The attempts to shut women down continue

Two women who have been the subject of floods of contemptuous and dismissive abuse as part of their public life write about their experiences and point out that their experience is the cultural norm, not any outlier experience.

British academic Mary Beard in the London Review Of Books: The Public Voice of Women (summary by Caroline Davies in The Guardian)

SF writer (and past SFWA vice-president) Mary Robinette Kowal: Me, as a useful representative example

Tangentially I am reminded of many pieces I’ve been reading lately referencing the datum that once any group contains 17% or so women proportionally, men tend to perceive the gender distribution as equal, and once the proportion of women reaches more than 33% then the perception is that women are dominant in that group. According to further datapoints, the voices we hear and faces we see in public (politics, academia, the professions, the trades, entertainment etc) tend to be 17-25% female too, and this is what we are continually told is proof of a new egalitarian post-feminist status quo.

Data! What Data Analytics Says About Gender Inequality in the Workplace
Case in point – 2008 Ms. article on gender inequity in a college athletics department.

Tangentium secundus: I can’t find the exact link now but in several articles I read last week there was mention of yet another case of a drug being recalled from sale because usage by women led to higher risks of side-effects that were not known earlier because research had only been done on male subjects. Apparently hardly anything has changed with regard to testing requirements since this article was written in 2001 – not only are drugs rarely tested on women, they are also rarely tested on children, and even more rarely tested on ethnic groupings outside the mixed-northern-European “norm”. It also jumped out at me that (according to consultant anaesthetic Anita Holdcroft) a UK Medical Research Council-funded study found that only 16 per cent of people who take part in statins trials are women.

Tangentium tertius: general interest article on R&D in pharmaceutical companies and investment hype thereof.

Categories: ethics & philosophy, gender & feminism, history, social justice

Tags: , , , , ,

16 replies

  1. Margot at Reel Girl has been noticing that 16/17% thing for a while and speculating about the curious way that proportion seems to represent the maximum acceptable female presence in both fiction and positions of power. This is what our kids are being taught to expect, this is where they are learning it.
    In other not-news, Julia Baird’s SMH column on twitter and online abuse has prompted Helen Razer to write the same blog post again. You know, the one that really just says “I’m not like all those other white lady feminists”. Despite how extensively she has documented in her own writing the mental devastation she suffered from being stalked, apparently online abusers are harmless, anyone upset by them is a wilting flower, and the abuse isn’t gendered anyway.
    I’m really glad the tide has turned on the “don’t feed the trolls” oversimplification.

  2. I can’t find any data to support your claim that 17% is where men perceive gender distribution as equal. As a counter-example, 23% of surgical trainees are female, and none of my bosses (about 90% male) would ever claim that it was anywhere near equal. At my hospital, it ranges from 0% to 100% depending on subspecialty, and at my last hospital general surgery was 75% female.

  3. Interesting how you’ve paraphrased what I actually wrote, Hildy.

    many pieces I’ve been reading lately referencing the datum that once any group contains 17% or so women proportionally, men tend to perceive the gender distribution as equal

    So it’s not actually my claim, it’s a claim that I’ve read repeatedly and am reporting on. The claim also reports a tendency, not an absolute – I’m not at all surprised to learn that medical professionals with some education in statistics would not deny data on the page about the population metrics in their departments. But what about their reactions in a room when they look around at different proportions on males and females without doing a conscious head count?
    Geena Davis’ Institute has done some work on this, based on much earlier studies (there’s a classic one where teachers made a point of calling on boys and girls equally in class for a month, and at the end of that both the boys and the girls perceived that the girls had been getting much more of the teachers’ attention than the boys). I’m playing catch-up on work that pays bills, so I can’t make the time for more specific searches, but that plus the content of Orlando’s links might give you some more search terms to find the studies.

  4. Only just got the chance to sit down and read the Mary Beard article, and it’s fantastic, but also weirdly reminiscent of big chunks of my book. The defining feature I used to decide who was in and who was out was more-or-less the concept Beard describes of women who transgress by choosing public over private speech.

  5. I loved the Mary Beard article as well – it’s lovely to see feminist Classicists talking about feminism in public, especially because academic Classics can probably be counted among one of the strongest remaining bastions of white-elite-maleness. Also, um, my lecturer at uni may be trying to set me up with Beard as my PhD supervisor when I go to Cambridge. It would be awesome. 😀

  6. Wowowowow. You roll in THOSE kinds of circles?
    p.s. If you do, you can take her a copy of my book.

  7. Sorry – I think I miscommunicated. I read all of your links (and Orlando’s links), and I cannot find the claim. (It also led to a multi-hour detour of reading all of the atlantic’s work-life balance series.)
    I also did not find any data supporting this claim at the Geena Davis institute website.

  8. Orlando, I too find Razer’s “nonononononononono silencing of women is NOT A THING (and women who claim it are just feathering their own nests!!1!1! Also, the very idea of a “rape culture” is HILARIOUS”) interesting. I mean the phenomenon itself, not the individual articles, of which I can pretty much predict every sentence now.
    Razer was driven out of her job by a stalker, clearly operating along the “romance – keep at ‘em until they stop hating you and love you!” rape culture subplot. Her career took a huge hit, and has never really recovered. She of all people should be supporting the other women who are coming out in their thousands on social media to add data points to this story.
    I’m reminded of older women who have bought every aspect of sexism and take pride in performing it and policing their daughters and nieces, and the migrants or children of migrants/asylum seekers who oppose immigration or asylum seeking. It’s a kind of reaction to trauma by taking pride in the way one has hardened up and adapted to the trauma, and scornfully telling the next generation, or a new wave, that “I survived this and you bloody well will too, stop being such a wuss.” I see Razer’s contrarianism as a hardening response to the trauma she has suffered.
    The depressing thing is that every time she farts media figures with recognisable names come out of the woodwork to clap.

  9. (this could go here or on Otterday, but I think it’s fairly on topic here, though it’s about ableism not sexism:) More on bigoted hate mail, from William Peace at Bad Cripple:

    […] The point of the above is to ask those that have a strong or even violent reaction to my work to please think before you send me an email or submit a comment. Please do not tell me that you hope my son will be paralyzed like Christopher Reeve. Do not tell me you hope my bothers and sisters all become disabled, develop a seizure disorder or dementia. Do not tell me my parents are ashamed of me or I am paralyzed for their past mortal sins. Please do not tell me I am the Anti-Christ. Please do not tell me I am filled with rage and hatred because I cannot walk. Please do not tell me you hope I am in car crash and die a slow death on the side of the road. Do not wish my house burns down. Do not curse me or tell me I am going to rot in hell for eternity. All these comments have been sent my way within the last two months.[…]

  10. @Helen(8): I am one of those women you describe. I came to this country as a penniless refugee. My family lived in housing commission housing until I was 16.
    I agree with Anne-Marie Slaughter’s concept of “you can’t have it all”. The problem is that whinging accomplishes nothing. If you shut up and deal, and gain the power to make the world a better place, you can accomplish more than by whinging and being ignored. My answer to not being able to work 90 hour weeks every week isn’t to claim that the job should be changed, it’s to find a niche wherein I can get what I want from life, and let someone else work those 90 hour weeks. If they can’t find people willing to be suckers, then they’ll change the job.
    Haters are going to hate. Letting them get you down just lets them win.

  11. But sometimes whinging works doesn’t it, it’s why we all do it. Mary Beard still has a, rather fantastic, TV show on history. A few BBC panel shows have recently changed their line-ups so that there is at least one woman on every show. People are starting to notice that representations of women are limited.
    I guess what I’m asking is if we don’t stand up and demand better treatment, then who will? What if you are a person with a disability or for some other reason finding your niche is difficult if not impossible for reasons beyond your control? Or if your niche won’t put food on the table and a roof over your head?

  12. Haters are going to hate. Letting them get you down just lets them win.

    I have absolutely no idea why you think my proposal is “Hey everyone! Let’s all feel really down about this, and then do nothing else ever!”
    Christ on a cracker. If you really want to know how I feel and what I have done and continue to do about the torrents of hate and ableism in this world, and whether or not I’ve just sat around and “let them win”, read some of my body of work or something.
    Secondly: If you think that the worst thing that those attitudes can do to me is “get me down”, you’re more oblivious than you look.
    Lastly, as a moderator (but not the originator of this thread): here is a general notice that you are on my very last nerve. If you really do think that this is a space for you, poke around. Read something. Learn something. All I’ve seen you do so far here is sit around and take lazy, arrogant potshots at people who are rather keen to see a better world, and who are doing something about it.

  13. I didn’t see that you had a proposal. I’m sorry to have talked over you with that glib comment.
    Is the problem that queer disabled feminist working class non-white refugee women shouldn’t be neoliberals in your point of view? Is liberal feminism dead? I see a lot of it subsumed via intersectionality into this broad morass of the left wing. Where do neo-liberal liberal feminists hang out?

    • Is the problem that queer disabled feminist working class non-white refugee women shouldn’t be neoliberals in your point of view?

      Speaking only for myself and not for Lauredhel, I don’t think anybody should be a neoliberal, since nearly every plank of the neoliberal platform simply enables robber barons to more effectively fleece the rest of us, especially when it comes to cutting tax rates, privatisation of essential infrastructure, the deregulation of financial markets, and “free trade agreements” that trample over regional sovereignty with respect to food security, local employment and environmental conservation (just for starters).

      Where do neo-liberal liberal feminists hang out?

      You’ll find several neo-liberal outspoken women at the Skepticlawyer blog. Not sure whether they self-identify as feminists and whether or not they identify as liberal depends on whether you are using that word in the classical or the progressive sense, but you might be lucky.

  14. BTW, since I sense some dissent in the offing, and neo-liberalism is off-topic for this post, and I happened to have two relevant quotes hanging around waiting for the right moment to post, I have just published a neo-liberal economics thread.

  15. Related to the BBC’s decision on having more women on panel shows:

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