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Masculinity Studies 102: Let’s ask the experts.

Here's a pretty old post from the blog archives of Geekery Today; it was written about 16 years ago, in 2007, on the World Wide Web.

Over at Hit and Run, Kerry Howley, a contributing editor at Reason, explains part of what she finds lacking in a common anti-feminist argument to the effect that large-scale socioeconomic disparities between men and women are the result of inborn differences, rather than pervasive forms of sexism.

The different-preferences-create-different-outcomes argument is ambitiously superficial and question begging. Absent any account of how preferences are shaped, I’m not sure why anti-feminists think they’re saying something intelligent when they boldly assert that men and women want different things. IWF loves to talk about Title IX, and it’s a great example of a cultural shift affecting preferences in young women. Did 14-year-old girls just not like sports before Title IX and the rise of the girl jock? Or did Title IX help create a culture where a broader range of interests could be engendered and cultivated? Does the fact that girls in 1950 did not aspire to captain high school soccer teams say anything interesting about women? I don’t think so.

— Kerry Howley, Hit and Run (2007-11-29): Men Are From North Dakota and Women Are From South Dakota

I’m sure she’s entitled to her opinion. But now let’s see what a real expert has to say about whether or not women experience discrimination in America today: Mr. Brian Sorgatz!

What gender inequality? I ask in earnest. In 2007 in the United States, discrimination based on gender is like highway robbery. Technically, it still exists, but it’s been shrunk to a tiny remnant of the problem it once was.

— Brian Sorgatz, 29 November 2007, 1:55 pm

Well, that’s that. If some dude can’t think of any major examples of inequalities that American women face in 2007, must not be a problem after all. Any woman who thinks she has noticed counterexamples had better get on board with a theory that can make some kind of peace with the realities of human nature.

Like this one, offered by another male expert on discrimination against women:

I think it has much more to do with mate selection criteria — women tend to place more emphasis on men who earn large amounts of money, while men tend to place more emphasis on women who are physically attractive and have the personality traits to make a good mother. This sexual selection pressure would result in men making the tradeoffs and sacrifices that result in higher average salaries, while women would be more likely to pursue other values. Both are rationally pursuing the goals that they perceive benefit them most.

— prolefeed, 29 November 2007, 4:01 pm

Did you know that if you take a series of 1950s sitcom punchlines and slap a sticker with the words mate selection criteria on top of them, that makes it Scientific?

Meanwhile, three minutes later:

Prolefeed, you just raised the I.Q. of the entire thread. Thanks for that.

(Again, it’s not that Prolefeed is necessarily right in every particular. But his thinking is admirably sophisticated.)

— Brian Sorgatz, 29 November 2007, 4:04 pm

The hedge is important. We do have to leave room for other well-researched theories proposed by other men. For example, we must remain open to the possibility that 13,000 years and more of patriarchy turns out to all be the result of the (probably genetic) advantage in upper-body strength that the very strongest men have over the very strongest women. Who knew that so much could turn on a bench-press?

Further reading:

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