When I was a teenager in the 1970s, there was not yet anything you could call “geek culture”. Sure, there were bright kids fascinated by computers or math or science, kids who were often “poorly socialized” in the jargon of the day and hung together as a defensive measure; I was one of them. But we didn’t see ourselves as having a social identity or affiliation the way the jocks or surfers or hippies did. We weren’t a subculture, nor even a community; we didn’t even have a label for ourselves.
Slowly, slowly that began to change. One key event was the eruption of science fiction into pop culture that began with the first Star Wars movie in 1977. This was our stuff and we knew it, even though most of us never joined the subculture of SF fandom proper. Personal computers made another big difference after 1980; suddenly, technology was cool and sexy in a way it hadn’t been for decades, and people who were into it started to get respect rather than (or in addition to) faint or not-so-faint scorn.
You could see the trend in movies. War Games in 1983; Revenge of the Nerds in 1984; Real Genius in 1985. To kids today Revenge of the Nerds doesn’t seem remarkable, because geek culture is more secure and confident today than a lot of older tribes like bikers or hippies. But at the time, the idea that you could have an entire fraternity of geeks — an autonomous social group with reason to be proud of itself and a recognized place in the social ecology — was funny; all by itself it was a comedy premise.
The heroes of Revenge of the Nerds were people who created a fraternity of their own, who bootstrapped a niche for themselves in Grant McCracken’s culture of plenitude. The movie was an extended joke, but it described and perhaps helped create a real phenomenon.
The term ‘geek’ didn’t emerge as a common label, displacing the older and much more sporadically-used ‘nerd’, until around the time of the Internet explosion of 1993-1994. I noticed this development because I didn’t like it; I still prefer to tell people I hang out with hackers (all hackers are geeks, but not all geeks are hackers). Another index of the success of the emerging geek culture is that around that time it stopped being an almost exclusively male phenomenon.
Yes, you catch my implication. When I was growing up we didn’t have geekgirls. Even if the label ‘geek’ had been in use at the time, the idea that women could be so into computers or games or math that they would identify with and hang out with geek guys would have struck us as sheerest fantasy. Even the small minority of geek guys who were good with women (and thus had much less reason to consider them an alien species) would have found the implications of the term ‘geekgirl’ unbelievable before 1995 or so.
(There are people who cannot read an account like the above without assuming that the author is simply projecting his own social and sexual isolation onto others. For the benefit of those people, I will report here that I had good relations with women long before this was anything but rare in my peer group. This only made the isolation of my peers easier to notice.)
What changed? Several things. One is that geek guys are, on the whole, better adjusted and healthier and more presentable today than they were when I was a teenager. Kids today have trouble believing the amount of negative social pressure on intelligent people to pass as normal and boring that was typical before 1980, the situation Revenge of the Nerds satirized and inverted. It meant that the nascent geek culture of the time attracted only the most extreme geniuses and misfits — freaks, borderline autists, obsessives, and other people in reaction against the mainstream. Women generally looked at this and went “ugh!”
But over time, geeky interests became more respectable, even high-status (thanks at least in part to the public spectacle of übergeeks making millions). The whole notion of opposition to the mainstream started to seem dated as ‘mainstream’ culture gradually effloresced into dozens of tribes freakier than geeks (two words: “body piercings”). Thus we started to attract people who were more normal, in psychology if not in talent. Women noticed this. I believe it was in 1992, at a transhumanist party in California, that I first heard a woman matter-of-factly describe the Internet hacker culture as “a source of good boyfriends”. A few years after that we started to get a noticeable intake of women who wanted to become geeks themselves, as opposed to just sleeping with or living with geeks.
The loner/obsessive/perfectionist tendencies of your archetypal geek are rare in women, who are culturally encouraged (and perhaps instinct-wired) to value social support and conformity more. Thus, women entering the geek subculture was a strong sign that it had joined the set of social identities that people think of as ‘normal’. This is still a very recent development; I can’t recall the term ‘geekgirl’ being used at all before about 1998, and I don’t think it became commonly self-applied until 2000 or so.
Eric S. Raymond, “The Revenge of the Nerds is Living Well”, Armed and Dangerous, 2004-12-20.
February 17, 2017
February 14, 2017
The central fact that controls the the preferences of both sexes is that bearing children is difficult and dangerous for women, but fertilizing a woman is almost trivially easy for a man. Furthermore, the female investment in childbearing is front-loaded (proportionally more of the risk is before and at birth) while the male investment is back-loaded (proportionately more of the risks and costs are incurred after birth).
Moderns living in a largely disease-free environment seldom realize how cruel and pressing these differences were over most of our species history. But before modern sanitation, death in childbirth was so common that men wealthy enough to afford it expected to have several wives during their lifetimes, losing many of them to childbed fever and other complications.
Also relevant is the extremely high rate of childhood death from infectious diseases and parasites that was characteristic of premodern societies. Disease resistance in humans is highly variable and generally increases with genetic mixing (the same reason a mongrel puppy or kitten is less likely to catch a disease than a purebreed). Thus, both men and women have instincts intended to maximize genetic variety in their offspring in order to maximize the chances that some will survive to reproductive age.
Our instincts evolved to cope with these patterns of life and death. The next piece we need to understand those instincts is what physical beauty means. Recent anthropology revealing strong cross-cultural patterns in the perception of pulchritude is helpful here.
In both sexes, the most important beauty indicators include symmetrical features and a good complexion (clear skin without blemishes, warts, etc.). It turns out these are indicators of resistance to infection and parasites, especially resistance in childhood and during adolescent growth. Good hair is also a health indicator.
In men, physical signs of strength, dexterity, and agility are also favored; this reflects the value female instinctive wiring puts on male specializations in burst exertion, hunting, and warfare. In women, signs of fertility and fitness to bear are favored (healthy and generous breasts, a certain range of hip-to-waist ratios).
Men fixate on physical beauty and youth because under primitive conditions it is a leading indicator of the ability to bear and suckle children. Through most of history, plain or ugly women were bad risks for the next round of infectious diseases — and their children, carrying their genes, were too.
The last piece of the puzzle is that men and women have asymmetrical information about the parentage of their children. A woman is seldom in doubt about which children are the issue of her womb; a man, by contrast, can never be as sure which are the fruit of his seed. Thus, genetic selfishness motivates the woman in a mated pair to sacrifice more for her children than it does the man. This is why women abandon their children far less often than men do.
While women do respond to male good looks, it’s not the agenda-topper for them that it is for men. To understand why this is, it helps to know that the optimal mating strategy for a woman begins with hooking a good provider, a man who will stick around to support the kids in spite of not being as sure that he’s their father as the woman is of being their mother. Where men look for fitness to bear children, women seek the capability and willingness to raise them.
Thus, robust health and infection resistance, while desirable in a potential husband, are not the be-all and end-all. Behavior traits indicating attachment, loyalty, nurturance, and kindness are more important than a tight six-pack. Men instinctively worry about these things less because they know women are more certain of parentage and thus more tightly bonded to their children. Fitness-to-raise also means that indicators of success and social status count for more in men. Men marry health and beauty, women marry security and good prospects.
There is, however, one important exception — one circumstance under which women are just as physical, beauty-oriented, and “shallow” in their mating preferences as men. That’s when they’re cheating.
Both sexes have a genetic-diversity incentive to screw around, but it manifests in different ways. Again, the reason is parentage uncertainty. For a man, diversity tactics are simple — boff as many hot babes as possible, accepting that you don’t know which of their kids are yours and counting on stronger maternal bonding to ensure they will have at least one devoted parent around. Because a woman can be more sure of who her offspring are, her most effective diversity tactic is different — get married to a good provider and then cheat on him.
Under those circumstances, she doesn’t have to value good character in a mating partner as much; hubby, who can’t tell the kids aren’t his, will supply that. Thus the relative value of handsomeness goes up when a woman is taking a lover on the sly. Marrying the lord and screwing the gardener is an old game, and from a genetic-selfishness point of view a very effective one.
Eric S. Raymond, “A Unified Theory of Male Slobbishness and Female Preening”, Armed and Dangerous, 2005-01- 06.
February 13, 2017
Yesterday I was hanging around in the kitchen with my older son, waiting for the coffee to brew, and he made some joking comment about my being oppressed when I was growing up.
I told him I was oppressed enough, or at least women were, in that time and in that place – as they still are in many times and in many places.
Yes, I like to point out and do – often – that it wasn’t a gigantic conspiracy of men against women that kept women down for six thousand years because frankly most men can’t conspire their way out of a paperbag. (I suspect women are naturally better at it. No, don’t hurt me. Just women seem to be naturally more socially adept. But even women couldn’t manage a conspiracy of that magnitude.) And I like to point out – and do – it wasn’t shoulder to shoulder but the pill and changes in technology that liberated women or at least that made attempts at liberation reasonable instead of insane. (Of course, shoulder to shoulder makes for better movies and books, which is why everyone believes it.)
However, as I told the boy, given the conditions biology set up, women were “oppressed” enough in most cultures and in most places. Yes, men were oppressed too at the same time, because this type of shackles is double-sided, but the oppression of women lingered a bit longer than that of men – say a good couple of generations by habit and custom and because humans simply don’t change that fast. Which is why the oppression of women is remembered as such and the men are remembered as being on top.
So I told him in Portugal, until the seventies, women weren’t allowed to vote and, oh, by the way, a married woman couldn’t get a job outside the house unless her husband signed papers saying that they needed it, due to economic hardship. (Which of course, meant the dumb bastard had to sign a paper saying he wasn’t man enough to support his family. Made it really easy on him, it did.) I’m sure there were other legal and economic hobbles that went with that. And I told him of course in many many countries in the world that inequality persists, only much worse.
Which is when I realized he was squirming and looking like he’d done something wrong.
Guilt. My poor kid was feeling guilty of being born male.
Guilt is a useful enough emotion, in small doses and well administered. For instance when I was three I stole some very small coin from money my mom had left on the kitchen table. I don’t remember what – the equivalent of five cents. I stole it to buy a couple of peanuts at the store across the street (they sold them by weight. In the shell.) My mom made it clear to me I’d made it impossible for her to buy her normal bread order when the bakery delivery (no, don’t ask. Delivered. Door to door. Every morning. I missed it terribly my first years in the US, but now they don’t do it in Portugal either, anymore) came by the next morning because she didn’t have the exact change. It wasn’t strictly true. The money amount was so small she just said “I’ll make the rest up tomorrow.” But she told me it was, and how she had to be short a roll. My understanding there were larger consequences for my stupid theft made me feel guilty, and that ensured I never did it again. The same, with varying degrees of justice, managed to instill the semblance of a work ethic in me in relation to school work.
However, the guilt my son was feeling was stupid, counterproductive, all too widespread AND poisonous.
Stupid because he could hardly be held accountable for something that happened thirty years before his birth, even if he has the same outward form as the people who benefitted from an inequity. (And benefitted should be taken with a grain of salt here. Countries in which women are kept down might offer an ego bo for the guys, but they are far less materially prosperous on average. Everyone suffers.) Counterproductive because guilt by definition can never be collective. Well, not beyond a small group like, say the Manson family. You get beyond that and you can’t assign blame with any degree of accuracy. So, going and yelling at my father, say, for “keeping women down” when I was little would be as insane as yelling at my son. Why? Well, because a) he didn’t and wouldn’t (he was raised by a strong woman, practically on her own, while my grandfather was in Brazil, working and grandma ruled the extended family with an iron fist.) b) to the extent he enforced societal rules, it was usually to keep us from getting in trouble with society in general (which, btw, included women. In fact women were the greatest enforcers of “you shall not be seen anywhere with a young man you’re not dating” rule that got me in the most trouble.) c) his standing up and talking given who he was and the amount of social power he had (or in fact didn’t have) would have changed nothing except get him treated like a lunatic.
Sarah Hoyt, “The Sharp Edge of Guilt, a blast from the past March 2010”, According to Hoyt, 2015-06-05.
February 8, 2017
reason: So what is it about Hillary that bothers you?
Paglia: She’s a fraud!
reason: Explain how.
Paglia: She can’t have an opinion without poll-testing it. She’s a liar. This is not a strong candidate for our first woman president. To me, Dianne Feinstein should have presented herself.
reason: Ah! Are you kidding?
Paglia: No. I don’t care what her views are. What I’m saying is, for the post of president — that’s commander in chief of the military. It’s got to be a woman with a familiarity with military matters and [who] also has gravitas. And Dianne Feinstein, I first became aware of her after those murders [of San Francisco Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk] that occurred in City Hall…
reason: She certainly never lets you forget that she was there.
Paglia: No. But I have never forgotten because it was one of the great moments where a woman took charge in absolute chaos after a barbarous murder. The whole government was falling apart, and she came to the media and gave the news and was steady. And I said, “That’s it. That’s the formula for the first woman president.”
So what I’m interested in is what is very important in this modern era: How do you use the media to communicate? If you’re going to be a woman president, she must communicate strength, reserve, and yet compassion. That formula — I’ve been waiting, and waiting, and waiting for it. The only person in America who’s had it as far as I’m concerned was Dianne Feinstein, and she didn’t put herself forward for whatever reason as president.
But Hillary does not have it. Hillary is a mess. And we’re going to award the presidency to a woman who’s enabled the depredations and exploitation of women by that cornpone husband of hers? The way feminists have spoken makes us blind to Hillary’s record of trashing [women]. They were going to try to destroy Monica Lewinsky. It’s a scandal! Anyone who believes in sexual harassment guidelines should have seen that the disparity of power between [Bill] Clinton and Monica Lewinsky was one of the most grotesque ever in the history of sex crime. He’s a sex criminal! We’re going to put that guy back in the White House? Hillary’s ridden on his coattails. This is not a woman who has made her own career. The woman failed the bar exam in Washington! The only reason she went to Arkansas and got a job in the Rose Law Firm was because her husband was a politician.
Camille Paglia, “Everything’s Awesome and Camille Paglia Is Unhappy!”, Reason, 2015-05-30.
January 24, 2017
I was researching energy shorts and had a ton of discussions with former regulatory types in the U.S. I was stunned to discover that there was widespread acknowledgement on the regulatory side that many regulations were impossible to comply with and so “compliance trump cards” were built into the system.
For instance, in Illinois you get favorable treatment as a potential government contractor if you “comply” with all sorts of insane progressive policy strictures. “Woman or minority owned business” or “small business owner”, as an example. Even a small advantage in the contracting process for (for example) the State of Illinois puts you over the edge. Competitors without (for instance) the Woman or Minority Owned Business certification would have to underbid a certified applicant by 10-15% (it’s all a complex points system) to just break even. It got so bad so quickly that the regs were revised to permit a de minimis ownership (1%). Of course, several regulatory lawyers quickly made a business out of offering minority or women equity “owners” who would take 1% for a fee (just absorb how backwards it is to be paying a fee to have a 1% equity partner) with very restrictive shareholder agreements. Then it became obvious that you’d get points for the “women” and “minority” categories BOTH if you had a black woman as a proxy 1% “owner.” There was one woman who was a 1% owner of 320 firms.
The proprietor of the Finem Respice blog, quoted by Warren Meyer, “Diesel Emissions Cheating, Regulation, and the Crony State”, Coyote Blog, 2017-01-14.
January 18, 2017
Whether they were captives in ancient Crete, orphans in the Florentine Ospedale degli Innocenti, widows in South India or country wives in Georgian England, women through the centuries spent their lives spinning, especially after water wheels freed up time previously devoted to grinding grain. Turning fibre into thread was a time-consuming, highly skilled craft, requiring dexterity and care. Even after the spread of the spinning wheel in the Middle Ages, the finest, most consistent yarn, as well as strong warp threads in general, still came from the most ancient of techniques: drop spinning, using a hooked or notched stick with a weight as a flywheel.
Spinning was the major bottleneck in making cloth. In the late 18th century, the thriving worsted industry in Norwich in the east of England employed 12,000 looms but 10 times as many spinners producing fine wool thread. The demand for spinning was so high, estimates the economic historian Craig Muldrew, that it employed more than a million married women in an English workforce of 4 million, providing about a third of the income of poorer families.
A spinster is a woman who spins. Unmarried women with no children and few domestic chores could work longer hours without distraction, earning as much as male day-labourers and, Muldrew suggests, possibly delaying or even avoiding marriage. Spinning also gave poor girls a more lucrative option than domestic service, leading to complaints of a servant shortage. With labour short and wages high, the eve of the Industrial Revolution was a great time to be a spinster.
But a bottleneck is a problem waiting to be solved, and inventors started looking for ways to get more thread with less labour. Like self-driving cars or cheap, clean energy today, spinning machines seemed obviously desirable. In 1760, Britain’s Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce offered prizes for ‘a Machine that will spin Six Threads of Wool, Flax, Cotton, or Silk at one time, and that will require but one Person to work it’.
Nobody won, but within a few years the northern English carpenter James Hargreaves introduced the spinning jenny. It was, writes the economic historian Beverly Lemire in Cotton (2011), ‘the first robust machine that could consistently produce multiple spindles of thread from the effort of a single spinster’. Soon after, his fellow Lancastrian inventor Richard Arkwright refined mechanical spinning with water-powered innovations that improved thread quality and integrated carding and roving (twisting fibres to prepare them for spinning) into a single process. Arkwright’s mills decisively moved thread production from the cottage to the factory.
It was suddenly a bad time to be a spinster, or a family whose household income depended in part on spinning.
December 19, 2016
December 7, 2016
Self-protection for women – “making the carrying of mace and pepper spray a sex-linked legal privilege”
Colby Cosh discusses the proposal of federal Conservative leadership hopeful Kellie Leitch to legalize the use of non-lethal chemical weapons:
… Leitch’s Thursday announcement struck me as a potentially elegant move in a hopeless chess game. Noting that a large number of women suffer physical violence over the course of their lives, she proposes that Canadians should be allowed to carry chemical mace and pepper spray for self-defence. “Women should not,” she wrote in a Facebook posting, “be forced by the law to be victims of violence when there exist non-lethal means by which they can protect themselves.”
That’s a true statement, no? Leitch does not suggest that the carrying of chemical spray weapons should be a benefit reserved only to women — she just wants to legalize those weapons generally. Perhaps I am a little more feminist than she is: I would be comfortable making the carrying of mace and pepper spray a sex-linked legal privilege. Hell, I would consider extending it to very small firearms.
Activists for feminism are continually characterizing the world of women as one of terror, abuse, and uncertainty. For Leitch to take them at their word, applying a tough-on-criminals spin, is an authentic Trump touch. I do not wholly approve of the tactic, but, as much as I think some feminists are attention-hungry zanies, I recognize the kernel of truth in their image of the universe. I’ve never had a close female friend who could not tell of bizarre, creepy, threatening things happening to them — sights and encounters that, to a male with an ordinary upbringing, seem to have wriggled from the corner of a Hieronymus Bosch painting.
Leitch got exactly the response she must have wanted from the Liberal Status of Women Minister Patty Hajdu, who blurted that giving women extra self-defence options was “putting the onus on” them, and thereby “offensive.” I find this is an odd way to raise the status of women — suggesting that if some of them might like to carry a can of mace in their purses, and could even be trusted by the authorities to use it responsibly, they are thereby dupes of the patriarchy.
I also enjoyed Colby’s description of Leitch’s “Trump-flavoured” campaign: “it’s like a bag of boring snack chips with a chemical dash of Southern spice exhaled over it. And I can’t help suspecting that there is something slightly phony about the media panic surrounding her candidacy.”
November 30, 2016
… “What do most ladies have to complain of? Don’t we acknowledge they have souls … They demand equality! Pure madness! Woman is our property … just as the fruit tree belongs to the gardener.” Only inadequate education could make a wife think she was on the same level as her husband. Convinced of “the weakness of the female intellect”, he considered his brother Joseph extraordinary in enjoying the other sex’s company as well as their bodies — “He’s forever shut away with some woman reading Torquato Tasso and Aretino.”
However gracefully phrased, his opinion of adultery revealed utter cynicism. In the end it is “a joke behind a mask … not by any means a rare phenomenon but a very ordinary occurrence on the sofa”. He had surprisingly modern views on women as soldiers. “They are brave, incredibly enthusiastic and capable of the most frightful atrocities … In a real war between men and women the only thing which would handicap women would be pregnancy, since the women of the people are just as strong as most men.” (In this he was far more progressive than the Führer.)
Desmond Seward, Napoleon and Hitler: A comparative biography, 1988.
October 30, 2016
A recent interview with Camille Paglia in the Spectator included a blast at the direction modern feminism has taken:
Paglia’s feminism has always been concerned with issues far beyond her own navel and the Hillary verdict is typical of her attitude — which is more in touch with women in the real world than most feminists’ (a majority of Americans, for example, have an ‘unfavourable view of Hillary Clinton’ according to recent polling).
‘My philosophy of feminism,’ the New York-born 69-year-old explains, ‘I call street-smart Amazon feminism. I’m from an immigrant family. The way I was brought up was: the world is a dangerous place; you must learn to defend yourself. You can’t be a fool. You have to stay alert.’ Today, she suggests, middle-class girls are being reared in a precisely contrary fashion: cosseted, indulged and protected from every evil, they become helpless victims when confronted by adversity. ‘We are rocketing backwards here to the Victorian period with this belief that women are not capable of making decisions on their own. This is not feminism — which is to achieve independent thought and action. There will never be equality of the sexes if we think that women are so handicapped they can’t look after themselves.’
Paglia traces the roots of this belief system to American campus culture and the cult of women’s studies. This ‘poison’ — as she calls it — has spread worldwide. ‘In London, you now have this plague of female journalists… who don’t seem to have made a deep study of anything…’
Paglia does not sleep with men — but she is, very refreshingly, in favour of them. She never moans about ‘the patriarchy’ but freely asserts that manmade capitalism has enabled her to write her books.
As for male/female relations, she says that they are far more complex than most feminists insist. ‘I wrote a date-rape essay in 1991 in which I called for women to stand up for themselves and learn how to handle men. But now you have this shibboleth, “No means no.” Well, no. Sometimes “No” means “Not yet”. Sometimes “No” means “Too soon”. Sometimes “No” means “Keep trying and maybe yes”. You can see it with the pigeons on the grass. The male pursues the female and she turns away, and turns away, and he looks a fool but he keeps on pursuing her. And maybe she’s testing his persistence; the strength of his genes… It’s a pattern in the animal kingdom — a courtship pattern…’ But for pointing such things out, Paglia adds, she has been ‘defamed, attacked and viciously maligned’ — so, no, she is not in the least surprised that wolf-whistling has now been designated a hate crime in Birmingham.
Girls would be far better advised to revert to the brave feminist approach of her generation — when women were encouraged to fight all their battles by themselves, and win. ‘Germaine Greer was once in this famous debate with Norman Mailer at Town Hall. Mailer was formidable, enormously famous — powerful. And she just laid into him: “I was expecting a hard, nuggety sort of man and he was positively blousy…” Now that shows a power of speech that cuts men up. And this is the way women should be dealing with men — finding their weaknesses and susceptibilities… not bringing in an army of pseudo, proxy parents to put them down for you so you can preserve your perfect girliness.’
October 2, 2016
After the great victory won by my insurgent, pro-sex, pro-fashion wing of feminism in the 1990s, American and British feminism has amazingly collapsed backward again into whining, narcissistic victimology. As in the hoary old days of Gloria Steinem and her Stalinist cohorts, we are endlessly subjected to the hackneyed scenario of history as a toxic wasteland of vicious male oppression and gruesome female suffering. College campuses are hysterically portrayed as rape extravaganzas where women are helpless fluffs with no control over their own choices and behavior. I am an equal opportunity feminist: that is, I call for the removal of all barriers to women’s advance in the professional and political realms. However, I oppose special protections for women, which I reject as demeaning and infantilizing. My principal demand (as I have been repeating for nearly 25 years) is for colleges to confine themselves to education and to cease their tyrannical surveillance of students’ social lives. If a real crime is committed, it must be reported to the police. College officials and committees have neither the expertise nor the legal right to be conducting investigations into he said/she said campus dating fiascos. Too many of today’s young feminists seem to want hovering, paternalistic authority figures to protect and soothe them, an attitude I regard as servile, reactionary and glaringly bourgeois. The world can never be made totally safe for anyone, male or female: there will always be sociopaths and psychotics impervious to social controls. I call my system “street-smart feminism”: there is no substitute for wary vigilance and personal responsibility.
Camille Paglia, “The Catholic Pagan: 10 Questions for Camille Paglia”, American Magazine, 2015-02-25.
August 20, 2016
Bre Payton wants Hollywood to start treating women as people:
Here’s how I imagine the pitch meeting for Ocean’s 8 went down in a smoky executive boardroom somewhere in Warner Bros.’ studio office.
Balding Male Executive #1: Gee, Colombia Pictures got loudly applauded for that lousy ‘Ghostbusters’ reboot. We could really use some nice tweets from Lena Dunham.
Male Executive #2: You know she doesn’t tweet anything herself, right?
Glasses-wearing Male Executive #3: We could just make another biopic about a queen. . .
Male Executive #2: I’ve got it! We’ll pick a well-loved film and recast all the male leads with female actors.
Balding Male Executive #1: Brilliant! And we can pay them all less because they’re ALL women.
Executive #2: I’ll make some calls.
I’m not the only one who’s sick of having studio executives from the wage-gap capital of the world mansplain feminism. As Amy Roberts points out, Hollywood seems to only be interested in throwing “cinematic slops” to women.
“In 2016, why is it that the movie industry feels as though it can only entrust a blockbuster movie to women as long as the film’s story and characters are based on already successful male ones?” she writes.
She has a point — this is Hollywood — the place where women are consistently paid less than men, the town that forgets about women the second they turn 40, the place where it’s hard for women to get roles any deeper than the shallow end of a kiddie pool, the city that hides its actresses of color.
August 15, 2016
Amy Alkon on the reason men and women value different attributes in one another:
Why Does Feminism Mean “You Can’t Say That About Women!”?
Feminism, too often these days, means treating women like eggshells, not equals.
If you talk about a woman’s looks — and maybe criticize how much she cares about her looks — you are stomping on hallowed ground, and you’re in for a media reaming (if you make your criticism at all publicly).
By the way, we care about women’s looks — and women care about caring for and showing off their looks — because of our evolved sex differences. Women prioritize status and power in a man and men prioritize physical attractiveness.
This isn’t all we care about in a partner, and it isn’t all we use to judge another person, but these preferences evolved to promote our mating and survival, not out of nowhere. We are living in a modern world with pretty antique psychology — perfect for life in an ancestral environment — so these sex differences in our psychology remain.
I write about these differences in our preferences in my science-based book, Good Manners for Nice People Who Sometimes Say F*ck:
Many women think men are pretty rude to care so much about a woman’s looks. In a just world, men would have the hots for women simply for the beautiful people they are on the inside. Unfortunately, in the real world, this is just not how male sexuality works. (The penis is not a philanthropic organization and will not get hard because a woman bought a homeless guy a sandwich.)
Because male sexuality is all about the visuals, men’s magazines are filled with pictures of naked women with freakishly large breasts and women’s magazines are filled with pictures of beauty products and ass-cantilevering $2,000 stilettos. Men evolved to go for signs of reproductively hot prospects — an hourglass figure, youth, clear skin, symmetrical faces and bodies, and long shiny hair: all indicators that a woman is a healthy, fertile candidate to pass on a man’s genes. Women co-evolved to try to make themselves look reproductively hot, though that’s not how we think of it.
August 14, 2016
Academic programs presumably want people with high ability. The GRE bills itself as an ability test, and under our expanded definition of ability this is a reasonable claim. So let’s talk about what would happen if programs selected based solely on ability as measured by GREs.
This is, of course, not the whole story. Programs also use a lot of other things like grades, interviews, and publications. But these are all correlated with GRE scores, and anyway it’s nice to have a single number to work with. So for now let’s suppose colleges accept applicants based entirely on GRE scores and see what happens. The STEM subjects we’re looking at here are presumably most interested in GRE Quantitative, so once again we’ll focus on that.
Mathematics unsurprisingly has the highest required GRE Quantitative score. Suppose that the GRE score of the average Mathematics student – 162.0 – represents the average level that Mathematics departments are aiming for – ie you must be this smart to enter.
The average man gets 154.3 ± 8.6 on GRE Quantitative. The average woman gets 149.4 ± 8.1. So the threshold for Mathematics admission is 7.7 points ahead of the average male test-taker, or 0.9 male standard deviation units. This same threshold is 12.6 points ahead of the average female test-taker, or 1.55 female standard deviation units.
GRE scores are designed to follow a normal distribution, so we can plug all of this into our handy-dandy normal distribution calculator and find that 19% of men and 6% of women taking the GRE meet the score threshold to get into graduate level Mathematics. 191,394 men and 244,712 women took the GRE last year, so there will be about 36,400 men and 14,700 women who pass the score bar and qualify for graduate level mathematics. That means the pool of people who can do graduate Mathematics is 29% female. And when we look at the actual gender balance in graduate Mathematics, it’s also 29% female.
Vast rivers of ink have been spilled upon the question of why so few women are in graduate Mathematics programs. Are interviewers misogynist? Are graduate students denied work-life balance? Do stereotypes cause professors to “punish” women who don’t live up to their sexist expectations? Is there a culture of sexual harassment among mathematicians?
But if you assume that Mathematics departments are selecting applicants based on the thing they double-dog swear they are selecting applicants based on, there is literally nothing left to be explained.
I am sort of cheating here. The exact perfect prediction in Mathematics is a coincidence. And I can’t extend this methodology rigorously to any other subject because I would need a much more complicated model where people of a given score level are taken out of the pool as they choose the highest-score-requiring discipline, leaving fewer high-score people available for the low-score-requiring ones. Without this more complicated task, at best I can set a maximum expected gender imbalance, then eyeball whether the observed deviation from that maximum is more or less than expected. Doing such eyeballing, there are slightly fewer women in graduate Physics and Computer Science than expected and slightly more women in graduate Economics than expected.
But on the whole, the prediction is very good. That it is not perfect means there is still some room to talk about differences in stereotypes and work-life balance and so on creating moderate deviations from the predicted ratio in a few areas like computer science. But this is arguing over the scraps of variance left over, after differences in mathematical ability have devoured their share.
August 6, 2016
“Seriously?” you’re asking. “Love is like … automobile manufacturing?” Well, no. But companies are composed of people. And people tend to make the same sort of mistakes over and over. This particular mistake is so common that economists have a name for it: the sunk cost fallacy.
A sunk cost is, well, like a sunken ship: It’s gone, and you cannot retrieve it, or you can only retrieve it at immense expense. The correct and rational way to deal with a sunk cost is to ignore it — to make decisions without thinking about the money or time you’ve already invested.
Think of it this way: If you’re horribly ill and you’ve spent a bunch of money on tickets to a show, there’s no point thinking about how much the tickets cost, because no matter what you do, you can’t get it back. What you should be thinking about is whether you will enjoy the show in your current condition. Making yourself miserable will not somehow rescue the money; it just layers another cost — the agonizing hours you will spend wishing that you were home in bed — on top of the cash you used to buy the tickets.
Unfortunately, human beings are terrible at thinking this way. Once we have lost something, we become desperate to get it back. The sunk cost fallacy appears over and over in all facets of human life: Think of companies that spend vast fortunes trying to salvage doomed IT products, or compulsive gamblers who go back again and again trying to get even with the house, a feat that is mathematically nearly impossible over the long run. Even if we’ve never darkened the door of a casino, when we are dealing with sunk costs, all of us easily turn into wild gamblers, ready to take ultra-long shots rather than admit the loss and move on.
And boy, does it show up in relationships. I cannot count the number of women I have watched throw year after year into a doomed relationship because they are desperate to redeem the prime dating years they have already wasted on a man who does not want to share his future with them. Every one of them said afterward that she wished she’d cut things off when it became clear that he wasn’t as enthusiastic as she was.
Megan McArdle, “Happy Valentine’s Day! Now Cut Your Losses”, Bloomberg View, 2015-02-13.