Sexism and the Loss Aversion Heuristic

Men are physically stronger than women, respond quicker to physical training, and suffer less injury under physical stress. Men are more robust, suffer less morbidity than women in almost all phases of life. Obviously these things exist in a normal distribution, but men’s distributions are typically platykurtic – there are more men in the tails of the distribution than women. Thus, even where the means are near identical, such as intelligence, you’d expect to see more male geniuses, and imbeciles among men than women, who’re more concentrated around the mean. Feel like taking issue with any of these statements? Then you might as well be a creationist.

Men are more accepting of risk, and will prioritise pay over flexibility. So you’d expect men to make up the majority of soldiers and miners and race car drivers. It also means you’d expect to see more men make up corporate boards, everything being equal. More men are more drawn to the cut and thrust of business, and are more likely to prioritise work over other commitments. Women value stability and flexibility more highly than men. This means women, on average don’t choose to make the effort necessary to climb the greasy pole. Women (sensibly, in my view as I have done the same) are more likely to think other things more important.
Thus, the brute fanny-counting of media analysis of sexism and the “gender pay gap” ignores female choices and attributes, thus denigrating both women and men for the choices they make. Women for their part see their contribution to society in caring professions such as medicine (more doctors are now women, as well as nurses) and teaching denigrated because these women aren’t seeking to be at the top of BAE systems, or whatever. Likewise men, when they see women are going to hired so they form 50% of the workforce of a mining company feel devalued for their skills and attributes because the only way BHP Billiton could make 50% of its employees women is by discriminating against the larger number of men who will apply to drive a bloody great truck miles from nowhere in a bloody great hole in the ground in the middle of a bloody great desert surrounded by nothingness, and live in towns whose bars serve tinnies through wire grilles, and where kicking each others’ heads in represents the primary saturday night entertainment.
But worse, by forcing women into traditionally working class men’s jobs, you further alienate and disorientate a bit of society which already feels put upon, neglected, belittled and scorned. This is why they voted for Brexit in the UK, and in the USA, will vote for Trump. Working class men are lashing out, because their raison d’etre, to provide for their offspring, has been nationalised, and no other opportunity for them has been provided and they as individuals have too often been thrown on the scrap heap, derided as workshy deadbeats. The working class used to have pride in providing for their family and often doing dangerous, dirty jobs to do so. Opportunity isn’t “equal access to university”, for which working class men is a middle-class rite of passage, but decent jobs that will allow them to support their family, but which is blocked by the petty credentialism that values paper qualifications over experience and dumb diligence over inspiration.
That loss of pride is agonising. And people mourn loss far more than they celebrate gain. The aim of this post-modern obsession with equality of outcome therefore might as well be to make men despise themselves and women feel inadequate for the inclinations their biology and society has fitted them. Men become 2nd rate women, and women become 2nd rate men. By all means allow everyone to seek their own path, but to imagine men and women will sort 50/50 everywhere is totalitarian in its foolishness and cruelty.
8 replies
  1. Antisthenes
    Antisthenes says:

    So logic and rational thinking is not beyond your capabilities. I feared it was after reading some of your rants against Brexit. Your article today was insightful, thoughtful and well articulated. I could not but agree with nearly every word you wrote.

  2. JimmyGiro
    JimmyGiro says:

    Consider why the Cuckoo is relatively rare, compared to its host targets; despite all the advantages of getting the host to do all the wing work of rearing.

    Answer seems to be, that the little hosts have evolved the ability to distinguish between their own eggs, and the Cuckoo's mimicked counterfeit, and save their own brood, by removing the Cuckoo's egg.

    In a land of equality, where distinction is outlawed, the Cuckoo will reign uncontested. And since the Cuckoo knows nothing of rearing the young, there will be no natural future in the 'Cloud Cuckoo Land' of equality.

  3. Anonymous
    Anonymous says:

    Good grief, the first time that I have agreed with you!

    Question for 'society': Would you rather have unemployed young men on the streets or unemployed young women at home with babies?

  4. Anonymous
    Anonymous says:

    You're wrong.

    Unfortunately, the other distribution variables – such as variance – are also socially determined.

    Take intelligence. The tail argument is cute, but simplistic. As female access to education has improved, comparative studies have shown women's educatinal achievement rising – but also more women moving into the upper tail. Nowadays, more women go to university than men, for example.

    At the lower end, it's far from clear men outnumber women – as your tail argument proposes. There's issues around underdiagnosis of female autism, for example. An alternate argument – that women are systematically discriminated against, thus filling up the lower tail – also fits the evidence.

    The tails, as well as the averages, are socially determined.

    This tail argument, that men are more "varied" than women, is a rehashed "men beat women naturally" argument. It's simplistic, distracting, and provides a just-so story to explain away discrimination against women.

  5. Anonymous
    Anonymous says:

    I'd add that your last two paragraphs display your prejudice, rather than attempting to understand working class men (they're not all block voting for Brexit, anyway). You seem dimly aware of the speciousness of your argument – "feel inadequate for the inclinations their biology and society has fitted them" – only to scream "Feminazis!!!" at the end. Cause feminism is Just Like Nazism ™.

  6. Laban Tall
    Laban Tall says:

    "they as individuals have too often been thrown on the scrap heap, derided as workshy deadbeats. The working class used to have pride in providing for their family"

    To quote the late Old Labour sociologist Norman Dennis (in 'Welfare, Work and Poverty'):

    "Old Labour (properly so-called) saw each successful, decent family, egalitarian in its division of labour and benefits through the willingness of each to be self-sacrificing for all the others, as itself a socialist commonwealth in action. Such families were believed to be both common in the respectable working class and achievable as the norm in all classes. Their widespread existence — as these ethical socialists believed — proved that it was not ‘against human nature’ to be dutiful and unselfish."

    "No loss of reputation has been swifter or steeper on the left than that of the working-class male: from heroic proletarian father to unspeakable abusive beast in one generation."

  7. Laban Tall
    Laban Tall says:

    anon – "more women moving into the upper tail. Nowadays, more women go to university than men, for example"

    Given that more than 30% of young people go to university in the UK, the idea that uni entrance represents "the upper tail" is not tenable. The right side of the curve, yes, but not the tail, which is the "rightmost" side.

    Best summary of this issue is probably the very temperate and balanced speech by Obama's Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers – the speech he was sacked from Harvard for.

    "It does appear that on many, many different human attributes-height, weight, propensity for criminality, overall IQ, mathematical ability, scientific ability-there is relatively clear evidence that whatever the difference in means-which can be debated-there is a difference in the standard deviation, and variability of a male and a female population. And that is true with respect to attributes that are and are not plausibly, culturally determined. If one supposes, as I think is reasonable, that if one is talking about physicists at a top twenty-five research university, one is not talking about people who are two standard deviations above the mean. And perhaps it's not even talking about somebody who is three standard deviations above the mean. But it's talking about people who are three and a half, four standard deviations above the mean in the one in 5,000, one in 10,000 class. Even small differences in the standard deviation will translate into very large differences in the available pool substantially out (on the right tail – LT)."

    And why should there be this difference? How could it have evolved?

    Psych professor Roy Baumeister has some ideas in his commentary on the Summers affair.


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