Thursday, February 22, 2018

Why Claire Lehmann is a ninny in one paragraph

When Claire Lehmann isn't writing and editing for her own alt-right-disguised-as-centrist Quillette, she publishes in right-wing media, in this case Commentary.

And in the evo-psycho tradition, Lehmann throws out all socio-economic and historical realities when approaching any human behavior phenomena.
The discovery of sex differences in the human brain and nervous system should not be seen as a blow to gender equality. Men are not the “gold standard” version of the human species, and women should not be viewed as a deviation from the norm. In stoking fears about difference, these political activists dressed in scholars’ clothing unwittingly imply that female-typical traits are something to be ashamed of and are by default inferior. Why would the discovery of differences be so ominous if one didn’t secretly harbor the view that female-typical traits were unsatisfactory? Whether such attitudes will ultimately be remembered as sexist or feminist is something only history can decide.
How can you begin to address such obvious obtuseness?

When it comes to STEM - or virtually any human endeavor men are the "gold standard" because until very recently not only was male hegemony total, it was virtually unquestioned.

I recall the controversy over Larry Summers' NBER speech when it was happening - there were debates going on in online discussion boards. One of Summers' defenders pointed to the strong reaction of one of the attendees Nancy Hopkins and suggested that her being "hysterical" only proved that Larry Summers was right about women.*

But Larry Summers didn't say the reason women didn't have as successful STEM careers as men was because they inclined to over-reaction. He said that the reason was evolved mental (in)aptitude for STEM. But as far as sexists and other defenders of the status quo are concerned women are more emotional than men, and any difference between men and women justifies the status quo.

In an interview with NPR Katherine Switzer the first woman who (illegally) ran the Boston Marathon  in 1967 talked about the reasons given for why women were forbidden to run:
SWITZER: In 1967, when I pinned on that bib number, I really wasn't trying to prove anything because a woman had actually run the Boston Marathon the year before by just jumping out of the bushes and running. There was nothing about gender in the rulebook in those days because everybody assumed a woman really couldn't run and didn't want to run, and why even bother with it in the rulebook or on the entry form? 
And in sports, the longest distance in the Olympic Games, in fact, was just 800 meters. It was feared that anything longer was going to injure women, that they wouldn't be able to have children or they somehow turned into men. That was what was the theory. 
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Really, that they were going to turn into men or that their uterus would be damaged? 
SWITZER: Absolutely. You know, it was amazing. You'll never be - ever have children, they said. You're going to get big legs. You're going to grow hair on your chest. It was hilarious, the myths. And, of course, when people hear myths, they believe them because to try otherwise might mean damaging yourself. So people were afraid and they just went about their lives that way and restricted themselves.
Look at the reasons: "have children" "grown hair on your chest" - the physical differences between men and women - men don't carry children, men have hair on their chest - were used to keep women from running marathons.

The reasoning is obvious:  
  • Men run the marathon. 
  • There are observable differences between men and women. 
  • Therefore women cannot run the marathon.
We know these claims weren't based on empiricism since women have been running the Boston Marathon for almost fifty years now without hurting their uteri.

But I shouldn't have to lay this all out. This should be obvious to any adult, especially one who likes to think of herself as a public intellectual. 

In fact, it's so bizarre that Lehmann doesn't appear to be aware of any of this that I find it hard to avoid concluding she is being deliberately obtuse in order to further the alt-right/evo-psycho/conservative project of maintaining the traditional status-quo.

But I always say that when there is a choice between deliberate malice and stupidity, nine times out of ten it's stupidity.

And so I must conclude: Claire Lehmann is just. that. stupid.

* and Hopkins was not over-reacting - Summers remarks were a slap in the face to the women attending that conference on STEM careers, as well as the fact that Summers position as president of Harvard meant he had influence over hiring decisions, which was an obvious career concern for women working at Harvard.