Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Sexism Test

Answer the following questions:

1. A female has never been president before. I’m not opposed to a female becoming president. [Yes / No]

2. Women should vote for female candidates over male candidates who are equal in skill and experience. [Yes / No]

3. Men should vote for female candidates over male candidates who are equal in skill and experience. [Yes / No]

4. Women should vote for female candidates over male candidates, even when the male candidate may have slightly greater skills or experience. [Yes / No]

5. Men should vote for female candidates over male candidates, even when the male candidate may have slightly greater skills or experience. [Yes / No]

6. Voting for female candidates over male candidates who are roughly equivalent is a moral choice for women. [Yes / No]

7. Voting for female candidates over male candidates who are roughly equivalent is a moral choice for men. [Yes / No]

8. I would vote for a female candidate if I believed she had greater skill and experience than a male candidate who I also favored. [Yes / No]

9. I would vote for a female candidate even if I wasn’t certain she had greater skill and experience than a male candidate who I also favored. [Yes / No]


august said...

1. Not of the U.S. No, not opposed.
2. No.
Hard time answering this question (and I contradict myself a little below). But my reasoning here is -- creating an obligation to vote for somebody because of the gender of the voter is wrong (constrains rather than expands women's choices).
3. No. (Again, not by virtue of their being men).
4. No.
5. No.

Questions six and seven: well, if the question is, "do people who vote for women over men see it as a moral choice?" the answer is yes. If the question is whether I think such voting patterns are morally correct, I'm ambivalent. I think here, I'd say again that the gender of the voter is not relevant. I would say there can be a good to selecting the underrepresented over the overrepresented. So, yes to both, I guess.
8. Yes.
9. No (likely I'd try to figure out who had more skills and experience).

Anonymous said...


comments: replace "is" with "can be" in 6 and 7 and they can become n's. 9 appears redundant (to me).


Claude Scales said...

Yes to one, no to all others. "Skill and experience" are less important than the candidates' views on issues. Choosing between candidates based on gender would be defensible only in the unlikely event that their political views, skills and experience were identical.

Keifus said...

1. Y (who gives a shit?)
2. N
3. N (In either case, I'll priortize position over experience)
4. N
5. N
6. N
7. N (you've defined roughly equal badly, sorry)
8. Y
9. depends on skill/experience of male candidate


nceztwa said...

1. yes

2. no, but i probably would.

3. no

4. no

5. no

6. no

7. equal in what, roughly?

8. absolutely

9. depends...is she a snappy dresser?

I don't necessarily vote on "skill." Does the candidate share my views? Does the candidate hope for the same future I do?


twiffer said...

#1: please try to avoid the use of negative logic. it's against best practices.

the rest: i don't agree with any of the questions, as phrased. particularly in regards to voting. one votes for the canidate one thinks will best represent one's interests. skill and experience are useful, but subordinate to what the canidate stands for. sex, race, religious beliefs (provided they do not interfere with performance of duties), sexuality, etc. are all non-issues. the only moral imperative in electing a canidate is to vote for whom you believe will serve you best.

i dislike "tests" such as this. regardless of the answer, one is a sexist. a woman who votes for women, simply because they are women, is just as sexist as a man who votes only for men for the same reasons. it's just socially acceptable sexism.

no prejudice is one way. if you really wish to know if people are sexist or not, the question is simple: do you consider the gender of a canidate before voting?

Schadenfreude said...

1. Yes. I mean no...what?

Really, ladies, please stop talking about yourselves as if your opinion counts.

Schadenfreude said...

By the way, I am Iron Man.

bEnder said...

Superman. I'm okay with that.

supergirl: 90% ?? said...

damn. i'm not catwoman.

twiffer said...

spiderman: You are intelligent, witty, a bit geeky and have great
power and responsibility.

though i got the same percentage for iron man as well. does that make me iron spiderman?

Archaeopteryx said...

I answered yes to all except 4 and 5. I'm assuming that the candidate's stands on issues are identical. By the way, this is the way I actually vote. If I don't know anything about the candidates in some local election, I always vote for the woman or the guy with the minority-sounding name. I figure I'm offsetting those assholes who would vote against a woman or a minorty out of racism or sexism, and that then people who actually know something about the candidates will make the decision based on merit.

I guess that logic can best be called "optimistic."

I'm Spiderman. But I don't look all that good in the outfit.

Dawn Coyote said...

Arch: you're my hero.

(busy, back later)

Schadenfreude said...

Could someone please tell Chantay that the search engine grabs the first 100 references. Searching Geoff is current because there's only 94 references.

Searching Schad or Ender shows the problem.

Schadenfreude said...


Thanks, daveto and topazz. Maybe I should have said the search engine grabs the 100 earliest posts, not the 100 most recent.

Schadenfreude said...

Dear Geoff:

You must be fucking kidding.

topazz said...

I think Geoff has it mixed up. Maybe I can help. As I recall, after Ender's post with all caps was deleted, you posted in all caps, and then I did, and then several others. None of us were spamming the board individually, but I suppose one could look at it as a collective spam.

In which case, you shouldn't be singled out. But as I'm still being punished for plagiarism, and I'm this close to getting my star back - how about if we just keep my involvement in all this under wraps. As far as I'm concerned, I never laid eyes on you or your post that day.

rundeep said...

Wonder Woman. Of course. I dig the bling.

Dawn Coyote said...

I consider it ethical to vote for women candidates over male candidates one also favors, but I’d like to hear a argument against the practice.

I deliberately left “values” and “views” out, because they’re vague terms. How do you discern a politician’s “values” and “views”, and how reliable are your conclusions?

dave: on 9’s redundancy, what percentage of voters do you figure don’t know enough about their candidates to reliably determine who has the greater skills and experience?

august: if a moral obligation to vote for female candidates constrains women’s choices, I’d say that’s a lesser of two evils. And what about women who have an unexamined bias against their own gender?

For the record, my answers:

1. Yes/No To my great chagrin, I find that I sometimes discount female politicians on bases that have no validity, including perceived weakness, shrillness, how I think they appear to others, or something like a “man’s world” status quo. I hope that my activities elsewhere counteract my sexist bias, and I manage to overcome it at the voting booth. Still, I wonder how many others find they’re in possession of a subtle conditioning that causes them to not give female candidates serious consideration.
2. Yes.
3. Yes.
4. Maybe. I can think of cases where I’d do this.
5. Maybe.
6. Yes.
7. Yes.
8. Yes.
9. Yes.

twiff: You could assume that the candidates’ stand on issues were roughly equivalent. “Sexism Test” was a joke, given my sexism. Iron Spiderman? That’s Spiderman with a rod up his ass, obviously.


We can be heroes:

So I did that quiz with A, the twelve year-old kid I’m mentoring. He gets the Hulk and Robin as his top results, and so we look at the backstory for them and talk about what they might be like if they were real people, sans superpowers. I left him to think over what he might draw on in them to create a protagonist. The next week he says that he thinks those guys are okay, but he really likes Wolverine, who’s not so much of a hero, but someone who’s capable of doing bad things sometimes, and who doesn’t care what people think of him. So we talk about antiheroes, and in no time he’s fleshing out this character who’s a semi-bad guy trying to get off the street and have a normal life. He starts off with him at 40, and I talk him down a bit. As we talk about this person, A. shows flashes of insight that blow me away. Most kids his age come up with a idealized version of themselves. They don’t come up with redemption stories. Aside from being wicked-smart, he’s totally engaged in everything we’re doing, soaks it up like a sponge. I don’t know which one of us gets more out of it.

Here’s me.

august said...


I have no idea what you are calling the lesser of two evils (what's the greater?) If your claim is that women have an unexamined bias against women, that would seem to be an argument for voting for men.

If current education trends continue, I'll be voting for women simply because most men will be unable to read.

sydbristow said...


9. I would vote for a female candidate even if I [thought but] wasn’t certain she had greater skill and experience than a male candidate who I also favored. [Yes / No]

9. I would vote for a female candidate even if I [didn't think but] wasn’t certain she had greater skill and experience than a male candidate who I also favored. [Yes / No]

No matter which way I go with this it already seems to be covered off.

There's a parallel here with my recent mini-conversation with The_Bell. The gist was the best anti-Bush strategy: was it a polarizing one in which you try to gang up in the exact opposite camp, or was it a more reasoned one in which you back what you believe best for America even if it means supporting or partially supporting his policies.

So the same dilemma here. How to you achieve equality. If your aim is equality then you have the Zeno's paradox thing of never really getting there. You have to overshoot your target to have a chance of hitting your target. But overshooting (i.e. yes's down the board) will have some blowback (obviously). So, as a (somewhat) patient man, I go with Zeno.

Claude Scales said...

I'm dumbfounded by this statement:

I deliberately left “values” and “views” out, because they’re vague terms. How do you discern a politician’s “values” and “views”, and how reliable are your conclusions?

I think that, by the end of most campaigns (and even at the begining of most high-profile ones) I have a pretty good idea of what the candidates stand for, in terms of policy and implementation. I suppose there are two types of elections in which questions of "skill and experience" might overshadow those of political philosophy: some party primary elections in which there is no issue of policy (although even these are rare - note that there are alredy expressed policy differences among Clinton, Edwards and Obama, all Democrats) and elections to fill what are almost purely ministerial offices, as where county coroners are still elected.

So, it is difficult for me to conceive of a situation where I would be constrained to choose between candidates solely on the basis of gender, or where the only other consideration is a slight difference in my perception of their skills or experience. I presume this is as true of women as it is of me, which is why I answered no to all questions after the first.

However, if I were to find myself in such a situation, I would vote for the woman, for the reason suggested by August - correction for past under-representation. I believe that such a choice would be "moral" for either a man or a woman. I'm going to shade my previous answer a bit by saying that if the male candidate appeared to me to have only a slight advantage in skills or experience, and this was the only difference between the candidates besides gender, I would be inclined to vote for the woman.

biteoftheweek said...

I am catwoman

...but I already knew that

Dawn Coyote said...

august: the greater evil is that women remain vastly underrepresented in political office. “If your claim is that women have an unexamined bias against woman, that would seem to be an argument for voting for men.” One hopes that the candidates – both male and female – have spent time examining and challenging their biases, but the electorate is under no obligation to do so. I’d guess that some male and female voters have biases like mine. Does education necessarily constrain freedom?

syd/dave: 4/5 asked about favoring gender over qualifications. 9 asked whether you favor gender in the absence of adequate information. I still like them as separate questions, though perhaps I should have left “may have” out of 4/5. Thanks for the help.

Just for fun:
9. I would vote for a male candidate even if I wasn’t certain he had greater skill and experience than a female candidate who I also favored. [Yes / No]

How’s Canada doing? “Canadians will be shocked to discover that Iraq, Afghanistan, Rwanda, Pakistan, Sweden, Costa Rica, Finland, and many others are ahead of us in terms of electing more women: we now rank 46th in the world.

The United Nations says it is necessary to have a minimum of 30% women in a governing body if we want to ensure that our public policy reflects the needs of women, but within Canada, we have peaked at 21%.”

The problem? A dearth of female candidates.

Claude: Candidates can’t be relied upon to keep their commitments once they’re elected, so one ends up assessing character and integrity along with “values” and “views”. Assessments of character and integrity are even more vulnerable to bias. Of course you must have an idea of a person’s character if you’re going to vote for them, but it was useful to leave such ambiguities out of this exercise. Still, if it bothers you, just assume the candidates are identical unless otherwise indicated (which you did. thanks).

twiffer said...

i think the root issue is this: who is obligated to absolve the sins of prior generations? equality, in theory, should mean that we do not consider extraneous factors such as gender and race. in practice, it's seen as more of a see-saw. where is the balance struck and how? does it take a time of continuing discrimination, though directed in the opposite of historical prejudices, to achieve a baseline?

i don't know. but it leaves a bad taste in my mouth to think i should have to be prejudiced to convey a belief in equality.

JohnMcG said...

I think that's the paradox at the core of this debate, and the affirmative action debate -- white males have been given a head start, and most people agree that this is unfair. So we commit ourselves to the idea that we should eliminate head starts. But those who had the head start continue to accrue benefits as a result of the head start. So to correct that, we decide to give nonwhites a head start, which we had just decided was unfair.

Interesting discussion here about the practice of restaturants in Chinatown printing menus in Chinese with lower prices than the English menus. Not a big deal, and certainly a smaller deal that what others have to put up with, but still it doesn't seem like something that should be celebrated or even approved.

august said...

I have a lot of reactions, and not much time.

As a matter of philosophy, I'd say if the principle of self-examination were carried through in a meaningful way, we could trust that people would choose good candidates.

As a matter of politics, I don't trust it when members of group x say to other members of that group "You must vote [for a given proposal] because you are x" The point is, it's actually rare that I'm confronted with two candidates that I have equal feelings about, one x and one not x. Usually what happens is that I'm inclined to vote for not-x, but supporters of x tell me that I have to vote x because I'm an x too. It's really only a meaningful imperative to the extent that it compels me to vote for people I wouldn't otherwise vote for.

Now, in the case of women, it seems to me just as likely that that argument could be made by right wing pro-life Republicans as by feminist democrats.

Or, in the Hillary/Obama race and you are a black woman, should you still be expected to vote for Hillary?

So while I (contra John, perhaps) think it is a reasonable moral choice to vote for an underrepresented group, I do not think it should be a moral imperative.

My point about education was simply that I think women are going to be more represented in politics. 30 years ago Princeton didn't admit women. Now the president is a woman, and there are slightly more women than men in the student body. (And John, if not for quotas, there would be even fewer men). Given the ways that elite schools have incubated political success, I think larger numbers of women in congress is likely.

If somebody else wants to look up the trend 1970-now, I'd be interested.

So I think women are going to be in politics. It's just a question of whether Phillis Schafley or Geraldine Ferraro will be remembered as a role model.

Gregor Samsa said...

Dawn: Huge semantic problem. Assume I am a total sexist, i.e. between a male and female candidate, I always vote for the woman. I could always interpret your question in a way that the answer would give the impression of neutrality. Simple. Among the traits that determine whether or not it’s “other things equal”, I’ll include breast size. Let a 36D man step forward and I’ll happily vote for him.

Of course I caricaturize to make a point. A voter’s chauvinism will be latent in (a) what he considers relevant “skills and qualifications” and (b) to what extent he thinks gender is informative (probabilistically) on these aspects. A typical male chauvinist might value toughness/belligerence in political leaders, and moreover, view these qualities as being disproportionately manifested in men. So he votes against women not because they’re women but because they aren’t tough enough (and to prove his case, he’ll announce that he’d vote for Thatcher over Carter any day). You seemingly assume consensus and measurability on these aspects which aren’t there, and that’s the swamp in which politics is played.

To all y’all whose definition of discrimination says all information about relevant qualities (assuming agreement on what’s relevant) should be used and nothing else -- profiling Arab males ok in airports? Setting a lower threshold of reasonable doubt for black defendants? Passing over female applicants in jobs with high training costs?

John: Do you object to time sensitive air fares (14 day advance purchase, etc.)?

August: Is that a time invariant view, i.e. would you consider it a moral imperative to elect black Congress(wo)men pre-civil rights? Choice of politicians is much more instrumental than most other jobs.

Elbo Ruum said...

Dawn, let me answer all 10 in one go. If it comes down as a tie on all angles, I'll flip a coin. But rarely does it ever come down as a tie on all angles.

Claude Scales said...

I agree that character is important, as are skills and experience, but if there are salient policy differences between candidates, agreement on policy will always be a trump card for me. If one candidate says, "If elected, I will slash taxes and increase government spending so as to create a record budget deficit, while embroiling the nation in a senseless war", while the other says, "I am a compassionate conservative who believes that our foreign policy should be conducted in a spirit of humility", and I vote for the latter, who then proceeds to do exactly what his opponent promised to do, I'm at least no worse off than if I'd voted for his opponent (unless his opponent was also a liar). Similarly, I will gladly vote for an oaf who agrees with me on policy in preference to a fiendishly clever person who would be very adept at implementing policies that I oppose. So, as long as there sre salient policy differences between candidates (which I think will almost always be so, for the reasons pointed out in my previous post), I will always vote for the candidate whose expressed views on the issues are most in agreement with mine.

I can't imagine you would be happy with a Parliament made up of clones of carolyn Gardner.

august said...

Hi Gregor, your response reminds me of your discussion with Moloch re. Gore.

Short answer -- if I'm a white guy from Virginia (I am) and I'm alive during civil rights (I wasn't), and i'm telling black people to vote for a black guy because the candidate is black, black people should probably not trust me. If I'm telling white people to vote for a candidate because he is white, then I fit right in, but I'm certainly no hero for it. If i'm telling white people to vote for a candidate because candidate is black, unlikely to succeed unless I can make some larger argument about that candidate's effectiveness in bringing about equality.

As for my own voting choices, there would be important moral claims that I ought to consider.

But I take your point. I'm sure you could find an x applicable to me for which the argument "you should vote for x because you are x" will work. And yes, changes over time, in part because all "x's" are malleable.

I have nationalism on the brain, and am thus perhaps overly sensitive to the potential for cynical manipulation of "x"

No idea if any of that makes sense.

Schadenfreude said...

Re: Gore and hypocrisy

Apparently, the debate is not limited to this hemisphere (sorry, but it's subscription only - all you get is the headline).

I come down on the hypocrisy side.

Gregor Samsa said...

August: The argument isn’t “you should vote for x because you are x”. It’s “you should vote for x (even if you may be y) because x’s are more likely to possess quality q, which one can honorably care about”. For example, q could be “a willingness to fight discrimination against other x-people in society”.

The general point is: to what extent are you willing to treat group identity (gender, ethnicity, race, age, class, etc.) as a predictive factor in assessing individual candidates? A common view, which has been echoed on this thread, is that it’s discrimination by definition. The problem is (a) it’s commonly accepted practice in many areas (aren’t insurance rates determined by demographics?) (b) it can be done rationally for instrumental reasons, i.e. to promote not representation per se, but some other objective (profits, social justice, etc.) (c) those who all of us would probably want to call biased are probably trying something like (b), just that their objectives are different.

So to answer Dawn’s question directly, yes, I lean a bit towards women or minorities in my own voting preferences, but my own reasoning isn’t qualitatively dissimilar from many who I’d consider sexists or racists.

Schad: I’m not sure I’ll use the term “hypocrite”. It’s likely that Gore’s thinking on the economics, especially, is very woolly, which is mitigating (i.e. Ender’s excuse would be perfectly valid within his own thinking).

Thy Goddess said...

Read The Economist article here.

You are welcome.

august said...


Again, I'm not sure at what level we are working here. My intitial intuitive problem with question 2 was that answering "yes" meant that I (man) was telling women how to vote on the grounds that I was better aware than they of the quality q that
a. supposedly inheres in women and
b. benefits women.

The sexist/racist piece seems to me not merely associating quality q with a particular group, but in implicitly claiming that I am better aware of that quality than members of the group. Dawn was arguing that the second claim was less dangerous than underrepresentation of women. I disagree. I concede there might be historical circumstances in which I calculate differently.

Beyond that, I think we more or less agree. I'm not particularly opposed to voting for somebody because of identity x. I'm suspicious of politically motivated arguments about identity, and I suspect there's a lot of fuzziness about the quality q that different people think they are getting (gaps that I've seen manipulated).

Gregor Samsa said...

August: I realize I’m a bit hamstrung from not having read the whole thread closely. Anyway, there’s a difference between giving your opinion on some question, and considering it good advice. I could hold an opinion on how women should vote without making forceful recommendations to the women I know, just as I don’t call up NFL coaches to convey my strategic ideas, which I have in plenty. You’re conflating opinion with campaigning.

Moreover, since we’re talking of a common election (unlike electing boy scouts and girl scouts leaders), it’s a bit inconsistent to say you’re well placed to judge it for men (all men or just yourself?) but not women. The two factors you raise (difficulty/presumptuousness of assessing the quality of female candidates and possible impact on women’s wellbeing) confound your own choice too, especially if your criteria aren’t entirely selfish (i.e. you care about the effects of policies on women among others). Taken seriously, your objection would imply you shouldn’t vote either!

august said...


I fessed up to inconsistency in the first post ("I contradict myself a little below"). And I'm not "conflating" opinion with campaigning -- I keep trying to work out what is being asked for ("I'm not sure at what level we are working here"). Even so, if you claim in an actual election that a given voter has a moral imperative to vote for a particular candidate, how is that different from campaigning? My point to Dawn was that establishing such an obligation might have political consequences different from the ones she is see

Your question was "to what extent are you willing to treat group identity (gender, ethnicity, race, age, class, etc.) as a predictive factor in assessing individual candidates?"

So my opinion is, I'm happy to treat group identity as predictive, but I think gender alone actually has few qualities associated with it in a hard and fast way (including “a willingness to fight discrimination against other x-people in society”). I can, however, imagine a set of circumstances (highly unlikely) that I would vote on the basis of gender, so I don't think consideration of gender is morally wrong. But my thoughts on these matters are sufficiently muddled that I respect differences of opinion, and am thus hesitant to argue that gender confers a moral obligation to vote in a certain way.

So I'm arguing that there's a higher threshold for me to claim a moral obligation of others than on myself.

Now, all of that is kind of stupid, because of course with no candidate is gender going to be by itself. You'll probably have the mighty triumverant of race/class/gender, and so certain "q"'s will be more plausible. But that's precisely the reason that an argument about gender alone tends to ring false to me -- it seems to mask rather than reveal.

To be clear, there are all kinds of cases in which I'm happy to make moral and/or political arguments about how I think women should vote, and men, too.

As for your reducto ad absurdum, I think you are again overgeneralizing regarding my position. I'm happy to evaluate the desirability of electing a given female candidate. I'm not happy to argue that women as a whole have a universal quality known to me but unknown to other women. If a woman objects that she lacks said quality, I don't see what my counterargument would be. And yes, if I were to argue for some reason that we should vote for a man because all men are q, and another man says that he's not q, I again don't have a handy counter.

Fuck it, it's late and I'm not making any sense. But in general, Dawn's question was about gender alone; your question is about group identity in general. My answers to Dawn's questions are bizarre because the idea of gender alone is bizarre; my answers to you will depend on which group identity you are talking about. In this election, for example, I'm voting for the Democrat. It's in the interest of dung-bugs and out of work travelling salesmen to follow suit.

Christ I'm long winded.

Dawn Coyote said...

twiff/John: It’s only a paradox if you’re looking at it as a one-dimensional problem. It doesn’t break neatly into equality vs. discrimination. What if that manner in which I exercise my personal commitment to equality aids in the maintenance of entrenched cultural discrimination against women and minorities? And twiff — I’m not interested in anyone’s past sins. I’m simply responding to a situation that fails to reflect my present values.

august: I should have clarified: “Does education necessarily constrain freedom?” was meant as a (2nd) response to your “creating an obligation to vote for somebody . . . constrains rather than expands women's choices”. While I did not mean to imply that you should prevail upon others to adopt your opinions, I’m interested in your take: do you “create an obligation” by encouraging somebody to act in what you believe are his or her own best interests? If, for instance, you silently respect the choice of Islamic women who support sharia law, are you not failing to acknowledge the existing social pressures that influence them to make such choices in the first place? If you refrain from adding your voice to the chorus of influence, what result can you expect? I think it’s much less dangerous to offer your opinion than to help perpetuate social injustice through your abstention, and that’s true even if the views on which you opine run counter to my own. It’s a slippery slope, yes, but one that I feel obliged to navigate.

You said: 1) “if the principle of self-examination were carried through in a meaningful way, we could trust that people would choose good candidates”, and
2) “it's actually rare that I'm confronted with two candidates that I have equal feelings about. “2 necessitates 1” is an accurate enough capture of what I was after in my post.

So I think women are going to be in politics. It's just a question of whether Phillis Schafley or Geraldine Ferraro will be remembered as a role model. With any luck, they’ll be subsumed into the great, teeming mass of women politicians, many of whom will have careers of much greater significance than our current slender selection.

Gregor: Did you just pat me on the head? Consensus and measurability were only assumed for the purposes of flushing alligators out of the swamp. I saw the semantic quicksand, but I’m assuming some of my fellow wikifradians share my views on social justice, that even if they’re affirmative action agnostics, they’d be motivated to catch their passive biases. If it wasn’t obvious that I was after latent bias, then I’m more clever than I thought.

Elbo Ruum, darlin,’ if “all angles” includes a satisfying answer to the question, “Are women and minorities represented in government in proportion with my values?”, then by all means, flip.

Claude: “I will always vote for the candidate whose expressed views on the issues are most in agreement with mine.” While I believe that you’d make efforts to learn the views of both male and female candidates in order to make an informed decision, I fear that many of us fail to do this.

Well, I’m probably talked out on the subject, so feel free not to answer me.

august said...

Dawn, I advocate suspician with regard to claims made about gender alone, and caution when making such claims on the voting patterns of others. I don't have a problem telling other people what to do.

I don't know if you are old enough to remember the Equal Rights Amendment. I supported it (I was eight or so at the time). That means I thought women who opposed it were hurting themselves.

But the fact that large numbers of women opposed it meant that voting for people because they are women wasn't going to get the country where I wanted it to go. In fact, the argument that women should vote for women could just as easily be deployed by my political opponents.

In other words, I'm suspicious of the "flip a coin" scenario. The far more likely scenario in the United States is one in which somebody is trying to get you to vote for a person you might otherwise shy away from. I thus worry that my moral opinion regarding your hypothetical might contribute to a political norm I dislike -- hence my rather contradictory series of answers.

As I said to Gregor, in different contexts I'd probably do the calculus differently. How do I solve a problem like Sharia? Don't know. Say there are two candidates, one male and one female, both fervent supporters of Islamic law. They seem equivalent, and I'm trying to convince a woman in Jordon (Mireille) to vote for the female candidate (Sirine). Sure, purely hypothetical, I can say my opinion is that the two candidates are the same and Mireille should vote for Sirine. But the minute you put me into a real live conversation with Mireille there's a pretty glaring and I say "You should vote for Sirine because Sirine is a woman and Jordan needs more women in politics." But when Mireille counters "You only think they are the same, in fact Sirine is terrible. She's very unlikely to help me , but there's no way you can understand that because you are a man and not Jordanian."
What exactly is my counterargument? I say "Mireille, you are biased against women because of the way you were raised" She says "August, you're a fucking idiot. Typical man, thinks he knows what's best for me. Have some dates."

twiffer said...

dawn: "What if that manner in which I exercise my personal commitment to equality aids in the maintenance of entrenched cultural discrimination against women and minorities?" is exactly what i'm complaining about. and it is past sins, if you consider that prior generations may not have voted for a woman, because of gender. and so on.

really though, the best way to get more women in office is to have more run for office.

so, to reiteriate, i understand your point. but knowing that equality should mean a lack of prejudice, while understanding that prejudices might need to be employed to achieve the baseline state needed to completely discard them, is distasteful to me. i can understand the need and even participate in the lesser evil, for the sake of the greater good. but it doesn't mean i have to like it.

Clot said...

Dawn---you state that it's only a paradox if one views it one-dimensionally. Well, the equal treatment/special treatment conundrum is in fact "one dimensional" in that sense if the whole analysis is viewed as a zer-sum game. And when one allows oneself to gauge equality of opportunity by equality of result, that's precisely a zero-sum analysis.

Gregor Samsa said...

August: Wrapping up. I don’t think I have conveyed well what I meant by “members of x possessing quality q”. I don’t mean we should ascribe some essential, immutable quality to every member of x. I mean there are clear differences between groups in terms of observed empirical frequency of certain behaviors/characteristics (due to nature/nurture/social/whatever), and if we do not have very reliable personal information on an individual, are we justified in using statistical information about her group to assess likelihoods? Since terrorists have been disproportionately young male, and since authorities know little else about people passing through airport security, profiling seems like a smart use of scarce resources (on the face of it). Similar reasoning can be applied to our voting choices to decide whether we should consider the candidates’ gender/race identity at all. I don’t think Dawn means that gender should be a trump card, but that it should be treated as one factor among others, just as affirmative action does in many applications.

Dawn: I got your purpose (examine bias through introspection and explication), so let’s say you’re not as clever as you thought you weren’t. I was questioning survey design, but it becomes increasingly irrelevant as people start talking. Almost everyone likes to frame their stance as equal treatment, after accounting for all differences. But if all differences include accent, dress, acting white or showing balls, etc., one feels that the meaning of the term “equal treatment” needs to be carefully circumscribed to be useful. As a starting point, I prefer a B-school type case study based approach.

Dawn Coyote said...

Note to self: failed to respond to the only woman on the thread who answered the questions. Sorry, Cat. I didn't recognize you.

august: we're the same age. You're much more thoughtful about these things than I am.

Everyone: thanks.