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comment by KaliYugaz
KaliYugaz  ·  1511 days ago  ·  link  ·    ·  parent  ·  post: Tim Hunt, Sexism and the Cult of Science

    Equality of opportunity is a great thing to aspire to, but insisting on equal outcomes is ridiculous. Just because women tend toward some fields while men trend toward others does not mean they're being oppressed.

I'm kind of unorthodox here in that I think what some would deem "equality of outcome" in certain general metrics is actually far more important than "equality of opportunity". If women (or indeed any class of people with particular shared interests), lack sufficient social, political, and economic leverage in society as a whole, then they won't be able to defend themselves from the attempts of men to exploit, control, or oppress them. It's like the balance of power with nation states, except applied to social classes.

Rather than calling this equality of opportunity or equality of outcome (which is a distinction that really doesn't make much sense if you accept that human behavior is deterministic), it makes more sense to call this "equality of power relations" or "relational equality" for short.

But I agree that perfect gender parity in STEM isn't strictly necessary for relational equality to exist, and that feminist activists might be obsessing over it too much. We just shouldn't have open sexist discrimination and bullying happening in laboratories and startups the way it currently is.




aidrocsid  ·  1510 days ago  ·  link  ·  

Except that if you insist on equality of outcome you ignore the differences between individuals. There's a profound lack of respect for individual decision making on the part of these people who are obsessing over demographics. There's no point, with focus on equality of outcome, that you can ever know things are better. People could be doing exactly what they want and if it's not all perfectly balanced with demographic information we'd still have "a problem". To me people doing what they want is not a problem.

To me the major difference is in how these things are being measured. I don't see people measuring 'relational equality', and frankly I'm not really sure what that is. I do see people constantly measuring equality of outcomes. It's all about what percentage of what group is what demographic. How would you measure relational equality?

But yeah, Tim Hunt is an old dude who still has some sexist ideas. We should certainly try to get away from that. I don't think that we should be encouraging a culture in which people need to resign over differences of opinion either though.

KaliYugaz  ·  1510 days ago  ·  link  ·  

    How would you measure relational equality?

How would you measure the balance of power between states? People don't really bother to, because it isn't necessary to. What matters in the end is: Do women as a class have sufficient means at their disposal to keep the threat of exploitation at bay without having to depend on the goodwill of men?

Also, "equality of outcome/opportunity" is a nonsensical distinction. If it is true that we live in a deterministic universe, then equal opportunity must necessarily lead to equal outcome. If not, then there are unequal differences from the very beginning, whether environmental, biological, or both, that can potentially be corrected through social policy or medicine.

aidrocsid  ·  1510 days ago  ·  link  ·  

    If it is true that we live in a deterministic universe, then equal opportunity must necessarily lead to equal outcome.

Not at all. Everyone isn't the same. We all have different motivations, different beliefs and desires, different skills and preferences. There's no single best job or single best life. The things that make you happy aren't necessarily the things that make me happy.

It's a very important distinction. Striving for equality of opportunity means trying to give everyone the same chance, striving for equality of outcome means trying to force people to be the same regardless of what differences they might possess. It doesn't respect individual agency or diversity of motivation and priorities.

KaliYugaz  ·  1510 days ago  ·  link  ·  

    We all have different motivations, different beliefs and desires, different skills and preferences.

I understand that people's freedom and diversity ought not to be infringed on without compelling reason.

But what if some of these differences are such that within our social system they allow one group of people to lord over others, thus denying the oppressed full agency? Is that not a compelling reason to, at the very least, change the social system to be more fair, or if that proves unwise, to eradicate the differences?

aidrocsid  ·  1510 days ago  ·  link  ·  

I'd say that for the most part we have changed the social system to be more fair. We've got more women in college than men, but there's still a tendency to prefer flexibility and shorter hours. There's nothing wrong with that. I'm not into working overtime either.

The thing is though, you've got to look at what you're measuring and what that tells you. If all you're measuring is how many people of what demographic are in which jobs, that doesn't tell you why.

Personally, I don't think it's terribly healthy to focus on demographic information or to attribute the actions or status of one individual to others simply because they share some fairly unimportant traits. Especially when the difference is between two populations who universally show a statistical divergence of opinion and behavior. Binary gender may not be a cultural universal, but gender as a whole most certainly is.

If women tend not to be as interested in working 60 hours a week as men, why should we need them to? How is that oppressing their full agency? There are women who do choose to take these work intensive career paths who do incredibly well. Women are overrepresented in college at this point. At what point can we stop denying women the benefit of their own decision making?

Would it be better to have inequality of opportunity in order to foster equality of outcome? Because if women, demographically, are, say, just always going to be statistically less likely to go into STEM than men, wouldn't we have to destabilize equality of opportunity to achieve anything like equality of outcome?

Why should it matter what boxes you check on the census? If there's clear discrimination going on, such as teachers telling girls they shouldn't go into math and science, that's definitely something we should address, but that doesn't justify leaping to the assumption that all fields should have a 50/50 gender split or there's sexism afoot.

KaliYugaz  ·  1510 days ago  ·  link  ·  

    I'd say that for the most part we have changed the social system to be more fair.

Yes, we have, but clearly not enough. Example: A huge part of the overall wage gap can be attributed to the fact that most workplaces simply aren't flexible enough to accommodate women who become pregnant and have to take care of a young child for a few years. Hence there is currently a huge opportunity cost between career success and having a family. So, the mass of women who choose their career end up driving down the fertility rate, and the other mass of women who do choose to have a few children end up driving up the gender wage gap at the same time.

The obvious solution to both these problems is to get the state to extensively subsidize childcare and pay for it with increased taxes, like they do in France. But of course in America they're idiotically resistant to anything that makes sense.

Gendered oppression is often not about sexism at all; a lot of the time there's just some shitty economic or political policy behind it.

    If women tend not to be as interested in working 60 hours a week as men, why should we need them to? How is that oppressing their full agency?

Because it denies them wealth and promotions, putting them in an inferior economic and social position that leaves them weak when it comes to representing their collective interests (like including women's reproductive health in company healthcare packages, or making sure they aren't sexually harassed) and defending their collective rights (perhaps if we had a few more female billionaires to lobby Congress, they wouldn't have dismantled abortion access across the South).

Again, if we were talking about two rival nations, nobody would bat an eye at the suggestion that an equal balance of power ought to be maintained between them to deter any threat of invasion. But when it comes to social classes at odds within those nations, suddenly the more powerful party objects to any such notion that everyone ought to have sufficient leverage to protect themselves against exploitation.

aidrocsid  ·  1510 days ago  ·  link  ·  

I guess we're going to have to agree to disagree here. I don't see any problem with people making choices in their lives and I think its sexist and controlling to deny women's agency. I also strongly disagree that men and women can be construed as cohesive parties.

I don't see much headway being made in this direction.

I have to say, though it's nice to be able to have conversations like this, intractable as our positions may become, without all the hostility I'm used to seeing surrounding this sort of thing. :D

KaliYugaz  ·  1510 days ago  ·  link  ·  

Arguably, reforming our labor laws and subsidizing childcare would increase women's agency and the choices that women can make in their lives by removing the heavy opportunity cost between career and family. And it is estimated to be a cause of a large portion of the overall gender wage gap as well.

If anything, we should both be able to agree that this is a good idea, even if our political frameworks are completely different!

    I have to say, though it's nice to be able to have conversations like this, intractable as our positions may become, without all the hostility I'm used to seeing surrounding this sort of thing.

Ikr? Hubski is amazing.

aidrocsid  ·  1510 days ago  ·  link  ·  

Personally, I don't see why breeding specifically should be subsidized above and beyond other aspirations. Loads of people are stuck in jobs that aren't perfect for them without the ability to spend their time on the things they'd rather do without sacrificing some aspect of their position, whether that be raising a family, taking a trip, creating art, whatever. The reality is that there is a legitimate opportunity cost between career and basically any other aspiration.

Personally, I think that if we can, as a society, we should try to allow people to do the things they really want to do. I'm a supporter of universal basic income. I think that if people's basic needs are taken care of they'll generally apply themselves to more worthwhile things than they would to earn a paycheck, because the weight of the fear of failure is removed.

I can see how applying this idea to women specifically would be good in terms of allowing women more flexibility in the workplace, something they show a strong preference for, but where does that leave everyone else? What about women who want to be artists, rather than mothers? Or men who want to climb Mt Everest? Conversely, what about those people who do work 60 hours a week every week for 40 years or whatever? Shouldn't they get a significant leg up over the rest of us who, quite rationally, can't be bothered with that sort of insane grind?

I'm just not sure why having children is more important than other aspirations or, for that matter, why child-rearing ought to be specific to women. At the same time I do see that more women seem to choose to spend more of their time on their children than men, and I really don't see a problem with that.

Don't we have maternity leave in most of the US at this point anyway? To what point do we further extend accommodations? How, again, are we measuring success? Are we measuring success in a way that distinguishes choice from compulsion or that muddies the two and leaves us to guess what's what?

That, to me, is really what makes all the difference. Do we know what's going on with people, or are we filtering vague information through an ideological lens to get a specific answer that we're trained to search for? We should always try to eliminate bias, I'd say.

KaliYugaz  ·  1510 days ago  ·  link  ·  

    I'm just not sure why having children is more important than other aspirations or, for that matter, why child-rearing ought to be specific to women.

Honestly, it's because I'm working under the assumption that childcare is necessary labor to sustain the population and thus maintain society. But if you believe that most jobs are going to be automated away in the future, and so less people would be a better thing, and childcare is a non-essential choice, I can see where you're coming from. Indeed, a basic income would be liberating for everyone, including women.

But I'm still confused by your lack of concern about the lack of leverage that women have relative to men and the real indignities that it enables. Again, back to the geopolitical analogy: Would you advise a country to not maintain a standing army just because taxes infringe a bit on free choice? How, then, will the country defend itself from the threat of external aggression or secure its state interests against its competitors? Why is it any different when it comes to competition between classes?

One last thing, we do have some maternity leave in the US, but it's atrocious compared to what exists in almost every other country.