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Jul 21st 2008

Debunking Liberal Myths about Gender and Culture

Here are like five social myths or misconceptions I dislike, and my responses:

1. The differences in languages between cultures is proof that there is no universal truth.


The first reference to Eskimo having multiple words for snow is in the introduction to The Handbook of North American Indians (1911) by linguist and anthropologist Franz Boas. He mentions that Eskimos have four words: aput (“snow on the ground”), qana (“falling snow”), piqsirpoq (“drifting snow”), and qimuqsuq (“snowdrift”), where English has only one (“snow”). English has more than one snow-related word, but Boas’ intent was to connect differences in culture with differences in language.

Edward Sapir and Benjamin Whorf’s hypothesis of linguistic relativism holds that the language we speak both affects and reflects our view of the world. In a popular 1940 article on the subject, Whorf referred to Eskimo languages having seven distinct words for snow. Later writers inflated the figure: by 1978, the number quoted had reached 50, and on February 9, 1984 an editorial in The New York Times gave the number as 100.

In my jurisprudence class in fall 2007, it was 20. So I guess we can conclude the liberals are starting to reign themselves in a bit.

2. Women work more than men. Men are just lazy pigs.


It is a myth that women work longer hours than men, say three economists: Michael Burda of Humboldt University in Berlin, Daniel Hamermesh of the University of Texas and Philippe Weil of the Free University of Brussels.

The economists analyzed data from surveys in 25 countries that asked people how they spend their time. The people surveyed were asked to keep diaries indicating how they spend each segment of their day. The 24 hours we all have each day can be divided into four broad activities: “market work” that is, work for pay, typically outside the house; “homework,” including housework and child care; “tertiary time,” including sleep, eating, and other biological necessities that people can do only for themselves; and the time left over, which is leisure.

Throughout the world, men spend more time on market work, while women spend more time on homework:

* In the United States and other wealthy countries, men average 5.2 hours of market work a day and 2.7 hours of homework each day, while women average 3.4 hours of market work and 4.5 hours of homework per day.
* Adding these up, men work an average of 7.9 hours per day, while women work an average of 7.9 hours per day.

3. Women unjustifiably earn less than men for doing the same work.

Not necessarily.

NEW YORK (Reuters) – They may be a small minority in corporate boardrooms, but women directors typically earn more than men, a new U.S. study has found.

Female directors in corporate America earned median compensation of $120,000, based on the most recently available pay data, compared with $104,375 for male board members, research group The Corporate Library said in its annual director pay report on Wednesday.
The report looked at pay data for more than 25,000 directors at more than 3,200 companies.

Now, if the women earn more in this job, let’s try to figure out why that might be:

The role is basically a part-time job.

If a male CEO tried to take 4 months off from the job for “paternity leave” how long do you think the corporate board would hold the job for him? I have an acquaintance who was formerly the international VP of a huge restaurant company. Though he is only in his 50s, he is retired. The reason: He became ill and had to take off several months from work to have surgery and recover. His absence caused him to lose his position, and if he had sought to reenter the workforce, he could have done so only by taking a substantial pay cut.

That is probably the closest thing to childbirth a man can experience, in terms of required leave from work. But look what happened: He was going to earn less and have to work his way back up to his former position near the top of the corporate world. If only he had girl parts, then he could have complained his unequal pay was because of discrimination!

4. This isn’t a myth….but while we’re talking about gender equality, why not talk about the huge life expectancy gap between men and women? It is currently about 6 years in the US, and approaching 7 years in Canada and Japan.

Ladies, would you rather earn a few percent less than your male counterpart or die of a heart attack at age 45? Pick your poison.

Males are more vulnerable to infection, injury, stress, physical challenge and degenerative diseases,” wrote the researchers, both from the University of Michigan, and the high levels of testosterone responsible for more masculine features have been shown to have devastating effects on a man’s immune system.

5. The rules-based or logic-based nature of our legal system has come under attack from feminists for being a male-centered (or phallocentric) system. If women were treated equally and included in establishing our society’s foundations, [the argument goes] we would have a more relationship-based or community-based legal system where disagreements could be handled with more concern for the individual worth of the people involved, instead of sometimes abstract substantive and procedural legal doctrines. There is no justification for this gender bias in the law and every day that it exists it further does injustice to women.

This argument is wrong because it forgets why the current system developed in the first place: To strike a balance between the ubiquitous “lowest common denominator” (miscreant) in society and the desire of civilized people to associate with each other freely. Why didn’t the “let’s compromise!” system of law work 1000 years ago during some Chinese dynasty? Because there were elements there who would exploit such a system. The “male-centered” system of law (if it is even fair to call it male-centered) has, in many ways, protected women by deterring the men who are actually evil. feminists have mistaken the system for the bad guy because of some paternalistic judicial decisions, but the truth is, the current system is good for women.

Ok, that’s it. Obviously, it is an incomplete list.

4 Responses to “Debunking Liberal Myths about Gender and Culture”

  1. Here’s the thing about the argument that there is no universal truth – whatever vantage or proof the argument seeks. The very premise of the argument contradicts itself. The statement “there is no universal truth” is an all-cases, *universal* statement of (supposed) “truth”. So, uh, it’s universally true that there is no universal truth?


  2. The very premise of the argument contradicts itself.

    So true. Reminds me of a book I read I believe called The Liberal Contradiction which basically outlines that argument that liberalism makes and then exposes how flawed it is.

  3. travis

    The Liberal Contradiction

    It sounds like an interesting book. It is available for $4.00 shipping included. Maybe I’ll pick up a copy for a lazy August weekend.

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