Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Gender pet peeves

*When people refer to a generic person as "he" or "him" as if the male pronoun includes everyone

*When people say things are "girly" when really they mean "stupid"

*When people say women can't succeed at certain careers/occupations becuase they will want to have a family and 'naturally' want to leave their career once they have babies (I guess the 75% of mothers who don't become stay at home moms are unnatural?)

*When people say the reason there aren't more women in the science professions is because "there are innate gender differences in the ability to do math/science" (and then they become a senior adviser to President Obama)

*when people say women are 'naturally' more caring or nurturing, thereby making those of us women who don't feel very caring or nurturing feel deficient as a woman

*when people say women are 'naturally' anything that they attribute to gender

*skirts

*When people tell me I'm the "man" in my relationship because I earn more money and have a more established career trajectory than my partner

*When people say they will raise their sons one way and their daughters another way, before those children are even born (so based purely on gender)

*When anyone tries to tell me that there's something I can't do specifically because I'm a woman

34 comments:

  1. Skirts isn't a good example because wizards/chasidim wear skirts.

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  2. wizards aye?

    I hate skirts. My legs rub together when I walk cause of the way my hips are shaped and they get all painful if I wear a skirt and it's hot outside at all. Plus they are cold! And you can't run around as much in them!

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  3. I did put on a skirt for a party last year, but I wore boots with it. Basically, I don't like my legs, and I'm at the age when strangers shouldn't have to look at them either.
    I don't even like to wear anything shorter than capris. Shorts are a distant memory! Although I still have a drawer full of them. I should sell them all at this year's yard sale. And any skirts from the last century I still own.

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  4. Do people not realize that stay-at-home mothers are practically non-existent in today's world. When will the old misnomers ever stop haunting, you know?

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  5. Yes. Well. Little boys are still more apt to make guns out of sticks and little girls to want dolls. NOT ALL!!!
    I realize this. But after you have children you do realize that some things are more gender based than you might think. It's not all nurture.
    And I love skirts.
    Gosh. I'm being contrary. Sorry! Isn't it nice, though, that we live in a world where women can wear pants if they want? Now if only more men would feel free to wear skirts....

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  6. >when people say women are 'naturally' more caring or nurturing, thereby making those of us women who don't feel very caring or nurturing feel deficient as a woman

    So what exactly is the problem here. That women are not naturally more nurturing....or that you you aren't like that?

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  7. >when people say women are 'naturally' anything that they attribute to gender

    What do you want them to attribute it to, bicycles? :)

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  8. When speaking I always refer to unknown persons as "they" whether one or many people are involved (this wouldn't work in Hebrew though for example).

    Saying he or she all the time seems silly and swapping them from sentence to sentence in writing does too. Traditionally the male pronoun was also used for unknown people which maybe is biased but concise as it or they isn't used to refer to people.

    On abilities it is a statistical argument that Summers etc. were proposing that there are more men with inherent high levels of ability in mathematics or whatever, not that there are no women of high ability. But most people including the media find it hard to think that way. Also Summers wasn't saying it was necessarily true and it is awfully hard to test as I'm sure you know...

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  9. When anyone tries to tell me that there's something I can't do specifically because I'm a woman

    You can't pee standing up

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  10. yeah but what Summers completely failed to take into account is that the reason there aren't a lot of women in the scientific profession is because of the family-unfriendlyness of the jobs available (that usually require upwards of 60 hours of work per week) along with the fact that most women still have primary responsibility for their children. There's actually no statistical difference in ABILITY just in success in the professions- which implicitly discriminate against mothers by requiring such long/inflexible hours.

    and my anonymous- I can pee standing up. It might be messy, but I still have the ability. :)

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  11. Actually this is what Summers said:

    "Summers allegedly offered these three reasons as explanation: 1) Women want to have children, and as a result they don't put in the 80-hour work week that would make them competitive with their male peers; 2) the innate differences between men and women lead men to outperform women at the top end; 3) discrimination discourages women from pursuing science and engineering past their undergraduate education. (According to Nancy Hopkins of MIT, who walked out of his presentation, he ranked these reasons in order of descending importance. Summers was traveling and couldn't be reached for comment.)"

    http://www.slate.com/id/2112799

    So his number one reason is the one you give.

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  12. "*When people refer to a generic person as "he" or "him" as if the male pronoun includes everyone"

    Right. This discriminates against men. When one uses "he" generically, it could refer to either gender. Women, however, get their own pronoun. Bloody favoritism.



    *When people say things are "girly" when really they mean "stupid"

    "Girly" actually implies effeminate, not stupid.

    *When people say women can't succeed at certain careers/occupations becuase they will want to have a family and 'naturally' want to leave their career once they have babies (I guess the 75% of mothers who don't become stay at home moms are unnatural?)

    Women succeed at lots of professions. Other women take time off to raise families, and there's no reason that you should claim that it's not natural for a woman to raise her family. Nobody's making you do it.


    *When people say the reason there aren't more women in the science professions is because "there are innate gender differences in the ability to do math/science" (and then they become a senior adviser to President Obama)

    How do you know there aren't? There are certainly physical differences between men and women, and, as far as I can see, some psychological ones as well. I have a pet peeve about idiots who insist on crucifying anybody who suggests an idea outside the feminist norm without ever commenting (or listening to any comments) on the possible merits of the idea. What if Summers was right? Can you prove he wasn't?

    *when people say women are 'naturally' more caring or nurturing, thereby making those of us women who don't feel very caring or nurturing feel deficient as a woman

    Women may well be more caring or nurturing. If that's true, and you're an exception, is everyone supposed to pretend it's no longer true just to spare your feelings? Gosh, women are sensitive!

    *when people say women are 'naturally' anything that they attribute to gender

    Women are "naturally" several things attributable to gender. Deal with it.


    *When people tell me I'm the "man" in my relationship because I earn more money and have a more established career trajectory than my partner

    It doesn't bother you now, but it will. You wouldn't be the first woman to marry a man under those circumstances only to find out, a few years down the road, that you do want a bit more care and protection from the male figure in your life.

    *When people say they will raise their sons one way and their daughters another way, before those children are even born (so based purely on gender)

    Boy, you're really arrogant! Don't you think it bothers other people when you tell them how they should raise their sons and daughters? Have your own kids, and send them on whatever little gender-benders float your boat. I expect my sons to act like men, not like women.

    *When anyone tries to tell me that there's something I can't do specifically because I'm a woman

    Good luck in the NFL try-outs, petunia.

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  13. *when men try to empirically prove that women don't have the right to be pissed off about the above mentioned pet peeves.

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  14. moom- it's the second one that was the problem, and it's the reason he had to resign from his job as the president of Harvard- as there hasn't been a shred of evidence that supports his theory there.

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  15. >and my anonymous- I can pee standing up. It might be messy, but I still have the ability. :)

    I've got news for you: it's just as messy by men, they just care less. ;)

    Also, check out stereotype threat: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stereotype_threat#Gender

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  16. I am certainly glad I am neither David's wife or child.

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  17. >which implicitly discriminate against mothers by requiring such long/inflexible hours

    Sure it discriminates in a sense, but its not like a mother has a "right" to work for those professions. You don't HAVE to work in those fields. Those fields require long hours and cannot possibly be expected to conform to different needs.

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  18. My friend in pharmacy school said that there's a LOT of women there, and many also in med schools. So, doctors being mostly male is a thing of the past.

    However, HH has a point: when you pursue a rigorous career, you really cant expect them to cater to you. Everything's competitive.

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  19. I disagree. This model of work that we currently operate at- where you have to work 50+ hours a week to get any type of success in a career- assumes that the ideal worker has no family, or has someone at home taking care of the family. Now that 75% of mothers are in the workforce, that is just not the case.

    I think we have a responsibility to raise a next generation of people- perpetuating the species is a basic responsibility- and if we make it impossible for women to have successful careers if they have family responsibilities, but also make it impossible for a family to live on one salary because of the level of pay we give to people, and also completely marginalize part time workers and make it impossible for them to ever advance in their career and pay them at a lower rate, we make women choose between having kids and having a career.

    Did you know that upwards of 20% of American women are childless at age 45? In Europe there is a huge demographic crisis right now because fertility has fallen below replacement levels, so in the next generation there is going to be no working age people to support the social security type programs for the elderly. The United States still is reproducing at replacement rate....barely. The only reason we have not fallen below replacement level is that we have a lot of immigrants with very high fertility rates, once people 'naturalize' into American culture their fertility drops too.

    As long as people say "you can't expect the workplace to change," it won't. But the post-industrial 'information age' has only been around for 30odd years or so, there's been other systems and new systems will continue to arise.

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  20. The problem is it is very hard to think of a way to stop some people in entrepreneurial type careers - whether in business or academic research or whatever from doing extra work or to get employers (apart from the government) to ignore that extra working when making hiring and promotion decisions. One could direct employers to look at quality rather than quantity but will they? And for the self employed there seems to be little way to stop this "excess" competition. One way of course is very high tax rates on higher incomes...

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  21. >As long as people say "you can't expect the workplace to change," it won't.

    Well, you are right. My wife made a conscience decision that she does not want to work 60 plus hours, so she can actually raise the kids. Some fields require long hours and it is up to us to be adults and be responsible and understand in life there are consequences. If you want to have kids early or raise them, chances are, you can't have a such a demanding job. If you want a super duper career, the family takes the back seat. Its life. My wife and I, never equated success with having a high profile career. Having others cater to my needs is no different to Charedim demanding others to catering to their chumrot.

    I am well aware of what is going on in Europe, but I am not sure so much of that can be geared against careers. I think the notion of "family" has simply taken a back seat to individual pursuits.

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  22. one way to address this would be to work against marginalizing part time work- for instance in academia, a full time tenure track professor might make a starting salary of $55,000 + benefits to teach 5 classes a year, while an adjunct makes (at the very most) $4-$5,000 to teach one class and gets no benefits. Why shouldn't they earn 1/5th of what the full time prof makes and the university pay 1/5th of the cost of their benefits? The fact that it is legal to pay people at a lower rate if they are working less then a full time schedule is the problem, as that explicitly discriminates against part time workers, and makes companies concoct these schemes where they have everyone work just under the full time rate so they don't have to pay them benefits.

    What happened to equal pay for equal work? Apparently it can only be 'equal' if both workers are working full time, so one hour of work by a part timer isn't equal to one hour of work by a full timer. Part time work is the legal loophole that employers use to get around equal pay legislation.

    Also, I have to note that I didn't come up with this argument- it was written by Joan Williams, who is a lawyer/professor who has been winning cases against companies using these arguments. :) She wrote up a lot of her argument in "Unbending Gender: Why family and work conflict and what to do about it"

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  23. In the example you give the professor is being paid also to do research as 5 classes a year is not considered full time teaching. The benefits issue though is something that can be addressed by regulation. Here in Australia employers must contribute 9% on top of salary to a retirement fund. The minimum wage below which they don't have to is $A450 per month which would be about quarter time work at the minimum wage. And everyone is entitled to free government health care. So this problem doesn't have to be as severe as in the US. Australia has had low unemployment in recent years and Australian government spending is about the same share of GDP as in the US. So this kind of policy doesn't have to have a high economic cost. What you say in the US case is absolutely true. The way round some of the regulation here is to hire people as contractors rather than employees. But the tax office really doesn't like people claiming to be in business but then doing most of their work for a single other firm at the detailed direction of that firm. So that stops too much abuse of that.

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  24. AE,
    I strongly believe that people, regardless of gender, should be offered every opportunity and choice. But I am surprised, that as a sociologist, who I imagine has studied societies across the world, would not consider that there are differences between the genders that have been proven scientifically over and over again.

    It does not mean that anyone should dictate anything in our society as what a woman can and can not do or for that matter, what a man can or cannot do. But if one day you and B decide to have children, and you end up with a boy and a girl, I wonder if you will notice the differences that most of us parents notice right from the start. Most parents will tell you that if they have a boy after a couple of girls, while the girls are pushing the doll strollers, the boy is likely to pretend the doll stroller is a race car. Activity level is different, emotional sensitivity is different, the way boys socialize is different than girls. Boys are generally more aggressive and girls are generally more verbal. This is undeniable with tons of science behind these facts. Of course I am talking about the "average" but isn't that what most of us are? Average?

    There are differences, biologically and genetically imprinted ones that affect our individual psychological makeup.
    Otherwise, I'm with you and would never want myself, my husband or my children limited in their choices due to societal concepts of "gender roles."

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  25. *When people say the reason there aren't more women in the science professions is because "there are innate gender differences in the ability to do math/science" (and then they become a senior adviser to President Obama)

    1) That's not what he said. He offered as one of three hypotheses for the reason there are fewer women in high-end science positions that there are fewer women than men with exceptionally high aptitude in this area.

    2) The hypothesis in question is straightforwardly reasonable, according to the best evidence we have. Men have a wider range on IQ tests, which means that there are many more men than women at both the high end and the low end.

    Now alternate hypotheses are also obviously possible -- it really could be cultural (simple experiment -- look at other cultures.) But to smear a man for suggesting the very possibility of the above hypothesis (especially as one of three!) is unfair.

    You (and I!) don't WANT the hypothesis to be true, but that doesn't mean we should silence or harshly criticize anybody who suggests it.

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  26. "I am certainly glad I am neither David's wife or child."

    With grammar like that, you wouldn't qualify for either position.

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  27. So, AE, I'm curious: are there any true differences between men and women, other than the fact that our physical bodies are different? Are there are any generalizations about women or men that are rooted in fact and not culture? I'm looking for this: Men are _____. Women are ______. You get the idea.

    -WG

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  28. I'll add to that!

    -People are horrified when I say I don't care for babies.

    -People do not expect him to stick around listening to every inane story about their toddler ever, but it's "rude" of me to politely disengage or attempt to change the subject.

    -If we say we're not sure if we'll expand our family, I'm the one who people blame.

    -People assume he's smarter than me, stronger than me, and more capable than me. Some of that is true but it's not because I'm a woman.

    But this does go both ways although it's not talked about as much. It is so offensive to me that people assume he is "girly," or "gay" or "weak" because he's in the arts, because he plays the piano better than I do, because he doesn't work with his hands, because he cooks instead of me, because he was interested in helping pick out the registry, especially the knives and pots, because he cares what our china looks like. Because he's not sitting in a chair burping and ordering me around my extended family sometimes thinks I have a "wuss." I just reply that no, he's respectful of me and of course I understand that they aren't used to that from their husbands...

    Ugh.

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  29. "If you want to have kids early or raise them, chances are, you can't have a such a demanding job. If you want a super duper career, the family takes the back seat. Its life."

    I strongly disagree. Its like saying people with demanding careers, don't make as good parents, which is *completely* untrue. After a couple years, the kids are in preschool/school anyway. All it is, is just an extra challenge.

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  30. I am a male and I am very careful to use the ubiquitious ".. he or she ..." when describing a 'generic' - at least in the workplace. Among fellow mysoginist Orthodoxers on the weekends, I am not so strict ;)

    My current project at work has many female colleagues involved who are at a higher level on the org chart than me and my fellow males. Yet I am constantly suprised how other male peers of mine are NOT sensitive to this and constantly use 'He' for the 'generic', in the presence of their female superiors. A little enlightened self-interest guys!

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  31. Hmm...

    *When people refer to a generic person as "he" or "him" as if the male pronoun includes everyone.
    .

    That implies we women are something special, more precious, not just run-off-the-mill things.

    *When people say things are "girly" when really they mean "stupid".

    No, they imply "effeminate". When they say things are "boyish" or "puerile" they mean rude or bullyish.

    *When people say women can't succeed at certain careers/occupations becuase they will want to have a family and 'naturally' want to leave their career once they have babies (I guess the 75% of mothers who don't become stay at home moms are unnatural?).

    That is partly true. One is because some careers/occupations requre far more robust physique and stamina than the female body structure allows. The same sentence should continue "...and not males all qualify either, because of same reasons".

    Seriously, are you planning a career as soldier, fireman, lumberjack or stevedore?

    But the Scandinavian countries are a prime example how women can successfully combine career with family.

    *When people say the reason there aren't more women in the science professions is because "there are innate gender differences in the ability to do math/science" (and then they become a senior adviser to President Obama).

    Women generally consider hard sciences "nerdish" and "unpopular" and something "alien to everyday life" and usually choose something easier. It is because women are innately more social-minded, and studying math, sciences and engineering requires devotion many women are not really prepared to do. Trust me, I know this from my personal experience in metallurgy. Then again, you really cannot distinguish whether that thing within the thermal suit is a man, a woman or a small furry critter from Alpha Centauri :-)

    Almost all nerds are men. That is because being nerd requires ability to focus all your energy in one single subject and internalizing it thoroughly - which requires patience, sacrifice of other, important things, devotion and dedication. Are you ready to sacrifice your place in the popularity index and social pecking order to really master what you are interested in?

    I suppose the answer is "no", and almost all women would say "no". The question is not about ability, but willingness. Life is about choices, and women are far less willing to choose sciences or engineering than men. I know this from personal experience.

    *when people say women are 'naturally' more caring or nurturing, thereby making those of us women who don't feel very caring or nurturing feel deficient as a woman.

    Put it another way. If we say men are more enterpreneurish, more extrovert and more aggressive than women, how about those boys' feelings that aren't that way?

    Almost all pet peeves work also the other way. They are not merely slurs or letting women down; they can easily be inverted on males too.

    *when people say women are 'naturally' anything that they attribute to gender.

    Ditto. Same applies to males too.

    *skirts.

    Far more comfortable than pants in warm weather. But it is the pantyhose I cannot stand.

    *When people tell me I'm the "man" in my relationship because I earn more money and have a more established career trajectory than my partner.

    It implies you may as well be the sodai gomi. In case of divorce, the man is the one who is to be junked.

    *When people say they will raise their sons one way and their daughters another way, before those children are even born (so based purely on gender).

    Would you really have been chastized, spanked, told "boys don't cry", pushed to fights and let understand your pain does not count? Would you have liked to be raised like a boy?

    I would say this world is a living hell for boys - with all that competition, fights, getting trashed and having to physically justify your right to exist. I bet there is no single male alive who had not been kicked on his genitals in one phase of his life or another.

    In some countries there is that wonderful thing called conscription. Applies only to males. It basically means your life has no value whatsoever. The state can order you to die or get maimed and mutilated in indescribeably horrible ways at any moment without asking your opinion, just because of your gender. Fair dinkum, eh?

    *When anyone tries to tell me that there's something I can't do specifically because I'm a woman.

    Tell that man to try giving a birth and then suck the baby. We can't pee standing, they cannot give birth. Which is more important?

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