13 Comments

  1. Andrea Castillo

    This response is really poor.

    It’s ironic that you accuse Carrie of “misunderstandings of my arguments and an overall failure to understand the point of the column” when this response proceeds to do exactly that.

    “She details instances of easily seen gender differences without critiquing the role of pernicious gender-based expectations in those differences. Odd.”

    No, she doesn’t. She links to several scholarly analyses of gender and preference that you did not even acknowledge. This is sloppy.

    ” Again, gendered expectations like the ones reinforced by Carrie do indeed influence (I wouldn’t use the word push, but if the shoe fits) women to conform to those expectations.”

    You didn’t even respond to what she wrote! She said that you strawmanned her position and then you proceeded to do so again with this statement.

    “Which is why that’s a straw-man of my position.”

    Explain how that is a straw man.

    “In fact, there’s a lot to be said for the stigma a woman feels when she violates gender norms and the comfort she feels in complying with them. But the reality is that that friction and happiness are created, in part, by people like Carrie telling women what they should and do want because they’re women.”

    Carrie explicitly mentioned this stigma in her response: “This isn’t to dismiss socializations role: The fact that girls see more women in the full-time parenting roles undoubtedly influences our expectations for the future. ”

    “She then takes issue with my solution to the pernicious effects of gendered expectations on women’s earning potential…It’s not a solution for low-earning women who want to stay home with their kids.”

    Then it’s not much of a “solution” for low-income, non-privileged women who need it the most. Carrie’s is a very good point to those who care about the welfare of the poor.

    “And it’s especially unfortunate that in a response to a clarion call to put aside the focus on the biological role played in gendered behavior and take a long, hard look at the role culture plays in gendered expectations in outcomes, Carrie only strawmans that idea as saying women don’t have free will to make choices.”

    When you say that women’s choices aren’t their “real” choices, that is exactly what you are saying whether or not you have the courage and self-awareness to recognize this. How many people need to point this out to you before you will re-examine your priors?

    “I don’t know whether this is true, and I hope it’s not, but the steadfast refusal to critique the role of gendered expectations on women’s choices feels like a steadfast defense of the status quo regarding women’s representation in careers and other positions of power.”

    Translation: I don’t like that other women don’t have the same preferences as me and they are bad people for not taking up my cause.

    ——

    Btw, you have yet to provide a specific plan for how we should diminish “gendered expectations” to the level that you deem acceptable. Maybe start there.

      • Andrea Castillo

        Those positions are also consistent with Carrie Lukas’s.

        I’m not sure how your comment really addresses the poor quality of Cathy’s response.

        • Seth MacLeod

          Both Pinker and Spelke (Spelke moreso) focus on cultural influences more than biological influences. I think Carrie Lukas’s response overemphasizes biology, and while Pinker believes that biological tendencies do play a role, he still thinks that cultural influences are a larger factor in women’s choices.

          My comment was meant just to point out that I think overall Carrie Lukas missed the mark. I wasn’t addressing the quality of Cathy’s response.

          I don’t think that Lukas tried to interpret charitably Reisenwitz’s original piece. For example, Reisenwitz pointed that generally women are earning more degrees than men, and she claims that these degrees are generally more relevant for an information and service based economy. At the end of her piece, she suggests that “high-earning women who want to unlock their potential should wife uneducated men.”

          That seemed to me that she was addressing the matter with humor, that there used to be a general expectation that men who are high earners can marry women who are less educated than they are – the classic example is a man marrying his secretary. Now that more women have high earning potential, why not flip the roles? I could be wrong, but that is how I interpreted it. I think I’m right because in the very next sentence she says, “The big drawback to this solution is that it requires that individuals defy gendered expectations.”

          Lukas seems to have interpreted it very differently. She sees it as “self-evidently ridiculous” that women should marry uneducated men, but as I said, I think it was meant to humorously highlight the situation. So I think that Lukas didn’t really understand what Reisenwitz was writing about.

          As for your point: “Then it’s not much of a “solution” for low-income, non-privileged women who need it the most. Carrie’s is a very good point to those who care about the welfare of the poor.”

          Lukas suggested: “Certainly, men and women ought to follow their hearts and not merely judge others based on their resume. But it is also crazy to look for a life-partner based on who will best completely your household chores. Hire a nanny and a housekeeper, but for heaven sakes don’t choose your husband for his cleaning skills!”

          That strikes me as something that also doesn’t help the poor. At least as far as that point goes, I think Reisenwitz sufficiently addressed Lukas’s point. While your comment wasn’t a criticism made by Lukas, I do think that generally Lukas didn’t make a good faith attempt to understand the article she was critiquing.

          • Andrea Castillo

            I think your interpretation of Pinker as arguing that he “thinks that cultural influences are a larger factor in women’s choices” is incorrect.

            From the presentation that you linked:

            “Are these stereotypes? Yes, many of them are (although, I must add, not all of them — for example, women’s superiority in spatial memory and mathematical calculation.) There seems to be a widespread assumption that if a sex difference conforms to a stereotype, the difference must have been caused by the stereotype, via differential expectations for boys and for girls. But of course the causal arrow could go in either direction: stereotypes might reflect differences rather than cause them. In fact there’s an enormous literature in cognitive psychology which says that people can be good intuitive statisticians when forming categories and that their prototypes for conceptual categories track the statistics of the natural world pretty well. For example, there is a stereotype that basketball players are taller on average than jockeys. But that does not mean that basketball players grow tall, and jockeys shrink, because we expect them to have certain heights! Likewise, Alice Eagly and Jussim and Eccles have shown that most of people’s gender stereotypes are in fact pretty accurate. Indeed the error people make is in the direction of underpredicting sex differences.

            To sum up: I think there is more than “a shred of evidence” for sex differences that are relevant to statistical gender disparities in elite hard science departments. There are reliable average difference in life priorities, in an interest in people versus things, in risk-seeking, in spatial transformations, in mathematical reasoning, and in variability in these traits. And there are ten kinds of evidence that these differences are not completely explained by socialization and bias, although they surely are in part.”

            That is not the argument that Cathy made. Carrie, on the other hand, did recognize that socialization accounts for a portion of the outcomes.

            We’ll just have to agree to disagree about Cathy’s quality of response.

          • Seth MacLeod

            Yes, Pinker does place an emphasis on biological factors, something I did not deny. Keep in mind that Pinker’s focus on biological sex differences is because the debate is about the factors that contribute to gender disparities, and his position is that there are biological factors as well as societal factors. This was in contrast to Spelke’s position, which was an extreme nurture position.

            Pinker lays out the kinds of explanations:

            1) Extreme Nature: Males but not females have the talents and temperaments necessary for science.

            2) Extreme Nurture: Males and females are biologically indistinguishable. All relevant sex differences are products of socialization and bias.

            3) Intermediate: Difference is explainable by biological differences in average temperaments and talents, interacting with socialization and bias.

            The third is Pinker’s position, whereas Spelke takes the second. It’s possible that I overstated Pinker’s focus on societal factors, but I don’t think that’s the case, as he readily admits many times that there is bias against women in the hard sciences. The context of this debate is that he thought Spelke was taking an extreme position in claiming that the explanation was entirely a result of socialization and bias, so it would make sense for Pinker to emphasize the differences in their positions as opposed to focusing on the similarities. In this case, that would mean he would need to focus on the biological factors.

            Another key point that Pinker continuously emphasized was that these biological differences are averages and tendencies, and sometimes these averages are identical or near to it for both sexes. Ultimately Pinker focused only on a few key differences that he thought would contribute to gender disparities in the hard sciences, but again, he explained that these differences were not enough to explain the *current* gender disparities – societal factors and bias are included in his position.

            And don’t forget, Pinker presented the evidence that overall there is no clear difference between the sexes regarding overall mathematical ability, other than at either side of the curve, where there are more male geniuses and more male idiots.

            Pinker then pointed out that many women with mathematical abilities tend to go into accounting as opposed to the hard sciences. Funnily enough, Cathy Reisenwitz’s original article was about women in the financial sector. She wrote that women who have high earning potential in this field should not feel pressured to abandon this opportunity in order meet conventional gendered expectations. Her suggestion was that the couple should figure out the opportunity costs relevant specifically to them and act accordingly.

  2. Daniel J. D'Amico

    One way to loosen the expected link between a particular labor group and the particular type of labored tasks they are associated with, is to change the labor to task ratio constraints. Technology lowers the general need for personal labor in doing the relevant tasks at hand, and or more labor units on net change the set of available labor opportunities for otherwise choice limited workers. In short, it seems that liberal immigration policies could ease gendered expectations regarding types of work more systematically than conscious efforts to break down stereotypes. In fact eroding old stereotypes would likely follow these contextual changes. Don’t get mad about who does the dishes, get a housekeeper.

    • Exactly! I say that exact thing in the linked-above Blogggingheads.tv appearance. One major thing keeping mothers out of careers is how much $ they need to make right off the bat to cover the cost of housekeeping and childcare.

      Thanks for taking the problem seriously and offering a workable solution to it.

      • Daniel J. D'Amico

        Cathy 2 quick comments. 1. There’s an evidentiary burden implied in your first Townhall piece but it is not sufficiently addressed. You write, “Who should handle raising the kids and taking care of the house? Simply put, it should be whoever’s opportunity cost is lowest.

        Besides being a hindrance to women, gendered expectations actually inhibit economic growth by distorting labor markets. This wasn’t much of a problem in the past. In an agriculture and manufacturing economy, most women really didn’t have as much earning potential as most men. But in an information- and service-based economy, that’s no longer true. Keeping women with high earning potential in the home because they feel that’s where they belong robs society of their potential value in careers.”

        You imply that current matchings of employment and household tasks according to gender are inefficient to the extent that they are the product of gendered expectations. But little is offered to describe the magnitude of this supposed influence relative to others. In other words it could be the case that the past, changing and current distributions of work reflect real spreads in comparative advantage. This doesn’t seem addressed in your response above. How would you go about diagnosing a gendered division of unequal labor as efficient rather than driven by gendered expectations?

        2. I think your practical advise regarding women to marry uneducated men is either premised on a strong, perhaps irrational, preference against doing house hold labor, otherwise its just plain old bad advise from the perspective of maximizing household income and or utility. Last the insistence on a lower quality margin of labor to find compatibility between different labor units promotes a confused vision of comparative advantage. Gains from trade persist even with absolute advantages. Always and everywhere people tend to prefer more productive labor units, and rightly so.

        • I’m saying the economic situation is changing faster than the gender roles. These roles influence women to not contribute as much to the economy.

          When would people making economic choices based on gender and not on more individual factors such as education levels? I would think never.

          The marry an uneducated man thing was tongue-in-cheek. But frealz, there won’t be enough educated men for all the educated women very soon.

          I don’t understand your last point.

          • Daniel J. D'Amico

            I get the point about how economic situations are changing faster than gender roles but it doesn’t seem compatible to the simultaneous claim you imply that gender roles are significantly contributing to the gendered division of labor as we see it. If economic conditions change and labor allocations change in stride but people’s antiquated beliefs about women and aprons and stuff don’t change as much, than that’s a point of evidence that those beliefs weren’t driving much of the gendered division of labor relative to other causes.

            I don’t understand what your replying to when you write, “When would people making economic choices based on gender and not on more individual factors such as education levels? I would think never.”

            As for my last point, let me try again. I get that your recommendation was tongue in cheek, but its a bad piece of advise unless a woman has a particular hatred for household work that they value avoiding above any other form of earnings or utility. If a professional woman wants to assure that she avoids household chores, then she needs to maintain her comparative advantage of other production streams relative to her partner, yes that much is true but it could come at greater costs via a net loss in household earnings from a lower educated spouse. One persons ability to maintain comparative advantage does not require an absolute productive advantage over their partner. She still could and should (for her own utility maximization) aim for the most productive labor unit to add to her household. Complementarity and gains from trade are about relative differences and opportunity costs not absolute conditions or logistic efficiency. In essence your advise is no different from telling her to be a crappy cook and a slob at home, because then her partner will be the one with the ideal opportunity cost but this is value destructive rather than productive. This might help: http://www.econlib.org/library/Topics/Details/comparativeadvantage.html

          • “gender roles are significantly contributing to the gendered division of labor as we see it. ”

            I think we’ve tolerated traditional gender roles in part because they worked with, not against, the prevailing economic landscape. That’s no longer true.

            It would be best for a high-earning woman to have a high-earning spouse and hire out all the housework and childcare. Unfortunately, those are in shorter and shorter supply.

          • Seth MacLeod

            I think you’ve oversimplified and created a very unrealistic model regarding comparative advantage for the husband and wife:

            1) The classic example of the doctor and secretary does not include someone advising the doctor to intentionally be a poor typist so that the secretary will do the typing and the doctor can deal with the medicine.

            2) Most people don’t like it when someone intentionally does a bad job so that someone else will do it instead. Would one partner be okay with the other being passive aggressive in order to get their way? Possibly, as each relationship is different, but you can’t apply this universally to all relationships.

            I wouldn’t assume into the model the possibility of a self-destructive person. There are too many variables that could be added. Stick with the essentials. From a financial standpoint, if the husband’s opportunity cost is lower, then let him stay at home. If finances aren’t the only relevant factors to the couple, then they can factor those in themselves as needed.

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