Skepchick Quickies, 7.16
- Feministe gives a pretty thorough smackdown to the latest news piece about how ladies just don’t like science.
- Pollution causes women? “Women exposed to the now-banned environmental pollutant polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, are far more likely to give birth to girls.”
- Lo, a 35-year-old actress, writer, and yoga teacher, is trying to do everything Oprah recommends for a whole year. Oh my god, I think this is the beginning of a formal cult.
- Quick, ladies! Everyone check your bras for bats.
Does anyone else see the irony of someone calling bullshit on an article because it doesn’t cite evidence, all the while they don’t cite anything themselves either?
What happens when a study from the UofK goes against the propaganda machine? A rebuttal completely devoid of intelligence, reason and sense, yet full of absurdities.
It’s seriously worse than creationism, ignore evidence, jam fingers in ears and yell “I can’t hear you!!!!”.
Should Lo be worried for her own life? All the advice that Oprah gives might not be good for one’s health, so I hope she’s careful enough to notice when things might be getting out of hand.
Anyways, hats off to her for putting herself on the line for her skepticism of Oprah.
You know, I heard that bat story the other day, and I guess I’ve learned to be really skeptical and I didn’t believe it, since it sounds like urban legend. But after reading the article, I’m more convinced, I mean they name the girl by name, where she works at and there’s a photo (although the bat in the photo is rubber).
Smackdown??? That was probably one of the worst pieces of woo-woo political garbage I’ve read in a long time! Example:
New York Times:
So, they did a proper regression analysis, and found that once personality differences were controlled for, the gender differences went away. This is good science. How did Feministe respond?
Strawman fallacy, appeal to ridicule, non-sequitur, ad hominem attack…and absolutely no discussion whatsoever of the science!
Really, Jen, I’m disappointed. Calling something a “smackdown” because it apparently agrees with your political views when in fact it is guilty of everything this site—and all skepticism—is against, is incredibly bad judgement at best!
Rystefn volunteers to be official Skepchick bra-bat checker in 3… 2… 1…
The girl-bra-bat story was out over here (UK) last week. The girl appeared in several newspapers in various states of undress with her bra size in the report like a badge of honour.
If it did happen as she said she certainly wasn’t shy about jumping on it as an opoprtunity to put herself (or should that be her boobs?) in the spotlight.
I’m just waiting for her to pop up in the tabloids as a page 3 girl anyday now.
I agree with mxracer652 and shanek–the Feministe article was useless. It didn’t provide any concrete evidence that was contradictory–only vaguely alluded to it–and it was mostly a lot of yelling. Just because the bloggers quotes long portions of Tierney’s piece and then indulges us with his opinion about them doesn’t make it a “thorough smackdown.”
Oprah says “Get a Life!” ?
Okay it wasn’t just me…The Fenimiste article seemed like it was mostly Ad Hominem attacks on the article. Personally I don’t like quota’s to be put in place in general, but I am not sure if that was even on the table for discussion. I would much rather see the evidence on both sides about what is going on…
My own experience in Computer Science was that there were a lot less woman enrolling (and at my college NJIT in general). My college was actively recruiting woman and offered scholarships to try and get more woman into engineering, CS and other degrees offered. Most of the woman I met in college was either in the Architecture department or Biology students. I personally think that there is a bias in academia where more woman are looking for careers in medicine and less in Engineering. While I think it is valid to point out that more men are in leadership positions in medicine, I also think that the trends are leading towards a more diverse and accepting attitude with each successive generation becoming the leaders in the field. I’m sure there will still be biases, but I think it is going to lessen in time and people will view them as the outside instead of the norm.
One side note, the article said faculty and not leadership. If they actually mean professors, then I find that understandable since professors will not be from the current generation, but the previous one which is basically the same point as leaders. I still believe however that when the current generation takes leadership roles, woman should comprise 60% of biology and 70% of psychology faculty. If they are not then there is something that we should be looking at.
Now am I diluted and the data doesn’t support my own observations. I also think that there is an issue with the media not portraying “smart” woman as much as they should. Men are always seen as geeky science nerds on shows while woman tend to not be that interested in science, if anyone has counter arguments to this, then please let me know, as I stay away from the TV a lot myself.
Well this was an overlong post about how I felt about the article. If anyone wants to tear me apart you can do so below, but if you want to do it live, I am going to be at the Skepchick get together on the 26th in NY for the Lori Lipman Brown talk and the afterparty.
By media, I am talking about those WB/CW shows that all those kids be watching now adays. I have never seen one myself, but that is what I think is being shown, and I believe was also mentioned in an interview with Kirsten Sanford on the SGU, but I am to lazy to relisten to it.
Lo’s in trouble if Oprah jumps on the coffee enema bandwagon. Imagine having to read all those books with coffee leaking out of your asshole.
First of all, the Feministe post is an impassioned response to an issue that is far larger than a single NYT piece, which is also an issue Skepchick has engaged several times before. When you find yourself fighting the same battles over and over and over again, you tend to get a little irate about it. This may be confusing out of context, but not necessarily wrong. Apologies if the strong language, or my choice of definition, didn’t fit others’ expectations or opinions.
However, I’m disturbed by the willingness here to see this as a black-and-white, either-or situation: if Feministe is wrong, therefore the NYT piece is right. Maybe Feministe fell into the same trap, only vice versa. But since when does a newspaper account of scientific studies count as infallible truth? And even if the studies are accurately represented in the article, the word “science” doesn’t automatically trump everything else. If science arrives at a conclusion that doesn’t make sense, or is specifically sexist, do we automatically respond, “Well, it’s science, it must be right,” or do we say, “Wait a minute, I have my doubts about that. I think we should reexamine the way this particular science was done and determine whether or not it covered all the bases and answered all of our questions.” Did the Feministe post answer all the questions and provide all the evidence? No. Did it raise the point that there is a need to do that? Yes, and I fail to see how that is NOT in line with critical thinking.
The problem that the Feministe post is getting at is if even a majority of women in a particular sample have certain preferences, does it necessarily follow that there are NO women anywhere who have different preferences? Of course not. To think so would be a severe misstep in logic. It’s a simple fact that not all women prefer to work in a people-oriented field. I am one of those women. Many of the Skepchicks are those women. I know dozens of others. Maybe this is just “ancedotal evidence,” but we exist nonetheless. If a scientific study isn’t allowing for something I know to be a fact, yes, I’m going to question that study.
I think we need to look more closely at the descriptions of the science provided in the article. For example – it was stated here in the comments that because “personality differences were controlled for” in the study, then the study’s conclusion is valid. Well, what caused these personality differences in the first place? Were all these men and women born with these preferences in place, or were these preferences instilled by years of conditioning? Maybe it was a combination of both. Maybe there are even other factors. But if there’s even a chance women prefer what they do because society told them to, how can we in good conscience defend science that doesn’t tell the whole story?
This is the point Feministe was trying to make. If they did it in a way people didn’t like, fine. You’re free to not like it. I’m not sure if I personally care for the tone of the post at times. But they’re questioning something that I think needs to be questioned. Was it done in the best way? No, probably not. That doesn’t make it anti-science or anti-critical thinking. In fact, only taking the NYT’s claims at face value is that.
Shanek, do not presume to know what my political opinions are because I link to a story intended to start discussion. Talk about lack of rational thinking and bad judgment. You would probably be very surprised to learn what my political opinions are, because they are NOT the same as Feministe. How could you possibly make a judgment about something as complex as the political opinions of another person you’ve never met based on a link on a blog, not to mention assuming these political reasons are why that person agrees with the link? Frankly, I’m rather horrified by the original article’s details about government intervention and quotas. But just because I don’t think government is the solution to the problem doesn’t mean I don’t think there’s a problem in the first place. Again, this is a problem of assuming there’s only two sides to an issue. In reality, it’s much more complex.
Please also keep in mind that the links included in the Quickies are contributed by a lot of different people, including many of our readers, and that I often present them in an effort to make sure everyone’s ideas are represented, whether or not I agree with every single thing in the linked post. I also occasionally include the contributor’s own language and comments, if appropriate and worthwhile. I happen to agree with this link, in this particular instance – but in the future, please be careful of ascribing motives and intentions to posters before you bother to get the whole truth about them. I don’t mind being attacked – that’s part of the job description – but I would not appreciate it if other writers or readers, who do not put themselves out there as I do, were hurt by comments said needlessly harshly. There’s simply no need for it.
I don’t see anyone doing that, Jen, here or anywhere else. The NYT made a case, Feminista failed to rebut it. That’s a fact.
then reality is nonsensical and sexist. And we just have to deal with that. If we rejected everything nonsensical, we’d have to reject quantum mechanics. And if we rejected everything sexist, we’d have to reject the fact that men can’t have babies or breast-feed.
Which should be done with all science. And is. But I recall a discussion on Facebook with some skepchicks about female executives in Australia not making as much money. They leapt (completely improperly) to concluding that sexism is rampant, and were completely unwilling to entertain any other possibility.
No, it didn’t. Not at all. It denied even the possibility of anything other than sexist attitudes being the cause. Any time any other possibility was mentioned, it wasn’t rebutted, but ridiculed.
But no one is saying that!
And the article did not claim that!!! Again, from the article: “Once the researchers controlled for that personality variable, the gender gap shrank to statistical insignificance: women who preferred tinkering with inanimate objects were about as likely to go into computer careers as were men with similar personalities.” That’s not saying that there were no women like that—just the opposite!
Reading Is Fundamental.
Or maybe, just read the article without blinders on.
That’s a valid question, but one outside the issue of whether there is discrimination in the field.
If so, they did a piss-poor job of saying it. They could have just, you know, said it. Instead, we got a lot of ranting and raving, name-calling, and lots of other behavior I’ve come to expect from creationists and moon hoaxers.
No, the fact that it doesn’t use any science or critical thinking to try and rebut it, and responded to the science and critical thinking with ridicule, makes it anti-science and anti-critical thinking.
I urge you to consider that your sentence could be used verbatim to defend any particular creationist rant.
I never said or thought anything about you believing in a government solution. Now who’s assuming?
My estimation of your political view was a bias towards those claiming sexist behavior against women without sufficient evidence, and this new post of yours only serves to reinforce that conclusion.
As far as I can see, you’re the only one here doing that. If my years on sci.skeptic and talk.origins hadn’t destroyed my Irony Meter beyond all repair, it would be going off like mad right now.
But you yourself called it a “pretty thorough smackdown,” when it clearly wasn’t anything of the kind.
Firstly, I hope Jen, you were not offended by my post. I think the crux of the issue is to do exactly what Skepchick was around to do, and I think that we are all here making the comment is an indication that we all are aiming towards the same goals. I think there is a bias woman have against some aspects of science. As you pointed out, I think that it is more aligned with how it is presented to woman when they are growing up. I think the solution would be positive media sources of science to woman (such as your website) and also removing barriers to entry for woman into science. This is my biggest issue with quotas, its setting up a barrier to entry and not removing one…but you have also stated to be against it, which I am happy to hear (I only recently got active here and don’t know any of your positions on issues, although I didn’t make the connection Shanek did).
I should also say that I think we may come to a realization one day that there may in fact be an inequality with the genders. I’m not saying this one study proved that, but if science does end up showing after all the data has come back that there is a difference in the preference of one gender towards a career against another then I do not think the science should be attacked, and I also don’t know if Feministe would be on the side of Science. I think you will agree with me that it’s not definitive, but if the science was accurate and did cover all of the bases, but the trend is still there, then I think we are actually looking at something.
Whether it ends up being nature or nurture that causes the bias towards a particular field, I then I think that can be addressed, but for right now I don’t think there is evidence of woman being pushed towards a field that they don’t want to be in. I would love any initiative to present science more towards children, no matter the gender, and probably support whatever that is.
Now I hope I don’t earn your ire, and I’m pretty sure that you probably agree with me on most things I said. Are you going to be in NY for the meet up, cause I would love to have this discussion in person?
One last note that I didn’t want to go by:
But if there’s even a chance women prefer what they do because society told them to, how can we in good conscience defend science that doesn’t tell the whole story?
I will have to look towards the original study, but if the science original study wasn’t looking at society’s attitudes towards woman then I would defend the science. I think your anger is more directed towards the NYT article and not any “science” it is citing.
And if we rejected everything sexist, we’d have to reject the fact that men can’t have babies or breast-feed.
Shanek now I have to say something against you. Men can infact breast-feed.
After reading Shanek’s second comment I would like to retract “although I didn’t make the connection Shanek did” from my above post (14).
Jen, you make a good point. I don’t think the NYT article did a great job, either. But it certainly did a better job with the science than Feministe did. I think the only good point made on the blog was “step 1” and “step 2.” The other 6 were yelling and shouting, and had nothing to do with the evidence.
This latter part of the post was the part that turned me off. Clearly the writer isn’t taming his biases very well when trying to interpret the evidence, and neither is he withholding judgment until evidence is conclusive (which is the position I think is most prudent). Yes, Tierney fails to raise questions that favor the other side. But I think his point was that the government is jumping the gun on applying Title IX here. And I think that’s right.
Besides that, he actually provides the sources on the sidebar for us to look at. And yes, the evidence is not great, but it’s enough to make us want to pause before the Title IX goes into widespread use. He acknowledges that not all women are interested in people-oriented jobs. The paper he cited by Ash & Rosenbloom also acknowledges that discrimination and other social factors could played a role, and that the study did not take that into account. The article is not just another piece about how ‘ladies just don’t like science,’ though Feministe seems to take it that way–as an affront to their values. Otherwise what could explain the ad hominem attacks?
“The New York Times should be ashamed of itself for publishing this despicable pack of transparent motherfucking right-wing lies…”
I called the post useless because most of the post reads like the above quote. The two questions it does raise are not explored in any depth, and didn’t educate me on the issue of women in science careers at all.
Oh, believe me, my kids tried. The result was quite painful!
I didn’t even think Step 1 was any good. It was just a rant aimed at the introduction, which wasn’t borne out by reading the body of the article.
Step 2, I think, was valid. It was: “Fail to mention that the overwhelming majority of faculty in those areas are men.” But then it sent it all down the crapper by saying, “Where the fuck are the women going, and why are they going there?”
For crying out loud, you have to give these things time! I’m sure among the “old fart” set, you do get the whole white male domination thing. How long does it take for a fellowship, then a position, then tenure? Come on!
The Feministe article stunk of knee-jerk. And knee-jerk reactions are pretty much only warranted when, you know… you get a hammer to the knee.
This is not sexist in the least. Brush up on your definitions first. Sexism is perpetrating stereotypes about what women as a whole prefer to do. I will not accept sexism as a fact of life and it’s unbelievable to me you think it’s even possibly acceptable to do so. That is deliberate blindness for sure.
How is it at all appropriate to mention to me a discussion I had no part of and am not even aware of? I am not responsible for these women’s logical mistakes, and it makes absolutely no sense for you to use it in this discussion. If you intend to lump me in with a selection of women I have never even met and use their opinions and behavior to judge me, then I’m not surprised you didn’t see the point of the original post. Respond to what I’ve said, not what some women completely unconnected with me once said.
As far as many of these middle comments go, I think we’re mixing up two separate things. I was trying to paraphrase the viewpoint I believed Feminste was coming from. There is a very strong stereotype that the traditional lack of women in STEM is due to they’re not “choosing” to be there. Feministe’s ire (and mine) has less to do with the details of the study and more with the original article’s language and statements, especially in the beginning. The Feminste post covers what’s wrong with those fairly well.
No, this is what’s at the heart of the issue.
I don’t see how this is a worthwhile point to make. Anyone could take virtually anything anyone says and make it dangerous and stupid by placing it in a different context. One could also use your earlier sentence about simply accepting the world is inherently nonsensical and sexist, and use it to claim it’s also inherently racist and support that claim with carefully chosen selections from Darwin. Such a gross misconstruing of your intent and dismissal of the whole picture would be unbelievably insulting, though. As it is when you suggesting doing it to my own words.
No, you didn’t say anything about a government solution, and I didn’t say you did. I used that as an example of how my political opinion does not align with that at Feminste. You had no right to assume it did in the first place, and when I provided an example of how it doesn’t, you accuse me of making assumptions. What I was doing is providing evidence to correct your initial assumption. Isn’t that the type of thing you’re looking for?
Here’s where your reading advice also applies – get that part in the middle about “in the future?” I don’t particularly mind people going after me, it’s part of the job description here. All I’m asking is that you remember in the future that a lot of people are involved in the Quickies, and that there’s nothing wrong with a bit more civility when it comes to discussing them. Why is that such a ridiculous request? I don’t want readers afraid to send in a link they like because someone might go off on it in the comments. We want a challenging community here, but not an attacking one. If there was a better way for Feminste to state their point, there was definitely a better way for you to state yours as well.
I have already admitted I could see flaws in the Feminste post, but that I could also see good points in it. I see no reason why you can’t take some similar steps to seeing the other side.
You’re absolutely right. Thanks for the mentions of the extra links there!
Okay – I get that most didn’t like this article and thought it was “knee-jerk.” But I truly think some of you are unaware of the intense frustration and anger that comes from constantly dealing with this type of stereotypical bullshit on a day to day basis – in your work, in the media, in online communities. Can you all take one minute to look at the other side of this, and just imagine what it’s like to fight against that all time? Because some women do it. And it sucks. That doesn’t justify faulty reasoning. But it does make faulty emotional outbursts that much more understandable – and, sometimes, necessary.
But according to the Feministe article, it is! We’re talking about women tending towards a different personality type. If that personality type is biologically inherent, then it is exactly like having babies. And the article slammed it for being sexist, and you defended the article on that point.
Now, before you jump on me again, of course there is the possibility of it being a result of upbringing, but by automatically calling it “sexist” you are wrongfully discounting the possibility of it being a biological fact. But if only women giving birth isn’t sexist, then maybe this isn’t, either. Before you go calling it sexist, make sure you have the evidence to back you up.
I also don’t get why you’re getting so defensive, unless I’m striking a nerve somewhere. I recount a similar situation I was in and you take it as a personal attack on you. I wonder why?
Feministe was coming from the viewpoint of, “How dare you fucking sexist pigs use science to try to say that we might be wrong about a position we can’t logically defend!”
But is it a stereotype, or is it a personality tendency? That hasn’t been shown! There is evidence—presented in the article—to show that it’s a personality tendency. Dismissing that, and continuing to call it a “stereotype” and accuse people of sexism, is intellectually vapid.
Well, why didn’t you say? Let’s look at it, then:
Statements of fact.
More statements of fact.
Referencing critics of Title IX, at least in this application, which you have distanced yourself from, and in any case, there’s nothing sexist here—in fact, wanting to stop something that would “do more harm than good for women” is decidedly unsexist.
Three paragraphs in, and still nothing…what did you mean by “the beginning?”
The rest of it is just presenting both sides of the debate and giving scientific references.
And one has to really wonder about Feministe ranting:
Sorry, I was actually being nice to Feministe before, but you’ve pushed all of that out of me. These blatant liars didn’t quote the very next part of the article, which said:
Can anyone say, “quote mining”?
Where’s the sexism in the article or in the science? Not in Feministe’s strawman version, but in the actual article? Where???
You’re right, I don’t have to deal with it, so I don’t know what it’s like. But I do know that it cannot excuse slamming journalists and scientists for being sexist when they’re just trying to examine what’s really going on.
But I truly think some of you are unaware of the intense frustration and anger that comes from constantly dealing with this type of stereotypical bullshit on a day to day basis – in your work, in the media, in online communities.
I still don’t know how you guys add quotes to your post….
Anyway, I know where your coming from, because I deal with that issue with Creationism/ID in the media and online, with Holistic medicine at home, I have one person I know who turned out to be a moon hoaxer, my father, who is one of the most intelligent person I know, had run the gambit from conspiracy theories to the point where he purchased a book of “natural remedies” for my 7 year old nephew because he has ADHD, and a gay friend who just took a near death experience he had to be a sign from Allah to go ahead with his arranged marriage. It might not be the same bullshit but its all bullshit. I understand where you are coming from honestly, any point I was making wasn’t coming from a place of ignorance.
This is all just in my life, and I am sure there are similar view points to a lot of people on this board.
Jen I don’t mean this to be condiscending in any way, but did you read the original New York Times article completely? I would reccomend anyone involved in this discussion to go read it.
I think our powers would be better served if we look at the article and critique that instead of critiquing the article about the article.
It would be interesting to hear more about the “vocational psychological tests” used in the study. The conclusions (i.e. personality rather than gender) hinge on the accuracy and relevance of those.
I take issue with the interpretations of the trends of men and women in academia in general.
Women were able to get into many male-dominated fields, and in some cases dominate the field themselves, so why is it sexist that we aren’t equal or dominant in *every* field? Should we be concerned that men are being discriminated against in nursing, for example? There are far more female nurses than male. Or, rather than being an issue for men, would this be interpreted as another blow to women in that we’re being shunted into this job by a sexist society as opposed to choosing it for ourselves? Couldn’t the argument also be made that our sexist society is shunting men into math and physics when they might rather be nurses? Where’s the outrage for men and how society is determining their abilities and worth?
PS…The results are trends and “my friend is a girl and a physicist” is not evidence that all women would be physicists if they could were it not for sexist male oppression. Not that I’m saying anyone said this here, but I’ve heard it before…
PPS…This all reminds me of those white people vs. black people IQ test studies years back.
I think my biggest question on the whole topic is, are women being discriminated against to get into an Engineering college. I have not seen any evidence of that presented in either article.
If it is a societal issue, then Title IX will only hurt the collegiate sciences by taking money away from Physics and Engineering schools while not addressing the central issue. I think all of the evidence from the NYT article points to less woman choosing engineering and physics, while they are making pushes towards biology, social sciences, psychology.
I think what we are seeing is a clear case of politicians attempting to get more control over science and universities by pushing forward with this initiative. I think the NYT article makes a very good case about why this is a bad idea and the Feministe article doesn’t make a very good rebuttal of it.
I feel it should be stated that, woman are choosing not to go into these careers. I think this might be a mental bias woman have towards biology rather than engineering, but I also think there is a big media push for woman not to go into the sciences, which should get addressed, and I hope as the internet becomes more widespread it will be addressed.
In the interest of comic relief(though still not completely irrelevent):
If the frustration gets to be too much, you can always beat the shit out of us in public…
I was the one that submitted the Feministe piece, because it really resonated with me as a woman and a scientist. I think most sociobiology research is utter crap.
Separating out the effects of culture (phenotype) and genetics (genotype) is just insanely difficult in humans.
I think the NYT article (and the research) is partly a naturalistic fallacy–is implies ought.
(and thanks Jen for taking the heat for me!)
Unfortunately, I have a huge project going on this week, and I can’t respond more to this right now. How about I bring it up again later in August?
bug_girl said, “How about I bring it up again later in August?”
Great idea. That’s when I’ll be bringing up ID again. :-)
Hi bug_girl and writerdd.
I think most of the issue was not with the NYT piece but Feministe’s rebuttal, which in my opinion was a well written and thorough rebuttal of the piece. I think when we reinvestigate this we should be looking at the original NYT article and its short coming rather than another cites attack on it. I would be more interested in the former than the latter.
I think this whole thing correlates pretty well with the veiling of woman in Muslim culture. I don’t know if you can tell the adults that they should not be the one doing this, it has to start with education of the children. I was watching a TV program from England with Dawkins. I believe it was called “Big Issues” or something along those lines. There was a Muslim woman who openly said that she chooses to wear the veil and it wasn’t his place to tell her it was wrong. I don’t really know how to argue this point.
I understand your whole position on ID, but I think calling what you follow ID is faulty. You believe in Theistic Evolution and by calling it ID you’re empowering the Discovery Institutes anti-science movement in my opinion.
Anyway those are my two cents. I don’t mean to jump the gun, but I wanted my thoughts out there…you never know what will come up tomorrow. I am looking forward to both of these discussions that are coming up in August.
Protesilaus, actually what I am going to write about is the similarities and/or differences between what skeptics and readers of this site see as the definitions of ID and theistic evolution compared to what Christians and ex-Christians see as the definitions, and how those definitions play out in the public sphere.
Detroitus: “In the interest of comic relief…”
Yeah, ’cause there’s nothing like violence and double-standards to get me guffawing.
“Yeah, ’cause there’s nothing like violence and double-standards to get me guffawing.”
I’m glad you agree…
I’m from Norwich, UK, and all I can say is…….
Ha ha! My army of breast seeking bats nears it’s completion. Soon….Soon all your breasts will be mine!!
All your breasts are belong to us?
I resisted the urge. Writing in net-speak makes me feel dirty. And not in a good way.
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