Update: An informative op ed by Campos of Colorado notes the problems of academic hiring. (Thanks to Instapundit, of course.)
Some of you have expressed curiosity about academic life. Anecdote time: My eldest two and their significant others will be interviewing for academic jobs soon. Some of their friends and colleagues are applicants this year. One was recently wined and dined and interviewed by a university. He didn’t get the job. He asked the bearer of bad news why, hoping to learn for the next time. The response was that the women on the hiring committee had a problem with him (He was afraid some rumors of his behavior – not always model – had reached them.) But instead, the problem seems insurmountable: he was, they said, an alpha male and that made them uncomfortable. The other two making the final round were women. His specialty has a large proportion of women; I suspect that has to do with verbal skills, although saying so might make my male readers faint or vomit. So, we get a feel for the ambience of such departments.
This isn’t surprising. Objections I’ve heard from hiring committee faculty have been that an applicant was too “masculine.” Another was blackballed because the women felt he established more eye contact with the male than the female interviewers.
Probably more common in the liberal arts, this runs through the social sciences and especially ethnic, women’s, and other “studies.” I thought such criteria were less likely in the sciences, engineering, business, but the reaction to Summers indicates not. This also suggests how (though he seems plenty alpha) such frauds as Ward Churchill are hired.
Most of you have probably already seen quite a bit on Summers, but if not here is his abject apology. Jonah Goldberg describes Nancy Hopkins of MIT who was present and objected. Promptly, she enlisted the Boston Globe, telling them that “she had to leave a lecture delivered by Harvard president Larry Summers because if she didn’t she would have ‘either blacked out or thrown up.’” This is a quite clever power play. If facts aren’t strong, resort to a series of fallacies: attack the man, plead for sympathy, bring the ersatz authority of the Globe to bear. Above all, stop conversation. Ah, such is the academic marketplace of ideas!
And such power plays have consequences – whether it is in hiring practices, in the courses taught, or in the projects researched. We—our children, our families, our universities and our nation—are the worse for it. Let’s look at what Summers actually said:
He offered three possible reasons for this gender gap. The biggest, he suggested, was that fewer mothers than fathers are willing to spend 80 hours a week away from their kids. The next reason was that more boys than girls tend to score very high or very low on high-school math tests, producing a similar average but a higher proportion of scores in the top percentiles, which lead to high-powered academic careers in science and engineering. The third factor was discrimination by universities.
I went through college in the sixties and grad school in the seventies. Sure, discrimination may have occurred; certainly dirty jokes did. But I never felt that my mind wasn’t respected. Women’s liberation was barely beginning, but my teachers would speak with reverence of their female mentors of a yet earlier time. I’m sure that many thought I was flakey (I was), but when it came to the life of the mind, it was the ideas that concerned them. They also respected their female colleagues (and gay ones, too, as far as that goes). But few of my women friends were interested in science – and they were the honors kids, the ones with the Ford grants and the National Merit money.
Let’s get some sense of proportion. Whether or not there are differences in ability doesn’t shake my sense of who I am; some things am good at, some not. That is, well, a fact. We all recognize that generalizations may be made and exceptions still stand out. If I were a good scientist and a woman, I’d figure, fine, that’s who I am. I’d be curious, I suspect, about those brain waves, those broad conclusions derived from deep research. But I’d like to know the general while still comfortable in my particular skin. I wouldn’t throw up. (I thought that kind of stuff was caused by the boning in nineteenth century women’s corsets.)
What strikes me as especially pernicious about this – and pernicious in a way that is symptomatic of other such politicizing of research – is that real problems are obscured and the workplace is made into hostile, judgmental territory. Sure, there may be discrimination and I suspect for good evolutionary reasons women aren’t as strong in these areas, but the third of Summers’ reasons will now get no attention. True, my friends were in the liberal arts; true some were as flakey as I. Still and all, most did not achieve as much as their male counterparts (often husbands they had met in classes where both had excelled); marriage requires compromises. Commuting marriages work for a while, but become increasingly difficult–sometimes for the parents, always for the children. It isn’t as if American writers hadn’t warned us. Margaret Fuller recognized the problem a hundred and fifty years ago, though her optimism was pretty much pre-marriage. Edith Wharton, surveying the wreck of her marriage and sensing the importance of duty as well as the importance of using her excellent mind, tells us “life is full of compromises.” And she knew.
Those tradeoffs have been remarked by those who have surveyed women in upper management outside academia – a disproportionate number aren’t married, an even more disproportionate number do not have children. I don’t think we should be cut slack – a woman should publish as much and as well as a man, should perform in the business world as honestly and profitably as a man. But using women’s talents is good for her happiness and the economy as a whole; having functional (or at least not dysfunctional) households is important for our happiness as well as the country’s productivity. Publishing a good book is important, but few would weight it as much as a good child. Some books live for centuries, but most – well, the royalties are likely to stop coming in a few years. However, a child’s problems will be with you the rest of your life. (Yes, it can be done – but with a lot of compromises. I’m pretty sure I know which my husband would weight more – and he is both a better father than I am mother and has published a dozen books. But he has not been able to devote himself obsessively to his career – nor I to mine. And neither of us could run the house or nurture the children alone.)
Some discussion of how those trade-offs can be managed (are managed by some in creative ways) to best use the talent of women and keep the playing field level would be interesting. Flexible graduate careers, flexible work choices have been proposed. But the woman who defined the mommy track was a powerful professional; those that attacked her were less professional than she but more ideological. Ideology, they felt, trumped biology. It doesn’t.
Now, no thought will be given to what’s difficult. Seeing discrimination is easy; however not only do I suspect it is for the most part wrong, it helps only the woman threatening to sue and pump up the smug self-righteousness of a few. But we do have problems: judging a hire on whether the male is too alpha, too “masculine” is hardly building the best faculty. Instead of discussing problems and solutions, we will hear mea culpas from Larry Summers until, eventually, the whole discussion disappears in the fog of feminist science.
Let’s finish with Pinker: the truth cannot be offensive.
40 thoughts on “Beware the Alpha Male”
that’s terrible about what happened to your son’s friend. if the situation was reversed (rejected for being a too female), I’m pretty sure he would win if he sued. if I were him, I would be on the phone with a lawyer tomorrow…
This also suggests how (though he seems plenty alpha) such frauds as Ward Churchill are hired.
Take it from a real alpha male, that guy’s a fraud in more than his scholarship, ethnicity and politics.
Thanks for the heads up, ginny. In Ohio it’s legal to present a recording of a private conversation as evidence as long as one of the people taking part know about the taping. Gotta get me onea them there mini tape recorders in case I decide to pursue an academic career. I might not be able to actually get a teacjing job, but I’ll probably be able to make a few bucks from the damages the court awards me.
Ginny, hiring’s always been about cues. The just-right handshake, the certain eye-contact, the relaxed recital.
The problem is the cues are changing. And what they reveal about the organizations that foster them is telling. It seems they would judge a candidate’s appropriateness for hire in their urban, multicultural organization based mainly on his/her ability to “get along” with colleagues rather than to deliberate, oppose or compete with them.
This restates a noted trend in academia which more and more fears any dischord, confrontation, or “hurt feelings.” Hence we get grade inflation at Princeton, dodge-ball bans, and now, possibly, your son’s denial of hire: all are examples of Victor Davis Hansen’s “Therapeutic Society” on display.
To end, on C-Span’s Book TV this Sunday, Michael Chrichton argued that our universities and research institutions need to compete more to eliminate the kind of junk science we see in the politicized global-warming debate. They used to call it peer review. I couldn’t agree more. We need more hurt feelings, heated debate, ardent research and hard-nosed competition for our deliberative Western science to work, not less!
Yes, I heard only part of Crichton but kept thinking of him when I heard one of these stories the next day. The gender thing is big, but it is only part of a rather unattractive whole.
I value collegiality and believe it leads to a more productive workplace. I value the open marketplace of ideas and believe that leads to a more productive workplace. These do not work against each other if the workplace is civil and the arguments are directed to the issues and not the people.
On the other hand, when the people hiring are not the people who have to worry about productivity but rather ones concerned with turf battles, their choices are likely to be on grounds that have little to do with skills or potential for accomplishment in substantive ways.
(By the way, the three anecdotes come from quite different people at different institutions and in different specialties.)
Ginny: Incognito is right, sort of.
If your son’s friend wants to stay in the game, law suits, or even the threat of law suits, are useless. A potential employee who has launched a suit over not being hired will never be interviewed again.
that’s terrible about what happened to your son’s friend.
Is it? When you come down to the interviewing stage, you know that pretty much all the interviewees are going to be good professional fits to the position. The task then is often to find the person who makes the best “personal” fit.
My experience is that “alpha male” is a nice way of saying “jerk”.
if the situation was reversed (rejected for being a too female), I’m pretty sure he would win if he sued.
I’ve been often told that I was not assertive enough, and too self-deprecating. If only the men — men all — hadn’t been too smart to tell me I was too girly and feminine, I could’ve sued.
Instead — silly me! — I thought maybe I should just try to be more assertive and less self-deprecating. This is very difficult and hasn’t worked out well, but it’s my own damned fault.
Maybe the guy should just check his alphaness at the door next time, like I have to do my timidity.
Most job interviews come down to how much the interviewers “like” the candidate. Oh sure, qualifications play a part, but those doing the hiring are looking for someone who will fit in to the particular environment. That’s not unique to academia.
Yes, if he wants to stay in academia, he’ll have to suck it up and take it like a man. I don’t know the full situation, but it’s pretty stupid for anyone in an HR/hiring position to give a loaded reason like that. She could have easily said anything else, like you’re not the right fit. I’ve been told that plenty as well, and have taken it in stride. It’s ironic that academia is such a clubby world since they generally pride themselves on being PC and all.
With all due respect, what is this person doing applying to a job like that?
Academia (for the most part) is not a free market, or even remotely a free market, in the sense that the income stream of most universities is largely dependant on government funds and subsidised loans. Hiring/firing/tenure are not really based on performance based criteria for the most part… in fact, there are very few performanced based criteria at all for academic positions.
While I am sympathetic to this person’s predicament, the fact remains that the university is in character to reject him for ‘being too alpha’ or ‘being to white’ or having a Y chromosome or whatever. If those are the criteria that matter to a university, the same was as having an engineering degree matters to Boeing, tough luck to Mr. Alpha! Its quite possible that the univerisity is NOT worse of for having not hired him, because he’s not what they’re looking for.
If he believes his qualifications merit better judgement, he is looking in the wrong place for performance based compensation (once he figures out what exactly his value proposition to an employer is anyway) – he should be looking at industry, or possibly a purely commercial teaching institution like the University of Phoenix etc.
It sounds unfair, but thats just the way things are. He can choose to fight his way into academia and challenge the status quo, but chances are he would at most shift the system to a new status quo.
The system is broken. You can make it more broken, or you can find a substitute – unfortunately those are the only two choices.
Lastly, incognito – as one of the ChicagoBoyz, shouldn’t you be opposing any sort of discrimination lawsuit whatsoever?
He probably wouldn’t make it too far either if he got in, since he isn’t “one of them”.
Rahul, academia understands lawsuits. They are more or less getting away with anything these days. They desperately need a shot across their bow. Maybe not in this case since it’s a mountain/mole hill thing, but in general academia needs a high profile lawsuit that will drag a lot of dirty laundry out in the open. You need to put the fear of God into these people, and lawsuits have a wonderful way of concentrating the mind.
Yes, likability is important and hard to quantify. But what we are seeing here are people who seek “their own kind.” To them, “their own kind” is less likely to be intellectually curious, hard working, accomplished scholars but those of the same gender, politics, and style. (Certain handbags, for instance, draw approval and others don’t.)
While I believe all three applicants I mentioned have politics well to the left of center, this is also political. This kind of approach has led to departments such as these, across the country, where the ratio of Democrats to Republicans can range into the 20 or 30 to 1 range (at UC Boulder it was 32-1). (Probably in 2000 Nader got more votes from liberal arts faculties than did Bush.)
While it is quite true that this particular applicant might be seen as a jerk, one would hope for more attention to his work, some of which has been quite interesting. Some dissertation topics (ones that might indicate a conservative, traditional or even history of ideas approach) are immediately weeded out. One interviewer wanted to put the applicants into black and white piles until the department head told him that was illegal. This was a decade or two ago, but by then the committee member meant to pretty much ignore the white pile, since the committee’s task was to “diversify” the department. I have no doubt decades before that a similar tendency existed, although the opposite group went in the circular file. That, of course, didn’t make this application of such reasoning legal. Just like not hiring someone because they are “girly” doesn’t mean that not hiring someone else because he is “masculine” is right.
Hypocrisy is, as someone said, a tribute to virtue. Such comments indicate that these committee members do not feel the need to pretend there are other and substantive reasons. When hypocrisy is not needed in such situations, then we see that this kind of pigeonholing has become the norm.
Ginny it was Ambrose Bierce who said it, and the full quote is “Hypocrisy is the tribute vice pays to virtue.” Many in academe are now so vicious they are unwilling to pay. I think incognito is correct. They need a few lawsuites to change their minds.
Actually what they need is for employers and prospective students to wise up and reevaluate the true value of that diploma they’re handing out. It’s bound to happen eventually; the complication is that employment discrimination law, and the consequent need for employers to have credentials to prove that they hired for reasons other than discrimination, means that a substitute outside credential will probably have to become generally available first.
God help the poor fools that get blindsided by the adjustment – they’ll find that college degree becoming a black mark on their resume rather than an advantage, and scramble to find some way to hide their college attendance or explain it away…
I resisted the urge to draft a comment that links the rise of the “Metrosexual Male” to the increase of females in hiring positions.
Instead, I wonder if it isn’t the flaws in the small, informal committee process itself, exacerbated whenever it’s employed in non-profit organizations, that’s to blame. Decision-making groups of five or less are much too easy for a majority coalition to coopt. The smaller the majority coalition of the hiring committee, the more subjective, corruptible, or capriciously impressionable its hiring decisions may be.
Things are indeed different in academe: I once wrote a paper for a grad class on the history of Negro spirituals and was told by my black assistant professor that my writing sounded too much like that of a white woman. Exactly how much of oneself can one censor to please the hiring committees?
As a previous commenter remarked, this kind of thing happens in the private sector too. I have a very opinionated eccentric friend who was hiring for programmer jobs at her software company (she’s a programming geek too). She refused to hire a guy whose qualifications were excellent because he came to the interview in an interview suit (i.e. suit and tie). Her reasoning was that he should have known the corporate culture and known to show up in Dockers and polo shirt.
I said he could very well know the Route 128 90s culture, but still feel that for a job interview he should be more formal. I know I would. But she was adamant that was reason enough to turn him down.
So I find the reasoning of this academic committee no more outrageous than my friend’s or other hiring decisions I’ve heard about.
I toed the party line at Berkeley and it got me a job in school that paid for part of it. So I’ve been there done that, and believe you me, these people are so ensconced in their cocoon that they aren’t going to change, at least not based on rational debate. The only thing they will understand is defunding and getting sued. Gotta hit’em where it hurts.
Depends on the industry. In the private sector I think it’s often appropriate to ask candidates intrusive questions and to make hiring decisions the way Yehudit’s friend did. Employer and prospective employee both are trying to determine goodness of fit, it’s usually better for the employer to have more information, and the employer often stands to lose substantial money if he miscalculates, especially at a small firm. I’ve been asked about my marital status, family background and other forbidden topics in interviews and didn’t mind a bit. As long as the interests of employer and employee are aligned there is no problem; rules against some types of questions merely get in the way. There may be a problem if the interests of the people doing the hiring do not coincide with those of the institution, as may be the case in large private companies, but is more typically true in government and academic bureaucracies. In such cases the rules really do help the applicant, though in a marginally effective way that a devious hiring manager can often circumvent.
“My experience is that “alpha male” is a nice way of saying “jerk”.”
This comment is funny to me. My experience is a *bit* different. I’d say that if someone said “alpha male” it’s a nice way of saying “He turns me on, makes my knees weak and I find that potentially threatening.” When I was in college that was definitely how many of my friends in NOW meant it. I mean “friends” sincerely as I was an avid member for two years until I finally took a women’s studies course and got a good laugh. You could just tell many of them were terrified which was why they acted the way they did when they talked about men or a frat boy came within a ten mile radius of them.
“..My experience is that “alpha male” is a nice way of saying “jerk”…”
So Angie, you think there is no such thing as an assertive woman…but rather only “bitches” that we apply a similiar euphamism for?
I’d say that if someone said “alpha male” it’s a nice way of saying “He turns me on, makes my knees weak…
Well, many women do fall for jerks. That’s well-documented.
So Angie, you think there is no such thing as an assertive woman…but rather only “bitches” that we apply a similiar euphamism for?
Who applies a euphemism? Yes, an assertive woman is often called a bitch, but in my experience the level of assertiveness required to become a “bitch” is far below that required to achieve the title of “jerk”.
Above, Ginny writes:
Just like not hiring someone because they are “girly” doesn’t mean that not hiring someone else because he is “masculine” is right.
I’m with you there. But the people who objected to my timidity didn’t do so because they wanted “their own kind”, they did it because they saw assertiveness as an essential part of the job. They may be wrong about that, but that was their belief.
What good is a term if no one agrees on its meaning?
Jonathan G ewirtz,
“What good is a term if no one agrees on its meaning?”
Oh, a term with no agreed upon meaning is incrediably useful, just not for communication.
Polemists love vague terms. Were would most political writers, speakers and pundits be if terms like fair, just and power had concrete definitions?
Good point Shannon!
“I voted for it, before I voted against it.”
Ginny, you sardonically commented on the current state of academia where if someone in the course of academic discourse makes a claim that is based on weak facts: “Above all, stop conversation. Ah, such is the academic marketplace of ideas!”
Well, here’s the thing. Lawrence Summers wasn’t presenting his reasearch. He wasn’t presenting new research that had been conducted recently by colleagues. He’s never done or been involved in any research into gender differences in cognition. He’s not even that kind of scientist — he’s an economist (and by the way certainly not a Chicagoboyz type of economist.) The outrage is not about politicizing his research, since he’s done no research here.
Lawrence Summers wasn’t even presenting a new idea when he brought up “innate ability” as a factor in the underrepresentation of women in science. That idea is as old as the day is long. People still have strong biases these days, even if they are better at not letting it show most of the time. It’s not about a “marketplace” when you are talking about concrete scientific findings. Just because something seems to make sense or appears to make sense because of how you see the world around you, it doesn’t make it a fact. Even if that idea is ingrained in our culture. Good scientists must be agnostic and should not present their hypotheses (or biases, or theories, or things that occured to them 5 minutes ago, or things that kinda made sense when talking to collegues over lunch) as fact.
And it would all be fine if he had said any myriad of other crazy things that he knows nothing about like maybe he could have said, “I think humans should work to be able to communicate with rabbits” or “I strongly believe that high fructose corn syrup causes cateracts.” But standards must be higher for the president of Harvard, the premier research institution in the US, to publicly muse that a persistent idea that has held people back for ages may actually be true.
Summers wasn’t attacked because he said something that was obviously false. He was attacked because he said something which most people know is likely to be true but which conflicts with the agenda of feminist academics. The transparently stage-managed hysteria in response to his rather mild statement makes the most sense if you see it as a tactic of fourth-generation academic warfare against someone who threatens the perqs and privileges of the entrenched Left.
This thing is that knowing something is likely to be true doesn’t make it true. That’s one of the reasons we have science — it helps us with these issues. Throughout history, wrong ideas have held people back tragically. Some of our wrong ideas even seemed very commonsensical at the time. It wasn’t that long ago when many people thought blacks were intellectually inferior to whites. There was also a time when people thought the main cause of peptic ulcers was stress (I’m sure many folks ulcers are very glad we didn’t just continue assuming that what is likely to be true was a fact.) The list goes on. This is actually a big personal pet peeve of mine. Common sense, conventional wisdom, intuition are very useful and have their place. But they are not to be confused with or presented as fact.
Also, I know you might view academia as a place full of, “perqs and privileges of the entrenched Left” and therefore see Summers as a tell-it-like-it-is hero. But an important group that is traditionally very entrenched in academia and has felt threatened for some time by our changing society is the so-called “old-boys- club” who have held for ages that most women don’t make the cut. And when I read Summers comment, my first thought was “I feel I’ve heard this 100 times before.”
Positing hypotheses is not “presenting facts.” I am not sure what your point is: Is it that there is no difference in the way that men’s and women’s brains work? That difference may well “appear” common sensical or it may well “appear” to be a question a bigoted “good old boys'” might ask; nonetheless, much scientific evidence supports that difference. Why this can’t be discussed – instead is met with what seems to me a parody of a woman’s reaction in her fainting weakness. If he had said something deeply offensive, I would still be offended (as a woman) by her reaction.
The fact that Summers is an economist seems to me neither here nor there; he was asked to appear as an administrator–the kind of person who would be pressured to establish a “fair” and a “diverse” work place.
Your complaints appear to me (and I have been around academic circles for forty years) to be rooted in another time. It is true that some of my husband’s colleagues are irritatingly sexist; some like to use the power of their classrooms to impress and sometimes seduce young women. That is the nature of men (and impressionable young women). I sometimes find their sexist jokes at women they fear in competition within their departments to be somewhat unattractive (not unlike the French’s attitude toward women who have attained political power).
Nonetheless, I can’t recognize any of the academic places I’ve been around in your description. Academic circles do not reinforce the power of the “old boys’ club” you describe. Those rather irritating sexist jokes come from men for whom I feel some pity, since they are the bitter jokes of people who are essentially impotent within their departments. A more mature response would be attractive, of course. And I am repelled by their nastiness. But it is an ineffective nastiness, I can assure you.
“..Who applies a euphemism? Yes, an assertive woman is often called a bitch, but in my experience the level of assertiveness required to become a “bitch” is far below that required to achieve the title of “jerk”…”
No..you miss the point Angie…the point is that you made the leap that because he is an ‘alpha male’ that he is really a jerk…so I raise the question of whether you think that there can be no truly assertive women..but rather only ones that we CALL “assertive” but who are really a bitch? My guess is a big no on that one…
“..but in my experience the level of assertiveness required to become a “bitch”…”
Your experience provides nothing…
anectodal “everyone I know” types of claims are HUGE warning signs…”DANGER: subjective bullshit ahead”
But you go right on ahead playing the persecuted victim…it goes perfectly with your self-admitted timidity…
There may well be a difference in how men’s and women’s brains work. There is certainly evidence that the brains of men and women are structured slightly differently. It’s the jump to the conclusion that women have less aptitude or innate ability that I have a problem with. And I especially have a problem with the president of Harvard presenting it as a useful evidence-based theory or even fact. Now I could be totally wrong here and could be misinterpretting the context. I wasn’t at this talk and there was no transcript or recording made of it, so all I (or most anyone else) can go on to secondhand accounts. But my impression was that he was presenting it as an important hypothesis.
It sounds like your husband has some pretty unpleasant colleagues. It’s a major bummer that there are still cultures in academia or anywhere that encourage behavior like that. My reference to the “old boys club” was in response to Jonathan’s comment about the “feminsts” and the “entrenched left” dominating academia… I just wanted to raise the point that there’s an older, very entrenched power structure was not in the best interest of advancing knowledge and is not entirely gone.
Okay I give up. What do you mean by “fourth-generation” is the sense of “fourth-generation academic warfare”? Is there some sort of Chicagoboyz glossary I can order on Amazon…
-Who besides academic feminists led the organized opposition to Summers?
-Do you think academia isn’t dominated by the entrenched Left?
-It IS a useful, evidence based theory. How else do you explain the sexual sorting that occurs in many occupations? Oh yeah, discrimination. Except that if there is discrimination it’s so consistent that similar patterns show up in disparate occupations — which begs the question whether there are systematic average differences between the sexes.
-“Power structure” arguments for the existence of anti-female discrimination ignore the obvious, namely that somebody who talks like your stereotype of an “old boy” cannot get an academic job in the modern U.S., whereas somebody who talks like my stereotype of a feminist academic would have little difficulty. If there’s any power structure here it appears to be run by girls, or at least by leftist feminists. (If it were otherwise, Summers would not have gotten into trouble.)
By “fourth generation” warfare I mean the use of modern public-relations techniques, and nonmilitary societal institutions (such as the press) as weapons to impose change on adversaries.
You could learn more about it by googling. For example.
“Well, many women do fall for jerks. That’s well-documented.”
No, you missed the point. They’re afraid of sex and men, so when they sense themselves being sexually attracted to some guy, they react with feelings of hostility toward that man. They’re like the proverbial homophobe who hates gays only because he’s attracted to them and directs the fury he feels toward himself at the poor gay guy who happens to wander into his path. Many of these women simply dislike being female. They strike me as the ultimate misogynists.
To reinforce your point, do you see anybody worrying about the state of modern languages? My eldest daughter majored in French in college and was in at least one class in which there was not a single man. Majors in certain areas are dominated by women (ed, foreign languages). This is clearly either a “sorting out” or “discrimination.” (I suspect a bit of both; a lot of boys are turned off lit in high school, where works like The Color Purple are considered appropriate.) If there are fewer guys, no one considers that a problem. When I asked one of my collaagues if she had many guys in her Brit lit she said, oh, I know I have some. When I taught it one summer there was one guy in one class and none in the other. For some reason, guys seem to think Am Lit is more their thing – but still I always have a good deal less than half guys. I don’t think people are sensitized to watch for this discrepancy.
It is you who jump to the conclusion that we “have less aptitude or ability” — I don’t think the argument is that we are stupid. It is that we are less likely to be gifted at math. Maybe that is wrong – but a lot of studies say it isn’t. That doesn’t mean we have “less ability” in any real sense. Your definitioin of aptitude and ability is narrow and I suspect defined by skills that men are better at. Women don’t have much upper body strength, either. Does that mean our bodies are inferior?
You have, of course, touched on something that has been irritating me for several years. And I have daughters (who complain about sexism – and they mean against guys). I can’t imagine what men or women who have sons feel. For instance, there was a general uproar in the country because more males than females were getting Natl. Merit scholarships. Somehow (God knows how) I got on a feminist mailing list for a newsletter that proudly proclaimed they had forced the Natl. Merit people to a higher level of “fairness.” They now count verbal skills twice and math once on that test, even though college boards returns to a more even distribution. Now, I have good reason to be thankful for this change (it came in time to help my middle daughter, who has a rather healthy scholarship because she got 800s in those areas – an avid reader, she had skills that few boys would have developed in their more bumptious adolescence. On the other hand, her math score was not that great.) However, I am somewhat embarrassed when I talk to my Asian colleague; clearly, the family speaks Chinese at home. His son did well enough on the verbal section but didn’t set any records; his math score, of course, was spectacular. He didn’t get a Natl. Merit. That particular case may not be an injustice and he probably did get money because he went into engineering and my daughter, majoring in Czech & religious studies (“girly” subjects) wasn’t going to get those kind of scholarships. Still, I did notice that among the 10-15 Natl Merits at their high school the pre-double-verbal tests usually included mostly Asians and more boys than girls. After the change, fewer Asians – sometimes none – were in the group and there were more girls. Maybe that is fair in the feminist’s book. Maybe that is fair because verbal skills are more important than math ones (I don’t know). But you notice that that change was wrought by organizations that ended up with winners that looked a lot more like them – and “them” were not people working against the disadvantage of speaking a different language at home. And the arguments in the feminist’s newsletter were not that verbal skills are more important but that the test hadn’t been “fair.”
Thanks for the link to the fourth generation warfare sight. I really had no idea what that term referred to — never heard it. Reading Chicagoboyz has been very educational!
As for your first two points, sure I’ll grant you that the Left is rather entrenched in academia and also that feminist are feeling pretty anti-Summers these days. Your fourth point I’d have to disagree on. According to the National Science Foundation, the number of men and women holding faculty positions in science and engineering may be becoming more equal, but women are more likely to be assistant professors and men are more likely to be full professors or tenured. This is why I was saying that “old boy” systems tend to still be powerful today. In academia the tenured folks and the full professors can be very entrenched and powerful in comparison to junior faculty.
As for your third point you mentioned, “Except that if there is discrimination it’s so consistent that similar patterns show up in disparate occupations.” Well this is actually what I would expect if there was institutionalized discrimination in our society.
Hi Ginny (and Jonathan too),
I thought this article below was a nice, balanced review of some of the science behind (and also not behind) Summers comment.
As for the SAT/PSAT business, it’s hard for me to comment since I that test is just so unfair in so many ways.
…the point is that you made the leap that because he is an ‘alpha male’ that he is really a jerk…
No, I said that “alpha male” was an sometimes-employed euphemism for “jerk”. (Actually, I was going to say “asshole”, but I thought that since this was a high-class blog I should keep it clean.)
Your experience provides nothing…
anectodal “everyone I know” types of claims are HUGE warning signs…”DANGER: subjective bullshit ahead”
Great. Let’s see some statistics on how many women are “bitches” vs simply “assertive”. Let’s have the numbers on how assertive a woman has to be before she’s a “bitch”, and compare these numbers to their equivalents to men. Oh, wait, there aren’t any such numbers, are there? In fact, this whole discussion is based on anecdote, wasn’t it? It’s all pretty much subjective bullshit, isn’t it?
But you go right on ahead playing the persecuted victim…
No, no, you’re doing a much better job.
No, you missed the point. They’re afraid of sex and men…
I understood your point, I just thought it was nonsense. I’ve spent my adult life in a field overwhelmingly dominated by men, so perhaps I’ve just not come across any of the women you describe. Or perhaps it’s just a tendency among certain sexes (which chivalry forbids me to name) to think that anyone who has problems with them must, down deep, be boiling over with repressed lust.
And I especially have a problem with the president of Harvard presenting it as a useful evidence-based theory or even fact.
Er, but he didn’t, really. Since there was no transcript, it’s hard to know what he actually said, but he apparently just mentioned the possibility of women’s differing abilities being a factor.
I have to agree with Ginny on this part — whatever you might think about Summers’s suggestion, little Miss Wilting Lilly’s performance (“Oh mah god Ah dew believe Ah have the vapuhs!”) did credit to, well, no one.
Chel’s link is interesting, though the findings more often note a difference and the conclusions more often minimize that difference.
However, given an ideal of a free society where people choose freely what kind of work they choose to support themselves, the most important remarks was, indeed, a subjective one.
“Interestingly, in Iceland and everywhere else, girls participating in the survey expressed far more negative attitudes toward math.”
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