Sexism = Prejudice + ?????
This was originally part of another post generally demolishing someone who was complaining about masculists. However, this particular part deserved its own post as well. This is basically quoted verbatim from the other post, with some minor change of framing.
Sexism = Prejudice +
Out of curiosity, do the moderators of the blog still agree with all aspects of this post? There’s a lot I disagree with, but a few points do stand out.
Perspectives do change over time (and our moderators are not a monolith either) but we do largely stand behind this post.
I find it particularly troubling that institutional power doesn’t exist to you. How do you frame oppressive systems at all if institutional power doesn’t exist? Even Marx didn’t go that far, and he was very, well, Marxist with his views on oppression and social justice. Heck, even Ayn Rand doesn’t go that far, and she was, you know. Randian.
Here’s the first problem, and it’s kind of a big one: you’ve misinterpreted our (my, in this case) comment about institutional power. The comment doesn’t refer to the general concept of institutional power, but rather to the specific construction as used in the “power + prejudice” formulation. I actually later clarified in this post here.
The issue is not really whether “institutional power” exists or not (it does), but whether it exists in the form required to justify the formulation. In other words, the argument is that a) actual instances of institutional power do not fit the construction used in the “power + prejudice” formulation, and b) there’s no justification for placing the boundary of “sexism” at the point of institutionalization so the definition is being used to purposely manipulate the terms of debate.
But never mind about comparing you with people who go far.
Asides from the odd insistence on using dictionaries for social justice rhetoric (I would not use the dictionary definition of slavery for any college-level history course, I would definitely expound on systems of power, political hierarchies, economic motivations, etc), the idea of institutional racism/sexism is a well-established idea in the literature, and not dishonestly or subversively, for all that some people might overextrapolate (cakes cakey).
There’s a difference between treating such definitions (rightly) as the purview of a relatively specific and limited branch of academia and treating them (wrongly) as a well-validated, widespread and self-evident definition applicable to daily affairs. It’s the difference between saying that “some physicists use a theoretical framework in which the point-like particles of particle physics are replaced by one-dimensional objects called strings" and "everyone knows the universe is really made up of little tiny vibrating strings.” It’s not just a limited concept which is debated within the scientific community, it’s also inapplicable to the actual situations being dealt with. Yes, some academics use the “power + prejudice” definition, but it doesn’t have widespread validation throughout the field of social science and the people using it are mostly from a very particular (and, if you’ll pardon my saying so, often rather noxious) ideological niche.
Racism and sexism are also quite distinct phenomena. They’re not interchangeable because their origins, functions and structures are extremely different. This means that applying concepts developed for one to the other is inherently risky business, because the assumptions underlying the concepts and models may not hold in the new environment. We’d argue that the “power + prejudice” definition is a particularly good example: while we wouldn’t necessarily validate it as applied to racism, the application of it to sexism is itself overextrapolation between dissimilar phenomena.
You’re absolutely right that appealing to the dictionary isn’t usually much good. However, the post was originally repurposed from a response to someone, and reflects in part the tone of the original debate. Some context: the issue was being “discussed” with someone who pretty much explicitly labeled the formulation as the “only” definition of sexism. In response, we just pointed to several other definitions, in this case in various dictionaries. While lack of dictionary inclusion doesn’t prove that a word or definition isn’t valid, it can certainly prove that a particular definition is in common use. Regardless, we spent the rest of the post unpacking the definition and the reasons behind it; it’s not an argument we had any intention of standing on but rather a framing device for the rest of what we had to say.
I certainly agree that the “large black guy” within your thought experiment was acting out of racial prejudice. He is racist. But when we talk about it being impossible to be racist against white people, or when we talk about how it is impossible to be sexist against men, the failure is definitely not in the view of oppressive systems as acting along an institutionalized gradient.
We’d disagree. It’s absolutely true that institutions can create, enforce and/or reinforce oppression. However, it doesn’t follow that such systems target only one side of an oppression binary (in this case men/women, with trans* getting the short end of all sticks), or that such targeting is predicated on which group predominates in the institution.
In other words, we can certainly consider sexism (or racism) enforced by institutions to be distinct from many other (equally distinct) kinds of sexism and racism. What we can’t do is then infer that sexism will only target one group, or that the group targeted would predominantly be women simply because men dominate most social institutions. As the explanation post pretty clearly shows, such an assumption just doesn’t hold.
Mass media and public policy do a lot to drive white supremacy and male supremacy, which has trickle-down effects to the disparities of wages between races, between genders, as well as other parameters such as safety, STEM education, CEO representation, et cetera.
Yes and no. For example, research has shown that little (if any) of the gender wage gap can be traced to workplace discrimination. For that matter, one major study found that there was no evidence that women in management were promoted more slowly than men. In other words, a man and woman entering the workplace on an equal footing are distinguished primarily by their choices.
With that in mind, you’re falling into a trap: single-variable evaluation. You end up evaluating “success” based only on wage and position status, while ignoring things like family involvement, stress levels, and working hours. You actually almost touch on it by pointing out safety, but you then don’t seem to address the fact that it obeys the exact opposite distribution as the others as to gender. While there’s definitely a trickle-down effect, when we look at the whole picture (and all the variables involved) it’s much less a matter of male supremacy and much more a matter of differing pressures: men are pressured to earn as much as possible at whatever cost to themselves, while women are pressured to put their family life before their working life.
Neither of these pressures are terribly good, but can you see how it’s possible to frame them in two very different ways? Focus on position and salary, and we can argue that it’s male supremacist because it allows men to climb the ladder while pressuring women to step off. Focus on health, stress and lifespan and we can argue that it’s female supremacist, because it treats men as disposable while sheltering women. While the true picture is definitely a mixture, we fall somewhat towards the latter interpretation because women largely share in the male benefits yet the converse isn’t generally true.
You haven’t posted anything like this recently. Mostly you’ve focused on the fact that in fact there is an institutional power acting against men as well, which I think is an odd direction to go if you still agree with this post (admittedly a year old).
It’s actually significantly older than that. The post you’re seeing was reposted from the original PoN, where it was one of the earlier basics posts. While our views have certainly changed some since this was originally posted, most of your qualms about it are based on misinterpreting our views (then and now) on institutional power and its effects.
In short, we’ve never disputed that men experience institutional discrimination, only the idea that we can reasonably infer the answers to questions of institutional discrimination and benefit from class membership and institutional composition in the case of gender.
I notice I am confused. Mostly I guess I’ll be more careful, and I’ll just ask questions and post clarifications.
Frankly, you’re confused because you need to work on your reading comprehension. Some of these are justifiable, but others really left us shaking our heads. Unfortunately, a lot of them are just the same few misunderstandings being repeated in a variety of ways; as a result, our responses get shorter throughout.
1. Feminists apparently all use “institutionally” wrong. I don’t know whether to call you unlucky or me lucky, but I’ve yet to meet a feminist who gave me a definition significantly different from the one you presented. Also, I know you and just-smith point out the Apex Fallacy, and it’s a pretty big fallacy, but I’ve yet to meet an MRA OR feminist who commits that fallacy.
This really touches on a few different issues, so we’ll try to address them in turn.
The belief (held by many feminists) that the “institutional power + prejudice” definition proves that sexism against men is impossible requires some fundamental misunderstandings about how institutions and institutional power function. Remember that definitions often carry a number of implied beliefs that aren’t directly stated, in this case about the ways institutional power manifests.
Any feminist who argues that men are better off based on the number of male CEOs, politicians or world leaders commits the apex fallacy. Any feminist who argues that men have had it better because kings, tribal chiefs and religious leaders have historically been mostly men commits the apex fallacy. Do you have any idea how much feminist theory rests on those ideas?
2. I’ve never heard institutional to be conflated with legal before, so how do you justify that? You talk as if most people think of it in terms of legality, and a few unimportant outliers treat it as encompassing quite a bit more than that.
Well, we’d start with how the legal system is inherently the preeminent social institution in terms of its ability to regulate people’s behavior. The government maintains a monopoly on the use of legal force, and within national borders the justice system represents the primary manifestation of that force.
Regardless, you’ve gotten yourself hung up on an example and missed the actual message. Our point is that there is a fundamental and important difference between power being exercised by a member of an institution contrary to its doctrines, and power that is exercised in accord with its doctrines (explicit or implicit). In the former, even when the individual is using tools and power granted to them by the institution, they’re acting on their own and face censure if discovered. In the latter, they act with the full weight of the institution behind them.
In other words, the existence of institutional power in an action or situation is entirely contingent on whether the institution itself, not just the actor, supports that action.
Let’s try another example, this time using university admissions. Adam is a university admissions officer. When comparing applications, he applies a lower standard to black, female, and Muslim applicants than to white, male, and Christian applicants. University policy is that applicants should be evaluated independently of demographic factors like race, gender and religious identification. Ben is also a university admissions officer. When comparing applications, he also applies a lower standard to black, female, and Muslim applicants than to white, male, and Christian applicants. However, unlike where Adam works, Ben’s university has a policy stating that black, female and Muslim applicants are to be given special consideration in admissions
Notice the difference? Maybe not. They seem pretty close, because both cases lead to very similar results. The difference is in what happens when someone notices and speaks up. See, when that happens to Adam his university investigates, he gets fired, and his employment prospects turn to shit. When the same thing happens to Ben, his boss says “nice job, keep up the good work!” In other words, when someone exercises their institutional position on their own behalf, a victim can appeal to the institution itself for restitution and recompense. When someone exercises their institutional position on behalf of the institution itself, there is no avenue for recompense. In real life, of course, someone can in certain cases appeal to a predominant institution like the government. This is why we focused somewhat on cases of legality, because in those cases there is quite literally no higher body to appeal to.
3. Did you just call liberal ideology noxious?
No. Most PoN admins, myself included, would consider themselves somewhere between liberal and centrist, plus or minus a touch of libertarianism with regards to certain axes of personal freedom. The ideology we had in mind was more the combination of postmodernism, feminism, and dogmatic anti-intellectualism that tends to appear in such circles.
4. I absolutely agree with your point on racism and sexism. Though I wish you’d say your views on racism and sexism here, as opposed to summarizing your not-views. Perhaps having some positivity towards what you view to be CORRECT about movements might alleviate the very well-established idea that you are anti-SJ (something I myself am suspicious about). It would also be enlightening, considering that a quick perusal of your page gives about 50 things you disagree with and one that you maybe, by implication, might agree with. There’s something very different between “This is wrong (so you can infer that is better)” and saying “That is right, and helpful, and here is how it is helpful (so you can infer this is worse)”.
Personally, we find that our position can be pretty clearly inferred from the arguments we demolish, excepting times where we specifically hedge to avoid an argument or to close a line of inquiry. (For example, in our prior post, we specifically avoided commenting on the issue of race to avoid potential derailment.) Part of why we do things the way we do, though, is that our fundamental focus is on rationality and logic. Simply telling someone “X is the way it is!” and bludgeoning them over the head with the clue bat, fact stick, and logic paddle isn’t really going to help because, at best, we’re handing them a fish. Instead, we opt for a somewhat more Socratic method: point out where people have gone wrong, so that eventually they not only find their way to a correct answer but also understand how they got there, and develop tools to do the same on their own in the future. Give an SJW a fact, they’ll be more accurate for a day, force that SJW to develop some basic reasoning tools and they’ll be a more productive contributor to discussions for the rest of their life.
In case this doesn’t make sufficient sense, once more to analogy! Let’s say we have a kid. The kid needs something for a school project, but oh noes! It’s on the top shelf and they can’t reach. Kid whines. At this point we have two options: cave and grab it for them, or not. If we get it for them, what happens the next time? Well, they’ll whine again, we’ll get it again, and no progress has been made. Repeat ad infinitum. So we don’t. Instead, we say “whining won’t get you anywhere.” Kid keeps whining. We could go get the kid a ladder, put it in front of them, and say “use the ladder to get it”. That would work, right? Well, not quite. Kid doesn’t know where the ladder is, so the next time they’ll be right back to whining, except now it’ll be “get me the ladder” instead of “get me the thing on the top shelf”. Again, no progress. So instead, we try to lead them a bit. We say “well, what do you think you could use to get up there?” Kid thinks for a moment, and says “ummm….a ladder?” We nod. ”So where do you think a ladder would be?” Kid thinks. ”Ummm…not sure.” ”Well, where do we keep all the tools?” ”In the garage!” ”Would a ladder be with the rest of the tools?” ”Yeah, probably.”
Kid gets the ladder, climbs, gets what they need, puts the ladder back. The next time, they don’t even mention it. More importantly, because they were led through that though process, the next time they need a hammer they don’t come whining “I need a hammer!”, they think “where would a hammer be? Oh, with the rest of the tools in the garage.” It goes further though, because that same chain of reasoning extends all over the place; the spoon they need is in the kitchen with the other eating utensils, their mittens are in with the other winter stuff, and so on, and so on. The kid hasn’t just gotten what they need for their project, or even learned how to solve a very specific problem, they’ve learned and exercised an entire thought process that can be applied to a wide variety of situations.
Sure, that’s all a very idealized explanation, and one framed in terms of child development (though in all fairness, considering the level of cognition demonstrated by many people we deal with that may not be so far off), but it’s nonetheless very important in understanding why we do things the way we do.
5. Wrt definitions, I’m again interested in what your own definition for sexism might be, and how it might be more useful than all those examples in the argument.
Our general working definition of misogyny/misandry is something like this. ”The hatred, distrust, fear, contempt, dislike, or disregard of wo/men, usually manifested as discrimination, denigration, dehumanization, or a callous disregard for their health, safety and well-being.” Our working definition of sexism is similar.
6. I don’t think the institutional definition by necessity targets one group, so I don’t think this is a fault you can even imply to be attributed to it?
Remember, that definition is pretty much the lynchpin underneath the arguments of the “there’s no such thing as sexism against men” crowd. It’s hard to argue that the definition wasn’t intended to target one group when the whole debate would be moot if it didn’t. What point is there to the definition, if not to argue that sexism against men can be ignored or recharacterized?
7. So firstly I wasn’t really thinking of measuring success? But if I were, what is the trap again? Talking about parameters, even individually, would be useful for determining success, right? I mean, wages don’t make a person successful, but across-the-board lower wages WOULD make a demographic less likely to be successful. The “choice” argument btw is invalid unless you can then go into all of those choices and prove that they aren’t also motivated by institutional sexism. It does make the issue more complicated than classic presentation, but doesn’t disprove anything. Safety is even MORE important, arguably, because dying is pretty damn unsuccessful, even if you are only considering that parameter. PLEASE STATE SOMEWHERE THAT YOU AGREE WITH DYING BEING UNSUCCESSFUL. If you have a way to talk clearly about parameters and how they intersect by using statistics, do share, but talking about variables one at a time is fairly standard when you start a conversation, and is hardly me “falling into a trap”.
There are a whole bunch of problems with this. You, like most, chose parameters that lead to a result not representative of actual outcomes. You immediately targeted factors where men largely succeed and argued that this demonstrated male supremacy, while mostly ignoring and avoiding factors that would contradict such an analysis. You also grouped white supremacy and male supremacy together, when they’re entirely dissimilar phenomena in terms of impact, origin and method of action: comparing the effects of race and gender leads to a hash of similarities and disparities, not a similar pattern echoed across demographics.
Across-the-board lower wages (which, as we noted before, is not the case with regards to gender) might suggest lower levels of “success” for a demographic, but that ceases to be the case if, say, they happen to be comorbid with vastly lower levels of injury and death. While we can certainly talk about the effects of individual parameters separately before combining them, that’s not what you did; you argued “male supremacy” based on a cherrypicked set of parameters that themselves didn’t bear out such a conclusion. You have to be able to see how what you wrote looked, regardless of what you claim you intended.
As for death, you’re right that it’s pretty damn unsuccessful. That’s our whole point! Men’s greater success in some parameters is counterbalanced by lower success in others, making a claim of male supremacy somewhere between questionable and outright ridiculous. If you’d followed up on this it wouldn’t have been a problem, but you didn’t.
Also, the choice argument is most certainly not invalid, so long as people who make the nonpreferred choice are not directly penalized for it. Because women who make the same workplace choices as men seem to end up identically situated, we know that regardless of the actual choices women make those choices are relatively free within the working sphere itself. In comparison, men who make similar choices to women are often severely penalized (presuming the choice is offered at all) and end up substantially worse-off than women; as a result, a choice argument cannot as effectively be sustained for them.
8. And of course I didn’t point out who the advantaged group was in every single parameter. I assumed you knew (and you do). Furthermore, you are so used to critiquing everything that it did not even occur to you that I might already know the gender distribution for “work safety”. Did YOU perhaps fall into a trap?
Not necessarily. We made inferences from your language (“male supremacy”) which rather clearly implied a value judgment on the resulting outcomes. While some of the variables you cited supported that language, the issue of safety did not; we just pointed out the contradiction. It’s like saying “female supremacy has a trickle-down effect on things like bride kidnapping and virginity-based honor killings.”
8. Really? No male supremacy? Golly! I think you fell into a trap.
The entire point here is that you framed things in terms of “male supremacy” when the variables you mention don’t actually support that. That’s not a “trap,” it’s either poor phrasing or you being ignorant.
9. The two ways you framed are both based on institutional advantages, or in other words you are talking about institutional sexism in both cases. Yes, framing yay but you’re off topic and trying to convince me of stuff I already believe. Dat trap.
Once again, our point was not that institutional sexism does not exist, but rather that it doesn’t work the way it would have to for the feminist-derived institutional power + prejudice analysis (and its resulting conclusions) to hold. This is about the sixth time you’ve misinterpreted our initial point, despite our repeated attempts to explain it.
10. “[We dispute] the idea that we can reasonably infer the answers to questions of institutional discrimination and benefit from class membership and institutional composition in the case of gender”
Wut? I may be parsing the clauses wrong because of the two “ands” and the one “of”. Clarification?
Clearly. Once again, there seem to be some issues when it comes to reading comprehension. We dispute the idea that we can reasonably infer the answers to questions of institutional discrimination and benefit from class membership and institutional composition in the case of gender. In other words, we don’t think we can reasonably infer the answers to questions of a) institutional discrimination and b) [institutional] benefit from [variables/predictors] a) class membership and b) institutional composition when dealing with cases of gender.
Seriously, it’s not that complicated.