Some Thoughts On Gender Bias In Academia

Gender bias can be something of a “sexy” topic for many; the kind of issue that can easily get large groups of people worked up and in the mood to express opinions full of anger, mockery, and the word “duh”. On a related note, there’s been an article going around by Moss-Rascusin et al (2012) concerning whether some science faculty members tend to be slightly biased in favor of men, relative to women, and whether said subtle biases might be responsible for some portion of some gender gaps. This paper, and some associated commentary, has brought to mind a few thoughts that I happen to find quite interesting; thoughts about bias that I would like to at least give some consideration amidst all the rest of the coverage this article has been getting.

First one to encounter life-altering discrimination… wins, I guess…

First, about the study itself: Moss-Racusin et al (2012) sent out fake undergraduate materials (which included a brief statement about future goals and a little bit of background information regarding things like letters of recommendation and GRE scores) to 127 faculty members in either biology, chemistry, or physics departments. These materials differed only in terms of the name of applications (either John or Jennifer), and the faculty members were asked to evaluate the student, falsely believing that these evaluations would be used to help the student’s career development.The results of this experiment showed that the faculty members tended to rate the student’s competence and hireability lower when it was Jennifer, relative to John. Further, these faculty members offered more mentoring advice to John as well as recommending an annual salary of $4000 less to Jennifer, on average (though that salary was still around $25,000, which isn’t too bad…). Also, the faculty members tended to report that they liked Jennifer more.

What we have here looks like a straightforward case of sex-based discrimination. While people liked the woman more, they also saw her as less competent, at least in these fields particular fields, given identical credentials (even if these credentials were rather merge in scope). Off the top of my head, I see nothing glaringly wrong with this study, so I’m fine with accepting the results; there most certainly did seem to be a bias in this context, albeit not an overtly hostile one. There are, however. a few notes worthy of consideration: first, the authors don’t really examine why this bias exists. The authors suggest (i.e. say it’s reasonable…) that this bias is due to pervasive cultural stereotypes, but as far as I can see, that’s just an assertion; they really didn’t do anything to test in order to see if that’s the case here or not. Sure, they administered the “Modern Sexism Scale*”, but I have my reservations about precisely what that scale is supposed to be measuring. Like many studies in psychology, this paper is big on presenting and restating findings (people discriminate by sex because they’re sexist) but light on explanatory power.

Another interesting piece of information worthy of consideration that comes to mind relates to a previous paper, published the same journal one year prior. Ceci & Williams (2011) documented an impressive amount of evidence that ran counter to claims of women being discriminated against in science fields in terms of having their manuscripts reviewed, being awarded grant funding, and also being interviewed and subsequently hired (at least in regards to PhDs applying for tenure-track positions at R1 institutions in the natural sciences). When discrimination was found in their analysis, it was typically fleeting in size, inconsistent in which gender it favored, and, further, it often wasn’t found at all. So, potentially, the results of the current paper, which are themselves rather modest in size, could just be a fluke, resulting from how little information about these applicants was provided (in other words, faculty members might have been falling back on sex as an important source of information, given that they lacked much else in the way of other useful information). While Moss-Racusin et al (2012) suggest that the subtle biases they found might translate into later discrimination resulting in gender gaps, it would require a fairly odd pattern of discrimination, where, on the one hand, women are discriminated against in some contexts because they’re viewed as less competent, but then are subsequently published, awarded grants, and hired at the same rate as men anyway, despite those perceptions (which could potentially be interpreted as suggesting that the standards are subsequently set lower for women).

“Our hiring committee has deemed you incompetent as a researcher; welcome aboard!”

Peculiar patterns of how and when discrimination would need to work aside, there’s another point that I found to be the most interesting of all, and it’s the one I was hoping to focus on. This point comes in the form of a comment made by Jerry Coyne over at Why Evolution Is True. Coyne apparently finds it very surprising that this bias against women in the Moss-Racusin et al (2012) paper was displayed in equal force by both male and female faculty members. Coyne later repeats his surprise in a subsequent post on the topic, so this doesn’t just appear to be a slip on the keyboard; he really was surprised. What I find so interesting about this surprise is what it would seem to imply: the default assumption is that when a woman is being discriminated against, a man ought to be the culprit.

Granted, that interpretation takes a little bit of reading between the lines, but there’s something to it, I feel. There must have been some expectation that was violated in order for there to be surprise, so if that wasn’t Coyne’s default assumption, I would be curious as to what his assumption was. I get the sense that this assumption would not be limited to Coyne, however; it seems to have come up in other areas as well, perhaps most notably in the case of the abortion issue. Abortion debates often get framed as part of “The War on Women”, with opposition to abortion being seen as the male side and support for abortion being seen as the female side. This is fairly interesting considering the fact that men and women tend to hold very similar views on abortion, with both groups opposing it roughly as often as they support it.

If I had to guess at the underlying psychology behind that read-in assumption (assuming my assessment is correct), it would go something like this: when people perceive a victim, they’re more or less required to perceive a perpetrator as well; it’s a requirement of the cognitive moral template. Whether that perpetrator actually exists or not can be beside the point, but some people are going to look like better perpetrators than others. In this specific instance, when women, as a group, are supposed to be the victims, that really only leaves non-women as potential perpetrators. This is due to two major reasons: first, men may make better perpetrators in general for a variety of reasons and, second, the parties represented in this moral template for perpetrator and victim can’t be the same party; if you want an effective moral claim, you can’t be a victim of yourself. A tendency to assume men are the culprits when women are supposed to be the victims could be further exacerbated in the event that women are also more likely to be seen as victims generally.

An observation made by Alice Cooper (1975) when he penned the line, “Only women bleed…”

The larger point is, assuming that all the effects reported in the Moss-Racusin et al (2012) study were accurately detected and consistently replicated, there are two gender biases reported here: Jennifer is rated as less competent and John is rated as less likable, both strictly on gendered grounds. However, I get the impression that only one of those biases will likely be paid much mind, as has been the case in pretty much all the reporting about the study. While people may talk about the need to remedy the bias against women, I doubt that those same people will be concerned about bridging the “likability gap” between men and women as well. It would seem that ostensible concerns for sexism can be, ironically, inadvertently sexist themselves.

*[EDIT] As an aside, it’s rather odd that the Modern Sexism Scale only concerns itself with (what it assumes is) sexism against women specifically; nothing in that scale would in anyway appear to assess sexism against men.

References: Ceci SJ, & Williams WM (2011). Understanding current causes of women’s underrepresentation in science. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 108 (8), 3157-62 PMID: 21300892

Moss-Racusin CA, Dovidio JF, Brescoll VL, Graham MJ, & Handelsman J (2012). Science faculty’s subtle gender biases favor male students. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America PMID: 22988126

13 comments on “Some Thoughts On Gender Bias In Academia

  1. Denise Cummins on said:

    Ceci and Williams reject all of this nonsense about sex discrimination because their analyses show this: “That women tend to occupy positions offering fewer resources is not due to women being bypassed in interviewing and hiring or being denied grants and journal publications because of their sex. It is due primarily to factors surrounding family formation and childrearing, gendered expectations, lifestyle choices, and career preferences—some originating before or during adolescence…”

    How is that NOT sex discrimination? What she is saying is that if women remake themselves into men–play by men’s rules, hold traditional male values concerning the workplace, forgo family formation, or dump their children entirely onto others during their infancy and toddlerhood–then women fare just fine. But that is the whole point. Men’s rules require sacrificing your personal life, and particularly your children’s early childhoods, a sacrifice that many women refuse to make.

    And do you know how that plays out in reality? The proportion of full professors that are women has held steady at about 20% for 25 years, while the proportion of contingent faculty that are female has grown exponentially, accounting for 73% of the growth in contingent faculty during that same period.

    What Ceci and Williams are saying is that women have no one but themselves to blame when their careers stall out if they make these wrong-headed “lifestyle choices” surrounding family formation. If they had any sense, they and their husbands would work 100+ hours in the lab, forgoing family formation or fobbing their infants and toddlers off onto others to care for while they grab the brass rings in the “normal” time frame, namely, before you are 35. Meryl Streep and Sissy Spacek could take years off to raise their families, then come back and win Academy Awards, but academia (law, medicine, and veterinary professions) do not allow young professionals to do that. You have to choose, and if you want to succeed, you have to make the choices men have traditionally made,and that means putting family last.

    • Jesse Marczyk on said:

      I would certainly not say that Ceci & Williams said or implied that women have only themselves to blame for making the “wrong” choice. Their article reads much more along the lines of showing where discrimination is not so that people can stop focusing on the wrong factors and trying to fix a problem that doesn’t exist (or at least doesn’t exist to the extent that many people might think it does); if the problem on your car is that the brakes don’t work, no amount of trying to fix the steering wheel will help that.

      The point I was hoping to draw some attention to with this post, however, is that when people perceive a problem with regard to gender, they tend to seem and perceive those problems as generally female-specific. For instance, it’s perceived as a problem that women have other desires in life that interfere with the ability to work the often grueling hours required to advance in your career, but little mind tends to be paid to the expectation placed on men that they ought to be working those hours, despite having other interests that conflict with work as well.

    • Actually, that is really NOT the whole point. I have minimal interest in having kids. I am not “ambitious” in the sense of “competitive”, but the subjects I am interested in, causes I care about and insights I can add seem endlessly more meaningful to me than any offspring I could add to this overpopulated world. It matters greatly to me if people perceive me as less intelligent or competent than they would if I were male.

      (Believe it or not, Jesse, if the trade off is that they do think I seem like a rather nice girl, that is really no consolation whatsoever. I actually don’t know too many people of either gender who would choose to pay $4000 a year for that. But the potential lost opportunities are what disturb me.)

      The findings do not at first glance seem contradictory at all to me, by the way. Brilliant overambitious women do fine. But people are a lot more interested in the “potential” of moderately intelligent and accomplished guys than girls. Since that is where the vast majority of us humans per definition actually fall that’s really quite a problem. But of course it doesn’t describe most women who have chosen to pursue academic careers in male dominated fields like math or physics. That is why they are male dominated.

      That, anyway, is what this research seems to me to suggest.

      • Jesse Marczyk on said:

        I can understand feeling frustrated at the thought that some people might not view you a certain way that you wish to be viewed because of your gender, or appearance, or any factor, really. I’m sure people assume all sorts of things about me that I would rather they didn’t for a variety of reasons (similarly, they probably assume a lot of things that I enjoy as well). Granted, people’s assumptions about me might well be accurate, but that’s an entirely different can of worms.

        That said, I was in no way suggesting that the trade off here between competence and likability was a consolation, but rather that there’s more to the story than “people view women a certain, negative way because of their gender”. As some of my more recent posts have dealt with, were I ever sentenced to do jail time, I’m likely to get far more time for the same crime, relative to a woman who’s very similar to me, and I would hardly count that as “compensation” for my being viewed as generally more competent (in some regards, at least; I doubt that competence bias extends across all domains. For instance, go and see how commonly the point is made that I, as a man, ought not to have a say in any debates on abortion because I can’t get pregnant or don’t have a vagina).

        There are really two issues here: the first is that the findings of the initial paper might just be a statistical fluke – these things do happen, and, if some people are to be believed, they happen in psychological research so often as to be the norm (due to various researcher degrees of freedom, publication bias, etc). Working under the assumption that there are real effects, however, the second point is that there were two effects found, but people only seemed to have considered one of them to be a problem. Coyne, for instance, found it surprising that women were just as discriminatory as the men, and didn’t seem at all concerned that men weren’t liked as much as women. If his interest was in fighting or removing sexism more generally, it seems he ought not have made that first assumption about men being the discriminators (a rather sexist assumption, I’d think) and have been just as interested in closing the likability gap as he was the competence gap. I think that says something very interesting about human psychology.

        • Suzanne on said:

          Just to be very clear, the issue at hand isn’t if people view me the way I wish to be viewed, which is not likely to happen now is it, but if my gender in and of itself is a systematic disadvantage.
          I was probably way too flippant dismissing the gender effect on likability, but consider the context of this finding, which wasn’t sentencing but how great people said that poor dumb Jennifer probably is as a person. I address this more in my other reply, but assuming it’s really a more genuine assessment than that (which I guess a researcher should at least remain open to) then sure, it should have been pursued.

        • Suzanne on said:

          And the abortion issue isn’t really an assessment of men’s competence, you know that. Saying “what do men know about abortions” is actually an ethical argument that those most likely to be affected by a situation should decide about it, and really it’s a comment on how overwhelmingly those political decisions have been made by men thus far.
          (I don’t really agree with that ethical argument, it annoys me further that it’s dressed up as an argument about knowledge, and I’ve never understood why anyone would waste their breath saying it, it is infinitely unlikely to persuade either a man or woman opposed to abortion rights to think otherwise. But the point here is that it I don’t think it expresses anything at all about what people think men are capable of.)

  2. Pingback: The Sometimes Significant Effects Of Sexism | Pop Psychology

  3. Suzanne on said:

    Oh and also – I fully get and relate to the authors’ surprise that the female professors were exactly as sexist as the male ones, and it is not grounded in some idea of perpetual female victimhood or moral superiority. But jesus that’s quite the assumption to make. The thought is rather that exposure to stereotypes can be ameliorated by lengthy repeated personal experiences that don’t with fit them – such as, perhaps, you yourself being a woman with a male-dominated field of expertise.
    Now, there are a lot of reasons that it wouldn’t really pan out that way, and obviously it didn’t, but that is the intuition that these results counter.

    Also… The day that many men are actually bothered – find that they are structural oppressed, in fact – because people don’t immediately finding them quite as likable (if incompetent) as they find comparable women, plenty of research will be dedicated to that problem. I feel confident of this. Until then it is just not as interesting a question as the one about equal pay and severe female underrepresentation in leading positions in any field. Until then it actually seems to me like you are making false equivalences, in order to insinuate that women are really being favored. Or treated with some sort of undue chivalry even by psychological researchers. Or that all research these days is under pressure from some feminist agenda.
    Whatever the idea is there, that’s just, you know, your hypothesis, man.

    • Jesse Marczyk on said:

      With regard to that first point, I don’t think my assumptions are nearly as unreasonable as you’re making them out to be, nor am I sure you’ve precisely articulated them accurately. If we’re just talking about exposure to stereotype-disconfirming information being the remedy for incorrect stereotypes, then your intuition would similar require that you assume women have (far?) more experience with other brilliant women than men do. It further would not explain why women were able to much incredible inroads in some fields but not others (proportionately, more and more women have been becoming lawyers, yet the same trend has not been seen among plumbers). Since Coyne’s and your intuitions were delivered, apparently, in the absence of evidence, such a hypothesis sounds more like a post-hoc justification for a preexisting feeling. It might sound reasonable to the person with the feeling, but that has no bearing on whether it’s accurate or not. You wouldn’t be alone there; there’s a good deal of literature suggesting that the explanations we give for why we feel what we feel and do what we do don’t actually reflect any genuine introspective abilities.

      As for the second point, you might feel confident about the notion that research will be dedicated towards alleviating people’s problems equally, irrespective of gender, but I have my reservations. My reservations are largely based on the idea that things like “problems” and “harm” are abstract concepts, and what counts as one of these things will hardly be consistent between the genders (or across actor position, as some recent data I collected is showing nicely). As I said previously, this already seems to be reflected in the sentencing data from the courts. I’m going to begin data collection on precisely this issue in the coming month, once I make it through the tedium of designing the physical version of my experiment, so stay tuned for the results.

      • Suzanne on said:

        Thanks for responding to me!
        I don’t think I understand your first point – are you saying that an intuition needs to logically coherent then, otherwise it’s probably an ad-hoc explanation? Aren’t intuitions simply unreflected beliefs, impressions of the world seldom thought out to their logical conclusion? I walk around assuming tons of things that would be pretty easy to dismiss logically if I reflected on them, and this was one of them.
        Obviously I can’t prove to myself or you how that expectation really ever formed in my mind. But I took a moment to think about why I resented the suggestion that I (or Coyne, who I’m still kind of assuming thought what I thought) don’t intuitively cast women as discriminating villains. It is because I absolutely do. If I picture getting to choose the gender of my advisor or interviewer for a job, with no other traits known? My image of the male is blank, neutral; he could be anyone. If I try to picture him as sexist, denial kicks in: not towards ME surely, I’m that clever.
        My image of the female, once I get around the mind fuck of a female in that position, is a mess of anxieties and stereotypes; she is a fiercely competitive bitch, she has learned to despise anything that could be construed as a feminine weakness, she is infinitely harder on younger women than she ever is on men.
        So why didn’t she come to mind when I read that study? I will have to think about it in the morning. But since my own consciousness is swimming with these stereotypes, and they’re not from lived experience so I know they must exist in my culture to some extent, and if so that means they also work against ME to some extent… the suggestion that people generally have positive expectations of women in this regard was provocative to me.

        About point 2, I think the fact that you are doing that research tells me I’m right :) But to not be too flippant – it may well be an understudied area. In this instance, my thinking is that the less impressed you are by someone who seems to be trying hard and who wants your esteem, the more likely you are to say they seem like a great person and all. So it’s hard for me to take the professors’ appreciation of Jennifer’s personality seriously enough to consider if it’s a problem. But sure, it could possibly reflect something more genuine and then, in a very different context, it could be what I would consider “a problem” – true.

        • Jesse Marczyk on said:

          Just to condense everything, I’ll reply to everything here.

          The question about whether women, as a gender, are systematically disadvantaged relative to men, as a gender, is, I think, a massively underspecified one, the answer to which is unlikely to be informative or useful for any party involved. There are simply too many moving parts and too many subjective judgments in the equation to make it anything other than a mess. Pointing to this or that disparity only goes so far, especially when the reasons for those disparities are often poorly, if at all, understood. Accordingly, I find the conclusions that people draw from this mess – conclusions which can’t possibly be based on a full examination of the relevant issues – to be a fascinating source of data.

          When it comes to the abortion debate, for instance, many people are under the impression that the abortion issue doesn’t affect men because men don’t get pregnant, overlooking the fact that men can be legally forced into paying roughly 20 years of support for a child they did not consent to have, which, when one does the math, I’m told, can work out to about a solid year of wages (i.e. if one was working 24/7 without sleeping). Or, to flip the issue, if the woman decides she does not want the child but the father does, the father has no say in the decision either, legally, anyway. Now neither of those is an argument that men ought to have one choice or another, but they rather just point out that there are often-unappreciated facets to abortion issues. A woman being forced to carry a man’s baby is generally viewed as morally abhorrent by many, but those same people often see little problem with a man having no say in the matter when it comes to supporting the child. My body, my choice; your wallet and time, also my choice. My intuition is that, keeping the size of those relative harms constant, if the genders were flipped we would end up with a debate that looks much different than it currently does. I think the sentencing data backs me up on that.

          Now, as for the above comment, no; I’m not saying that an intuition needs to be logically coherent for it to be considered not post-hoc. What I’m saying is more along the following lines: pretty much all the reasons behind arguments or intuitions that people – you or I – express are post-hoc. The part of the brain doing the talking doesn’t necessarily know why the part of the brain that reached some inference did so, and the extent to which the talking part gets things right is more a function of chance (i.e. the extent to which the plausible or given explanations match reality). This is because the part of the brain that is talking does not have the function of being accurate; it (likely) has the function of persuasion, and accuracy is only useful insomuch as it aids the persuasion.

          The interesting part to me, then, is what that talking part tries to persuade other people about. Precisely what the talking part tries to persuade others of ought to vary by context, as you pointed out. When there’s a context like this one, where it seems that women might be disadvantaged relative to men, the persuasion goal will be far different than a context where that’s intrasexual competition. My post about the slutwalk talked about as much.

          We should, of course, not expect these judgments to be consistent, as consistency isn’t always useful across situations. For instance, if I was outraged about my partner having sex with another person, I could conversely be not at all bothered by other people showing a sexual interest in me. Depending on which situation I found myself in, the talking part of my brain might find arguments for justifying or opposing infidelity, as the relative costs and benefits shift dramatically. In a similar vein, I don’t think many people consistently find sexism to be a bad thing, or even consistently recognize sexism as sexism (just as they don’t consistently recognize harm as harm). Why would they? If one can benefit sexism by fighting it vocally at some times and also benefit by not fighting it vocally at others, well, that’s what we ought to expect people to do. The research question then becomes who might benefit in what contexts and for what reasons.

          • Suzanne on said:

            I wrote that I disagree with the ethical argument against men deciding about abortion rights. Since you went further into it, I will too. I don’t think anyone is arguing that abortion doesn’t affect men, I think that borders on being a straw man. It is just that it affects women in a way that makes a profound difference.
            Last year I was contemplating giving my mother a kidney. It is a procedure with a lot lower risk than carrying a child to term and giving birth, somewhat more painful than child birth, and with some smaller life long health risks risks – mainly of raising blood pressure and of developing chronic pain.
            The benefit is obviously that it’s likely to give the person I love the most another decade or more of life and a much better life.
            It made me think about people who strongly believe that an embryo is a living person, abortion then is killing that person, and therefor, it should be legally protected for nine months within another living person’s body, even against that other person’s will.
            My mother is indisputably a living person, and her death or life affects lots of people greatly. Imagine that me and all her other relatives and friends got tested and the only one with a tissue match was me. They all of course desperately wanted me to donate. It is definitely not just about my body or my life at that point. I don’t think anyone would say that they don’t have a right to an opinion. But not many people would argue that they should have a legal right to make the decision to cut out my kidney, either. The exact moral principle behind that can definitely be discussed, but for most people it is as simple as saying, “my body, my choice!”

            “The question about whether women, as a gender, are systematically disadvantaged relative to men, as a gender, is, I think, a massively underspecified one, the answer to which is unlikely to be informative or useful for any party involved.”
            That is really what you think, having thought long and hard about it? To me that’s like saying that it’s impossible to say if poor people as a class are, on the balance, all things being equal, disadvantaged as compared to the middle class, who defines what an “advantage” is anyway… It literally is saying that, considering allocation of wealth and property between the sexes. Of course that can be said, people from most major religions assert it all the time, but we don’t hear anyone using that seriously as a consideration when debating economic policy; “why this lopsided focus on the disadvantages of NOT having much money?”

            (And why on earth would women not be disadvantaged? The absolute most characteristic difference between men and women is that one will nine times out of ten win over the other in a fist fight. You can argue that women own less shit and decide less shit because we’re inferior to men in other ways than physical strength – though I would disagree – but if there was any way in which we were advantaged, what would the evo basis for THAT possibly be?
            This isn’t about guarding entry to the vagina again is it?
            Aside from men equally guarding access to the penis, we know that many – most – human societies have simply not ever acknowledged women’s right to do that, and it’s really not very hard for men anywhere to ignore.)

            Your article about the SlutWalk confuses me, because the way you introduced it I thought the study would include women who either participated in or expressed that they sympathised with Slutwalks. But it’s just on young Canadian women. Is it possible that you are not aware that most young women neither participate in or particularly sympathise with Slutwalks? For roughly the reasons the study explores? That fighting “slut shaming” – primarily women slut shaming other women – is one of the most uphill battles for feminists? If so I will tell you now: most feminists are aware of intrasexual competition, aware that girls are mean, and consider it a big problem. (Tina Fey is a feminist!) SlutWalks are extremely controversial. I find their purpose both worthy and important and I could not ever bring myself to participate in one.
            So I really don’t think this is a question of different contexts – AKA a double standard – it is a question of different people with consistently different priorities.

            But say it is pretty much the same people. I can see a fairly morally coherent argument (even if I disagree with it) that women should be shamed for dressing slutty in professional settings (for whatever justification – they are trying to gain professional advantages through sex appeal, it’s unfair use of competition, it encourages people to focus on women’s looks at work, whatever), but that they are definitely not asking to get raped or causing someone to rape them.

            “This suggest that women, regardless of whether they’re sexually promiscuous themselves, would tend to be at least somewhat put-off by other women’s sexual availability and actively work to restrict it through aggression.”
            My objection to this is a typical one against much evo psych – sure, that could be, but it could just as well just be the way we are socialized for rather different reasons, and the latter rings more true to my personal experience. When I was 12-13 purported sluts pissed me off as much as the next bitch, and I chimed in with the name-calling. Then I had long discussions with friends, read some fabulously enlightening literature, and today many of my best friends are sluts.
            I know that isn’t proving anything, I assume you’re not a determinist anyway, but I felt the need to put that out there.

          • Jesse Marczyk on said:

            Indeed, it isn’t that people are arguing that it doesn’t affect men, but they don’t view those effects as being terrible concerning (in some cases). My only real point about the abortion issue is that if the relative costs and benefits were kept the same, but the genders were flipped, the debate would likely look very different than it does, with certain concerns taking on a greater or lesser weight because of which gender suffered them.

            Regarding which gender gets the better end of the deal, yes, that is indeed what I think about the question. I might add that even if someone took the trouble to accurately chart every harm each suffers (provided people could agree as to what counts here, which they clearly cannot) in every situations and averaged it out, you wouldn’t end up with a very useful number. What policy implications, for instance, could people draw from a hypothetical series of results where men, on the whole, tended to be less well-off than women? As far as I can see, there aren’t many, as it would again venture us into the land of oughts, which, as many people go to great lengths to point out, you can’t derive from the land of is. I would especially find it pointless because it’s not as if the genders are on separate teams, each trying to win against the other; that distinction would imply my welfare is more closely tied to strange men than it is to my mother or girlfriend, which it clearly isn’t. There are simply too many competing interests among individuals for such a gross distinction to be useful.

            I’m not sure what to make of your fighting comment. I read it, but I don’t understand what point you’re trying to get across, so I’ll leave it for now.

            The point of the slutwalk piece is, again, that we should not expect consistency from people about issues like whether or not it’s morally acceptable to judge someone for the way they’re dressed or whether they’re more or less promiscuous. Sure, one could posit that almost none of the women in the study were sympathetic to Slutwalk’s cause, but my intuition, for whatever it’s worth, is that women involved in the slutwalk aren’t substantially different from women not involved in it on a cognitive level. The same systems are still there, and they’re just as inconsistent as ever. Many people who seem to have stated problems with slut shaming, for instance, seem to also have no problem commenting negatively on the appearance or sexual behavior of others at other times, be those others men or women. Which arguments they tend to deploy (one should/shouldn’t be judged for the way they dress) are context specific, as we ought to expect to them to be. With regard to the professional context argument, for instance, it’s entirely unclear to me how using sex appeal to get ahead is unfair, exactly. Surely other women aren’t barred from attempting it themselves, though whether they might want to is a different story.