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Off the Map: Women in Science and Science Fiction

While Charlie's away, Joan and Stina appreciate the chance to fill in. Picking up on Elizabeth's thread:

So where "on the map" are women in science and science fiction?

A startling study in PNAS tests how male and female lab directors hire a lab manager. Both male and female scientists are more likely to hire a male than a female. "Analyses indicated that the female student was less likely to be hired because she was viewed as less competent" -- although the study design had presented candidates with identical qualifications. Similar studies show that both male and female reviewers are more likely to review favorably a paper by a male author. And a recent issue of Nature reviews the whole disturbing picture.

The dearth of women in engineering and Silicon Valley is no surprise. And in related technical fields, the climate remains harsh. Stina recalls how she worked at Motorola as a graphic designer. "My first experience with gender bias was while working at Motorola. They paid me $48k per year and made out like they were verging on overpaying. (This, with six or seven years experience working for Motorola as an illustrator/designer.) Mind you, I'd designed the covers for their award-winning PowerPC user manuals. Eventually, I got a $2,000 merit raise. They then promptly hired a male graphic designer fresh out of college for $65k. I was not happy when I found out. I'll add that at that time there was an older male manager known for sexually harassing the female staff--an incident in a cab was particularly frightening. There were enough complaints documented that rumors of a lawsuit surfaced. That was when personnel took notice, and I was interviewed. (I’d had my own incident with the manager in question.) In the end, personnel chose to protect the manager. He got a transfer to another department."

But the findings reported by PNAS and Nature are more surprising because they focus on the biological sciences, where women arguably seem to
have made the greatest strides. In biology classes of undergraduate and
graduate schools, women now often outnumber men. A student of Joan's recently interviewed at a top grad school where he was the only male candidate, with a dozen females. But who are their professors? There, it's a different story.

Remember that it's been barely a generation since women in most Western cultures, educated or not, were expected to stay home. Those of us who first pursued careers had to fill the roles that male communities assigned. Thirty years ago, Joan recalls sitting in the office of a female mentor who had done her graduate work with James Watson, and who lacked confidence in young Joan. When Joan burst into tears, her mentor paused and reflected, "That happened to me in Watson's office." The mentor--like her own former mentor, Watson--had been trained to devalue her female students.

It's tempting to think, "We've Outgrown All That." There are indeed many mentors, including males, who effectively support women students
and writers. And there always have been--John Bernal, for instance, a contemporary of Watson's who effectively mentored several female crystallographers, including Nobel-winner Dorothy Hodgkin. Today, perhaps it's too easy to say "We support women," or "We interview women" (though they don't quite get the job.) The PNAS and Nature stats cannot be written off. Is it possible we've taken our modernity for granted? Are our modern biases so skillfully hidden from ourselves that we don't even see?

Try this test and find out. Do you personally associate science with male more than female? What about race, ethnicity, orientation? Most of us who take this test find that our minds still deeply associate male/science and female/family. Is it reasonable to think such associations don't affect our professional judgments?


The gender bias exists in fiction too. It's well known that reviews are what give authors a leg up in the literary world. However, male authors are statistically more likely to get coverage than female authors by a large margin. According to data collected by VIDA (an organization for Women in the Literary Arts):"The New York Review of Books (89 reviews of female authors in 2012 to 316 of male authors), the London Review of Books (74 female authors to 203 male) and the Times Literary Supplement (314 female authors to 924 male authors) fared especially ill."

If you think that SF and F are free of this bias, think again. The cover of our own SFWA Bulletin (the 2013 Spring issue that just arrived) only lists articles by male authors. Meanwhile inside the magazine, there are no less than forty-three cover images of novels by male authors as opposed to five by female authors. (One of those five was clipped in such a way as the name of the author was removed from the image.) In the Fall of 2012 issue, the numbers were male: twenty, female: twelve--and that was in an issue that highlighted female SFF authors. Reviewers of the women-centered anthology The Other Half of the Sky praise the "female protagonists ... just as incredible and compelling as their male counterparts." How long will we have to go on proving this point?

These stats are of particular interest for those of us in research science, where objectivity is the coin of our realm; and in science fiction, which claims to reach beyond “mundane” assumptions. Overcoming gender bias, and assumptions in other dimensions, can only lead to more creative science and fiction.

So what can we do about it?

(Note for newcomers: Stina Leicht is the author of two novels published by Nightshade Books, Of Blood and Honey, And Blue Skies from Pain and has a new short story appearing in the anthology Rayguns Over Texas this fall. Joan Slonczewski authors the Frontera series and conducts microbiology research funded by the US National Science Foundation.)

81 Comments

1:

Anyone who wants to help promote women SF writers should check out Broad Universe. Here's the link: http://broaduniverse.org/

2:

As long as women are not considered fully human, conscious and unconscious biases will continue to operate. If a domain becomes more than about 1/3 women, that domain gets devalued as "feminized" (aka cooties). Conversely, when selection criteria are made gender-blind, the representation of women goes up dramatically.

Anyone who thinks that feminism is superfluous and passé (young women in particular) should reconsider. It is sobering to reflect that the US is on the verge of legitimizing same-sex marriage whereas the equal rights amendment has sunk below everyone's horizon.

3:

Change isn't instant. We're not there but we are trending that way (just take a look at the newly announced Hugo award nominees). Perhaps not as quickly as we should, but an awareness of our own biases is one of the things that helps.

4:

I have a physical science PhD and no job, so my advice to women re: science would be to go do something else (this is also my advice for men). We produce about twice as many STEM graduates as we need, and have for quite some time.

5:

Send the girls off on adventures:

http://juliedillon.deviantart.com/art/Ancient-Discovery-362536811

And have them bring back scientific wonders!

6:

That is a beautiful cover.

7:

Oh, yeah, the ERA. I remember that. I gather the ERA came to seem superfluous due to broader application of the "equal protection" that's already in the constitution. It might be nice to get it done anyway. Perhaps the gay rights stuff going on will obviate fears that there will be unintended side effects to ERA, as some of those possible side effects will have already happened. But more likely barring some real push, the equal protection and much improved policies since the 70s will seem adequate to most.

Not completely applicable to women in science and science fiction, but when I was enlisted in the military, the way you got promoted was to go before a "board," a panel of several higher ranking judges who would ask you questions about military trivia and judge your manner and uniform and record. Females were considerably better than males at making a good board impression, better at not being nervous, at maintaining composure and bearing, at giving answers with confidence. A lot of them specialize just in being good on boards, in fact, and can't do anything else...it's a skill. Not so for all, and perhaps it can be attributed to the fact that women learn how to "act" better than men, and to the fact that just having joined the military makes a woman a breed apart to begin with.

8:

I would say education, first and foremost. Expose people to the idea that they have ingrained biases, and prove it to them via tests like the above. If they display irritation, indicate that that might be further evidence of their biases. Hey, if they're so unbiased, why are they opposed to the idea of measuring their lack of bias?

(Since "racist" and "sexist" are things people usually don't want to be perceived as, it might be possible to sway public opinion by making those opposed to education on this topic look... well, racist and sexist.)

That's the "play dirty" part. I hope it could eventually be extended into educational systems, i.e. having students of high school or middle school age taught about ingrained bias as part of required classes. Privilege is basically a form of brainwashing, the earlier it's tackled the better IMO.

I want to say that the flip side is "be polite to the people you're arguing with," but the line there is pretty blurry. e.g. for a more general example: calling a man a creep is ad hominem (even if it's true). Telling him that he has ingrained biases against women is not ad hominem, but may be taken as one. But what about telling him he's likely to commit rape? It may be true, but it is very hard to frame in a way that isn't implicitly insulting.

It seems rather awful to me actually. I've seen people (including myself) exhibit pretty bad responses when given the blunt, ugly truth, ranging all the way from irrational anger to near-suicidal depression. Ugh.

Mandatory disclaimer: I am white, male, hetero, and therefore privileged in my society. Some of that privilege may have made it into the opinions expressed above. Not too much, I hope.

9:

Speaking of bad responses to the ugly truth, I've noticed that articles like this:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/white-men-have-much-to-discuss-about-mass-shootings/2013/03/29/7b001d02-97f3-11e2-814b-063623d80a60_story.html

tend to raise a surprising amount of bad sentiment, despite (IMO) making a good point. The "black community" and gang violence sure, but the "white community" and mass shootings? Oh no...

10:

And speaking of mansplaining, what I described in the first post is exactly what the authors did above. Go me.

11:

It's not just science, or technical fields, the gender bias is completely widespread

Sheryl just wrote a book about all of this, #1 on the NYT bestseller list

12:

#8 Expose people to the idea that they have ingrained biases

Yes, this is helpful thinking. If we can all see this as an essential part of our thinking, to reveal our own biases on sex and/or race, and account for them, like a correction factor. It helps if we can think of it in a matter-of-fact way, like cleaning one's eyeglasses to see better.

13:

If we can all see this as an essential part of our thinking, to reveal our own biases on sex and/or race, and account for them, like a correction factor. It helps if we can think of it in a matter-of-fact way, like cleaning one's eyeglasses to see better.

Thanks, you put it better than I...

I think part of the issue is that modern English (and probably other languages) make "sexist," "racist," etc. loaded words no matter what the context is. People are encouraged to think they aren't whatever-ist by default, or to feel guilty if they know they are; as opposed to deliberately compensating for it as you describe.

14:

You know, as a white male (with all those privileges), here's what I remember most strongly:
-my mother was a physics major, the only female physics major in her school, and one of only two in her grad school. She taught me science, when the school I was in crapped out on the science courses.
--I was raised with two girls who are younger than I am, both of whom got more prestigious science PhDs than I did, earlier than I did, both of whom are now better employed than I am with families of their own.

And then I shut up and walk away, because there's nothing I can say or do in this session to make any positive difference to the people who are spilling their pain here.

Nothing in my experience of growing up with smart, strong, competent, high-achieving women matters here, does it?

I am a white male, and I am part of the problem, aren't I?

Remember this, when you discuss what's wrong with science and science fiction. I don't have any part of the answer to how to fix things, but I can tell you those answers won't be found here. They're all out getting ready to celebrate Easter with their families. As am I.

15:

People know what they know. And that's what they grew up hearing and still around the water cooler and the bar. Can you think of any other way the GOP lies and is never called on it. Its not just women. Nobody thinks about anything till they find out what the truth is for the day.

16:

Make it possible for men to breastfeed and be pregnant. Thats the single most important thing that could be done if we want to get a true equality careerwise (and probably in every other aspect too). That being said it can probabky get a lot better without those measures.

It was interesting to do the IAT. I got results heading in the same direction as most others I presume.

For me the first part was paired female/family and male/career. Is this the same for everyone? Wont that influence the results?

17:

I'm a (nearly) middle-aged white cisgender male. I took the Gender-Science IAT and my result showed no discernible bias. I've taken a few other tests in the past and I've shown little if any bias. Maybe I'm amazing at unconsciously cheating these tests. I'd like to think that I reflect changing attitudes about biases that were more common in the past.

Part of the answer to achieving equality is to understand that things *are* changing, but perhaps not as fast as some of us might like. Honestly, I think the most important thing to do is to not make the process go slower than it already is by stunting the discussion.

I've seen people looking for answers and wanting to support equality get shouted down because they don't follow some specific dogma from self-identified "feminists". Those potential allies decide it's easier to remain silent and let biases continue than to work with people who only want to yell at them. It makes me weep to see progress being held back by people who think others must prove their ideological purity in order to support the radical notion that we should treat all people with dignity.

18:

If you want something really horrible ...
try a USian supposedly fantasy author, who usually uses the pseudonym "Vox Day" - real name Theodore Beale.
Doesn't believe women should have the vote, heavily into Kinder, Kirche Küche - claims to be a libertarian.
Needless to say, he is heavily christian.
Euw.

19:

Greg: utter not that name! To name him three times is to summon him! (Insert Lovecraftian gibbering here.)

Seriously, though, I'm with Joan in thinking that this is an endemic problem. And I think that more positive portrayals of women in the entertainment media, in roles that don't simply turn them into the sexual objects of male gaze, are important -- over time media representations change our background cultural assumptions. And I think that education and enlightenment begins at home.

I'm a pale-skinned married middle class male, but I believe that a more egalitarian society with less white male privilege around will benefit me, personally. Because a society that degrades or discriminated against anyone is degrading to everyone else who lives in it, as well: better to be an average citizen in heaven than to rule in hell.

20:

Your suggestion that women do better before a promotion board, in the military, because they are better actors, might be a factor. But then you say A lot of them specialize just in being good on boards, in fact, and can't do anything else...it's a skill.

Oh, really?

Compare with an evaluation from the British Army: "This officer's men seem to follow him merely out of idle curiosity."

What is the basis of your assertion that it is incompetent women who are promoted? It seems clear that incompetent men get promotion too. Do you have any hard numbers?

If your assertion is correct, you can prove it.

21:

Here's one thing to do: Praise lady engineers and encourage them when they do comic books about their work.

Yes, I'm talking about Angela Melick, and yes, she also does a Webcomic in addition to selling a printed comic book about her life in engineering school and another one about her life in the real world.

22:

>>>So what can we do about it?

1. Use male pseudonym.
2. Become famous.
3. Reveal your gender and enjoy the ensuing hilarity...

23:

What utter tosh. Firstly, you reduce women to one aspect of their experience. You do realise they are more than baby factories I hope?
Secondly, if your contention is the basic "walk a mile in the other's shoes", my girlfriend's comment when she was shoulder surfing there was to ask why you didn't suggest women wear a penis for a day.

24:

Privileged != part of the problem.

And you know how you can't trust your instincts when dealing with e.g. special relativity? Same can apply to sociology. People have blind spots, sometimes you have to compensate by listening to the evidence that other people present.

Re answers, I do actually understand your misgivings, but I think they're wrong.

25:

I agree that this is endemic. I'm a bit older than most of you and recall my first days working in aerospace in SoCal. I was still taking courses in college, but had married and had a child. I was, however, qualified to be a mainframe operator. Applying at McDonnell Douglas, they made me take a typing test! All women must pass a typing test. It ticked me off every minute of my time there, even when I talked to a woman who was a mathematician (who informed me that even she, with a Master's in Math had to take a typing test). I do not believe it has ever gotten better and won't until we stop electing males into any office anywhere.

26:

Hi Joan. Your article reminded me about the transgendered neuroscientist I heard once - Ben Barres. After he transitioned to male, he got comments to the effect that he did much better scientific work than his sister (http://online.wsj.com/public/article/SB115274744775305134-d_SKq3_dwVeWH2_85LdpMoT_Y2w_20060811.html?mod=tff_main_tff_top).

In my experience as a mid-level scientist in biosciences, there is very little sexism nowadays. Hopefully it's a thing of the past. Our department has at least a 50/50 split, if not more female than male researchers. Personally I've (white male) hired 3 female researchers in the last year. Not because they were female, but because they were by far the best people for the post. The only sexism I've ever witnessed is with the "old guard" who now are all retiring.

27:

MjD: Yes, the Barres case is a fascinating "natural experiment." Also suggests ideas for science fiction.

Some say "We're better now, I passed the test, sexism is on its way out."

And some say "It's still a problem, it's in me, and I can work on it, just as I work on other sources of error in my experiments."

The first view I think refers to the surface-level sexism, the kind we could "witness" but we don't allow any more--like the hydrocarbons of an oil spill, gone quickly. And yes, that's a good thing. The second view sees the tarry part of the oil slick that stays buried. I wonder what other biases are buried in my research, where I don't even know they exist.

28:

I don't know how relevant this is but over in the UK we have all this, uh, stuff, legal stuff, legal requirements. I'm going to post a link at pretty much random:

https://www.gov.uk/equality-act-2010-guidance

Don't know how that's working out in terms of impact, but, you know, it's the law, you'd better be careful.

Also google equality diversity UK maybe? There's a lot of stuff.

29:

Vanzetti @ 22
Like several famous Brit female author(esse)s you mean?

Actually EVERYONE (not in the supposedly priveliged group mentioned) gets it.
Quite by accident I saw a (Sky)TV interview with this 17-year-old who has been paid several £million by "Yahoo" for a computer/phone "app".
The downright sneering condescension of the interviewer (like "watching teenage porn rather tha working on your maths") was really astounding.
I'm glad to say he didn't lose his cool, but just sat there, & straight-faced this rubbish away.

30:

This is an interesting comment:

"more positive portrayals of women in the entertainment media, in roles that don't simply turn them into the sexual objects of male gaze, are important"

That's an illustration of how difficult this problem is to tackle. You can do all the writing of truthful female characters, promotion of women writers, rewarding of Bechdel-passing work you want. In the end, the big money goes to those who know how to target-market the best. And that means knowing who your reader is and giving them what they want. Are you going to go head to head with Playboy and Hustler (Are they still around, even? Please somebody update me, I live under a rock) to make sure they're not objectifying (objectivising?) women? And if it's out there, it's preventing the death of a myth and so this whole sordid affair continues forever.

Certainly science fiction is not a male-only realm like Playboy et al., but the publishers know who their various audiences are and they will make sure the books they publish speak to their various audiences. If they believe a particular audience is mostly male, they're not going to give a rat's ass for your desire for equal opportunity portrayal in that sub-genre. Hissy fit all over the place, they won't care. What's more, they don't need to care. They've got the audience. That means they've got the money. That means they've got the power.

The best you can do is continue to give us the statistics you have here so the few of us who actually do care will have fodder when we get into cocktail party arguments over whether there's a need for feminism in today's post-enlightened world.

And by the way selling more books is not really the reason we need feminism.

I'm right there with you sistas, I'll get your back, buy your books, tell your stories, vote for your material, but I'm probably not going to weigh in on this with an answer. What I'm going to do is go back to the garret with the bad lighting and write the hell out of some hapless female character. When the shit doesn't get published because the editors are all agin' me, I'll write them into the next book the way Michelangelo painted his oppressors into the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. Cuz that's the best I can do.

And you know what? In the end, all the money and fame in the world can't compete with the way you feel when you paint ignorant people ugly.

31:

According to that IAT thing, I have a weak association of science with female and liberal arts with male. Male engineer and science teacher.

32:

In the end, the big money goes to those who know how to target-market the best.

Correct.

However, nothing is stopping you from spinning the folks who bankroll the production a vision of a new market, with new and updated assumptions. Culture changes over time. Playboy and Hustler aren't doing that well these days -- they're up against hardcore pornography on one side, much of which is produced and distributed for free by enthusiastic amateurs (the commercial porn industry is also suffering), and non-sexist, non-racist material informed by a politically correct sensibility on the other side. (And, um, porn produced by women for women, or by gay men for gay men -- stuff that doesn't fit the traditional mold.)

Science fiction -- or movies -- aren't a monolith. There's room for experimentation in different productions. And if it turns out there's demand for a format that hasn't hitherto been tried commercially (be it Fifty Shades of Grey or Harry Potter or Hunger Games) then the assumptions of the folks who buy and promote the productions will change.

PS: You may find that both the editors and the readers are less agin' you than you think. This year's Hugo nominations were just published, and for the first time, the majority of shortlisted items are by female authors.

33:

Oh, yeah, the ERA. I remember that. I gather the ERA came to seem superfluous due to broader application of the "equal protection" that's already in the constitution.

[beep] Bad answer. Yes, that's the excuse given... that "all men are created equal." However, those words were specifically phrased to exclude women when they were written. Otherwise, by the logic you site, women would've had equal rights the instant the constitution was accepted. Second, as writers and readers we're very aware of the layered meanings of words. (or should be.) It's part of the art of literature after all. You and I know that you absolute can't replace all instances of the word 'woman' with 'man' and have it mean the same thing. Third, in my experience and in the experience of the women I know--the current status quo isn't anything like enough. Women still live in fear. The Steubenville case should be enough to show you why we aren't anywhere close to finished working on this issue.

We very much DO need an ERA. If anything has proven that point it's been the past few years. I've been watching women's rights steadily fade under conservative leadership in this country. And it scares me. Women absolutely cannot depend upon men to look after their best interests. We simply can't.

34:

In the end, the big money goes to those who know how to target-market the best.

I agree with what Charlie has said here. However, I'd like to add that by throwing your hands in the air and saying that nothing can be done the implication is that nothing should be done. Be careful.

35:

Except not. That's quite the leap there. It may well be your assumption but it's certainly not mine (for example). In fact, it kind of runs counter to well, all of human history and endeavour.
It's perfectly possible to imagine situations where people feel something should be done but find the situation intimidatingly difficult. Hence, the reaction you describe.

36:

It's perfectly possible to imagine situations where people feel something should be done but find the situation intimidatingly difficult.

Yes. You are correct. You can feel that way. I'm merely pointing out that as a stance it supports the established behaviors by discouraging change. These things are sneaky. I have to watch myself very closely, and I still screw up.

37:

Secondly, if your contention is the basic "walk a mile in the other's shoes", my girlfriend's comment when she was shoulder surfing there was to ask why you didn't suggest women wear a penis for a day.

Not a bad idea at all. That was the key idea behind the book Self Made Man by Norah Vincent; she disguised herself as a man and went out into a number of interesting social situations. (Interestingly, several folks pegged her as gay but didn't guess that she was a woman.) She found it an interesting learning experience; people will say it's not easy being a woman in a man's world, and Vincent finds that it's no picnic being a man, either.

38:

>much of which is produced and distributed for free by enthusiastic amateurs (the commercial porn industry is also suffering)

"Enthusiastically distributed for free" is correct, but produced by amateurs not so much... the distinction was always rather blurred but definitely the days of the mom&pop porn operation (Literally sometimes, there's a niche for everything after all) have passed. What you have nowadays are big operations that have successfully monetized porn piracy and have become too big and entrenched to challenge. They also do a little production on the side for appearances sake, branding and such.

>Self Made Man by Norah Vincent; she disguised herself as a man and went out into a number of interesting social situations.

Erica Moen has drawn some interesting comics on the subject

http://bitchmagazine.org/post/rad-ladies-who-draw-comics-erika-moen

Personally I feel this is all rather trivial when we still have women being shot in the head for pursuing an education or placed in mental institutions for posting topless photos of themselves online.

39:
Make it possible for men to breastfeed and be pregnant. Thats the single most important thing that could be done if we want to get a true equality careerwise (and probably in every other aspect too).
Holy crap, no. I can't think of anything more likely to lead to further dismissal of women. Maybe even an exterminationist wing of anti-feminism.

It's not childcare issues that causes disparities between men and women in the sciences. It's bigotry.

40:

I can't think of anything more likely to lead to further dismissal of women. Maybe even an exterminationist wing of anti-feminism.
It's not childcare issues that causes disparities between men and women in the sciences. It's bigotry.

This.

41:
Interestingly, several folks pegged her as gay but didn't guess that she was a woman.

Well, it might be something with Bayesian statistics and like. In my personal experience, I know quite the usual share of homo-/bisexuals, but much fewer transsexuals or even just people into crossdressing.

So if you meet a guy with a certain, err, touch, it's more probable he's a sissy boy than a drag king.

Where even in the case I'm thinking about, I'm still not positively sure, it's just I talked with some guys on a con about the stance on transsexuality in Iran

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transsexuality_in_Iran

one of those mentioned he knew quite a few transwoman where one wouldn't notice without notice.

Oh, and the next day, one of his friend appeared at the con with a T-shirt saying "The T in LGBT is not silent". As for the reason for shirts like this, err, it's complicated, but especially feminism and trans(gender|sexual) is sometimes a world of pain.

But than, she might just be an attractive tomboy, which is not that uncommon with nerds.

42:

At the risk of sounding like a troll, I found the two Implicit Bias tests I did (Gay/Straight, & Gender) have their own biases.

Both exclude trans/intersex people, assuming both the identities referred to in the tests and that of the test taker is cisgendered (explicitly in the latter, as there's no option other than 'male/female'). Both also offer no options for non-monogamous relationships (polyamory/open relationships, whatever you want to call), again either within the structure of the tests, or within information given by the test taker.

It's possible though this introduces no influence into my results – in which case I discover I strongly think women belong at home, and am completely neutral on whether someone is gay or straight.

43:

Well, but then, male pregnancy might have its merits; IMHO, when dealing with anti-equality people, there are two sets, the ones just into roles (biological and/or social) and then the positively anti-women people.

It's sometimes difficult to tell the two apart, but if the female sex become, err, "superseded", the stance of the former one might not change that much, though they'd be opposed to this technology. The hardcory misogynists though would become even more rabid.

44:

I wonder if that Motorola anecdote was correlated with the dot-com boom at all. There was a period of time in the mid-90s at Motorola where new-hire engineers (such as myself at the time) were coming in at starting salaries significantly higher than established engineers, simply to compete with the dot-com market. The salary gap wasn't strictly limited to engineers either, it was present in pretty much every job title that had to compete with dot-com salary pressure.

Eventually, the established engineers NOTICED this, and the outrage reached the point that Motorola had to give something like a 20% across-the-board raise to most of their engineers to level things out.

I'm sure that in the anecdote's case there was ALSO some sexism involved, but this salary thing may have exacerbated the issue.

45:

Ok... I don't have anything meaningful to say. Maybe I would if I was feeling better, but whatever.

I just wanted to thank you for writing this, and charlie, too, for giving you this place.

If we've dwelled slightly onto the matter, we all know what you're saying here. Yet, when you're in the privileged class (and thus not as much reminded of your inferior status by life), it's sometimes too easy to just forget, or to cease to be vigilant.

Posts such as this are very, very useful IMO, because they counteract this, and bring these issues again to the fore. If we don't fight for gender equality on a day to day basis, it's too easy to slip back.

By the way, a few days ago, a french feminist named mar_lard wrote an enlightening piece about sexism in the geek community, named "«Sexisme chez les geeks : Pourquoi notre communauté est malade, et comment y remédier»".
I encourage any french-reader who's not aware of it so search and read it, it's a depressing, but quite interesting, reading.

46:

There's a web site devoted to helping you overcome ingrained biases and non-rational thinking:
lesswrong.com

(Oddly enough, I discovered this via the Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality fanfic.)

47:
Don't know how that's working out in terms of impact, but, you know, it's the law, you'd better be careful.

Yeah - but the law is a blunt instrument. It's the start of change, and it takes time to work it's way into society.

Yes - the folk who go around thinking that women are an inferior life form are going to have problems. The real problems are with the much more subtle ways biases and behaviours that society hasn't broken out of yet. Like the PNAS study Joan referred to.

I guarantee that the vast majority of the people involved didn't think "women bad / men good". It's very hard to spot and break biases when you don't think you have 'em.

To give a personal example. Back in the 1990's I helped teach a AI Systems course. It had a fair few female students - probably more than average for that sort of course actually now that I think about it.

Part of the work I did was helping in the practical labs. I thought I was doing a pretty good job - until one of the smarter students took me aside and pointed out a rather dumb unconscious behaviour of mine.

I was systematically helping the women more.

The men I'd help when they asked, or when they'd obviously hit a wall and were making no progress. With the women I'd step in almost as soon as they hit a problem. Anybody who has done teaching will tell you that students progress by solving their own problems - not by having the teacher step in and solve 'em for them.

I was hurting those students progress by stepping in too early. I was stopping them learning.

I'd love to say that I immediately saw this as a problem... but I didn't. Because - y'know - despite the 70's being my first decade I was a pretty right on guy! I wouldn't be doing sexist things! Uh uh. Not me.

Fortunately some vague remnant of intelligence kicked in after about 20m of muttering (backed up by some personal memories of the problems that being helped too much can cause) and I accepted that I had fucked up and started fixing that behaviour. And thanked the student who had pointed it out.

To be honest it's still something I watch myself for when teaching today. A chunk of my social and cultural programming is still trying to tell me that women need to be helped more.

And that - to some extent anyway - is the problem I see with some folk when the sexism topic comes up.

These days the majority of people I encounter don't think men are superior to women, or that women are incapable of being in technical fields, etc. Compared to 20 or 30 years back the incidence of "women in the home" or "women don't do computers" folk I encounter is very small (obviously I'm saying that a fat, white, middle class geek - so I probably miss a bunch that is still out there ;-)

The problem is with the folk like me. The folk who think behaviour X can't be sexist - because they're not a sexist! Because the behaviour is almost - or even entirely - unconscious and shaped by the previous N decades of culture and society.

Things do change - but oh so slowly.... and those habits can be a complete sod to break.

48:

Only an idiot would advocate that bigotry (in the form of sexism, racism, or whatever else) no longer exists in our society. I think we should expose the bigoted behaviors wherever we see them, especially the stuff that might escape casual notice.

But, at what point does exposing "below-the-surface" sexism become rooting out thoughtcrime? I'm making this specific reference to an audience that will grok it and (hopefully) realize that it's not intended to be flippant. I think (a select number of) people may have their own biases and bigotry largely under control; I worry that some people who profit (emotionally, financially, whatever) from rooting out bigotry view such people as threats rather than proof of achieving the goal. By defining harmful bigotry as something that can linger without being observed, it feels like this becomes another self-perpetuating "war on an abstract idea".

Discussion and analysis are the foundation of logical thinking and vital to making lasting change. Therefore, I have concerns with the Kafkaesque logical trap of, "unless you admit you're part of the problem, you're part of the problem" that seems to get implied in discussions about bigotry. I think one can accept that progress has been made without trivializing the effect that the remaining bigotry has on our society. And this certainly doesn't mean we stop fighting the good fight to treat people as people and for equal rights for all.

49:

I would suggest that the bias begins long before the job interview...

I'm no paragon - I recognise Adrian's experience. I had a great example from my parents; they were very egalitarian in all senses - but an all-male boarding school didn't help, and as an Army brat the only adult women I met during puberty were my parents' work colleagues - female soldiers (including those who did plain clothes work in NI) and teachers willing to travel to another country.

The first time I met an airhead (in both genders) I just didn't get it - how could anyone not wire a plug, read a map, do first aid, travel in a foreign country? When looking for "Miss Right", I wanted to meet an equal - I ended up out of my league :) My wife is far more senior and better paid than me, even though she officially works part-time. We have two sons that regard it as normal that mummy is the petrolhead that does the driving, and have worked hard to persuade them that mummy is perfectly happy to use power tools and do carpentry, and that daddy is capable of cooking, he's just not as good at it... (she was teaching the boys to fish this weekend, including gutting and cooking the trout they caught)

On my degree course (computer science and electronic engineering) 11 men, no women. On the pure CS course, 4 women among 30ish men. A female friend described a University lecturer being of the "kinder und kuche" leaning, and has described some real Neanderthals; but has remained continuously employed at a reasonable level of seniority through three recessions. (Her LinkedIn page has several glowing references from non-backscratching sources). The director of my division in our Silicon Valley firm is a woman, one of her bosses was a woman (with a dedication is Stroustrup, no less), and we've never not had a woman in our particular team; our site has only recently dipped below having 10% female engineers. I used to do initial interviewing in the early 90s for new graduates in a defence avionics firm, and the women who appeared for interview had a higher success rate than the men. Our Indian development centre has more than 10% female staffing among engineers. That would suggest that the ratio largely holds post-university, but obviously I don't know what the pay scales are. Given that our HR department is half female, led by a female VP, and her predecessor was female, I would hope that there wouldn't be a bias.

However - I would suggest that this forum is largely self-selected around the reading of an author who is definitely egalitarian; and hopefully you're preaching to the converted...

50:

Who are the good new female science fiction writers? I'll buy.

51:

I do hope things will go better as the old guard retires. Old stereotypes die hard, but just as opinion on trans people, lesbian, gay and bisexual people are changing with the younger generation (way way more open about it), I'm certain sexism against women is on it's way out.

I generally try to stamp out any implicit bias I may have, consciously. I question everything I think (and yes, this makes me have no reprieve from thinking besides deep-sleep or zoning out, which I do often since I was a kid).

Critical thinking was something that wasn't really "optional" to me. It was that or just doing nothing at all. Common sense wasn't something I was given the booklet for, maybe it got lost in the mail. So I work by general, strict, principles of ethics (It works out better in results than most people's empathy - for example, I'm a pacifist - but I can't comfort people, just feels alien) and need clear and detailed instructions for doing something asked of me. I judge people individually and generally abhor stereotypes, even less people who think they're true for most/all of a group.

I do think equality isn't quite there yet, but I question the wisdom of using the term feminism and considering sexism and privilege using the feminist definitions of the words (ie as something only men can do/have), nowadays and in the West anyways.

I'm a trans woman, I've had time to "see it from both sides" even as I transitioned young (or at least not old). Feminist theory using marxist-like language (class warfare with one winner and one loser) simply doesn't make sense, not in the US, Canada and other first world countries (well, I think it makes no sense anywhere, but the "women are definitely more oppressed" notion can work in some other countries).

I'm not saying femimism's work is done, over and let's pack up and go home. I'm saying we're at the fork where we need to check everyone's issues and that unnecessary polarizing of issues as a war of the sexes is contributing to delaying the equality it aims to reach, both by antagonizing potential allies (calling them oppressors and privileged) and by ignoring half the issues (with a naive view that by toppling some vague hierarchic structure and working to only give rights to one side, everything will be okay for everyone, all inequalities gone). I deny any official label to this end, any would be unnecessarily polarizing.

Old ideas such as women more suited for caregiving are not dying easily, because men are not represented in caregiving. If no care is made to breakthrough the barriers preventing male caregiving (like pedophilia scare, no role models, shaming of not being a provider), the situation is likely to stall for decades to come. All caregiving areas, from being a stay-at-home parent, a single parent, a babysitter, a daycare worker, a kindergarten teacher and working in older people's homes.

As for the cultural ideas preventing more women in IT and related fields, it seems to come from the cradle and gender stereotypes thought by parents themselves (strong willed parents can superimpose their ideals over media and peer ideals, in an open-minded society - hence making real change).

My theory is the parents are insecure about their own sex identity (outside evident material markers, like pink/dresses/make-up/breasts/hair) and push this view on children who are themselves at a normally-insecure stage by overly inflating the value of being one or the other sex (ie to kids it's not that important, but to parents its a BIG deal).

There needs to be less toy segregation, more freedom of expression for boys, more caring about boys (hugs, and positive reinforcement when hurt/struggling, instead of negative reinforcement in the form of shame), and please no "Lego for girls", ghettoizing stuff is just making it worse. Lego itself is gender-neutral. Just buy the basic blocks if the preset stuff is too gendered, you decide what you build. Same for videogames, it's gender-neutral, don't buy Barbie's dream castle to your daughter as the only game, unless you want to reinforce existing stereotypes (the games are extremely limited, even as they might have educational aims, the devs don't make "boy games", but if they did they would be just as botched, because it's a ghetto - and so are the vast majority of "movie games"). And encourage the girls to get dirty, run and just plain have fun, no worry about being gentle and having manners, they can be polite and that's plenty for a kid of either sex.

As a child, by a boy standard I was on the lower-limit of masculine enough (and failed it because I didn't fight back), by a girl standard I was a tomboy, willing to get dirty and play with "boy toys". I liked my plushies, but didn't own dolls, or even want any. Androgyny in behavior and in looks, is where I'm at, always have been (naturally). It's easily workable if you help the self-esteem of the kid and stamp out bullying attempts (even after the fact).

Sorry for the length.

52:

The example I used to introduce my sons to the concept of gender equality was the question "where are the female flight crews in the original Star Wars?"

I suspect that things will continue to improve slowly. These days, it's no longer unusual for a female soldier to be presented with gallantry award for doing something selfless on a battlefield; normally a medic, because the British Army is still resistant to having women in the combat arms. Having said that, I'm a member on a British military forum where among the longer-serving (regular army) members are openly gay soldiers and a transsexual senior NCO - who blogged her journey all the way through gender reassignment surgery. In detail. I suspect she's done more to open up minds than she realises.

I had to do the official briefing to our Company around 2000 when the official policy changed to allow openly gay soldiers; I wonder whether gay equality in the British Army will catch and overtake gender equality, i.e. a gay male is less discriminated against than a straight female. I'm still idealistic enough to hope that it gets to the stage where you're selected completely on ability, but realistic enough to realise that we'll just get "continually closer but demonstrably still not quite there yet" in my lifetime.

...I'd also recommend that new BBC3 comedy "Bluestone 42" - it's decent stuff, not what many feared, and doing its stuff for gender equality...

53:

Thank you for this article, and I'm especially pleased you included more than one professional branch when giving examples. I've found sexism to be an across-the-board situation in the U.S. (I can't speak for any other countries). When I was in insurance, we had an enormous office of several hundred workers, almost all women, while 100% of the supervisors were men. If a male office worker was hired, he was fast-tracked to supervisory.

Nowadays, I'm a film critic and have conducted my own informal surveys regarding female reviewers. Most websites with staff average about 12% to 16% women, though I've seen some websites with all men. None with all women except smaller sites where the shtick is that it's all "girls." On the rare occasions I get a project where there are multiple contributors, I am always the only female. Female critics are held to a much higher standard, and though there are countless well-known male critics who troll, flame, are full of bigotries, and make mistakes on a daily basis, there are no comparable female critics, simply because women would be excoriated if they attempted to get away with any of that.

The most concerning thing is that there are always many people willing to tie themselves into mental pretzels to excuse sexism (or any bigotry, of course, but sexism is on topic right now). People invent extenuating circumstances and blame the problem on that, or claim that women just aren't as good as X and that's the whole problem, or they start wringing their hands about how Free Speach!!1! is being infringed by merely discussing sexism. And I know the commentariat here is heavily SF/F weighted, but "hey let's talk about making men pregnant instead" is a painfully obvious example of derailing.

It seems the first thing people need to do is sit down and admit that sexism is a problem.

54:

Against subconscious bias the only thing that helps is conscious effort and procedures to eliminate as much as possible this bias. Sometimes it might even mean quotas; see e.g. the experiences of one US talkshow.

In the case of sf and fantasy there's the Russ pledge Nicola Griffith proposed a few years ago:

The single most important thing we (readers, writers, journalists, critics, publishers, editors, etc.) can do is talk about women writers whenever we talk about men. And if we honestly can't think of women 'good enough' to match those men, then we should wonder aloud (or in print) why that is so. If it's appropriate (it might not be, always) we should point to the historical bias that consistently reduces the stature of women's literature; we should point to Joanna Russ's How to Suppress Women's Writing, which is still the best book I've ever read on the subject. We should take the pledge to make a considerable and consistent effort to mention women's work which, consciously or unconsciously, has been suppressed. Call it the Russ Pledge. I like to think she would have approved.
55:

@ 47 etc...
It can be difficult.
For instance ... in Tax Accountancy (working for the firms, not the revenue) the population is approx 52-55% female - and STILL there are lage discrepancies. These are usually in the form of slower or no promotion to "higher" grades, so that the cross-grade pay discepancy does NOT exist & is therefore difficult to nail @ tribunals persists, to many peoples' determined annoyance.

Contrariwise, A really big US bank came horribly unstuck, here a few years back - they sacked a male back-room computer-geek (whom they really needed - he was good) for having long hair. He sued for sex discrimination. When it came to court, his counsel produced one of the department secretary/receptionists, with hair down to her waist ... and the bank executive on the stand said (I kid you not) " ...but she's a WOMAN" - complete collapse of case, while defense counsel held his head.
Actually, the big US banks & finance houses have been losing a whole string of sex-discrimination cases in the UK - apparently they are really bad, and they don't seem capable of learning (yet).

@ 48
This is also a problem.
Recently I made a deliberately sick/bad taste joke here, & Charlie jumped on it & me. OK, deliberate sarcastic irony, coupled with utter contempt of the "target" is difficult to get across in this medium, so my bad ... but. And, let's face it, the assumption (in this context) that any pink male is automatically guilty (& I've met that at an SF con, long ago) is not acceptable either.
Same as "you are a pink Brit male, therefore you must be an islamophoboc racist" - whereas I'm actually a very angry atheist.
How does one distinguish - not easy.

OTOH the "average man/woman in the street" is a lot more tolerant thatn officialdom or the company rules.
Several historical cases of trans-sexual male train drivers, arriving to work in a dress, changing into uniform at the depot - & off they go! As opposed to the Homo habilis mentality of the Trades Unions & management in the same industry, deliberately blocking the appointment of women in railway grades.
Very peculiar.

Does this public/official VS private/in-house prejudice/tolerance exist elsewhere? Or is it a Brit thing? I suspect it does exist elsewhere, but I'd like to know.

56:

Lesswrong is also devoted to building Heaven on Earth via creation of a God-like AI, so exercise caution while reading, lest a basilisk devours you. :-)

57:

On that note, someone I know who works with money found out last year that they were getting paid less than a male member of staff who had less responsibility and probably fewer qualifications than her.

58:

I have concerns with the Kafkaesque logical trap of, "unless you admit you're part of the problem, you're part of the problem" that seems to get implied in discussions about bigotry.

I tend to view such sweeping assertions -- along with "we are all racists" -- as an emergent side-effect of Christian eschatology, with the emphasis on original sin; a pernicious doctrine because it's coupled with a single path to salvation (through the religion of which the advocates of salvation are doctrinal guardians).

This doesn't mean we're not part of the problem. It just means that saying we are all problematic is, itself, a totalising and dangerous ideological position.

(On the other hand? People who, without self-examination, deny that they're bigots usually ought to spend a whole lot more time examining their own unadmitted beliefs and behaviour ...)

59:

CHarlie @ 57
Too tue - however, you didn't draw your net wide enough.
All 3 of the Abrahamic religions have this (now) & so does the communist religion.
It seems to be completely ingrained into the "western" cultural mind-set. And not just there, either.
Bhuddism has it too - you are "punished" in this or future lives for the bad karma you have accumulated in this or previous ones, for instance.

60:

"Several historical cases of trans-sexual male train drivers, arriving to work in a dress, changing into uniform at the depot - & off they go! "

I'm not certain you're referring to a trans man or a trans woman here. I would guess trans woman, but it's iffy I guess. I certainly wouldn't call a trans woman "a transsexual male" (lest I want to deliberately insult her).

61:

Where would Watson & Crick have been without Rosalind Franklin? Two strikes against her, female, and Jewish. Oh noes!

Unfortunately the only IAT you can take on an iPad is the skin-tone test, which I did a couple months ago. It said I am moderately biased in favor of African-Americans, which wasn't too much of a surprise to me. I caught on pretty quickly to how the test worked, though I don't think that skewed the results.

I don't particularly think of my self as 'white', though if asked I suppose I'd say white on my father's side (actually I'd probably say Scottish--more or less) and Jewish on my mother's (if white-supremacists don't consider Jews white, that's fine by me. I don't want to be associated with them).

------------
This ended up a bit long, and a bit personal, so I hesitate to put it out, but I've mentioned a lot of this before--not that I expect it to be remembered. It's just to give some idea of what shaped my views.

My parents divorced when I was fairly young, and I was raised by a mother who joined the US Army soon after. When she signed-up it was still the Women's Army Corp, her basic training group was the last one, and they were absorbed into the regular Army. She started off as a Chaplain's Assistant (a Chap Ass as they called it) to an orthodox Rabbi. At first he wasn't thrilled with with having her there, not so much for being female as for being a Jew, and therefore he couldn't make her work on Shabbat, the sabbath--that's what Shabbes Goys are for. The assistants are also supposed to provide protection (in wartime), and since she was smaller than him he said "You drive, I'll shoot." They got along well, and learned from each other. Then he retired, and his replacement was pretty much the opposite. Not wanting to uproot her family she put in for a change of MOS, and attended the Army's Prime Power School, then at Ft. Belvoir, Virginia. She was in the Nuclear Power program of the school, and was in the last graduating class, she was the first and only woman to attend it as it was shut down after graduation. She had been trained to run and repair diesel generators, and clean up nuclear material spills (Mop'n'Glow work) among other things, but went on to be a Health Physics Officer at Walter Reed (Forest Glen Annex, actually), then Radiation Protection Officer at Ft. Carson, Colorado.

As far as I know she didn't face too much harassment early in her career, possibly because she was a little older than the average recruit, and that she had a degree in psychology*, and perhaps could recognize and defuse a situation. I don't really know, this is just how I saw and remember it. In the school she did have at least one good friend who probably looked after her. At Ft. Carson she made Captain** and was head of radiation protection at the then new hospital. Then she faced definite problems from one male worker under her, who near constantly tried to cause her problems (contradicting orders to the rad techs, and trying to start rumors, etc.). Fortunately she outranked him and his behavior was observed by others. He was shipped off, but it was an unpleasant time.

In the over twenty years since she retired it seems the situation for women in the military has gotten worse (or we're hearing more), particularly in the last decade. With women now allowed in combat roles, it will be interesting to see what changes come. Once they've proven themselves more***, and have shown that they're capable (though they certainly already are) of taking care of themselves things ought to change. Hopefully.

Here's a recent series on NPR: America's Woman Warriors. Quite disturbing.


*When she went to the recruiter she was told that she could put the degree to use a chaplain's assistant counseling people, which turned out not to be the case, except when a gay co-worker was raped in the barracks by a straight man.

**She went from SPC5 to 2nd Lieutenant, skipping the Sergeant grades. One bit of advice she gives to people joining the military, male or female, is "Know the Regs." Learn the regulations, follow them, and stay out of trouble--that doesn't mean you should be afraid to make waves when necessary.

*** Which shouldn't be necessary. The jobs have certain requirements, and people without them aren't likely to be assigned to them.

62:

Ah, we've already discussed Less Wrong recently, and the concensus (if such is possible on this blog) was that they have their own weird ingrained biases and non-rational thinking.

63:

Over the weekend I read the first novel by Linda Nagata - The Bohr Maker, and I'm now about to order the rest of that series. If you like Charlie, I think you would like that book too.

(I also read Between Two Thorns by Emma Newman, but that one is Fantasy rather than SF. Possibly closest to Mike Shevdon's 61 Nails in feel.)

64:

(or we're hearing more)

I rather hope that is the case. In an ideal world, part of the path to shutting down something bad is becoming aware of it in the first place, and during that period we should be hearing more rather than less.

It's also possible there's a reactionary cadre fighting back at the loss of privilege. They'll be doing so hardest when they feel most threatened, and that should also be a sign they're losing.

65:

Bellinghman @ 64
Unfortunately, I think it is a reactionary core fighting back - much like their overlapping group, the "religious leaders"....
Hence all the shite in the media about the new pope & the new Achbish of Cantab ... yuck.

66:

It's also possible there's a reactionary cadre fighting back at the loss of privilege. They'll be doing so hardest when they feel most threatened, and that should also be a sign they're losing.

That seems to be the case with some combat troops. The NPR stories mention how some men have an attitude that the women are there to 'service' them, and some target women who show initiative with potential to move ahead faster than them. It's nearly impossible to listen to the stories without getting angry.

In the Medical Corps there is more of a gender balance among hospital staff. In the last decade a lot of civilians have been filling many of the positions, who are perhaps more likely to report anything.

67:

If no care is made to breakthrough the barriers preventing male caregiving (like pedophilia scare

So what are the male/female ratios for pedophilia? And is it genetic or a learned or both behavior. (Way over simplifying I know but the discussion has to start somewhere.)

68:

"So what are the male/female ratios for pedophilia? And is it genetic or a learned or both behavior. (Way over simplifying I know but the discussion has to start somewhere.)"

The ratios are unknown, it's been thought until pretty recently that female pedophilia was outright impossible (due to notions of women not being sexual, or violent).

It's likely to be a result of previous abuse (few abused people go on to abuse, but those that do abuse tend to have been abused themselves), so it's likely mostly learned.

Trivia: It's possible to be a pedophile while not having a penis, and having zero testosterone. Ergo: chemical castration is likely to not do a thing for men, and ignores women even exist.

I mean, I'm "chemically castrated", take the same drugs sex offenders, and prostate cancer patients take (cyproterone acetate, aka androcur) and I can still have sexual desire. It doesn't matter much, though it can cause impotence and a reduction of libido in some.

My T levels are 0.0 nmol/L. And have been for years. It didn't lower my libido and I'm not sure how it affected my 'potence' given I didn't really care about it then, and don't now.

Women's pedophilia is ignored on the basis that sexual crimes are "things men do", just as women's rapes are (wether it's rape of women or of men). Conservative notions that have never been fought against and are thus still widespread.

Just check the India rape law that was pressured, by women's groups, to remain a law stating that only men can rape only women, only using a penis, instead of making it a gender-neutral "sex without consent" law as it should be.

The reasoning? It never happens, so no need to reflect the very possibility of it in law. That's not a self-fulfilling prophecy now, is it?

Pedophilia should be seen as a crime any *adult* can commit, and the hype gotten down to reasonable levels, not like now where being in a child's proximity-while-male is viewed extremely suspiciously (in a "must have ulterior motives" way, because male).

When I was younger, I babysat my younger brothers (for years, I'm the oldest of 4). I couldn't have been hired to babysit anyone else though, because everyone knows (common sense) that only girls can have the skills to babysit, right? I was seen as a boy then.

This was my first becoming aware of society-wide sexism against males that wasn't about clothing. Next but related was the presumption of an inherent predatory (and hypersexual) nature. Another undefeated conservative notion.

69:
I was systematically helping the women more.
The men I'd help when they asked, or when they'd obviously hit a wall and were making no progress.

Careful there. I make no bones about helping the females more than the males in my classes and the reason is quite simple: they utilize the available resources in about a 3:1 ratio of females to males.

Iow, sometimes there really are differences, behavioural or otherwise, where different treatment is merited. The tricky part is figuring out when this applies and when it doesn't ;-)

70:

Pedophilia should be seen as a crime any *adult* can commit, and the hype gotten down to reasonable levels, not like now where being in a child's proximity-while-male is viewed extremely suspiciously (in a "must have ulterior motives" way, because male).

Agreed. But are there any studies that dig deep enough to find out if it's a 99/1 thing? Or a 60/40? Or maybe 49/51?

From Wikipedia:
The prevalence of pedophilia in the general population is not known,[4][63] but is estimated to be lower than 5% among adult men.[4] "Most sexual offenders against children are male, although female offenders may account for 0.4% to 4% of convicted sexual offenders.

So are these ratios due to human nature/nurture or a reporting issue? And I know I'm getting a bit off topic here but it is related to the equality issue and I have run into the issue personally.

71:

That seems to be the case with some combat troops. The NPR stories mention how some men have an attitude that the women are there to 'service' them, and some target women who show initiative with potential to move ahead faster than them. It's nearly impossible to listen to the stories without getting angry.

It would be interesting to see the difference in the rates of reported sexual assault between the US and other militaries. There does seem to be a strange dichotomy in the US military; on the one hand, more overtly egalitarian, on the other hand more vocally biased (the "quarterbacks and cheerleaders" view of the world). Perhaps this reflects the difference between the edges of the US we see on TV and film, and the parts in the middle that we don't hear so much about...

While there were the usual cries of how it would be the downfall of the army, UK forces seem to have accepted fairly quickly that you can be openly gay, and still be a good soldier. If you listen to the same debate among US forces, it seems to cause a far more emotional response. The UK recruits from a wider society that is perhaps less socially conservative.

When the stories about sexual assault rates in US bases came to light, most UK soldiers were genuinely shocked that it could happen. It may be that because the British Army is more undermanned than the US Army, and has to have female soldiers further forward / more integrated than ever before, that it has gained more social maturity; other factors may be that it has shorter tour lengths, and its soldiers spend a longer time in a particular unit. Certainly the few female soldiers in our reservist infantry sub-unit seemed to be treated as "sibling" rather than "potential mate" in social settings.

72:

Like this sort of tosh do you mean?
Disgraceful, isn't it?

73:

I have two very good friends who are trans women. I think they more than anything else helped me to reduce my personal gender biases. I pretty much realized that whether they were male or female didn't matter *to me*, they were just people. Wonderful, beautiful people who I appreciated. I could appreciate their struggles to find their own identity without boiling their essence down to a gender and then trying to apply social assumptions to that.

Thank you for sharing your experiences.

74:

(On the other hand? People who, without self-examination, deny that they're bigots usually ought to spend a whole lot more time examining their own unadmitted beliefs and behaviour ...)

Oh, absolutely agreed here. It does take a fair amount of introspection to really root out the biases and understand how they can persist. More introspection than the average person invests into the topic.

As I said, bigotry still exists. I guess I'm just tired of the default assumption that nothing is changing, and if someone claims to be unbiased that they must *really* be the most pernicious form of bigot.

75:

"Agreed. But are there any studies that dig deep enough to find out if it's a 99/1 thing? Or a 60/40? Or maybe 49/51?"

Imo it's either a 60/40 or a 50/50, but it's always presented as a 95/5 issue (if not 100/0).

I don't think there are enough studies yet. Police reports are unlikely to catch it.

"So are these ratios due to human nature/nurture or a reporting issue? And I know I'm getting a bit off topic here but it is related to the equality issue and I have run into the issue personally."

Definitely a reporting issue there. 0.4 to 4% of convicted sex offenders is the tip of the iceberg.

"Back in 1984, a study done by Finkelhor & Russell estimated that about 5% of female children and 20% of male children exposed to sexual predation were abused by women. More recent research among victims suggests that the rate of female predation is alarmingly higher than we thought back then. "

from there http://www.child-safety-for-parents.com/female-pedophile.html#.UVoJ2VfDkbw

http://www.ipce.info/library_3/files/women/female_peds_undetected.htm

This one says 6% of reported cases are women's, and that 2% of the cases reported to the police result in jail time, compared to 16.5% of reported men.

"Heather Moulden’s 2007 follow-up to Finkelhor’s research verifies, “despite a social reluctance to acknowledge female sexual abusers, reports suggest that they account for between 3% and 15% of all sexual offences” (387). However, as Richard Tewksbury reports, that number is probably much higher since “female sex offending is […] acknowledged as possibly less likely to be detected or reported” (30). Despite the general reluctance to pursue female suspects and to incarcerate them (Moulden 199), criminal acts by female offenders have reached a ratio of 6:1 compared to male criminal acts (Palmero 30). Moulden’s study of female sex offenders found that “females offended against younger victims and were more violent as compared with male abusers”"

from there http://female-offenders.com/Safehouse/2010/08/female-pedophiles-2.html

If you look at certain rape definitions (like those requiring penetration of the victim), 99% of offenders are male. But if you include rape by envelopment, in the last 12 months, men were raped just as much as women (so 50/50), with 80% of the perpetrators of rape against men being women, so 40% of overall offenders. But like DV, it's underreported.

Lots of brushing-off-attitudes about female predators and "you-got-lucky" attitudes about male victims, means few even think to report it.

Kids raped by women don't think it's possible, are constantly told to look for signs of sexual abuse with men (but not women), and the overall societal attitude is that women, but mothers especially, would never do this.

Certain stereotypes die hard, particularly regarding the incapacity of women to do evil (even more so sexual evil). A few feminists fight it, but feminism itself makes it no priority. Conservatives want it to stay that way. Other people think "it's just the way it is" (don't think to question received wisdom about it).

Cultural feminism is a second wave branch based on the idea of women as more moral from birth. Aka Goddess feminism.

76:

The rape stats I'm citing in my last post are about the CDC, last 12 months, counting "made to penetrate" stats (which includes rape by envelopment).

This is a survey, not reported to police rates. I'm certain police reports are way more skewed.

77:

Tap, tap.

Moderators, are we awake yet?

78:

Yes, I'm awake. But there's nothing from you in the pending or spam queues -- I suspect your post is gone for good, evaporated into the aether!

79:

Sorry:-) my mistake. Middle of the night here in Albania, woke up and watching some dumb movie.

I think I'll just step away from this thread.

Apologies again.

80:

I think you misunderstood me. I'm not talking about men being able to walk in women's shoes.

Its about total equality in a professional career. It might be a small difference but if there is a likelihood that one sex will stay home from work for several months each time they have a baby while the other sex doesnt I think it's hard to get _total_ equality.

That being said today´s differences are way out of proportion and things could be a lot better.

81:
Its about total equality in a professional career. It might be a small difference but if there is a likelihood that one sex will stay home from work for several months each time they have a baby while the other sex doesnt I think it's hard to get _total_ equality.

Incidentally, that one is more of a problem if we assume it's a 100% loss of work force for mothers, 0% loss for fathers, where in practice, that one might differ somewhat. Just ask a ethologist about parental investment in the HSS subbranch of the Hominidae family, which is quite variable (minimum about 2 minuts), but usually quite pronounced, as you can see in a series of articles on this blog:

http://fknizner.umwblogs.org/

The minus side might be that this seems to be related to human jealousy, if we go to the dark side of evol-psycho,

http://www.fas.harvard.edu/~hbe-lab/acrobatfiles/paternal%20investment.pdf

which is somewhat over-the-top in humans; from the perspective of the selfish gene, it makes sense to guard ones mate, but I guess every sane chimp capo would have even less appreciation for Othello than "normal" humans, and killing a child (and his mother) that is even 10% mine is somewhat bordering on reproductive suicede. If you don't taken male parental investment into the picture.

(Note: I think quite a lot of evolutionary psychology is a bunch of BS, but than, I'm also quite sure we're just another mammal, a special one, right, but in the same way bees and aardvarks and whatever are special. And even if these ideas about parental investment and human evolution are wrong, some of the deductions might apply with parties who buy into similar notions on "human nature".)

In a similar vein, even if some teleological ethics think motherhood as central to womanhood, these same ethics usually also have similar things to say about fatherhood for men.

In a similar way, coming from the Scandinavian social models, there is male parental leave:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parental_leave

So even if I think pregnancy for men is not that great an idea, I think we should implement more male investment, remind out motherhood advocates (I look your way, Roman Catholics) that their stance makes only sense when they apply similar stances to men, and implement some kinds of social ostracism for the guys who don't comply. That might lead to some kind of discrimination against couples planning on reproduction, but please note that any discrimination like this is going to lead to a societal free-for-all that I'm looking forward to. Come on, bishops and feminists going after the "free to starve" variety of libertarians, there are only winners...

Specials

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This page contains a single entry by Joan Slonczewski published on March 30, 2013 11:46 PM.

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