For the past 10 posts I have been writing about sex and gender. I want to use this final post to talk about the political implications of gender differences. Politics is one of the most complicated subjects because of the many assumptions that are taken for granted. Now that I have a written about various scientific, biological, and economic issues concerning gender, I have gathered some tools to analyze complex political issues. Let me first summarize my position and the position that I have been arguing against. My position is that discrimination and social forces explain less than intrinsic ability and intrinsic motivations. I think that intrinsic motivations explain more than intrinsic ability and intrinsic motivations explains the most. By intrinsic motivations, I mean that boys and girls have different preferences. This is a very broad and rough estimation and it differs from field to field. In some fields discrimination might explain more (as perhaps in philosophy professorships). In some fields intrinsic ability might explain more (as in construction workers).
The opposite view tends to rejects intrinsic ability and motivations and assumes that social forces and discrimination explain everything.
The following reasons for my positions have been expressed on my blog:
- Gender is not socially constructed. Men and women are not identical at birth. They are not merely biologically different. They are born with profound psychological differences. I presented 5 scientific tests that proved this point. Here, here, and here. I have also written here that stereotypes are quite accurate when compared to objective tests.
- There is no doubt that women faced widespread discrimination in the past and continue to face it in some sectors today. But, as I have argued here, here, and here, this cannot be proven by showing that men earn more than women or that sex ratios departs from fifty-fifty.
- Many people argue that the existence of gender differences must be caused by discrimination. This line of reasoning commits 2 fallacies. It is self-contradictory and it commits the animistic fallacy.
- Women have a higher IQ, they investing better, live longer and have higher social intelligence. Men are better than women in math, in visualizing 3D mental rotation, and in brute strength on average. For the majority of other abilities there appears to be no difference. That does not mean that every man is better than every women in math, nor does it justify discrimination. It simply means that on average, there are more men that tend to be better and more interested in math and the career choices of both sexes reflect this fact.
- Gender roles convey information about the underlying reality of innate gender differences. Culture evolves based on systemic rationality and tends to magnify the innate differences between men and women as each engage in specialization and exchange.
- Although some gender discrimination exists, it is less likely to have a significant effect on women, because if employers could hire women at a lower wage, they would likely do so to maximize profits.
- Boys and girls naturally play with toys that reflect intrinsic motivations. Boys in every culture world play with trucks and turn almost anything into a weapon. Girls prefer to play with dolls. I recommend this video debate on the subject. These intrinsic motivations are expressed in career choices for example.
What are the political implications of these ideas?
It is not inconceivable that some government and university policies could benefit some women and mitigate discrimination. But any argument that appeals to benefits must be balanced with an analysis of costs. Here a few examples of costs to consider from such policies and programs:
- The cost of knowledge needed to know which women to benefit. It is very difficult to distinguish income differences caused by external barriers and income barriers caused by choices that women make themselves.
- The cost to men who would be the victims of reverse discrimination.
- The efficiency costs to employers who would be forced to make decisions that might conflict with matching the demands of a job and the traits of an applicant.
- The net cost on society as a whole—Affirmative action programs tend to reduce the incentives of both the preferred and non-preferred groups to perform at their best — the former because doing so is unnecessary and the latter because it can prove futile.
- The cost to the women themselves who might experience increased discrimination from others who are more likely to doubt their merits. As the astronomer Lynne Hillenbrand said, "If you're given an opportunity for the reason of being female, it doesn't do anyone any favors; it makes people question why you're there."
- Perhaps sex differences are accepted and used to justify woman-friendly policies such as parental leave, subsidized child-care, flexible hours, and tenure exceptions for women professors. But the cost of these programs comes in the form of penalizing men and women who choose to stay home with their children or who are childless.
Other political considerations—Gay marriage
Many proponents of gay marriage claim that since there is no significant difference between sexes, children do just as well with gay parents as they do with heterosexual parents. It is too early to tell of course and we should be prepared to accept the data either way. But since men and women are consequentially different, it seems that children raised with gay parents would experience inequality with the vast majority of their peers who grew up in more traditional families. It seems that even minor differences could have significant effects over time. Again we need to wait for the data to come in, but if we care about children, we should seriously reconsider any government policy that ignores gender differences.
Conclusion—Am I a sexist?
Men and women are individuals that are trying to make the best choices among the inherent trade-offs of life. Women should not be made to feel inadequate or lazy for choosing to stay home with the kids. Nor should they be pressured to follow career directions just to accomplish someone else's vision of what society should be like. According to the National Science Foundation "Many more women than men reported that they had chosen SME (Science, Math, and Engineering) majors at the prompting of family or teachers, rather than for reasons of field or career interest."
I do not believe that one sex is categorically better than another. I simply believe that acknowledging sex differences is more humane than denying them.