Seksisme special

March 21, 2022

(This text is in Dutch because it responds to a publication in a Dutch newspaper.)

De Volkskrant publiceerde het afgelopen weekend een “seksisme” special. Deze bevat een dertigtal artikelen, waarvan een klein handjevol een neutrale positie inneemt tegenover “de man”, en de overgrote meerderheid een klaagtirade over mannen vormen.

De meeste mensen zullen het erover eens zijn dat “ongelijke behandeling” een verwerpelijk verschijnsel is. Met de manier waarop dit onderwerp over het algemeen belicht wordt in het kader van de man-vrouw tegenstelling zijn echter zeker vier problemen.

Het eerste probleem is dat de belichting eenzijdig is: vrijwel altijd wordt “de vrouw” in een slachtoffer rol geschoven, en “de man” in een dader rol. Dat er legio situaties in de maatschappij zijn waar mannen er ten opzichte van vrouwen maar bekaaid afkomen wordt hoogstens tussen neus en lippen genoemd en afgedaan als “onbelangrijk.” Dat in de westerse wereld vrouwen gemiddeld een stuk hoger opgeleid zijn dan mannen, dat er veel meer mannen dan vrouwen dakloos zijn, dat het aantal zelfmoordslachtoffers onder mannen veel hoger is dan onder vrouwen, dat mannen significant eerder sterven dan vrouwen, dat veel meer mannen dan vrouwen slachtoffer worden van moord, dat in een oorlog mannen worden geacht te strijden aan het front terwijl vrouwen beschermd worden, dat vrijwel alle werkgerelateerde ongevallen mannen overkomen, dat vrijwel al het werk in de maatschappij dat als vuil en fysiek zwaar wordt beoordeeld door mannen wordt gedaan, dat vrouwen tegenover mannen veel kieskeuriger zijn (en kunnen zijn) dan mannen tegenover vrouwen, dat in het justitieel systeem vrouwen milder gestraft worden dan mannen voor dezelfde misdrijven, dat in onderwijs en op de arbeidsmarkt vrouwen de voordelen genieten van “positieve discriminatie” die mannen niet ten deel vallen, dat “toxic” en “masculinity” in één adem genoemd worden terwijl “toxic femininity” genegeerd wordt, en dat mannen geacht worden zelfredzaam te zijn terwijl vrouwen gesteund moeten worden waar mogelijk, zijn voorbeelden van situaties waarin mannen reden tot klagen hebben. Helaas voor mannen is er een Catch-22: als een man ergens over klaagt is hij een “zacht ei,” terwijl een vrouw die klaagt zielig is en geholpen moet worden.

Het tweede probleem is dat de belichting overgeneraliserend is: er worden slechts twee rollen onderkend, namelijk “de man” en “de vrouw” en er wordt gesproken alsof binnen deze tweedeling iedereen die dezelfde rol krijgt toebedeeld, hetzelfde is. Waar elders in het maatschappelijk debat geroepen wordt dat er een oneindig aantal genders bestaat, en dat iedereen als individu beoordeeld moet worden, wordt in het seksisme debat iedere persoon met mannelijke geslachtsorganen tot dezelfde klasse van “verwerpelijke exemplaren” veroordeeld.

Het derde probleem is dat de belichting ongeïnformeerd is: er worden “feiten” op tafel gelegd die onjuist zijn, maar die voor waar worden aangenomen omdat ze zo vaak herhaald worden en het verhaal “mannen slecht, vrouwen goed” ondersteunen. Typische voorbeelden zijn de Globale Gender Gelijkheid Index (GGGI) die stelt dat in alle landen ter wereld mannen “in het voordeel” zijn zonder erbij te vermelden dat de GGGI zo geformuleerd is dat dat de enig mogelijke uitkomst is omdat alles waarin vrouwen een voordeel hebben per definitie als “neutraal” wordt beschouwd, en het fabeltje dat het gemiddelde salarisverschil tussen mannen en vrouwen een uitkomst is van ongelijke behandeling in plaats van de individuele keuzes die mensen maken.

Het vierde probleem is dat de belichting niet-falsificeerbare beschuldigingen uit: alle mannen zijn kwaadaardige roofdieren, en het heeft geen zin om dat te ontkennen want je bent niet in staat om dat in jezelf te herkennen. En het is een gevolg van een cultuur waarin wij geïndoctrineerd worden om seksisme normaal te vinden. Het feit dat je dat niet ziet komt door die indoctrinatie waaraan alleen verlichte personen kunnen ontsnappen.

Degene die besloten heeft deze seksisme special te publiceren, zou er goed aan doen te overwegen wat het gevolg is van het jarenlang-durende niet-aflatende bombardement van beschuldigingen aan het adres van iedereen die “man” is.

Het merendeel van de personen die in het hokje “man” geduwd worden zijn eerlijke, hardwerkende, goedaardige exemplaren van het menselijk ras, die steun geven waar nodig en die een positieve impact hebben op de maatschappij en hun omgeving. Deze personen zullen de klaagtirade tegenover hun geslacht in eerste instantie hebben afgedaan als “dat gaat niet over mij,” en “het is goed dat dit soort zaken besproken worden.” Maar als het eenzijdige verhaal steeds maar weer herhaald wordt, als zelfs kleinzieligheden als “met je benen uit elkaar zitten” gezien wordt als een groot maatschappelijk onrecht, als iedere man geacht wordt zich in het beklaagdenbankje te plaatsen als er ergens een man is die iets onoirbaars doet, als mannen schuldig bevonden worden puur op grond van het feit dat ze als man beschuldigd worden, en als er plenty excuses gevonden worden als een vrouw iets doet wat voor een man onacceptabel zou zijn, dan krijgt zelfs de meest goedaardige man er genoeg van.

In het beste geval wordt een seksisme special afgedaan als “weer dat gezeik.” In het slechtste geval met het aannemen van de houding “als het kennelijk zo is dat iedere man kwaadaardig is, dan ben ik maar een sufferdje als ik over me heen laat lopen.” Hoe je het ook draait of keert, een dergelijke special heeft het omgekeerde effect van wat het lijkt te willen bereiken.

Wat mijzelf betreft, ik weiger over één kam geschoren te worden met personen die toevallig door de maatschappij hetzelfde genderstempel opgedrukt krijgen. Mijn grootste ergernis over een seksisme special is niet over wat het uitkraamt over “mannen,” maar over het feit dat het de helft van de bevolking in een hokje duwt van deplorabelen op basis van een enkel attribuut.


Seven check marks

February 18, 2022

In the Netherlands, there is currently a lot of attention given to the concept of “the seven check marks” (zeven vinkjes) of journalist Joris Luyendijk, who wrote that the most priviliged people in Dutch society are those who are male, white, heterosexual, and have at least one parent with a higher education, at least one parent who was born in The Netherlands, a diploma from the highest Dutch secondary education (VWO), and a university diploma.

I have three major problems with these seven check marks.

The first major problem is that statistically speaking there aren’t seven check marks here. As having a VWO or better diploma is a prerequisite for getting into a university, the sixth check mark can be dropped. Moreover, in The Netherlands there is a very strong correlation between parents having a higher education and children having a higher education (caused by both nature and nurture), and thus the fourth check mark can be dropped as well. Moreover, as it is close to an a-priori that a white Dutch person has at least one parent who was born in The Netherlands, the fifth check mark is not contributing anything either. The seven check marks can therefore be reduced to being male, white, heterosexual, and having a university education — which can be listed under the heading “old news.”

The second major problem I have is that being privileged depends on what goal you have in life. If your goal is to have a good, high-paying job, then I am pretty sure that at least until about a decade ago, white males with a university education were priviliged in The Netherlands (this has changed in recent years due to preferential hiring practices). However, if your goal in life is to not work while having a partner who earns a nice income, being a white, heterosexual woman makes you highly privileged. And as statistics show that on average Dutch women are considerably happier than Dutch men, being a woman gives privilige if your goal is to be happy. It should also be noted that “having a good, high-paying job” for most people who have this goal is just an intermediate step: what they really want is wealth so that they can enjoy their life. The job is only a means to an end. But if the job comes with a life of hard work, the beneficiaries of that job are partners and children rather than the person having the job. It is no wonder that the goal of many people is to marry rich rather than get a good job.

The third major problem is that Luyendijk leaves out at least one check mark which is on its own covering virtually all the privilige that you can have in The Netherlands, which is “being wealthy.” Most people in The Netherlands will agree that the most priviliged people in the Netherlands, who can have everything in spades without work or worries, are rich, attractive, young women. If you really want to create a privilige ladder and put people on it, you will find that your personal wealth pretty much determines which rung of the ladder you will occupy. As wealth is strongly correlated with skin color, nationality, and education (and to a lesser extent with sexual preference), it is the only feature you need to explain privilige.

If you give people a list of categories and ask them to check what they rather be, you will find that most people in the Netherlands would choose to be rich rather than poor, young rather than old, attractive rather than unattractive, and white rather than black. So you can talk about “being priviliged” until you are blue in the mouth, but actually being an old, unattractive, white guy whose days are filled with hard work is not an enviable position, regardless whether that guy is considered “priviliged” according to the check marks.


Unfinished business

February 1, 2022

In 1998, the Dutch Minister of Finance Gerrit Zalm announced that the Government had collected more in taxes than was needed to fund all their expenditure, and that 80 million guilders (35 million euros) were left over. He was looking for the best way to return this monetary surplus to the Dutch citizens, from whom it was unjustly taken.

Ha ha! I am kidding, of course. Gleefully minister Zalm announced that in secret meetings with the Dutch Bank and New York art collector Samuel Newhouse, he had decided to give the money to Newhouse in exchange for a painting. The price for the painting in question, Victory Boogie Woogie by the Dutch painter Mondriaan, was a steal, he said. It should be, because the thing was only half finished.

The purchase was in celebration of the introduction of the euro, Zalm said. The connection between paying 80 million smackers for an unfinished painting and saying farewell to the guilder he could not make entirely clear. Perhaps his wallet had grown too thick from all these guilder notes and he was looking for a quick way to get rid of them.

But Victory Boogie Woogie is unmistakenly a masterpiece. Mondriaan created it as an ode to Freedom during the Second World War, in particular with respect to the conflict between the US and Japan. Hans Locher, director of the museum which got to display it, compared it to Picasso’s Guernica, and secretary of state Rick van der Ploeg called it a twentieth century Nachtwacht. The unwashed masses called it a bunch of red, yellow, and blue squares, much like the tiles in the bathroom of someone suffering from color blindness, by which they only demonstrate that they miss the fine-honed senses of the true connaisseurs.

Most Dutch citizens were rather unhappy with this waste of money. “If you really like Mondriaan this much,” they would say, “why not buy a poster of his work for a few bob? A museum will not let you get so close to a painting that you would see the difference anyway.”

But that was 24 years ago. The world has changed. With increase of poverty, the obnoxious wealth accumulation by the rich, the troubling housing market, the ageing population, the staggering inflation, the rising cost of education, the overburdening of health care, the climate crisis, and the COVID crisis, an unexpected windfall would now quickly be used to alleviate the pressure on some of these urgent matters.

And if you think that you are a moron. When the Minister of Culture Ingrid van Engelshoven recently dusted the furniture at the ministry of Education, Culture, and Science, she found 175 million euros under the cushions of a rickety couch, and decided to donate the sum to the Rothschild family in exchange for a painting by Rembrandt, De Vaandeldrager (The Flag Bearer).

You might think that, with the 1998 Mondriaan debacle in mind, she would have reconsidered this purchase, but the situation is very different this time around. First, the Rothschilds really need to expand their castle with an extra wing. Second, there is not one red, yellow, or blue square found on De Vaandeldrager. And third, if the money would be returned to the Dutch citizens they would only spend it on mundane luxuries such as food.

Moreover, De Vaandeldrager is actually a pretty nice painting. If you ask people what it represents, nobody will seek an ode to Freedom in it or will compare it to Guernica. “It is a guy,” will be the general opinion. “He has a droopy moustache and a big hat.”

A small problem is that Art Historian Gerda van Ham now says that the man in the painting is not carrying a flag, as he is supposed to, but a curtain. You would think that after such a shocking revelation the Rothschilds would offer a discount, but no such luck. Van Ham also concluded that the painting is actually an unfinished study. This probably excited the Dutch government even more, seeing how keen they are to acquire unfinished paintings.

This last fact actually offers an opportunity to buy De Vaandeldrager without squeezing the already suffering cultural sector out of much needed funding. At the moment, the Second Chamber’s housing (Het Binnenhof) is being renovated. Originally the costs were estimated to be 475 million euros, but recently the estimates have increased to 718 million euros. I am sure that a lot of that money will be spent on painting.

My proposal is: leave the painting of the renovated building unfinished, saving up to the sum of 175 million euros, and give those savings to the Rothschilds in exchange for De Vaandeldrager. Then let the now-saved funding for the cultural sector be given to artists who, rather than filling canvases, will liven up the walls of Het Binnenhof with creative expressions.

These artists will be very grateful for the continuation of their jobs, and will be quite capable of painting red, yellow, and blue squares. Other colors will be available at no extra costs if you ask nicely. And if minister Van Engelshoven is willing to pose in a floppy hat and with one of the new curtains over her arm, I am sure that someone will be able to immortalize her on the freshly plastered walls of the Senate Hall.


Grimm tale

March 22, 2021

I found a synopsis of the Disney movie “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” (1937) on IMDB, and decided to give it to a sensitivity reader (who wishes to remain anonymous) to get their comments on this classic tale. The original synopsis is in regular font, while the sensitivity reader’s comments are in red.

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs

A beautiful but orphaned princess, Snow White, lives with her stepmother, the wicked Queen, who previously relegated her to servitude.

Already this first sentence is highly problematic.
First, the “beautiful princess” is named “Snow White.” Why is it that if someone is considered “beautiful” they always have to be White? The writer should at least consider giving the princess an ethnic origin.
Second, it is pretty clear from this sentence that the writer assumes that the only virtue of the princess is her physical beauty. This is sexist, as no woman should be judged by her physical beauty. Even if the writer really needs to mention her physical beauty, he should not forgo listing that she is also a strong independent woman.
Third, the writer makes the assumption that step parents are all “wicked.” Does the writer realize how many sacrifices step parents have to make? And how much they love their adopted children?
Fourth, the word “wicked” tends to be associated with women exclusively, and is therefore sexist in this context.
Fifth, the word “servitude” is just a euphemism for slavery. Whitewashing the practice of slavery with words like “servitude” is simply not acceptable.

The Queen is jealous because she wants to be known as “the fairest in the land” when Snow White’s beauty surpasses her own.

Again, the writer assumes that the only thing that women are interested in is physical beauty! What shameful stereotyping.

The Queen’s huntsman is ordered to take Snow White into the forest and kill her, but he cannot bring himself to do so because of her innocence and beauty, and instead begs Snow White to run away into the forest and never return to the castle.

Yes, we know by now how much the writer values physical beauty in women. This sentence in particular tries to indoctrinate young girls with the notion that you can get away with anything if only you are beautiful enough. This is a problematic message. I propose that the writer describes the princess as “mundane” and lets her win an argument with the huntsman, or, better yet, give him a swift kick in the nuts before she runs away from this psycho.

The forest animals befriend Snow White and take her to a cottage, where seven dwarfs live.

I wish to point out that height-challenged people should not be called “dwarfs.” If a reference to their height must be made, call them “little people.”

The dwarfs grow to love their unexpected visitor, who cleans their house and cooks their meals.

Jesus Christ, this writer is really living in the Middle Ages, isn’t he? Not only does he make the “little people” fall in love with our “princess” because she is so beautiful, but he is also claiming that a woman’s place is in the kitchen! Women can do any job that men do! Relegating them to household chores is not of these times.

But one day while the dwarfs are away at their diamond mine, the Queen arrives at the cottage disguised as an old peddler woman and persuades Snow White to take a bite of a poisoned apple, promising her it will make all her dreams come true.

The biblical references in this sentence are all too obvious: again it is a woman who causes the downfall of society by making someone eat from an apple. Moreover, this sentence is ageist as it supposes that old people are scary.

Snow White wishes for a reunion with the Prince, takes a bite, falls into a deep sleep, and the peddler woman declares she’s now the fairest in the land.

The writer is sexist in his assumption that any woman is obsessed with the desire to find a man. Moreover, he again states that women are preoccupied with physical beauty.

The dwarfs, warned by the forest animals, rush home to chase the witch away and she falls to her death, but they are too late to save Snow White.

Women do not need to be “saved,” they can take care of themselves.

Thinking Snow White is dead, the dwarfs place her in a glass and gold coffin in the woods and mourn for her.

Putting a woman on display to admire her physical beauty is absolutely disgusting — it is clear that the writer prefers to have women keep their mouth shut and just parade around for him; the association with beauty contests is all too clear.

A Prince, who had fallen in love with Snow White earlier because of her lovely singing voice, happens by and awakens her from the deep sleep with love’s first kiss.

There are many things wrong with this concluding sentence.
First, there is the issue that the “prince” falls in love with the princess because of her “singing voice.” He can’t fall in love with her brain or her personality, right? It must be something fleeting and superficial, like “her singing voice.” This is incredibly sexist.
Second, this “prince” just kissed a woman without asking for her consent first. Even if he had asked for consent, the princess was in no shape to give it. This is clearly rape.
Third, the whole story revolves around a cis-white male (yes, I know that the prince is never listed as being white, but with this writer we know what he is thinking, right?) in a relation with a cis-white female. I am missing a strong representation of the LGBTQ community in this tale. My suggestion is to make the prince a woman, or better yet, non-binary.

Sensitivity reader’s conclusion: This is a highly problematic tale which cannot be fixed with a few simple word-replacements. It needs a rewrite. At least the princess should be described as an actual woman and not this cardboard cutout of a cis-white male’s fantasy. However, I would go further and remove the whole “wicked stepmother” side story, and give the prince a bigger role, rather than making him a deus-ex-machina in the last sentence. Let the prince be the one to ban the princess because she spurns him, then disguise himself to feed her a date-rape drug. Then when he returns to have his “wicked ways” with her unconscious body, let her wake up just in time to break his balls! I have heard this writer is also responsible for a tale by the name of “Sleeping Beauty” — he is not really trying to hide his perverse preoccupations, isn’t he? Frankly, I think that the publisher should simply remove this bigoted writer from their roster and never publish anything from him ever again.


Chess gets woke

June 14, 2020

Today it was announced by Andrei Dorkonov, president of the International Chess Alliance (AIDE), that the organization will be doing its part in the ongoing conversation in support of people of color. Recognizing that the game of Chess has been inherently racist since its origins, its rules will be changed. As Dorkonov explained: “The game of chess exhibits the unpleasant principles of white supremacy. In the game, black and white do not start on equal footing: instead, white gets a massive boost to its chances to win by always being allowed to make the first move. This translates to clear disparate outcomes for the colors, to the detriment of black.” In order to compensate for centuries of oppression, for the next five years at least it will be the black player who gets to move first. The new rules hold for championship games, but Dorkonov expressed the hope that club players will incorporate the new rules too.

“This is only the first step,” Dorkonov added. “Chess has not only been an inherently racist game, it is sexist too. The King has always been the center piece of the game, with the Queen playing second fiddle. The roles of the Queen and King in the game will be reversed. This change will be introduced in the very near future.” Dorkonov agreed that this change by itself was insufficient to root out sexism from the game. “We realize that having only a queen and a king in the game denies the existence of other genders,” he said. “In 2021 we will therefore be introducing a new, non-binary piece to Chess.”

Activists have urged the AIDE to also rename the Bishop to “Imam.” Dorkonov explained that that is not an easy change to make, as there have been requests for changing the name to “Rabbi” and “Shaman” as well. However, the AIDE has relented to change the name of the Bishop to the more general term “Religious Figure.” Moreover, the moves of the Religious Figure piece will be determined by the players themselves based on their own convictions. As Dorkonov said: “We have learned that moving diagonally is taboo in certain religions, so the old rules were bigoted against particular faiths. We cannot condone that. Chess is all about inclusivity.”

Dorkonov admitted that the proposed changes have seen a lot of resistance from Chess players. “The complaints mainly come from the older generations of players,” he explained. “But discussions on Twitter have shown that the younger, more progressive crowd embraces the changes. The new rules provide the game of Chess with a refreshing and desperately needed modernization. They bring the game into the 21st century.”

https://globalnews.ca/news/7054942/magic-the-gathering-racist-cards-banned/


A 14% gap

November 24, 2019

Every two years, Intermediair Magazine and Nyenrode Business University (note: despite the term “university” Nyenrode is not a scientific institution, but a business school) perform a study of Dutch salaries, which they call the National Salary Survey (NSO; Nationaal Salaris Onderzoek). Their 2019 report shows (among other things) a 6% discrepancy between the salaries of men and women up to 35 years of age, to the detriment of women. Naturally, journalists, in particular those with feminist sympathies, grab this “fact” to once more discuss the “wage gap” and how bad women have it in the western world.

I was rather surprised by the report’s findings, as the Dutch Bureau for Statistics (CBS; Centraal Bureau voor Statistiek) has reported since 2014 at least (I have not looked further into the past) that the salaries of women up to 36 years of age are 8% higher on average than those of men. In De Volkskrant, two articles in the same issue bring up both the 6% less and 8% more figures, without noting the discrepancy. I tried to ignore the discussions on the wage gap this time around, as I am getting rather tired of them, but since the 6% figure is now coming up in more articles I feel obliged to say something (despite the fact that few people read this, but sometimes I need to rant a bit).

The first question is: which of these figures is correct? The answer to that is clear: the 8% more for women figure of CBS is correct, as CBS writes its reports based on objective studies for the government — a government, I might say, which has rather feminist leanings as far as social justice is concerned. Note that, according to CBS, this figure is explained for the most part by the higher level of education that women tend to have.

The second question is: where does the difference between the results of CBS and the NSO originate? That is also clear: CBS has access to salary data of all Dutch citizens and bases its study on millions of data points. The NSO bases its results on data which are derived from a website, where they asked people to self-report on their salaries. They came up with close to 44,000 data points, which sounds like a lot, but is nothing compared to the millions of data points of CBS. Moreover, self-reports are notoriously unreliable, and salaries are something which men typically like to boast about and women tend to be humble about. So we may conclude that the NSO’s findings are unreliable and should be thrown into the garbage.

The third question is: why the hell does the NSO exist at all, when CBS produces a report on Dutch salaries every two years, based on objective data of every working person in the country? Producing the NSO is just a waste of time and money. Moreover, I cannot imagine that the leaders of the NSO research do not know about the CBS figures, and they should therefore have realized that their data must be skewed far too much to draw any conclusions from. Had they been responsible scientists, with the knowledge that their results are worthless, they would have declined to produce the report. So the only answer that I can come up with for this question is that the research leaders of the NSO are just interested in the attention that their report gets, and have no qualms about closing their eyes to the truth.

Note that CBS has examined the variance between salaries of all Dutch citizens using factor analyses, and has concluded that gender is in no way an explanation for observed salary differences. Therefore, any article or report which tries to pose salary differences between men and women as a gendered issue are fundamentally wrong. You may expect journalists and activists to erroneously state something along the lines of “but the fact that women earn less than men means that gender discrimination is at work, right?” but a scientist who bases their studies on statistics should understand their statistics better. Thus the NSO is no more than a pseudo-scientific manifesto and does not deserve the attention that it gets.


How not to promote women in science

June 19, 2019

The Technical University of Eindhoven (TU/e) has announced that in the next eighteen months, all hires of scientific staff are to be women exclusively. This concerns about 150 scientific jobs. Only when a vacancy has been open for six months and no female candidate has been found, men can be considered for the job. With this, the TU/e hopes to improve the percentage of women on the scientific staff, which is currently at a low, low 16 percent.

Why is the percentage of women on the scientific staff so low for the TU/e? That is very simple: the university specializes in technical sciences, like mathematics, computer science, physics, chemistry, etc. The percentages of women who enter these sciences are low in the whole of the western world. Why is that? It is not because women cannot do these sciences. It is also not because they are not interested in them. It is because women, on average, tend to prefer other sciences. In the western world, women have a lot of choice in what they will do with their lives, whether or not they will work, and if they work, how long, how hard, and in what business. This freedom of choice has lead to most women choosing not to work in technical sciences. In medicine, law, psychology, sociology, educational science, and the humanities, women dominate. In physics and computer sciences, men dominate. If a university specializes in those sciences which women, on average, do not prefer to work in, it is no surprise that there will be a low percentage of women on the scientific staff.

Why do women, on average, prefer to focus on topics outside the exact sciences? Is it the female nature? Has it something to do with culture, perhaps? Is it education or parenting? Is it a combination? Many explanations can be proposed, but the TU/e is not interested in explanations or solving this “problem” at the root: the TU/e is only interested in fighting the consequences. I can certainly imagine that the TU/e feels that something needs to be done about the low percentages of women, considering that having so few women working there may make women feel unwelcome. However, this particular measure is an affront, as it will automatically lead to the TU/e saddling up other universities with their problems. I will explain:

The TU/e forces their staff to let vacancies go unfilled unless they hire women. But where are these women going to come from? Overall, there are simply very few women working in the exact sciences, because very few women choose to work in them. So how is the TU/e going to fill the vacancies? By enticing women who work at other universities to come work for them. There is no other source for female candidates. The TU/e, with their measure, has not magically created a fresh pool of women who specialize in exact sciences.

The TU/e offers great facilities to women who join up, like an extra 100,000 euros for research (only women get that, men do not). So they will steal women away from other universities, thereby maybe improving the situation at the TU/e in this respect, but hurting the situation at other universities at the same time. The overall situation of women in the exact sciences does not change one bit. Moreover, the measure creates problems (1) for departments at the TU/e who will see vacancies go unfilled for a long time and who will have to go for the “lesser” candidate because they are not allowed to hire the ideal candidate, (2) for other universities which see their personnel stolen by the TU/e, (3) for the male PhD students and postdocs at the TU/e who were hoping to continue their career there and now have to seek a job elsewhere, and (4) for women who may feel forced to change jobs with all the consequences for their personal lives. It is very sad that the TU/e evidently believes that they are doing a good thing.

If the TU/e really wants to get a higher percentage of women on their staff, what they should do is start new educational programs or change existing programs so that they are more appealing to women. If you change what you do to cater more to the interests of women, they will come. If you refuse to change what you do but just tell your staff to start stealing from other universities, you may end up giving the impression that you are improving the situation of women in science, but in actuality you are just creating more problems than there already are.


Domination achieved

January 24, 2019

My post before this one was on the Global Gender Gap Index (GGGI), which is used by many news media, institutes, and even governments, as a foundation to argue that “women are disadvantaged compared to men in all countries in the world, and need to be awarded advantages to compensate for that.” I criticized the GGGI on three points, showing that it clearly purports a feminist agenda rather than trying to fight for parity between the sexes. Two weeks after I wrote that post, an article appeared in the high-quality scientific journal PLOS One, on this very topic. The article by Gijsbert Stoet and David C. Geary, titled “A simplified approach to measuring national gender inequality,” not only makes the same arguments as I did, but also demonstrates, using literature references, that in many areas men fall behind women. The article proposes a more objective measurement of gender parity than the activist one used by the GGGI, which is called the Basic Index of Gender Inequality (BIGI).

The BIGI is based on three components, namely (1) educational opportunities in childhood; (2) healthy life expectancy; and (3) overall life satisfaction. These three components share the fact that they are independent from life choices. For example, education is only examined in childhood, while tertiary education is excluded; the reason is that education in childhood is not a choice, while the decision to get into tertiary (university) education may be. So the fact that far more women than men go to university in developed countries is not giving women an advantage, as you cannot know whether this is because men are disadvantaged or that men on average simply do not like to go to university.

Education and life span are also components of the GGGI, but two notes should be made for the GGGI: (1) education is capped at 1.00, meaning that the fact that women are highly advantaged over men in developed countries in this respect is counted as ‘equality’; and (2) life expectancy is counted as equal when women live 6% longer than men, i.e., in a country where women only live 3% longer than men, the GGGI calls them ‘disadvantaged.’ The most remarkable thing, however, is that the third component, life satisfaction, is not even taken into account for the GGGI, while Stoet and Geary rightfully argue that “while it is very difficult to determine the degree to which men and women are disadvantaged in any particular aspect of life, an overall assessment of life satisfaction likely reflects the combination of advantages and disadvantages they have experienced, whatever they might be.”

Stoet and Geary use the BIGI to rate gender inequality in 134 countries. They also calculate the AADP, which basically is the variance in calculating the BIGI, to account for the fact that a country may have a BIGI close to zero (reflecting parity) while there are still high disadvantages for each of the genders, but in different areas. The “best” situation for a country is having both the BIGI and the AADP close to zero, meaning that men and women are treated in exactly the same way.

Stoet and Geary reach the unsurprising (to me, at least) conclusion that in underdeveloped countries women are usually disadvantaged over men, which is mainly the result of restricted education, while in developed countries women tend to be advantaged over men, which is mainly the result of a higher healthy life expectancy. It should be noted, however, that even though men tend to be disadvantaged compared to women in more developed countries, the higher the level of development in a country is, the closer it tends to be to complete gender equality.

Naturally, you can have a critical discussion about the components in the BIGI. However, the BIGI is a scale without an agenda: it tries to measure gender inequality in an objective way, rather than explicitly sell a biased message, as the GGGI does. One can only hope that research such as this makes governments in developed countries realize that the notion that women as a group are disadvantaged is not grounded in reality, and that letting radical feminists set their agenda is not a good idea.


108 years to total domination

December 19, 2018

The World Economic Forum just published their Global Gender Gap Report 2018. It is an extensive report which investigates gender differences in 149 countries in the areas of health, education, economy, and politics. Some of the key findings of the report are: “Globally, the average (population-weighted) distance completed to parity is at 68.0%, which is a marginal improvement over last year. In other words, to date there is still a 32.0% average gender gap that remains to be closed” (page vii) and “Projecting current trends into the future, the overall global gender gap will close in 108 years across the 106 countries covered since the first edition of the report” (page viii).

There is a lot that you can say about this report, and it certainly makes clear that there are many countries in the world where significant improvements in female empowerment must be made. It does sound rather disappointing, though, that according to the report there is no country in the world where the gender gap is closed. The best performing country on the list is Iceland, which has closed 85% of the gender gap, which leaves 15% still to close according to the report. So anybody who thinks that the genders are pretty much equal in countries such as Iceland or The Netherlands (27th on the list) should think again.

This is where most of the headlines will stop. However, you should really read the report a bit more in detail, to find out what is meant by the “gender gap” and how it is measured. To the report’s credit, it is explicit about these facts to those who are willing to read further. The report uses three underlying concepts, which are explained on pages 3 and 4: (1) gaps versus levels, (2) outcomes versus inputs, and (3) gender equality versus women’s empowerment. What do these concepts entail?

Gaps versus levels means that the report examines the differences between men and women per country. So a country in which men and women are both oppressed is considered to have a smaller gender gap than a country in which men and women are both completely free but men use their freedom a bit more actively to increase their prosperity than women do. This entails that a country being high on the list does not necessarily mean that you would want to live there as a woman. For instance, Namibia is number 10 on the list — with its life expectancy of 66 for women, versus 83 in The Netherlands, do you really think that Dutch women would want to exchange their comfy lives for the harsh reality of a third-world country?

Outcomes versus inputs means that the report ignores equality of opportunity but looks at equality of outcome instead. This means that a country which offers women all the freedoms and opportunities that men have (or even a few more, as is the case in most countries in Western Europe), but where women on average choose to be less economically active than men (again, which is the case in most countries in Western Europe) is considered to have a gender gap. While certainly there is a gap in absolute terms, the only way to close it would be to take away people’s freedoms (either by forcing them by law to do things that they do not want to do, or to culturally brainwash them to do things that they do not want to do). This is a price that few people would be willing to pay to achieve such an abstract concept as a “closed gender gap.”

Gender equality versus women’s empowerment is the most egregious concept. The report says: “[the report] ranks countries according to their proximity to gender equality rather than to women’s empowerment” (page 4). That sounds reasonable, until you read what it entails a few lines further: “it neither rewards nor penalizes cases in which women are outperforming men in particular indicators in some countries” (page 4). If you need a further translation: this concept means that if in an area men do better than women, it is considered unequal, while if women do better than men, it is considered equal. This is why Iceland, where female enrollment in universities and colleges is double the male enrollment, scores 1.000 in tertiary education. In my view, this should be considered a gender gap to the detriment of men which really needs some attention, as it clearly indicates that men have a big problem as far as their education is concerned. But the report does not care about that: women doing twice as well as men is considered “equality.” The report has a clear feminist agenda to sell, and it has no qualms about it.

Even if you look at the dry numbers (where you can see that there are many areas where men do a lot worse than women), there is little of value in the report, because not only does it ignore many relevant factors (such as conscription, crime & punishment, legal & social protection, etcetera), it also refuses to look at underlying reasons (concept #2). I think that if it had examined underlying reasons, it would have discovered that it is highly unlikely that the gender gap, in the way it is defined, will ever be closed, since to close it the world needs total domination of women over men in each and every category in each and every country in the world. Apart from some rabid feminists, I hardly think that what needs to be done to achieve that is something that most people find desirable.

Additional: Together with the report the World Economic Forum also published an article called “The 10 best countries to be a woman.” Number 5: Nicaragua. Number 6: Rwanda. Number 8: Philippines. Number 10: Namibia. While these countries may have a small gender gap according to the standards of the World Economic Forum, I dare to express doubts that they are among the “best countries to be a woman.” The fact that the World Economic Forum sees no problems in publishing an article under a headline like this one, clearly demonstrates how limited their thinking process is. Translating their vision on a gender gap to standards of living is ostensibly bone-headed.


Levels of sexism

December 15, 2018

Research has shown that on the highest level of secondary school in The Netherlands (VWO), large groups of children left primary school with a recommendation for a lower level of secondary school. This holds for 21% of the girls, and 14% of the boys. The reason for this difference is not known, but the cries of “it is sexism against girls, who are systematically underestimated by their primary school teachers” are already sounding.

I would just like to point out that these numbers could equally well be pointing at sexist attitudes towards boys. The advice of primary school teachers (predominantly women, by the way) is supposed to be leading in distributing children over secondary schools. This advice is far more often ignored for girls, providing them access to a higher level of school, than it is for boys. This sounds a lot like girls getting the benefit of the doubt far more often than boys get it. It just depends on which perspective you take: the primary school perspective which is holding girls back, or the secondary school perspective which is welcoming girls in.

In the end, however, I would like to stress that in this reporting it is explicitly stated that the reasons for the difference are unknown. Therefore, cries of “sexism,” whether it is against boys or girls, are at this time unwarranted.