Saturday, March 26, 2011

Farewell to Dilbert. Part One

Here's a fun story for you. Scott Adams, the cartoonist who draws Dilbert, has a blog on his website. Early this month he asked his readers to suggest a blog topic for him and promised to write on the one which got the most votes.

A Men's Rights site freeped the vote. "Freeped" means that a call went around to all the MRAs who then went and voted for one particular topic, most likely a topic they themselves proposed. The topic, naturally, was men's rights.

Adams then wrote a post on that very topic on March 7 and later deleted it. His explanation for the deletion:
I deleted today's post. My regular readers have the capacity to deal with this sort of topic but it gained a bit too much attention from outside my normal reading circle.

Knowledge is a dangerous thing.
That last sentence is like catnip for me! Goddess-nip? Whatever, I simply had to find the post and see what this knowledge is that he had to hide because us outsiders are not worthy.

Well, it turns out to be the kind of knowledge you acquire when you have a ten-minute-think over a glass of beer. Or two. Or shix. I'm used to hearing that concise knowledge and understand that not everyone can be a goddess who actually studies stuff. But I don't have a lot of respect for those crash-courses on gender issues. Unless the outcome is funny.

And perhaps that's what we get from a comic, something really funny on gender relations? I decided to be careful in how to read the post so that I don't fall into the trap of feminazi-without-a-sense-of-humor-it-was-only-a-joke-bitch.

Here is the mysteriously disappeared post, in pieces, because I'm going to insert my nasty comments into it:
The topic my readers most want me to address is something called men’s rights. (See previous post.) This is a surprisingly good topic. It’s dangerous. It’s relevant. It isn’t overdone. And apparently you care.

Let’s start with the laundry list.

According to my readers, examples of unfair treatment of men include many elements of the legal system, the military draft in some cases, the lower life expectancies of men, the higher suicide rates for men, circumcision, and the growing number of government agencies that are primarily for women.
I have written about most of the items on this laundry list before. If it is desired I shall do so again. But because this post is going to be long enough as it is, let me just point out that the laundry in that list has not been properly sorted or even described. For instance, "many elements of the legal system" is so fuzzy that I don't know if it even should go in the washer. If we are not told what those elements are how we can decide what the relevant evidence might tell?

Likewise, "the growing number of government agencies that are primarily for women" is not a development which started from a system in which men and women were absolutely and perfectly equally covered in the functions of the government. Those agencies for women are an attempt to balance the scales. Because the traditional definition of a human being pretty well matched the traditional definition of a man.

And I completely agree that circumcision of small children is horrible. So lucky that it is never done to female children!

Adams seems to take this laundry list as real evidence about discrimination against men. Or perhaps his humor is so difficult that I, a mere woman, don't get it? In any case, he adds to the list:

You might add to this list the entire area of manners. We take for granted that men should hold doors for women, and women should be served first in restaurants. Can you even imagine that situation in reverse?

Generally speaking, society discourages male behavior whereas female behavior is celebrated. Exceptions are the fields of sports, humor, and war. Men are allowed to do what they want in those areas.

Add to our list of inequities the fact that women have overtaken men in college attendance. If the situation were reversed it would be considered a national emergency.
I'm going to pack my bags and move to that world where men open doors for women and where women get served first in restaurants. It's a fair trade for lower female earnings and for conservatives who think women can't drive (one reason for the lower life expectancy of men, by the way, is the higher car accident death rate of young men) and for the misogyny of many so-called Men's Rights Activists. Indeed, it's a fair trade for overall fairness, right?

And now we come to the part in Adams' post where I got the humor, the one about how the society celebrates female behavior and discourages male behavior. Only in sports, humor and wars are men allowed to rule the roost, totally! That's what he meant, right? Because those areas are what we call male dominated, meaning chock full of men, with nary a woman in sight. Unless Adams means that women rule everything else? Politics? The media? Religious organizations? Academia?

But what IS "female behavior" or "male behavior?" Fixing your bra strap vs. scratching your groin? Something of that sort?

I also got the joke about the college enrollment figures, this one:"
Add to our list of inequities the fact that women have overtaken men in college attendance. If the situation were reversed it would be considered a national emergency." It's funny because nobody thought it was a national emergency when the situation actually was reversed for, oh, a couple of centuries.

Adams continues:
How about the higher rates for car insurance that young men pay compared to young women? Statistics support this inequity, but I don’t think anyone believes the situation would be legal if women were charged more for car insurance, no matter what the statistics said.
Somewhere I have a long and erudite (rejected) manuscript on the very topic of gender discrimination in various types of insurance. It's completely true that charging young men more for car insurance discriminates against careful young male drivers who end up paying more than they deserve to pay. It also discriminates for bad young female drivers who end up paying less than they deserve to pay.

But what happens if the rates are equalized? Then young women as a class will pay more than they should and young men as a class will pay less than they should. And note who would really get subsidized now? Yup, the worst young male drivers. Similarly, the equal-rates system would severely discriminate against the best young female drivers.

Neither system is ideal, of course. The "ideal" would be to get better information on the driving habits of individuals so that insurance companies didn't use gender as a proxy.

At the same time, it is most certainly not true that nobody would believe "the situation would be legal if women were charged more for car insurance." Women are routinely charged more for individual health insurance policies than men, simply because they belong to the class "women," and women, on average, use more health care services until a certain age (after which Medicare takes over and doesn't charge men more for their now-higher costs). Whether this will continue after the Health Care Reform is something I haven't studied, but Europe is moving away from gender-based car insurance premia* and perhaps the US will follow suit.

This is a good place to pause, because we have now covered the men's rights part of the Adams post. Next he will address the reasons why what may look like unfair treatment of women really isn't, because us women have done it to ourselves. Join me at the next post if you are interested in learning more. The best part is still to come, I promise.
*Also from the effect of gender in all insurance pricing. For example:
It would also have an effect on how premiums for life insurance and pension funds are calculated. Until now women have paid higher premiums and received smaller payouts because, on average, they live longer than men.