Break It Down

Last October I wrote:

The US with 27% of world product has about 46% of world military spending.  …  Though of varying quality, there are a great many detailed and quantitative analyzes of the marginal value of aggregate medical spending.  In contrast, the lack of even remotely similar analyzes for military spending is really quite stunning. … I’d most like to see an itemized budget detailing the expected annual costs the US would suffer in a world that had adapted to the US only spending $300B/yr on defense.

Megan McArdle yesterday:

I view myself as feminist(ish) because I believe the following:

  1. Society is set up in ways that limit women’s choices and opportunities–men’s too …, but women more. …
  2. Privilege exists, and is in many unfortunate ways invisible to those who possess it.
  3. We should try to change those things.

My first reaction was, it is really clear male privilege is stronger overall that female privilege in our society?  It might be, but as with defense spending I’d like to see some sort of calculation.  A little web search finds a male privilege checklist and a female privilege checklist.  The next obvious step is to assign point values to such privileges, so we can add them up and compare totals.   

Of course there would be many ways to disagree about such point values, including how they should account for differing abilities and preferences.  You’d open yourself up more to ridicule by posting a calculation, as folks could trumpet your most vulnerable estimate as evidence of your insincerity.  And you wouldn’t show your impressiveness nearly as much as you could via a fancy math model, statistical data analysis, or semiotic text analysis. 

But the essence of analysis is to "break it down", to take apart vague wholes into clearer parts.  For the same reasons we make point lists to help us make tough job decisions, or ask people who sue for damages to name an amount and break it into components, we should try to break down these important social claims via simple calculations.  And the absense of attempts at this is a sad commentary on something.

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  • michael vassar

    What would the benefit be of tallying up the advantages of being one gender or the other unless one was considering changing genders but was unsure which gender had it better(in which case the social stigma associated with changing genders is clearly a dominant consideration)? I can see an argument that parents should figure this out and use it to decide what gender of children to have, but how many parents actually would choose on that basis? Also, screwing with gender ratios is socially playing with fire, so its probably best that parents don’t do this.

  • Laura ABJ

    Robin: “For the same reasons we make point lists to help us make tough job decisions, or ask people who sue for damages to name an amount and break it into components, we should try to break down these important social claims via simple calculations. And the absence of attempts at this is a sad commentary on something.”

    I largely agree with this conclusion. One of the problems we face when trying to do this is a lack of honesty in both face-to-face discussion and even on anonymous surveys. We need a source for our priors, afterall, and if all we have to go on is a collection of unverifiable personal anecdotes… As a believer in radical honesty (though not yet a full practitioner), I believe the amount of our knowledge on such controversial topics that has been obscured by dishonesty is shameful, and at least on this blog, ‘holy ground’ as it was once put, we should try to get over that. For those of you actually in social-science research, how do you try to deal with this problem?

  • Cyan

    The irony of the female privilege checklist linked above is that it is presented as as part of an argument against feminism, while it can reasonably seen as an argument for feminism*. Feminists see many forms of privilege as sourced in what they call patriarchy, and are fully aware that patriarchy also has set roles for men, and a pecking order for them. I think it’s fair to state that replacing patriarchy with a more egalitarian social system is one of the goals of feminism; the corollary is that female feminists would be happy to see many of the listed female privileges disappear as part and parcel of the dismantling of patriarchy.

    * That is, an argument for feminism directed at men.

  • Tom

    Good to see we’re making some progress on this. I like Megan’s point here:

    “I’m probably more willing than most feminists to give credence to the possibility that, say, women have lower IQ variance than men and are therefore less likely to show up in the tails of the cognitive/income distribution–though I also think that people often see what they want and expect to see, which makes those kinds of arguments rather more tenuous than their advocates allow.”

    Sounds like run-of-the-mill confirmation bias. From a quick search of the archives, Bruce Britton suggested you should “Expand your Focus to include information that lessens the force of the information (you cherish) that confirms your existing belief”. So it seems we should be motivated to seek out information that disconfirms the idea of sex differences in cognitive/income distribution. Anyone have any?

  • Carey

    The problem I see with ‘quantifying’ things like privilege, is that the lists of privilege are vastly different. As I perused the male privilege categories, I noticed that many related to preferential treatment in obtaining a goal-goal state, whereas many of the female privilege categories concentrated around privileges towards emotional expression:

    For example:
    “If I do the same task as a woman, and if the measurement is at all subjective, chances are people will think I did a better job”

    “The decision to hire me will never be based on assumptions about whether or not I might choose to have a family sometime soon,”

    versus

    “I am allowed to wear clothes that signify ‘vulnerability’, ‘playful openness’, and ’softness’.”

    “I have probably been taught that it is acceptable to cry.”

    (Also, I’m not entirely sure that genetic propensity to live longer is a societal privilege, but that’s for another day)

    Accordingly, you as a man may weigh highly female privileges that you lack, and simultaneously undervalue the privileges that you have. And I, as a woman, might do the same in reverse.

    My point to this is that because the privileges themselves don’t weigh on a simple 1:1, apples to apples metric, I find it hard (but not impossible) to adequately ‘weigh’ them with any mathematical value.

  • Cesoir

    What kind of clothing signifies vulnerability? A T-shirt that says “I am stabbable”?

  • http://www.xuenay.net/ Kaj Sotala

    Cyan – agreed. The question should not be “which sex has it worse” (which, like Michael Vassar pointed out, would be a bit pointless), but rather, “how to make things better for both sexes”.

  • Carey

    Cesoir:

    That one struck me as odd, which is part of the reason I included it. I’m guessing, that the author was thinking of clothes that are or make the wearer ‘fragile’ in some way — thin, diaphanous fabrics perhaps, or dresses that might constrict or otherwise leave a person incapable of defending themselves.

  • anomdebus

    Cyan,
    There is feminism as it should be and feminism as it is actually practiced. I am unfamiliar with the blog in question, however considering that part of the title is “Engendering Discussion” and not something offensive like “Shut up and get me a beer”, I tend to give them a benefit of some doubt.

  • Ian C.

    It seems to me the sexes evolved different survival strategies. The male of the species uses his technical skill to deal with physical reality directly, to turn a dangerous diseased jungle in to a comfy city with TVs, computers and electric blankets. The female of the species uses her social skills to get the male to deal with reality for her. Maybe she could maintain a modern city with all it’s technicalities if she wanted, but she has evolved the ability to talk someone else in to doing it.

    The two survival strategies will naturally result in the kinds of privileges and social norms listed. Men will die more frequently due to working more directly with the physical world. And the physical world can’t be pleaded with, you just have to get the math right or the roof falls down! So men will naturally be less emotional and more straight talking. And women will naturally be allowed more freedom of clothing and emotion because these are part of a social survival strategy.

    Did these things come out of “patriarchy” or different survival strategies?

  • Cyan

    anomdebus, I don’t disagree what you’ve written.*

    * This style of comment totally ripped off of Robin Hanson.

  • http://www.xuenay.net/ Kaj Sotala

    Ian C.:
    Did these things come out of “patriarchy” or different survival strategies?

    These are not mutually exclusive – patriarchy is the overall social system which has formed gradually over time, and social systems don’t tend to form without a reason. Feminism 101 words it as “an ancient and ongoing social system based on traditions of elitism (a hierarchy of inferiorities), privilege and the subjugation of women via strict gender expectations which constrain individualist expressions” – but note that the “strict gender expectations” also hurt men. See, for instance a feminist blog’s category Patriarchy Hurts Men, Too.

  • Cyan

    Ian C., don’t lose sight of the fact that flesh-and-blood people are by their own account negatively affected by the privileges and social norms listed. The point isn’t so much whether or not it’s “natural”. The point is to alter the system so that people don’t suffer under these social constraints.

  • http://entitledtoanopinion.wordpress.com/ TGGP

    I posted Greg Cochran’s response on military spending here. Just recently I had a post discussing Richard Wrangham and Dale Peterson’s “evolutionary feminism” here.

  • http://yudkowsky.net/ Eliezer Yudkowsky

    I can’t agree with the entire concept of privilege. Knowing that you are unlikely to be raped is not a “privilege”, it is a background standard of living. Knowing that your children are unlikely to be taken away from you is not a “privilege”, it is a background standard of living. No one should feel guilty for having either of these “privileges”. If some people lack that background standard of living, it is a problem. If some people do have that background standard of living it is not their fault.

    I saw the “male privilege” checklist previously, and sighed about the fact that they hadn’t tried to compile a checklist that showed all asymmetries of either type, not for comparison purposes, but in order to show that they weren’t that self-absorbed. Yes, I’m aware that feminists want their own space to list their own grievances – but I’m sorry, I just can’t imagine myself trying to compile a selective checklist of injustices. That’s what you do before starting a war, not before reforming a society.

    Trying to see who has it worse is completely pointless, and buys into the same warped psychology that generates one-sided lists in the first place. A gender-imbalanced society does not mean that the two sides should start a war.

    I was surprised to see the “female privilege checklist” was written by men, considering how many obvious items are left out – like “I decide whether I get the abortion”, “My children will not be taken away from me”, “I will never want to kill myself over sex deprivation”, “If I make a sexual advance it is extremely unlikely that I will be prosecuted for it”, and alimony. (None of these items have ever applied to me personally.) Mostly the “female privilege checklist” seems targeted as an attempt to persuade women of something, rather than being an honest list of items that actually make men miserable.

  • http://profile.typekey.com/halfinney/ Hal Finney

    I agree with the direction McArdle takes when she writes:

    But the basic thing, to me, is that I endorse the project of changing social values to increase the scope of human possibility.

    If we did try to count up and see which sex has more privilege on some point scale, what would we do then? Would we seek to give the under-privileged sex more special advantages and perhaps handicap the over-privileged sex? That would seem to be pretty crude.

    Instead, I would suggest that we go through both male and female privilege lists, eliminate redundancies, and then add the points for both lists to get a total point value for sexual discrimination. Think of them both as sexual-inequality lists. Then we could consider policies that would reduce this total point value. The goal would be to move towards a state in which both sexes had equal opportunities.

  • Laura ABJ

    Cyan- Robin does have a delightful way of not saying anything at all…

  • anonymous

    Hal Finney and Eliezer Yudkovsky make very sensible points. In this as in other instances, “Politics is the mind-killer”: it is quite likely that the people drawing such privilege checklists are signaling and reinforcing their ingroup identification rather than effectively striving for the improvement of society. This is not that far removed from the kind of mentality which leads people to actual wars.

  • http://www.hopeanon.typepad.com Hopefully Anonymous

    “What would the benefit be of tallying up the advantages of being one gender or the other unless one was considering changing genders but was unsure which gender had it better…?”

    Michael, a good question. I think the benefit here is primarily sexual signalling, between folks like Robin and Laura ABJ (not at all limited to the two of them, you, me & everyone else are probably included), which I think is one part signalling sexual difference, and one part signalling reproductive fitness. I think this may apply generally to parlor gender wars.

    There are some classic recent comments along these lines, which I’ll post links to in this thread if I get a chance.

  • http://www.xuenay.net/ Kaj Sotala

    Eliezer:
    Knowing that you are unlikely to be raped is not a “privilege”, it is a background standard of living. Knowing that your children are unlikely to be taken away from you is not a “privilege”, it is a background standard of living.

    That’s exactly the point. These are things which should be obvious – in other words, things which shouldn’t be privileges at all, but which should apply to everyone. At the moment, however, that isn’t true – and in fact, because they seem so obvious, people are blind to them – especially if they belong to class to whom the things are obvious. Men have a hard time realizing male privilege, because they take it as an obvious thing, not realizing that it doesn’t apply equally to women.

    Also, the claim isn’t that anybody in particular would be “at fault” due to having privilege. Again citing Feminism 101:

    Privilege, at its core, is the advantages that people benefit from based solely on their social status. It is a status that is conferred by society to certain groups, not seized by individuals, which is why it can be difficult sometimes to see one’s own privilege.

    In a nutshell:

    Privilege is: About how society accommodates you. It’s about advantages you have that you think are normal. It’s about you being normal, and others being the deviation from normal. It’s about fate dealing from the bottom of the deck on your behalf. (Emphasis in the original)

    Also, later on, the following:

    it’s not about one person saying or doing one thing, it’s about a whole lot of people saying and doing things that, collectively, end up giving men an overall advantage.

    It’s not that men are being blamed for being men, but one can’t try to reform a society without understanding what privileges men (or for that matter, women) do enjoy. (I recommend reading the whole linked entry, by the way, not just the excerpts I chose to post.)

  • randy

    anytime i see the word “patriarchy” i think back to this econlog article about whether it’s men or women who are more paternalistic.

    http://econlog.econlib.org/archives/2007/03/make_that_mater.html

  • Z. M. Davis

    Eliezer: “No one should feel guilty for having either of these “privileges”. If some people lack that background standard of living, it is a problem. If some people do have that background standard of living it is not their fault.

    Most of those who advocate awareness of privilege would not disagree with this. Cf. Betty: “Privilege is not your fault. Privilege is not anything you’ve done, or thought, or said. It may have allowed you to do, or think, or say things, but it’s not those things, and it’s not because of those things.” Cf. also the Feminism 101 blog: “it’s not about one person saying or doing one thing, it’s about a whole lot of people saying and doing things that, collectively, end up giving men an overall advantage.”

    I think the idea is that an individual may have a moral obligation to be aware of, and try to counteract, their privilege, even though it’s not their fault.

  • Z. M. Davis

    Kaj beat me to it.

  • http://www.iphonefreak.com frelkins

    I read that Feminism 101 blog. Lawd luv a green-eyed duck, why are so many seemingly intelligent people falling over this most naive, cotton-brained, victim-cultured, 1970s form of feminism? Watching you all here excoriate yourself with cats-o-nine-tails for this stuff is frankly sad.

    Please embrace more serious thinking and stop swallowing the political power trips based on guilt. This whole thing is just turning into PCI: Special Pleading Victims Unit. Enuf, I beg you.

    “I think the idea is that an individual may have a moral obligation to be aware of, and try to counteract, their privilege, even though it’s not their fault.”

    Or, “you’ve done nothing wrong, but give me that position (degree, job, status, Senate seat) you’ve got anyway because, damn it, I’m due and my great-great-grandma couldn’t go to medical school.”

  • http://hanson.gmu.edu Robin Hanson

    I’ve had meetings all day.

    Michael, the reason to tally is Megan’s concern and others like her. It is not obviously bad to have a society where different kinds of people face different choices, but inequality across those choice sets seems more obviously bad. If the choice sets are roughly of equal quality then we didn’t be as anxious to change them.

    Carey, yes of course there are lots of subtleties to consider. But can it really be better to just ignore them and declare women are “more” restricted?

    Kaj, it is not obvious there are ways to make things better for both sexes.

    Eliezer, are you saying you can’t make sense of Megan’s claim? I was trying to flesh it out.

    Hal, it is not obvious to me we want a world where men and women face identical choice sets.

  • Z. M. Davis

    “[I]t is not obvious to me we want a world where men and women face identical choice sets.”

    Why not? Could you elaborate?

  • http://hanson.gmu.edu Robin Hanson

    z.m., if women are more feature X and men more feature Y, and women tend to choose situation A more relative to men choosing situation B more, then A may evolve to better accommodate X while B evolves to better accommodate Y. At that point it may be, all else equal, easier for woman to choose A and easier for men to choose B. Their choice sets will not be identical because which choices are easier than others will be different for men and women.

  • Cyan

    I’m having trouble understanding how A and B are both situations people choose and things that evolving. What sorts of things are A and B?

  • http://yudkowsky.net/ Eliezer Yudkowsky

    “Privilege”, to me, sounds like something bad and to be eliminated; the term comes from “private law”, I believe.

    If the goal is to de-deprivilege women and not deprivilege men, someone really needs to say so and maybe pick a different word. Talking about a normal standard of living as “privilege” leaves a bad taste in my mouth, and I don’t think it was intended otherwise, either.

  • http://www.iphonefreak.com frelkins

    @zmd
    ” ‘[I]t is not obvious to me we want a world where men and women face identical choice sets.’

    Why not? Could you elaborate?”

    Because maybe we don’t want a world where anyone/everyone faces identical choice sets? If we don’t have identical aptitudes and personal situations, how do we have identical choices? Shouldn’t the individual be respected before the class?

    Wouldn’t that kind of radical identity/equality require amazing infringements on human individuality, which would be more shocking than the minor differences some class sets may now face? Wouldn’t it basically put us in Harrison Bergeron land?

    I mean until Robin can have my baby (forgive me for using you in my example, Robin), he and I will never have identical choice sets. At the most absurd and extreme case, when that technology becomes available, should we subject Robin to the baby-having implant to ensure that he and I then have identity of choice? And then of course I would have to subject myself to the baby-making implant. What if he or I decline to accept said implant?

    Me no big Nietzsche fan, but perhaps his critique of simplistic ideas about equality has some use nonetheless?

  • Cyan

    frelkins,

    No one here is advocating anything like what you’ve described, so your objection is a strawman argument. If we’re going to agree that “equal choice sets” refers to the equality that feminists want to promulgate, then perhaps you could criticize that, and not an absurd exaggeration.

  • Z. M. Davis

    Frelkins, I think you assume far too much. I merely asked Robin to elaborate on his position; I did not and have not argued for equality of outcome. Correct me if I am mistaken in my interpretation, but by choice set I understand the set of choices one could make, not the set of choices one actually will make (in the many worlds, or whatever). Thus, I find it conceivable in principle that two individuals or groups could have identical choice sets without making identical choices. As a liberal individualist, I would like people to have as many choices as possible. In the realm of gender, that means I think men should have the option of doing traditionally feminine things if they so desire, and that women should have the option of doing traditionally masculine things if they so desire. I realize, of course, that people can’t do whatever they want; there are real-world economic, technological, and physical limitations. I realize furthermore that there exist statistical sex differences such that women collectively and men collectively will not end up making the same choices. Still, I don’t see what’s wrong with giving people more options when it is feasible to do so. As you yourself say, should not the individual be respected before the class?

  • http://www.xuenay.net/ Kaj Sotala

    Robin, nor is it obvious that there wouldn’t be. Simple things, such as pushing for entertainment portraying less stereotyped gender roles, already help.

    Eliezer, don’t get too stuck on the name. The content is what matters.

  • Anonymous

    Z.M. Davis,

    Why is giving two (or more) groups an identical choice set, with no regard for the differences in expected outcomes, a thing to be desired for its own sake? If your utility function is dominated by outcome-dependent preferences, your perceived choices may in fact not be choices at all. Therefore equality of outcome needs to be considered.

    From the perspective of socially engineering equality between groups, I think the distinction should be made between differences in expected outcomes that arise from controllable vs uncontrollable differences between the groups. The desireability of actually controlling the controllable differences between the groups should be considered, as one would expect this to alter the expected outcomes of *other* choices significantly.

  • Captain Awesome

    1)
    “Privilege, at its core, is the advantages that people benefit from based solely on their social status. It is a status that is conferred by society to certain groups, not seized by individuals, which is why it can be difficult sometimes to see one’s own privilege.”

    If “social status” is in turn determined by rational agents who have knowledge of exogenous group differences and react in their own interest accordingly, then “privilege” is a highly obfuscatory word that can be applied to any group whose social outcomes are judged to be more desirable than those of other groups.

    2)
    The key question is to what extent innate differences restrict the set of feasible social systems. If women desire men with status, then in just about any free society men will compete fiercely for status in a way that women won’t, because they will need to for sex. Similarly, if effeminate men are on average much more likely to be gay, then in just about any society being an effeminate man will make people think that you are gay, and men who desire to have sex with women will therefore take fairly strong measures to avoid effeminacy.

  • Z. M. Davis

    Anonymous: “If your utility function is dominated by outcome-dependent preferences, your perceived choices may in fact not be choices at all.”

    I’m sorry, Anonymous, but I don’t understand what you’re trying to say with your comment.

    It’s true that the traditional rhetoric of choice gets a little bit awkward when one is in a position to determine what other people will want to choose (e.g., through genetic engineering, or even just deciding how children are to be educated). Probably the criterion that no one be coerced leaves a wide range of possible societies. If a person or society could see the how present actions determine the desires of future people, then how to fairly choose amongst the many possible future societies? Wouldn’t any sufficiently informed choice constitute a form of social engineering, which is traditionally thought to be antithetical to freedom? To the extent that this is philosophically problematic–and as a compatibilist, I rather doubt that it is at all–it’s a problem for anyone who values both free choice and some particular social outcome.

    –but I think we’re talking past each other.

    Captain: “[I]f effeminate men are on average much more likely to be gay, then in just about any society being an effeminate man will make people think that you are gay, and men who desire to have sex with women will therefore take fairly strong measures to avoid effeminacy.”

    I don’t see why it would be prohibitively difficult to establish some sort of signal that says, “Despite my effeminate gender presentation, I’m actually straight!” Blue earrings, say. (I’d wear them!)

  • Anonymous

    Z.M. Davis,

    I inferred from your post that you value striving for providing identical choice sets over providing equality of outcome. But what if your striving only serves to unlock a choice where, because of a lack of equality of outcome, all the strategies but one are strictly dominated? It’s like giving someone a book with the pages torn out.

    I don’t think it matters whether social engineering is antithetical to freedom or not, since it’s something we all engage in, regardless. “There will be no not-jumping.”

  • http://www.xuenay.net/ Kaj Sotala

    Anonymous:
    But what if your striving only serves to unlock a choice where, because of a lack of equality of outcome, all the strategies but one are strictly dominated?

    That’s kinda vague. Could you give an example?

  • http://www.iphonefreak.com frelkins

    @Cyan

    I think you attribute to much too my example and at the same time not enough. If that makes sense.

    “No one here is advocating anything like what you’ve described, so your objection is a strawman argument.”

    I never claimed they were; I never attributed it to anyone, it was a response to ZMD’s question about identical choices. A key thing missing here in this discussion is the body and thus desire. This is so important. This is what keeps there from ever being a so-called “equal choice set.” (Feminism in the style of Simone de Beauvoir seems so compelling, until contemporary science enters the picture, at which point reality sets in.)

    There will never be identical choices, a level playing field, equality, or egalitarianism — what have you — as long as we have the body. It’s an inconvenient fact most Anglo-Saxon “pragmatic feminists” pay homage to in word, and then ignore in deed.

    Anglo-Saxon feminism such as as we have seen recently in various threads here is not the only kind, nor the most common globally, and maybe one could argue that it is in fact among the least successful forms today. A few of the posters seemed indebted to Foucault-style Queer Theory, with which you can have issues on purely formal grounds.

    “If we’re going to agree that ‘equal choice sets’ refers to the equality that feminists want to promulgate”

    I myself am a stated feminist, and apparently the most “radical” one here. Yet I will not agree that “equal choice sets” are what serious feminists want to achieve; in fact, if I think it through, I would have to vigorously dispute such.

    This is my 3rd post, gentlemen, so I will politely exit. . .that clacking is the sound of Louboutins on the marble floor. . .thank you for your time.

  • Captain Awesome

    Z. M.,
    Good point. I only intended it as a hypothetical example of how some norms and attitudes might be very difficult to change due to innate preferences. Maybe effeminacy also signals potentially gay children?

    But getting one’s ears pierced seems like a big pain. I’d rather just wear a shirt that said, “I might act gay, but I’m really straight. If you don’t believe me, let me prove it to you.”

  • http://lightskyland.com Matthew C.

    Heather Mac Donald covers most of my points in the beginning of this article.

  • Cyan

    frelkins,

    The phrase “equal choice sets” was introduced by Robin Hanson to refer to Hal Finney’s “equal opportunities”. If you want to take the phrase and wrench it into a reductio ad absurdum directed at no one in particular, well… okay, I guess, but it’s not really germane, is it? I’m far more interested in substantive criticism of “pragmatic feminists” that you hint at in your most recent post. Most of my engagement with feminist thought is in the pragmatic stream; I’m not very familiar with the French feminism that is your preferred variety.

    P.S. I think the three-post rule is “no more than two posts on Recent Comments, three in extreme need” not “no more than three posts on any one thread”.

  • Z. M. Davis

    Frelkins: “There will never be identical choices, a level playing field, equality, or egalitarianism — what have you — as long as we have the body.”

    Again, I don’t think anyone here has argued for identical choices–you say you understand this, but then it’s not clear why you keep bringing it up. Leaving that aside–sure. People have bodies; people can’t arbitrarily redesign or discard their body at will (yet, anyway), no matter how much they might want to. That’s one of the economic/technological/physical constraints I mentioned earlier. I don’t see how this has anything to do with the fundamental desirability of making more lifestyle options available to people, to the very limited extent that such is actually, in fact feasible. And I thank you for your time.

    Anonymous: “It’s like giving someone a book with the pages torn out.”

    Such is life in a lawful universe.

    Captain: “I’d rather just wear a shirt that said, ‘I might act gay, but I’m really straight. If you don’t believe me, let me prove it to you.'”

    Tacky. IMHO.

  • http://occludedsun.wordpress.com Caledonian

    The relative unlikelihood of a man being raped in our society is not a privilege. It’s a function of various psychological and physiological factors that are not under society’s control. The rape of any person is forbidden – there are no “private laws” sanctioning the rape of women, nor are there any protecting men. It is neither a legal or a social principle.

    Society is neither omnipotent nor all-responsible.

  • Cyan

    The relative unlikelihood of a man being raped in our society… is a function of various psychological and physiological factors that are not under society’s control.

    I really need to respond to this. The rate of rape in the U.S. have been dropping for decades. One study at a New Hampshire university campus showed a significant drop in unwanted sexual experiences between 1988 and 2000. Changing attitudes of men towards women is a highly plausible explanation. We may never eliminate rape or even get to parity, but there are strong reasons to believe that social change is effective.

  • Anonymous

    Kaj,

    A general example: any choice where implementation of the possible strategies involves expending some arbitrary resource that one group has an abundance of, and that another group has less than the critical amount of.

    A specific example: say you are going to provide to various individuals access to a computer and educational software that will allow the able among them to learn some economically valuable skill of their choosing. Since learning requires time, and different people have varying amounts of free time, anyone who gains more utility from spending their time not-learning (hunter-gatherers perhaps, or someone working fervently to stay out of debtors prison, or someone living in a culture where such learning is punished) has been given a choice where all the viable strategies are already strictly dominated.

  • http://dl4.jottit.com/contact Richard Hollerith

    This is my 3rd post, gentlemen, so I will politely exit.

    I want to stop the spread of the mistaken belief that there is a rule or convention against commenting more than 3 times in a thread or “comment section”.

    The correct convention (originated by Eliezer months ago) is that a commenter’s name should appear no more than 3 times in the list of the ten most RECENT COMMENTS in the right column.

  • http://occludedsun.wordpress.com Caledonian

    Cyan, nothing you said is in any way related to the point I made in my previous post.

    We may never eliminate rape or even get to parity

    Why in the world would you think “getting to parity” is a step in the process of eliminating rape?

  • Cyan

    Caledonian, perhaps your point was not as clear as you thought it was. And I don’t actually think getting to parity is a step in the process to eliminating rape. That’s a reasonable reading of what I wrote, but not one I intended.

  • Grant

    Robin, might an object metric be to try and find the market value of the services provided by privileges in society? In some cases this actually seems kind of do-able.

    Cyan,

    “I think it’s fair to state that replacing patriarchy with a more egalitarian social system is one of the goals of feminism; the corollary is that female feminists would be happy to see many of the listed female privileges disappear as part and parcel of the dismantling of patriarchy.”

    Then why call themselves “feminists”? Why not “humanists” or something else? I understand the need to focus on specific parts of society’s faults, but the term “feminist” often comes off as being “anti-anything-but-females”. One should be able to be a humanist focusing on females in society in the same manner one can be an economist and focus on investment banking.

    I disliked how the list of male privileges included things like “…and it will be attributed to my sex”. Having some trait attributed to one’s sex, the color of one’s skin, or one’s handedness isn’t any sort of privilege or dis-privilege at all. If anything I’d think it would be preferable to having a bad trait blamed on individual incompetence.

    I also disliked how the list of female privileges seemed so focused on the ability of women to be emotionally open. I think those are probably one or two privileges, at best. The “I will probably live longer than the average man” was also pretty silly.

    In the end I think males will always seem more privileged, at least as long as society (or genetics?) continues to view female complaints as being important while male complaints as signs of weakness. I don’t think you can judge society’s gender biases without first dealing with that (meta?) bias.

  • Cyan

    Grant, while feminists and humanists share overlapping goals, they are two different communities. Also, there are entire streams of feminist thought that have little to do with humanism — including some that I would characterize as genuinely “anti-anything-but-females”. I’m not sure how much of the rest of your comment is addressed to me, so I’ll stop here.

  • TGGP

    The decline in rape might be more attributable to whatever causes the general drop in crime rather than something more specific.

  • loki on the run

    The whole male privilege checklist looks like a cudgel fashioned to beat men around the head with.

    It is, of course, misplaced, as is all social engineering, since those that the victim-hood sisterhood would target simply find new ways to compete for and strive for social status.

    Males compete for and strive for social status because that is what many females desire in a mate (because it is a proxy for very good genes and an ability to provide), and given that there is very good evidence that some 50% of males never pass their genes to the next generation, there is a very strong filtering function ensuring that males will and do strive for social status. And since women can just lay back and enjoy their privilege, is it any wonder that they are not even in the game for the most part.

    There are, of course subtleties, such as, just as not all men are equally worthwhile partners, neither are all women equally worthwhile. However, the variance in males is much larger than it is in females.

  • Crush on Lyle

    the term “feminist” often comes off as being “anti-anything-but-females”

    Hm. I don’t hear that connotation. That sounds like saying the term “vegetarian” implies one who eats only vegetables (when most vegetarians also eat dairy, eggs, nuts, chocolate, etc.). Humanists aren’t “anti-anything-but-humans” are they?

  • http://grendelkhan.livejournal.com grendelkhan

    Grant, the reason people keep linking to “Feminism 101” is because your questions have likely been answered there.

    loki on the run, might it be possible that “the whole male privilege checklist” is based on actual grievances with the state of things? Is there something that which you particularly disagree with–do you think there’s nothing there worth bringing to your attention? Did you not notice the “privilege is not your fault” bit linked to in previous comments? Is that what led you to not address the substance of the list and declare it a “cudgel” used to “beat men”? (In using that metaphor, by the way, you’re invoking a surprisingly common trope.)

  • Brad Hutchings

    I haven’t looked at either privilege list yet. But, if “claiming sexism” isn’t on the women’s privilege list and “breaking it down” isn’t on the men’s privilege list, then the lists are missing something. As for valuing them… You need more than simple arithmetic. Both of these are like 0/0. You need a limit theorem, and you need to know how the curve gets there.

    All that said, while “breaking it down” is a powerful privilege, I don’t think it quite trumps “claiming sexism”. Women will always win this discussion. Men will always lose. Ironic, huh?

  • Douglas Knight

    Robin Hanson:
    It is not obviously bad to have a society where different kinds of people face different choices, but inequality across those choice sets seems more obviously bad.

    Yes it is bad, but that’s not saying much. If you have a zero-sum way of shifting the playing field, knowing who has the advantage is relevant to deciding which way to push it, but instead you should look for positive sum changes.

    For example, people sometimes argue about whether birth control helps men or women more. If you believe that it helps both, it’s irrelevant which it helps more. (and it may be good without being Pareto)

    This argument does not rule out cash transfers (taxes), but public choice, etc., make me think it also a bad idea.

  • anonymous

    This argument does not rule out cash transfers (taxes), but public choice, etc., make me think it also a bad idea.

    Why? If you assume that choice sets can be directly compared (as Robin does in his original post), you do not lose any generality by putting monetary valuations on them. Then resource transfers (taxes, etc.) can address equity concerns in an especially efficient way, while leaving any positive-sum changes unconstrained. Could you elaborate on your public choice concerns?

  • http://www.feministcritics.org/blog/ Daran

    Thanks for the link, which seems to have provoked a mini-tsunami of further linkage and traffic. We’ve had more than three times as mmany page views in a single day than our previous record, and about ten times as much as on an average day, almost all of it due to bloggers hat tipping you for the link to us.

  • loki on the run

    Following up on my earlier post, feminists could engage in a multi-generational effort to produce more equal average outcomes between the sexes by reducing the larger variance in reproductive success that males experience compared with females.

    However, that would require that females dispense sexual favors to men equally and without regard to the status of the males or the consequences to their offspring. This seems unlikely to ever happen.

    Obligatory full disclosure. I have been married for more than 20 years and have three offspring, all female. DNA tests that I required before I sprung for tuition have revealed that they are my offspring (and thus I now have the same confidence in paternity that my spouse has in her maternity) so I would not benefit from this proposal.

  • http://feminazi.wordpress.com/ m Andrea

    Rape is a great unfairness and cruelty of life. It is male privilege which says “suck it up honey, and deal with the likelyhood of it happening to you”.

    I’m paraphrasing several jerks in this thread. Yes, I noticed you are a jerk.

  • http://www.hopeanon.typepad.com Hopefully Anonymous

    ” I have been married for more than 20 years and have three offspring, all female. DNA tests that I required before I sprung for tuition have revealed that they are my offspring”

    Hilarious juxtposition of sentences, loki.

  • loki on the run

    Being lied to about the paternity of your alleged offspring is a great unfairness of life and it is female privilege to say “suck it up dude and pay me child support for the child that is not yours because you did not think to ask for a DNA test.”

  • loki on the run

    Hey, m Andrea, I have never ever thought of raping a woman and regard children as sacred (but not my responsibility if they did not come from my sperm). I resent your implication that I am responsible for any rapists out there.

    It is easy to avoid rapists.

  • Heh

    Grant, they call themselves Feminists because when it comes down to it, they want power the power to drag those who are ‘privileged’ down.

    It isn’t about equality.

    If it were about equality then feminists, neo-marxists, cultural study theorists, and the rest of the postmodern/poststructuralist crowd would make their political point from a politically neutral base and try to pull minorities up to ‘privileged’ positions.

    They don’t do this. They take the reverse position and try pull the privileged down. Why else would they make endless guilt-riden lists of ‘woe is me’ and make out that being ‘privileged’ is something to be ‘aware’ of and something ‘privileged’ people should personally curb? Are not many of the privileged positions good things for EVERYONE to have? Shouldn’t EVERYONE be privileged? Instead we have to settle for second best: Non-privileges for everyone (overlooking the highly ironic position of said cultural theorists who privilege their own opinions over any other social criticism or organisation).

    Like Eliezer said, it leaves a dirty taste in your mouth.

  • urandom

    Its necessary to determine which sex is more disadvantaged because its essentially impossible to pursue societal change that benefits both sexes equally. You need to know which sex is more disadvantaged so that you can focus on the right reforms and not passively make society more unjust. The bulk of the horrible things feminists do and have done are to take situations where both sexes have problems, deal selective with those affecting women, and then produce situations that only disadvantage men.

    If someone wanted a society with absolute gender equality (a goal of debatable merit), they would do exactly what Robert Hanson says, figure out which sex is more disadvantaged, work selectively for that sex until theres a broad balance, and then work for both sexes equally.

    And, as an aside, theres very little reason to think that men ought to have shorter life expectancies. Theres absolutely no reason to believe that women naturally live longer, its well established that men have lived longer than women for the vast majority of human existence and in the vast majority of societies.

  • http://www.allancrossman.com Allan Crossman

    m Andrea: Rape is a great unfairness and cruelty of life. It is male privilege which says “suck it up honey, and deal with the likelyhood of it happening to you”. I’m paraphrasing several jerks in this thread. Yes, I noticed you are a jerk.

    It would be good if you indicated who you are actually arguing against.

    I’ve gone through this thread looking for what you might be referring to. Admittedly, I’ve just had four shots of Wyborowa, so I might not be at most observant right now. But the only posts that used the word “rape” were:

    Eliezer explaining that not being raped shouldn’t be a privilege but rather a basic standard of living for all.

    Kaj Sotala agreeing that it should be, but noting that it wasn’t.

    Caledonian saying that the odds of being raped were a function of “psychological and physiological factors that are not under society’s control”.

    Cyan saying that rape rates were falling and that social change was having a positive effect in this area.

    Caledonian saying that equalizing the odds of getting raped for both sexes is not a step in the process of eliminating rape.

    Cyan agreeing.

    TGGP saying that the decline in rape might be a result of a general decline in crime.

    My admittedly hasty search has also failed to find any other posts that implicitly mentioned rape. So, who are you paraphrasing, please? Of all these posts, Caledonian’s first seems most likely to be interpreted in your way, but it’s still an extremely uncharitable, nay, deliberately hostile interpretation.

  • http://www.feministcritics.org/blog/ ballgame

    First of all, Robin, a rather belated thanks for the link to my ‘female privilege checklist’ post; it sparked a fair bit of traffic to Feminist Critics and seems to have spurred a number of blog discussions on the topic.

    I did want to clear up a few misconceptions that some commenters here seem to have formed from reading that checklist. Cyan said, “The irony of the female privilege checklist linked above is that it is presented as as part of an argument against feminism …” It may surprise Cyan to learn that I am in fact a feminist myself (with caveats) and completely agree with the ostensible goal of (some) feminists to eliminate gender penalties for both sexes.

    I say “ostensible” because it’s been my experience in the feminist blogosphere that the awareness among most feminists about the extent of male ‘disprivilege’ is rather extraordinarily low, and far lower than the awareness that many feminists think they have, which was one of the reasons I compiled the ‘female privilege checklist’ in the first place. It was not my intent to prove that ‘men have it worse’, only that it isn’t self-evident that women have it worse. Indeed, though I suspect your suggestion that, “The next obvious step is to assign point values to such privileges, so we can add them up and compare totals,” was a tad tongue-in-cheek, the suggestion is a not-unreasonable rejoinder to many feminists who assert that women (only) are oppressed and men (only) are privileged without providing the requisite theoretical argument demonstrating that this is so.

  • http://sweatingthroughfog.blogspot.com/ Sweating Through Fog

    Having written my own Female Privilege List (and thanks for the link!), and having debated the merits of the male and female lists, I decided that the next step was to write a list of the privileges that would be gained if either the male or female list “won”. Here it is – the Victim Privilege List

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