Human Nature in the Open Marketplace

Right now, the blogosphere is the wild & wooly West. It is open to anyone who wants to talk about anything. Guys with guns move through our territory, but it remains an inviting & pleasant place: this is cause for celebration. It doesn’t pay. (A topic being discussed now by Anchoress, Riehl, & Instapundit) But it isn’t very risky: it may waste time but it doesn’t waste much money. For this moment anyone who wants a soapbox can have one.

So, blogs seem a pretty fair test of choice – what do people want to do, what do they enjoy doing? Well, Jonathan’s poll shows that women aren’t as likely to read Chicagoboyz – and, indeed, not so many women are Chicagoboyz. I wasn’t particularly surprised: my daughters refuse to read it (for fear, I suspect, they will find me talking about them) and their mates do (perhaps to check & see what their mother-in-law says about them); my guy colleague reads it fairly faithfully, our two female friends only sporadically. (Of course, they miss my brilliant posts.) My topics are generally those of a late-middle-aged woman. But apparently, men read them more than women.

Why? Certain subjects, genres, and positions characterize this blog. Perhaps a demographer will read this and make knowledgeable comments. But any sensible answer assumes more men are attracted than women, not that women aren’t welcome. Jonathan’s immense civility makes this blog a quite welcoming place for both readers & writers. I would prefer to think that his consistent generousity & tact is not affirmative action at work as much as inbred tact, applied to both genders. (And of course I would prefer that, which is why quotas are not all that affirming.)

Our readers, even when I’m being quite stupid, respond with chivalry. They are a chivalric bunch but my experience & instincts are that women often get softer treatment, even on this frontier. My posts may be ignored but people never stoop to the kind of ad hominem arguments frequent on other blogs and far more often addressed to men. Looking at these responses, other women might decide writing a post isn’t worth the effort but they aren’t likely to fear an attack.

Since I assume we want readers and aren’t all that choosy about their sex, we’d like more women – and, indeed, more men. More, as the commercial goes, is good. I suspect readers who share our interests may remain disproportionately male. Not bad. Not good. Just what it is.

But we see a different approach by AP writer, Mark Johnson; apparently he would see Chicagoboyz as guilty by outcome, no matter how fair the entry and how open the site. In “Study: Women hold few state jobs,” he notes that women hold less than 50% of state government jobs. He (with no other input) reports the findings of The Center for Women in Government & Civil Society at the University of Albany, which describes this “problem” which “does not appear to be going away.” Well, there is movement – from 23.1% in 1996 to 24.7% in 2006. But those aren’t the strides the Center wants. The lop-sided percentage appears “a persistent social phenomenon.” But is it social or biological, a matter of barriers to entry or a matter of desire? Difficulties are not shown; the considerable political outreach toward women is not mentioned. We see no way to gauge how many women want such jobs. I suspect such positions are not as attractive to women, especially younger ones, as they are to men. I may be wrong, but I’d like some proof that women are clamoring to run and the parties are discouraging them. (Well, Cindi Sheehan wasn’t exactly welcomed but surely that was an instinct for survival – even the Democratic party isn’t suicidal.) The open marketplace can hardly be described as open if some are coerced into opening their stalls in its midst and others are coerced into buying from them.

Access to the Blogosphere as blogger, reader, commentor is open–in fact, it is pretty much asexual & we aren’t always sure which sex we are addressing. But, more than likely, since men and women are different, the results will be. Some women like hawkish, libertarian blogs; some don’t. I write on it, but don’t get thrilled with military hardware. Still, I can see why someone else is.

Why can’t this be viewed – as indeed I think the nature of our audience should be – not as a problem but as an indication of something about the interests of men, the interests of women, and the nature of, well, the human animal? Most of the bell curves overlap – at the edges men & women aren’t all that different. Still, few of these male/female graphs fit perfectly on top of each other (you can stop laughing now and get back to ideas – my, aren’t we adolescent).

We can look at the choices men and women make and ask: “What do those uncoerced, free choices, tell us about human nature?” I suspect something interesting – but then human nature is always pretty interesting.

7 thoughts on “Human Nature in the Open Marketplace”

  1. I’m just curious what people think, and I like when people agree with me, or when they are reasonable enough to educate me. I rarely read “bylines” or whatever the assignment is called. I read the content. NOW knowing that you are a woman, whatever your name is, cuz I haven’t read the “by” line yet is what was interesting.

    I think that perhaps the Man Vs. Woman thing, that ultra fem’s have used, or rather the Woman Vs. Man thing, which is really what they’ve used, is proven wrong because of JUST what you said.

    I think you are right, even if it is from a chick. at least you’s from the City. :)

  2. Some of us can and do look at those choices in terms of what they say about human nature.

    But there are some who believe “we are all equal” means “we must all share exactly the same aptitudes, interests, abilities, and functions” and therefore conclude that any statistical difference in employment (between races, genders, religions, etc.) is the result of unfair practices.

    Shannon addressed this in “the Left and evolution” a while back. We have a group that’s almost entirely supportive of evolutionary theory, yet in their everyday lives they reject several of the key premises it’s built upon — genetic variation leading to differing aptitude, some individuals being more fit than others, etc. These people are every bit as scientifically ignorant as hard-core creationists, they just happen to hold politically correct scientifically ignorant views.

    Are men and women different? Most certainly. If they weren’t, we wouldn’t have labels like “men” and “women”. So instead of seeking to “correct” differences between the two (a profoundly INSULTING position some people hold — as if being different is a disability needing treatment) we should seek to understand the differences between the two. Women don’t generally get into math and engineering? Men don’t generally show huge amounts of empathy for children? That tells us some things about both. Instead of trying to create a mythical unisex creature, let’s understand and celebrate our diversity.

  3. “…his consistent generousity & tact is not affirmative action at work as much as inbred tact, applied to both genders.” I’ve known Jonathan since 1983, maybe ’82, and I can confirm this.

  4. My ears perked up when I saw the source of the study because I got my MBA at SUNY Albany, but I was disappointed when I followed the link to the AP story to see how little information there actually was in the article. (I was disappointed, but not surprised.)

    What I was hoping to find out was how the study categorized jobs as “top positions.” For example, the New York State Department of Education has a budget for fiscal 2005-6 of $21.3 billion. The State University of New York is just a part of that department and it has 64 campuses, 413,500 students (of whom 55.9% are female, by the way), 30,458 full-time faculty, and 50,510 non-faculty employees. With all due respect to the state of my birth, Rhode Island, it had total budget appropriations in 2005 for the entire state of $5.9 billion and a total population of 1.08 million people. Is it meaningful to compare the senior advisors of Governor Carcieri and Governor Pataki or to compare their respective state’s department heads?

    In other words, does the study tell you the percentage of women in each branch of government at a comparable level of activity? Does it tell us the percentage of women who manage more than 100 employees or are responsible for budgets larger than $500,000?

    If not, then it’s just an exercise in the randomness of small samples.

    Another thing that would be interesting to see would be a comparison of the position of women in California’s government and Canada’s. Once again, you have to control for organizational size since California’s GSP in 2004 was $1.550 trillion US and Canada’s GDP was $1.077 trillion US PPP in 2005. In this case you might see a difference in results depending on whether you select women by the number of people they manage vs. the size of the budget they manage.

  5. Paul K,
    Your points seem sound to me – and I’ve got to admit that I don’t have enough context to sort their argument out in the sensible way you have.

    The report itself is available broken into states at Women’s Leadership Profiles report data on top elected and appointed policy leaders in state government. if anyone more industrious, scholarly & thorough than I is out there.

    Of course, I believe our country’s ideas, workplaces, & government are best served if the talents of all are used – but I think we have a better idea than such study groups as to what most both fulfills and challenges us; most of us want to be “useful” – but I suspect we define such “usefulness” more broadly than these narrow studies imply.

  6. Blogs about love, relationships, cooking, friends and dating attract me and myh friends; the contentious nonsense you boyhs get caughtup in is just a boys will play cops and robberts thing.

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