You’ll probably recognize Caster Semenya the female 400 meter runner with intersex traits who won the 800 meters in the 2012 and 2016 Olympic Games.
However she probably won’t be at next year’s in 2020 because the Court of Arbitration for Sport recently judged that female athletes with intersex traits won’t be able to compete in middle distance events (from 400m to 1 mile) unless they take medication to suppress their naturally high levels of testosterone.
On the surface this seems to be creating a ‘level playing field’ for all female athletes, but if we’re going to insist that someone like Semenva takes medication to suppress her unfair natural advantage, surely we should drug all the future Michael Phelps and Usain Bolts of the athletics world too?
Michael Phelps’ 6 ft 7″ arm span and size 13 feet certainly gave him an unfair natural advantage, and Usain Bolt’s supreme body-mechanics contributed to his sprint world records: how many other people have you seen ‘jogging to line’ and winning that often?
So maybe there’s more to the Semenva Case?
Maybe she (and anyone else whose intersex) is being punished for their ‘gender ambiguity’ rather than this being a just penalty for being physically advantaged.
Then there’s the fact that she (and other intersex females) are easy victims here: they are an extreme minority, and relatively powerless, after all – easy to mete out harsh justice on such individuals and then forget about it in the name of ‘fairness’.
Maybe this is about rendering intersex females invisible – policing our ‘normalised’ sex-boundaries, making sure the rest of us don’t become too uncomfortable about the reality that sex/gender are complex/ fluid….. it CANNOT be about just biological advantage as the cases of Phelps and Bolt demonstrate – we celebrate their ‘good’ freakishness, after all!)
Men are enjoying more leisure time than they did 15 years ago, while women have less. according to the latest stats from the Office for National Statistics.
In 2015 Men spent 43 hours a week on leisure activities, up from 42.88 hours in 2000. In the same period, women’s leisure time fell to 38.35 hours, from 39.24 hours.
NB – it doesn’t matter what age group we’re taking about, men have more leisure time than women (unlike the pay gap, which ‘switches’ in the 20s and 30s.)
Over a 40 year period, this means that men have 9672 more hours of leisure time than women, or just over 600 days (calculated by diving the original time by 16 to reflect the number of waking hours in a day), or getting on for 2 years….
I want to blame this on the X box, but other surveys suggest that one reason for this is that women spend more time caring for adult relatives than men.
This is good evidence supporting the view that the gendered division of labour is still not equal, in fact it’s suggesting the trend towards equality is reversing!
A summary of Zimbardo and Coulombe’s Man Disconnected, part 4.
It seemed appropriate to devote a whole blog post to this chapter (chapter 11) as this seems to be the main thrust of the book. (No, the book’s not that well organised!)
Chapter 11: Technology Enchantment and Arousal Addiction
J.R.R. Tolkein used the word ‘enchantment’ to define a human being’s total immersion in a fictitious world.He said that the more…
‘You think that you are bodily inside [a] Secondary World [the more] the experience may be very similar to Dreaming… but you are in a dream that some other mind is weaving, and the knowledge of that alarming fact may slip from your grasp’.’
Tolkein’s writing is certainly enchanting – when I first read The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings when I was about 11, I was absolutely transported into Middle Earth for most of the book.
However, according to Philip Zimbardo, it is far easier to get wrapped up in online virtual realities than it is in a book, because they are more sensually immersive and have rewards systems and status which hook you in: with games, for example you get to actually play the hero or anti-hero, and gain virtual rewards risk free; while with online porn you get to be a ‘virtual sheikh with a harem’ – having your choice of girls to wank over with no threat of rejection.
Today, both computer games and porn are extremely pervasive, and literally millions of young men use these two together as their first port of call to meet their basic ‘male urges’ – to be competitive/ be a winner/ and gain status, and to achieve sexual gratification – you can do both by using a combination of computer games and porn: in fact, not only is it accessible (and very cheap), you have a choice over exactly which game, or which ‘type’ of porn you want to use to ‘fulfil your needs’.
This has been encouraged precisely because men have been taught to be ashamed of their competitive nature and their male-sexuality over the years: according to Zimbardo these are effectively aspects of masculinity that men have been taught to hide in an era of female liberation: the result is that young men repress these ‘natural’ aspects of themselves in public and turn to online worlds to express these aspects of themselves: to be competitive and get their status rewards through gaming, and get sexually gratified by wanking over porn.
In the world of online gaming and porn gaining status and sexual gratification is very easy: you simply learn a few skills and level up, or choose your fetish and spank your monkey, and millions of young men who have effectively grown up immersed in these environments now have their pleasure sensors hard-wired into this ‘switch on get gratified immediately’ mentality. There is also research which suggests that the more pleasure is associated with habitual patterns of action (such as online gaming and porn) then the less responsive pleasure centres are to less familiar experiences.
The problem with this is that in real-life gaining status through such things such as working with others, and gaining sexual gratification in a relationship are just a little bit more complicated!
Zimbardo has been criticised for lumping gaming and porn together, but he sees them as similar arguing that they are both based on ‘arousal’ and that increasingly the two are merging. As far as he see it, Porn and Video games are potentially psychologically and socially damaging to some males, especially those who use them excessively in social isolation.
Zimbardo points out that games designers may think they’ve ‘hacked Maslow’ except that the rewards online games offer can be achieved without the need to relate effectively others.
Zimbardo now cites research in which in gaming cultures, it is common to mock people for losing, which doesn’t happen in real world sports, and that some gamers retreat further into their gaming worlds the more their offline lives do not yield them success.
There is also a phenomenon in which gamers real world selves becomes more like their gaming personas, and Zimbardo warns us that this could lead to more egocentric and individualised behaviours.
Finally, there is a problem that people’s behaviour can be manipulated online, through clever use of avatars for example, a problem which will become more acute as online and offline worlds become more similar and harder to distinguish.
The Dynamics of Porn
In this section, Zimbardo outlines the results of a survey on the effects of porn on young men and women. The general gist is that the availability of online gratification through porn reduces young mens’ patience, makes them hold themselves to unrealistic expectations and cripples them socially.
He cites numerous interviews with men young and women in which they outline the fact that porn has resulted in a lot of young men suffering from performance anxiety, further evidenced by viagra prescriptions increasing for the under 30s.
Porn also encourages young men to see sex as just an act in itself, with no ‘build up’, or no ‘chase’ as such – young men are now less likely to approach women in night clubs, partly because, in porn, there is no story to lead into the sex-act itself.
Chronic Stimulation, Chronic Dissatisfaction
A recent study by the CDC found that heavy porn users are more likely to suffer long term physical health problems, suggesting that over-stimulation through porn rather than engaging in actual person to person sexual interaction might lead to eventual sexual isolation.
According to Alexa, 5% of the top most 100 viewed websites are porn site, and most of the people viewing them are young men under 24…. Alone in their bedrooms.
And porn sends out certain messages, most obviously that sex is about fucking rather than emotional connection and conversation, and of course condoms are rarely seen in porn.
7/10 heavy porn users report sexual problems in their relationships, compared to 3/10 light porn users.
Research from the Max Planck Institute suggests that heavy porn use ‘wears out the pleasure receptors’….. The lead researcher hypothesizesd that to get a dopamine release, and basically to get an erection, porn users would rely on more and more extreme types of porn….. And sex with the same partner in real life becomes less and less satisfying as a result.
The Madonna-Whore complex…
Zimbardo rounds off this section by suggesting that a lot of men in the Western World have developed a ‘Madonna-Whore complex’ – they regard the women they have, or want to have sex with, as whores… but they cannot deal with women who are both attractive to them and nice – mainly because they can’t sustain an erection when having sex with the same woman over and over again.
The Dynamics of Video Games
Zimbardo starts this question by pointing out by recognising that there are positives to playing computer games, and that that they are really only concerned here with young men who play video games in isolation, primarily with strangers, which is just over a third of all gamers.
For these people, Zimbardo suggests that computer games can make real life and other people seem boring by comparison.
He cites statistically controlled evidence that children who spend more time gaming later on suffer lower paper-test scores at school, and reduced attention spans generally, suggesting that this could explain the higher rate of ADHD among boys compared to girls.
This chapter is a bit skewed – much more evidence on the effects of porn, much less on gaming, and I’m not convinced that it’s useful to lump the two together – these are both hugely diverse areas which at least deserve the attention of being studied separately, surely?
Today, children are brought up with much less contact with adults: they used to be surrounded by extended families, but today the average household size is just below 3 in the US and 2.4 in the UK, and on top of this, the typically teacher pupil ratio at school is 1:20.
It’s not just quantity of contacts, but quality: something like 50% of households feel the ‘time pinch’ to the extent that they cannot find time to sit down to meals together on most days of the week.
Zimbardo also cites the tired evidence on the increasing number of children being brought up in cohabiting households, which have twice the break up rate of married households, and the fact that today about 1/3rd of US children and ¼ of UK children are brought up in single parent (mainly mother) households.
In the US trust in the general public has declined so much that we no longer even trust the nannies we employ to look after our kids – as evidenced by the increasing sales of ‘nanny cams’.
The percentage of people reporting that most people can be trusted has fallen from 55% in 1960 to 32% in 2009.
Zimbardo now seems to link declining trust to divorce, citing evidence that divorced people have lower immune systems than married people (yes, there are measurable physiological effects!)
He focuses first on the effects of divorce on separated mums and their children: arguing that only around 25% of single mums report that they are happy, half the number of married women. He also argues that girls brought up in single parent households are given mixed messages – that they should put their kids first, and get a career, but there are hardly any examples of people who successfully do both!
He then turns the effects on the separated dads: who have a suicide rate 10 times higher than divorced women, suggesting that the typical experience is for them to spend time working for someone else, who is now distanced from them, and basically having to ‘suck this up’ because they are conditioned to not seek help from anyone.
High divorce rates makes children who experience them think differently about relationships – he cites Vaillant’s famous Longitudinal Harvard Study as an example of the negative effects….suggesting that such children are suspicious of relationships (they are less likely to trust adults!) yet they are still caught up thinking that stable monogamous relationships are for everyone (thanks to Disney).
Zimbardo finishes off with the usual trawl through the ‘problems’ which the decline of the nuclear family create for society – arguing that countries with more stable families (basically a prosperous society is based on the nuclear family seems to be his argument) are correlated with higher employment rates, more wealth generation, better qualifications and lower obesity levels. Although he cites Charles Murray as part of his evidence.
Boys are affected relatively more than girls by family break up
The USA leads the way in fatherlessness, and for those who do have fathers, the average school boy spends just 30 minutes a week in conversation with his father, compared to around 44 hours in front of screens.
Zimbardo basically goes on to make the argument that boys need father figures – but that way too many of the current generation are missing out on this – boys are growing up thinking that ‘being male’ effectively means avoiding parenting (this is something mothers do); he cites further evidence that men are basically afraid of hanging out with teenage boys.
Boys need men to offer reassurance and guidance, but they are less likely to get it now than in the past.
This is further compounded by the fact that girls have been taught how to evolve into both traditionally male and female roles, but boys have no role models to teach them how to evolve into both roles either: and when they fail at the traditional male role, as they increasingly go, they are left in the shit.
This problem is further compounded by the lack of positive male role models in the media, and especially porn, which offers teenage boys instant gratification with no need to learn how to communicate.
Chapter 9: Failing schools
Education systems are failing our boys.
The general gist here is that schools focus on ‘academics’ which require children to sit still and focus for longer periods of time, and they require this from a younger and younger age. This disadvantages boys because boys mature later than girls, and they are thus turned of learning, which explains why boys end up with worse GCSE results than girls and for the dramatic increase in female graduates compared to males since the 1960s.
Then there’s the fact that school play times have been cut and that hardly any teachers are male, all of which has resulted in a gynocentric education system which is increasingly shaped in the interests females, and works against male achievement.
Zimbardo offers up Montessori style education as an alternative.
Finally, Zimbardo suggests that we need to start educating our children about sex properly from the ages of 10-11, rather than leaving it to the porn industry!
In this chapter Zimbardo makes the argument that toxic chemicals in a whole range of day to day products (such as tins) are causing endocrinal (hormonal) disruption, resulting in increasing health problems for men: such as higher rates of testicular cancer and a lower sperm counts.
In order to back up his claims, Zimbardo cites a range of evidence from studies on animals who have been exposed to toxic chemicals over the long term, and admits the effects of chemicals on human biology remain inconclusive.
He rounds off the chapter by suggesting that many harmful chemicals are built up in body fat tissues, and we don’t really know what the effects of the release of these when (if?) fat cells get broken down will be.
All in all this is something of a speculative chapter.
No More Boys and Girls (BBC, August 2017) BBC programme documents a 6 week experiment in gender neutrality carried out with one year 3 primary school class in primary school on the Isle of White…. Can our kids go gender free?
Doctor Javid Abdelmoneim (*) believes that these attitudes are not just the result of biology, but down to socialisation, and so establishes a gender neutrality experiment, conducted on one class of year 3s, in which he removes all traces of gender differentiation for a 6 week period, finally testing them to see if ‘typical gender differences’in things such as self-confidence and spatial awareness have been reduced (*I recommend you check out the above profile, on Al Jazeera, he seems like an interesting character!)
The rational for doing this research now is that these children have lived their entire lives under the equality act, which was passed in 2010, emphasizing that men and women should be treated the same.
Thankfully, some generous sole has kindly done the BBC’s job for them and provided an effective and just service to license fee payers by uploading the documentary to YouTube, which the BBC itself only made available for a short time on iplayer, a totally unreasonable action given the cost of the licence fee. Here is said video:
The documentary finding, however, suggest that this is far from the case, and there are several differences in terms of attitudes about what boys and girls should do, and how the teachers treat boys and girls.
The programme starts with a few clips of boys’ and girls’ attitudes towards gender, which suggests that they have very set views about what they suited to do in the future, in which various girls and boys say that:
‘If a woman has a baby, the man will have to get a job to look after them.’
‘Men are better at being in charge.’
‘Men are more successful because they could have harder jobs and earn more.’
‘I’d describe girls as pretty, dresses, lipstick and lovehearts’
‘boys are cleverer than girls because they get into president more easily’.
There are also early observations of one class in which the teacher clearly uses gender specific terms for girls and boys – calling the girls ‘love’, and boys ‘mate’, for example.
But why do gender differences between boys and girls exist?
Dr Javid visits a neuro-scientist who helpfully tells us that there appears to be very few structural differences in the brains of boys and girls, and thus gender differences are not biologically determined, but exist because of socialisataion – their experiences have taught them different skills and different mental attitudes.
Research from Stanford University suggests that seven is a key age in the development of gender identity, because it is at this age that boys and girls start to develop fixed ideas about what it means to be a man or a woman, thus Dr Javid’s experiment should be able to change gendered expectations of boys and girls.
Dr Stella Something now comes in from the UCL psychometric lab to subject boys and girls to what seems to be a pretty rigorous series of activities aimed to measure….
Their levels of self-esteem
Their perceived intelligence
Their understanding and levels of empathy
Their levels of assertiveness
How good they are at resisting impulses
How much vocabulary they have to describe their emotions
Levels of classroom behavior, hyperactivity and
The basic findings (which are corroborated by the class teacher) are that:
Girls underestimate their levels of self-esteem, intelligence and assertiveness: three times as many boys overestimated their perceived intelligence, and girls were more likely to underestimate it. 50% of the boys described themselves as ‘the best’, compared to only 10% of girls.
Boys cannot seem to express their emotions – girls were more able than boys to provide ‘similar words’ to describe every emotional cue-word given to them, except for anger.
Girls tendED to describe themselves through words about looks (such as ‘pretty’ and ‘lipstick’)
The Control Group
Another, very similar year 3 class which had a regular 6 weeks of teaching was also tested alongside the experimental group to act as a control.
Dr Javid turns up on day one and tells the pupils about the experiment – he basically tells them he wants to ensure than boys and girls are treated the same, because they can all do as well as each other, and he then gives them a load of signs saying such things as ‘girls are strong’ to challenge gender stereotypes, which they put up around the classroom.
For further details you’ll need to watch the programme…. for now – I’ll update with the rest when I get time!
The school where this experiment took place is Lanesend Primary School, on the Isle of Wight, with 300 boys and girls aged 5 to 11,
For every dollar earnt by men, women earn 70-90 cents.
Women are less likely to work than men – Globally in 2015 about three quarters of men and half of women participate in the labour force. Women’s labour force participation rates are the lowest in Northern Africa, Western Asia and Southern Asia (at 30 per cent or lower).
When women are employed, they are typically paid less and have less financial and social security than men. Women are more likely than men to be in vulnerable jobs — characterized by inadequate earnings, low productivity and substandard working conditions — especially in Western Asia and Northern Africa. In Western Asia, Southern Asia and Northern Africa, women hold less than 10 per cent of top-level positions.
When all work – paid and unpaid – is considered, women work longer hours than men. Women in developing countries spend 7 hours and 9 minutes per day on paid and unpaid work, while men spend 6 hours and 16 minutes per day. In developed countries, women spend 6 hours 45 minutes per day on paid and unpaid work while men spend 6 hours and 12 minutes per day.
Gender Inequalities in Education –
The past two decades have witnessed remarkable progress in participation in education. Enrolment of children in primary education is at present nearly universal. The gender gap has narrowed, and in some regions girls tend to perform better in school than boys and progress in a more timely manner.
However, the following gender disparities in education remain:
31 million of an estimated 58 million children of primary school age are girls (more than 50% girls)
87 per cent of young women compared to 92 per cent of young men have basic reading and writing skills. However, at older age, the gender gap in literacy shows marked disparities against women, two thirds of the world’s illiterate adults are women.
The proportion of women graduating in the fields of science (1 in 14, compared to 1 in 9 men graduates) and engineering (1 in 20, compared to 1 in 5 men graduates) remain low in poor and rich countries alike. Women are more likely to graduate in the fields related to education (1 in 6, compared to 1 in 10 men graduates), health and welfare (1 in 7, compared to 1 in 15 men graduates), and humanities and the arts (1 in 9, compared to 1 in 13 men graduates).
There is unequal access to universities especially in sub-Saharan Africa and Southern Asia. In these regions, only 67 and 76 girls per 100 boys, respectively, are enrolled in tertiary education. Completion rates also tend to be lower among women than men. Poverty is the main cause of unequal access to education, particularly for girls of secondary-school age.
Gender Inequalities in Health
Women in developing countries suffer from….
Poor Maternal Health (support during pregnancy) – As we saw in the topic on health and education, maternity services are often very underfunded, leading to hundreds of thousands of unnecessary female deaths as a result of pregnancy and child birth every year.
Lack of reproductive rights – Women also lack reproductive rights. They often do not have the power to decide whether to have children, when to have them and how many they should have. They are often prevented from making rational decisions about contraception and abortion. Men often make all of these decisions and women are strongly encouraged to see their status as being bound up with being a mother.
Gender Inequalities in the Experience of Overt Violence – Around the world, women are
Victims of Violence and Rape – Globally 1/3 women have experience domestic violence, only 53 countries have laws against marital rape.
Missing: More than 100 million women are missing from the world’s population – a result of discrimination against women and girls, including female infanticide.
At risk from FGM – An estimated 3 million girls are estimated to be at risk of female genital mutilation/cutting each year.
Girls are more likely to be forced into marriage: More than 60 million girls worldwide are forced into marriage before the age of 18. Almost half of women aged 20 to 24 in Southern Asia and two fifths in sub-Saharan Africa were married before age 18. The reason this matters is because in sub‐Saharan Africa, only 46 per cent of married women earned any cash labour income in the past 12 months, compared to 75 per cent of married men
Gender Inequalities in Politics
Between 1995 and 2014, the share of women in parliament, on a global level, increased from 11 per cent to 22 per cent — a gain of 73 per cent, but far short of gender parity.
Harvey Weinstein’s history of sexual harassment has been headline news for over a week now, but what should we make of it?
Some very famous actresses, including Gwyneth Paltrow and Angelina Joli have come forward and accused Weinstein of sexual harassment (which he hasn’t denied, he’s only denied accusations of rape), and it seems that he’s been a prolific offender over the last three decades: The New York Times reported last week that the media mogul was a serial sex pest who had, before recent allegations came to light, reached at least eight legal settlements with women over the past three decades.
Rebecca Traister noted in the New York magazine that she witnessed Weinstein’s abusive behaviour first-hand in 2000, when she got into a row with him, and he proceeded to punch her boyfriend when he intervened, and yet, despite dozens of camera shots, the event never made the news, showing his enormous influence to shut down bad news at that time.
Writing in The Times, Hugo Rifkind, suggested that the eruption of the Harvey Weinstein scanadal is a symptom of a changing world and evolving attitudes.
However, maybe a more realistic interpretation of events comes from Lee Smith, writing in the Weekly Standard – he argues that this has nothing to do with ‘raised consciousness’. The reason this story has come out now is because Weinstein’s power is on the wane. Both his political support (he was a major democratic fundraiser) and the media model that protected him previously is collapsing: there was a time when his company, Miramax, used to buy the movie rights to every big story published in New York’s magazines. But the collapse of print advertising means few magazines can now pay for the kind of journalism that translates into screenplays, so they have no reason to keep him onside.
A fifth of Crown Prosecution cases are alleged sex crimes or domestic abuse. In fact, the proportion compared to all prosecutions has nearly trebled in the last decade.
Alleged sex crimes and domestic abuse offences now account for nearly 20% of cases pursued by the Crown Prosecution Service compared to just under 8% a decade ago.
Prosecutions for sexual offences excluding rape reached a new peak of 13,490 in the latest financial year, while the number of rape prosecutions completed rose from 4,643 in 2015-16 to a record 5,190 in 2016-17.
It’s also worth noting that the successful prosecution rate has increased to around 75%
Why the proportionate rise in prosecutions?
There seems to be at least three main reasons:
Firstly, there’s more reporting of sexual and domestic violence – the rise of prosecutions are in line with a sharp jump in reports of sexual abuse to police seen in recent years in the wake of high-profile investigations launched after the Jimmy Savile scandal.
Secondly, authorities are also mounting increasing numbers of investigations involving the internet, including child sexual abuse, harassment and revenge pornography cases. For example the number of prosecutions sparked by alleged revenge porn – the disclosure of private sexual photographs or films without consent – more than doubled from 206 to 465 in the last year.
Thirdly, new laws have been introduced, criminalising a broader range of offences – for example a new law introduced to clamp down on domestic abusers whose conduct stops short of physical violence, such as those who control their victims through the internet and social media: there have been 309 alleged offences of controlling or coercive behaviour charged since the legislation was introduced at the end of 2015.
HOWEVER, there are some areas where prosecutors could do better:
There were year-on-year falls in prosecutions for “honour-based” violence and forced marriage, the report shows, while there were no prosecutions for female genital mutilation – it’s unlikely that there were no cases of the later in the last year in the UK.
The systematic domination of women by men in some or all of society’s spheres and institutions
Origins of the Concept
Ideas of male dominance have a very long history, with many religions presenting it as natural and necessary.
The first theoretical account of patriarchy is found in Engels theory of women’s subservience under capitalism. He argued that capitalism resulted in power being concentrated in the hands of fewer people which intensified the oppression of women as men passed on their wealth to their male heirs. (I’ve outline this theory in more detail in this post: the Marxist perspective on the family).
The main source of patriarchal theory stems from Feminism, which developed the concept in the 1960s, highlighting how the public-private divide and the norm of women being confined to the domestic sphere was the main source of male dominance and female oppression, highlighted by the famous Feminist slogan ‘the personal is the political’.
Subsequent Feminist theory and research explored how
Today, there is much disagreement over the concepts usefulness within the various different Feminist traditions (for the purposes of A-level sociology, typically divided up into Liberal, Marxist, Radical).
Meaning and Interpretation
The concept of Patriarchy forms the basis for radical forms of Feminism which has focused on how Patriarchy is reproduced in many different ways such as male violence against women, stereotypical representations in the media and even everyday sexism.
Sylvia Walby re-conceptualized Patriarchy in the 1990s, arguing that the concept failed to take account of increasing gender equality, but that it should still remain central to Feminist analysis, suggesting that there are six structures of patriarchy: Paid Work, Household Production, Culture, Sexuality, Violence and the State.
Walby also argued that analysis should distinguish between public and private forms of patriarchy.
The concept of patriarchy has been criticized from both outside and within Feminism.
The concept itself has been criticized as being too abstract: it is difficult to pin it down and find specific mechanisms through which it operates.
Many Feminists argue that Patriarchy exists in all cultures, and thus the concept itself is too general to be useful, as it fails to take account of how other factors such as class and ethnicity combine to oppress different women in different ways.
Black Feminists have criticized the (mainly) white radical Feminist critique of the family as patriarchal as many black women see the family as a bulwark against white racism in society.
Postmodern Feminism criticizes the concept as it rests on the binary distinction between men and women, the existence of which is open to question today.
Much contemporary research focuses on discourse and how language can reproduce patriarchy. For example Case and Lippard (2009) analysed jokes, arguing they can perpetuate patriarchal relations, although Feminists have developed their own ‘counter-jokes’ to combat these – they conclude that humor can act as a powerful ideological weapon.
In a memo published in August 2017 a (male) Google engineer suggested that gender inequality in the technology industry in general and Google in particular is not due to sexism, but due largely to biological differences between men and women.
The memo was called “Google’s Ideological Echo Chamber” and the guy who wrote it was James Danmore. His short answer to the question ‘is Google sexist’ would be ‘no, in fact quite the opposite – Google subscribes to a leftist ideology and actually practices unfair authoritarian discrimination in favor of women over men’.
This memo is a great example of a New Right view on gender inequality – basically that men are naturally (biologically and psychologically) better suited to the demanding, analytical type of jobs that exist necessarily?) in a highly competitive tech industry.
Google CEO Sundar Pichai responded by saying that the memo suggested harmful gender stereotypes and sacked Danmore. Needless to say this whole incident has provoked a strong response from both the left and the right.
All I’m doing for now in this post is to summarise the key points of the work, to make it more accessible to students, as it’s an excellent example of a New Right point of view on gender roles. At some point I’ll get round to adding in some of the responses and criticisms of Danmore’s work.
Google’s Ideological Echo Chamber – A Summary of the Main Points
Danmore starts off the article by outlining (crudely) the difference between left and right ideologies, before suggesting that his list of possible biological causes of the gender gap (below) are ‘’non-biased”
It’s also worth mentioning that Danmore does qualify a lot of what he says, stating more than once that he doesn’t deny that sexism exists, he also states that there is considerable ‘biological overlap’ between men and women, so there are plenty of women who are biologically predisposed (as he would put it) towards techy jobs and leadership.
I’ve cut out quite a lot of the text, so as to just include the main arguments and evidence (there’s not much evidence cited) – anything in normal text is word for word from the original, anything italicised are my additions.
Possible non-bias causes of the gender gap in tech:
On average, men and women biologically differ in many ways. These differences aren’t just socially constructed because:
They’re universal across human cultures
They often have clear biological causes and links to prenatal testosterone
Biological males that were castrated at birth and raised as females often still identify and act like males
The underlying traits are highly heritable
They’re exactly what we would predict from an evolutionary psychology perspective
Note, I’m not saying that all men differ from all women in the following ways or that these differences are “just.” I’m simply stating that the distribution of preferences and abilities of men and women differ in part due to biological causes and that these differences may explain why we don’t see equal representation of women in tech and leadership.
Many of these differences are small and there’s significant overlap between men and women, so you can’t say anything about an individual given these population level distributions.
Danmore includes the following diagrams to make his point:
Openness directed towards feelings and aesthetics rather than ideas.
Women generally also have a stronger interest in people rather than things, relative to men (also interpreted as empathizing vs. systemizing).
These two differences in part explain why women relatively prefer jobs in social or artistic areas. More men may like coding because it requires systemizing.
Extraversion expressed as gregariousness rather than assertiveness. Also, higher agreeableness. This leads to women generally having a harder time negotiating salary, asking for raises, speaking up, and leading.
Neuroticism (higher anxiety, lower stress tolerance) – This may contribute to the lower number of women in high stress jobs.
In this section Danmore cites two journal articles (all other links are not academic so I haven’t included them) to back up his views:
We always ask why we don’t see women in top leadership positions, but we never ask why we see so many men in these jobs.
These positions often require long, stressful hours that may not be worth it if you want a balanced and fulfilling life.
Status is the primary metric that men are judged on, pushing many men into these higher paying, less satisfying jobs for the status that they entail.
Note, the same forces that lead men into high pay/high stress jobs in tech and leadership cause men to take undesirable and dangerous jobs like coal mining, garbage collection, and firefighting, and suffer 93% of work-related deaths.
Danmore doesn’t cite any authoritative evidence to back up the views in this section.
The rest of the document
There are four further sections in the document in which Danmore covers:
Non-discriminatory ways to reduce the gender gap – actually he makes some pretty sensible suggestions here IMO, such as making work more collaborative.
A section on the harm of Google’s biases
A section on ‘why we’re blind’ – i.e. why we’re blind to the apparent ‘objective truth’ of the fact that men are leaders because they’re less neurotic etc.
A final section of suggestions – in which he basically suggests that we should be more tolerant of conservative views and not discriminate in ‘authoritarian ways’.