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Help me understand the difference between a sexist and a run-of-the-mill asshole that happens to be male.

I've never met a man who believes that every man is better than every woman at any given task. And if he did hold that view, it would be an example of colossal stupidity, not opinion. Daily life is bristling with examples of women succeeding in every field. How does one not notice?

And if we're talking about prejudging the likelihood of a member of one gender or another having a particular preference or trait, that's how all humans process information. The only people who don't automatically prejudge are in comas. A normal, healthy brain prejudges everything in its environment based on limited clues and patterns. But as more information becomes available, one is able to judge more accurately. Perhaps the man you first assumed was a hobo, based on his scruffy appearance, is actually a great network engineer. The normal brain notices a pattern, makes a preliminary assumption about what it means, and looks for more information to confirm or disprove the initial snap judgment.

Have you ever met a sane person who thinks differently?

When the FBI profiler says the bomber is probably a male loner in his thirties, that isn't sexism so much as statistics. And when the DNA on the detonator indicates the bomber was female, the FBI profiler says, "Oops" and changes her opinion. Every normal, human brain processes information this same way, give or take some cognitive dissonance.

So who are the sexists?

I hear plenty of stories of workplace discrimination against women based on gender. So let's stipulate that gender discrimination is widespread. There are too many first-hand accounts to imagine it isn't real.

So who is doing the discriminating during the hiring and promotion process, and what does that look like in the year 2013?

If a man overlooks a female job candidate because of gender alone, isn't that more a case of stupidity than sexism? Clearly women are excelling at ever profession on earth, so what kind of hiring manager would fail to notice a worldwide trend so immensely obvious? Answer: a dumb one.

Dismissing a job candidate based on gender alone is ordinary incompetence. Fifty years ago I can easily imagine a smart man who happened to be a sexist because he witnessed scant few examples in which women were excelling at their careers. But in 2013 there is no such thing as a smart man who hasn't noticed that women are excelling in every field. I think it's time to label the hiring manager who bases a decision on gender incompetent, not sexist.

Then you have the category of men who are dismissive of women in general, or talk to women in a demeaning way, or objectify women, or are generally disrespectful to women. Those guys get labelled sexists too for being hostile to women. But is that the label that fits best?

In my experience, assholes are assholes all the time, not just to women. And their impact is plenty toxic to men as well. I suppose somewhere on earth there is a guy who trash-talks and objectifies women during the workday then goes to his volunteer job feeding the elderly at night, but I kind of doubt it. I've never met a man who was an asshole to women but treated everyone else with respect. Being an asshole is a fulltime job.

So I think it's time to acknowledge the impressive gains women have made over the last century against genuine sexism and recognize that the mop up operation in 2013 (at least in the United States) is more about managing the assholes and idiots in the world than it is about old-timey sexism.

For the three women who read this blog, I'll tell you a secret about how men think. If I am your boss's boss, and you tell me your direct boss is being a sexist, my skepticism alarm goes off because the label so often gets misused. But if you tell me your boss is being an asshole, complete with examples, or you say he's incompetent at his job because he ignores qualified job candidates, I start considering his replacement. Your choice of labels can make a big difference.

 
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Nov 21, 2013
I have to disagree and agree with your point. When I was in college, the engineering school had more than its share of international students and the male students from certain cultures were quite blatant at treating the co-eds in class and around campus, poorly, while treating their male counterparts with respect. So it is possible for a person to be a partial !$%*!$% (albeit a product of your culture).

But to agree with you, I suspect that in their home countries they would have few (no) females competing with them in the workplace, and no examples of women excelling at anything they deemed important.
 
 
Nov 21, 2013
I think the most common root of discrimination of all kinds is that we form unconscious biases about what "competence" (or some other desired quality) looks like, that includes all sorts of irrelevant information like the person's gender, clothing, mannerisms, accent, personality, etc.

Then when you interview someone who differs from you, that person doesn't seem as "competent" since they don't respond in the same way you do. In male dominated fields like programming, the unconscious bias will be especially strong against women, since most of our experience is with male colleagues. Hell, I'm pretty sure I have a bias against people I'm interviewing in general because so many incompetent ones slip through the cracks.

That's why it's often necessary to take "affirmative action" to overcome the inherent bias of preferring what is familiar.
 
 
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Nov 21, 2013
@JoetheWebmaster [lol, funny how quickly one gets down voted for simply stating a fact that doesn't align with imaginary social constructs.]

I thought you were spot on - negative 4 votes on your comment, I guess there IS a fourth woman reading this blog.
 
 
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Nov 21, 2013
[If a man overlooks a female job candidate because of gender alone, isn't that more a case of stupidity than sexism? ... I think it's time to label the hiring manager who bases a decision on gender incompetent, not sexist.]

I don't understand why you think these are mutually exclusive. Do you believe that if something is stupid, then it cannot also be sexist? If so, why? If not, then what is the point of this blog entry? Your entire essay is basically that there isn't really any sexism any more because the things we used to call sexism are now not sexism because they're stupid. Well, they are stupid - but they're still sexism, too.
 
 
Nov 21, 2013
As one of the three women who read this blog -- bravo on the great advice at the end!

The problem with labeling things as sexist is that the woman becomes the victim -- a helpless victim. And victimhood is just about the opposite of professional.


---
For the three women who read this blog, I'll tell you a secret about how men think. If I am your boss's boss, and you tell me your direct boss is being a sexist, my skepticism alarm goes off because the label so often gets misused. But if you tell me your boss is being an !$%*!$%* complete with examples, or you say he's incompetent at his job because he ignores qualified job candidates, I start considering his replacement. Your choice of labels can make a big difference.
 
 
Nov 21, 2013
@Esperanza

[Yes, for example: http://blogs.smithsonianmag.com/science/2012/09/are-scientists-sexist-new-study-identifies-a-gender-bias/]

Interesting. The study you link to says female professors tended to view the female applicants negatively just as the males did. I wonder if females who discriminate against females have to face the same legal threats as males who do the same thing.
 
 
Nov 21, 2013
I don't agree with your stipulation ("So let's stipulate that gender discrimination is widespread."), at least not as I think you mean it, to wit: men discriminating against women in business is widespread. For one thing, I have heard and read many women say that women discriminate against other women in the workplace far more than men do, at least in the present day.

It's even got a name: the 'Queen Bee' syndrome. Women who refuse to mentor or promote other women because the idea of bringing other women up the ladder of success is threatening to them. And as I read what I just wrote, I think I should have preceded this post with your "Warning" disclaimer.

Add to that the wussification of male education. I'm sure you're well aware that more women are now graduating from college than men are. Elementary education is now tailored to the way girls learn, often leaving boys behind. Yes, I'm a guy, and yes, this trend is disturbing to me.

Look at sexual abuse of children by schoolteachers. Society seems to accept women teachers' sexual exploitation of underage boys far more than the opposite. The implication is that boys are unaffected by seduction by a teacher, but girls are devastated by it. There's a double standard that is truly harmful.

And don't even get me started on sexual harrassment. As I mentioned in a November 9, 2011 Dilbert blog post, John Lescroart's character Dismas Hardy characterized sexual harrassment laws as a club with which those mostly on the left use to beat up their political opponents. Statistics I have read suggest that the number of false sexual harassment claims has greatly increased, although overall the total of such claims have dropped.

If you think Scott takes heat for some of his women-oriented posts, you should have read some of women's criticisms of the late Dr. Michael Crichton's book "Disclosure." Feminists came unglued at the thought that some women may file fake sexual harassment charges to advance their own careers or as a part of a plot (in Crichton's book) that went far deeper in the organization.

A s s h o l e s exist on both sides of the gender line, Scott. To paraphrase Dr. King, most of us hope for a time when both men and women will be judged by the content of their character rather than their plumbing. At least I do.
 
 
Nov 21, 2013
@whtlnew Yes, for example: http://blogs.smithsonianmag.com/science/2012/09/are-scientists-sexist-new-study-identifies-a-gender-bias/

This is hardly the only study on the subject but I like resume experiments because everything else is controlled for - the only difference whatsoever between the two groups was the gender of the applicant.
 
 
Nov 21, 2013
"If a man overlooks a female job candidate because of gender alone, isn't that more a case of stupidity than sexism?"

Yes it is, but stupidity is not ok when you're harming other people.
It's exactly the same problem with skin color, sexual orientation, religion, age.
You're completely free to be stupid with your own life, but society needs to prevent you from harming other people with it.
 
 
Nov 21, 2013
As your own work experiences will no doubt confirm, there's not always an objective way to determine who the "best" hire or "most qualified" candidate for promotion may be. Yes, there are more concrete metrics, such as education, work history, projects completed, gladiator's defeated in the arena (are you not entertained?), etc. Your idiotic sexist, who blatantly discriminates against women because they are women, will not be in his job for very long. For one thing he's a huge liability to his firm, a lawsuit magnet.

However, if he buys into prevailing gender stereotypes, he might not hire Alice because she's "too agressive" or "has an attitude problem", even if objectively Alice's behavior is indistinguishable from that of Mike, the male candidate. Women are expected to be more pleasant and submissive, while assertive or confident behavior is interpreted as "witchiness", as any woman who has been approached by a strange man can surely explain to you in great detail.

Or perhaps Alice and Mike are both lookers; I know you wouldn't dispute that good-looking people are generally more successful, but our hypothetical sexist is more likely to assume looks are the main, or even only, factor in Alice's success. He will, for reasons that seem perfectly logical to himself, favor Mike.

Humans do not make truly objective decisions about other humans. Witness what happens when, as part of a sociological experiment, identical resumes are submitted under "white" and "black"-sounding names. The danger isn't the ignorant !$%*!$% in your example, though of course he exists. The danger is in leaving our deeply-held assumptions about what is normal, correct, or likely, unexamined. The danger is in being unaware that we assume a "nurse" is going to be female and a "doctor" is going to be male, and what that might mean for Mike, RN or Alice, MD, when they apply for a job at our hospital.
 
 
Nov 21, 2013
@Esperanza

[The reality is that many male managers give more credit to other men, consistently, and in statistically observable ways.]

Can you back that up?
 
 
+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Nov 21, 2013
Cue Huffington Post in 3.....2.......1..........
 
 
+5 Rank Up Rank Down
Nov 21, 2013
What if you did a find-and-replace for "sexist" with "racist" -- still hold water? Or is race-based prejudice different than gender-based prejudice?
 
 
Nov 21, 2013
lol, funny how quickly one gets down voted for simply stating a fact that doesn't align with imaginary social constructs.
 
 
Nov 21, 2013
There are several levels of sexism. You're just talking about the outspoken version, that are easily detected by their obvious asshatness by the coffee table. The more difficult version is the silent one, that treat women differently, but in a more silent way. I wouldn't call them "regular !$%*!$%*!$ but I would call them sexists. For all I know, they could even not be aware of what they are doing.
 
 
Nov 21, 2013
I'm curious about the point and/or motivation of this?

even the late George Carlin (a rabid right-winger if there ever was one) acknowledged "it does NOT take a great deal of imagination to p1&$ off a feminist..."

is this a no publicity is bad publicity thing for your book?

 
 
Nov 21, 2013
Guy who thinks he personally is smarter than any given woman = * hole.

Guy who thinks any given male -- even the coworker he wouldn't trust with a stapler -- is smarter than any given woman = sexist.
 
 
Nov 21, 2013
World's richest 20 women are on the list because of marrying a wealthy man or being born to a wealthy family. Nothing is holding a woman back from fulling one of these spots on her own merit.

Why though? Men and women have different motives, we are literally wired different. We are equal in value but not in function. Each sex has an advantage of its own in which one can benefit over the other at a particular task.

Men seek power through dominance. Women seek power through manipulation.
Men conquer and build. Women develop and keep social order.
 
 
Nov 21, 2013
Agreed with everything in your post. I especially liked your "mopping up" metaphor. I think you could extend your argument to apply equally to racism, and a whole bunch of other political gripes as well.
 
 
Nov 21, 2013
Hi Scott - Otherwise smart people can apparently be dismissive of women based on cultural upbringing, even if their "rational" brain knows better. It's similar to racial prejudice. It's not rational, even from people who are otherwise rational. I can't explain it, maybe you can...

Just as people can have multiple intelligences (did you want Einstein or Edison piloting your 747?) maybe they have multiple stupidities? :-)

/j
(PS - I'm surprised you didn't bring confirmation bias into the discussion. :-) )
 
 
 
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