August 31, 2018
In his tearjerker Aug. 19 article in The New York Times, “How Sexism Follows Women From the Cradle to the Workplace,” Jim Tankersley provides a rich example of how fake news functions in tandem with junk science to vilify traditional gender norms, which, if only the cultural elite can have their way, shall be unthinkable for all “respectable people.” Both Tankersley himself and the scholars he cites display profound irresponsibility where epistemic rigor and contextual understanding are in order. This, of course, is only to be expected, for the primary goal here is Power—Power culminating in the road to serfdom—not excellent work.
White women born in parts of the United States where sexist attitudes are more prevalent grow up to earn less and to work less than women born elsewhere, relative to men born in those same states, new economic research shows.
That impact on career and salary continues even if those women move to less sexist areas as adults, a finding that suggests the beliefs a woman grows up with can shape her future behavior in a way that affects her career and salary.
Perhaps most strikingly, the study finds that a woman’s lifelong earnings and how much she works are influenced by the levels of sexism in the state where she was born. A woman born in the Deep South is likely to face a much wider economic gender gap than a woman born on the Pacific Coast, the research shows, even if both women move to New York as adults.
The authors of this study are economists Kerwin Kofi Charles of the University of Chicago, Jonathan Guryan of Northwestern University, and Jessica Pan of the National University of Singapore. They are, respectively, a black man, a Jewish man (like Tankersley), and an Asian woman. It would be going too far to claim that these identities are necessarily causal factors, but for any student of political psychology knowledgeable about group differences, the professors’ palpable hostility to America’s traditional white Christian culture shouldn’t be surprising.
“To make sure they were focusing only on gender, and not racial, discrimination,” Tankersley explains, “the researchers studied only white adults.” “The Effects of Sexism on American Women: The Role of Norms vs. Discrimination,” a 54-page paper, is replete with impressive-looking charts and fancy mathematical formulas. The appearance, indeed, is one of splendid intellectual sophistication. And yet, the research is fatally flawed because the premises are not established empirically, but are mere value judgments, which the authors don’t even try to justify via argument. The premises are simply assumed to be true, as if the authors’ interlocutors on the cultural-political right were obliged to accept them. It is not so, and as I shall demonstrate, the premises are not unquestionable.
“Our analysis,” writes the diverse lefty trio,
defines prevailing sexism in a market as the extent to which its residents believe that: (i) that women’s capacities are inferior to men’s; (ii) that the family unit is hurt when women focus on activities outside the home; or (iii) that men and women should occupy specific, distinct roles in society.
Let’s start with (i). On its face, it is certainly reasonable. The old prejudice that women can’t be good doctors and lawyers and engineers, like the corollary that men can’t be good schoolteachers and nurses and social workers, has been debunked by the many women who have excelled in the respective fields.
Nevertheless, it’s true independent of this that there is greater variance in male intelligence than there is in female intelligence. Therefore, while the sexes are of roughly equivalent intelligence on average, men preponderate the extremes, there being more male dunces and geniuses alike than there are women in these categories. The workplace inevitably reflects this, a disproportionate number of men struggling to make it, while a disproportionate number excel. As a group, women are less heterogeneous than men, in intelligence, that is.
Further, men (on average) are higher in motivation than women. Steven Goldberg’s thesis that this gender disparity is a function of human biology seems to me correct. More than women, men will do anything to succeed. That is Nature’s lot for them, one might say. It’s clear to anyone who looks closely at the world, surely, that the overwhelming majority of workaholics are men, a subject on which there is abundant data.
Nor is it a wonder that even left-leaning persons—Jordan Peterson, Camille Paglia, Christina Hoff Summers—should be moved to comment on this phenomenon, which indeed complements women’s dominance of the domestic sphere. Unlike women, men, who simply need status more than women do, are not tremendously valuable just because they exist. Women are, although in our age of status envy (which should be understood as a symptom of modernity’s metaphysical crisis), it’s this very familial-sexual power that so many professional women and tamed womanly men resent.
So, while (i) is perfectly reasonable on its face, it’s likewise reasonable to believe that, with respect to the upper echelon of a profession—whether it’s law, medicine, physics, literature, or whatever—the best people probably will be majority or mostly male. In other words, yes, at the highest level, “women’s capacities are inferior to men’s.”
While that last paragraph may offend those whose beliefs are determined by mere feelings or who are unable or unwilling to be disinterested, male dominance at the top of virtually every field is precisely what we find today as ever. This is true even though there are no legal barriers to women’s advancement, and even though, as Heather Mac Donald has long documented, universities and corporations, not really wanting the diversity they purport to value, go out of their way both to hire and to promote employees because they are women. Needless to say, that is an advantage men do not enjoy.
(ii) and (iii) may be taken together since they are closely related and vulnerable to the same objections. “The researchers,” says Tankersley,
tracked responses to eight questions about the role of women in society, including the degree to which Americans agreed that “Women should take care of running their home and leave running the country up to men” and “It is much better for everyone involved if the man is the achiever outside the home and women takes care of the home and family.” The more a respondent agreed that women should not work outside the home or participate in politics, or could not effectively juggle career and family responsibilities, the more “sexist” the researchers judged the answers to be.
Levels of sexism varied widely by state. They have declined across the board over time, but the differences between states have persisted. The researchers found that sexist attitudes are most prevalent in the southeast and least prevalent on the West Coast.
To begin with, let’s grant that, even in 2018, women on the whole do still encounter a fair amount of sexism, and perhaps this happens in red states more than blue ones. After all, given human frailty, in a country of well over 300 million people, there won’t be any lack of sexism, just as with racism, xenophobia, and other evils.
That said, it won’t do to just assume that the traditional gender norms in (ii), (iii), and the researchers’ questions are always wrong, nor that they are intrinsically sexist. As we learn from Jonathan Haidt and other researchers in moral foundations theory, liberal moral psychology is pretty narrow relative to that of conservatives, because it overvalues the individual while discounting the cultural whole, a difference that the liberal Haidt himself emphasizes.
Says Clifford Geertz:
The Western conception of the person as a bounded, unique, more or less integrated motivational and cognitive universe, a dynamic center of awareness, emotion, judgment, and action organized into a distinctive whole and set contrastively both against other such wholes and against its social and natural background, is, however incorrigible it may seem to us, a rather peculiar idea within the context of the world’s cultures.
The perspective of Charles et al. suffers from the common academic assumption that their own worldview—individualist, progressive, and 21st-century professional—is obviously right. Ironically, meanwhile, it’s their worldview that is the problem. For it represents mere individuals, rather than a culture. Although there are now many people who know of no alternative, it remains a historical anomaly. Indeed, it took all history for the liberal West to reach its present state, and after a certain period of unprecedented individual liberty, the next stage is inexorable decline.
Alas, there are good reasons to believe that in the U.S., as with the West in general, that process is very much under way. Writing in The Christian Science Monitor, Stephanie Hanes reports:
In 1950, married couples represented 78 percent of households in the United States. In 2011, the US Census Bureau reported, that percentage had dropped to 48 percent….
[In 2014], for the first time, the number of unmarried American adults outnumbered those who were married….
Meanwhile, only 30 percent of Millennials say that having a successful marriage is “one of the most important things” in life, according to the Pew Research Center, down from even the 47 percent of Generation X who said the same thing in 1997. Four in 10 Americans went ever further, telling Pew researchers in 2010 that marriage was becoming obsolete.
Nor is that all of the grim statistics. Between 40 and 45 percent of marriages end in divorce, a figure that does not account for the proportion, now larger than ever, of people who cohabitate without marrying, or for the number of cohabitating couples having children, which has increased tenfold in the past decade. Four out of ten children are illegitimate. Among blacks, the proportion is nearly three-quarters. The birth rate has fallen to a record low, and is hundreds of births short of the population replacement level. Finally, depression, loneliness, and drug abuse are national epidemics, and the young are no exception.
In view of all this, we must ask a politically incorrect question: Is the gender equality experiment sustainable? Whatever may be said against traditional gender norms, they did at least work, while the opposite is true of the dominant liberal conception of gender roles, according to current trends and data. For Charles et al., “sexist attitudes are most prevalent in the southeast and least prevalent on the West Coast.” To my mind, the actual truth is that cultural decline is far more advanced from Southern California up to Washington, even as it’s less so in the Southeast and other “deplorable” regions.
There are more problems with Charles et al.’s study, a representative example of junk science and the feminist manipulation agenda. Those problems, like the ones I’ve been examining, are very difficult and look to be with us for a long time. I shall consider them in next week’s column.