Shocker! Women good at Math and Science

The NYT recently had two articles that made my skin crawl.

The most recent one, from yesterday, is a yet another column by Ross Douhat in which he seems to think he has something meaningful to add to a discussion about feminism. I don’t feel like tackling this, but there is an excellent response by Sara Libby. The take home point: feminists realize that in voting for a candidate the most important question is whether the candidate supports policies that are feminist.

Exhibit B, which was published a week ago but I hadn’t gotten around to, is yet another article on someone who clearly has not read the literature trying to argue that evidence indicates that women might just not be as good at science and math as men.

The thing that frustrates me most about these articles is that we go through this shit every couple of years, and every time, you’ve got mountains upon mountains of data that contradicts what they’re saying, and yet people still think this is an important point to make.

Here’s the thing: I’ve argued this issue with close friends who insisted on arguing this position and didn’t seem to understand why I got so angry. Melissa McEwan at Shakesville posted a while back and I think she explains it very well. In short: well, duh, I’m pissed off. You just essentially that because I’m a woman, I should just get used to being beat by men at math, suck it up, and realize that even if I do succeed, it was a statistical fluke and not proof of anything.

Oh, and that’s not even the end of it. I’ve heard a lot of people who were confused/angry about Larry Summers getting roasted for his statements. Summers walked into a conference full of sociologists who had been carefully studying the various influences that may or may not contribute to the gender gap in math and science, and made a bunch of statements, that were not only insulting as they stood, but clearly demonstrated a lack of knowledge about the research that has been done in this field. This is as if a philosopher had walked into a conference of physicists, and complained that their data didn’t simultaneously measure position and momentum with enough certainty. There are a whole spew of responses explaining why what Summers said was so offensive, although I find the WISELI response particularly well written and to the point.

In the column from last week (which he followed up with another one this week), Tierney used a favorite argument of his camp: even if on average women are as smart as men in math and sciences, there is more variability between male intelligence scores, and thus there are more men with the extreme intelligence which is necessary to be a tenured faculty member. The problem here (and I can’t find a link with the data, but I saw it in a talk by Janet Mertz): the difference in the standard deviation is not consistent throughout the world. Different countries have drastically different results when it comes to studying these things, making it very difficult to come to any conclusions. (This is mentioned in an article in Slate from a while ago.)

I realized, as I was writing this, that I am really sick of having this argument. Anyway, Jordan Ellenberg, who I have never met but heard plenty of awesome things about, is apparently not sick of it, and posted about it on his blog.


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Filed under Links to Other Sites, Politics, Women in STEM

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