I Am Sexist

I am sexist, because I knowingly say something sexist: I believe women are naturally inferior to men in a certain way.  Time magazine:

For humans, there has always been something about a health message coming from a woman that gives it special authority. … Traditionally … it was the mother who saw to it that the kids got vaccinated, Grandma made it to her heart specialist and Dad stayed on his blood-pressure meds. …

Women make the primary health care decisions in two-thirds of American households. They account for 80 cents out of every dollar spent in drugstores and are likelier than men to choose the family’s health insurance. …  “Global development agencies [know] … when you give resources or money to women, more winds up in children’s health. When you give it to men, it’s likelier to wind up going for things like tobacco.” …

As with so many things, it begins with evolution, but it doesn’t stop there. Females of nearly all species expend far more time and energy producing young than males do and are thus far more motivated to protect that investment. … [Researchers] asked men and women in doctor’s offices why they were there and if anyone had encouraged them to come. Men were 2.7 times as likely as women were to say they were prodded by a member of the opposite sex.

Time describes a way that women are naturally different from men.  Is this “sexist“?  Technically yes, as it expresses a “belief or attitude that one gender or sex is inferior to, less competent, or less valuable than the other.”  But no, not according to common serious usage* of the term, since here Time says it is women who are superior.  Folks who say that are almost never seriously labeled “sexist.”

Now I believe we consume too much med, especially in the US.  We’d be better off to crudely cut med, via higher prices or less geographic practice variation.  So I think whomever is responsible for pushing for more med at the margin does a bad thing.  Therefore if I agree with Time that women naturally push med more, I must conclude that in this way women are naturally less valuable or competent than men.

Thus, I am “sexist.” So must you all now shun and condemn me for my knowing serious “sexism,” or can we agree either that it isn’t such a bad thing to be “sexist,” or that we should move to a narrower usage of the term?

Our social norms on serious sexism are now bendable; the way we’ve defined “sexist” gives media elites the flexibility to tar most anyone who speaks honestly with the label. After all, if honest, most should admit women are different from men in many ways, and worse in some of those ways.

By opposing such flexibility, I signal I am more likely that most to be so tarred, and hence less connected, influential, or savvy.  So be it.  Will anyone else join me, and publicly admit they are “sexist” as the term is used today?   Will anyone else oppose the term’s bendability?

*(Many agree “all men are rapists” is sexist, but few ever say that.  I can’t find an actual claim of female superiority widely accepted as seriously “sexist.”)

Added:  Two more “sexism” definitions:

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  • Michael Kirkland

    Do Americans consume too much medical service, or do they just pay too much for it?

  • Microbiologist

    > Females of nearly all species expend far more time and energy producing young than males do and are thus far more motivated to protect that investment

    Shockingly, TIME got that wrong. If I am the father of child A, then I and my wife both lose exactly equal amounts of fitness if and when A dies of the flu, or becomes paraplegic. (Actually, not quite exactly equal amounts, but very close.) It doesn’t matter at all whether I have given less care in the past to A and my wife has given more. It doesn’t matter who has invested resources in him at all. He could have gotten lost in the woods at age 4 and been raised by wolves up to the age of 13 when we were re-united; it makes no difference.

    But yeah, there are reasons why A’s mother will be more solicitous toward him when he’s in bed with the flu. Just not the reasons TIME said. To start with, unlike my wife I am not 100% certain that I’m a biological parent of A. Next, assuming I’m the average male, I want to devote a considerable amount of energy towards progressively raising my status, in order that I might one day have lots of extramarital matings. This is not necessary for my wife. Some amount of extramarital matings will be fitness-enhancing for her (if she’s the typical female), but she won’t need status in order to obtain them.

    • Peter Twieg

      “If I am the father of child A, then I and my wife both lose exactly equal amounts of fitness if and when A dies of the flu, or becomes paraplegic.”

      This isn’t true if there was less of an opportunity cost in conceiving/raising A for one of the parents. The standard arguments about parental investment all operate on the assumption that there’s usually less of an opportunity cost in raising A for the father rather than the mother.

  • Microbiologist

    And yeah, I’m sexist, under a broad definition of the term (and heaven knows there are no few people who use a very broad one indeed).

    • M Wms

      Is “broad” meant to imply it’s inferior? ;-)

      Yes, I’m a sexist, and a broad.

  • Kyle Munkittrick

    An article from Time describing a single difference between men and women in the second half of the 20th century in the United States shows that women generally make more medical decisions for the family than men some how equates to “describ[ing] a way that women are naturally different from men.”

    Robin, you’re a serious economist. I understand you and a few other Mason economists, such as Bryan Caplan, are highly critical and distrustful of feminist arguments. That is fine, but in both your and Caplan’s case, your normally high standards for data seem to lower significantly and your normally complex analysis becomes grossly simplified. The statement “Therefore if I agree with Time that women naturally push med more, I must conclude that in this way women are naturally less valuable or competent than men” moves from one, highly specific example to a generalized and normative claim. Why would you allow this error here but not in other areas of your thought?

    It is not sexist to claim that the sexes are different in general either behaviorally or biologically. It is sexist, however, to claim a limitation on any one member of either sex based solely upon their sex, particularly in terms of intellectual pursuit, where we seem to learn every year is far less influenced by biology than previously thought.

    As for examples of “women as superior” sexism, it often manifests in the same form as racism that claims “Asians are better at math” or “blacks are better athletes.” The remarks are still racist, both because they connect performance with race (a scientifically non-existent category) and imply that the superiority to the normal race, white, is an exception to the rule of white superiority.

    I find it curious that both yourself and Caplan insist on wading into this territory and then erect such aggressive barriers to alternative perspectives.

    • Anthony

      Sometimes I really don’t understand how smart people can stare obvious facts (e.g. Blacks are better at sports, Asians are better at math) in the face and not only miss them, but claim that people who believe them are evil racists. IMO the argument for biological diversity is pretty simple:

      * Different physical traits are good for different tasks. More fast-twitch muscles are better for sprinting and jumping, more slow-twitch muscles are better for long distance running. More testosterone makes you stronger and faster, but also dumber. Taller is better for swimming, but worse for gymnastics. Etc.

      * Assuming adequate nutrition, your traits are determined by your genetics. Most of the people posting on this bulletin board have good genetics for intelligence, but not for sports. Or do you seriously think that if only you had trained more as a child, you could have been an NFL offensive lineman?

      * Your genetics are determined by your parents, and in general people tend to mate with physically close partners. This is somewhat less true today, but 5000 years ago it would have been extremely uncommon for someone born in West Africa to mate with someone born in China.

      * Therefore, different populations of humans will tend to have slightly different balances of traits, especially since their environments are different. Skin color is simply an easily visible trait, but it since it provides so much information about the person’s genetic background, it actually functions very well in a Bayesian sense.

      For example, see: http://www.newstatesman.com/200009180009

      It’s actually West Africans that are the great sprinter/jumpers. No white man has ever run faster than 10 seconds in the 100 meter dash, but hundreds of West Africans have. On the other hand, the Kenyans are great at distance running. I like to play basketball. On average, the black guys at the gym are more athletic. It doesn’t mean the white guys never dunk, but the guys who can are about 2:1 black.

      Of course, the funny thing about all this is that the Politically Correct have decided that some groups are allowed to claim whatever they want. For example, Carl Lewis casually says that Blacks are better athletes in that article I linked. When Murray claimed that Blacks were not as intelligent in The Bell Curve, all hell broke loose. Time is perfectly OK saying that women are better than men at task X. But if anyone claims the contrary, look out! The PC police are on the horizon. Larry Summers is exhibit A.

      Anyway, I really don’t understand the PC position, which seems to me to be based on denying obvious facts. But hey, I’ve been wrong before, so you’re welcome to try and convince me.

      • http://mindtap.wordpress.com Sean

        More testosterone makes you stronger and faster, but also dumber.

        Does it make you dumber, or does it just make you less interested in intellectual pursuits and more interested in chasing girls and catching footballs? When I was younger, I was far ahead of my age group in intelligence (the grades said it, not me), but also had testosterone levels high enough the doctor was worried for some time…

    • http://entitledtoanopinion.wordpress.com TGGP

      Those who subscribe to this opinion [there are no human races] are obviously ignorant of modern biology.” — Ernst Mayr, 2002

      “particularly in terms of intellectual pursuit, where we seem to learn every year is far less influenced by biology than previously thought”
      I think Judith Harris would disagree, though John B. Watson would wish that were the case.

  • Roko

    Will anyone else join me, and publicly admit they are “sexist” as the term is used today?

    I’m not exactly sure what you are publicly admitting to; the term “sexist” seems to be a general stick to beat anyone who says anything to the disadvantage of women.

    [Sexism] … expresses a “belief or attitude that one gender or sex is inferior to, less competent, or less valuable than the other.”

    This is ambiguous; it could be interpreted as “belief or attitude that one gender or sex is inferior to, less competent in some specific way” – in which case it is obviously true. But I doubt that the defenders of the term will endorse that definition. One might interpret it to mean “belief or attitude that one gender or sex is inferior to, less competent overall“. In this case, you can believe that women make bad med decisions, that they are more irrational on average, and that they are worse at math, but still believe that neither gender is “better overall”.

    In cases that I have encountered, the slander gets used in specific cases. For example, if you say that women are less good at doing math than men (on average), you will probably be labelled sexist. If you say that women are less physically strong than men (on average) you will probably be criticized as sexist.

    As such, it seems that “sexism” is essentially a kind of thoughtcrime; you’re not allowed to think that women are worse at X, even (and especially) if it is true.

  • Chad

    It seems to me that your definition of sexism is simply missing some key elements, such as the belief or attitude being unfounded or that the superiority be more broadly applied than the evidence supports.

    Men are taller on average than women. If I believe that being taller is better in general (for some unrelated reason), then I believe that men are “superior” to women in the area of height. That does not make me sexist. However, if I take this superiority and apply it more broadly to saying that “men are generally superior to women”, then I am sexist.

    This example is a bit of a simplification because being “superior” in height doesn’t bring along much other baggage, while a property like “scores higher/lower on tests” or “spends more/less on health care” will tend to pull in other conclusions, like “is more/less intelligent” and “makes better/worse spending decisions”, some of which may not be supported by the evidence.

    There is probably an additional element of “X-ism” that relates to how you treat individuals within the “inferior” class as well — especially (but not exclusively) those that are outside the norm in the dimension under examinaton.

    • Vladimir M.

      Chad:

      Men are taller on average than women. If I believe that being taller is better in general (for some unrelated reason), then I believe that men are “superior” to women in the area of height. That does not make me sexist. However, if I take this superiority and apply it more broadly to saying that “men are generally superior to women”, then I am sexist.

      Actually, the obvious sex differences in size and physical strength have been a major stumbling block for sexism theorists when it comes to those few high-status professions where physical attributes are highly relevant, most notably in firefighting and the military. In these cases, explicitly sexist conclusions — that men are on average more highly qualified for certain high-status jobs, and that with suitably high criteria, the qualified candidates will be overwhelmingly men — follow from a simple syllogism based on undeniable premises. This has led some prominent sexism theorists to propose fascinating arguments in attempts to refute the unpleasant conclusions:

      http://voluntaryxchange.typepad.com/voluntaryxchange/2005/12/give_me_a_break.html
      [Quoting from John Stossel's "Give Me a Break":] [T]o get more women into fire departments to avoid accusations of sex discrimination, [cities] were “gender-norming” qualification standards. Since men have twice the upper-body strength, some fire departments just dropped the strength test. Kate O’Beirne of the Heritage Foundation put it in perspective: “If I as an all-suffering taxpayer, have to be evacuated from a building, I used to be carried by a male firefighter. I am now dragged by my ankles, as my head hits every single stair going down three stories. I prefer being carried. I assume most taxpayers prefer being carried.”

      I passed that thought on to Gloria Steinem. I loved her response: “It’s better to drag them out because there’s less smoke down there. We were probably killing people by carrying them out at that height.”

      It was so bizarre, I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. Then she said sex differences shouldn’t even be researched. “It’s really the remnant of anti-American, crazy thinking to do this kind of research,” Steinem says. “It’s what’s keeping us down, not what’s helping us.” [pg. 188]

      (Emphasis mine.)

      • Chad

        Amusing anecdote to be sure. I am sure that there are a small vocal minority quick to apply the label “sexist” as broadly as possible. That doesn’t mean that that is how the majority of American’s understand it.

    • Michael Kirkland

      The problem with that definition is that people always believe that their own prejudices are well founded.

  • nazgulnarsil

    while I am technically racist and sexist, I think it is stupid for any advocate of stricter property rights and better contract law to label themselves such.

    • Dre

      What does being an advocate of stricter property rights and better contract law have to do with labeling yourself racist or sexist?

      • Emile

        I’m guessing he means it’s stupid in the tactical sense, i.e. it risks giving those advocates in general a bad image, making it harder to find (reputable) allies, etc.

      • Proper Dave

        Err maybe because he don’t want government benefits to go to “those people” maybe?

        It is also is not a good idea for “advocate of stricter property rights and better contract law” to appear selfish and greedy.

        :)

  • Roko

    I said:

    you’re not allowed to think that women are worse at X, even (and especially) if it is true.

    An interesting experiment would be to go around asserting that women are inferior to men at Y, where Y is something that women are clearly superior at. For example, raising kids, reading body language, intuition, caring for the sick, etc. My prediction is that in these cases you won’t immediately be labelled as sexist, rather people will dispute the facts.

    This would imply that “that’s sexist” means “that’s probably true, but I will punish you for even thinking it”

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10546265581296919974 Rob

    Looking forward to Baumeister’s new book.

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

    Kyle, Time claimed this is a very long term trend. In my sentence you quote, I don’t see how my “in this way” makes Time’s specific claim more general.

    Roko, I’ll happily endorse adding “overall” to narrow the definition of “sexist”, but as you note this isn’t common serious usage at the moment.

    Chad, I cited my source for a definition of “sexism”. I also added two more definition quotes to the post. Care to cite a source which clearly specifies your “unfounded” and “broadly applied” requirements?

  • RJB

    A common rhetorical tactic of those opposed to granting equal rights to women or minorities is to define sexism or racism as simply acknowledging differences between genders or races. It is *possible* to define racism this way, but it is NOT “the way the term is used today.” Instead, it is usually just a disingenuous and snarky way to imply that affirmative action and similar policies are just as sexist as the problems they purport to address. (In the best cases, the snark merely supplements a more serious argument that affirmative action doesn’t help or makes things worse for the people given preferential treatment.)

    I view the present post as primarily snark in this vein. Robin conveniently leaves out the rest of the first paragraph of the Wikipedia definition, which refers to hatred, prejudice, stereotypes and chauvinism. It can’t have escaped Robin’s notice that almost every use of the term sexism explicitly or implicitly is referring to these behaviors that are widely viewed as objectionable.

    So to answer your opening question, Robin, you are not sexist because you believe that people overconsume medical care and that women are more likely than men to drive this behavior. However, I and others will infer that you are annoyed by the fact that feminists often (and in my view, often rightfully) complain that women are subjects of discrimination, accusations of general inferiority, lack of respect, belittlement, and outright abuse, and that there are many laws that try to remedy this situation. This annoyance causes you to chortle that we need to shun you because you have identified a reasonable difference in the actions of men and women, and that women do something you claim is a mistake.

    You ARE sexist in the way the term is used today if you use your observation as a foundation for discrimination, accusations of general inferiority, lack of respect and the like–and perhaps just to grant others permission to do so, as people do when they laugh at jokes that belittle other races or genders.

  • http://cognitionandevolution.blogspot.com Michael Caton

    I think Robin’s point is part of an even larger issue, which is that as humans are learning about the physical basis of our own behavior, we shouldn’t be surprised that sometimes, different groups of human beings differ measurably in their abilities. Gender or geographic origin are just two ways of looking at groups of humans. Pointing out possible group-based differences gives many people the “ick”, and as Robin pointed out with accusations of sexism, reaction often seems not to be about whether a claim is true, but rather are indignant defenses of moral values from empirical scrutiny. (Sometimes defenders go so far as to state that even if something is true, it shouldn’t be discussed in the interest of social harmony.) It further clouds the situation that plenty of less-than-enlightened attitudes about gender categories of people still exist, so sometimes claimants of these differences will in fact have far less noble motivations than a search for truth. This makes it easier for indignant defenders to assume that everyone making claims contrary to their values are in this category. Either way, it’s not clear that the average person is ready for these discussions, and they’re about to get much harder to avoid in this century.

    Trying to get people to imagine counterfactuals to their values is often a good indicator of whether they’re arguing whether something is true, or just that you shouldn’t be questioning it to avoid scrutiny of those values. If they’re just offended that you’re questioning it, they’ll refuse to imagine a hypothetical that falsifies the value in question.

    In response to the request in the post, I’m sexist because I believe that women are worse at certain behaviors than men.

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

    RJB, when I search for “sexist” on Google in the context of beliefs, I overwhelmingly find examples of actual people said to be sexist because of some belief suggesting women are inferior in a particular way. It is almost never because of an actual claim that men are inferior, nor a claim that women are inferior in general. Wikipedia gives the first definition as “sexism is” while the other is described via “It can also refer to hatred of, or prejudice towards, either sex as a whole.” Doesn’t this make clear which is the primary definition, and which is a common association?

  • Unnamed

    Accusations of “sexism” are often based more on analogy than on a strict definition of the term “sexism.” In the recent past, our society had gender roles that were restrictive of women, women were discriminated against, and this was maintained in part with a system of beliefs about differences between men and women. There have been a lot of changes towards more egalitarian norms, but these old practices are not completely gone, and the word “sexist” gets applied to behaviors, claims, or attitudes that resemble the old ways.

    A similar take is that the badness of sexism is effectively part of its definition, so “sexist” is only used to describe objectionable claims about differences between men and women (note that one of your dictionaries categorizes the word “sexism” as “disapproving”). The disapproval comes before the decision to label a behavior “sexist,” which means that we should focus on why some claims are found to be objectionable and others are not (though note that hearing others call something “sexist” still carries the suggestion that you should disapprove of it). Given the history, of course suggestions that women are inferior to men in some respect are more likely to be objectionable than suggestions that men are inferior, but that doesn’t mean that all claims of female inferiority are objectionable or that claims of male inferiority are always unobjectionable. Whether a claim is objectionable can depend on many factors including its relation to our society’s historical discrimination & gender roles, its relation to existing problems of discrimination, its factual accuracy, and how broadly it applies to suggest a general inferiority.

  • William Barghest

    So rarely are people interested in just truth telling, that when one says a thing or line of analysis that is true but has implications for some dispute, one assumes that the supposed truth teller is really an advocate of one side or another, and guesses from the most obvious implications of the truth in question which side the truth is on. The equilibrium is self-reinforcing too, the fact that It is well understood that speaking any truth regarding a dispute will be interpreted as advocacy, means that anyone who would risk reprimand by any of the interested factions must have more at stake than just truth telling, and so is probably working for one of the factions.

  • Chad

    Robin, I didn’t realize you were interested in picking apart a poorly worded straw-man definition from Wikipedia but assumed you were interested in understanding the common usage of “sexism”. Here is an alternate definition of sexism: “discrimination against women or men because of their sex” — along with a supporting definition of discrimination: “unfair treatment of one person or group, usually because of prejudice about race, ethnicity, age, religion, or gender.” I think both “unfounded” and “too broadly applied” fit well withing the bounds of “unfair”.

    • Roko

      Chad, are you saying that your proposed definition of sexism is:

      “it is OK to believe that women are on average less good at math, but not OK act on that belief”

      Or are you saying that your proposed definition of sexism is:

      “it is OK to act on the belief that women are, on average, less good at math, for example by preferentially hiring men for quantitative roles, but it is not OK to pick a man over a woman when they have the same math test scores”

      • Chad

        I don’t think I’m proposing either of those exactly. I think my position on this particular example is that, given the evidence, I think its OK to have this belief but I am at a bit of loss to understand how I would use this information in any way that impacted my behavior.

        Let me ask you:
        How would you go about rationally applying your (presumably justified) belief that men are on average better at math then when? How big is the gap in performance? Is it significant enough to warrant acting on the generalization and looking past the specifics of the individuals involved? Can you be certain that there is strong alignment between the measurement and actual job performance?

      • Chad

        Replace “then when” at the end of the first question with “than women”. Apologies for hasty and poor editing.

      • Roko

        Chad, the specifics aren’t really at issue – replace “good at math” with any other gender ability difference.

        “it is OK to believe that women are on average less good at X, but not OK act on that belief”

        Or are you saying that your proposed definition of sexism is:

        “it is OK to act on the belief that women are, on average, less good at X, for example by preferentially hiring men for X-requiring roles, but it is not OK to pick a man over a woman when they have the same X-test scores”

      • Chad

        I actually think this specific case is an interesting one since the Larry Summers case is much discussed on this thread.

        I still won’t sign up to either of your alternatives because you loaded just a bit too much into the second one for my taste.

        I think it is OK to hold beliefs that are backed by solid evidence. I think it is OK to act on those beliefs in a way that is rational. That seems to me to be the core of rational agency.

        After that, I think the specifics matter a great deal.

        You want me to sign up for preferential hiring for men in a quantitative job? Sorry, I don’t think that is rational, given the evidence. The variation in individual performance vastly outweighs any difference at the average.

        Show me some more compelling cases and perhaps I will bite those bullets (and presumably line up with Robin as a quote unquote sexist).

        FWIW, I think the Larry Summers situation was a witch hunt in large part. However, I am not as outraged about it as many others on this thread (incuding you, Roko) seem to be. Real sexism does exist and causes much more extensive and pervasive harm than the ouster of a Harvard president or two — even granting the chilling effect on open discourse that such a witch hunt can have.

      • Roko

        Chad:

        You want me to sign up for preferential hiring for men in a quantitative job? Sorry, I don’t think that is rational, given the evidence. The variation in individual performance vastly outweighs any difference at the average.

        But if you take 10,000 random people, and pick the 10 with the highest math test scores for a quantitative position, you’ll probably have 9 male and 1 female. Is it sexist to hire those 10?

        (there is a statistcs result here: if you have two normal distributions with slightly different means, and you go out to the far right tail, then the one with the slightly higher mean will have a much greater value. This is because the normal falls exponentially at the tails. So if you pick the 10 best out of 10,000, they’ll almost all be male.)

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

    Chad, I sought definitions that applied to beliefs, not just “treatments”; most uses I’ve found of the word “sexist” are about beliefs not treatments. “Unfair” is an awkward descriptor for beliefs.

    • Chad

      I personally don’t have a problem with calling a belief “unfair” when it involves a judgment. Would “unjustified” serve as a suitable replacement for “unfair”?

  • Nate Skiba

    One key point: You say that women are less “valuable or competent” than men. Is it the fact that they are women that makes them less “valuable or competent”, or is it the fact that they make a non-rational decision?

    Does your decision that women are less “valuable or competent” extend to women that made rational decisions? Are the women that did still less “valuable or competent” than men, in your eyes?

    I think you’re jumping several logical steps here.

  • Vladimir M.

    Robin Hanson:

    Thus, I am “sexist.” So must you all now shun and condemn me for my knowing serious “sexism,” or can we agree either that it isn’t such a bad thing to be “sexist,” or that we should move to a narrower definition of the term?

    How about this addition to your list of “not about” sayings: “Anti-sexism isn’t about fairness.”

    Like with any other ideologically charged topic, having the proper respectable opinion is a way to signal status and ideological allegiance. By calmly questioning respectable views, instead of supporting them reflexively, you’re signaling a general lack of emotional attachment to them. It doesn’t matter if your questioning is perfectly logical and reasonable. Those who do have the proper emotional attachment will instantly think, “Something must be wrong with him — how many other respectable views does he doubt and oppose?!”

    It’s somewhat analogous to the observations of Bryan Caplan about why some ideas that are prima facie reasonable will fail because they signal weirdness. Your eminently reasonable attempt at analyzing the notion of sexism fails with the intellectual public because your very ability to discuss the issue with cool impartiality damns you, since respectable people are supposed to have an appropriate emotionally charged reaction whenever the issue comes up.

    • Edward

      Nonsense. He’s just as equally signalling loyalty to other fringe intellectuals, by saying he’s happy to stay in the fringes by espousing beliefs that would hurt him if he tried to defect.

      • Vladimir M.

        Even if that was true, I don’t see how it would contradict what I wrote above.

  • Robert Bloomfield

    Let’s try it this way: if I refuse to hire women, blacks or Jews for a job because I don’t want to associate with them, how many would say I am definitely sexist, racist or antisemitic, and how many would say I am possibly so? What if I actively seek laws to keep women, blacks or Jews from equal opportunity, or actively stone, lynch or gas them because I view them as less worthy or more objectionable than my own kind?

    What if I cite statistical evidence that women are weaker than men, blacks have more quick-twitch muscle than whites (or whatever it is), or that Jews are more educated on average than Christians?

    This is a simple empirical question, and I would be very surprised if many people who are willing to refer to anything as racist, sexist or antisemitic would say the first two are only possible but the last one is what they REALLY mean by the word. Would you?

    You don’t find so many examples of the first uses these days, because there just aren’t that many people in first-world countries who would go on the record advocating such obvious sexism, racism or antisemitism. Instead, people direct accusations to the remaining examples, which are arguably not so terrible. But the accusations still carry stigma because of the frequency with which “people of type X are like Y” reflects or encourages obvious discrimination, prejudice and oppression.

    Here is a recent example of sexism, courtesy of Female Science Professor. It’s also a good opportunity for you to test your sincerity of your views on the definition of sexism and of how sexism is actually used by people who use the term. Tell “Burnt-Out”, the other commenters, and Female Science Professor about some dimension in which you think women would be likely less effective science professors than men (there are so many dimensions, there must be one, right?), and then ask whether you are sexist, and whether you are more obviously sexist than the people Burnt-Out is dealing with if you don’t also engage in behaviors like those described in her letter. My guess is that they will view your stating the belief as offensive, and will see it as offensive because it naturally leads to truly sexist behavior by yourself and/or others.

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

    Robert, the only thing remotely related to a sexist belief mentioned in your FSP example post is “patronizing comments about women.” I’d guess such comments refer to beliefs that women are inferior in particular ways, but I can’t really tell from just that.

    Are you suggesting that we can’t determine what the word “sexist” means just by looking at common usage, because it really means something that we never see, and so we actually apply the word to things we think are somehow indirectly related to things where the real meaning would apply? Like how we only ever apply “angel” to things that aren’t really angels? This would also seem a dangerously “bendable” way to use a word with such a strong negative connotation.

    • http://entitledtoanopinion.wordpress.com TGGP

      The documentary is made by a creepy white nationalist, but Craig Boedeker’s “A Conversation About Race” (actually about racism) is quite hilarious in the definitions and examples of “racism” given by the interviewees, and their befuddlement when he points out contradictions or double-standards. It’s like Jay Leno’s “Man on the Street” quizzes for a more taboo subject.

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

      TGGP, I’ve watched 30 min so far and yes it is insightful. Reading this WSJ review, one can see how high a standard such a filmmaker is held to. Yes, his film would be more effective if he had a lighter editorial touch. But even so, he makes a positive contribution to the conversation.

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

      The second half of the film is more objectionable, and I should be clear I don’t agree with everything said. Even so, it is overall a contribution to the conversation on race.

    • RJB

      Robin, you are placing far too much emphasis on the distinction between “beliefs” and “treatments”…in the context of racism and sexism, beliefs are not about evidence, they are about attitudes and emotions. For some reason you want to nail down some definition of sexism that would work for Bayesian Homo Economicus, but not have people react to the emotional baggage that is at the heart of the way the word is used to express disgust at blatant discrimination on the basis of race or gender, lynching, sexual harassment, and ethnic cleansing….all of which have been defended by perpetrators as being derived from unobjectionable beliefs.

      It’s as if you want to say it is fine to continually refer to someone as a “Jew lawyer” because you are simply stating a fact–the lawyer is Jewish. But most people who worry about anti-semitism will infer that you have a negative attitude toward Jews, and bad treatment toward Jews is likely to follow.

      Take another look at Grice’s pragmatic theory of language. If you wanted to convey something other than “I have animus toward women” you would avoid referring to your belief and yourself as sexist. And you would recognize that many people who have animus toward women will seize upon and publicize facts that cast women in a negative light. As a result, pointing out a gender difference that casts women in a negative light will lead you to be called “sexist” because people infer a negative attitudes toward women. (That is a pretty reasonable Bayesian response.) That is why you are less likely to be called sexist if you point out positive facts about women–it only seems sexist if you do it in such a way that people reasonably infer that you have a negative attitude toward men.

  • Nate Skiba

    Robin:

    What exactly are you arguing? That the definition of sexism is wrong, and needs to be limited to things that are actively irrational? That there is no such thing as sexism, and we need to drop the idea altogether, and not worry about things like women’s rights?

    Let’s say that a woman went in for a job interview. She was more qualified and intelligent than all the male applicants. However, according to studies, women are less “able” for the job in general than men, so the person in charge of hiring hired a less qualified applicant. I would assert that this is sexist, and that the person doing the hiring was clearly being irrational by improperly applying evidence.

    What if there was no data about the general ability of women in that job, and the person in charge of hiring chose not to hire them, simply because they didn’t like women, or thought that women were generally, rather than specifically, inferior.

    Both of these situations are ones that I would qualify as sexist and irrational. Is it your contention that the word sexism should be limited to such situations? Or are you saying that these types of situations do not happen, and thus we should not be concerned about them?

    I honestly can’t figure out what the point of this blog post was, other than stirring up controversy. What is the conclusion that you intended to support with this post? I assume that, since you did not give a conclusion, you expected it to be obvious from the points which you presented, but I find it to be unclear.

    • http://wiredcola.com Ryan Cousineau

      Nate, I won’t speak for Robin, but my take is that hiring should be done on merit, but if the result is skewed (lets use the firefighter example) towards a gender that has an inherent advantage, then we won’t assume that’s prima facie evidence of sexism, or redefine merit.

      However, there’s two problems that are being overlooked here. Even if you weed out some group as a fairly natural consequence of the job’s requirements, I don’t think you want to weed out women because of a “men-only” attitude in the firehouse (until Robin digs up evidence that manly-man environments lead to more efficient firefighting, at which point I have to find another argument).

      The second issue is that bell curves lead to big, explicable chunks of discrimination at the absolute elite ends of the talent pool (no woman has ever made an NBA, NFL, or MLB lineup), but most jobs are not hiring from the elite end of the talent pool. Serena Williams might be the 400th-best* tennis player in the world (behind 399 men), but the 400th-best firefighter would be an AWESOME firefighter. In other words, you’d expect typical firehalls to have some number of females based on sheer merit.

      *guessed ranking; See Williams vs. Braasch for a walkover by the 203rd-best man in the world, facing each of the then-teenaged Williamses in impromptu exhibitions.

  • Microbiologist

    > I am sure that there are a small vocal minority quick to apply the label “sexist” as broadly as possible. That doesn’t mean that that is how the majority of American’s understand it.

    Tell that to Larry Summers. Anyway, I don’t think the definition used by most Americans is necessarily what’s of most interest. This is an intellectual/geek blog and the sociology and psychology here very often take elites as their object of study, implicitly or explicitly.

    Also, middle America has been moving toward the positions of elite left intellectuals for generations. Middle America’s view on this may be very different in 20 years. That’s one reason why it is as important, or more important, to give attention to the more extreme views found among elites. When I look at history and at the future, the particular mean view of Americans today is not hugely important; trends in their views are.

  • Nithya

    The belief/ treatment dichotomy in relation to the definition of sexism is an artificial one, as one often implies the other. Therefore, allegations to the effect that sexism means any pejorative statement about women in any instance whatsoever is to wholly misunderstand the term, whether or not the common person may have this understanding. If sexism seems to refer only to sexism against women, it is because women, and not men, have historically been subject to treatment that we would today consider derogatory and unnecessary.

    However, it is also clear that the term applies equally to other genders. For example, there are many examples of sexism against men – that women are ‘always better’ caregivers for offspring (for many years, this view was even reflected in family law), that men can’t control themselves when it comes to sex, that a real man is big and brawny. All of these examples could be regarded as sexist. The point is that such sexism, however directed, is neither accurate nor useful. Merely than declare ourselves sexist under the crude understanding of that term, I think the better pursuit is to challenge the misunderstanding of the term, however ubiquitous.

  • http://omniorthogonal.blogspot.com mtraven

    The point is that the real oppressed class is white-male libertarian academics who nobody listens to despite the fact that they are obviously smarter than everybody else. Who will free them from being ignored in favor of the “connected, influential, or savvy”?

    • Jayson Virissimo

      To be fair, it isn’t as if the ruling class is instituting laissez-faire capitalism, opening the borders, legalizing organ markets, or ending drug prohibition.

  • MPS

    My reading of “sexist” and “racist” was not that these terms describe people who believe in meaningful differences between statistics describing groups, but people who stereotype based on such differences (or imagined ones)… i.e. they apply them to individuals.

    For instance, my understanding is that crime is higher among black Americans than among white Americans. This is a statistical statement, and it is either factually correct or not. I don’t think it’s racist to believe it, if it’s factually correct. What’s racist is to think that black people as a group, or any black person as an individual, should be treated differently because of this statistical characterization.

    • Roko

      What’s racist is to think that black people as a group, or any black person as an individual, should be treated differently because of this statistical characterization.

      So being “racist” just means acting on your beliefs? For example, suppose you are hiring for a job that requires the employee to not be criminally inclined. Since you can never be certain that a given person is not so inclined, all you ever have is evidence in favor or evidence against. Having a good character reference is evidence in favor. Being from a well-respected family is evidence in favor. Being white or asian is lkewise evidence in favor.

      So are you saying that it is OK to discriminate against a person who doesn’t come from a respected family or have a good character reference, but not against a person of the Afro-Carribean race?

      I think that ultimately, the anti-racism and anti-sexism movements may appeal to a cognitive error that we all make: we expect life to contain certainties, such as a solid stone guarantee that person X will never commit a crime, whereas in reality all life contains is evidence. Being black is weak evidence in favor of criminality – you can either deny this, or you can demand that people throw that evidence away.

      The latter has a certain logic to it: people tend to get lazy and act according to cheap heuristics, and not even bother to give people more thorough tests, meaning that the smart, righteous black person may find themselves repeatedly rejected based upon the black-criminal heuristic, which imposes a large cost on them for a small benefit to others.

      But the problem is that equal rights has got out of control. Larry Summers got sacked from Havard for merely mentioning the possibility that women might have lower math aptitude than men. It has morphed from a sensible fix into an outright witch-hunt.

      • Vladimir M.

        To put it in technical terms, the presently prevailing public opinion is that Bayesian inference about human characteristics is a highly relevant moral issue. Some instances of it are considered inherently evil and unethical, while others can be more or less acceptable, or even perfectly OK. (Though in practice, arguments are rarely stated so clearly, and moral condemnation of certain types of inference is often intermixed with spurious arguments against their logical validity.)

        It’s a fascinating intellectual exercise to explore what (if any) general principles determine people’s opinions about this issue.

  • Bill

    You are not a Sexist.

    You are a Semanticist.

  • http://nimbupani.com Divya

    I think your statement “I believe women are naturally inferior to men in a certain way” needs an explanation. What are the bases for your belief? And what is the “certain way”? I am glad you do acknowledge your belief (instead of pretending like it does not exist), but how are your actions are influenced by this belief?

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

    Divya, I said quite explicitly:

    If I agree with Time that women naturally push med more, I must conclude that in this way women are naturally less valuable or competent than men.

  • http://don.geddis.org/ Don Geddis

    As requested by Robin: I will self-admit to be a sexist (according to the common usage of the term).

    And, for that matter, a racist.

    (The explanation, naturally, being that I try to see the world as it is, not as I might wish it to be.)

  • http://www.nancybuttons.com Nancy Lebovitz

    Which gender would you say did more to create the hideously expansive, randomly helpful and destructive medical system we’ve got? If you actually tried to cut med in half, do you think most of the lobbyists against it would be men or women?

    • Tyrrell_McAllister

      This is a very good point. Even if women on average are more likely to do bad thing X, X is only bad because it contributes to bad effect E, and men on average may contribute as much or more to E by doing some other bad thing Y.

      In fact, it seems to me that in most such cases, E happens only because both X and Y are being done. This makes it a silly practice in finger-pointing to say that the X-doers are worse than the Y-doers.

      • http://www.nancybuttons.com Nancy Lebovitz

        My comment was somewhat inspired by this about interpreting a report on how much shopping women do. It’s probably better strategy to refer to Robin’s finger-pointing as silly rather than sexist.

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

      Demand is overwhelming more important than supply in determining the scale of medicine. Lots of folks are willing to be well paid docs and each doc is willing to make as much money as possible; it is customers who set the limits.

      • http://www.nancybuttons.com Nancy Lebovitz

        Demand is shaped by what’s offered, and, in the case of medicine, insisted on.

        Consumers didn’t invent the idea that basically healthy people need risky drugs because their blood numbers don’t match a hypothesis .

      • Tyrrell_McAllister

        Demand is overwhelming more important than supply in determining the scale of medicine.

        I can believe that a small percentage increase in demand from each consumer will increase the scale by a lot more than will a small increase in supply from each supplier.

        On the other hand, I would expect that an increase in demand from a single consumer will increase the scale less than a proportionate increase in supply from a single supplier. From this perspective, each individual woman is less responsible for over-consumption of med than is each individual supplier.

  • curious

    time has presented some evidence that women play a larger role than men in decisions about consumption of medicine.

    time has presented zero evidence that this is a *natural* (rather than cultural) phenomenon. they do have a nice evo-psych just-so story with no data at all. but then, if your mind is already made up that complex behaviors related to medical spending are all about sex organs and hormones, who needs data, right? it’s just so much more fun to leap straight to the women-are-*naturally*-less-valuable-and-competent claim, and then as a bonus pretend that you’re taking some kind of brave, intellectually honest stand.

    yup, you’re a real hero there.

    • Microbiologist

      There isn’t any culture in which men are more solicitous toward children than women. Also, high-testosterone males, in many species (I don’t know about humans), are less solicitous than lower-testosterone ones. And testosterone underlies all masculinization, as shown by human individuals with the genetic anomaly CAH — they are genetically male, but phenically are normal females.

      These things don’t prove that the differences are biological. It’s just that it is pretty likely.

      • curious

        again, the hormone dance proves zero with respect to medical spending.

        but let’s go a step further. let’s say that women really are biologically inclined to be more involved in obtaining health care for their families. (personally, i think that’s a load of bull, but for the sake of argument, i can pretend for a moment that it’s true.) we now have robin arguing that women are *naturally* inferior because the health care available in this country happens to be of high cost and mediocre quality. if we were fortunate enough to live in a place with an effective and efficient medical system, would robin be posting about how *naturally* valuable and competent women are for purchasing such care? dream on.

        people buy marginally effective, high-cost care for many reasons. often they probably just don’t understand the low effectiveness of what they’re buying, but they’re conned into by doctors and hospitals who stand to profit. in some cases they may understand that a particular test or treatment isn’t likely to help, but they’re willing to spend money (their own and their insurers’, if they have an insurer that actually covers any medical care) on the low probability that it will. this latter case is obviously wasteful for society, but certainly some individuals could decide that it is valuable for themselves or their families.

        the larger point is that these features that make medical consumption wasteful are part of the structure of our existing shitty medical system, not “natural” deficiencies in medical consumers or women in general, despite robin’s eagerness to declare himself the courageous truth-teller about the low value of women.

      • Microbiologist

        > again, the hormone dance proves zero with respect to medical spending.

        Sure, it proves nothing. But usually such debates aren’t about proof, they’re about working toward (or away from) a certain degree of confidence that a given hypothesis is probably true (or probably false). There are degrees of belief — and indeed there are, pretty much, *only* degrees of belief.

        It’s not sophistical or semantic to say that precious little (or nothing) is truly close to being proved. Newton’s mechanics were “proved,” but we know now that they are false. They are extremely close to being true under most circumstances, but if we were forced to describe them as either true or false, we would certainly have to say “false.”

    • Chris T

      I find it odd that evo-psych is often criticized as presenting ‘just so stories’ by environmental/culture advocates when their own explanations tend to be exactly that.

      Lack of evidence for a biological cause does not automatically validate an environmental cause.

      • curious

        sure. but it remains the case that lack of evidence for a biological cause is a perfectly good reason not to jump to the conclusion that a biological cause is the only possible one. which is exactly what happened here.

      • Chris T

        True, which I think, is Robin’s point. If the results were flipped, TIME would likely attribute it to cultural phenomena. Certain groups can be described as naturally superior to others without any cost to the person making the comparison. This is a significant bias (and many here would argue a very costly one).

  • Craig Brown

    Robin, loved your post. I am an economics student and started reading your blog after listening to your Econ-Talk podcast with Russ Roberts about Truth in Economics. I really enjoyed and couldn’t agree more about your ideas about the social norms involving sexism…

    I liked the way you challenged a basic assumption behind many of today’s most popular modern economic development programs (including Grameen Bank micro-finance), that women are more efficient with their money because they invest more in the health of their children. The way mothers over-indulge in health care by taking their children to the doctor for the common cold does drive up healthcare premiums. Another unintended consequence one could possibly draw is that in the aggregate, the excessive amount of money women in developing countries spend on healthcare also increases population growth rates as child mortality declines (I am obviously not saying decreases in child mortality rates are a bad thing but making a simple point about unintended consequences). Just to play devil’s advocate for a bit thou, assuming men just spend their money on cigarettes and alcohol as proposed in the article you posted, in the long run men would also be increasing our healthcare premiums as cancer becomes more prevalent and puts more pressure on healthcare resources (and possibly lowers productivity: more cigarette breaks, more hangovers, more time off, ect.). That doesn’t necessarily make women inferior to men. Both groups may be inefficient with their money in different ways.

    • Microbiologist

      In poorer countries, directing more money towards health might have a much better impact than it does in the US. As far as I know, Robin’s attack on health spending is directed at the US, or maybe the West.

      Even in China, there is still a good deal of tuberculosis.

  • http://clarissethorn.wordpress.com Clarisse Thorn

    Actually, the reason I consider you to be sexist is the fact that I have seen you post on this topic before, and always with a snide self-congratulatory tone, yet I have never seen you post about ways in which — say — men are “naturally” “inferior” to women. (If you can provide an example of a post that contradicts my assertion, that would be awesome.)

    Here’s another reason: I notice that “Roissy in DC” is on your blogroll. I do believe that’s the same Roissy who has been critiqued even by men within the seduction community for being, um, kind of a sexist jerk:
    “A while ago, I had criticized Roissy for writing a post where he described slapping a girlfriend of his, said it was deserved, and argued that hitting women can turn them on in some circumstances. I asked him to clarify whether he really believed that hitting women was acceptable or not, but he has never responded.”
    http://www.feministcritics.org/blog/2010/01/19/roissy-and-raine-make-a-right-rp/

    And here’s another reason. What was the point of this aside:
    (Many agree “all men are rapists” is sexist, but few ever say that. I can’t find an actual claim of female superiority widely accepted as seriously “sexist.”)

    … if not to drag out old, incorrect stereotypes about feminists believing that “all men are rapists”?

    I read your blog, obviously, and sometimes it is insightful. So I’m not going to “shun” you. I’ll just think you’re kind of a jerk, and in particular I will be less likely to bother reading given posts of yours if the topic involves gender dynamics.

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

      I’m happy to admit many specific ways women are superior to men: for example, they live longer, and will soon be able to reproduce without men. So linking to a sexist makes one a sexist? What definition of “sexist” implies that? I don’t see how I’m guilty of saying feminists think “all men are rapists” when I explicitly say few ever say that.

      • Tyrrell_McAllister

        I don’t see how I’m guilty of saying feminists think “all men are rapists” when I explicitly say few ever say that.

        You wrote, “Many agree ‘all men are rapists’ is sexist, but few ever say that.”

        Until now, I misread you as meaning, “Many agree that ‘all men are rapists’ is sexist, but few ever say aloud this fact on which most people agree — namely, the fact that saying ‘all men are rapists’ is sexist.”

        Only now do I get that you were saying that few people ever say “all men are rapists”.

      • http://entitledtoanopinion.wordpress.com TGGP

        I agree with Tyrell. “Many” can easily be a sizable minority, with even the majority still saying “all men are rapists”. And of course even if they weren’t the majority, as I just argued they could still be “many” rather than “few”! This may sound pedantic, but Robin is saying he was explicit when it wasn’t even implicit+unambiguous. I know he doesn’t like disclaimers, but given the chronic incidence of inferential distance in the absence of mindreading (and readers less inclined to interpret your words charitably than you would for yourself) it’s just wishful thinking. I suppose this wasn’t a particularly egregious incident, but it’s just going to be the result when one relies on pithy brevity when engaging in controversial topics.

      • http://clarissethorn.wordpress.com Clarisse Thorn

        You aren’t automatically a sexist for linking to a sexist. Blogrolls don’t always indicate our actual opinions — there are blogs on mine that I frequently disagree with (Feminist Critics being a prime example). But in conjunction with chortling* posts like this, having a sexist jerk on your blogroll is — let’s call it an indicator.

        * I have to thank the above commenter who called it “chortling”. That really does summarize the tone perfectly.

    • v

      Why the hell would i want to reproduce, or grow old thus live longer and slowly fall apart, thats terrible. The longest id want to live is 70. So i say men are the lucky ones. If that makes me Sexist then im a proud sexist.

  • Tyrrell_McAllister

    I don’t see how I’m guilty of saying feminists think “all men are rapists” when I explicitly say few ever say that.

    I think that this was just a case of your sentence being ambiguous. You wrote, “Many agree ‘all men are rapists’ is sexist, but few ever say that.”

    Until now, I read you as meaning “Many agree ‘all men are rapists’ is sexist, but few ever voice their agreement aloud.”

    In other words, I read you as pointing to the sexism of “all men are rapists” as something that most everyone concedes privately, but which it’s un-PC to voice publicly.

    Now I realize that you meant that most everyone will say that “all men are rapists” is sexist, but that this is cheap because almost no one ever says “all men are rapists”.

  • http://enamdar.wordpress.com/ Mopenhauer

    George Gilder was originally a pre-Roissy Roissyite who early on developed several important Roissyarian ideas based on Darwinian conservatism. He has since defected to the Discovery Institute. He offers a pretty good summary of the 2010 state ideology of America in the National Review:

    “Darwinism seemed to offer me and its other male devotees a long-sought tool — resembling the x-ray glasses lamentably found elsewhere only in cartoons — for stripping away the distracting décor of clothing and the political underwear of ideology worn by feminists and other young women of the day. Using this swashbuckling scheme of fitness and survival, nature “red in tooth and claw,” we could reveal our ideological nemeses as naked mammals on the savannah to be ruled and protected by hunting parties of macho males, rather like us. “

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  • http://enamdar.wordpress.com/ Mopenhauer

    This is where Roissy’s history of the world begins. According to his version of history Western Christian feudalism was best able to repress the sexuality of the alpha male and his female customers. Unlike the Muslims or Orientals there were no harems of females for Alpha males. Instead there was a forced monogamy imposed on both females and alpha males. The triumph of the beta male and his K strategy of investing in offspring lead to the hegemony of the West. This is similar to Freud’s thesis that civilizations progress was based on the Superego’s ability to harness and control the Id. Those disenfranchised elements of Western society were slowly integrated into the “reverse dominance hierarchy”. The last step was the integration of females and then the beta utopia, the Ayn Randist dystopia. But according to Roissy that was the Pandora box that unleashed the repressed Id of the alpha male and females. And so like a Phoenix, the grey-back Gorilla was reborn from the ashes.

    Feminism in its essence a liberal-capitalist revolution. Like the English, Dutch, American, French, 1848, revolutions it is about establishing market contractual relations , where tradition and domination has once ruled. Now all those revolutions have been blurred to the extent that some people consider them anti-liberal democratic. And it is true in all those revolutions radicals, Levelers, Seadogs, Whiskey Rebellions, and Jacobins emerged that wanted to take the revolution beyond the liberal market. This is the role that the Radical Feminists of Catherine McKinnon and Andrea Dworkin played in the feminist revolution. The feminist porn wars was their Whiskey Rebellion against the liberals. The libertarian feminists grew worried about the monster they had unleashed and were willing to join forces with Hugh Hefner against the more dangerous threat to their left. To use Murray Rothbard’s left-right spectrum from Prospects for Liberty. The libertarian sex positive feminists were the REAL left. They were the ones who opposed the traditional patriarchal structure of the Right. In Rothbard’s terms the radical feminists who are conventionally considered extreme left, would actually be a confused centrist middle of the road position, that attempted to accomplish liberal ends using conservative ends. They themselves recognized it to the extent that they allied themselves with the Religious Right in the Porn Wars.

    With the defeat of the Radicals in the Porn Wars, the libertine capitalist free-market was established in sexual relations. According to Roissy this has benefited Alpha males the most. There is a tacit libertarian feminist/ alpha male alliance against BOTH beta males AND the possible revived corpse of radical feminism.

  • FeministSupporter

    Here is an example of sexism for the purposes of creating a cogent definition:

    “once the woman is emancipated from the ‘oppressive patriarchy’ i.e unleashed and unshackled, their TRUE NATURE surface. The true nature of women? Amoral, shameless, myopic.”

    From a comment at the Men’s Rights blog “The Spearhead”

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

      Would that be sexist if they thought the true nature of men was something similarly ugly? What if they said women were less moral, but men were less shameless and myopic?

  • Sarah

    I’m starting to think you don’t believe sexism exists.

    Maybe it doesn’t, after all. That “Spearhead” quote makes me angry (not least because I’m female.) I also think it’s false. It seems rather silly.

    But if it were true it would be a tragedy. The right response would be to work on fixing women’s nature, if possible, and coping with it, if not. If there is a horror at the heart of human nature, then the right thing to do cannot be ignoring it.

    There is no fact which would be bad to know even if true, I believe. Sexist views can only refer to inaccurate views that are derogatory to women. True views that demonstrate something bad about women are tragedies to be faced. (They’re not excuses to treat women badly either.)

  • Deeana

    I am a woman that lives in America. I am also a woman that has lived and was raised outside of US for most of my life. My intrinsic culture and the culture of the country I come from has it that you go to see doctors in emergencies only. I have a unique view on the whole argument of women in America according to Time Magazine driving health care cost – based on my experience worldwide it is primarily in America. Why? That is a good question. I bet the answer is not because it is “natural” for women to do so. I also happen to be working in the healthcare field. There is absolutely, without any doubt in my mind that this trend in America and other Industrial countries are driven by the supply and not the demand. The culture demands it that we listen to the doctor because the doctor knows best. I see it day in and day out, how male doctors in the hospital scolding women for not wanting to take a drug or go through a certain procedure. I even heard one say: “If you die because you refused this medication (and it was far from life and death situation) I will not feel responsible”. Medicine is a business here. Try to prove it otherwise. I don’t think anyone will even dare to.
    It is also worthy to look at how the doctors are being trained in the medical school. The whole approach to medical training goes something like that: recognize symptoms, single out the problem, then fix it either with the drug or a procedure of some sort.
    So, this whole argument about women naturally making our health system screwed up, is, how do I put it intellectually and logically? – a boloney Yes, you are a sexist because you are propelling you negative view of women without any hard evidence that makes it even remotely realistic.

  • Laura

    Ignorence is alive and kicking I see. The so-called evidence you’ve put up isn’t fact. It’s theoretical and backed up by false claims targeted at women. None of the ‘facts’ posted are proven or scientific.

    I don’t think women are any worse than men, and I don’t think any men are worse than women. We’re different sure, but it dosn’t mean inferior. How did you come up with that conclusion genius? It’s pathetic, and it just show how pessimistic you are.

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  • 89

    how many more men do I need to tire my eyes seeing trying to rationalize their superiority? men are gravely afraid of equality. its not fun to lose control- not that anyone cares about their ego lol

  • Melissa

    I can’t tell if you’re either ignorant or really, horridly stupid.
    None of this “evidence” is solid fact. I don’t know who you think you are, but this is probably the worst written article I have ever had the misfortune to come across. I am female, and believe that individuals should be viewed separately. There is a woman who is a professor at a university, and a man who has a job of less importance. And vice-versa. If you want to believe this nonsense, keep it to yourself and don’t discourage others because you’re so convinced being sexist is a good thing.

  • Goot1928

    I am very sexist. Women are very inferior to men. Men are the leaders, the innovators, the ones who help the world. Women nag about salons and are always so fucking democrat. I also hate democrats. Democrats and women fuss and whine and limit joy. No fireworks in maryland! Too dangerous said the fucking female motherfucking bitch-assed democrap.”p” not “t”!

    • ananda

      Yeah women were.And there are reasons behind that.. But that does not mean they will always be.

    • rrb

      strategy: call it “sexist” when you think it’s bad, and ignore it or call it ideal processing of evidence or whatever when you think it’s harmless.

      You’re sexist, Robin isn’t.

  • Goot1928

    OBAMACARE FUCKING SUCKS!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • http://juridicalcoherence.blogspot.com/ Stephen Diamond

    Before the term “sexism” took over, the disdained attitude was called “male chauvinism,” a much more precise concept. I think the problem with it was that feminism is a form of female chauvinism.

    Chauvinism is a useful concept; too bad you don’t hear more of it. For instance, Obama’s claim that the U.S. is “exceptional” is clearly national chauvinist, and that’s one of the worst kinds.

  • paul

    Oh yes men are the innovators, the leaders, an innate natural trait as you portray it?
    How could women have ‘lead’ anything when they were given no authority? How could they have ‘innovated’ without the education necessary to conceptualize those innovations?
    In the very short space of time where women have been given equality of education, and remember this is only in SOME countries, not ALL.
    The two highest IQ score is held by a woman, Marilyn vos Savant, with and IQ of 228
    And the only person to win two nobel prizes in two different sciences was a woman, Marie Curie.
    Not to mention, within that very small time frame, to name a few ‘innovations’ by women
    Electric hot water heaterIda Forbes1917
    Circular sawTabitha Babbitt1812
    Apgar tests Virginia Apgar 1952
    Elevated railway Mary Walton 1881
    Engine muffler El Dorado Jones 1917
    Medical syringe Letitia Geer 1899
    Submarine lamp and telescope Sarah Mather 1845
    Rotary engine Margaret Knight 1904
    All very innovative things some of which are probably involved in your everyday life.
    Take into account that only the last couple of generations have really began to embrace a woman’s role in science, business, politics and leadership. Previously, and even sometimes now a woman has been looked down upon for perusing her intellectual talents. It has been believed that she should be caring for her home, her children and her husband etc. Gender equality is not a threat to your own personal rights. It’s about not making assumptions based on illogical reasoning or misguided social beliefs that have been ingrained for thousands of year by less informed men than you. You have the information. You can make the logical, ethical decision not to discriminate based on genitalia.

  • paul

    The highest**

  • IMASBA

    Wow, this is becoming quite a zombie thread. Anyway, what this post seems to be saying is this:

    1) look for a concept that inspires anger and disdain in people
    2) figure out that the dictionary definition of the concept differs from the definition most people have in their head
    3) exploit 2) to fit your own behavior under the concept
    4) let people admire your edgyness (until they finally realize your just lifting on connotations people had with the older definition in their head, before you expanded it into meaninglessness)