Truth Diode

An opinion piece by Nicholas Kristof in today’s Times looks at whether, as some have suggested, the modern workplace is better suited to women than men. Mr. Kristof quotes from a “provocative” article:

With women making far-reaching gains, there’s a larger question. Are women simply better-suited than men to today’s jobs? The Atlantic raised this issue provocatively in this month’s issue with a cover story by Hanna Rosin bluntly entitled, “The End of Men.”

“What if the modern, postindustrial economy is simply more congenial to women than to men?” Ms. Rosin asked. She adds: “The postindustrial economy is indifferent to men’s size and strength. The attributes that are most valuable today — social intelligence, open communication, the ability to sit still and focus — are, at a minimum, not predominately male. In fact, the opposite may be true.”

It’s a fair question, and others also have been wondering aloud if a new age of femininity is dawning.

Leaving aside that anybody who is just now getting around to wondering “if a new age of femininity is dawning” must have spent the last 40 years in a mine-shaft, what is remarkable about this is that the notion of innate cognitive differences between men and women is suddenly “a fair question”. It certainly was not, for example, a “fair question” when Lawrence Summers asked it a few years ago at Harvard, even though he raised exactly the same point about intelligence distribution that Mr. Kristof does in today’s piece, namely that female intelligence is more clustered in the middle, while there are more males at the high and low ends of the scale:

At the very top, boys more than hold their own: 62 percent of kids who earn perfect 2,400 scores on the S.A.T. are boys.

Actually, it goes much further than that: for instance, according to this paper by Danish researcher Helmuth Nyborg, men with IQs of 145 or higher outnumber women 8 to 1. (When Nyborg published this in 2004 it was, of course, a heretical result, and it led to his entering, as Walter Sobchak might have put it, “a world of pain”.)

Are we now going to be able to speak frankly about innate, quantifiable statistical variation in the cognitive faculties of different human populations? Here’s my bet: yes we are, whenever the data appear to cast Vile Oppressors (that is, whites, males, or, vilest of all, white males) in an unfavorable light compared to some oppressed victim-group (everybody else). It’s fine, in other words, for women to have higher “social intelligence”, “ability to sit still and focus”, and so forth; indeed, you are more than welcome to mention any innate differences you like, as long as they indicate some sort of superiority of the Oppressed over the Oppressors. That’s goodspeak.

Otherwise, mind your tongue, if you know what’s good for you. And Mr. Kristof had better watch out with that SAT stuff. He’ll be hearing about that.


  1. Dom says

    “… some sort of superiority of the Oppressors over the Oppressed.”

    I think you got some words mixed up there.

    There is a new taboo out there, and you can see it in Rosin’s article — at no point does she mention that women’s climb up the ladder is a purely legislated phenomenon. She mentions, eg, that most degrees now go to women, but no mention of affirmative action.

    This is an important taboo. If someone points out that the current laws — laws that were pushed when they helped women — now mandate that universities start to bring in more men and less women, I’m sure they, like Summers, will lose their jobs.

    Posted July 23, 2010 at 11:11 am | Permalink
  2. Malcolm says

    Thank you Dom, for pointing out that error. I’ve corrected it.

    As for the point you make about affirmative action, I imagine you are right.

    In general, the more Diverse we insist that society be, the more we dissociate into disparate trait-groups having little interest in society as a whole, each focused rather on competing for its own slice of the pie. This is fine, even encouraged, for any and all Oppressed groups, as assorted along various trait-axes of sex, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, disability, etc., but is verboten for whites as whites, males as males, and so on.

    In other words, we have organizations that promote the interests of women (e.g. NOW), blacks (e.g. NAACP, the Congressional Black Caucus), and so forth. The axes these organizations map onto in the Victimhood configuration-space are orthogonal, and having a non-zero value along any of them is enough for an individual to qualify for representation (a white woman’s trait-group interests can be represented by NOW, but not the Congressional Black Caucus, for example, and a deaf, Hispanic, transgendered illegal immigrant with AIDS would be represented along at least five axes). But there are a few, very particular, axes for which trait-mapped interest-groups are simply not tolerated, and foremost among them are whiteness and maleness.

    I don’t see that changing any time soon.

    Posted July 23, 2010 at 12:07 pm | Permalink
  3. Dom says

    I hate to harp on this, but let me get in one more example. You know that GM has closed down a few dealerships. Guess what criteria were used?

    “Other dealerships were retained because they were recently appointed, were key wholesale parts dealers, or were minority- or woman-owned dealerships.”

    But according to Rosin, this is proof that women are better-suited to the modern automobile — sitting still, focusing, all that.

    Posted July 23, 2010 at 12:22 pm | Permalink
  4. Well, I am certain that the fact that I am male and, nominally, white had nothing at all to do with my failed academic career.

    Why even if I had been a female or an obvious minority, my Fulbright Fellowship, Naumannn Fellowship, and Golda Meir Fellowship wouldn’t have made my PhD from Berkeley any more appealing, and I’d still be nothing other than a glorified English teacher in an overseas language program.

    I blame myself.

    Jeffery Hodges

    * * *

    Posted July 23, 2010 at 11:27 pm | Permalink
  5. Malcolm says

    The honorable course.

    Posted July 23, 2010 at 11:48 pm | Permalink

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