Feminist Discussion Post 2: The Wage Gap, Intersectionality, and the White Privilege of Liberal Feminism

liberal fem - Version 2

(This post is the second in a discussion between Lauren Southern and I about feminism. The discussion emerged after Lauren posted a video about why she is not a feminist, to which I wrote an open letter to Lauren in response. Lauren and I then agreed to take part in the call-and-response style discussion, in which we post questions/prompts for one another to reply to. Lauren is posting her replies as videos on youtube, while mine are hosted here on this blog. Follow the links below for a complete history of the discussion, particularly #3, which describes in greater detail the format for this conversation and some of my thoughts about it.

Conversation history

  1. Lauren’s original video “Why I’m not a Feminist”
  2. My response “A reply to Lauren Southern’s “Why I’m not a Feminist””
  3. Announcement about the virtual discussion
  4. My first prompt for Lauren “Feminism, the devaluation of the feminine, and men”
  5. Lauren’s first post to me “Feminism Discussion Part 1”)

Hi Lauren,

Thanks for your response to my first post. (I’m embedding the video of your first reply below so others can view it in the context of this discussion). Sorry it has taken me a few days to reply.

So, before I move to addressing your prompt for me regarding the wage gap, I want to follow up on some of the points you raised in your video reply to my prompt. I think some of the points I was trying to communicate in my prompt for you were either insufficiently explained by me or misunderstood by you, and I just want to be sure we are on the same page about what I’m actually asserting with regard to feminism before we move forward. I’ll just bullet out the key points. For those that want to skip ahead to the discussion of the wage gap, intersectionality, and white privilege in liberal feminism, I’ve delineated where I start talking about that.

RESPONSE PART 1: Clarification of last post

  • Are all of women’s issues taken care of? Early in your most recent video, you say that past feminist waves have already addressed all the issues in women’s lives. Frankly, this is really troubling if you in fact believe it. I’m not sure you do believe it though, since later in your reply you refer to women’s problems when you suggest women could address their issues by acting more masculine (I’ll address that a little later), and at the end of the video you refer abstractly to “the real problems both genders have.” I’m going to give you the benefit of the doubt, therefore, and assume that you do believe women still face unique inequalities and problems in their lives (particularly, if you think about women’s experiences intersectionally and transnationally). However, if I’m wrong and you do believe that all issues facing women have been addressed (and thus you presumably believe that men are the only ones facing gendered issues), perhaps we can discuss that in the next round.
  • Did I say all men need to be more feminine? You seem to have taken from my last post that my goal is to make men more feminine. This is not what I argued. What I was saying is that the devaluation of things that are deemed feminine (e.g. emotions) hurts being treated like a manboth men and women. Even in your original video, you argue that men are hurt when they are ridiculed for not being “manly enough”, and the examples you cited for things that put men in harms way are deeply linked to gendered norms of acceptable masculinity. Rigid expectations about gendered behavior foreclose options, and in some cases they help produce male injury and death (for example, in relation to male suicide, where expressing and seeking help for emotional distress is often seen as shameful and feminine). Thus, the goal is not to say that men need to be more feminine, but rather to say that men (and women) should be not have to embody rigidly defined norms of masculinity in order to be deemed intelligent, worthy, productive, strong, or so on. It should be socially acceptable (even healthy) for men and women to embody a whole range of behaviors and characteristics. For men, this includes those deemed feminine, like being nurturing or expressing emotion. You say, “Feminism’s goal is not to fight for equal rights between men and women, but instead to make men more feminine.” Feminism is about equal rights between men and women. It is also about the equal valuation of femininities and masculinities (there are certainly multiple forms of both), and the freedom for both men and women to embody these in ways that they feel comfortable with.
  • Is gender natural? This is a place where we clearly disagree. You argue that it is an “obvious fact” that men are naturally/biologically more aggressive, competitive, visual-spatial, sexual and driven. This is by no means an “obvious fact”, however, nor is it “lazy” or “pseudo intellectual” (as you say) to discuss the ways that gender is learned. That’s actually a pretty dismissive and insulting treatment of an incredibly large body of work by generations scholars and researchers. There has been a lot of work (by feminists and non-feminists alike) that debunk the assertion that gender is essential and determined by biology. Yes, we have material bodies, but they do not determine who we are, how we behave, or how we identify ourselves. Thus, the meaning we make of bodies and how we are taught (and decide) to use our bodies is deeply social. Just look take a stroll down the children’s toy aisle, and you will witness the early reproduction of gender norms. Boy’s toys encourage action, creative building, strength, and aggression, while girls toys teach beauty, the importance of male attention and protection, and how to perform domestic responsibilities like childcare, cooking, cleaning, and decorating. These lessons extend well beyond the toy aisle though, and we learn, interpret, and perform our gender in relation to norms taught in our homes, schools, media, and everyday interactions. Moreover, your argument that men are naturally aggressive, competitive, and sexual (in contrast to women) actually helps to produce the very narratives that you yourself are trying to challenge–for example, the problematic narrative that men are natural aggressors (not victims). These narratives have also helped to make certain violences like rape seem natural, as people assert that “boys will be boys” and “they just can’t help themselves, it’s in their nature.” Finally, your assertion of the biological essentialism of these gendered behaviors undermines your own argument that women could achieve success by just acting more masculine. When you say women can learn to be more masculine, you too are acknowledging that much of these supposedly natural behaviors are social, learned, and thus alterable.
  • Proof that feminists speak on men’s issues? You say that I provide no proof that feminists speak for men’s issues. This is a bit confusing, since my last two posts have been filled with citations of feminists speaking on men’s issues.
  • Do the top issues for feminist in 2015 pertain only to women? This is something you claim in your video, and you offer two sources (1 and 2) to support your claim. While I don’t think that feminist issues can be reduced to these lists given the breadth and diversity of the field, the fact is, when you examine these links there are actually plenty of issues that speak to men. In the first article, you see Janet Monk calling for coalitions with other racial justice and LGBT movements, which include men of color, and gay, bisexual, and transgender men.  Lux Alptram similarly calls for the inclusion of gender non-conforming people and people of color, which will include men. Ai-jen calls for a livable wage and quality care for working families, which again would include men. Elizabeth Nyamayaro calls for solidarity between men and women, creating “a shared vision of gender equality that benefits all of humanity.” Jessica Pierce, Charlene Carruthers, Patrisse Cullors, Opal Tometi, and Mikki Kendall all call for a focus on police violence against black people–a movement that has gained particular momentum recently in response to state violence against black men (although women do face much police violence too). Tometi’s call also includes detention and deportation issues, which affect men. Lindy West and Alexandra Brodsky call to protect victims of assault, and both are gender neutral in their call. And, Mia McKenzie points to issues of queer and trans people of color–again she does not limit this to women (and the website she curates regularly includes articles by men and about men’s experiences). The second article you cite also includes family leave and paternal leave policies that pertain to men, although I have to say I see a lot of this second article as indicative of some of the problems with liberal feminism that I will describe in the discussion about the wage gap. Stay tuned for that though.
  • Are most feminists really misandrists who want men to die? Do I represent the fringe? According to you most feminists are misandrists who want men to die, and in contrast, my (non-man-hating) approach to men is representative of the fringe of feminism. I’m really do not understand where you’re getting this from. I have been studying feminist theory and been engaged in discussions with feminist scholars and activists for years, and I have never once met or read a single feminist who said they wanted men to die. Not one. I also haven’t heard feminist “rage” about women wanting to walk around naked either, yet you claim these are the “most active and vocal” feminists. In contrast, you say that the feminism I subscribe to “is not widely practiced” and is a “fringe version”. What do you base this on? I could literally cite hundreds and hundreds of feminists both inside and outside of the academy that describe feminism in relatively similar ways as I have, but I cannot cite a single feminist who wants men to die or who is deeply invested in women being able to walk around naked.
  • I’m sorry you’ve been jeered and ridiculed in replies to your video. Trust me, I’ve gotten the same, as I’m sure you know if you’ve read comments on my blog (or even those comments directed to me on your video). I’m not complaining too much. What I’ve gotten is nothing compared to other feminist bloggers, who receive a daily barrage of people saying they should die, that they deserve to be raped, or other cruel and violent things. People on the internet can be truly awful to one another. Now, that being said, one of your complaints was that feminists said your original video was anti-feminist and anti-equality. I have to say, I do think the characterization of your video as anti-feminist is arguably pretty fair. You have been vocal in your distaste for and dismissal of feminism. On the matter of equality, I do actually believe that you desire and believe in equality, but I have deep reservations and concerns about the anti-equality outcomes that emerge through some of your positions. My guess is that you would probably say the same about me on the topic of equality. By now, it seems clear we have different ideas about what equality looks like and how it is made, which is perhaps something we could talk about.



RESPONSE PART 2: Reply to your question about the wage gap


Alright, now onto your question. Again, it’s easiest for me to organize my reply as a list, so here goes.

1. You say the wage gap is a “feminist myth”.

It is not only feminists who document and analyze the wage gap, and it cannot be simplified to an issue invented by feminists. In fact, a review of just some of the most recent literature on the matter reveals an overwhelming consensus on the existence of a gendered wage gap (AAUW 2015; Aizer 2010; Alon and Haberfeld 2007; Bastos et al 2009; Briggs 2011; Broyles and Fenner 2010; Budig and England 2001; Campbell and Pearlman 2013; Carrillo Hemmeter 2008; Cech 2013; Cho 2007; Christofides et al 2013; Daczo 2012; Daly et al 2006; Day 2012; Diaz and Sanchez 2013; Douglas and Steinberger 2015; Dozier 2010; Elmelech and Lu 2004; Fisher and Houseworth 2012; Flippen 2014; Franks 2007; Glauber 2008; Hirsch 2008; Hoyos et al 2012; Ioakimidis 2012; Kassenboehmer and Sinning 2014; Kennedy et al 2009; Kim 2013; Kunze 2005, 2008; Liu 2004; Livanos and Pouliakas; Machin and Pahani 2003; Maume and Ruppaner 2015; McDonald and Thorton 2011; McGee et al 2015; McGregory 2013; Mishel et al 2014; Misra and Murray-Close 2014; Monk-Turner and Turner 2004; Neal 2004; Nyhus and Pons 2012; Palomino and Pevrache 2010; Pastore and Verashchagina 2005; Penner 2008; Renzulli et al 2006; Sabir and Aftab 2007; Schulze 2015; Smith and Glauber 2013; Vera-Toscano et al 2004). And, I should note that only a couple of those scholars identify as feminist or even mention the word “feminism” in their work.

We definitely need to break this down and talk a bit about what all these people are saying. Before we do that, however, we clearly need to get on the same page about what the wage gap is since your definition is much more narrow than its standard definition. The American Association of University Women (AAUW) has a really user-friendly definition, and I assure you their definition is representative of the way most scholars (including those cited in the articles you offer) define it as well. According to the AAUW, “The pay gap is the difference in men’s and women’s median earnings, usually reported as either the earnings ratio between men and women or as an actual pay gap.” So, the wage gap does not refer only to gaps in wages for “the exact same job, with the same seniority and education”, as you describe. The pay gap is a term that more broadly encompasses the uneven earnings of men and women. Now, that being said, as Briggs (2011) writes, “research consistently shows individuals doing the same, or comparable work, are not getting paid the same.”

2. The role of choice in shaping the gender wage gap.

So, in thinking about our definition of the wage gap, there are multiple approaches to understanding and explaining it. Many talk about the wage gap using theories of human capital. These people examine the wage gap as a function of characteristics of the worker: unequal education, training, skills, personal choice of occupation, or personality. This is the camp you seem to fall into, since you argue, “men are paid more than women because of their choices.” It’s important to note that this human capital approach is not a denial of the existence of the wage gap however; rather they are just explaining it in a particular way.

In fact, feminist (and non-feminist) interventions into the wage gap often deal with addressing the structural ways that gender norms (not just overt gender discrimination) help produce these outcomes. For example, they discuss how gender ideologies work to route women towards particular jobs, and how occupational sorting impacts the pay gap (Penner 2008). They discuss how women’s uneven childcare responsibilities impact their choice of occupation and ability to advance their career, a pattern that has been dubbed the “motherhood penalty” (Budig and England 2001)—in contrast to evidence that men actually earn a wage premium for fatherhood (Glauber 2008). They also demonstrate how the norms of acceptable gender behavior influence confidence and negotiation stills (Nyhus and Pons 2012; Palomino and Peyrache 2010). As Misra and Murray-Close (2014) argue, the argument that the wage gap is solely a matter of choice and thus no policies are needed to address it is representative of “widespread confusion about the sources of the gender pay gap and a failure to appreciate the extent to which contextual factors, including policy supports for pay equity, condition the impacts of men’s and women’s choices on their earning.” Further, as the AAUW (2015) describes, even though women are more likely to go into disciplines like teaching that are paid less, we still should be asking questions about whether lower wages in female-dominated fields are fair. In this regard, perhaps it’s also worth considering how the gender composition of certain labor fields has also contributed the way that the labor is valued, as fields like teaching are often treated as reproductive labor akin to childrearing (going back to my previous discussion about productive/reproductive labor).

Ultimately, choice is far more complicated than you are acknowledging. One of the problems with this type of faith in a meritocracy (the idea that anyone can be successful if they make good choices and work hard) is that it can lead you to turn a blind eye to the systemic conditions that help produce certain outcomes. In this case, it is leading you to ignore how gendered social systems help produce gendered outcomes in wages, and the ways these outcomes distinctly impact people of color and other marginalized groups (as I discuss in a minute). I’m not saying these systemic conditions wholly determine futures, but dismissing them only allows us to see half of the story. Moreover, it allows us to unproblematically blame people (in this case, women) for their position, rather than critically and compassionately examining the systemic factors that might lead people down certain paths or to make certain choices.

3. When all things are equal, the gender wage gap still persists.

There is ample evidence that even when you account for occupational sorting, education, and skills the wage gap cannot be explained away. Analyzing data from the US Census, the Department of Education, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the AAUW describes how, even after “accounting for college major, occupation, economic sector, hours worked, months unemployed since graduation, GPA, type of undergraduate institution, institution selectivity, age, geographic region, and marital status”, there is still a 7 percent earning gap between men and women college graduates that is unexplained a year after graduation. Ten years after college graduation, there is a 12 percent difference in earnings. Many studies demonstrate the persistence of wage gaps even when controlling for key “human capital” variables (e.g. Briggs 2011; Chech 2013; Daly et al 2006; Kim 2013; Machin and Pahani 2003; Misra and Murray-Close 2014; Schulze 2015; Weinberger and Joy 1997).

4. Feminist theories of intersectionality are essential in understanding the wage gap.

A review of the literature on the wage gap makes it clear how important it is to distinguish which women we are talking about. Women’s experiences are not universal, and the wage gap does not operate the same way for women in every pay scale, in every discipline, or in every country or region, and it certainly does not operate the same way across race, age, class, or sexuality. As Smith and Glauber (2013) write, “Inequality between women and men has decreased over the past four decades in the US, but wage inequality among groups of women has increased.” The wage gap must be examined intersectionally. Let’s look at a few indicators of this.

tweet-menAlon and Haberfeld’s (2007) study of work history data reveals “constant racial and ethnic wage gaps among women with college education and a widening race gap among women with no college degrees.” They continue, “minorities earn less even in comparison to Whites with similar levels of education.” The existence of a racial wage gap is also well established in the literature, as the skills of people of color (even when they are equal to those of white people) are less valued. Broyles and Fenner (2010; see also Fryer et al 2013; Heywood and Parent 2012; Kennedy et al 2009; Kerr and Walsh 2014; Lyons and Pettit 2011; Mason 2011; McGregory 2013; O’Gorman 2010) review the ways that hiring has consistently found evidence of racial discrimination, with studies suggesting white preference rates ranging from 50 to 240 percent higher than for black candidates. On the whole, white people spend less time looking for jobs and less time unemployed, they tend to get more stable jobs, and are offered higher wages. As Dozier (2010) finds examining the period from 1980 to 2002, “Although the transition to an “office economy” rewarded both black and white women with wage gains, white women reaped greater benefits.” And, while women of each racial group in the US are more likely to be poor than men of their same origin, “white women are less likely to be poor than minority-status men” (Elmelech and Lu 2004). Similar inequalities are found between white and Latina women (Carrillo Hemmeter 2008; Flippen 2014; Rodriguez and Devadoss 2014).

Further, just as feminism is a transnational movement, so too is the gender wage gap also a transnational issue. Gender wage gaps are documented in Portugal (Bastos et al 2009), Korea (Cho 2007), Honduras (Hoyos et al 2012), Czech Republic (Ioakimidis 2012), Vietnam (Liu 2004), Greece (Livanos and Pouliakas 2012), South Korea (Monk-Turner and Turner 2004), Belarus (Pastore and Verashchagina 2005), Pakistan (Sabir and Aftab 2007), the UK (Schulze 2015), across the European Union (Christofides at al 2013), as well as in other comparative international studies (e.g. Daly et al 2006; Diaz and Sanchez 2013; Machin and Pahani 2003).

The gender wage gap also varies between major metropolitan areas and nonmetropolitan areas, where women suffer more of a gap (Smith and Glauber 2013; Vera-Toscano et al 2004). It varies from state to state. It unevenly impacts people who are gay or lesbian (Douglas and Steinberger 2015; Elmslie and Tebaldi 2014). It impacts non-unionized women of color more than unionized women of color (McGregory 2013). And it varies between high-income men and women and low-income men and women (Kassenboehmer and Sinning 2014; Mishel et al 2014; Shannon 1996).

Therefore, the gender wage gap cannot be understood just through gender. It must be understood and confronted intersectionally with attention to context.

5. You say the wage gap “has been disproved many times before”.

First, you’re overshooting the mark a bit here. Even the sources you yourself cite don’t say the gap has been disproved. They say that it has narrowed, or they question one specific statistic used to measure it (the often-cited 23-cent pay gap figure). As Kunze (2008) describes, “There is no undisputed method for measuring the gender wage gap,” and this leads to different interpretations about it’s size and operation (particularly when it’s examined intersectionally). The consensus (even among those you cite), however, is that it still exists.

Take the Time article by Christina Hoff Sommers that you cite as an example. She is taking issue with the one statistic. She says “the 23-cent gender pay gap is simply the difference between average earnings of all men and women working full-time. It does not account for differences in occupation, positions, education, job tenure or hours worked per week. When such relevant factors are considered, the wage gap narrows to the point of vanishing.” Alright, yes, the 23-cent statistic does not control for all those factors. As I’ve described already, however, this does not make this statistic irrelevant or unimportant, and it reflects the accepted definition of what the wage gap is. Now, her claim that it narrows to the point of vanishing is a bit suspect. First, we again need to be vigilant to the question of which women we are talking about. Feminists do not treat women as a universal block, and the gap is variously narrow or wide depending on who you are referring too. Second, when we take a look at her sources, their “decisiveness” is a bit more muddy than she claims. She refers to the decisive evidence from economists, and she cites one report by CONSAD research corporation to support her claim. Aside from the fact that one study alone isn’t decisive evidence, if you examine their report you’ll find they describe problems of insufficient data and the need for more research on the matter. Moreover, their argument isn’t not even that the wage gap doesn’t exist, it’s that they believe much more of it can be explained by the human capital model of thinking than others acknowledge. The additional two sources Sommers offers as evidence that the wage gap has been debunked are both articles that she herself wrote, which again rely largely on the same CONSAD study. She also claims that the AAUW has debunked the gender wage gap, which if you actually read any of the AAUW reports is plainly false. In fact, their extensive studies (1, 2) reveals quite the opposite.

Needless to say, your claim that the wage gap has been debunked many times before has a handful of problems: 1) it relies on a warped definition of what the pay gap actually is, 2) it takes arguments about the relative role of human capital and extends them in ways that the original researchers are not actually advocating, 3) it over-extends an explanation of the factors shaping of one statistic to claim that the wage gap doesn’t exist at all, and 4) it relies on a small sample of research and characterizes it as decisive, despite those authors own acknowledgement of the incompleteness of their data and findings.

6. You say feminists argue that women aren’t welcome in higher paying STEM fields when women are in fact favored two-to-one in them.

A couple points in reply to this.

  • The all three (1, 2, 3) of the sources you cite for this claim are in reference of the exact same study by Williams and Ceci, so this isn’t exactly overwhelming evidence. Particularly since one of the articles you offer also quotes other well-established scholars describing reasons to be suspicious of their methods and findings. This should make us at least be cautious about their finding, and necessitates that we temper claims about the decisiveness of their research.
  • As many other researchers have argued, you cannot extrapolate what happens in one field to assume this is the case in all fields. Williams and Ceci’s claim that their study on STEM indicates that “anti-female bias in academic hiring has ended” is frankly academically irresponsible. They step back on this claim a little in a follow up question when they clarify that they aren’t saying women don’t face discrimination, and they agree the paper doesn’t demonstrate that the problem is solved.
  • The calls in the article to focus on things beyond overt discrimination are actually quite in line with feminist efforts to increase women’s representation in STEM—for example, by getting girls interested in science at a younger age, challenging ideas that science is masculine, etc.
  • Williams and Ceci’s claim in their abstract that the under-representation of women is typically attributed to sexist hiring is just not true. Sexist hiring is just one among many things it is attributed to, including gendered pipelines towards certain disciplines that start at young ages, perceptions/realities of institutional cultures, etc. Feminists argue that gendered outcomes often have gendered origins, even if overt sexist discrimination is not the cause.

7. You point to one incident with Sarah Silverman to characterize all feminists as dishonest.

silvermanLook, I don’t know what was up with the Sarah Silverman situation. Maybe she was being manipulative and dishonest, maybe she didn’t remember the incident well, maybe there was a miscommunication between her and the club manager about what she would be getting paid. I don’t know. The point is, even is she was being totally dishonest, it is wholly unfair to use that as evidence that feminists at large are desperately conspiring to make up wage gaps “to keep their narrative going”. There is plenty of evidence that wage gaps persist, particularly if you look at them intersectionally. Using one person’s dishonestly to justify dismissing all claims is ridiculous.

8. You ask why feminists keep talking about this “invisible problem” “instead of dealing with some of the real problems that both genders face.”

First, I hope I’ve addressed enough by now the ways that wage gaps persist as a problem. Second, I’m glad you’re acknowledging here that there are real problems facing women too, in contrast to your earlier statement that First and Second Wave feminism had already solved everything for women. Finally, the question of “why wage gaps” and not other issues is actually totally in line with my own concern and the concern of other feminists about the focus on the issue, particularly when you consider how work on the gender wage gap has tended to unevenly benefit white women. Feminists who focus largely on the wage gap, while ignoring systemic issue of racial inequality, poverty, and imperialism, for example, need to think more critically, and this is where I want to turn to a discussion about white privilege and liberal feminism in relation to wage battles…

The white privilege of liberal feminism

It’s interesting that you took from my earlier article that I was deeply invested in the debate about the wage gap, particularly after I said in the announcement of this discussion that I would rather talk about the current situation of police violence than the wage gap. I mean, by now it should be obvious that I do believe gender wage gaps exist and matter. However, most efforts to address the wage gap have unevenly helped white women, as they have been the primary beneficiaries of increased access to higher education and higher salaries. As bell hooks writes, the reality is “that privileged white women often experience a greater sense of solidarity with men of their same class than with poor white women or women of color.” In this regard, giving some women more access to higher wages doesn’t do much to challenge the broader social and economic structures that produce so much inequality for so many people. In other words, it leaves structural racism and poverty unchallenged.

The issue of the wage gap is a good marker of the difference between liberal feminism and radical feminism. The word “liberal” here is not in reference to the common dichotomy of liberal versus conservative. Liberal feminists focus on how women can gain equality through existing structures of liberal democracy and market capitalism. Key liberal feminist goals would be to gain equal political representation (without challenging the existing political system), or equal pay (without challenging the existing economic system). While being a prominent form of feminist scholarship and activism, liberal feminism is often critiqued by feminists of color, postcolonial feminists, and socialist/Marxist feminists (among others) for its individualism and its failure to challenge existing societal structures that produce inequality (of which the law and the economy are at the forefront). Thus, feminists debate extensively about whether equality can be created through liberal feminism, and the issue of women’s equal membership in an unequal economic system is a prime example.

hooksIn her discussion of Sheryl Sandberg’s best-selling book Lean In, feminist icon bell hooks describes the issue far more eloquently than I could, so I’m going to quote her heavily here. In Lean In, Sandberg describes how women can climb the corporate ladder and gain leadership if they just have the courage to ‘lean in’ and persevere. In a sense, Sandberg is making an argument similar to the one you made, Lauren, (although she does call herself a feminist), that if women just play by the gendered rules of masculinity, they could overcome inequality. Here, hooks’ concerns about Sandburg’s message could be also be offered as a reply to your message about choice and the wage gap: “It almost seems as if Sandburg sees women’s lack of perseverance as more the problem than systemic inequality. Sandburg effectively uses her race and class power and privilege to sandberg1promote a narrow definition of feminism that obscures and undermines visionary feminist concerns.” Thus, uncritical narratives of “choice” and “meritocracy” erase the undergirding structures that shape the landscape within which one is able to “choose.” In other words, the narrative about the choice to lean in erases how these structures are distinctly raced, classed, gendered, euro-centric, and heteronormative. “To women of color young and old, along with anti-racist white women, it is more than obvious that without a call to challenge and change racism as an integral part of class mobility she is really investing in top level success for highly educated women from privileged classes.” (As another example, we saw concern about this emerge in response to Patricia Arquette’s recent Oscar acceptance speech where she called for gay people and people of color to support women’s efforts for equal pay. Here is a good elaboration of the white privilege that her statement reflected. She got some deserved flack from anti-racist feminists on this.)

arquette 2

As hooks describes, feminism does not begin and end with the notion that it’s all about gender equality within the existing social system. I’ll conclude with her words:

“Importantly, whether feminist or not, we all need to remember that visionary feminist goal which is not of a woman running the world as it is, but a woman doing [her] part to change the world so that freedom and justice, the opportunity to have optimal well-being, can be equally shared by everyone—female and male.”

The end.

My prompt for you, Lauren

I think that I’ve written enough in this essay for you to reply without me posing a new question. So, in order to keep the conversation manageable, I’ll leave it open for you to respond however you want. Feel free to follow up on things I’ve said here, or pose new topics for discussion. As you may have gathered by my slow reply, the time commitment of writing these replies had ended up being more than I anticipated. With that in mind, I propose that we keep the conversation going, but allow it to happen at its own pace. What do you say?

All the best,





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74 thoughts on “Feminist Discussion Post 2: The Wage Gap, Intersectionality, and the White Privilege of Liberal Feminism

  1. There is actually a lot of good evidence that biology plays a role in sex differences in behavior and interests. Sex-typical preferences are influenced by prenatal hormones (the mechanism by which most sexual dimorphism occurs) and these differences are observed in human neonates and non-human primates. There is also a growing body of research on the relationship between prenatal exposure to testosterone and career interests and career choices.


    1. Hi Martin, Thanks for the comment. Someone else replied to the youtube video with a similar type of concern. I would definitely like to address it, although I don’t have all the sources in front of me at this moment to do so thoroughly. My quick reply is this: too often this debate gets framed as polar opposites, “biological essentialism/determinism” vs. “everything is a social construct”. For me, the truth is messily negotiated somewhere in between the two. As I tried to say in my post, we do have material bodies and these are not irrelevant (although feminists disagree among themselves about the relative importance of bodies and biology in shaping gendered behavior). That said, the meaning that is made of our bodies is also mediated by social factors in incredibly powerful and behavior-altering ways. If you ask me (and many other feminists), talking about the nuances of how the social and material interact is undoubtedly important. However, I do think that feminists’ rejection of essentialism is crucial, and something I believe in myself. Essentialism in its many forms (racial, gendered, etc) has not been a force for equality. When I say I reject “essentialism” here, I mean that our bodies do not dictate our essence–i.e. they don’t determine who we are, how we think, how we act, etc. And yet, from the moment we are born and someone declares “it’s a boy” or “it’s a girl” we begin receiving gender lessons in how to be one or the other. Rigid assumptions about what the biological says about who we are and how we behavior are incredibly restrictive, and harmful. I’m happy to elaborate on this more at another time, and to offer a bit more nuance to the range of ways feminists talk about this. Perhaps Lauren will offer this as a follow up point. Thanks for joining the conversation.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I agree that Lauren’s statements on the topic of the biology of sex differences in psychology is uninformed, but I also think that your response is misleading.

        From what I understood, the point that she was trying to make was that there are sex differences in the distributions of biological predispositions to certain behaviors, abilities, and desires. Stated this way your response no longer address this claim, and indeed, this is view of many prominent researchers in the field of sex difference in psychology.

        And another point, you mentioned toy preferences. Research has shown the girls exposed to higher level of prenatal testosterone (be it due to a genetic disorder or within the normal range of variability) show more male-typical toy preferences and play behaviors.

        Here’s a good literature review: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1196/annals.1286.026/abstract


  2. Thank you Martin. I was almost yelling at my phone reading this until I had seen your statement. This whole discussion is irrelevant to anything except the education of this author. Every rationally thinking human can realize, social studies are often frought with lack of controls and injected with opinions which are in reality, almost impossible to ascertain. We have enough problems coming to consensus on objective, replicated observable laws, such as quantum mechanics.

    The clear acknowledgement of ignorance on the biological processes at work here fundamentally, are an affront to the discovery process. Any objective observations must be considered before the injection of subjective approximations. The author clearly displays a failure to acknowledge the scientific method. Your, “studies” are more akin to surveys. Please don’t try to prove definitive points on surveys. An apology for your clear lack of understanding how human biology effects complex social issues will not save your flaccid argument. Perhaps spending more time here instead of arguing over the Internet, will allow you to approach the issue with less bias in future.

    Lauren’s video was a justified opinion based on observations of how she sees reality, not unlike your own. Although her video was not an expert opinion based on a lifetime of research; it was supported by enough evidence to back her claims. She clearly won this debate as soon as she said egalitarianism is preferable over feminism. It would be common sense to understand that equality for all humans is much more productive, than the isolationism of fighting for one side only. No matter how you twist your words, which are quite impressive actually, the substance being brought forth, will only convince those who already advocate primarily for the priviledges of those with vaginas. Trying to convince me that the menial benefits gained which are attributed to feminism somehow translated into equality for both sexes, exposes a logical breakdown in understanding of a few definitions in the English language.

    I apologize in advance for any misspelling, or grammatical errors. I rebuked the bulk of your argument in 10 minutes on a Google phone.


    1. The most impressive thing in your post was that you dismiss Jenna for “failing to acknowledge the scientific method” (what does that even mean – how do you “acknoweldge” scientific method? Also, you read all the studies Jenna cites? Some? Which method do they use? “More akin to” is not a method btw.), while you praise Lauren, who not only doesnt have a remotely scientific referencing (not even of the “more akin to” kind), but has probably never heard of the scientific method to begin with. I find it laughable that you yourself dont see the paradox in how you try to dimsiss (unsucesfully, because some people can still think) well documented claims, and accept claims WITHOUT any evidence (like you said, this is Laurens “real life observations”, of the ‘when i went to supermarket, this happened, and no woman in my supermarket on friday morning was oppressed’ sort). Jesus man the only thing that confuses me is how you dont see your own inability to discriminate between evidence and no-evidence.


      1. I’m not Sean but my reaction was similar, so i’ll answer too:

        You wrote this:
        “Also, you read all the studies Jenna cites? Some?”

        I pretty much randomly chose some of them, and found them rather disappointing. I started with this one:
        Briggs, A.L. (2011)

        That one does not take into account the exact job choice at all, only the time since graduation, so it is totally irrelevant to address Lauren’s point that the wage gap is due to different job choices.

        Frankly, that was a really bad start. Jenna cited a source that does absolutely nothing to support her claim. At this point i was wondering if her the number of references that she throws around might just be a Gish Gallop – drowning the reader in references that he or she just can’t find the time to verify, and thus doesn’t bother.

        So i went on to check another source that was mentioned several times:
        AAUW (2015)

        That source itself mentions several reasons why women may be paid less than men – which are NOT discrimination.

        Furthermore, this source too does not sufficiently distinguish between the exact jobs. It distinguishes between majors, but it makes a great difference if e.g. a doctor is a pediatrician or a radiologist. The article misses this distinction. If more men than women become radiologists and more women than men pediatricians, then that induces a pay gap that the article would falsely consider “unexplained”.
        It also makes a lot of other aggregations which pretty much always leave out important distinctions in a way so that one cannot rule out personal choices as causes. If you wish, then we can discuss it in detail.

        So that second reference too fails to properly support Jenna’s point upon closer inspection. At that point i got tired of it, a bit angry too, and didn’t bother to check out any more references.

        If women were systematically underpaid, why aren’t there tons of lawsuits filing for equal pay under the Equal Pay Act of 1963? There have been some, but they seem to be rather rare.

        And of course, there is still the question of economic incentives. Why would any company hire men if men are overpaid at the job? Surely at least some bosses (that includes female bosses) are convinced that women work as good as men but simply also are greedy and would happily exploit the wage gap by only hiring women. Why does that not happen?


      2. I dont know why i cant reply directly to a comment made by ‘Jens Wurm’, so ill have to do it like this and hope you Jens receive a notification.
        As you can probably see yourself, so im not sure how is it that you didnt, Jenna doesnt use Briggs article to address Lauren’s statement on job choices, she quoted the article saying that comparable work is not payed the same. Im however not sure how this “does absolutely nothing to support her claim” – it precisely supports the claim that there is a gender based disparity in wages for same/comparable work. So, im unceratn what you re tryint to claim here.
        Vis a vis the article that might not account for differences in a profession (radiologis/pediatrition), the point is to use comparable professions :

        1. is pediatric work less demanding than radiologist’s ? and
        2. it seems obvious that more men in one niche job can over time drive the salary up, regardless of the demands of work, and thus establish this kind of work as better payed without any objective criterium for higher pay than another equaliy demanding job, preferred by women. This is obvious from class division, that some jobs are clearlyoverpayed in relation to the demads of the job, comared to other.
        That would result in men having a better pay to begin with, however if a woman would apply for the same job, she might get lower pay (as Noway was recently sued and lost in court for paying a female embassy worker significantly lower than her male colleague http://www.nrk.no/urix/norge-domt-for-kjonnsdiskriminering-1.12127364 ).

        I dont know how many and how often the equal pay lawsuits are filed, and since you didnt provide any evidence for this, i cannot comment your claim.

        The reason why companies are not massively hiring women as cheap labor, if that is even the case, could be many. Women might not have the competence certain comanies need; companies can have general bias in hiring based on gender prejudice, which can overrule the desire to pay lower salaries; men can have a belief that they have to/need to negotiate salaries more persistantly (which Jenna addressed as well, as the prejudice regarding gender roles – the prejudice Lauren happily embraces and accepts to be the weaker sex, clearly not all women do that ) and so on and so forth. That is a question for qualitative research that i can not give a definite answer to, but these are some of the possible explanations that probably work in synergy.

        Also, it is interesting again, that you dont seem to apply similar, as in ANY scrutiny to Laurens statements as she has literaly no references to backup her claims.

        I will also remind you that Equal Right Amendment is waiting to be ratified since 1979.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. I just had that Norwegian article translated by google translate. It appears that at first i misunderstood you. I had previously thought that she was denied recourse, but that turned out not to be the case.

        But doesn’t the fact that this incident was newsworthy indicate that this is not a common occurrence?
        There was this one case, and it got rectified. The system works (in Norway), so there doesn’t seem to be a problem there.


      4. Hi Marija,

        apparently there is a limit to the nesting depth of replies, so i cannot reply to you directly either but can only reply to the post that i originally replied to 😉 But i did get the notification.

        Let’s take a look:

        “As you can probably see yourself, so im not sure how is it that you didnt, Jenna doesnt use Briggs article to address Lauren’s statement on job choices, she quoted the article saying that comparable work is not payed the same. ”

        -> “Comparable work” is the key part here. How can we be sure if it’s comparable work if the job choice is not considered?
        Basically that dissertation compares the salary requests ordered by work experience, but not in any way the field of work. Or would you say that electrical engineering and early childhood education are comparable work? If you say that that dissertation is about comparable work, then you basically say that these two things are comparable and should be paid the same.

        “1. is pediatric work less demanding than radiologist’s ?”

        -> I don’t know. But radiologists of either gender, get paid obscenely much more than pediatricians of either gender. It may have something to do with pediatrics being a more fun, more rewarding job than scouring x-ray images for tiny white specs that indicate cancer all day long. Thus more people want to become pediatricians and that drives the wages down through simple supply and demand.

        “2. it seems obvious that more men in one niche job can over time drive the salary up, regardless of the demands of work, and thus establish this kind of work as better payed without any objective criterium for higher pay than another equaliy demanding job, preferred by women. ”

        -> How would that work? And that is that “objective criterion”? Keep in mind, we live in capitalism, not in a state planned economy. Wages, just like consumer good prices, are driven by supply and demand of workers and vacant positions. If there is a shortage of workers offering services in a certain field, then they can ask for higher pay and thus working in that field will become more attractive, and then it attracts more people of either gender to take those vacant job offers. An “objective criterion” would only matter in a system in which wages for certain occupation are set by some kind of government.

        “That would result in men having a better pay to begin with, however if a woman would apply for the same job, she might get lower pay”

        -> Why would she accept that and not negotiate for the same salary that men get, as her work is worth the same? Keep in mind it takes two to sign a work contract. If people sell themselves short due to being too shy to negotiate, then they have themselves to blame.

        “as Noway was recently sued and lost in court for paying a female embassy worker significantly lower than her male colleague”
        -> Despite of my Scandinavian name i don’t speak Norwegian – does that article give a reason? I definitely want to visit Norway some day though, lots of great heavy metal bands come from there 🙂

        “I dont know how many and how often the equal pay lawsuits are filed, and since you didnt provide any evidence for this, i cannot comment your claim.”

        -> I can’t prove a negative, that no lawsuits are filed, can i? It would however be easy to prove me wrong, that lots of such lawsuits are being filed.

        “The reason why companies are not massively hiring women as cheap labor, if that is even the case, could be many. Women might not have the competence certain comanies need;”

        -> Indeed that is possible – why should a woman who is hired nonetheless receive the same pay as a male specialist who does have that qualification then?

        “companies can have general bias in hiring based on gender prejudice, which can overrule the desire to pay lower salaries; ”

        -> Quite possible, but it seems unlikely to me. After all most HR departments who do the hiring are predominantly staffed with women (80% in my company). Do these women discriminate against their own gender? Also keep in mind that professional HR departments take quite some countermeasures against favoritism when it comes to evaluating the work of employees, and that implicitly takes care of gender discrimination as well.

        “men can have a belief that they have to/need to negotiate salaries more persistantly (which Jenna addressed as well, as the prejudice regarding gender roles – the prejudice Lauren happily embraces and accepts to be the weaker sex, clearly not all women do that )”

        -> i’m not quite sure what the proposed solution is supposed to be though. Should women not have to negotiate as hard as men do? That would be special treatment, not equality!

        “Also, it is interesting again, that you dont seem to apply similar, as in ANY scrutiny to Laurens statements as she has literaly no references to backup her claims.”

        -> Fair enough, it would be useful if she’d provide a list of references in the description of her video responses.
        I do frequently check such claims though. If you wish to specifically discuss a certain claim, then please just mention it and i’ll try to find the specific literature about it.

        “I will also remind you that Equal Right Amendment is waiting to be ratified since 1979.”

        -> Indeed, it sadly hasn’t. Do you know that regarding that issue feminists have lots of allies in the MRA camp? MRAs would *love* the ERA to be ratified, as it addresses many MRA issues:

        1. Currently only men are subject to the draft
        2. Alimony laws that favor women would have to be abolished.
        3. Child custody laws favor women (the “tender years doctrine” that feminists have lobbied for) would have to be abolished.
        4. The Duluth model of domestic violence response would have to be abolished. That one is particularly extreme – it automatically assumes the man to be the aggressor in a DV dispute and will lead to him being arrested even if he called the police for help himself and he has all the injuries. Meanwhile even its creators aren’t keen of it anymore, but it’s still the most widely used process model used by the police in the USA.
        5. Domestic violence shelters would have to admit men. Currently men usually are rejected simply because of their gender.
        6. Circumcision of male children would have to be banned.

        That’s just a few points from my head.

        It was mostly opposition from conservative women, led by Phyllis Schlafly, that stopped the ERA. Back then the Vietnam war draft was still a recent event, and women being drafted into combat roles seemed a very realistic scenario back then.


      5. Reply to Jens Wurm:

        1. Ok, first of all i agree that comparable work needs some kind of clarification, or a definition. But your assertion that the study doesnt do anything to support Jennas claim is clearly nonsensical. Like i said, it does claim that comparable work is not payed same, and that is Jennas claim. Definign comparable work is a separate issue. At the same time, yes. electric engineering and early child education (Jesus, could you have picked a more gendered cliche professions) are comparable – in the number of uni years, hours of work per week, work load, responsibilities and so on. If you think they are not, then: 1: how so?, or 2: consider a biologist working as assistant at uni compared to el. engineering in a company. Are these comparable?

        2. Radiologist are exposed to high occupational hazard (due to high exposure to radiation), which could be the reason why they are payed more. Your explanation works too. But then the jobs are not quite comparable, for the reasons i mentioned (health hazard), and not because one is boring and the other is fun, which is entirely subjective.

        3. Im not entirely sure how the wage thing works. You live in America? I live in Norway. Here the unions have a lot of influence on how wages are decided, and set wage categories for positions, which cover a range of pay an employee falls into, depending on level of education, yrs of work experience and so on. Unions use some kind of objective criterium, in so far as to classify certain jobs as belonging to same wage category. It is still possible to negotiate the salary somewhat.
        Also, you re talking obviously about wages in private sector, im talking about the public sector where the shortage and demand cannot change how much the employees will be payed. So we have a different starting point when looking at what determines wage.

        4. Why would a woman accept a lower wage? For a lot of reason. It doesnt have to be decisive that one is a woman, but it seems to be more difficult for women to demand higher wage than offered, or they i principle dont want to make fuss, be called greedy, bitch and so on. I dont know. There are a number of aspects of our social realities that affect whether a man or a woman will choose any given line of behavior. It seems that social aspects are signaling stronger women to not make fuss, to obey, to accept what they get and so on, than to men. This is also personal experience.

        5. The article didnt give any reason for the wage difference, Norway had to pay shit loads of money in compensation for sexism, as these 2 ppl were doing a comparable work, it was evaluated by american court of justice.

        6. No one expected you to “prove a negative”. If you claim that there is hardly any/low number equal pay lawsuits, then you have this information from somewhere. And a low no of lawsuits for sexism is low only in comparison to lawsuits on some other grounds, or expectations, so i was asking about the source of this information. There is certainly not a ‘negative’ number of equal pay lawsuits, so you should still be able to provide an exact number, from the same source you learned from that it is a low number.

        7. Ok, this Q is nonsensical. No one is saying that a person,, even if its a woman, with lower qualitifications should be payed same as another person, even if its a man, with higher ones. We are still talking about same qualifications/same type of work situation.

        8. I dont see why it would be impossible that women in HR discriminate against their own gender. Women, like any other people, have gender bias. For ex. it is possible that since they themselves have a job as a HR personnel because they cant/dont know how/dont have skills/dont have ambitions to get a job as an executive, they see other women as not deserving a higher position, or as equally incapable of doing a job with higher requirements, . Envy. Competition. What have you. Also, HR is usually not hiring, they are present at job interviews but usually with other people, like dpt representative, and some kind of a boss. So HR women are not making any hiring decision alone.

        9. I dont know if its necessary to think of the solution regarding salary negotiations , because i dont think negotiating is the actual problem. I think salaries should be decided based on a number of parameters that are gender independent. Also, the assumption that all things are equal and women just dont negotiate aggressively as men do is false. There are other elements that always come into play, when it comes to gender (reproductive and domestic responsibilities for example, which can not or will not be equal for all men and women, unless we, vis a vis domestic work change the distribution of domestic work. Other examples include prejudice when it comes to skills women have to do work- how they make decisions, how much logical reasoning they use, how emotional they are, how irrational they are and a number of other, well established cliches that is applied to women across the board, and often times, not inferior to aggression or lack of scruples which are cliches applied to men, generally ).

        10. .I dont think you need to find any literature regarding laurens claims. Its lauren herself that has to do that, unless she wants to continue to look like a somebodys puppet, and an unschooled ahistorical jester.
        My objection was that you didnt seem to address one single nonsense she said, and were instead scrutinizing only jennas claims, even though laurens claims that sound laughable to anyone familiar with the history of feminism.

        11. I think that feminism and MRA are not mutually exclusive, on the contrary. We both work for reducing gender prejudice and expanding the idea of gender, rather than accepting treatment of either gender based on stereotypes, and polarized expectations. We both want recognition that we have individual differences as well as we are all just human, and thus demand equal treatment, which corresponds to ones needs: 1. a number of countries doesnt have a conscription anymore. if they do, i do think it should include women as well. 2. i dont know how it is in america, i thought the one who gets custody and makes less is a subject for alimony. i might be wrong. 3. Is it THE LAW that favors women, or its embedded gender prejudice that decides? If its the law, pls send me the paragraph. If its prejudice, ill remind you that the part of the feminists agenda is indeed to change the perception of women as a priori nurturing and caring, and a priori more capable of raising a child (of any age whatsoever, i.e. beyond breastfeeding phase), which denigrates other qualities, how ever exaggerated or prejudiced they are, which are associated with masculinity, but are not necessarily inferior when it comes to parenting. Finally, i believe that many men would rather NOT win custody just like they prefer to keep their social and political power, and not exchange them with more time at home, family life, including traditionally female obligations of house chores.

        The ERA has however a number of problems, one is that men and women DO NOT have equal needs (ill bring the reproduction again) and as i understand some of the opposition was due to the lack of recognition that ‘equal rights’ might imply ‘equal needs’, which is an obvious and dangerous fallacy.

        You on twitter? If yes, my account is @MarijaHolm I get regularly hassled by MRAs but its usually just good fun.


      6. Hi Marija,

        i’m sorry for taking so long to reply – i procrastinated a bit 😉

        I’m also getting technical errors while posting, so it may happen that my reply ends up getting posted multiple times as i try over and over again.

        1) Isn’t it Jenna’s claim that women are paid less becaues they are women, i.e. because of discrimination? In order to support that claim a study must control for all variables other than gender. The study that she cited does not – it merely supports the entirely uncontroversial fact that different jobs get different pay despite of a few aspects which they have in common (years at uni, working experience). That’s just stating the obvious and does not support a gender discrimination claim because it leaves the possibilities of many other explanations.

        1.1) I chose those stereotypical examples intentionally 😉 They may be comparable in terms of number of years at uni and so on, but in the end that does not determine the wage. The wage is set by supply and demand of workers out there in the economy. Having to spend many years at the uni may deter some from pursueing a certain field, and thus deduce the supply of workers, and then make companies compete harder for those few that exist by offering higher salaries. But other than that one doesn’t automatically get a higher salary just because one spent much time at the uni.

        1.2) No, i would not expect these two to earn the same wage either. Unis and companies have entirely different financial capabilities, and it’s still different fields and possibly different levels of qualifications, and also and most importantly again a different supply/demand situation. The uni has access to lots of biology graduates who will happily work for the uni even at needlessly low pay because that means that they won’t have to leave their comfort zone by starting out at a new workplace, or even having to move to a different city. A company trying to hire an electrical engineer faces an entirely different situation and must make up for that by offering a high salary.

        In order to determine wage discrimination only the same job at the same seniority and even within the same company can be used. Even the same job in different companies can have substantially different pay. E.g. i work in IT, and software developers in the finance, pharmaceutics or aerospace industries earn significantly better than e.g. in the travel or retail industries. The difference in salaries for the same job in different companies already can be greater than the claimed gender wage gap, so comparing different jobs in different fields is definitely totally useless to find out if a gender wage gap exists.
        If you’re interested I can forward you some job offers that i got from headhunters so you can see how much the offered salaries differ. They differ by as much as 50% in gross salary, if i recall correctly.

        One must compare the same job at the same working hours and the same seniority in the same company with the gender being the only variable. I can’t help but wonder why those statistics that are supposed to show a gender wage gap never do this thorough comparison, but pretty much always use aggregate figures that lead to them comparing apples and oranges.

        2) True, what’s fun is subjective. But some things are fun to more people than others are. Some people may genuinely enjoy working e.g. on oil rigs, because of the bonding with the other workers and such. Others just do it because they are attracted by the excellent pay that is offered to attract workers despite of the harsh working conditions.

        3) Those unions in the end still have to negotiate those base salaries with the companies though, and then there is supply and demand of workers again as companies are free to hire non-union workers.
        Unions actually are a good point – because within a union there is no gender discrimination for wages, as women automatically earn as much as men in the same category. A union does not negotiate different salaries for its male and female members after all, does it?

        4) Indeed it can be harder for women to obtain a higher wage through negotiation. There have been studies showing that women who try to do so are easily seen as overly aggressive and such. Some work needs to be done here. However, for this problem the root cause is that women are not as eager to ask for a raise, so those few who do look “unusual” to their superiors and for that reason get noticed negatively. I think the right way to fix this is to stop them from being the exception to the rule, by encouraging women in general to be more eager to ask for raises. If this becomes a thing that is just as normal to do for women as it is for men, then the stigma involved with it will disappear.

        5) Thanks for the information!

        6) Unfortunately statistics on such matters seem not to be available. I got my information mostly by asking feminists for examples of women who sued for higher wages, as i would expect examples thereof to be well known in feminist circles. Those examples that they provide are very scarce though, which leads me to conclude that such cases are rare.

        8) Of course it’s possible for women to discriminate against other women. But here one needs to control for many variables and alternative explanations as well, such as the lack of ambition that you mentioned. Just saying, “we don’t know what else may cause this, therefore sexism” is a “sexism of the gaps” argument, much like the famous “God of the gaps” fallacy that argues, “we don’t know how exactly life started, therefore God did it”.
        Striving for a high powered career (CEO, law firm partner etc.) is a very special choice that comes with a lot of sacrifices in other areas. I think it’s perfectly normal that a higher percentage of men aims for such careers than the percentage of women, because men in average are more competition minded for biological reasons.
        Also, when women hold other women back because of envy, then i don’t think that that is a gender politics issue any more than two men in a pub having a brawl is. That does not mean that these issues don’t exist though, of course.

        9) In the end the most decisive factor that determines the salary is supply and demand of workers, the balance between the offers of companies who compete for workers and the demands of workers who compete for jobs.
        Stereotypes of course do exist (some may even be correct more often than not!), but i don’t think that these play a big role after the initial “getting to know each other”. The natural differences in character between people are far greater than the stereotypical differences. i’m an introverted guy, and the difference between me and an extroverted guy is far greater than the difference between me and an introverted woman.

        Domestic and reproductive tasks are important of course. Regarding the domestic part, i think that is free to be negotiated between equal adults. Let me tell you a bit about my personal life: My girlfriend does more household work than i do. But that’s because i openly refuse to accept certain things as legitimate household work that must be done, such as making the bed. I think that’s a total waste of time, work done for a purely cosmetic result (even detrimental to the humidity of the mattress, it makes it a better place for mites to live in!) that is appreciated for a shorter time per day than it takes to prepare. I think that if only one partner values the bed to be made, then that’s his or her personal “hobby” and thus that partner’s responsibility. Only chores that really *must* be done should be shared equally and counted as genuine chores. Now, before i sound like a total jerk, let me assure you that i make the bed more often than my girlfriend does – but i do it only because i know that it will put a smile on her face. If she ever complains, “you didn’t make the bed!” (that happens once every two weeks or so), then i don’t accept that as valid criticism because me making the bed is purely a courtesy that she has gotten used to, not something that she is entitled to as a part of my household chores. There are other things, such as the placement of the pillows on the couch, but that is something that i leave to her entirely. She (not me, only she!) wants them that way, so it’s up to her to place them that way. That’s why in total my girlfriend does more household work than i do – because she does a number of extras that only she wants to be done in first instance.

        Reproduction is a more difficult thing, divided into questions about about the pregnancy and parental leave after birth. Men and women should have similar options to parental leave after the child is born. Of course, taking such leave will have an impact on the career. That applies to both genders. If mothers happen to choose more often to take the leave than the fathers do (which i would expect, as they have a closer bond to the child due to the pregnancy), then that is a perfectly fine choice – i see no need to encourage equal numbers of fathers and mothers to take parental leave. Of course this will have an impact on the future careers or women more often than that of fathers. But again, as long as this was the free and informed decision of the couple of parents, then that is fine. One trades career prospects for quality time with one’s baby.

        The pregnancy itself is the more difficult question. Overall i think that the status quo is satisfying. A pregnancy is both a burden and a privilege. It’s a burden because of its impact on the career, and health risks. It’s a privilege because it’s a unique experience, great for bonding with the child, and also because it means that women can start a family on their own with as little help as a sperm donation if they want to, whereas single men are out of luck (they usually can’t even adopt a child). That seems balanced to me, but this is a purely subjective opinion and certainly debateable.

        10) Could you point out an example of a nonsensical claims? My own history with feminism taught me a healthy dose of scepticism towards feminism. E.g. the infamous “one in four” number, which was a pure forgery and yet remains being propagated. Therefore i’m not so sure if the claims truly are laughable if one doesn’t take anything that the feminist literature says for granted. So please just pick a point and let’s discuss its veracity. It would be great if you would mention a timestamp in the video so i can check it out directly.

        11) True, there is a lot of common ground, but also fundamental disagreement about the root causes of certain aspects, and whether these aspects truly constitute a problem. Modern feminism seems to have become “equal outcome” feminism, which strives to make men and women score equally on a lot of socioeconomic metrics. Discrepancies at these metrics are commonly attributed to “patriarchy” and considered a problem. MRAs on the other hand usually support “equal opportunity”, which also was the objective for first and much of second wave feminism.
        For equal opportunity proponents a non-equal outcome in socioeconomic metrics is not necessarily a problem as it may be due to personal preferences that can be different for men and women and not automatically be considered the result of discrimination or gender stereotypes that must be abolished.

        11.1) We agree there, albeit i think it should not be limited to military service. E.g. in Germany, where i live, there used to be a choice between 10 months of military service and 12 months of charitable civil service (e.g. working at a retirement home) for young men. Both has been abolished a few years ago, but in places where a draft exists i think there generally should be such an alternative civil service option to choose from, for both genders.

        11.2) The problem with alimony/child support is this: It’s institutionalized hypergamy (the tendency of women to “marry upwards”). Imagine a marriage between a rich person and a relatively poor person. It’s a childless marriage, both keep working in their job or perhaps the poor person stops working because he or she cannot provide a share of common income that is worth the effort, compared to the greater income of the other partner. Importantly, he or she does NOT stop working in order to care for children but simply as a personal luxury. If the marriage fails, why should that partner be entitled to maintain that elevated standard of living? Currently the laws are written in such a way that even in such a case where the poor partner could simply go back to where he or she was before the standard of living will be maintained at the level as it was during the marriage (even if the rich partner falls in hard times and would not have been able to provide that level within the marriage anymore either). That used to make sense because a divorced woman found it hard to marry again, she was basically considered a “damaged good” due to no longer being a virgin. But those times are long since past.

        It’s similar with child support. In the US the support payment is not based on what is necessary to provide for the child, but as a share of the income of the non-custodial parent. Getting pregnant from a one-night-stand with a e.g. professional athlete can earn a woman $10,000 and more in monthly child support. This is far more than is needed to provide for the child.
        Of course, such extreme cases are the exception, not the rule, but the point is that the way how the child support sum is calculated is not based on the actual need of the custodial parents to be able to provide the necessary basics for the child, but as in a way that is legally enshrined hypergamy. That means that it is quite a traditionalist concept and should be considered patriarchal by feminist standards.

        11.3) It is a legal doctrine – that’s not a written down law, but a guideline about how laws should be interpreted. Formally it’s in the process of being replaced with “best interest of the child”, but traditionally that one is interpreted in pretty much the same way.

        11.4 Childraising) While i do believe that men and women are equally capable of raising a child, i find it plausible that more women than men are biologically and not just socially wired to seek a caregiving role. After all taking care of the young is commonly done by females in primates as well, so it is a behavioural preference that quite certainly is written into our genes and not just a pure social construct (the same applies to men with taking a provider role). But of course there should be equal opportunities – it should be socially acceptable for any couple to find an arrangement that does not match the traditional caregiver/provider roles.

        12 about ERA) The biggest problem of the ERA is the Hayden Rider section which is included in many drafts of it which kind of defeats much of its purpose:
        “The provisions of this article shall not be construed to impair any rights, benefits, or exemptions now or hereafter conferred by law upon persons of the female sex.”
        Commendably, it was the National Woman’s Party that asked the ERA to be withdrawn in 1958 when it was proposed with the Hayden Rider section, because they wanted equality without exceptions – not even exceptions to their benefit. My hat’s off to them, true idealists.

        I don’t have a twitter account. Thanks for sharing yours though!

        I’ll expand on the enumeration a bit:

        13 Lauren on men being more feminine)
        I agree that she did not address the post in its entirety, but i too understood it to say that due to breaking down gender binaries men would benefit by being allowed (not supposed to be) to show more behavioural patterns that are commonly considered feminine.
        Methinks it’s this sentence that particularly caught her attention: “Don’t you agree that a project that challenges the devaluation of femininity would also help to address many of the harms men face?”

        She however questioned the premise that the lack thereof is the cause of men’s problems, and suggested that men would rather prefer their masculine attributes to not be considered toxic but often to be acknowledged as healthy (many stereotypical male traits actually are positive, but these get ignored completely). So yeah, it appears to me that she picked a particular sub-aspect of Jenna’s post and focused on that a bit too much, but i find your harsh critique of that to overshoot the target.
        Overall it’s difficult to combine a written with a spoken debate of course.

        At this point however i think there definitely is much room for improvement within the feminist community. Men who do show emotions are frequently ridiculed – by self-proclaimed feminists. Terms like “hurt manfeelz” spring to my mind. A good share of third wave feminism is just as toxic and hateful as the extremist part of the MRA movements. Let me put it harshly: Both movements need to take out the trash and publicly distance themselves from the crazies.

        14 Expanding gender binaries)
        Some of the binaries that Jenna says that feminism wants to break up kind of confuse me. What would be intermediates between these – and why is that even a gender equality issue? Many of it seems to be way out of the scope of the question of gender equality to me.
        – objectivity/subjectivity
        – rational/emotional
        – mind/body
        – culture/nature
        – active/passive
        – perpetrator/victim (this one is particularly interesting, please elaborate)
        – global/local

        Please explain what this has to do with gender equality.

        15 Norwegian Embassy equal wage trial)
        I’m not sure it’s spectacular. The woman who sued wasn’t working on the exact same position as the men whose wage she compared to hers. She was originally paid a lower salary because the positions weren’t considered comparable/equal, which the court disagreed with and supported her. It looks like a simple case of human error in the estimation whether these two positions are comparable or not to me, not a case of systemic oppression of women. A man doing her exact job might have been paid a lower wage than his colleagues as well. “Might have,” of course, as without knowing the exact job descriptions we can’t really know that, but i think it would be wise not to jump to premature conclusions either way for that reason.



      7. Also two more things. In the video by laueren above you can see how she actually doesnt know how to argue against a point jenna made in her article, so she substitutes the point jenna made (feminists want expanded gender concepts to entail all dimensions of being human, for both women and men), by another one (feminists want men to be feminine) , which is only making her appear lacking the aptitude and intellectual honesty for the task she so eagerly embraced (my personal opinion tho is that lauren needs attention much more than she is capable of making a sound argument, but that is a deflection.)

        And second – the event with norwegian embassy is newsworthy not because its necessarily an exception, but because it is de facto the state – the institution that is WORKING FOR GENDER EQUALITY, breaching its own law. That is not only newsworthy, its spectacular.


      8. Regarding that video:

        It makes the same mistakes as mentioned earlier. It doesn’t compare apples to apples, and that not in a meaningful way either. E.g. at the 4:30 graph it shows aggregated statistics again, and there not even the averages but *medians*. This leaves out many important variables that need to be controlled for.

        It does get a bit better at 4:47 about e.g. the salaries of registered nurses. But again we don’t know what variables are controlled for as the source of the data is not mentioned. There count be plenty, such as willingness to work night shifts, overtime, and the fact that male nurses do get certain extra tasks that make them particularly valuable to the hospital and which give them an edge in wage negotiations: Male nurses usually are assigned to deal with violent patients, and tasked with moving the morbidly obese ones (a task of increasing importance, sadly).

        Regarding library staff, this is given as a source:

        Please pay attention to the salary of technical services. There is a negative gender pay gap, women earn 6% MORE than what men earn.
        How can this be if there is a general discrimination against women and no other uncontrolled variables are in play?

        Or are there perhaps uncontrolled variables?


  3. I know that you stated multiple times that feminists fight for men’s issues. I’ll agree that to a point, its true. But the problem is that it is we, women, who are deciding what their issues and how they should be solved. We’re deciding that its patriarchy and a “toxic masculinity” and stating that we need to change things so they could be emotional. Who are we to decide these things when we don’t want men how to be female. One thing that annoys me is how the words sex, gender, and gender roles are mixed up. Sex is biological, gender is how one feels, and gender roles are societal guidelines. Masculinity and femininity are basically yin and yang, a way to describe how passive or aggressive someone.


    1. I actually dont think women are deciding what men’s issues are. There are men who are a part of feminist movement, and participate in reconceptualizing gender in terms beyond bourgeois idea what they should be. The problem is that, although men have issues, many of them are not willing to give away or share the powers that they always had, in exchange for domestic work, and more time with children. If women think this is unfulfilling, why would men accept something they dont have to do. Instead they prefer holding on to rigid gender roles, and then complaining how they are oppressed, because of mandatory military service.
      I also honestly dont know anyone who confuses gender and sex anymore.


  4. Your understanding of the biological underpinnings of behaviour is somewhat lacking. Biology does not dictate your behaviour, it influences it. Biology will give you certain inclinations and culture will help shape those inclinations. The law of large numbers apply here. Biology says nothing about the nature of a specific person but over a population. Assume that we have some trait or behaviour A that we regard as typically feminine. The fact that you are female does not mean that you _have_ to behave that way, or have that trait. But, the female population will have that trait or behave that way more often than the male population.
    An excellent introduction to the field is Robert Sapolskys course ‘Human Behavioural Biology’. It is available on youtube (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NNnIGh9g6fA&list=PL263ACFB3D9145523&spfreload=10).

    I have to add that the fact that feminists reject the biological component of behaviour is ludicrous unless it is backed up by solid research. Which it isn’t.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Sorry, You are using feminist theory to prove feminism.. it’s like taking friends to read what you say and then you all source each other and call it “peer reviewed”..

    You are also being dishonest about the pay gap, it’s not about that the gape doesn’t exist (because it does exist) but you have to prove discrimination. (think God of the Gaps Theory)..
    You think that because there is a gap that, discrimination has to be the reason for the gap (which is false).
    Using anecdotes (like feminist literature) doesn’t prove discrimination as they don’t take into the account of the variables that everyone talks about..

    Consad is one such study that takes in to account as many variables as possible and even in that study it shows it is near impossible to take into account every variable possible. But you are going to assume discrimination because if there is no explanation… “God did it”. (and the only way you can get around this is “indirect discrimination through feminist theory, which most people find to be crap).

    Even in the AAUW says that 1/3 of the pay gap is unexplained (which that same study came to the same conclusion that Consad had that when you add variables it drops to about 4 to 7% (which 1/3 of 23% is what? Oh… 7.6 ish %)..

    So when in doubt… and you cannot explain something.. just say “God did it”.. then explain it through this mythical monster of “Patriarchy”.


    1. The problem with people looking at statistical reports is that they aren’t statisticians. People think that when you control for a variable this eliminates bias but it can also do the opposite. For example CONSAD controls for position. This introduces the bias that “No woman is ever passed up for promotion for gender reasons”. Similarly looking at data across a nation doesn’t always give you an accurate picture of the problem. Things like minimum wage limit the opportunity for a wage gap. The opportunity for gender pay gap in low earners is so much smaller than the opportunity in higher earners. You end up biasing the results and making the overall rate look considerably lower than it is.

      When you look at things like the http://www.yalescientific.org/2013/02/john-vs-jennifer-a-battle-of-the-sexes/
      you see about 12-13%. So you either believe that what someone thinks they should offer someone has only a tiny effect their actual wageor that 7% is likely incorrect.


    1. … I think what you mean is that Lauren is able to take a step back and look at things a little more objectively.


  6. I find it telling that, the vast majority of comments here are calling you out on facts and questioning your logic, but if you look at Lauren’s video comment thread, it’s a very different story. Could it be that internet inhabitants are more aware of the realities of Feminism than the general public? I think the writing is on the wall for Feminism unless they drastically change their narrative and rid themselves of the nasty radicals and focus on true equality rather than solely on women’s issues.


  7. I’m going to go out on a limb here and guess that the Youtuber’s comments section is not filled with a tremendous number of peer-reviewed citations.

    Thank you Jenna for the well-written and frankly phenomenal post. I wanted to add a favorite citation of mine. For all the biological essentialists floating around, I’d like to recommend this article: http://www.wjh.harvard.edu/~lds/pdfs/spelke2005.pdf

    More than anything else, I want to be clear that for any scientist or social scientist, making a causative association between a genetic or biological fact and a social behavior is a complete and utter fallacy. Cause has a very rigorous standard of proof, and simply asserting that behavior results from a natural quality, without considering neurological, social, or cultural factors, will never demonstrate adequate cause.

    Gender essentialism is one of the worst offenders when it comes to biological essentialism. As the article above makes clear, ALL aspects of human society and culture are heavily informed by the same- society and culture, in short, not biology. Math and science? Learned behaviors to which different people can take strikingly different neurological paths, while performing identically. It’s actually extremely rare that one can isolate a biological cause for a social behavior.

    As the article points out as well, there is a wide range of research on developmental differences by sex, but no clear differences in overall performance that connect to the disadvantage we see women at in society. What differences there are show a tremendous overlap between male and female. Finally, the article mentions clear which articles are cherry-picked by individuals who would like to assert a cognitive difference between men and women- usually to make wild claims for the inferiority of women- despite the lack of evidence.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Scribbit, the link you gave seems to be broken, from what I can gather it in reference to some work of Professor Elizabeth Spelke, circa 2005, is it the debate with Pinker by any chance? If it is not and is indeed a paper I would so much appreciate possibly another heads up directional to read, have a huge passionate interest in Prof Spelke’s work, thanks so much if you see this, can help with this..


  8. Hi Jenna,
    RE: Proof that feminists speak on men’s issues
    First off, I want to stress what an amazing effort you’re making to be open, honest, and informative about the details of a deep and complex topic with a conversational partner who seems to lack your obvious academic acumen. However, that is also the exact point I wonder about, in some small way. It’s awesome that you cite all of these different sources, so that it is possible for someone with the appropriate researching skills to go through and see the original source material on which your arguments are based. But as I mentioned in the first sentence, it seems to be the case that Lauren does not possess the sort of academic acumen required for that. Have you considered the possibility that Lauren might not know how to locate an article from a citation in a reference list? I know I didn’t have that knowledge before I attended University. I suppose, arguably, anything in the reference list copy and pasted into a google search will probably turn up the article in question. But will Lauren even attempt that in the absence of the knowledge that she could get that result in that way?

    Moreover, academic acumen includes more than just being able to find the articles. It also includes having some idea of both which sources count as credible and which do not, as well as why any given source might or might not count as credible, and what sorts of standards of evidence are required in order to make generalisations. On the basis of what I have seen from Lauren, she apparently lacks academic acumen in all of these aspects. Without it, she might have some difficulty understanding why the arguments that you have been presenting carry the weight that they do, and, indeed, where your evidence comes from. This seems to be illustrated by the way that she apparently doesn’t think you’ve provided evidence at all for some of the claims you’ve made. More than this, I wonder how many of the articles you cite will be locked away in pay-walled academic journals that Lauren will not have access to (without paying) if she is not a current university student? Probably not all of them will be inaccessible, but for the ones behind pay-walls, it is not uncommon for prestigious journals to charge $25 – $35 dollars per article. If even 25% of the articles you post are behind pay-walls (and I would expect it to be higher than that), that would be prohibitively expensive and result in a significant quantity of literature being effectively inaccessible for Lauren.

    I’ve very much enjoyed reading your response to Lauren, and it is clear to me that you work hard to make sure your arguments are well put together and that you have done your research. However, although Lauren does not seem unintelligent, she does not seem to be someone who possesses much in the way of solid research skills. It might be the case that until Lauren has some understanding of the level of research, and the fine nuances, which go into your arguments, and which is required to academically substantiate the kind of claims you are both debating, you’ll have difficulty getting much traction with your arguments.

    I also think it’s quite possible that there is a substantial quantity of terms and that you are presenting which are quite opaque to someone who has no academic background. In short, you should assume an almost entirely unshared background knowledge. That means that you should probably assume that Lauren actually has substantial difficulties with understanding exactly what you are saying a lot of the time. There are certainly places in your arguments where, had I not had some academic friends involved with feminist studies, I would have been very confused about what the terms you used actually meant. Ultimately, it might well be the case that there are very few, if any, substantive disagreements between yourself and Lauren. However, in order to establish whether you actually have any disagreements, or are merely talking past one another, you would first need to make sure that each of you fully understood all of the terms and concepts that the other was using, and how each of you associates which terms with which concepts, and perhaps why the associations each of you make are the way they are. I suspect that you are probably both talking past each other a great deal, rather than actually disagreeing. In some cases, disagreement may appear to be real, however, even in those cases I would suggest that the cause of the disagreement is more likely to be an imbalance in the available evidence to each party than because you both fully understand the other’s position and evidence, and still disagree. Probably, if you can get to what Feldman calls “full disclosure” in his paper on “epistemological puzzles about disagreement”, you will find that almost all of the disagreements go away. Many of the apparent disagreements might well just be disagreements over how some term or another gets used.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Jess, Thanks for sharing your responses. I definitely get your concern about access to sources, skills to find them, and use of jargon. These are issues that impact how academics work and write more broadly, and I am not removed from them, despite my efforts to try to communicate clearly in this conversation with Lauren. There are some that I assume Lauren should be able to access easily (e.g. the books which she can find on amazon, the articles I link to directly). The articles that are behind an academic journal wall at the very least offer abstracts that sum up the findings. Honestly though, my assumption wasn’t that she would go out and research all of these sources–although I would be delighted if she and whoever else did! (I’m even willing to email articles directly to people if they can’t access them). Rather, for me, the barrage of sources is there most pressingly to just demonstrate that her claim feminists “are silent” on all these issues is wrong. There is always room to improve how we make these arguments though, and particularly how we make them to lay audiences, and I’ll readily concede that there is room for me to improve there.

      That being said, I am not sure that I agree with your suggestion that the only disagreement Lauren and I have stems from usage of terms and language. I do wish this were true! Unfortunately, I think the disagreement is much more foundational–a disagreement about the “natural” role of men and women, a disagreement about how we think about masculinity and femininity, and a real whopping big disagreement about what we both understand to be the core goals and ideologies of feminism.

      Anyway, that’s just my read of it. Thanks for joining the conversation!

      Liked by 2 people

    2. Hi Jess,

      you wrote this:
      “However, although Lauren does not seem unintelligent, she does not seem to be someone who possesses much in the way of solid research skills.”

      I’m afraid many of the resources given in the original article fall short of proving what they are supposed to prove. I took a look at some of them and many were…problematic, to say the least. Jenna left a lot of references, but based on what i’ve seen so far i’m not really impressed with their actual content.

      E.g. for the gender pay gap this is among the first sources: Briggs, A.L. (2011)
      That one does not take into account the exact job choice at all, only the time since graduation, so it is totally irrelevant to address Lauren’s point that the wage gap is due to different job choices.

      The AAUW is mentioned ,but its article itself mentions several reasons why women may be underpaid – it even explicitly recommends to improve negotiation skills.

      Click to access graduating-to-a-pay-gap-the-earnings-of-women-and-men-one-year-after-college-graduation.pdf

      Furthermore, this source too does not sufficiently distinguish between the exact jobs. It distinguishes between majors, but it makes a great difference if e.g. a doctor is a pediatrician or a radiologist. The article misses this distinction.
      It also makes a lot of other aggregations which pretty much always leave out important distinctions in a way so that one cannot rule out personal choices as causes.

      Overall it would be really easy to conclusively support a wage gap – by comparing the incomes of men and women within the *same company* in the *same position*. I can’t help but wonder why studies about this seem so suspiciously absent, it’s always aggregate studies that leave plenty of room for uncontrolled variables.

      I would love to dissect more of it, but i can’t really spare the time right now. If you reply that you’re interested, then i’ll be happy to do so. But unfortunately i too am restricted to those sources that aren’t behind the pay-wall.


  9. Jenna, just, thank you, thank you for your awesome work! I have engaged in numerous debates with people sharing Lauren’s original video on Facebook in an effort to help them critique it (and ideally remove it to stop the spread!). However, I have now resorted to simply linking your first response so that I may preserve my energy and sanity. Clearly you have an exceptionally in-depth understanding of the intricacies of the issues and the movement. I admire your ability to acknowledge and systematically debunk claims from different perspectives. I do not think you misconceive any of the information you put forth, especially around the nature vs. nurture debate, but have an informed understanding of the nuances of such things. I am a firm believer in ‘what is helpful to women, is helpful to men’. It is not about trying to create a more feminine or masculine society, but affording individuals the right to embrace aspects of each without judgement, persecution and discrimination. We seek equality but equality is impossible without equity. Groups and individuals in society who begin life 100m behind the start line need to be given a head start, in order to even have a fighting chance. Unfortunately, people perceive this as being given unfair advantage, when really its just evening the playing field. Perhaps a future prompt you could engage with is hostile vs. benevolent sexism. Women need to own their endorsement of benevolent sexism in order to realise the harm that it is doing to feminist aims. This is potentially something that Lauren will engage with as it is placing some of the responsibility onto women for perpetuating their position in society, rather than blaming the patriarchy 🙂
    Again, bravo, we salute you, kia ora, best wishes, etc… etc…

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Great work Jenna, thanks so much. I especially enjoyed some of the research and books you have linked, as an obsessive regarding these topics, the research and science so much appreciated.

    Liked by 2 people

  11. Devaluing emotions is a good thing even if they are deemed a certain way they are completely worthless, you might feel they are important but they aren’t. Emotions are what cloud our judgement and let us ignore facts, emotions are what cause you to make stupid statements like “that if women just play by the gendered rules of masculinity, they could overcome inequality” being cut throat in the business world is not a gender rule it is a business rule and it is only perceived as masculine because business used to be a male endeavour predominantly. Maybe being ruthless comes from being testosterone driven but there are no established rules that is the way it naturally occurred because being ruthless worked best. If your ideas were actually any better they would be put into practise but you would rather just whine to feel good about yourself promoting a “cause”. That wage gap is the biggest joke of them all the most qualified people make the most money period, if they are male or female is irrelevant it’s just most of the movers and shakers are predominantly male because THEY ARE THE MOST QUALIFIED. You believe in affirmative action which places lesser qualified candidates into positions just because of their skin color or gender. Oh that young white boy with a 4.0 GPA wants a job at our firm too bad we have to give it to 3.5GPA because the government says we need to hire more women. Affirmative action only helps the less qualified land jobs and it all started because someone got too emotional and didn’t want to hurt any feelings. Go into any employer in my area ask what the starting wage is, then ask what the starting wage for a woman is. First they are going to look at you funny for asking such a stupid question then they are going to give you the same number they told you the first time. Stop perpetuating all this bullshit and go flush your useless emotions down the toilet.

    Emotions are worthless, please let me know what sort of value they could ever possibly have other than to cloud logical judgement?


    1. Love is a good emotion. Love of significant other, friends, family, children. Compassion. Happiness. Eudaimonia. What good is it if you horde wealth or have a 4.0 GPA when you are a miserable grouch who loves no one and is loved by no one? Doesn’t sound like a good existence to me.


  12. I’ve read Jenna’s essays & references, and watched Lauren’s videos. It’s definitely a pertinent and interesting debate. I think both are lacking a bit on references.

    Despite Jenna’s extensive references she does not include references to many of her assertions – such as:
    “At least a third of all female homicide victims in the U.S. are killed by male intimate partners (compared to 2.5% for men)” & “Until recently men had the legal right to beat their wives. In fact, as recently as the 1980s, police would delay responding to domestic violence calls, and often wives had no legal recourse to demand protection from the state.”

    *She does mention the names of two authors but she does not cite the actual source. I’ve tried to find the sources through the links she provided but I could not find where she got those stats and claims.

    In Jenna’s second essay she has no references for her claim that men are not more aggressive due to testosterone, though she does not actual mention chromosomes or hormones, but she does cite a video by Anita Sarkeesian:

    “You argue that it is an “obvious fact” that men are naturally/biologically more aggressive, competitive, visual-spatial, sexual and driven. This is by no means an “obvious fact”, however, nor is it “lazy” or “pseudo intellectual” (as you say) to discuss the ways that gender is learned. That’s actually a pretty dismissive and insulting treatment of an incredibly large body of work by generations scholars and researchers. There has been a lot of work (by feminists and non-feminists alike) that debunk the assertion that gender is essential and determined by biology. Yes, we have material bodies, but they do not determine who we are, how we behave, or how we identify ourselves. Thus, the meaning we make of bodies and how we are taught (and decide) to use our bodies is deeply social. Just look take a stroll down the children’s toy aisle, and you will witness the early reproduction of gender norms.”

    *According to my first year Psychology text book there are specific mental attributes which correlate with each sex (Myers, David ‘Psychology 10th edition – page 423). There is also a widely acknowledged study on the subject by Dr. David Buss – The 37 Culture study – i think it’s called. Although, Dr. Alice Eagly contends that certain constancies amid the sexes are dissipating in democratic and politically egalitarian societies.

    Moreover, Jenna’s statement “Yes, we have material bodies, but they do not determine who we are, how we behave…” harkens back to the same type of reasoning apparent amid Descartes’ antiquated theology on dualism: “ergo cogito sum” – Thus I think her dismissal of the constancies resulting from human-genetics is an unrealistic, unsubstantiated, and Romanticized ontological perspective.

    Jenna is correct in pointing out Lauren’s contradictory statements about the biological determinism and the sexes: “Finally, your assertion of the biological essentialism of these gendered behaviors undermines your own argument that women could achieve success by just acting more masculine. When you say women can learn to be more masculine, you too are acknowledging that much of these supposedly natural behaviors are social, learned, and thus alterable.

    Also I think it’s worth noting that the source for Jenna’s data on violence and homicide between the sexes comes from a study done in Pittsburgh during the 1970s (Johnson: DIFFERENTIATION AMONG TYPES OF INTIMATE PARTNER VIOLENCE – p.481) – and another one that “was conducted from November 1995 to May 1996” – (Patricia Tjaden and Nancy Thoennes – Prevalence, Incidence, and Consequences of Violence Against Women: Findings From the National Violence Against Women Survey). Hopefully now, 20 years after the most recent data, the numbers are more equal – and of course hopefully the occurrences of IPV have decreased overall.

    Furthermore, Johnson (one of Jenna’s sources) acknowledges that there are discrepancies in the stats, coming from different sources: (Johnson: DIFFERENTIATION AMONG TYPES OF INTIMATE PARTNER VIOLENCE – p.480-481) & problems with reliability of the stats regarding surveying IPV: (Johnson -INTIMATE TERRORISM AND SITUATIONAL COUPLE VIOLENCE IN GENERAL SURVEYS EX – SPOUSES REQUIRED – p.5)

    I have an affinity for 1st & 2nd wave feminism. The primary reason is that the oppression of women was far more restrictive and widely accepted and institutionalized during the period of said movements than it is today – [for instance Britain force feeding suffragettes in the early 20th century, & USA banning women from practicing law until 1971] – While travelling in Sweden, Mary Wollstonecraft noted “I could not help thinking of the foolish vanity which makes many women so proud” (Letters Written During a Short Residence in Sweeden, Norway, & Denmark – p.84 – Broadview edition) – & Simone de Beauvior’s notion that “[society] is governed by males in which they [women] have a subordinate place” (The Second Sex p.102) – from Modern Criticism & Theory. ed. Lodge & Wood).

    I believe that remnants of Abrahamic based patriarchy are active in many cultures and nations via FGM, polygamy, Niqābs (and other veils). Plus the whole thing with Eve being created as an object for Adam’s pleasure and utility.

    I often wonder how much biologic composition yields the inequality amid North American culture – the whole nurture and nature thing.

    Marx would say we’re all objectified as a utility for the upper classes. That maybe be true but there is also unique objectification for each sex – imo – women are objectified as sex objects, and men are objected as emotionless. In both cases individuals’ identity and personality are undermined.

    Accordingly the 3rd wave feminism, that I’ve observed in pop-culture and on the internet, offers dubious contentions. For example, Laci Green of MTV alleges that tweaking is a form of empowerment. Plus in Anita Sarkeesian Bechdel-test video she notes that ‘Home Alone’ fails the test – when in actuality is passes the test with the first few minutes. Finally, in the aug.2014 issue of my favourite civil rights magazine ‘The New Internationalist’ Lilinaz Evans (the co-founder of Twitter Youth Feminist Army) notes “I’m not a fan of men… I hate focusing on men… Once you say patriarchy hurts men they’ll go ‘Oh, I’m so oppressed!'” – I’m not really sure what’s going on with the academic part of 3rd wave feminism (though I probably will in upcoming semesters) but the pop-culture side of it has mostly left me disappointed.


  13. Amazing work! Although I don’t think that this will inspire an educated response from Lauren because she still doesn’t seem to grasp any of the ideas you are presenting and she is throwing around claims without giving citations. It is kind of embarrassing on her end!


    1. Hi Caroline, I don’t know. I never got a reply from Lauren after my last post, so I assumed she decided to focus her energies elsewhere. For myself, I have a number of feminist related posts that I am working on getting up now, which continue the conversation in my own way…one about feminism and Sandra Bland’s death, one about feminism and transgender women, and a short one about colonial representations in Anthropologie catalogues. If you check back, there should be a couple of those up in the next days and weeks. Not sure if we’ll see a return of Lauren though!


  14. Great format and idea. It could be used on a range of issues to elevate dialogue and reach a wide audience. In relation to ‘Lean In’, my view with that book was that Sandberg sees that there are two avenues that the women and work ‘issue’ can be tackled. One is via tackling the systemic problems (feminism) the other is by empowering individual females via advice, tricks and tips, to strive for success with the idea that they can then assist with the systemic stuff when they get there (women acting in a more masculine manner). She acknowledges that her book aims to do the latter while the former is also important. I’ve loaned my copy so can’t quote the section, but it is in the intro or at least fairly early on in the text.
    On the term ‘feminism’, I’ve always had some uneasiness with it so can identify with some of Lauren’s sentiments about the term. The very word seems to say ‘pro-femaleness’ rather than ‘gender equality’. How the word is defined is the key. Would it be a silly idea to suggest that the term feminism is a little tired and that much of the campaigning, literature and debate would be more relevant today if it was under a badge that was more inclusive?


    1. There is a number of things to reply to here, but I’ll just briefly comment on the last point about the word feminism. There have been some really successful anti-feminist campaigns since the 80s to dismiss and mischaracterize feminism, and many of these ideas about feminism have unfortunately become stereotypes (angry, man-hating, etc) that many still assume about feminists. I’m not in favor of abandoning the term feminism, since it encompasses a whole set of tools and theories that I find immensely useful for understanding the world. Moreover, from an academic perspective there is a whole lineage of feminist thought and theory, and to change the term would make no sense. It’d be like saying “lets not call postmodernism that anymore!” It would make academic conversations about theory impossible. As an academic, these theories and ideas also deeply inform how I think about research and activism, so you can’t just separate a set of ideas from the way they inform practice. Just my two cents though.


  15. This is so incredibly well-written and beautifully articulated. I honestly find it mind-boggling that anyone can argue with these points, especially in the format that you have laid them out. Thank you so much for being an awesome and rational voice in this discussion.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. This reply is so passive and has a condescending tone. Probably because it’s written from the perspective that she’s right about everytbing itstead of actually questioning the points/beliefs of these arguments. She says that Lauren beleives that “all feminists are misandrists and want men to die” which you would have to be an idiot to believe that she thinks that. Let’s focus more of the actuall issues and points rather than a pissing contest to see who’s “right”


  17. Sigh. Jenna, you are a breath of fresh air. I’ve seen Lauren’s videos pop up all over the place and seen the comments and all but wanted to disappear from the internet forever (her video on white privilege being a myth, all but brought me to tears of frustration). Thank you for your work, your contribution to feminism and super importantly, intersectionality. I’m an ethnic minority and one of the hardest things to deal with is the constant denial that racism exists by people who will never experience it, and it’s often encouraging to see someone so well referenced, validate those frustrations. I didn’t bother watching Lauren’s video reply to the end – I was half expecting her to just call all feminists hairy lesbians and tune out. Anyways, great work!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Leah… Yeah, I heard she had a video denying white privilege, but I’ve been putting off watching it. Perhaps I’ll write something about that at some point though. It’s shameful that people often don’t listen to people of color about their experiences of racism, but if they need numbers and research and all that to believe, there is a sea of evidence to validate your frustrations. Stay strong!

      Liked by 1 person

  18. I’m just here in solidarity, Jenna. Please keep doing your thing! Your voice, and particularly the voices you defer to on issues of LGBTQ & race, are so important. Thankyou.

    Liked by 2 people

  19. These are beautiful. I know how long it takes to put something like this together, but it’s much appreciated. It’s important that there are thoughtful, detailed, well-researched answers to knee-jerk, easily digested comments about feminism. Bravo to you.

    Liked by 1 person

  20. What a well written response, I really appreciate your efforts Jenna. I had a cringe moment when Lauren attempted to summarise your previous article, completely missing your main arguments. I also can’t help but wonder how the gendered make up of her youtube audience influences her responses.

    Every time I encounter these types of arguments I just want to quote the entirety of “Too Soon for Post-Feminism” by Sherry Ortner (I’m sure you have read it). If only misinformed people like Lauren had access to such articles and the motivation to read them.


  21. I’d be super interested in hearing your opinion about “Gamergate”, Jenna! Maybe that could be a topic you and Lauren could touch upon! Being someone who has grown up playing video games and being immersed in “geek culture” it’d be interesting to hear a pro’s take on the subject! (if you have any interest or knowledge on the topic at all)


    1. I can’t say I’m well-versed enough in media studies to comment on Gamergate in a substantive way. It’s definitely interesting though. As a basic reply, I’d just say that the feminists involved are raising some really interesting and important discussions about gender in gaming. The hateful and outright violent response to feminists like Sarkeesian reveals just how threatening some find these discussions. The quantity, intensity, and violence of these responses (including daily onslaught of rape threats and other abuse) also reveals how necessary this conversation actually is.


      1. Yay! You’re still here! I just came across this and was afraid I’d missed the whole thing. I hope it can continue at some point, but Southern seems to be heading full speed in her previous direction, rather than incorporating any of your (intimidatingly robust) insights


      2. Sorry, i’m late to the party!
        I’m one who hates Anita’s videos (examples out of context, misinterpretations or what can only be called lies, and a professoral tone that leaves no room for discussion), she really does represent what Lauren thinks feminists are/have become, but i’m appalled by the comments she gets, and i’m even more appalled than some would dismiss it as no biggie, and certainly not harassment. It really is infuriating.
        I know nothing about feminist literature and that’s why i’d rather not call myself a feminist (i find tiring people who would say ” you’re for gender equality? then you ARE a feminist!”, i’m not going to label myself a socialist or a communist if i have never read on the subject…) but i really enjoyed reading you, specifically on the ”biology VS society” issue that made me cringe the whole time i was watching Lauren’s video; while most studies tend to find that male and female brains are different, and only rare studies will argue the opposite, i wholeheartidly agree with your statement that a person is determined by a bit of both (we do also testosterone, after all).
        Unfortunately, you get feminists like… tadaaa! Anita! who will say that if women are physically weaker than men, it’s because they’ve never been encouraged to do sport, and others that will keep using the 23% wage gap difference as a proof of discriminating hiring procedures rather than a problem of gendered education.
        On a side note and interesting fact, i was scrolling through an infography about gender equality across the world and notice that in ex USSR, the STEM repartition was 50/50 between males and females (i can’t find this infography though…), which means education defiinitely is a big part of it.


  22. “One of the problems with this type of faith in a meritocracy (the idea that anyone can be successful if they make good choices and work hard) is that it can lead you to turn a blind eye to the systemic conditions that help produce certain outcomes.” – well, she’s a Libertarian, this is their modus operandi when it comes to any social issues. Her whole approach stinks of that belligerent Randroid attitude; “there’s no such thing as society”. I feel like you’re wasting your time. Good luck though.


    1. You’re right, there are some things that Lauren probably won’t change her mind on. While changing Lauren’s mind would have been awesome, my goal from the start was to reach and communicate more broadly to those watching, sharing, or trying to respond to her videos. Given the numbers who have come after watching her videos to read the blog, and who have commented or even emailed me directly about the replies, I do feel this has been at least moderately effective.


  23. Has anyone stopped to ask men what they want? I don’t want to be more emotional. IN fact id rather women be less emotional. I prefer a logic based discussion/argument/disagreement over an emotional one. When you bring emotion into it you throw logic and common sense out the window.

    As an example, my wife is extremely emotional. She will cry at the drop of a hat. When we talk about things like how she hates her job the answer is so ridiculous simple. But because she gets emotional she cant sit down and walk through what she needs to do to get a new job. 10 years later shes still working at the same company.

    People are different. Stop trying to force behavior and just accept the differences.


    1. Hi Jeremy,

      The point is that women are not inherently, naturally more emotional than men. Men are emotional too. You have emotions. Among the many things gender does is socialize us to express emotions in different ways. So, what I described in this blog is not a demand that men express emotion in a particular way. Rather, I’m saying that men should be given the freedom to express their emotions freely. I’m also saying that the socialization of men against the free expression of emotion is linked to anti-feminine attitudes. Although women are not inherently more emotional than men, emotions are associated with femininity, and femininity is treated as weak/lesser in our society–ergo emotions are treated as weaker/lesser. To cry is to “be a pussy” or be “like a woman”. Just as these narratives hurt women, they also hurt men. There are quite a lot of physical, social, and psychological harms associated with the repression of emotions, and these are widely described in scholarly literature (e.g. in regard to male suicide rates). So, what I am saying is that a man doesn’t HAVE to cry if he doesn’t want to, but we shouldn’t socialize men that they need bottle up their tears/pain/etc simply because ‘boys don’t cry’ or it would make them appear less of a man. Part of the feminist goal of challenging gender norms is simply to open up the realm of opportunity so that we can all, regardless of gender, express our identities more freely. So, I’m not forcing anyone to express their emotions in a particular way, but these types of gendered expectations for the expression of emotions (whether you’re a man or a woman) are harmfully restrictive.

      Another side of this issue is that the devaluation of emotion means that women are often treated as irrational (and thus not listened to) even if they are making valid arguments about why something is hurting them. The story about your wife crying is a good example. She cries when she talks about her job, and you respond to this with “she’s being so emotional.” You may not realize that you’re treating her (and her grievances) as irrational, which is dismissive of what she’s actually saying. There is a long, dark history of calling women “crazy” and pathologizing women’s emotions (the history of ‘female hysteria’ is a good example). The contemporary way that men often call women ’emotional’ or ‘crazy’ is a part of this history. As a woman, I can tell you that being told I’m being overly emotional is incredibly dismissive of my grievances. In cases of harm or pain, emotions are often an incredibly rational response. So, what might happen if you approached it differently? For example, what if, instead of saying your wife is being too emotional, you started from the assumption that her tears were a logical and rational response to a situation that was bringing her pain? What doors do you think that might open for understanding and supporting her to get out of a bad situation?

      As a final note on your wife’s job, a situation that might seem ‘ridiculously simple’ to you is clearly different for her. Again, rather than assuming she is just being too emotional to understand the rational answer, starting from the position I described above might help you understand why it isn’t so simple for her. I mean, your wife isn’t stupid. Obviously, if she’s staying in a job that is toxic for her, it isn’t simple. Clearly people have different personalities as individuals, but one of the differences that might shape your wife’s reaction could be gender–and recognizing this might help you support her as her husband. I don’t know the specific situation for your wife, but women are exposed to lots of gendered ideas that might shape (even in ways she might not realize) her response to her employment situation. For example, women and women’s feelings are often devalued in ways that we internalize (“I’m not good enough to get another job.” “I’m just overreacting to this situation.”). Women are also often socialized to put their own needs last (“My family needs this money.” “I can’t leave my co-workers in the lurch.”) Women also face different repercussions for being assertive in the workplace, and different expectations to be passive, compliant, and non-confrontational. This is one of the reasons that a man standing up for himself in a workplace may be seen as rational and strong, while a woman standing up to a boss is seen as bitchy, aggressive, or simply “crazy”. The point being, perhaps some of the reason this seems simple to you and not simple to her might be tied to the way she sees and experiences things as a woman. Again, I don’t know your wife, but if you use this idea as a starting point to have a conversation with her about her job (and why she stays), you might be surprised by her answers.

      I hope this helps clarify the arguments in this articles.



      1. Jenna,

        There is nothing out there stopping me from getting emotional or crying. That battle has been fought at won. In fact I would probably be applauded publicly if I were to do it. I just see no purpose in getting emotional. I am a logical human being who would prefer to think rationally through something than bring emotion into it. Emotions absolutely make you irrational. Hence the definition: “instinctive or intuitive feeling as distinguished from reasoning or knowledge.”

        When my wife comes to me about her job I talk to her. I give her unbiased, unemotional feedback but I support her in whatever she ends up deciding. I would never diminish her feelings. Trying to say I respond with “shes being too emotional” is simply not true.

        What I find most interesting in your response is that you’ve made excuses for possible reasons why she has not gotten another job.

        “Im not good enough for another job”
        “My family needs this money”
        “I cant leave my co-workers in the lurch”

        The simple fact is, these are just not reality. She is qualified for many jobs out there. We will survive no matter what choice she makes. There is no reason for her to take on the responsibility for co-workers.

        Nothing is stopping her from getting another job except herself.



      2. Also, in regards to pay gap I think my wife’s situation highlights part of the issue. In the past I’ve jumped jobs regularly. At least every 3 to 4 years. When I jumped I always got a pay bump. Most of the time I would go after jobs I’m was not completely qualified for and simply learned on the job. I am to the point now where I run my own company.

        I see no evidence that would stop anyone else from doing this regardless of gender or race.

        If someone doesn’t do these things you cant blame someone else or the system.

        You just need confidence. That is something on an individual level that cannot be given.


      3. Hey everyone,
        i got notification emails that this discussion has started up again. Jenna, it has been a while – i hope things are going fine on your side! Jeremy, i hope you don’t mind if i chime in too.

        “The point is that women are not inherently, naturally more emotional than men.”

        -> Given the significant number of neurological differences between women and men, including things that are well known to be related to the expression of emotions such as hormone levels, i think it is a rather strong claim to deny the likelihood of differences in emotionality between the sexes.

        “Among the many things gender does is socialize us to express emotions in different ways.”

        -> That’s not just socialization though, but also a good share of evolutionary psychology. A hunter couldn’t afford to break down in tears over a recently broken heart while trying to spear a mammoth. Emotional resilience in such situations has been evolutionarily selected for in the hunting sex of our species and our predecessors for millions of years, resulting in the aforementioned neurological differences.

        While some part of male expression of emotions may be impeded through socialisation, i do *not* think that the overall desire to express emotions of men and women is the same even if no such socialization happened. Just like Jeremy said, many men genuinely find certain expressions of emotions to be useless. There is no bottling up happening in these cases.
        In situations in which we do feel the need to express our emotions, we usually don’t feel restricted. There is nothing holding me back from crying during a sad movie.

        ” I’m also saying that the socialization of men against the free expression of emotion is linked to anti-feminine attitudes.[…] To cry is to “be a pussy” or be “like a woman”. ”

        -> I think you should consider that this is highly contextual. It’s not anti-feminine, just as “like a baby” is not anti-infant or “you smell like a man” is not anti-masculine. It merey recognizes the fact that there are innate differences – whether socialized or genetic is irrelevant here, just that they exist currently – and uses these as an insult if one falls short of the higher demands that are put on one’s own sex by referencing the other.

        For example, “you throw like a girl” does not devalue women. It merely recognizes the fact that women have 30% less upper body muscle mass than men. Saying such a thing has no meaning on the value of women whatsoever outside of the field of throwing things.
        It’s something that someone may say who absolutely adores women but simply recognizes that when it comes to throwing things, women clearly underperform compared to men (to put it diplomatically ;-)).

        Women on the other hand tend to be better at other things, such as finger dexterity. Pointing towards the brutishness of men as an insult in that field does not devalue men in general, you’re welcome to use it.

        “So, I’m not forcing anyone to express their emotions in a particular way, but these types of gendered expectations for the expression of emotions (whether you’re a man or a woman) are harmfully restrictive.”

        -> To the individual, yes. To a society as a whole that may not be the case, having a good number of people who are toughened up and resilient may provide a benefit to a society that is worth some collateral damage, albeit it certainly doesn’t hurt to try to reduce the latter.
        Keep in mind that for whether a culture survives and expands is mostly unrelated from how happy its members are. The currently fastest growing cultures are the ones that treat women very badly, that doesn’t prevent them from expanding at an alarming rate (mostly because they exploit women as baby factories).

        “As a woman, I can tell you that being told I’m being overly emotional is incredibly dismissive of my grievances. In cases of harm or pain, emotions are often an incredibly rational response. ”

        -> I fully agree that “you’re being too emotional” is not a good way to defuse a situation. I’ve tried it and found that it does not yield the desired results 😉
        The issue of “harm” however is often highly subjective. What some perceive as great harm may be considered utterly irrelevant by others, and there most certainly are things that are not rational to perceive as harmful.



      4. Hi Jens, The debate itself (with Lauren) hasn’t started back up. I try to reply to comments from readers when I have time, so you probably just got a notification about the response I posted to Jeremy. There are some things you say here that I agree with, some things that I don’t, and others where I think you are overextending my argument. In particular, I think there is a balance between biological vs. social when it comes to gender. Yes, we have physical bodies that help shape who we are, but we also exist in a social world that deeply structures how we think about and use our bodies. I think the point where we come to an impasse is about where we each see those two explanations for gender meeting. To what extent are gender norms determined by biology? To are they socially determined? It’s an important debate to have, and if I have time I’ll come back and address some of the more nitty gritty aspects of what you posted. In the meantime, I’ll just say that the biological explanations (what social scientists call “essentialism”) that don’t deal substantively with the social processes of gender are woefully incomplete–moreover they are often used to justify exclusion, marginalization, and so on. This is a key issue that feminists are trying to address.


      5. Hi Jenna,

        thanks for your swift reply!

        I don’t want to go into too much detail, but there is one thing that i find crucial:

        “I’ll just say that the biological explanations (what social scientists call “essentialism”) that don’t deal substantively with the social processes of gender are woefully incomplete–moreover they are often used to justify exclusion, marginalization, and so on. This is a key issue that feminists are trying to address.”

        -> While there no doubt is a huge social component to gender and its expression, it seems to me that it is often portrayed as needlessly negative. There are lots of papers being written about “this and that is how certain [cis/hetero/whatever]-normative structures are created and enforced”, with the implication that that automatically has to be a bad thing that must be abolished because it oppresses anyone who does not fit in.

        What i find lacking is a perspective on how certain normative structures may be useful or even necessary to maintain a cohesive, functional society. I don’t think our society is very stable. It’s semi-stable at best, maintained by a delicate set of conventions, core values and mechanisms.
        One can’t just abolish or change these without risking very serious side-effects elsewhere.

        These side-effects are what many conservatives like me are deeply concerned about. “We” see it as a tinkering with the very foundation of our society in a way that doesn’t seem to be truly thought through, while neglecting the risk of potentially catastrophic consequences.

        I don’t think it takes much to disturb the equilibrium of our society in a way that makes it go haywire and seek the next semi-stable state that arises from a changed set of norms and mechanisms.
        And since i find our society certainly flawed by still already very good (compared to the rest of the world), i don’t think that that next semi-stable state is likely to be an improvement, quite the contrary.


  24. Jenna, it would be easier to digest what youre saying if you replied with a video rather than the article format you are using. Its hard to follow a conversation when I have to read a book for every response. Its also hard for Laruen to respond to you without making a 30 minute video.


    1. Lauren and I agreed to the format (her using video, me writing). I’m not a youtuber/video maker. I communicate better in written form. These are complicated topics and I wanted to give the time to craft my ideas–plus this format allows me to include citations and links, which are important to support my claims. Sorry you find the format difficult, but that’s simply what we arranged. I’ve thought about doing a video at some point since so many responded to my initial post, but (to do it the way I’d want) that’d take a lot of time that I don’t have right now.


      1. From my perspective, the value of Laruen’s approach vs yours is that she has to be concise. Which makes it a lot more digestible and more of a conversation. Just some quick feedback, take it or leave it.


      1. If you have the ability to delete this go ahead. I just wasnt sure why they were not showing up.


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