Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Happiness and Equality

Ivan the K and I both saw a segment on what a recent study showed on the always authoritative TODAY SHOW. Men are happier than women, and the happiness gap is widening. That’s because in our time of offical equality women have to work harder than ever, while men are slacking off both at home and at the office. And when men and women visit the relatives, women have to actually talk to them and feel their pain, while men are permitted to grab a beer and watch the game.
I’m feeling more egalitarian all the time...

Discussions - 38 Comments

Of course, the show never dares to raise the possibility that the problem isn't merely the division of labor as we find it but rather the extent to which this division is a departure from a more natural one. I think in the main women would probably be happier if less careerist although I should confess I hope the woman I marry turns out to be an impressive earner.

As I recall, the gap is pretty small among single men and women, gets larger among married men and women, and then huge among fathers and mothers. My memory of 20-year old results is that non-working mothers are just as depressed as are working mothers -- the research pointed to feelings of isolation: no adults to talk with during the day, and then only "emotionally challenged" husbands to talk with at night. Plus the fact that a baby tends to eclipse even the worst boss in terms of demandingness, lack of reason, etc..

Among working mothers is the still-true state of affairs in which mom has two jobs: mothering and her "real" job, while for dad, taking care of the kids is still considered "babysitting."

Ivan, my guess is that most women (Straussian-Stepford brides excepted) would take offense at your suggestion that you know better than they what would make them happy.

Much of at least one considerable strain of the feminist movement was explicitly based on the notion that it knows better than most women what would make them happier. Betty Friedan, to take one example, is unequivocal on this: housewives might think they are happy but that's only because of the depth of their deception. My advice to women is not to ditch their careers but to take seriously the possibility that they are naturally different from men, that they might not find the same kind of satisfaction from careers that men generally do, and their decisions either way have profound consequences for their families. That's a mouthful so I might just recommend Mansfield's book.

Fung says: Ivan, my guess is that most women (Straussian-Stepford brides excepted) would take offense at your suggestion that you know better than they what would make them happy.

Perhaps--but my guess is that most of us would take just as much offense at the suggestion that you know.

But since I believe we are all capable of stepping outside of ourselves enough to talk to each other and think about things, I'd say that the real problem is that you are both right. Conservatives (or Straussian-Stepfords, if you prefer Fung--though this makes about zero sense) tend to underestimate the degree to which motherhood is a disruptive, difficult and emotionally challenging event. Women are supposed to "love" everything about it or they don't love their children. Women who buy into that wallow in guilt. But the rest of society pulls them in another direction and tells them that there is little or no worth in their work at home. They push the career as the only path to fulfillment. When that leaves women cold and unfulfilled, they are naturally confused and disappointed.

The truth is that both explanations are too simplistic. The problem, and thus the answer, lies in the tension between the two worlds. And, I might add, that the problem is the same for men--though less intense because men tend to cultivate a sense of humor or fatalism about (or blindness to?!) their own imperfections. Women tend to worry more about their imperfections--not that the constructively address them any better than men. Also, women have a natural willingness or instinct to smooth over that tension for the men they love. Is the answer that men need to get better at smoothing over that tension for women? If it is, then I'm not going to hold my breath for that day! I think Ivan is more on to something when he suggests that women ought to be more accepting of the differences between the sexes and I would add--cultivate a better sense of humor about them. It's pointless to try and change it!

As usual Julie says what I should have more eloquently than I could...

Economist blog Marginal Revolution discussed the paper off of which said TODAY SHOW was based.

I don't know if I want to read that report. I all too grimly grasp the premise. It is quite true that since I went to work I must carry primary parenting (although down to one teen) responsibilities, the housework and this growing job outside of the home. The other two parties of our three member household seem to think this only right Mansfield's book did discuss this, the strain on families when the mother goes back to work,(I am trying to get my husband to read the book, especially that part) and the satisfaction a woman can feel in her career outside of the home superseding the satisfaction she might have once felt within it. and just. Some things do not get done, they complain, I point out the obvious. Independent living looks better to me all the time.

I did like the parenting part of the large family we had, though was never happy about the tedium of housework. The isolation that young mothers at home feel is an aspect of our churning neighborhoods. I found a good community of women through our church who also stayed at home. Loving to read helped me, too. Homeschooling and connections made for the children's sake actually improved "staying at home" by getting us out of the house. But the demands on me these days are staggering and if that is true of the working mother population at large then no wonder women are miserable. One job at a time ought to be plenty. I am just home from work, am now drinking a cup of tea and relaxing with you guys, but will be out the door again to drive my daughter home from school, will stop and check on my mother, then will do housework and grade student papers all evening, help my daughter with her homework in there somewhere and then go to sleep.

I am woman, hear me whine.

I like (love) my job outside of the home and the gratitude and interest of my students makes me happy. That has proved to be a problem. However, this is my second career, taken as my first career as mother is winding down. I find, Ivan, tremendous satisfaction in this career, as I did in the first one, that of raising the six children. If I did not have all this pesky housework and the demands of family, I could concentrate on my new interest. What my highly dependent family would do without me, I do not know.

"Perhaps--but my guess is that most of us would take just as much offense at the suggestion that you know."

And if I ever have the bad judgment to offer non-requested advice to women, then I would expect them to take exactly such offense.

Really, the notion that women are naturally inclined to smooth over their husband's tensions is nearly as archaic as the notion that girls sold into sexual slavery have luckily stumbled into their natural calling.

There is no "natural difference" between men and women that would make women less deserving or less fitting for a career than men. If "society" is sending women destructive messages, then you must include yourself as a part of the problem. To send the message that anatomy is destiny, or that the main problem depressed women have is a lack of a sense of humor is to roll the clock back to the 1960's. Luckily, most women I know have the intelligence to distinguish between helpful and destructive, archaic social messages.

But, I will thank you for one thing: I can now go home and tell my wife that she is behaving unnaturally when she increases my tension. I look forward to that: "Honey, just hush your pretty little head, get me my slippers and do what is natural -- help me relax! You just be quiet about the kids and the doctor bills and water leaks and your silly little part-time job. And turn that frown upside down! How can I relax with you so lacking in humor?"

Extremely well put, Fung!

It might be "well put," but to reject something simply because it is "archaic" or would "roll the clock back to the 1960s" isn't really much of an argument. It is merely to suggest that that which is old is, by definition, untrue.

It is crazy and archaic to reject the notion that the differences in our biology suggest differences in other areas--biology is not destiny . . . thank you for reminding me! I had forgotten the mantra that has been pounded into my weak little brain by people like Fung since I was girl. I have been very foolish to think that there was anything different about me and capacities or interests all these years. I am so glad that there are people like Fung around who know better than us silly little women have known for the last several millenia. I mean the very idea that there are differences between men and women! How unscientific is that? Clearly, we're exactly the same!

Conservatives really need to get over this whole tendency to be skeptical about "science" as it is practiced today. Quit suggesting that perhaps Darwin wasn't exactly right and there may be more to explain our evolution or creation . . . that's just not respecting science. And don't get me started on those who are skeptical about global warming--or (gasp!) modern psychology! Those Neanderthals! The only kind of science you can reject as archaic is the kind that bites you on the *&$--the kind that is complex and theoretical and controversial requires all of us to bow down. How convenient it must be for those who would like to impose their will upon the world to have such a science.

And really, Fung, I'm sorry your wife doesn't do more to relieve your tension. It might help. But that's just a bit "TMI."

Wait a minute. Where's MY Straussian Stepford Wife? All I got was this lousy decoder ring.

Will Morrisey: thank you for that! I am going to laugh for at least a week now! I am sure my husband would ask the same question!

So exercise a little good judgment, Fung. You offer non-requested advice to Julie on here all the time. I, being a sensitive woman and all, think that you might have offended Julie, just a bit. You really do offend again to suggest that there are no biological differences between us. Fortunately, we do have the intelligence to distinguish between helpful and destructive, modern social messages.

I am having a bad time with my family exactly because I used to be able to ease things for all of them that I cannot ease now. My family needs me to work outside of the home, and I am trying to ease that aspect, that particular tension, of our family life. So do millions of other women, many of whom were not so fortunate in finding a job that they enjoy.

There are certainly jobs that women are not physically suited to do. Fortunately for some of us, teaching in a classroom or writing are not those kinds of jobs.

C'mon, Kate. I know that you are smarter than this! If I have given advice to Julie (and that doesn't seem accurate, but I'll grant it) then it was surely not on the basis of her gender. There is a huge difference between (a) treating a person on the basis of that person's behavior, and (b) treating a person on the basis of that person's gender, or ethnicity, or any other group into which they are born.

I have argued with male and female individuals on this blog, but I don't believe that I have pretended to know how an entire gender should behave. I have argued with both Ivan and Julie on this issue, but I have not pretended to know what any single person thinks, or feels, on the basis of his or her gender.

And I have not denied that biological differences exist. What I said was that genitalia are no basis for deciding who can or who should have a career. And Kate, no one really cares much about women being able to carry heavy stuff, and therefore not getting a job at the local warehouse. But, the real money is being earned by guys in jackets and ties, and it could just as easily be earned by women. The only thing keeping women out is the meme that they should not aspire to such heights.

Julie, if you want to blame your aspirations on your vagina, then of course, that is up to you, but please don't blame your choice on society, or me, or anyone but yourself. In the year 2007, any person with a brain should know that "the media" and "society" are collective nouns. There is plenty there to choose from, if you are looking for direction. But, of course, you are not. You have already gotten your direction.

It is ironic, isn't it, how people on this blog are always going after "special interest groups": immigrants, and gays, and Blacks, who point to little things like slavery and homophobia, and Jim Crow, and more polite forms of disenfranchisement. Why don't they step up, and take responsibility for their poverty, for their family structure, and for their lack of legal recourse?

But, when it comes to Julie's group, they are prisoners of their anatomy! Not tradition, and not individual choice, and not the power structure, and not the personal benefit that comes from choosing dependency and weakness that is offered like a protective arm. No, Julie wants to hide behind her sex, and she admires those who support that decision, and keep their careers because it works.

As for science, you seem to love the science that suggests biological differences between people, but you don't like the science that suggests that we are more than biological organisms; that we have choices, and that true freedom lies in free access to those choices. If your acquaintance with evolution begins and ends with Darwin, then I would suggest that your reaction is based more on hearsay than on any first-hand knowledge.

As for me, I am suspect of anyone -- male or female -- who sends the message that any American is born into a class that is innately inferior. If your rejection of science helps you to justify your choice to align yourself with such people, then good for you. It is not the first time in our history that entire segments of the population have been fed the lie that they are not worthy, or capable, or equal. And it is not the first time that such a message accompanies a suspicion of scientific evidence to the contrary.

I hope you enjoy your company.

Think of this ...

Woman are derided by other women if they choose to stay at home and not have a career.

Women are derided by other women if they choose to breastfeed, which is normally coupled by staying at home instead of working.

Women are derided by other women if they are working instead of staying at home, just not to the same level as the opposite.

Women feel guilty if they work and not stay at home with the children (note: I assert it is the rare women who does not feel quilty about this at some point).

Women feel quilty if they have to put their children in day care or have to hire a sitter on a regular basis (My previous note also applies to this one).

All of this and more makes for one heck of an unhappy woman no matter what she chooses for her life.

Fung: The most telling thing in all of your rambling remarks is your statement about your suspicions of people who assert that any American is born into a "class that is innately inferior." This tells me a great deal more about you than it does about what has been said here. I don't believe anyone here has ever made such an assertion--certainly not Kate or Ivan or me. So you must be very suspicious of yourself. The only thing that explains your remark is your own projection. In other words, you must believe that there is something innately inferior in things feminine; whereas I have only argued that there is something "different" in them. In order to defend females, you think you have to deny that they are feminine. That's just weird, Fung. It's nice of you to want to defend us, but that's the kind of help we don't need, thanks.

I believe the feminine ought to be defended and supported in and of itself (just as manly things should also be so defended). I don't think either sex is superior--and indeed, when left to themselves and without the benefit the alloy of the "other" brings, both can be monstrous or cartoonish. Each human being is a complex combination of both feminine and masculine influences (one big reason we need both a mother and a father for optimal parenting conditions) and, of course, where each person comes out on that scale is hard to say. But it's generally true (do I really have to defend this?) that females are more feminine and males are more masculine.

You call acknowledging the differences in the feminine being a "prisoner"--(which also tells me something about the value that you place on things feminine) and suggest that those who embrace their femininity are somehow "choosing dependency and weakness." (Have you thought about therapy for your misogyny, Fung?) In societal terms, these natural differences are going to mean something whether it is fair to each and every individual or not. And I know and accept that it probably isn't always going to suit every conceivable type of person. What can one do about that? I suppose such people used to either grow very big chips on their shoulders or they learned to develop a sense of humor and make the best of it. Since you mock a sense of humor about life's disappointments, I suppose that we know now which type you would be. Fortunately, I suppose such people today can choose to be enlightened by Fung (or is it Betty Friedan?) and demand that the world change to suit them. When that little project fails, then they can always go seek out one of his friends to prescribe them anti-depressants. Or they can give speeches about how the power structure and tradition have oppressed them. They can deride women who don't feel particularly oppressed by their biology as weak and pathetic and call them "Stepford" Straussians who have not empowered themselves enough to make smart choices.

The worst thing about this whole discussion is your refusal (and I really must wonder now if its an inability) to see the other side of what's being argued here. You complain: "And I have not denied that biological differences exist. What I said was that genitalia are no basis for deciding who can or who should have a career." Who said that they were?! All I have suggested is that one consequence of biology may be that a successful career will not make most women as happy as such a career will make most men. So if more women are depressed than men, some of that is likely explained by the disappointment many women now feel when they achieve success in their careers but don't rejoice in it the same way their male peers do. Don't you know any such women, Fung? I know dozens and they all complain about not having families. Is that really such an outrageous claim? But I also conceded to you that I know a great number of women who have put their all into their families and have been equally disappointed (and depressed) by the realities of that work--but feel to overwhelmed by the demands on them to imagine doing something apart from and on top of that. Actually, I probably know more of these women (but then, most of the women I know are necessarily going to be women who also stay home with their kids). So I believe the study you cited above. I think "depression" probably cuts across that great divide of the working and non-working mothers. What these women all have in common is motherhood--and that is enough (even if you stripped out all the bickering about careers) to explain depression, in my view. But this gets back to my original point that "motherhood" is quite different from "fatherhood." Your description of a baby being like a bad boss is very apt. And women--no matter what their ideology--feel that crying and that demanding more intensely than men do. Men can shut the door--even if they feel bad about doing it--and find something else to worry about. If we shut the door, we leak. It's really that simple.

Wow...I think I am going to grab a beer on this one.

Will, Please go to and enter your personal information. They'll hook you up with a stress-reduction wife for a reasonable fee, with a discount, of course, if you enter the serial number on your decoder ring.


Did these words not come from your keyboard?:

"Also, women have a natural willingness or instinct to smooth over that tension for the men they love."

How about these:

"I think Ivan is more on to something when he suggests that women ought to be more accepting of the differences between the sexes and I would add--cultivate a better sense of humor about them. It's pointless to try and change it!"

Now, please tell me how to interpret a natural willingness or instinct in any way other than the way that I have characterized it. You think that women are born to tend to their mate's needs, but that men need to "learn" how to do so. You are also, in essence, telling women to "lie back and enjoy it," because there is nothing that they can do about the differences, and the inequalities, that they have inherited. If we follow your intellectual predecessors back a generation or two, we find overseers telling slaves to sing and dance, because escape is futile, men telling women to enjoy imminent rape, and the rich suggesting that people in squalor must genetically value poverty and social density. The only people who benefit by this message are the ones currently in power, who would like to relax instead of maintain constant vigilance over the exploited. Of course, you identify with the powerful group, and so you ridicule this message.

Next, I have not devalued femininity. Nor have I devalued anyone who chooses (as my wife has for seventeen years until a month ago) to maintain a home instead of the financial benefits of working outside the home. You cannot find where I have devalued that choice, or those people.

What I argue against here, and what you willingly ignore, is the position of anyone, male or female, who (a) pretends to know what is better for "those people" than the people themselves, and (b) shrouds institutional discrimination in some distorted, incomplete version of science that suggests that inequality is legitimized by biology.

You are suggesting that women will be less happy than men (and less happy than they could be)if they choose to pursue a career. If the numbers support your assertion, then that is fine. But, to suggest that women are doomed to live a life of inequality because they are innately subservient, nurturing, and too emotional to steer the ship, is wrong, both ethically and scientifically.

So, I am not pretending to protect women. Instead, and as usual, I am doing my best to illuminate bullying.

Finally, if you are going to hate psychology, you really should not open an argument with the accusation that your opponent is "projecting." THAT particular advice is not based on your gender, but rather on your individual record.

Peter's right--I've had several successful marriages because of that website.

Fung says: Next, I have not devalued femininity. Nor have I devalued anyone who chooses (as my wife has for seventeen years until a month ago) to maintain a home instead of the financial benefits of working outside the home. You cannot find where I have devalued that choice, or those people. "Those people" is an interesting choice of words in light of what he says above. But more than that, I did "find" and I did identify where he devalued us and our choices in my comments above. Since he neglects to address this, I will offer more evidence from his fresh remarks: But, to suggest that women are doomed to live a life of inequality because they are innately subservient, nurturing, and too emotional to steer the ship, is wrong, both ethically and scientifically. Fung chooses to use the word "subservient" next to the word "nurturing." This, too, is an interesting choice of words. It implies that nurturing is somehow beneath the grandeur of steering the ship. But a ship with holes won't sail. What you call "inequality" is not necessarily understood by "those people" (to which group you do not belong and to which I--at least--can claim membership) to be inequality. It is difference. It is unequal only insofar as it is not exactly the same. But it is no less valuable. Those who like to flatter women may say that it is more valuable--but an honest woman knows that to be hogwash too and (while enjoying such praise) also enjoys offering it to the men in her life who manfully do their part. Still, such platitudes are useful training for men (who do, as Fung suggests that I suggest, need to "learn" this) as, in overshooting the mark, they get closer to the truth than their natural inclinations tend to take them. For, like Fung, most men DO devalue the work of women in their heart of hearts--if only because they cannot personally understand why anyone would find any satisfaction in doing it. They do tend to regard it as subservient and beneath them and think that their activity is infinitely more interesting and important. Civilized men, however, have grasped the importance of women's work to society and to their own personal happiness and (as a result) have talked themselves into the practice of putting women on pedestals. This is a useful thing in marriage and in society (it seems to me) because it keeps men from acting boorish and it helps to prevent women from feeling depressed. All of which leads me to wonder if the true reason for the higher rates of female depression is today's astonishing lack of civilized and manly men.

And for the record, I have never claimed that there is anything wrong or bad about a woman who wants a career or has a strong passion outside of her family. I would be the worst hypocrite ever if I did! I have never claimed that a woman will be "less happy" than a man if she pursues a career. I have only said that it may not be surprising if she does not derive as much satisfaction from it as most men who are successful in a career do. The nagging feeling that other things are being neglected often chips away at her sense of satisfaction in her work. This does not mean that she should never pursue that work or that she should work harder to "do her duty" at home. It is only a fact that an adult woman should endeavor to understand about herself and adjust herself to it as best suits her own particular situation and those around her for whom her happiness and theirs depend.

The sad truth everyone seems to forget, however, is that most people (men and women) do not have the kind of satisfying careers we're talking about here. Most people have only have "jobs"--and many have jobs that they positively dislike. If a woman must have such a job to help her family, then she, (like a man) must do what needs doing. But it is a burden that will take its toll on her happiness and that of her family as well. She is not likely to derive as much satisfaction as a man does from the knowledge that she is "providing for her family" because--as Fung notes--she is still going to be expected to provide for her family in all the ordinary nurturing ways. She should not be surprised to find herself harried and resentful in this situation. It should be clear that the world Fung describes as ideal is not just a world in which there is no necessary distinction between men and women in the workplace, but a world in which there is no real distinction between mothers and fathers. We've been trying to get there for the last 40 years or more and biology keeps slapping us in the face.


I hope that your readers recognize what you are trying to do. You took this statement of mine...

"But, to suggest that women are doomed to live a life of inequality because they are innately subservient, nurturing, and too emotional to steer the ship, is wrong, both ethically and scientifically."

... and you tried to make it look as though I was stating the reverse. IF I EQUATED SUBSERVIENT AND NURTURING, THEN I WOULDN'T HAVE USED BOTH WORDS! The emphasis of my argument is on your insistence that having female genitalia means that one must be nurturing and subservient. Further, you suggest (as I have quoted earlier) that there is nothing that women can do about it, and so they may as well just develop a sense of humor about it! You can nudge your words and my words around all you want, but you began this by agreeing with Ivan, that women would be happier if they would just give up on the notion of having a career, and then you anchored that argument on a biological imperative.

Finally, I have not suggested that keeping a home (or being nurturant) is "unequal" to having a career. Instead, I suggested that inequality exists when people don't feel free to choose their own path. When people like you and Ivan suggest that having female parts determines that careers will only make women unhappy, then to that extent, people like you and Ivan are suggesting that women are not equal, and should not, and do not and will not ever enjoy equal access.

Really finally, about this:

"Fung chooses to use the word "subservient" next to the word "nurturing.""

When an argument succeed or fails on the basis of word proximity, then the Gumps will truly have taken over the world.

Honestly, there is something positively unsavory, Fung, in your insistence in caricaturing positions you don't agree with. In comment three I clearly do not advise women to ditch their careers. Much of the enjoyment of this site for me is the opportunity it affords to reflect on the positions of others and to reassess my own. I can't for the life of me understand what you get out of it.

If there were laws that prevented people from choosing because of "genitalia" (as you so delicately choose to put it) Fung, you may have a point. But there are no such laws. When laws do not prevent these choices (and, indeed, seek actively to encourage them) but the results still do not stack up the way that you seem to imagine they should, you look to blame the injustice of society. It is bizarre to me that a person who is as deeply in love with what he calls "science" chooses to ignore the obvious things we know from biology. I have never said that biology is all that we are or that we cannot make choices in spite of biology--but we neither can we escape the natural consequences of those decisions. If we lie to ourselves about the nature of our differences, we will never be happy.

I may be willing to grant that you were distinguishing the words "subservient" and "nurturing" by listing them separately and that their proximity in your reply was a mere coincidence--but it seems unlikely to me since so much else of what you have said seems to imply that you believe there is something inherently weak and inferior about women who "choose" something other than career. You have repeatedly implied that such a choice is not "free" at all--dredging up the old "Stepford" cliche, etc..

And, again, I have not said that choosing a career will make a woman unhappy. Indeed, I have said that choosing a family may be just as likely to do that! But I have also said (or meant to say) that living in ignorance about one's nature is likely to make one very unhappy. I think that if you understand yourself, it is possible to be happy no matter what your situation.

Gosh, that comment #27 looks a lot like #26. Those guys are really smart.

Sorry about that. Not sure how it happened.

Even more recently, it was legal to pay a woman less than a man for the same job.... All of those laws were ways to keep women out of the world of men.

A lack of a law isn't the same thing as a law. Paying women less than men for the same job had nothing to do with keeping women out of the marketplace--it was a reflection of the fact that women were willing to work for less, and it was the only advantage in the marketplace that women had. Had laws mandating equal pay for men and women been in effect fifty years earlier, women would never have entered the so-called "men's professions" at all.

Isn't the refusal to "honestly reflect" on someone's position a fairly good definition of rigid? And to be perfectly honest, you don't seem to be all that familiar with the "science" on this issue; there are an awful lot of very well known and respectable scientists churning out literature inconsistent with your position. Instead of "persisting" you might try reflecting a bit more deeply, thinking through opposing view points instead of reflexively reducing them to straw man caricatures,and reading a bit more widely. As long as you refuse to do that, however persistently, you make for a pretty poor interlocuter.

"Had laws mandating equal pay for men and women been in effect fifty years earlier, women would never have entered the so-called "men's professions" at all. "

It was my impression that a fundamental reason for women entering the workforce was the gap in the workforce left by WWII. Prior to that, females were considered unfit to, say, handle money in a bank, work on an assembly line, etc..

So, women had already entered the workforce by 1957, and it was NOT because they were enticed by low pay, as you suggest.


"there are an awful lot of very well known and respectable scientists churning out literature inconsistent with your position."

Where is this vast store of empirical evidence suggesting that (a) a sense of humor will somehow close the depression gap. Last I looked, anhedonia was a symptom of depression, and not a cause of it. You might as well suggest that blind people should just open their eyes. So, please give me the references to back that one up.
(b) Please direct me to the science suggesting that women are more nurturing than men, AND that such "instincts" are expressed between wives and their husbands. This suggestion that women are geared towards soothing their husbands' tension confounds the role of husband and child, mother and wife, and I am eager to read the plethora of evidence to which you refer.

Finally, please show me what respectable scientist suggested that my wife (or your wife or mother, whatever) has inherited some characteristic that renders her less fit to run a company than you and I are?


Part of the genius of the right since at least the 1980's (and I mean that -- it is truly remarkable) has been its ability to soften its message, to hide it in the midst of more polite sounding words. In Social Psychology, we refer to "symbolic racism," for instance, which is a term for an approach that diverts attention away from the old, blatant reasons to hate Black people, and addresses softer, more polite reasons, like family values.

In 2007, a sexist can rarely get away with saying "women are too stupid and emotional to be trusted in the marketplace or in the White House," but it is much more acceptable to point to a very real biological difference, and then to generalize that difference beyond all reasonable and empirical limits.

You can even make your sexist statements sound as though you actually care about the welfare of women, as John Moser just did, suggesting that exploiting them fiscally was for their own benefit, or as you and Julie have, when you suggested that they should just lay back and enjoy their biological deficits.

It sounds so soothing and benevolent.

So, when you accuse me of rigidity, my response is this: When someone puts poison in the kool-aid, it is not rude or rigid to keep pointing to the poison and ignoring the kool-aid. Until people on the left learn this, then you guys will continue to make progress.

Again, either you insist upon misconstruing the position Julie and I have been discussing or it's beyond your capacity to understand. It doesn't really matter because either way trying to exchange ideas with you is both boring and bootless.

That's what I thought. Tons of evidence!

Fung, there was a long history of women working outside the home before World War II. The war simply increased the number of MARRIED women in the workforce. True, male employers were biased against hiring women, for all sorts of reasons, but women (like blacks or immigrants) had one asset that could offset that--their willingness to accept lower wages. This is why feminists tended to oppose special "protective" laws that mandated minimum wages for women; they recognized correctly that such legislation eliminated their leverage in the job market. It's not a question of Marxian "exploitation"--it's simple economics.

I don't know if I buy Ivan's and Julie's assumptions about essential gender differences. But I have to agree with Ivan that your shrillness, and your tendency to divide the world into the evil, the stupid, and those who agree with you, make it difficult to have any sort of conversation with you that doesn't collapse into name-calling.


I am no economist, but isn't there a difference between "economics," and capitalism? As long as there is an underclass to exploit, then capitalists will find a way to do that. For instance, child labor laws, and unions, etc (I will now anticipate a discussion about how how working in sweat shops actually benefited children, everywhere) are more easily circumvented by going abroad. So, previously American companies take their plants to countries where people CAN be exploited.

So, I would argue that, from YOUR perspective, it may be simple economics, but from the perspective of individuals in the underclass, it may feel more like exploitation.

As for my shrillness, I would reiterate my earlier point with Ivan. If it your job to get people to drink the poison with the kool-aid, then of course, you will find it annoying when someone refuses to be distracted.

But, I hear what you are saying. For now, I'll leave you all to agree with each other. I've been kicked out of better blogs than this!

My grandmother worked as a librarian for two years and then as a private secretary from 1916 till she married in 1924 and had my father a year later. To put him through private school, she worked as an interior decorator, out of her home, from the early 1930's (!) until the mid 1950's. Women did work on assembly lines prior to WWII. Factory work was considered suitable employment for women because not as difficult as other types of labor. I do not know about banks, but perhaps prior to an era of greater security, having a man rather than a woman handle money in banks was a good idea. Yet, the idea that women did not work in the past is false and silly. It WAS considered cruel and unkind to make mothers work outside of the home, not really because they were women, but because they were mothers. Wasn't that why the old welfare laws supported women with children? That turned into a mess, but the intention was to keep mothers with their children.

Fung, women DO work in the jacket and tie world, and the last statistic I saw on that in a Forbes magazine I haven't got time to hunt for said that at that level, above middle management, women made nearly the same money as men. Colleges are full of women headed in that direction, BECAUSE the opportunity is there. One reason women have trouble in that area is the biological fact of child-bearing and motherly responsibility. To take time off to have a baby or two, or more, puts a damper on your career, and it would not fair to men or non-child-bearing women in the workplace if that were not so. Women with families trying to do all things perfectly is the strain that makes them unhappy. Even with just one teen at home, I know the stress of trying to "serve two masters", or really, it comes to more than two.

I don't think anyone here rejects science, just the notion that scientists never have any personal agenda, prejudices, biases in interpretation of data, so that any "scientific observation" might be taken not quite the end-all, be-all that scientists claim.

In my second year of teaching writing to college students I have noticed one distinct gender difference in their writing, when they are writing about themselves. Women tend to write about the type of person they are or think they are ("I am the most unique person you will ever meet" is one line I see too many times in each class.) or are told that they are, while the men tend to define themselves by what they do - jobs, sports, musical instruments the play, things like that. Having just graded the revised versions of 80 papers, this is the point of difference that strikes, again. I am not sure how to extrapolate that in terms of this argument, but it is there and is remarkably consistent.

Then I have an anecdote about gender and nurture, an old favorite. When our first son was about four years old, my grandmother gave me a box of sewing stuff and in the mess was a cheap, plastic doll. My son was entranced. I gave him the doll, that he named Mary. My husband came home from work and was appalled to see Owen carrying Mary around, tucked under his arm where the stuffed animals usually went. At bath time, as the water was running in the tub, Owen threw the doll in - I mean threw her in. He pushed her around the tub with the boats. After the bath, he tossed her in a towel and swung her around in it. I remember him pulling the doll's arm down at one point and pointing her feet at someone and saying "BANG", and Mary was a gun. He also hugged her and could be quite gentle, but not for very long. My the other boys exhibited similar behavior. My sixth child was a daughter, and while she could be neglectful of her dolls, she never threw them like balls, nor turned them into impromptu guns, nor did any of the other truly rough things the boys did. She did have plenty of rough examples to follow, here in our little home environment. She thinks of herself as a tomboy, but really, please, I know boys and she is NO boy.

This is another wordy email in a series (oh, my) and I do not have time to edit as my granddaughter is here to be sat. I have maybe 30 seconds of typing time left before that new familial demand --- never mind.

Just one problem with your analysis, Fung--where you see only exploitation, plenty of others have seen opportunity. I've already mentioned the efforts by feminists in 1920s to fight minimum wage laws. Also, law professor David Bernstein has shown how such laws were traditionally used by all-white labor unions to keep African-Americans from competing, and that blacks frequently appealed to the courts to overturn them. One of the goals of the New Deal was to get women (who merely, according to Labor Secretary Frances Perkins, were working to earn "pin money") out of the workforce so that more men may be employed--this is exactly what happened after the passage of the Fair Labor Standards Act in 1938.

You're right, Fung, there's a difference between economics and capitalism, but not even communist regimes have been able to overcome the basic laws of supply and demand. It's one of the primary reasons why the Soviet Union fell, why Cuba is a basket case, and why China abandoned Marxism.

John, you are right. This is stuff that I know nothing about. I must say, though, that your stories do little to relieve my impression that there are plenty of parties out there waiting to exploit the underclass. It is obviously not limited to corporations.

Kate, I think we overlapped.I agree that there are women working, and that there have been women working, etc., etc..

But, I have been arguing here that, despite progress (legal, social, etc.) there are still factions who would like to keep women (and Blacks, Hispanics) out of the board rooms, and that they use allusions to biological deficiencies to augment their case.

My son turned macaroni into a gun. My niece gets a car, and turns it into an ambulance, so she can nurse her doll. We have different levels of hormones, different anatomies, and different environments, expectations, opportunities as soon as we emerge into the world. Science has even shown different patterns in the brains of females as opposed to males. All granted.

But so far, NOTHING has been discovered scientifically to suggest that women are biologically less equipped for careers than men are. If a career is more difficult for a woman than for a man, it is NOT something that she should attribute to an inherited deficiency, and it is NOT up to her to simply put a good face on it. It might rather be something that WE could help with, instead of making jokes, or suggesting that feminists don't have a sense of humor, or that women are born to baby their husbands.

I will now leave this post, and go back to my work and my family for awhile. I feel the anger returning, and I don't want to sound shrill.

The Family Values message has nothing to do with racism.

You know what is racist?

It is when you tell a race that you can't compete, so we will make the test easier or force an employer to hire X amount from your race.

Regarding differences between the sexes ...

There is a very good reason why women in the military have different (hint ... lower) standards on the physical assessment test, especially when it comes to upper arm strength (pushups).

Listen, it is not just about running a company. Some jobs both sexes are equal. Other jobs, men are better and in others women are better.

Is that truly something wrong or bad or sexist to utter?

Science is all about observation. When did science stop observing?

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