Thursday, November 17, 2005

Gender and Green Co-Leadership

Frogblog has a post attempting to justify the Greens' archaic (so 1990s!) requirement that their co-leaders be of different genders. I tried to post a comment there, but it got eaten by their spam filters. (You'll see why.) So I'll reproduce it here instead:
~~~~~~~~~~

Frog,

So why not choose the two best people for the job? Your only relevant comments are that "each gender brings a particular world view and life experience to the role", and "gender is the most fundamental *difference* between people and a key physical identifier that everybody shares."

But that's silly.

Gender is not the most fundamental difference between people. I share a lot more in common with a well-educated female philosophy student than I do a senile fundimentalist male.

Physical differences don't matter. Character matters. Ideas matter. But chromosomes and genitalia? Not so much.

Any two individuals will bring "a particular world view and life experience to the role." If you want diversity of worldviews and experience, why not select for that directly, rather than falling back on a sexist and unreliable proxy? It would make far more sense to encourage complementary idealist/pragmatist co-leaders, like - I take it - Jeanette and Rod were.

With the loss of Rod, you need another pragmatist, not another penis.

~~~~~~~~~

P.S. I'd also add that Frog's opening up a can of worms by suggesting that gender is a "fundamental difference" between people -- a group affiliation so significant as to justify prejudging individuals solely on its basis. Such stereotype-based reasoning was precisely how conservatives of old rationalized keeping women out of politics. And, as I've said before, discrimination doesn't suddenly become okay when pure-hearted liberals engage in it.

11 comments:

  1. Indeed,
    Actualy I think that gender is a reasonably large difference (between the averages) but not of the type that would really need us to put up this sort of policy.

    Anyway what will they do if you have a trans gender leader? be forced to select a second one of the opposite variety as your other leader?

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  2. The concept of male and female co-leaders is sound in principle and ought be supported. Imagine a world for the next two hundred years in which women have an equal share of political decision making. The fairer sex's concerns regarding family, enviroment, product functionality, and the waging of war, will have a dramatic impact on the legislation enacted by parliamments world wide. Their natural nuturing natures would soften the mechanistic logicians, mostly male who currently run world affairs, and haven't they done a fine job! A principle well founded ought be maintained.

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  3. Greg, the present alternative to sexual quotas is not to have two males, but in fact two females, since Jeanette is still a leader and the debate is about finding a male replacement for Rod. The present effect of the policy is thus to exclude any other females from the co-leadership position, no matter how much better they might be than the available male alternatives. (Not that I'm saying they are -- maybe Russel or Nandor really is the best person for the job. But it isn't enough for them merely to be the best man for the job. What if there is a better woman?)

    The concept of sexual quotas is not "sound in principle". Your litany of sexist stereotypes does not amount to an argument. (If women were incapable of logic, then the conservatives would have been right to bar them from positions of responsibility. Thankfully you're just plain wrong about that. Helen Clark has as sharp a mind as any man in parliament. And I dare say Rod was as concerned about "family, enviro[n]ment, product functionality, and the waging of war" as any woman!)

    Just look at the form of your argument. The stereotypist says: "being a member of group A is a good indicator of desirable characteristics X, Y, Z. So we should choose someone from group A." I think the correlation is weak at best, so the premise is false. But even if it were true (i.e. even if gender really was a good indication of being more concerned about environmental issues, or whatever), even then the argument fails, for there is an obviously preferable alternative criteria to A-membership. That is, just directly select people with the desired characteristics (X, Y, Z)!

    You want someone "nurturing"? Then pick someone with that character trait! Whether they have two X chromosomes is hardly important in comparison. If the right person happens to be female, then great. If you find a male with the desired qualities, then that's great too.

    The only possible justification for sexual quotas would be if you didn't trust the Green membership to pick leaders on their merits. That is, if you thought they all had an anti-female (or perhaps anti-male is more likely in those circles) bias. If they had such a bias, then forcing them to choose a leader of the "disliked" gender might yield the best results. (E.g. Suppose Nandor really is best for the job, but Greenies would rather vote for a female no matter what. Forcing them to choose a male would then result in the best leader being chosen when he otherwise would not have been.)

    Needless to say, that makes the present policy incredibly insulting to Green members. Either the party thinks you're sexist, or else it's so stupid as to have a completely unjustified policy. Which is it?

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  4. Richard despite your good intentions I believe you have made a mistake in supposing that the physical traits of women are irrelevant. I direct you attention to the following blog, posted by Prof. Laurence Thomas on the distinction of the sexes namely through the example of sex.

    http://www.moralhealth.com/blog/_archives/2005/11/16/1408440.html

    P.S: I also submitted this as a Carnival submission.

    Regards,

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  5. I also believe that you may have made a mistake here, Richard, when you said: "I'd also add that Frog's opening up a can of worms by suggesting that gender is a "fundamental difference" between people..."

    Frog is, of course, quite right. I call your attention here, where you can find the following definition of the word "fundament": "#
    # S: (n) buttocks, nates, arse, butt, backside, bum, buns, can, fundament, hindquarters, hind end, keister, posterior, prat, rear, rear end, rump, stern, seat, tail, tail end, tooshie, tush, bottom, behind, derriere, fanny, ass (the fleshy part of the human body that you sit on)"

    Certainly gender is indeed a strikingly fundamental difference, wouldn't you say?

    And to forestall obvious responses, no I don't have anything intelligent to add to the discussion. Carry on!

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  6. RE the moral health post..
    I suggest this

    "With racial equality, it can in fact be demonstrated that phenotypical differences have no bearing upon the moral and intellectual excellences that human beings possess."

    Is actually obviously wrong to the point of ridiculousness. (note that doesn't prove any of the value judgements such as lets say people blue eyes are inferior to peopel with brown eyes). And as soon as you open up the can of worms with sexuality you get the same problem with race and everything else.

    This I guess is why we have to be careful the very shallow wishful thinking that we use to hold together this aspect civil society might fall apart if anyone looks closely at it. Some academics take it as their job to protect commoners from this it seems.

    BTW
    Nice comment Dr P !
    Ill hire you as my English teacher!

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  7. GeniusNZ, perhaps you would care to qualify your assertions with examples and an argument. All I hear you saying is that Prof. Thomas thesis is wrong but after that nothing.

    I think this is an interesting question vis a vis correlating phenotypical features of people with the ascription and perception of moral values and significance.

    Regards,

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  8. For evidence take a look at the MRI study showing men and women make use of very different brain regions during navigation. It is highly unlikely that the two seperate systems just happened to evolve just right so they had all the same systems. Likely they evolved to specialize for whatever that gender was more likely to need in evolutionary times. Sure this isn't exactly mathematics but it might make a difference to cartographers or london cab drivers.

    However, it should be the side claiming there is no significant differences in intellectual capabilities who is giving the evidence. If you accept that men and women tended to engage in different sorts of activities during evolutionary periods (say men hunting and women farming/gathering) then you must assign a high prior probability to male and female specilization just because this would be a more efficent use of limited resources (brain space). Thus while overall mental capabilities (whatever this means) are likely to be roughly equal across the genders we should expect that each gender has partially specilized toward their evolutionary roles.

    Of course it's unclear which gender is statistically superior/inferior in which subjects as is the extent of the difference. However, it would just be absolutely astounding to find that despite having significantly different brain structures (white and grey neural amounts, brain folds etc..), using different sections of the brain for different tasks and having evolved under pressure to specalize the two genders happend to be perfectly equally at all currently important mental abilities.

    As for the suggestion we just rate the individual on the displayed qualities I'm afraid it isn't that simple. We certainly don't want all the companies in a racist city from denying blacks jobs as receptionists because they didn't draw as much of a positive response from the populance. Where things get really hairy is when there are genetic differences in the way we react to different sexes.

    A recent study showed that men (and they speculate women) process men and women's voices in different sections of the brain. You can see my blog to see my post abut it. I mean what would be the right thing to do if it turned out that women had the same underlying ability at teaching math but because of the way men and women's voices were processed it was easier for everyone to learn math from a man. Would it be right to judge purely on teaching ability to the detriment of women or should we demand that this not get looked at to the detriment of our children's education?

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  9. Erik,

    I will go into this carefully as it is a sensitive subject so excuse the length of the post
    If there is an issue with my interpretation maybe you can pick out where the issue is.

    I think the first point regards what are "moral and intellectual excellences"
    a) I accept this could be a 100% value judgment in which case I am concerned it is both meaningless and clearly impossible to demonstrate (because it is meaningless outside the individual using it).
    b) But I will assume that what he means AT LEAST the intelligence, moral tendencies, tendency towards empathy, tendency to do work as opposed to rely on others, and the presence or absence of other "virtues" of a similar sort...
    c) And quite possibly more general things like just tendency to behave differently as a result of different mental processes.

    I guess the difference between these changes the argument a bit but I'm assuming B and some C I tend towards thinking they are inseparable.

    2
    a) "With racial equality, it can in fact be demonstrated that phenotypical differences have no bearing upon the moral and intellectual excellences that human beings possess." is a different statement from
    b) "With racial equality, it can in fact be demonstrated that a limited set of specific phenotypical differences may not be perfect predictors of the moral and intellectual excellences that human beings possess."

    The latter I presume we all accept is undeniable (wow - I had to hedge just about everything!). The main problem with is the former's absoluteness.

    3) Now note I take phenotype to mean
    "What an organism looks like as a consequence of its genotype" (so a difference in phenotype implies a real difference biologically).

    I don’t see any way that he could possibly demonstrate that a change in the above does not involve a change in some aspect of the person similar to a change in gender.

    -----------------

    We will slowly work from large differences to smaller ones...

    a) The first example is pretty obvious -
    Imagine a chimp and a dog they look different therefore they have different genes therefore they are different inside. This logic seems to generally hold taking any two random animals. To consider it in terms of virtues a log is likely to be more "loyal" to you than a random other animal.

    b) The second is where there is a clear human difference. The biggest differences I can think of off the top of my head would be the some sort of downs syndrome and maybe some other genetic disease. These two people will look very different and that difference will be a STRONG indicator of their intelligence, behavior and (surely) personality. An easy example would be if the person had an inability to empathize for some reason (e.g. a lack of mirror neurons).

    c) Now let’s say the difference is genetically a bit more subtle for example less testosterone and less growth hormones and therefore you get a smaller more feminine man as opposed to a larger more hairy and stronger person. Again clearly that is going to have an effect on behavior.

    ... These are the same sort of differences one sees between races and genders (on average) and individuals. i.e they have a "bearing" on the issue.

    For a comical example imagine we are at a piggy back race I will bet the bigger person will offer to play the horse. Sometimes the little guy will but I can make an educated guess who will display this arbitrary "carrying virtue" - something that Prof Thomas seems to claim is demonstrably impossible.

    Of course you could claim that doesn’t fall into category b for "moral and intellectual excellence" but I can do this with almost anything and we do this every day and while it might be morally undesirable it is at the same time reasonably effective.

    Now I agree black skin, brown eyes, red hair etc usually have much smaller effects (but not NO EFFECT I suggest this is implausible - because it is too absolute) using the B definition of virtues but that is only some of the differences others will reflect genetic differences that DO have significant implications.

    Having said that I am willing to accept that we might intentionaly ignore diferences or even force the average man to ignore real differences. Ideally of course richard is right and we can just judge any individual on their merits and that judging a book by its cover is just pure irrationality. Of course the same should be true for sex differences!

    LogicNazi
    >However, it would just be absolutely astounding to find that despite having significantly different brain structures (white and grey neural amounts, brain folds etc...); using different sections of the brain for different tasks and having evolved under pressure to specialize the two genders happened to be perfectly equally at all currently important mental abilities.

    Yes that is true.

    > Would it be right to judge purely on teaching ability to the detriment of women or should we demand that this not get looked at to the detriment of our children's education?

    I think option 1 also I am not sure it is to your detriment to prevent you being a teacher if you were genuinely going to be a bad one.

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  10. > The only possible justification for sexual
    > quotas would be if you didn't trust the Green
    > membership to pick leaders on their merits.

    Or maybe they don't trust other people so they are trying to set an example.

    This is quite weak though. Overall there is really no good answer to your criticisms.

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  11. Logicnazi, my position doesn't depend on the assumption that there are no "statistical" differences between the genders. See my comment to Greg above, from "even if gender really was a good indication..." onwards.

    The absurd claims are coming from the other side. The current Green policy effectively says that no females are worth considering as replacements for Rod's co-leadership position. This is more than just a statistical claim. It's a universal claim of absolute differences that denies the vast variety of individual characteristics found in either gender.

    The people who advance these silly stereotypes are undoubtedly conceiving of 'men' and 'women' in very abstract terms. That is, they're dealing in their conception of men and women, rather than the real thing. Because once you start thinking about some real examples of individual men and women (cf. Rod Donald and Helen Clark, as in, again, my comment to Greg above. Or for Americans: how "nurturing" are Ann Coulter and Michelle Malkin?) it becomes immediately obvious just how misguided all this talk of "sexual essences" is.

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