Shaped Freedom

A recent article: “The freedom to say ‘no’” from the Boston Globe makes a startling assertion. The first few paragraphs state that women aren’t in certain “hard” sciences for a simple reason:

An important part of the explanation for the gender gap, they are finding, are the preferences of women themselves.

This sound important, right? That means that feminists don’t know what they’re talking about, right?

Or it means that the reporter sensationalized and misrepresented science.

Allow me to direct your attention to this (halfway through the article and statistically guaranteed to not be read by 3/4 of the public) important paragraph:

It’s important to note that these findings involve averages and do not apply to all women or men; indeed, there is wide variety within each gender. The researchers are not suggesting that sexism and cultural pressures on women don’t play a role, and they don’t yet know why women choose the way they do. One forthcoming paper in the Harvard Business Review, for instance, found that women often leave technical jobs because of rampant sexism in the workplace.

[emphasis mine]

So this reporter doesn’t know the difference between correlation and causation, apparently. Sure, everyone picks on (and pays attention to, even in that article) discrimination. But that is not the primary social force.

When you have little girls “naturally” trained to play with dolls, and little boys “naturally” trained to play with hands-on equipment (trucks, science gear, etc), you get “choices” that aren’t, really. When a young boy’s peers mock him because he helps a friend having trouble in a game… you get trained.

Our society recognizes that others can affect you so greatly that you’ll choose to help those hurting you… but our society ignores the pervasive effects of everyone around you, in a million little notes and pinpricks and gestures. Each one is innocent, harmless by itself. Practically none of them are actually intended as anything discriminatory. Yet they make up an overwhelming system of repression and oppression.

The quick test still applies: When in doubt, change the groups. If you had asked people why they weren’t dating across race lines in the 1950’s, they would tell you it wasn’t natural. That it was their choice. This has improved – with interracial marriages doubling through the 90’s, along with attitudes. Simultaneously (though a longer trend) you see more depictions of interracial couples on television. What happens to you when younger affects later choices too – for example, choosing a first sex partner across race lines is significantly associated with choosing a spouse across race lines. And they’re more satisfied with their relationships, too.

So again, I’m not disputing that when you look at USAian women today, they’ll prefer various sorts of occupations.

I’m just saying that it’s our fault.

I’m asserting that our society trained them to be that way.

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