing at the biological differences as a reason to not oppose discrimination. Women just aren't as good at or interested in math and hard science, so the smaller number of women going into those fields must be just the result of innate differences not social pressure and active discrimination. No need to keep working on the problem.

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thejeff wrote:
Lord Snow wrote:
Sissyl wrote:


The sad part is that the general reasoning seems to be: If there are differences, there is no reason not to discriminate, so there must not be any.
That is kinda sad, as it's an utter failure to grasp logic, statistics, and the concept of equality.

On the other hand, the flip side of that is even worse, even if it isn't as much of a failure of logic:

Pointing at the biological differences as a reason to not oppose discrimination. Women just aren't as good at or interested in math and hard science, so the smaller number of women going into those fields must be just the result of innate differences not social pressure and active discrimination. No need to keep working on the problem.

Both extremes seem bad to me. On the one hand not working at the problem is definitely wrong, and on the other hand blindly insisting on the wrong solution could do damage too.

Like in every other affair in our existence, balance is needed and either extremity is bad.

(As a side note and for full disclosure I do not entirely agree with the linked article since it goes a bit too far down the road of not doing anything, but I am convinced by many of the points and concerns raised there).

Also, this is a short video version of the essay.


Lord Snow wrote:

Both extremes seem bad to me. On the one hand not working at the problem is definitely wrong, and on the other hand blindly insisting on the wrong solution could do damage too.

.

Favoriting, but only for the My Fair Lady quote, which is one that has often come up in conversations between me and La Principessa


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Lord Snow wrote:
thejeff wrote:
Lord Snow wrote:
Sissyl wrote:
The sad part is that the general reasoning seems to be: If there are differences, there is no reason not to discriminate, so there must not be any.
That is kinda sad, as it's an utter failure to grasp logic, statistics, and the concept of equality.

On the other hand, the flip side of that is even worse, even if it isn't as much of a failure of logic:

Pointing at the biological differences as a reason to not oppose discrimination. Women just aren't as good at or interested in math and hard science, so the smaller number of women going into those fields must be just the result of innate differences not social pressure and active discrimination. No need to keep working on the problem.

Both extremes seem bad to me. On the one hand not working at the problem is definitely wrong, and on the other hand blindly insisting on the wrong solution could do damage too.

Like in every other affair in our existence, balance is needed and either extremity is bad.

(As a side note and for full disclosure I do not entirely agree with the linked article since it goes a bit too far down the road of not doing anything, but I am convinced by many of the points and concerns raised there).

I pretty much gave up after this:
Quote:
Departments of physics, math, chemis­try, engineering, and computer science have remained traditional, rigorous, competitive, relatively meritocratic, and under the control of no-nonsense professors dedicated to objec­tive standards.

Whatever the theory, hard science departments are just as full of subjective bias as anywhere else. Maybe more so, if they're traditional enough.

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As far as humanly possible, though, they are really not. Exact sciences, from their very nature in their current form, just don't have a lot of space for maneuverability. Simply put, it's harder to fake it. Of course there's subjective bias, as you said there always will be, but we are talking big picture here.

The way I see it, describing the exact sciences as rigorous and monitored by a community that adheres to objective standards is not only perfectly reasonable without context, it is especially true when compared to other fields of study.


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Lord Snow wrote:

As far as humanly possible, though, they are really not. Exact sciences, from their very nature in their current form, just don't have a lot of space for maneuverability. Simply put, it's harder to fake it. Of course there's subjective bias, as you said there always will be, but we are talking big picture here.

The way I see it, describing the exact sciences as rigorous and monitored by a community that adheres to objective standards is not only perfectly reasonable without context, it is especially true when compared to other fields of study.

Yes and no. It's pretty easy for a hard science to keep out the total incompetents -- It has to work, after all.

But it's still easy to push out competent smart people of a type one doesn't want or who one doesn't think fit for the work or whatever. Institutional bias still plays a role. Many professional female scientists will talk about the lack of encouragement they got from professors and senior colleagues. About difficulty finding mentors and getting their advisors to take them seriously. Obviously some of the smarter and more dedicated women can overcome those higher barriers - and some of them work to lower the barriers for those following them.

The problem with that article is that it ignores the human side of the supposed rigorous objective sciences and basically assumes that any further progress in gender equality will only come from lowering standards for women. Rather than from lowering the barriers that make it harder for women than for men.


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I have no idea what is being talked about right now, I just want somebody to untie my feet.

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thejeff wrote:
Lord Snow wrote:

As far as humanly possible, though, they are really not. Exact sciences, from their very nature in their current form, just don't have a lot of space for maneuverability. Simply put, it's harder to fake it. Of course there's subjective bias, as you said there always will be, but we are talking big picture here.

The way I see it, describing the exact sciences as rigorous and monitored by a community that adheres to objective standards is not only perfectly reasonable without context, it is especially true when compared to other fields of study.

Yes and no. It's pretty easy for a hard science to keep out the total incompetents -- It has to work, after all.

1)But it's still easy to push out competent smart people of a type one doesn't want or who one doesn't think fit for the work or whatever. Institutional bias still plays a role. Many professional female scientists will talk about the lack of encouragement they got from professors and senior colleagues. About difficulty finding mentors and getting their advisors to take them seriously. Obviously some of the smarter and more dedicated women can overcome those higher barriers - and some of them work to lower the barriers for those following them.

2)The problem with that article is that it ignores the human side of the supposed rigorous objective sciences and basically assumes that any further progress in gender equality will only come from lowering standards for women. Rather than from lowering the barriers that make it harder for women than for men.

1) First, I have an anecdotal counter example - I am currently studying in one of the best universities in the world in the fields of exact science. I can say from personal experience that while women are underrepresented (I'd say it's about a 30/70 spread between females and males in first degree and 40/60 in second degree) they never encounter any sort of hostility. No professor has ever treated a woman differently and I talked with many and none ever expressed dissatisfaction with the subject.

Onward to a more objective answer, can you find a compelling explanation why women are finding such institutional bias in the exact science fields but nowhere else? This could be a chicken and egg problem, of course, but as is clearly shown in the article, nobody has ever been able to actually prove any institutional bias towards women in the exact science faculties of the western world - which is a serious thing if you want to introduce a law that forces quotas of women in those faculties. It should have you thinking that maybe that bottleneck is not a hostile male environment.

2) At no point in the article does Sommers advocate the lowering of standards - in fact, her entire beef with title IX is that it would lead to either a serious lowering of standards or to other structural harm to the scientific community in a similar way that it did to sports. She claims, essentially, that there is a very decent chance that there will never be full, 50/50 equality between men and women in the research world of exact sciences and that that's fine. That there is a statistical bias that pulls women to other fields of study instead. As I said in a previous disclaimer I think she goes too far by outright dismissing the idea that cultural bias exists - I'm pretty sure it does though I can't fathom how much and how far it pushes people from their natural inclination. The bottom line is that her main argument - that forcing the arbitrary quota rule is potentially damaging since it will not increase female willingness, exactly like it has done already with sport teams in colleges, is a compelling one. And that law she is arguing against is exactly the potential harm in the extreme of thought that dictates that men and women are exactly the same and all differences are cultural.


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Lord Snow wrote:
thejeff wrote:
Lord Snow wrote:

As far as humanly possible, though, they are really not. Exact sciences, from their very nature in their current form, just don't have a lot of space for maneuverability. Simply put, it's harder to fake it. Of course there's subjective bias, as you said there always will be, but we are talking big picture here.

The way I see it, describing the exact sciences as rigorous and monitored by a community that adheres to objective standards is not only perfectly reasonable without context, it is especially true when compared to other fields of study.

Yes and no. It's pretty easy for a hard science to keep out the total incompetents -- It has to work, after all.

1)But it's still easy to push out competent smart people of a type one doesn't want or who one doesn't think fit for the work or whatever. Institutional bias still plays a role. Many professional female scientists will talk about the lack of encouragement they got from professors and senior colleagues. About difficulty finding mentors and getting their advisors to take them seriously. Obviously some of the smarter and more dedicated women can overcome those higher barriers - and some of them work to lower the barriers for those following them.

2)The problem with that article is that it ignores the human side of the supposed rigorous objective sciences and basically assumes that any further progress in gender equality will only come from lowering standards for women. Rather than from lowering the barriers that make it harder for women than for men.

1) First, I have an anecdotal counter example - I am currently studying in one of the best universities in the world in the fields of exact science. I can say from personal experience that while women are underrepresented (I'd say it's about a 30/70 spread between females and males in first degree and 40/60 in second degree) they never encounter any sort of hostility. No professor has ever treated a woman differently and I talked with many and none ever expressed dissatisfaction with the subject.

Onward to a more objective answer, can you find a compelling explanation why women are finding such institutional bias in the exact science fields but nowhere else? This could be a chicken and egg problem, of course, but as is clearly shown in the article, nobody has ever been able to actually prove any institutional bias towards women in the exact science faculties of the western world - which is a serious thing if you want to introduce a law that forces quotas of women in those faculties. It should have you thinking that maybe that bottleneck is not a hostile male environment.

2) At no point in the article does Sommers advocate the lowering of standards - in fact, her entire beef with title IX is that it would lead to either a serious lowering of standards or to other structural harm to the scientific community in a similar way that it did to sports. She claims, essentially, that there is a very decent chance that there will never be full, 50/50 equality between men and women in the research world of exact sciences and that that's fine. That there is a statistical bias that pulls women to other fields of study instead. As I said in a previous disclaimer I think she goes too far by outright dismissing the idea that cultural bias exists - I'm pretty sure it does though I can't fathom how much and how far it pushes people from their natural inclination. The bottom line is that her main argument - that forcing the arbitrary quota rule is potentially damaging since it will not increase female willingness, exactly like it has done already with sport teams in colleges, is a compelling one. And that law she is arguing against is exactly the potential harm in the extreme of thought that dictates that men and women are exactly the same and all differences are cultural.

No, she doesn't advocate it, but she assumes that's the only way forward. She opposes efforts towards gender equality because she assumes the only way forward is lowering of standards or other serious harm.

Mind you, I do agree that there is likely some actual innate predisposition, so exact 50/50 equality isn't a good goal. Nor is all the cultural bias actually at the level where colleges can deal with it. Much occurs at younger more formative ages.

As for why women face bias in those fields, doesn't the very premise that in the article suggest areason:

Quote:
During the past 30 years, the humanities have been politicized and transformed beyond recognition. The sci­ences, however, have been spared. There seems to have been a tacit agreement, especially at the large research universities; radical activ­ists and deconstructionists were left relatively free to experiment with fields like comparative literature, cultural anthropology, communica­tions, and, of course, women’s studies, while the hard sciences—vital to our economy, health, and security, and to university funding from the federal government, corporations, and the wealthy entrepreneurs among their alumni—were to be left alone.

Support for women in the hard sciences has lagged behind support for them in other areas by decades.

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Quote:
Support for women in the hard sciences has lagged behind support for them in other areas by decades.

Okay. Why? Is it a coincidence that the support in the one area where a lot of the research shows women are less likely to be good at/want to work in than men is also the one where support is lagging the most?


Lord Snow wrote:
Quote:
Support for women in the hard sciences has lagged behind support for them in other areas by decades.
Okay. Why? Is it a coincidence that the support in the one area where a lot of the research shows women are less likely to be good at/want to work in than men is also the one where support is lagging the most?

Of course it's not a coincidence. Might be a feedback loop though.

Didn't that quote, dripping with condescension though it was, hint at the reason? Women were let into the other areas, but the hard sciences were spared because they were "vital to our economy, health, and security, and to university funding".

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thejeff wrote:
Lord Snow wrote:
Quote:
Support for women in the hard sciences has lagged behind support for them in other areas by decades.
Okay. Why? Is it a coincidence that the support in the one area where a lot of the research shows women are less likely to be good at/want to work in than men is also the one where support is lagging the most?

Of course it's not a coincidence. Might be a feedback loop though.

Didn't that quote, dripping with condescension though it was, hint at the reason? Women were let into the other areas, but the hard sciences were spared because they were "vital to our economy, health, and security, and to university funding".

Yes, in a previous post I said I suspect it might be a chicken-and-egg thing (close enough in meaning to a feedback loop that we can agree we are of the same mind here). The strong emphasis should be on the word might. It might be or it might not, and I think just brute-forcing a male/female quota is the wrong way to handle such a delicate situation with so many unresolved questions.

And, I think that the article makes it very clear that the issue is not that women were let into other areas, but rather that feminist dogma was let into other areas. It's really simple logic - if you think hard sciences are important and you are not a sexist, then you do not care about whether the scientists are male or female, you simply want the best. And if that would mean fewer women you are willing to accept it, but you will certainly never bar a capable woman from working in the field.

This is where she describes the kind of thinking that began to influence many fields of study but not the hard sciences yet, and the phenomenon she is worried about:

article wrote:

There is another essential difference between sports and science: in science, men and women play on the same teams. Very few women can compete on equal terms with men in lacrosse, wrestling, or basketball; by contrast, there are many brilliant women in the top ranks of every field of science and technology, and no one doubts their ability to compete on equal terms. Yet a centerpiece of STEM activism is the idea that science, as currently organized and practiced, is intrinsically hostile to women and a barrier to the realization of their unique intellectual potential. MIT biologist Nancy Hopkins, an effective leader of the science equity campaign (and a prominent accuser of Harvard president Lawrence Summers when he committed the solecism of suggesting that men and women might have different propensities and aptitudes), points to the hidden sexism of the obsessive and competitive work ethic of institutions like MIT.

“It is a system,” Hopkins says, “where winning is everything, and women find it repulsive.” This viewpoint explains the constant emphasis, by equity activists such as Shalala, Rolison, and Olsen, on the need to transform the “entire culture” of academic science and engineering. Indeed, the charter for the October 17 congressional hearing placed primary emphasis on academic culture: “The list of cultural norms that appear to disadvantage women…includes the favoring of disciplinary over interdisciplinary research and publications, and the only token attention given to teaching and other service during the tenure review process. Thus it seems that it is not necessarily conscious bias against women but an ingrained idea of how the academic enterprise ‘should be’ that presents the greatest challenge to women seeking academic S&E [science and engineering] careers.”

I'm not saying that the scientific method is beyond reproach and that there is no benefit in examining it's foundations for weak points. This, however, is not the way to go about it - a blunt politicizing that would eschew centuries of fine tuning of the scientific process in a possibly vain attempt to increase what feminist activists view as the comforting elements for women.

Neither I not the writer of the article are even hinting at the idea of preventing women from learning any exact science or working in any field. It's simply that we do not view female representation as an end to justifies all means, unlike some political groups that care more about righting a perceived injustice.


Lord Snow wrote:
thejeff wrote:
Lord Snow wrote:
Quote:
Support for women in the hard sciences has lagged behind support for them in other areas by decades.
Okay. Why? Is it a coincidence that the support in the one area where a lot of the research shows women are less likely to be good at/want to work in than men is also the one where support is lagging the most?

Of course it's not a coincidence. Might be a feedback loop though.

Didn't that quote, dripping with condescension though it was, hint at the reason? Women were let into the other areas, but the hard sciences were spared because they were "vital to our economy, health, and security, and to university funding".

Yes, in a previous post I said I suspect it might be a chicken-and-egg thing (close enough in meaning to a feedback loop that we can agree we are of the same mind here). The strong emphasis should be on the word might. It might be or it might not, and I think just brute-forcing a male/female quota is the wrong way to handle such a delicate situation with so many unresolved questions.

And, I think that the article makes it very clear that the issue is not that women were let into other areas, but rather that feminist dogma was let into other areas. It's really simple logic - if you think hard sciences are important and you are not a sexist, then you do not care about whether the scientists are male or female, you simply want the best. And if that would mean fewer women you are willing to accept it, but you will certainly never bar a capable woman from working in the field.

This is where she describes the kind of thinking that began to influence many fields of study but not the hard sciences yet, and the phenomenon she is worried about:

article wrote:
There is another essential difference between sports and science: in science, men and women play on the same teams. Very few women can compete on equal terms with men in lacrosse, wrestling, or basketball; by contrast, there are many brilliant women in
...

First, I absolutely agree that a quota is the wrong way to approach it.

That doesn't mean that I don't think there's still bias in the hard sciences or that there aren't reasons to keep working on increased female presence - working towards equality, even if it's not achievable.

To go much farther in this discussion will probably mean picking apart what you mean by "feminist dogma" and how that's hurt the rest of academia. It's not as if quotas were imposed in other fields, after all.
Also the question of how closely the scientific method is actually reflected in modern academic culture and whether the kind of "winning is everything" competition described is actually integral to the scientific method or just how academia developed.

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Alright, I think that when it comes to the big picture, both you and I agree that the best course of action is to work on increasing female presence in any walk of life where they are underrepresented, but to do so cautiously and with a weary eye to see what's working and what's not.

Coming back to what sparked the discussion -

theJeff wrote:

On the other hand, the flip side of that is even worse, even if it isn't as much of a failure of logic:

Pointing at the biological differences as a reason to not oppose discrimination. Women just aren't as good at or interested in math and hard science, so the smaller number of women going into those fields must be just the result of innate differences not social pressure and active discrimination. No need to keep working on the problem.

To which I replied that while giving up on women entirely is definitely a bad idea, it's an extreme one. The other extremity - one that would be willing to sacrifice the integrity of the most effective tool of progress that humankind came up with in thousands of years, simply to increase female participation - is every bit as wrong and dangerous, if for different reasons. That was my point, I hope you can at least understand my viewpoint and accept it as a legitimate one, and I think that's about as deep as we should delve into the subject given the fact that this is quite the serious derail of the thread.


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Lord Snow wrote:

Alright, I think that when it comes to the big picture, both you and I agree that the best course of action is to work on increasing female presence in any walk of life where they are underrepresented, but to do so cautiously and with a weary eye to see what's working and what's not.

Coming back to what sparked the discussion -

theJeff wrote:

On the other hand, the flip side of that is even worse, even if it isn't as much of a failure of logic:

Pointing at the biological differences as a reason to not oppose discrimination. Women just aren't as good at or interested in math and hard science, so the smaller number of women going into those fields must be just the result of innate differences not social pressure and active discrimination. No need to keep working on the problem.
To which I replied that while giving up on women entirely is definitely a bad idea, it's an extreme one. The other extremity - one that would be willing to sacrifice the integrity of the most effective tool of progress that humankind came up with in thousands of years, simply to increase female participation - is every bit as wrong and dangerous, if for different reasons. That was my point, I hope you can at least understand my viewpoint and accept it as a legitimate one, and I think that's about as deep as we should delve into the subject given the fact that this is quite the serious derail of the thread.

Yeah, I do think we're pretty close. I'm just not at all sure that all the cruft that's accumulated around the scientific method is all that sacred. The old joke about science progressing as the old scientists die off has a little too much truth in it.

And back closer to the topic, per my original point, it's very easy to assume the current state actually represents the natural default for things like gender equity. It just gets a little cringe inducing when you realize those oppose further progress have been making essentially the same argument for decades, if not longer, even as women have become more and more prominent in fields they once weren't allowed to enter. It's always been, "Yeah there was discrimination back in the bad old days, but we've changed now and see: Women are still a minority, even if a larger one. That's just the way it is."

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Quote:


And back closer to the topic, per my original point, it's very easy to assume the current state actually represents the natural default for things like gender equity. It just gets a little cringe inducing when you realize those oppose further progress have been making essentially the same argument for decades, if not longer, even as women have become more and more prominent in fields they once weren't allowed to enter. It's always been, "Yeah there was discrimination back in the bad old days, but we've changed now and see: Women are still a minority, even if a larger one. That's just the way it is."

Different people making similar arguments for different reasons is not exactly new. Religious people have always said we wouldn't find life on the moon, way before we were capable of knowing for sure. But today, any respectable scientist would laugh at the idea of life on the moon. So the very fact that the argument that women (and men) are currently in their natural state was made before by various bigots is not a real reason to cringe from the idea.

Just looking at the facts really gives a strong feeling that yes, there are good reasons to think that women are less inclined to the exact sciences - now that they dominate pretty much all other scholarly occupations, they are still less than a third in the exact sciences. You were wondering about hostile environments - wouldn't you expect, say, law school to have even more of a "winning is everything" attitude? Yet somehow for many years now women are the majority of new lawyers in many western countries.

Patterns have slowly emerged over the years that give serious foundations to the idea that women are simply less interested/capable at exact sciences than men (of course, as always, I'm talking about statistics here). I view the theory as acceptable and standing on firm empirical data, even if I do think much more research is required before a definitive ability to distinguish social norms from biology is acquired. Just judging on what he have, though, I'd say it's likely.


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Lord Snow wrote:
Quote:


And back closer to the topic, per my original point, it's very easy to assume the current state actually represents the natural default for things like gender equity. It just gets a little cringe inducing when you realize those oppose further progress have been making essentially the same argument for decades, if not longer, even as women have become more and more prominent in fields they once weren't allowed to enter. It's always been, "Yeah there was discrimination back in the bad old days, but we've changed now and see: Women are still a minority, even if a larger one. That's just the way it is."
Different people making similar arguments for different reasons is not exactly new. Religious people have always said we wouldn't find life on the moon, way before we were capable of knowing for sure. But today, any respectable scientist would laugh at the idea of life on the moon. So the very fact that the argument that women (and men) are currently in their natural state was made before by various bigots is not a real reason to cringe from the idea.

No. What makes me cringe is things like:

"Women are incapable of doing hard science, that's why there aren't any."
X years later: "Very few women are capable or interested in hard science, that's why they make up only 5%"
X years later: "Very few women are capable or interested in hard science, that's why they make up only 10%"
X years later: "Very few women are capable or interested in hard science, that's why they make up only 20%"
X years later: "Very few women are capable or interested in hard science, that's why they make up only 25%"

All the while we continue lowering the legal and social obstacles and the number keeps increasing.

Maybe they're right this time. After all, now there's firm empirical data, unlike all those times in the past, when they only thought they had firm empirical date.


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The question is more how much pressure you need to apply to even out the numbers, and what else happens due to that pressure. Every action has consequences, and some of those could well be catastrophic. The goal is not everything, and as you say, thejeff, having a number as a goal is in itself wrong. Oh, and which social and legal obstacles are you talking about that apply to a woman working in the exact sciences?


Sissyl wrote:
The question is more how much pressure you need to apply to even out the numbers, and what else happens due to that pressure. Every action has consequences, and some of those could well be catastrophic. The goal is not everything, and as you say, thejeff, having a number as a goal is in itself wrong. Oh, and which social and legal obstacles are you talking about that apply to a woman working in the exact sciences?

Legal is mostly (entirely?) in the past. Or at least legally allowed discriminatory policy, if not actual legal bans.


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Sissyl wrote:
Well, women as a group tend to be better at empathising (setting themselves in emotional tune with others, thus understanding them better), while men tend to be better at systematising. This does not mean every man and woman follows this, it does not mean women can't be amazing at empathising or vice versa, what it does mean is that if you look at those who are best at either, you're going to have a pretty sharp sex disparity among them. Just like body height. Of the tallest people in the world, the vast majority is going to be men.

A lot of this is further complicated by the fact the a massive number of the perceived differences are societal, not physical. And then complicated again when you consider that societies that encouraged certain attributes are more likely to support genetics that maintain such attributes.

LordSnow wrote:
Yes, in a previous post I said I suspect it might be a chicken-and-egg thing (close enough in meaning to a feedback loop that we can agree we are of the same mind here). The strong emphasis should be on the word might. It might be or it might not, and I think just brute-forcing a male/female quota is the wrong way to handle such a delicate situation with so many unresolved questions.

I fully agree on both counts. I believe that the imbalance is caused by societal norms and starts very early on in life. It isn't even necessarily girls being conditioned to see math as uncool for them—it could be as subtle as boys being raised more competitively, and math therefore being more satisfying for them since it's very easy to know that you've successfully solved the puzzle and proven your intelligence. That's all just spitballing, though.

I also agree that we can't just try to enforce balanced hiring (though that's always something to watch carefully to make sure hiring is being conducted fairly, of course). That's treating a symptom of a reaction to a disease. The move for balance has to start in schools and kids' media, not in the workforce, if you actually want to achieve results.


Because from my admittedly limited experience, women who are interested in physics, maths, chemistry, and so on, are usually very welcome in those workplaces. The women I know who went there never described it as a "hostile male environment".


Well, Cleaver, what if you're wrong? What if the differences are biological, hard-wired into our brains, so that there is, on average, a difference regarding certain capabilities and preferences? What would enforcing 50/50 do then?


I dunno. Good thing I just said enforcing 50/50 would be ridiculous and stupid.


Well, the problem is using any sort of number (which WOULD be arbitrary) as a goal, isn't it? And if you don't use a number as a goal, what WOULD you use as the signal that you can stop pushing for more women somewhere?

Oh, and regarding this,

Kobold Cleaver wrote:
A lot of this is further complicated by the fact the a massive number of the perceived differences are societal, not physical.

I would very much like to know what you are basing this claim on.


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Sissyl wrote:
Because from my admittedly limited experience, women who are interested in physics, maths, chemistry, and so on, are usually very welcome in those workplaces. The women I know who went there never described it as a "hostile male environment".

This said, entering a field that is perceived as being dominated by one gender can be difficult for another gender. See re: male nurses. Like I said, though, I believe that this generally starts earlier. I'm sure lots of adult mathematicians would be happy to accept girls into the club, but what about when they're younger? That's when the initial impression is formed, and a lot of girls who perceive it as a "boys' subject" are going to feel pressured to steer clear, or will even be convinced that they dislike it. And people who don't enjoy math rarely do too well in it. And people who don't grow up doing well in a subject (and therefore remember it fondly) are much less likely to pursue it as a career.


Sissyl wrote:
Well, the problem is using any sort of number (which WOULD be arbitrary) as a goal, isn't it? And if you don't use a number as a goal, what WOULD you use as the signal that you can stop pushing for more women somewhere?

When did I say we use any number? Where are you getting this from? Are you talking to my brother, Beaver?

Kobold Cleaver (this is me, the person talking right now) wrote:
we can't just try to enforce balanced hiring


If not a number, when would you say it's not necessary to do more?

Liberty's Edge

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Getting slightly back to topic, whatever else can be said about the horridness that is Fifty Shades, we do have to thank it for the funniest and most uncomfortable BMW commercial ever.


Sissyl wrote:
If not a number, when would you say it's not necessary to do more?

Maybe when we stop finding discrimination when we look for it?

Like this study.


If you look for discrimination, you will always find it. He who seeks, shall find.


Before I respond, you are aware I don't want to enforce anything, right? I am saying that cultural perceptions need to be challenged and overcome. Enforcing any sort of hiring regimen would be inane.

It is never possible to do too much to get kids interested in a subject (short of forcing them to ignore other subjects, obviously)*. So I don't feel there should be a "cutoff" point. Even if there is a biological limitation, anybody can get interested in any subject if encouraged right, so I don't see why we'd need to worry about slowing down.

Aside from that, we are obviously still dealing with cultural perceptions. We need to overcome that hurdle before we start worrying about any sort of "wall" to hit.

*Also short of forcing them into it, but that's not getting them interested, is it?


Sissyl wrote:
If you look for discrimination, you will always find it. He who seeks, shall find.

Boy, you read and analyzed that study as being biased pretty quick. That was, what, thirty seconds?

In case you want to doublecheck, here's the article you read. I know it's easy to forget things when you read so fast.


I ask, because we have a headmaster of a university-level institution here in Sweden who wants to change the classical contents of the physics subject because there aren't enough discoveries in physics made by women as it is.


You're in Sweden. Peeps are cray-cray.

/thread

/not really


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Sissyl wrote:
If you look for discrimination, you will always find it. He who seeks, shall find.

Ah yes, the obvious answer. Stop looking and discrimination will go away, because there won't be any evidence of it.

Brilliant.

If only we'd thought of it decades ago.


I can't read the study now. Go back to what thejeff wrote, and you'll understand my answer. Any time someone is set to find something that is even vaguely fuzzily defined, they find it. Especially if finding it means their work is important. Seek, and ye shall find.


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Another quote from that study:

Quote:
It is noteworthy that female faculty members were just as likely as their male colleagues to favor the male student. The fact that faculty members’ bias was independent of their gender, scientific discipline, age, and tenure status suggests that it is likely unintentional, generated from widespread cultural stereotypes rather than a conscious intention to harm women (17). Additionally, the fact that faculty participants reported liking the female more than the male student further underscores the point that our results likely do not reflect faculty members’ overt hostility toward women. Instead, despite expressing warmth toward emerging female scientists, faculty members of both genders appear to be affected by enduring cultural stereotypes about women’s lack of science competence that translate into biases in student evaluation and mentoring.


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Sissyl wrote:
I can't read the study now. Go back to what thejeff wrote, and you'll understand my answer. Any time someone is set to find something that is even vaguely fuzzily defined, they find it. Especially if finding it means their work is important. Seek, and ye shall find.

In brief: Resumes of grad students were sent to various hard science professors at research universities. The resumes were identical other than having male or female names.

The male students were rated more competent, more likely to be hired and offered higher salaries.


If so, that's sad. However, using "when we don't find discrimination when we specifically look for it" as an endpoint is what I was protesting against, thejeff. It's quite simply not a useful one. You look for something, you find it.


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Sissyl wrote:
If so, that's sad. However, using "when we don't find discrimination when we specifically look for it" as an endpoint is what I was protesting against, thejeff. It's quite simply not a useful one. You look for something, you find it.

Not if you're actually doing research, which is what I meant.


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There's a difference between keeping a watchful eye on something and actively seeking it out. You seem to be assuming the latter, while I think we're both talking about the former. Discrimination does and will remain a problem for quite some time, and the best we can do is make sure we notice it when it shows up.


thejeff wrote:
Sissyl wrote:
If so, that's sad. However, using "when we don't find discrimination when we specifically look for it" as an endpoint is what I was protesting against, thejeff. It's quite simply not a useful one. You look for something, you find it.

Not if you're actually doing research, which is what I meant.

Especially if you have large grants to centers researching discrimination, I assume.


Sissyl wrote:
thejeff wrote:
Sissyl wrote:
If so, that's sad. However, using "when we don't find discrimination when we specifically look for it" as an endpoint is what I was protesting against, thejeff. It's quite simply not a useful one. You look for something, you find it.
Not if you're actually doing research, which is what I meant.
Especially if you have large grants to centers researching discrimination, I assume.

Of course, because we all know that scientists just produce whatever results the grant agencies want, which is why we must preserve the holy purity of science from the evil feminists.


It is heartening to know you solved the issue of confirmation bias about this issue, thejeff.

Silver Crusade RPG Superstar Season 9 Top 32

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*Pokes head in*

Yo, I see we have once again arrived at the attempt to frame discrimination and oppression as "Some people just go around looking for things to be offended by!"

First of all: who would do that? That sounds like an awful hobby. Second of all: this is essentially a way of shifting the blame from people who say hurtful, upsetting, or oppressive things (even if they don't realize it) to those people who are hurt, upset, and/or oppressed
(or the people who have listened to those who are hurt, upset and/or oppressed and recognize what the offending words do). Third: if someone points out discrimination, inequality, etc., and your best response is: "yeah, well, I don't ever see that, and I have never seen the evidence for this!" then maybe it's because you haven't been looking, and have never had a reason to look. Fourth: seek out the opinions of those who are affected by offensive language and deeds, and examine them as a whole; their opinions on what is hurtful (and going back to point 2, remember that they are upset because of the hurtful actions of others--do not place the agency of offence on the offended) are the most legitimate source of determining what is harmful action.

Lastly: again, I'll say that people don't go around looking for things to be offended by. But once you are aware of what common actions and what common language are consistently harmful to certain people, you simply recognize the pervasiveness of s$#@ty things that people say and do. It's like learning to distinguish between fine wines--except that instead of wine, it's like being able to taste when the milk is going sour before anyone else.

Anyway, later.

*Ducks out*


I am not claiming it is a hobby. Far from it. I am claiming it is a job. With salaries and continued employment given for uncovering discrimination.

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