Thursday, October 24, 2013

Common Sense=Men And Emotions=Women. So Limbaugh Tells Us.

Our old pal Rush is not really worth writing about because his shtick is so stale.  But his recent piece about the pink campaign for breast cancer cure or prevention among professional athletes as a sign of a general national assault on masculinity (wear mascara already, Rush!) offers me some material to talk about how some bad debate on gender is framed:

It goes like this:  You exaggerate and simplify, you lump all men into one group, all women into another group, and then you state that all men are the same as other men and that all women are the same as other women.  And the overlap in the groups?  Doesn't exist!

This is done so often that when you hear or read it you may just skate across, never noticing the crack in the ice.  Still, this assumption is usually what carries the rest of the story it is attached to.  If you become aware of this assumption, the other arguments frequently disintegrate.

Thus, Rush in this tirade labels women as emotional people and men as possessing no emotions but just common sense.  So he employs the trick I explained above.

But he also uses two other tricks:  The first is to resort to old stereotypes (men are thinkers, women are feelers), and the second is not to really think about what emotions are and what common sense is.

These two are related, because the stereotype about men not being emotional excludes anger, say, from the list of things which are deemed emotions, and because the gender stereotypes may make individuals choose a particular way of presenting their arguments, based on what they deem as most likely to work, irrespective of what they actually think and feel.

Although Rush doesn't use one further distorting trick common in much of bad gender debate, he has done so in the past and others use it frequently.  Thus it's worth mentioning here, too.

That trick is to compare men and women by picking examples from the opposite two ends of the distributions of various characteristics by gender.  For example, pick a man from the top of the male distribution (Einstein in intelligence)  and a woman from the bottom of the female distribution (the dum blonde of blonde jokes) and then compare the two.

I see this done quite a bit, and especially in the direction described above.  But I have seen it used in the reverse direction, too.