18 July 2006

"Does gender matter?" - Actually, Yes

This one is not about photography at all but simple politics - the poltiiccs of sex inequality. I recommend the "conversation" published in The New York Times today with Ben Barres, a Stanford Neurobiologist. Barres has rececntly taken on the "Larry Smmers Hypothesis" - namely that women are underrepresented in science relative to men because of innate differences between the sexes - in a Commentary in the journal Nature (Volume 442, #13, July 2006). You can link to his commentary from the Times interview. Barres basically argues that there is no scientific basis for the Summers Hypothesis (also spouted by others like Stephen Pinker).

One observation. Barres' essay is mis-titled. It turns out that gender (understood as social expectations regarding the sexes and their differences) does matter. It is sex that seems not to. Perhaps it is not possible to draw more than an analytical distinction between the two. But it is a distinction with a difference.

2 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Barres piece raises questions that extend way beyond merely the debate over science. He speaks of women not demanding equal recognition and of the problem of mothers and unequal treatment. A new website addresses both of his concerns. It is run by women, who among other things are highlighting and demanding equal pay. Their site specifically highlights that even as the gender differential in pay decreases a little, the gap and discrimination mothers face is increasing. I am not sure that is any different in science than other fields or work. If you are interested you can read a piece about them and link to their site through Alternet - of course you may have already see this. http://www.alternet.org/workplace/36896/

19 July, 2006 14:43  
Blogger Jim Johnson said...

Thanks for the comment. I don't mean to suggest that sex discrimination in the workplace is worse in science than elsewhere. I posted this mostly because I work in a University and a Department which has, I think, if not subscrcibed to the Summers Hypothesis, at least overlooked the systematic ways in which women are disadvantaged in hiring and promotion decisions. (We operate here as though markets "clear" in normatively acceptible ways independent of our knowledge that markets work well only under extremely restrictive conditions.) Moreover, my collegues flatter themselves that our department is "scientific" in some vaguely honorific sense and so our admissions criteria place an extremely high premium on mathematical competence.

19 July, 2006 16:04  

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