Louise Perry, author of “The Case Against the Sexual Revolution”, responds to Bryan Caplan’s book “Don’t be a feminist”. Perry summarizes Caplan well here I think: Caplan offers an elegant alternative, one that he believes actually describes the meat of what twenty-first century Western feminism is all about: “the view that society generally treats men more fairly than women.” It’s a good definition in the sense that it identifies a point of disagreement between (at least some) feminists and (at least some) non-feminists. …
Isn’t there a simpler framing that cuts through both Caplan and Perry:
Feminism is another kind of intra-elite conflict. Elite women resent the burdens of motherhood and the right tail representation of men. And that drives the whole thing
Your hypothesis - "I agree that men are over-represented in the high tail of status, but this seems to me less due to women being associated with children, and more to men just having higher variance, which seems a consistent pattern" - sounds reasonable to me.
However, the motherhood hypothesis might hold some water, perhaps via a different mediator: women are mothers, mothers are nurturing, women are thus expected to be nurturing, but in high status professions "nurturing" signals low status - thus the tightrope professional women must walk.
I think the statement: "Women are less likely to be found in positions of power. [and so] the interests of women, particularly mothers, are less likely to be given voice in the corridors of power." isn't necessarily true.
The statement is restricting the domain of "positions of power" to (for example) top politicians or top CEOs.
But that's not the only domain where power is exercised. What about families? Take consumer spending. Women -- especially mothers -- drive a lot of spending in a household. Often they influence even male shopping.
Does that not count as power?
Actually, I think the motherhood issue is driving much of what's going on. Most women middle aged or younger were brought up being told that they could have the same kind of career success that men enjoyed and they built their lives and ambitions around such goals. However, they were also promised that they didn't have to give up having a family but many couples find that given their relative preferences the rational thing to do is to have the woman cut back on her career to focus on family and household duties.
Objectively, that doesn't involve any unfairness. Child raising is time consuming and someone has to sacrifice professional accomplishment to raise the kids. However, it's going to feel really unfair when you've been told your whole life you don't need to choose. Often people search for something to blame when they feel ill done by life in this way.
Note that you can have both. As a man who is the househusband while we prioritize my wife's career I can tell you there are men who are willing to take this role. But many women don't necessarily like being the distant always working less available parent and may find the idea of a stay at home husband less appealing.
I like the deal my wife and I have but I know that while quite a few of my married male friends are happy supporting a stay at home wife few of my married female friends seem to find that appealing the way my wife does.
"... people in power are also much more likely to be ... sociopathic"
"... If status is a shared judgment on individual virtue, and if men actually do have higher variance in virtuous features, then top men really do deserve their overall top status."
See a contradiction here? Sociopaths are the least deserving people, and cause tremendous harm to everyone but themselves, and yet they do rise to the top.
I think, rather than trying to increase the valuation of female-associated traits, it would be better to try to promote a culture that names and shames sociopaths - that values honesty, kindness, and humility, and sharply punishes "leaders" who lack those traits.
There is another major quality that affects how deserving a leader is: how well do they represent the interests of their constituents? Women are half of the constituents and do have different political interests than men. So, a male politician, even one with very high competence at navigating law and politics, may in fact be rather poor at representing the interests of the average female constituent. In fact, we'd expect that the farther away from the middle of the bell curve a politician is, the less well their interests will be aligned with their typical constituents.
My grandmother (born in the '20s) graduated high school at 16, had perfect pitch and could play hundreds of songs from memory on the piano, and, overall, was simply brilliant and very talented at whatever she did. She never had a career (although she did run an antique store in retirement). However, she did raise six children. One son had a very successful military career and made lots of money in land development. Another son became a famous rock n' roll musician. Another son became a doctor. Another son ran a construction company. Nowadays, I am afraid that someone of her caliber maybe would have one or two kids (or possibly none at all). If we want to encourage brilliant women to have more children, maybe we should tie the status of successful sons to their mothers? This might help solve the most-very-high-status-folks-are-men problem.
On the other hand, parents naturally already feel pride for their children's accomplishments. Instead of the problem being status, maybe we should point out to brilliant women (the seed corn of society) that having high-status descendants feels great and will make you happier in the long-run.
I’m not sure there exists a “status gap.” Who has higher status, the median man or the median woman?
I think there is merely a natural tendency to focus only on the right tail, which, as you point out, men dominate for biological reasons. The rest of the curve is ignored.
Be honest and call it "Motherism" then. Even Jordan Peterson said there is a "maternity-pay-gap" (just not really a "gender-pay-gap"). - Angela Merkel and Margaret Thatcher were in the central rooms of power, both for record-long times. Angela: 0 kids. Iron lady: 2.
"...men are over-represented in the high tail of status, but this seems to me less due to women being associated with children, and more to men just having higher variance, which seems a consistent pattern."
Can't this be more easily explained by just looking at the path to get into a C-suite executive career? (Work like a dog in your twenties and thirties). But women who have kids will spend at least few years in this period effectively away from work, putting them behind their male counterparts in the promotion track.
> So are there other status dimensions to which we could give more weight,
> where women have higher levels or variance?
There may be another dimension available that doesn't distort existing judgment processes if we can find a way to give mothers much increased status for the achievements of their sons (and, presumably, the corresponding blame for their underachievement). This way the high variance associated with male achievement would translate to high variance for mother status, occasionally making a mother a kind of celebrity for having some amazing son. Lots of potential problems with this, but I'd fathom the reason we don't see this kind of imputed status already is because a) it takes too long to find out how a kid turns out, b) it's sort of un-American, and c) women would go nuclear the first time a mother lost status being blamed for her kid's mistakes.
> So are there other status dimensions to which we could give more weight, where women have higher levels or variance?
Valuing the raising of children would shift status toward women. I believe you've pointed to a Satmar Hasidic great-grandmother with an enormous number of descendants as an example of a subculture assigning high status to having a large family rather than careerism.
I think that this definition of feminism—primarily concerned with equality of status as the sole goal—feels too narrow.
There are tractable women’s problems (around women’s sexual safety/rape, subsidizing motherhood, etc.) that hinge on having a seat at the table. The status problem is a precursor, but not the only goal.
Given that variability will lead to less high-status women, alternatives might still be helpful (convince high-status men of feminism, etc.).
Women can be much higher variance than men, and there seems to be some natural inclination to use it for status already.
This is outlandishly speculative. It's like reading people talk about astrology.
One point of view that in my view is more correct than the view that men are generally treated more fairly than women by society, would be that "Men ar generally treated more like men by society, than women are."
Unless one thinks that men and women are biologically and psychologically congruent sizes, my view should make more sense.
Curious how we’d outline the motivation of one of the main concerns of “feminists” according to each of these definitions: the “right to choose”. How about for each of the other main concerns? From these can we better infer the relative weight each def holds in practice for our feminists?