Tag: Gender

In Harris Funeral Homes Supreme Court Case, We Should Ask ‘Am I Next?’


“Am I next?” That’s the question that should come to your mind when you think of G.R. & R.G. Harris Funeral Homes v. Equal Opportunity Employment Commission, which the US Supreme Court is set to hear Tuesday, Oct. 8.

And no, that’s not a reference to funeral homes in general—along the lines of “ask not for whom the bell tolls”—but whether or not Americans can rely on what the law says. If the ACLU has its way and defeats Harris Funeral Homes, everyday Americans will face punishment for violating laws that unelected officials have changed out from under them.


You Know What They Say About “They”


Most of my pet peeves have to do with words and their use, misuse, and abuse — though baseball caps worn backward irritate me too. Give me a few more years and I’ll probably let my inner Kowalski run free, but so far I’ve kept him pretty well in check: I’m generally a live and let live kind of guy.

The use of the third-person plural pronoun “they” in reference to a single individual has always stuck in my craw. Saying “he or she” isn’t so hard, and has the virtue of grammatical correctness. Anyway, that’s what I thought, until I bothered to look up the use/misuse of the word in this context.


Mattel’s “Gender-Non-Binary Doll” a Hat Tip to Larger, Troubling Trend for Parents


Move over, Barbie, the new face of Mattel has arrived. Ze may not be as shapely and enduring as their predecessor, but according to a glowing feature in TIME magazine, ve might be headed for a holiday-neutral pine tree near you this December.

Billing their latest product as “a doll for everyone,” Mattel becomes the latest Fortune 500 corporation to go all-in on gender identity with its androgynous “Creatable World” doll, which follows closely on the heels of its decision last year to nix its respective boys and girls toy divisions.


What We Can Learn from the Latest Outrages Over Gender Identity


Mario Lopez and Carissa Pinkston.
Perhaps this pair of stories could be overlooked as forgettable examples of George Orwell’s “Two Minutes Hate”—the daily, formal pause during which citizens of a fictional utopia spewed outrage at their enemy—but to ignore them would be at our own peril.

Taken alone or together, they’re a frightening 1-2 punch of intolerance, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness. One might say that America seems only moments away from having its own “Two Minutes Hate.”


Pride Month and Father’s Day


Sunday was Father’s Day and June is Pride month. Until a few years ago, I’d have found nothing particularly incongruous about that conjunction: there is nothing about the celebration of one’s sexual preference, however odd it may be to call that “pride,” that precludes, obfuscates, or undermines an appreciation of the role fathers play in the lives of their children and their value to society.


Should Democrats Avoid Women Candidates?


Many Democratic voters are worried that a woman candidate cannot win the presidency in 2020. “I don’t think they’re strong enough to carry it for themselves,” an Iowa voter told the Washington Post. Amber Phillips reports that “female politicians are held by voters to a much higher standard than men,” and points to polls showing that today’s support for Elizabeth Warren (12 percent) and Kamala Harris (8 percent) drops to low single digits when voters are asked who is likely to defeat Trump.

Without denying that some people may harbor misogynistic feelings, and that many Democrats may indeed fear, as Phillips reported, that while they personally would happily vote for a woman for president, their neighbors might not, this doesn’t prove that women are held to a higher standard. The evidence is mixed. It’s never possible to know with certainty what motivates voters. Could Romney’s religion have decided the 2012 race? It’s possible.

Is there an anti-woman bias? Election analyst Karlyn Bowman has found that women are just as likely to be successful in political races as men. And most voters are past the identity politics phase of wanting to vote for a candidate (or oppose one) due to sex.

At the level of presidential politics, the data set is a bit skimpy — one election. Many Democrats seem to believe that Hillary Clinton’s 2016 loss can be chalked up to sex, or, in the words of New York Times op-ed writer Farhad Manjoo, the perception that “American society is wracked at every level by a pervasive and enduring misogyny.”

Or perhaps Hillary Clinton became unpopular for reasons all her own. It isn’t as if she was always unpopular. Twice in her career, Clinton was regarded favorably by a whopping 66 percent of Americans — in December, 1998 when the Monica Lewinsky scandal made her the most prominent wronged wife on the planet; and in November of 2009, while she served as Secretary of State. Even in the midst of the Benghazi hearings in December of 2012, her approval still held steady at 65 percent.

In 2015, Clinton’s approval dipped sharply, down to 49 percent. This drop tracked among all voters, including Democrats, whose support declined from 86 percent to 77 percent. What happened? Clinton didn’t change her sex. She ran into the private email server scandal, and it damaged her not just because of the underlying offense, but also due to her persistent deceit, and the fact that this revived earlier concerns about her dishonesty and “rules don’t apply to me” image from earlier in her career.

The share of voters who are women has been increasing steadily since 1980. The Center for American Women in Politics at Rutgers shows that in 2016, 63.3 percent of eligible women voted compared with only 59.3 percent of eligible men. It’s possible that women harbor self-hating feelings toward women candidates, but that seems unlikely. The data do show clearly that women, especially the unmarried ones, tend to prefer more liberal candidates without regard to sex. And there is one study showing that when Democratic women run against Republican men, some Republican women voters defect to the woman.

What about men voters? Are they the ones who hold retrograde views, thinking women candidates are too emotional or weak to do the job? There may be some of that, but think of Republican voters in 2008. They were lukewarm toward John McCain, the last man standing at the end of the primaries, but they were over the moon for Sarah Palin. A September 2008 CNN poll found that 62 percent of men approved of Palin compared with only 53 percent of women. Asked whether Palin was qualified to be president, 57 percent of male respondents said yes, 14 points higher than among women. In fact, 55 percent of women thought she wasn’t qualified.

You can mine the data in the belief that voters are not “ready” for a woman president. But the truth is probably closer to this: the right woman candidate hasn’t run yet. Qualifications aside (it’s so pre-2016 to fret about qualifications!) if Oprah Winfrey or Michelle Obama jumped into the race, they’d rocket to the top. Great Britain, Israel, Germany, and India for heaven’s sake, have elected female leaders. Is the U.S. more misogynist than those countries?

Not everything reduces to bias. May the best person win.

Biden Discovers the Concept of Personal Space


Joe Biden hears you, ladies, and promises to grope no more. (Click “more” to watch the video.)

Will this be enough to get the “me too” crowd out of his hair, so to speak?




Now that I have your attention, I wish to direct it to a split decision handed down today by the 10th Circuit. On equal-protection grounds, the court struck down an ordinance in place in Fort Collins, CO forbidding women from baring their breasts in public except for the purpose of breastfeeding. Ed Whelan at National Review is on the case, and he reports the following:

In his majority opinion (joined by Judge Mary Beck Briscoe), Judge Gregory A. Phillips cites with approval the district court’s objection that the ordinance “perpetuates a stereotype engrained in our society that female breasts are primarily objects of sexual desire whereas male breasts are not.” In a classic false dichotomy, Phillips concludes that the city’s “professed interest in protecting children derives not from any morphological differences between men’s and women’s breasts but from negative stereotypes depicting women’s breasts, but not men’s breasts, as sex objects.” Ditto for “notions of morality” that might underlie the law.

The minority opinion, which Whelan quotes at length, is, as he points out, quite sensible. The difference between the two opinions, I would add, comes down to the majority’s acceptance of this absurd dogma: there is no natural difference between women and men worth noticing. Nearly everything that we used to attribute to sexual difference is explicable in terms of gender — which, when the term is appropriated from grammar and applied to human beings (as it first was ca. 1960), means that it is arbitrary . . . a social construct . . . and nothing more. Therefore, the law cannot take cognizance of the differences between women and men.

What is missing from the majority’s opinion is a recognition that the artificial mores and manners that we construct with an eye to the sexual differences supplied by nature are constructed on the foundation of those natural differences. These mores and manners differ somewhat from one society to another, but there is no civilization that fails to articulate mores and manners of this sort, and that is telling. Moreover, the majority willfully ignores the fact that, within this astonishing diversity of mores and manners, there is considerable uniformity and that this uniformity is a product of rumination concerning the import of natural sexual differences on the part of a vast number of human beings who are on other matters at odds.

The sad truth is that the dogma that provided the foundation for the 10th circuit’s decision is shared by nearly everyone who teaches at the colleges and universities in this country and that the credentialed elite produced by these institutions is by and large on board with this nonsense. What makes it particularly astonishing is that this dogma has gradually become established in an era in which students of biology have gone the other direction — suggesting that nature, rather than nurture, is the primary influence on the way we customarily think and the way we live. On the one side, there is ideology. On the other, there is science. We as a country are choosing the former.

I have no doubt that the Supreme Court will overturn this decision, which is at odds with the positions taken by other circuits. But we should not kid ourselves about what lies ahead.

You Can’t Say That on Twitter


She tweeted that “men are not women,” and for that, Meghan Murphy, a feminist journalist, was banned from Twitter. An anodyne statement of biological reality qualifies as “hate speech” for some of the gnomes at Twitter HQ. Murphy received a rote notification that “you may not promote violence against, threaten, or harass other people on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, religious affiliation, age, disability, or serious disease.”

Excuse me, but that sound you heard was me spitting my coffee across the desk. I cannot count the number of times I’ve been harassed on Twitter on some of the above grounds. Twitter has benefits, but let’s face it, threats, vile abuse, and harassment have become a key part of Twitter’s brand. Louis Farrakhan has an account. Terrorists romp through its pixels with ease, and the Russians deploy bots like biological agents. Only a select few offenders are punished or banned.

When founder Jack Dorsey was asked on Sam Harris’s podcast why suspensions and other disciplinary actions always seem to go in a PC direction, Dorsey was phlegmatic, “I don’t believe we should optimize for neutrality.” That was Silicon Valley-speak for “We are not fair.”

That is his right. It’s a free country, and, though hailed as the national cyber townhall, Twitter is a private company. It has declined to engage Murphy directly (Dorsey: “We don’t have a robust appeals process”), but has churned out agitprop about “hateful conduct” with metronomic regularity. This is not to say that Twitter applies even its own vague and shifting standards evenly. I and others have tweeted concerns about the trans movement — particularly with regard to children — without repercussions. But that must have been sheer luck. In Murphy’s case, the company targeted her for violating a policy that it had changed without any public notice. This is the new ban on so-called “deadnaming” — using the former name of a person who transitioned to the other sex. If Murphy’s lawsuit gains any traction, the company may have to explain itself. Until then, we are left to consider the Orwellian dystopia that travels under the name progressivism.

One of Meghan Murphy’s thought crimes consisted of asking, in response to someone else, “How are transwomen not men? What is the difference between a man and a transwoman?” That is what is known as a challenge, not an epithet. It earned her a warning. She also referred to a trans-identified male as “he” — that is the forbidden practice of “misgendering.”

Murphy, along with many feminists and some conservatives, resists the trans movement’s efforts to permit people who are born male to enter women’s restrooms, locker rooms, prisons, and other environments where, as Murphy puts it, “women feel uncomfortable seeing a penis.” This is a live issue. In Washington, DC, women at a downtown health club have retreated to toilet stalls to change clothes since the club now refrains from stopping men who enter the women’s changing room. Who’s to say who belongs where? Wouldn’t want to put a foot wrong in the new gender-neutral utopia. One trans person Murphy identified in print as male was seeking to counsel women at a rape crisis center in Vancouver, though the center hires only women.

Murphy’s website, Feminist Current, has questioned the science and ideology behind transgenderism, and Murphy is indignant that people with XY chromosomes can compete in women’s sports. Personally, I might have taken a softer tone, adding some acknowledgment that people with gender dysphoria deserve compassion. But Murphy is expressing a point of view, dammit, and way too many opinion arbiters here in Oceania won’t have it.

Twitter is hardly alone. Many a mandatory diversity workshop, college orientation, and hotel policy do the same. Three female undergraduates are suing Yale for a fraternity culture that they say enables harassment. Fraternity parties, they claim, place men in positions of power. Ok, but notice the language in the lawsuit: “Simply put, fraternities elevate men to social gatekeepers and relegate women and non-binary students to sexual objects.” Non-binary students?

Murphy’s objection is that this sudden reimagining of what it means to be human has been imposed, not agreed upon, and certainly not discovered by science. Many women, concerned about hurting someone’s feelings, especially — as Murphy phrases it, someone from “a marginalized group” — are shy about standing up for themselves and their own comfort. Above all, these matters need frank discussion, not authoritarian diktats issuing from our Twitter overlords.

Gillette Is Not Wrong


Is the new Gillette razor ad a radical feminist attack on masculinity – the commercial embodiment of a woke sensibility? I was prepared to think so. But having watched it twice, I find a lot to like. The ad has been panned by some conservative commentators. With all due respect, I think they are falling into a trap. They seem to have accepted the feminist framing. Feminists see culture as a Manichean struggle. It’s women versus men. Women are benign and men are malign. For society to progress, men must change. We must extirpate “toxic masculinity.”

Understandably, this rubs conservatives the wrong way. I’ve risen to the defense of masculinity many times myself. But is the Gillette ad really “the product of mainstream radicalized feminism—and emblematic of Cultural Marxism,” as Turning Point USA’s Candace Owen put it? Is it part of “a war on masculinity in America,” as Todd Starnes argued on Fox News?

Conservatives stripping off their coats to get into this brawl are like the man who, seeing a barfight unfold, asks “Is this a private quarrel or can anyone join in?”

Let’s figure out what the fight is about before taking sides.

There were a couple of undercurrents in the Gillette ad that suggested feminist influence – the term “toxic masculinity” should itself be toxic – but overall, the ad is pretty tame, even valuable. I have no idea if it’s the best way to sell razors, but as social commentary, it’s not offensive. “The Best Men Can Be” begins by showing men looking the other way as boys fight, shrugging “boys will be boys.” It shows men laughing at a comedy portraying a lout pantomiming a lunge at a woman’s behind. It shows kids teasing a boy for being a “freak” or a “sissy.” These are followed by more uplifting images of men breaking up fights, interfering with men who are harassing women, and being loving fathers to daughters. We hear a quote from former NFL star Terry Crews, saying “Men need to hold other men accountable.” These images didn’t strike me as a reproof of masculinity per se, but rather as a critique of bullying, boorishness, and sexual misconduct.

By reflexively rushing to defend men in this context, some conservatives have run smack into an irony. Imaging themselves to be men’s champions, they are actually defending behavior, like sexual harassment and bullying, that a generation or two ago conservatives were the ones condemning. Sexual license, crude language, and retreat from personal responsibility were the hallmarks of the left. It was to epate la bourgeoisie that leftists chanted “Up against the wall, [expletive]” on college campuses. Liberals were the crowd saying “Let it all hang out,” “If it feels good, do it,” and “chaste makes waste.” Feminists were the ones eyeing daggers at men who held chairs or doors for them, and insisting that a “woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle.”

The left won that cultural battle. Standards of conduct for both sexes went out the window. Whereas men had once been raised to behave themselves in front of women — “Watch your language, there are ladies present” – they were instead invited to believe that women deserved no special consideration at all.

As I’ve written many times, the MeToo movement may conceive of itself as a protest of “traditional masculinity,” but that’s only because memories are short. It’s actually a protest against the libertine culture the sexual revolution ushered in. Some men are behaving really badly – harassing women, bullying each other, and failing in their family responsibilities. Some women are too, though the MeToo movement doesn’t acknowledge that aspect of things. But these behaviors are not “traditional.” They’ve always existed, of course, but they went mainstream with the counterculture, which is now the culture. In any case, everyone, left and right, who values decent behavior should be able to agree that encouraging men to be non-violent, polite, and respectful is not anti-male. It’s just civilized.

Conservatives should applaud that aspect of the Gillette message. Progressives, in turn, should grapple with the overwhelming evidence that the best way to raise honorable men is with two parents. We may wish it were otherwise, but fathers — as disciplinarians, role models, and loving husbands — are key to rearing happy, healthy, and responsible sons, as well as self-confident, happy, and high-achieving daughters.

That’s the cultural reform we so badly need. Any corporate volunteers? Apple? Google?

Member Post


I used the word “Femininity” in the title only because it’s the counterpart of “Masculinity.” This post is about feminists, and femininity is anathema to them. It’s about Feminism’s antipathy toward makeup and feminine beauty, which they regard as disgusting attempts to seduce members of – gasp – The Patriarchy (wull, uh, yeah). “Makeup Shaming” […]

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The Real Story Behind ‘On the Basis of Sex’


The new highly publicized movie “On the Basis of Sex” offers a somewhat fictionalized account of the early professional life of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Intermingled with her life story, the film presents an idealized narrative of her early legal crusade against gender discrimination, fought in part with her late (and most devoted) husband, the eminent tax lawyer Martin Ginsburg.

Ginsburg argued or participated in several of the early influential cases on sex discrimination and went on to found the Women’s Rights Project at the American Civil Liberties Union. When she started teaching, she was one of only about 20 female law professors in the United States. She was very much a pioneer in the women’s rights movement, motivated by her own life experiences. She had on numerous occasions been rejected from positions solely on grounds of her sex, notwithstanding her great academic distinction, and was well aware that similar obstacles fell in the path of other women who sought to make a career in the law. The film goes into these issues in depth, but I shall not dwell on them here. I am a lawyer, not a film critic, so I will comment only on Justice Ginsburg’s substantive arguments against gender discrimination

Most legal writers support Justice Ginsburg’s position that both the Due Process and the Equal Protection Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment prohibit government discrimination on the basis of sex. I offer a split verdict on her legal efforts and of those who followed in her path. I think that she was right on the early cases that sought to get rid of senseless distinctions based on gender. But as the law subsequently developed, she and the courts pushed the crusade too far, creating new forms of gender imbalance that the law should have resisted. Failure to understand the economics of discrimination have led courts to impose new versions of the very discrimination that the law is intended to eliminate. In general, truly competitive markets do a better job in rooting out gender discrimination than government regulation.

The antidiscrimination norm has a powerful a hold on the legal imagination. When properly applied to government action, it reduces or eliminates implicit transfers of wealth or opportunities from a disfavored to a favored group. Just that situation arose in Reed v. Reed, a unanimous 1971 Supreme Court decision handed down by Chief Justice Warren Burger. Ginsburg was one of the authors of the winning brief, but did not get to argue that case before the Court.

At issue in Reed was which of two separated adoptive parents of the minor decedent was entitled under Idaho law to administer his estate, given the absence of any designation by will. The applicable law preferred the father over the mother, solely on the basis of sex. Chief Justice Burger noted that the government normally has the power to make tax classifications, but then added that these classifications had to have some rational relationship to the ends in view, which this Idaho classification did not. The state could not justify this male preference, as it vainly tried to do before the Court, on the ground that it would save the cost of having a hearing to decide who should receive the honor. A coin flip would work every bit as well.

Reed set the table for Moritz v. Commissioner of Internal Revenue, which Ruth and Marty Ginsburg argued jointly before the Tenth Circuit in 1972. The applicable provision of the Internal Revenue Code, Section 214, provided a deduction for care of certain dependents, which was only available to “a taxpayer who is a woman or widower, or is a husband whose wife is incapacitated or is institutionalized.” Charles Moritz provided the needed care to his elderly mother but was not eligible for the deduction because he was a bachelor who never married. A unanimous Tenth Circuit relied on Reed to extend the provision to cover him on the ground that Section 214, as written, was arbitrary and capricious, and hence violated the Due Process clause. The Internal Revenue Service had offered no rational basis for letting a bachelor fall between the cracks.

Reed and Moritz are examples of the anti-discrimination norm working to remove archaic laws. But later challenges to explicit gender-based distinctions were not so easy to defend. In the 1973 Supreme Court case of Frontiero v. Richardson, Ginsburg participated in oral argument as an amicus on behalf of the ACLU. Frontiero asked whether a female servicewoman had to prove that her husband depended on her for more than one-half of his support in order to be classified as a “dependent,” when the wife of a serviceman benefited from a conclusive presumption in favor of that position.

On the face of it, the distinction between whether a wife or husband counts as a dependent seems to reek of discrimination. But the law imposing it may have resulted in more accurate determinations for both class of dependents: it was relatively rare at the time to find women who were not dependent on their husbands but quite common to find husbands of servicewomen who were financially independent. Requiring women to prove dependency was unnecessarily costly. Not requiring husbands to prove it was open to letting in too many ineligible men. The statutory distinction was intended to minimize the sum of error and administrative costs, which is often the mark of a sensible law. Flipping a coin may have eliminated the gender-based unfairness in Reed but it would be of no use here.

In spite of these serious administrative arguments for the statute, the Court struck down the law, but the Justices differed among themselves as to the correct rationale. Four justices, led by Justice Brennan, thought distinctions on sex required the same level of scrutiny as those on race. But four other justices favored an intermediate level of scrutiny, only to conclude that this law did not meet that lower standard. Then-Justice Rehnquist dissented. Today, no one would support this statutory distinction, given massive changes in military service and labor markets.

The misapplication of the antidiscrimination norm was much more pronounced in Craig v. Boren, a 1976 Supreme Court case in which Justice Brennan struck down an Oklahoma statute that forbade the sale of nonintoxicating” beer with the low alcohol level of 3.2% to males under the age of 21 while allowing its sale to females between the ages of 18 and 20. For regular beer, the uniform age was 21.

The basic concern was about the risks of drinking and driving. To strike down the law, Justice Brennan had to ignore the undeniable fact that men between 18 and 20 as a group are far riskier drivers than women in that same age bracket. It is, of course, never the case that all women in that age bracket are safer or more responsible drivers then men of the same age—that they’re less likely to drive dangerously—but when passing legislation to deal with uncertainties it never makes sense to ignore known probabilities. If other relevant factors might tip the scale—a record of driving violations—then these can also be taken into account as well. But the presence of additional factors does not negate the relevance of gender classifications. Every unregulated insurance company uses risk-adjusted premiums to prevent dangerous cross-subsidies of men by women. Why should the government be any different? The Equal Protection and Due Process arguments support the distinction Oklahoma made. Treating unlike cases alike is as much a form of gender discrimination as treating like cases differently.

The failure to take sex differences into account has also roiled pension markets. Women as a class outlive men by about five years, and that difference is universally reflected in private pension markets. But in Los Angeles Water & Power v. Manhart, Justice Stevens thought that antidiscrimination law overrode market preferences for employer-based plans. True, as in Craig v, Boren, sex is not a perfect predictor of life expectancy, and other factors, like smoking, influence the differences in life expectancy. But the proper response is to add that additional information into the rate classification. It is not to scrap the basic sex-related judgment as Justice Stevens did. Ignoring sex makes it certain that men will provide cross-subsidies to women in pension plans.

In normal pension and insurance markets, the amounts that any individual pays and collects are independent of all other people in the pool. But once sex differences are ignored, pool composition becomes critical: the more women in the pool, the lower the payouts for both men and women. Justice Stevens said that firms could avoid these problems by giving men and women the same lump sum which they could then use to purchase pensions (with different payouts) in the voluntary market. But his solution leaves both men and women worse off, because the dangers of adverse selection by potential insureds in the individual market will drive rates up for members of both groups.

In pension markets, these problems can be controlled. Most married couples prefer self-and-survivor annuities, and where the imbalance still exists, firms have some wiggle room to reduce the wage base for women relative to men—at the risk of facing a second round of discrimination charges. But with health care insurance, these mitigating factors are not present in the individual market, where actuarially fair rates often depend on pricing by sex and age. Now huge cross subsidies can wreck the market.

One example: it costs roughly five times as much to offer health care insurance for someone 65 years of age relative to someone at 25 years. The Affordable Care Act imposes a system of “community rating” that only allows a three-to-one ratio. The cross-subsidies are huge in contrast with market-based rates, where a person pays the same for insurance regardless of who else is in the pool. Consider the 25-year old asked to pay $100 in annual premiums. The market is in equilibrium when the younger person pays only one-sixth the amount of an older person: $16.67 versus $83.33. But the three-to-one community-rating cap means that he pays $25 of the $100 bill. Hence one-third of the total premium ($8.33/$25) is a cross-subsidy, which helps explain the constant stress that the ACA imposes on private markets.

These examples illustrate how best to apply the antidiscrimination laws. Use them to lower administrative and error costs—never to raise them. Use them to prevent cross-subsidies; never to impose them. Reed and Moritz followed these principles. Frontiero, a close case, probably violated the first of these principles. Craig, Manhart, and the ACA all violate both—leaving everyone worse off than they would be otherwise. On the Basis of Sex, like the modern antidiscrimination laws, is blind to these economic realities.

© 2019 by the Board of Trustees of Leland Stanford Junior University

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My wife, daughter, and I went to the Seattle Public Library to hear Susan Orlean talk about her new book, The Library Book. I’ve enjoyed her work before and after I get a chance to read it, I might write about it here. But that’s not what this post is about. The library distributed a survey […]

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David Marcus on defining gender. WIRED and other progressive outlets are coming out against chromosomes and anatomy as being…anti-science? Progressives are barbarously enabling and encouraging mental illness and bodily mutilation. People that need help, often children, are being inflicted with irreversible mental and physical harm in an attempt to bend reality to fantasy. A rejection […]

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False Claims for Gender Equality


The number of female CEOs leading Fortune 500 companies has dropped from 32 in 2017 to 24 in 2018. That 25 percent decline has spurred deep consternation among feminists and liberals. Writing about the New York Times’ New Rules Summit, a conference about women in leadership, journalists Rebecca Blumenstein and Jessica Bennett concluded: “For women, the climb to the top has sputtered.” Feminists claim that this decline has ominous consequences not only for the cause of gender equality, but also for the overall level of growth in the economy. Indeed, the McKinsey Global Institute’s (MGI) influential 2015 study, “The Power of Parity,” makes the astonishing claim that the achievement of gender equality in the workforce may “add $12 trillion to global wealth” by the year 2025, which for the United States translates into a 26 percent increase in gross domestic product by that year.

Studies like the MGI’s have fueled the recent passage of a California law that requires publicly traded corporations headquartered within the state to include a minimum number of women on their boards or face substantial financial penalties. California Governor Jerry Brown signed the law with a defiant message. He cited the 1886 Supreme Court case, Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad, which held that corporations should be treated as persons entitled to protection against the deprivation of property without due process of law. “Given all the special privileges that corporations have enjoyed for so long,” Brown said, “it’s high time corporate boards include the people who constitute more than half the ‘persons’ in America.”

Put aside his failure to understand that the protection of corporate wealth from government confiscation helped fuel enormous economic growth in the nineteenth century for men and women alike. Put aside, as well, the many legal grounds alluded to by Governor Brown which may yet render this legislation inoperative. Instead, focus on the simple fact that the regulatory push toward gender equality has, paradoxically, huge political momentum but relatively little economic payoff. The usual all-purpose explanation for the male/female pay gap is pervasive gender discrimination by American businesses, notwithstanding their explicit and unwavering commitments to gender equity. It is best to look for other explanations that might account for the gap between the rhetoric and the reality.

We can start by understanding the impact of regulation on labor markets. Here the cardinal principle is that it is highly unwise for the state to place legal barriers, whether by way of tax or regulation, that bar the entry of anyone into any occupation. Thus when the U.S. legal system subjected women to penalties or limitations not applicable to men, the results were egregious. The worst instance occurred when in 1873 the Supreme Court upheld a statute that barred women from the practice of law in Bradwell v. Illinois. In 1908, the Muller v. Oregon decision allowed states to adopt female-only minimum wage laws to “protect” women from the hazards of certain employments, resulting in the widespread loss of jobs for women thereafter. No feminist defends these explicit sex-based rules today.

The removal of any and all barriers to entry makes perfectly good sense. But the modern gender equality movement wants to go further to sweep away less visible and more subtle obstacles to the advancement of women in the workplace. And how is this to be done in the United States? Grand claims like those made by the MGI presuppose that there are millions of profit-making firms who are overlooking a huge pool of female talent in a wide range of occupations. That claim is inherently suspect because it assumes that experts operating at a distance have better knowledge of what a particular firm needs than the firm’s directors, officers, and managers who are charged with its overall well-being. Perhaps certain key figures (male or female) are so obtuse that they miss these evident opportunities for gain. But it is wildly improbable that virtually all of these businesses suffer from the same incurable blindness, even as they champion the very policies they fail to implement.

Yet if such a lost opportunity exists, no existing competitors nor new entrants have come in to pick up the supposed slack. There is little doubt that there has been a huge transformation in the levels of participation of women in the workplace—virtually all of it attributable to market forces. Positing some set of unconscious barriers makes it hard to explain why and how these major changes took place. It is better, therefore, to cast a critical eye on the supply side. The ideal of gender equality would be far easier to implement if job applicants for all positions were equally proportioned by sex. But that ideal is effectively stymied by a few stubborn facts. Specifically, the percentage of male and female candidates varies radically by field: at present more social workers are female, more engineers are men. These decisions reflect some combination of differential interests, aptitudes, and skills, and it is highly improbable that all these differences should be regarded as the results of vestigial forms of discrimination.

Take engineering. Overall the percentage of women in undergraduate engineering programs is about 20 percent. The distribution within that group is skewed, ranging from a low of 10.9 percent in computers to a high of 49.7 percent in environmental engineering. Discrimination does not look like a plausible explanation for these differences within the same general field. Socialization surely has some impact, but parents have little reason to direct their children away from the most promising fields, and individual preferences should not be overridden in the name of some social cause. All sorts of traits matter, and it is surely not irrelevant that women on average tend to do less well in various quantitative tasks when measured by standardized tests than men on average, even if at younger ages girls often outperform boys at these same tasks. Indeed, it is at the highest levels of abstraction that the sex differences loom largest.

Understanding these differences explains why there are gains from specialization in fields by men and women. Any effort, therefore, to impose a numerical equality by sex in any occupation will only retard the growth that deregulation would spur. The MGI’s extravagant claim that gender equality will fuel huge GDP growth in the United States is theoretically and empirically indefensible. Any state interference with voluntary markets, whether by requiring quotas or paid family leave, will slow down economic growth for everyone concerned. Thus Brown’s California statute mandates that by 2021 all corporations within the state with five board members have at least two women, and all corporate boards with six or more members have at least three. If a board with two women grows from five to six, the next member must be a woman.

One rationale for these onerous requirements is that, according to state senator Hannah-Beth Jackson, women are more collaborative than men, so their appearance on boards will make these companies more successful. Other studies insist that boards with higher diversity yield greater profits. But if true, why have firms opposed the law? One explanation is that the hundreds or thousands of women needed to fill those seats may be of lower quality than those already appointed. A second is that industry specialization matters. In technical fields, parity could be very hard to achieve. More to the point, there is no reason to think the relevant talent pool divides fifty-fifty. Brown thinks that the number of women on corporate boards should mirror the number of women in the general population. But his baseline is meaningless, because what matters is the number of individuals that have the requisite skills and willingness to do the work required of board members. Given that women often make different lifestyle choices than men, the available talent pools are not likely to be equal, especially in technical fields. There is already enormous social pressure to add women to these boards. There is no reason to pile on with this unneeded mandate.

The first lesson in regulatory policy is to know what you, the regulator, do not know. The second is that people respond to incentives. Any effort to dictate business outcomes will have negative unintended consequences—including the decision of new corporations not to incorporate or place their headquarters in California, the reduction of minorities on boards, and putting the same women on too many boards, perhaps at salaries artificially higher than those of their male peers. And the third lesson is that any effort to impose “pattern outcomes” on firms will always produce disastrous social outcomes. The MGI proposal does not have a chance of raising GDP at all, let alone by 26 percent. The only method for securing that result is through reduced taxation and deregulation, which right now has led unemployment rates to hit new lows for every group of Americans, whether by sex, race, or age. That’s a path to better outcomes for women and men alike.

© 2018 by the Board of Trustees of Leland Stanford Junior University

Define “Historic”


Vermont gubernatorial candidate Christine Hallquist.

Tuesday’s primary results were hailed as “historic” by a number of media outlets. “Vermont Democrats made history Tuesday” declared the Burlington Free Press. NPR framed the matter with the same word, “historic,” as did the New York Times, ABC, and others. Most were pealing the bells for Vermont’s first “openly transgender” candidate for governor, Christine Hallquist. Hallquist was born male but now prefers to dress as a woman. Her success in the Democratic primary is being celebrated as comparable to the breakthroughs of African-American candidates (here is the New York Times video trumpeting a “night of firsts”).

The words “history” or “historic” in the mouths of progressives are always laudatory. They are honorifics, not descriptions. After all, lots of things are firsts – a Holocaust-denying, Nazi sympathizer made it onto the ballot on the Republican ticket in Illinois’s 3rd congressional district. That doesn’t get described as historic. Donald Trump is the first person to be elected without any previous governmental service at all. That’s not historic. No, progressives have a proprietary feeling about history. They are convinced that it “bends toward justice” as Barack Obama was fond of quoting, and that it will inevitably trend their way.

I’ve always found this an inexplicable fantasy since, among other things, the world witnessed within living memory one of the most progressive nations on the planet (Germany) descend into barbarism within the space of a few short years. Where was history’s benevolent guiding hand then? And where was it when those tribunes of history, the Soviet commissars, starved and enslaved and shot upwards of 20 million people? Or when Venezuela transitioned from the richest to the poorest country in Latin America?

Hallquist’s chief claim to office appears to be her sexuality since she confessed ignorance about economics during a recent CNN interview. Asked if she supported socialism, she said: “Yes, but I don’t even know what socialism is, so I’m not sure I have the background to answer that question.” Asked whether she supported capitalism, she said “Well, obviously, the long history of measuring ourselves by increases in the gross domestic product is a flawed measure because that just encourages consumption. And we can see what consumption is doing to our world.”

Part of the progressive project is to shoehorn certain new nonconformists, particularly sexual nonconformists, into the minority category. These favored groups – transgenders are the flavor of the month – are compared explicitly to African-Americans, and thus any accomplishment is celebrated as progress for them personally and for our society for shedding its prejudice. In fact, the civil rights template is the only way liberals can understand events at all. They have no other lens. And so they insist upon lionizing people who choose to behave and dress like the other sex as if they’re all Rosa Parks.

This is not to say that we should treat transgenders with anything but tolerance and understanding. If grown-up Americans choose to surgically alter their bodies and inject themselves with hormones to resemble the opposite sex, fine. That’s their business. And people deserve to be called what they choose to be called. If someone born a man now wears a dress and had breast implants and wants me to call him “she,” I will respect that (even if I do not believe that makes him a woman). It’s important to be polite and respectful.

But the celebration of transgenders doesn’t stop with adults. In the blink of an eye – and with no scientific consensus – honoring the “cross-gender identities” of even small children is becoming commonplace. The great portcullis of political correctness has slammed down on those who plead for a little common sense when it comes to kids. Tiny children too young for kindergarten are being dressed and groomed as the opposite sex. Older children are being given puberty-blocking hormones in preparation for surgical transition.

Parents are counseled by “experts” that if they do not ratify their child’s gender identity, they may be consigning him or her to depression or suicide. Look, there is a tiny minority of kids who have genuine gender dysphoria and they deserve compassionate care. But the vast majority of children who express a desire to be the other sex are going through a stage. I know. I was one of them. When I was about 6, I played with trucks, climbed trees, and asked my friends to call me “Timmy.” Thank God my parents shrugged it off. I’ve since married and had three children. Thank God I was a tomboy before it became dangerous.

Can Feminists Cure What Ails Men?


“Boys need feminists’ help too,” declares Feministing.com founder Jessica Valenti. Writing in the New York Times, Valenti worries that women are “protest[ing], run[ning] for office, and embrac[ing] the movement for gender equality in record numbers, [while] a generation of mostly white men are being radicalized into believing that their problems stem from women’s progress.”

Valenti cites the “manosphere,” the network of websites that peddle misogyny, and she’s right that it is disturbing. But Valenti undermines her case by citing the popularity of Jordan Peterson as more evidence of woman hatred. On the contrary, Valenti and other feminists would do well to remove their women-centric blinders and examine the situation of young men more sympathetically.

Valenti imagines that girls are doing great because when the mainstream culture gets them down, they can always repair to “feminist blogs and magazines” while “female college students who have critical questions about how gender shapes their lives can take women’s studies courses.” Actually, it’s very much an open question as to whether feminist interpretations of life make women happier. In my new book, Sex Matters: How Modern Feminism Lost Touch with Science, Love, and Common Sense, I argue that in many respects it has made them less happy. Certainly, polls such as the General Social Survey suggest that women have become steadily less happy every year since 1972.

As for men, there is lots of evidence that the sexual ecosystem we’ve evolved since the feminist/sexual revolutions of the 1960s and 1970s has left many men less fulfilled too. A small percentage of “players” may think they benefit from readily available sex without commitment, but many men are not so suave and find that forming relationships is out of reach. A fringe few describe themselves as “incels” (involuntarily celibate) and fulminate against women. As for the average guy, well, they are more likely to be out of the workforce, unmarried, and alienated from their children than any previous generation in American history. Deaths from suicide, and other diseases of despair are rising so steeply that overall life expectancy in America is declining.

Valenti imagines that feminist ideas can help men through “the rejection of expectations that men be strong and stoic or ending the silence around male victims of sexual violence.” In other words, an invitation to men to see themselves as victims, just as feminists have encouraged women to do for decades. Most women aren’t crazy about embracing victimhood – a 2016 YouGov poll found that only 32 percent of women identified as feminists — and men are probably even less likely to respond enthusiastically.

Perhaps men actually don’t want to be freed from the expectation of being strong? Perhaps they are attracted to Jordan Peterson because he is a refreshing voice of masculinity traditionally understood? I haven’t read him (one of his books is on my nightstand), but from what I gather he encourages young men to take responsibility for their lives and is critical of our culture’s feminist-influenced refusal to acknowledge differences between males and females. (I’m already sure I agree about that!)

What Valenti and other feminists do not see is that many of the traits they despise in modern men, for example, their expectation that they are “entitled to sexual attention” and their attraction to misogynist websites, are outgrowths of the sexual revolution that feminists themselves promoted. By devaluing marriage and family, feminists helped to create a world in which many men grow up without fathers. About 50 percent of American children will now spend some or all of their childhoods in a single parent home.

And while feminists spend a great deal of time and attention to decrying the flaws of men, they would be well advised to think about how crucial men are as fathers. This is no data to prove this, but it seems extremely likely that the majority of men who turn to the manosphere for guidance about how to be men – or to use Valenti’s phrase “get manly quick” – are growing up or have been raised without dads. MIT economist David Autor and his colleagues, among others, have shown that boys raised without fathers suffer even more than girls do. They compared fatherless brothers and sisters in Florida and found that the boys were less likely to graduate from college, have ambitions for their futures, or be employed as adults than their sisters.

Boys will always seek to be manly. It’s in their natures. Feminists do men (and women) a disservice by scorning it. Boys raised by good dads will find manliness in marriage, responsibility, and self-control. A better feminism would cherish those things.

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Welcome to the Harvard Lunch Club Political Podcast for July 25, 2018 number 185!!! it’s the Theybie Morons edition of the show with your definitely not-moronic hosts, radio guy Todd Feinburg and dedicated AI-bot Mike Stopa. This week we bring you two topics from the culture wars, the gender wars, the what are they doing […]

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The Gender Conformity Cop-In


@katebraestrup got a lot of love a while back on her post, “Thoughts From a Former Dysphoric”. My impression upon reading it was she was describing gender nonconformity, not dysphoria. Our dear Kate was a tomboy, and there ain’t nothing wrong with that. Dysphoria ought to mean deep discomfort, though, not just being a little different. The red tribe has an interest in both downplaying and, well, up playing “gender dysphoria”. Describing tomboyishness as “dysphoria” both downplays and up plays the condition: First, tomboyishness is not so bad, not really all that dysphoric, so what are people complaining about? Second, if every tomboy becomes convinced she’s “gender dysphoric” then oh my sweet Jesus on rollerskates, what is this world coming to?!! Before you know it, there’ll be fire and brimstone coming down from the skies; rivers and seas boiling; forty years of darkness; earthquakes, volcanoes; the dead rising from the grave; human sacrifice; dogs and cats living together – mass hysteria!

What about those who aren’t just tomboys, or their male equivalent, but truly unhappy in their birth sex, perhaps with good reason? Even then, even though their discomfort is real, they may find copping into gender conformity a more sensible solution than, as @henryracette put it, copping out of it.


Conservatives, Common Courtesy, and the Gender Police


Transgender issues seem to be a tricky thing for many conservatives. (And it’s only going to get worse.) For example, a conservative told me the other day that “Misgendering is not a thing.” If you’re not hip to the lingo, misgendering is when you call someone by a gender label other than what they identify as. Like, if you call a lady “sir.” And it can be done accidentally or on purpose. People who care about transgender issues tend to (rightly so) get worked up about it, especially when it is done intentionally.

They also get worked up about “deadnaming.” That’s when you refer to a person who has transitioned by their pre-transition name. I see both misgendering and deadnaming occur here regularly on Ricochet anytime someone brings up Caitlyn Jenner. You may not realize it, but both intentional deadnaming and misgendering are insensitive at best and offensive at worse.

Now, I understand why conservatives do this. They’re taking a stand to preserve what they see as objective reality. If you have a penis, you’re a man, after all. To deny that damages reality or something, so it must stop here and now. This far and no further. Ils ne passeront pas!

Yeah, okay. I could try to explain the difference between sex and gender, but that tends to fall on deaf ears among many conservatives. So let me pose a question to those who believe such: Who made you the gender police?

For those of you taking this stand, I suspect you don’t really want the job of being the gender police, because at the end of the day the only way to know for sure is to reach into someone’s pants and check.

Now, I don’t deny that minding everyone else’s business is a time-honored conservative tradition, but it directly conflicts with another equally time-honored and very American tradition: Live and let live. Still another conservative tradition this gender police mindset conflicts with: basic common courtesy.

There aren’t a lot of Freds in the world. There was only one other in my high school. And, unlike me, he wasn’t a Frederick, he was Ferdinand. But he went by Fred, and didn’t much care to be called Ferdinand, so that’s what we called him. This is pretty common. Lots of people go by names other than their birth names. To call someone by their birth name after they’ve expressed a clear preference to the contrary would just be rude. That is what intentional misgendering is: rude. It’s calling someone by the wrong term, even when you know better.

Intentional misgendering is also supremely arrogant. Setting aside transgender people, there’s a non-trivial percentage of people in our daily lives where you can’t easily identify their gender. There are men with gentle features, there are women who look masculine, and there are people who are androgynous in appearance, either by choice or because that’s just how God made them. When I encounter such a person, I stay neutral until I know what pronoun to use with them. The alternative is to flip a coin, take a guess, and make a horse’s ass of yourself if you’re wrong, embarrassing both you and the other person.

Look, you’re welcome to your opinions and far be it for me to stop you from expressing them. That’s not my goal. But when you intentionally misgender someone or deadname them, it’s disrespectful and discourteous. You don’t need to be the one person who tries to push back the tide. You’re not going to make the difference and not enough people care to make your effort worthwhile.

These issues are all in flux right now. It’s still going to be a few years before norms and customs settle down. But in the meantime, it’s no excuse for rudeness and discourtesy to make some kind of quixotic point. You’re better off being civil to people.