Quickies

Skepchick Quickies 6.14

  • NYT: Women are ruining medicine – “I frequently hear that women in medicine are likely to take time off for kids, and to work part-time, and that this somehow renders them less valuable. I’m not sure how this reasoning works.”
  • Baptist leader says Weiner needs Jesus – “When news broke this weekend that Rep. Anthony Weiner was seeking treatment for his inappropriate online relationships with younger women, Al Mohler, head of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, suggested that reconciliation with Jesus Christ would be a better response.”
  • Daily acts of sexism unnoticed by men, women – “Nearly everyone can recognize the stereotypical scene of construction workers catcalling women as being sexist, but both men and women tend to overlook the more subtle daily acts of sexism they encounter, according to a recent study from Psychology of Women Quarterly.” From Mark.
  • NYPD bicyclist pulled over for “sexy outfit” – “Cycling while sexy could be hazardous to city motorists.”

Amanda

Amanda is a science grad student in Boston whose favorite pastimes are having friendly debates and running amok.

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42 Comments

  1. “Baptist leader says Weiner needs Jesus”

    Anyone familiar with Mojoey’s site, where he highlights the misdeeds of clergy, knows that, if anything, Baptists are overrepresented there. I think Mohler & Co. have too much of a problem with their own sexual perverts to be recommending their way of life as a palliative.

  2. The terms “guys” and “girls” are casual ways of referring to groups by their gender. The fact that “boys” become “guys” while “girls” just stay “girls” certainly is one of the many sexist elements of our language, but what’s the alternative? Until a new word develops, it would have to be “women,” but I am unlikely to refer to a group of females as “women” for the same reason I don’t refer to a group of males as “men” — it sounds like I’m reporting on a news event or something; it’s just too formal.

    In other words, those linguistic patterns are examples of how ENGLISH is sexist, not how individuals speaking English are engaging in sexism. In the past, feminists have responded by creating new words or reclaiming other ones. The closest I can think of is that I actually often use “guys” as gender neutral, and very rarely have heard others do so as well. Even if a group is entirely female I will sometimes call them “guys.” Yet when I do, the female “guys” often look offended.

    The term “girl” used to mean “child” in a gender neutral way. “Boy” used to mean “servant.” I don’t see any reason why “guy” can’t just mean “person.”

    1. This is tough. “Guys” as a collective is something I’ve always tried to use in an attempt to avoid being sexist. That is what people in my field call a collective. I consciously try to use it to refer to women in an attempt to communicate that they ARE one of us. They are equals, and they are included in the club.

      But if there is a better way, I’d like to know what it is!

  3. So, tangential to the women-in-medicine thing, one line struck me. “I frequently hear that women in medicine are likely to take time off for kids”. How likely is it that is a bit of self-fulfilling prophecy? While women are more likely to take time off for kids, it’s because (in the US, at least), it is much harder for men to get time off for kids*. While, in law, there is FMLA’s unpaid 12 weeks, available to both men and women, what are the stats on employer-authorized parental leave, for either parent?

    *I had originally said “easier for women”, but that had a wrong connotation.

    1. OT for sure, but sometimes isn’t the victim partially responsible for what happens? For example, imagine I own a shop, and I forget to lock the door one night, and find it has been robbed in the morning.
      Certainly it is the robber’s fault and he should be punished just as if he had broken the window, but wouldn’t any reasonable person want to slap the shop owner upside the head and say “What the hell were you thinking?”
      It just seems that people have a tendency to think “It’s not my fault, so I have no responsibility to try and prevent it.”

      1. Yes, but it remains the robber’s fault that the shop was robbed – how are we to know that the robber didn’t have a lockpick in his back pocket anyway? And in the case presented in the article, women haven’t done anything to clearly present the opportunity to act sexist. They just haven’t responded in a manner that this article’s authors deem appropriate to activity that this article’s authors deem sexist.

      2. I think the level of ‘safety’ from the ‘robber’ is subjective. I mean, one person says you should have locked your door, another says if you had just put some security bars on windows, another says get a security system and then another person suggests that if you had never opened a shop at all you never would have been robbed. In the end, the person at fault is the robber and no level of *precaution* changes things.

      3. What is the analogy you’re trying to draw here? Are you suggesting that women who are victimized by sexism bear some blame for it? Why? Because they’re women?

        I’m not sure I’m following what point you’re trying to make in relation to the articles posted here.

  4. I am definitely a little torn on the women in medicine article. I disagree with most of the actual NYT article- namely that women should be equally as productive as their male counterparts- but I have often found myself annoyed with the female neurosurgeon who quit working once she had children. Not because I think she owes something to the taxpayer or greater good but because some qualified candidate didn’t get to go to medical school or didn’t get her neurosurg residency spot.

    That said, I find much of the author’s evidence weak. For instance, she claims women are less productive than their male counterparts but I question whether this is an age matched comparison. Although half of new doctors are female, very few of the veteran physicians are female. All of us newbies were raised in the 80 hour work week. We’ve grown accustomed to having work-life balance. The vets had no work week restrictions and have much less work life balance. I’d rather be a happy, less productive dr than a miserable productive one.

    1. I don’t think that it’s at all relevant that some qualified candidate didn’t go to med school or get that neurosurgery residency.

      There are many reasons why people end their career in medicine, but they all boil down to one thing: their personal priorities. Every one of those decisions has some impact on others in the system, of course — but that is an unavoidable cost of respecting people’s personal priorities.

      The issue here IMO is not so much that one person or another dropped out of med school / residency / etc, but that certain life choices in professional and academic circles are treated as valuable, and certain others are not. In particular, the decision to give birth is not treated as equally valuable as the decision not to give birth — which would be highly problematic even if it weren’t sexist, and is sexist by virtue of biology on top of that.

      1. I disagree that this author was talking about the right to give birth- and thats certainly not what I’m arguing. Rather, it’s about thinking about your priorities before going down a specific path. Medicine is not a career path that should be taken lightly. Before going to med school I carefully considered what I would want for myself if I decided to have children. I knew I would have to be ok with taking call even if I had a family at home. I think it’s both wise and better for society to think about these life choices before embarking on such a time and financial drain. It’s the responsible thing to do- though everyone has the right not to.

        1. I wasn’t talking about the right to give birth either.

          I was talking about the right to be respected in your choice to give birth; that is the right I think is being withheld from women.

          I also think you, too, are withholding that from the person in question. You are referring to “better for society” and “responsible”, but ultimately what it comes down to is that you think less of her choice (being to go partway through a medical career and then end it so as to have a child) than you do of yours.

          Do you have noble-sounding reasons for thinking less of her choice? Sure. But that’s how discrimination is often presented.

  5. Maybe I’m missing something, but I thought battling sexism was less about being pedantic and more about people not having to feel uncomfortable, or threatened, or discriminated against because of their sex?

    Maybe I don’t speak up when someone refers to my collective group as ‘guys’ because I genuinely don’t feel like the term wasn’t being inclusive? Forgive me for enabling all that sexism by treating human interaction as if it were subtle and full of context.

    1. Yes, but.

      Your personal position on this issue, informed by your particular vulnerabilities and understanding of social context at hand, is — essentially — that you do not feel threatened by this particular behavior.

      Meanwhile, there are probably some people in this world who do not feel similarly (in which I include people of all genders that are uncomfortable by non-representatively broad use of male-derived terms, such as “guys” for people regardless of all genders). Some of those people do feel threatened, and it’s very likely some of them feel so disempowered by the way their gender identity is treated that they would be even more threatened by attempting to speak up about this.

      So, sure, you can say nothing because it works for you. But the fact that it works for you puts you in a position where you might be able say something about it without feeling threatened, and that’s a position from which you can help others.

  6. I have heard multiple references to statistics indicating that females with MD’s work fewer hours and are much more likely to take time off. I’m willing to have that assumption challenged.

    I am fairly certain that there is a significant shortage of physicians in the USA. This likely has an impact on the access and quality of healthcare delivery. I also know that the funding for the majority of physician residencies is from the government through medicare, and congress has refused to increase the number of residency slots, so the shortage continues. More doctors working fewer hours means the shortage is worse. Is it wrong to want to spend more time with family and less time at work? No, not at all. Will that effect the quality of care patients receive? Potentially. Keep in mind that much of the rest of the physician pool is also arguably overworked and thus more prone to make errors.

    Should women have to choose between having a family and being a medical professional? No, but until we have an appropriately sized MD pool I have a hard time seeing how it doesn’t harm broader society when a competent doc (regardless of gender) decides to go halftime.

    That said, I don’t have an exquisitely refined understanding of the data, but I think it might be somewhat specialty dependent. I know the shortage is worst for primary care physicians in rural areas, but there is a relative overabundance of specialists in big cities. Speaking entirely from an admittedly flawed recollection, I do remember reading that women are disproportionately more likely to go into primary care, and that quite a few primary care residencies still go unfilled, so it might be inaccurate to assume a woman who plans on cutting back on her hours once she starts a family is “taking the spot” of someone else who would be more willing to work full time.

    Clearly this is not a black and white issue, and the institution of medicine in this country has clearly benefited from a more gender balanced demographic shift over the last 40 years. Medical practice is a diverse field with diverse challenges that is best tackled by a people from many backgrounds. (assuming they are intellectually honest, I’m looking at you N.D.’s & D.C.’s)

  7. The women-doctors-are-ruining-medicine schtick is just a variant on all the old excuses for the pay gap, which generally boil down to, “Women are less valuable because they don’t come with a live-in servant called ‘wife’ to take care of parenting and household duties.”

    1. So pay should be independent of productivity and work hours? What is the limit on this position?

      Also with doctors how many of them are paid by salary and how many of them are paid by procedure? If they are paid the same for the same procedure, why can someone complain about making less money if they are doing less work?

      The phrase used to be equal pay for equal work, but it seems that the equal work part might not be important to many.

  8. And a note to everyone debating the “guys” thing, I think ScienceDaily got that one wrong. I’ve only skimmed the actual paper so far (I plan to read it in full later — it seems pretty fascinating), but a text search doesn’t turn up the word “guys”. I think the ScienceDaily reporter misremembered this example from the paper:

    “Use of sexist language (e.g., referring to all people as ‘‘men,’’ a person of an unknown gender as ‘‘he,’’ or using nonparallel structure such as refer to women as ‘‘girls’’ while not calling men ‘‘boys’’).”

    1. How about other sexist terms, like the generic Dead Beat Dad, when as a percentage women are much more likely to not be up to date in child support payments. Or as that is a case were sexism is against men is it wrong to bring up?

  9. In my experience locally I’ve heard ‘guys’ used by both genders to refer to groups of either or mixed gender. Perhaps it’s one of those cases of the word evolving some in meaning through common usage. And our general tendency to just use short, easy words at hand rather than digging up the most appropriate one combined with limited options in the English language.
    I don’t know if it’s similar or different, but at least around here ‘girls’ is common usage even for adult women. It almost seems more expected than using women. Possibly because it’s shorter and easier to say? Possibly that stereotype about women usually preferring to be considered younger?
    In any case there does seem to be a lot of inertia in the culture to overcome to change the usage of words like that. I expect to many of us it’s likely to seem like a lot of effort and annoyance for something relatively minor (those particular common word choices, not sexism).

    1. Given an anecdata size of 1, people are adaptable, even to usages that seem totally awkward and unnatural at first. My data point is the whole coughing and sneezing into your elbow instead of your hand thing, that I first heard of during the whole H1N1 build-up. I thought it would never happen, but about 6 months later, I caught myself sneezing into me elbow. Since then, I would guess I use my elbow instead of my hand about 90% of the time.
      .
      So if someone can come up with good alternative words, people may actually use them. I personally prefer “droogs”. Or follow Humpty Dumpty and show words who’s the boss, and make “guy” be an informal noun for a person of unspecified gender and “guys” be the collective noun for a collection of the same.
      .
      Power is all about control. Seizing control of language is empowering.

  10. Let’s see, it’s been 25 years since Spanish class but there are words for “all of you”; vosotros (informal, not used often) and ustedes (more formal but used more often even in formal settings) that would fit the bill and I am sure that there are examples in other languages.
    Or we can just say y’all and be done with it.
    .
    How is it again that we humans communicate at all?

      1. The plural you is great, now I only need to convince my boss to allow me to use the singular pronoun version of “they” so I don’t need to deal with the he/she thing in my report writing.

        As to replacing “guys” as a generic term for mixed gender groupings, I’ve been using “folks”. Seems to work pretty well.

  11. See, I used to teach English as a Second Language. Since I was doing so in Texas, I told my students very simply: the second person plural in English is “y’all”. Some people use “you”, but they’re generally foreigners (i.e. from Not-Texas), so y’all can tell them pretty easily.

      1. We already have “them” for third person, but y’all does have a plural (because y’all can be singular); “all y’all” which means “you and your folks” whatever that means in context.
        .
        “Are y’all coming to lunch?” can mean are you (singular) coming to lunch or are all of you coming to lunch; while “Are all y’all coming to lunch?” can mean are all of you coming to lunch or are you and your group (present or not) coming to lunch.
        .
        And don’t get me started on what the length of “a fur piece” is. ;)

  12. Regarding female doctors and taking time off for family matters: Perhaps one can reframe the question: Why don’t male doctors take family time off as much? (“What, don’t you care about your kids?”)
    Childrearing is seen as a woman’s work. If the work weren’t as gendered, there’d be more respect for “stay-at-home husbands” who could focus on that: thereby, female doctors’ careers and family wouldn’t be any more mutually exclusive than it is for male doctors.
    To the extent they ARE mutually exclusive (the profession does call for much dedication and sacrifice, after all), then another approach is for there to be more respect for a woman’s decision not to have children or family of her own.

  13. And for “guys”: I’d love for it to be gender-neutral, since it (otherwise) does exactly what it’s supposed to do and for which there’s no female equivalent: it’s respectful (unlike “girls”), it’s informal (unlike “women” or “ladies”), it doesn’t sound regional/slangy (unlike “gals”).
    However, it’s not truly gender-neutral: to speak of a {girl/woman/gal} as being “one of the guys” implies she fits in with a male group. (Promoted to honorary male…)
    Personally, I sometimes use “guys” and “women” as parallel (mainly when speaking impersonally/hypothetically, not when addressing someone: “Hey, what do you women think of…?”). My reasoning: to speak of guys as “men” is elevating of them (You’re not just some guy, you’re a MAN); and elevating women over mere “guys” is a small way I try to subvert gender expectations.

    1. Yeah, I’m torn on this one. I never even considered the idea that using “guys” in a mixed-group environment might be sexist (I guess I’m one of the ones that the article is talking about!) but now it’s got me thinking.

      On one hand, yeah, I can totally see that applying a male pronoun to a group with women could be sexist.

      On the other, I have to wonder if “guys” isn’t getting close to gender-neutral. I mean, it’s like a tree falling in the woods with no one to hear it. Does it make a sound? And, if someone does something sexist, and no one notices it’s sexist… is it really sexist after all?

      The only thing holding me back from taking this position is that I probably wouldn’t call a group of women (damn, I almost typed “girls” there!) “guys” if I thought about it. In fact, I remember a couple weeks ago, I did just that when I asked my wife and a friend of hers “You guys want to go see Thor?” and then paused wondering if that was right. But they didn’t react to it like it was weird or anything, soo….

      I dunno. I was conscious of using it, but it was also my instinct to do that. Is “guys” really just gender neutral (or at least, getting close to it)? Or am I just rationalizing? I’m not sure.

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