Friday, May 15, 2015

An Oldie But Goodie: Why Would Walmart Hire Any Men If Women Are Cheaper And Equally Productive?

This is the "aha! got you there!" argument I often hear from those who believe that firms couldn't possibly discriminate AND remain profitable.  After all, a firm which could save on its labor costs by not discriminating would make higher profits, right?

The shadow side of that argument is naturally the assumption that women are worse workers and deserve lower pay.

A response to all this can be found in this post.

It's worth reading if you often engage with people making the above argument.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

First Convict the Perpetrator. On True And False Rape Accusations

Anti-feminists and MRAs frequently write about the fear of false rape accusations, the idea that a man's life can be ruined just on some woman's say-so.

Those  stories and Twitter messages see false rape accusations as a giant problem, perhaps amounting to half of all accusations!  That the best studies suggest rates much, much lower* doesn't make the smallest dent to the edifice of "known knowns" created in that alternative reality of manosphere,** because outside information is ignored there.

Given all that, I found this story about a sexual assault conviction fascinating:

Baltimore jury convicted a man Friday who had been acquitted in four previous sexual assault trials, a win for prosecutors who revived the discarded case in a bid to secure an elusive conviction.

Nelson Bernard Clifford, a convicted sex offender, was found guilty of two counts of third-degree sex offense. While the counts individually carry a maximum sentence of 10 years, prosecutors say Clifford faces an enhanced penalty — up to life in prison — because of prior convictions.

Prosecutors said that on Sept. 30, 2007, Clifford broke into a woman's home in the Barclay neighborhood, tied her hands with a belt and sexually assaulted her. Clifford also was found guilty of theft for stealing the victim's laptop and $45, prosecutors said.

Bolds are mine.  Get it?  This is the gist:

Clifford had gone to trial four times since 2010. In each case, the women said he broke into their homes and bound and attacked them. Each time, he took the stand and claimed that the encounters were consensual, and was acquitted of the most serious charges.

If this "perfect" type of sexual assault by a stranger  has such a hard time getting convictions,  what are the chances in cases where the victim knew the perpetrator? 

The specific reason why the legal system favored Clifford seems to be the inadmissibility of prior evidence in Maryland:

Prosecutors were dealt a setback before the most recent case, after trying to enjoin it with another to show a pattern. Clifford allegedly attacked a woman and stole her phone, which was left behind at the scene of a second attack four days later. But Chief Judge Alfred J. Nance ruled the cases be tried separately. On the witness stand, Clifford acknowledged leaving the phone behind, but jurors had no idea it was stolen from another alleged victim.

What makes this example crucial in the false-accusations context is this: Based on the way MRAs use the concept the three women who lost their cases against Clifford would have been counted among those falsely accusing someone of sexual assault.  After all, the court found for Clifford in each case.


*  The best estimates are between 2% and 8% of all rape accusations. 

**  And fascinating theories about the reasons why men should be the revered bosses of women, both viewed as classes.  For instance, I recently read that women should make sandwiches to men, because men built the cities (and presumably gave them freely to those women who made them sandwiches), and it takes a lot of sandwiches to build a city.

That's a good example of the nuttier manosphere arguments.  Note the view of all men as builders of cities, the view of women's contributions to civilizations as zero, the omission of who built the men themselves and so on.

It's in the same family as arguments that all women should make all men sandwiches because certain men died in the wars.  It's not the dead warriors who deserve the sandwiches, but anyone with the same y-chromosome.

Then never mind that women have been banned from the military, in the past had little say over whether countries would go to war or not,  and still face sexual harassment in construction jobs.

But none of that matters, because the point of those arguments is not gender equality but the perpetuation of male supremacy.


Wednesday, May 13, 2015

The Conservative War Against Teachers. Or How To Shoot At Your Own Foot.

US conservatives have an odd schizophrenic angle to the power of markets:  They are all-important (godlike, even), and must not be meddled with in finance, for instance, but when it comes to teaching professions those same markets can be totally ignored.  Indeed, the conservatives like a command economy there, as in "We command, teachers obey."

The point I've made before is that conservatives shouldn't completely ignore markets in their attempts to behead the political power of all teachers' unions.

To give you an example, cutting back on teachers' retirement benefits means cutting back on their total compensation packages.  In Chicago, for instance:

The district, which says it is wrestling with a $1.1 billion deficit weighted with pension payments, wants to save millions of dollars by having teachers pay more into their pension fund. The district wants to end a long-standing agreement that limits teacher paycheck deductions for pensions, the union said.

That CTU said the result would be a 7 percent cut in take-home pay for members. The union also says health care premiums could take another 3 percent under a district proposal.

What do you think a seven-percent compensation cut would mean for the supply of new teachers?  Remember that they must invest in a college degree which is not getting cheaper, even as the financial pay in the occupation declines.

Here's the answer:

The number of students interested in becoming educators continues to drop significantly—From 2010 to 2014, the number of ACT-tested high school graduates interested in education majors or professions decreased by more than 16%, while the number of all graduates who took the ACT increased by nearly 18%.
Those who express interest in teaching tend to score lower in all areas except English than those who express no such interest.

This is another case of short-sighted politically motivated dinners where the politicians happily eat the seed corn to make sure that the Democrats don't get today's bread.

The topic matters for women's employment.  Traditionally*, teaching has been one of the few areas which has allowed an easier combination of childcare duties with paid work (getting home at the same time as the kids, being at home during their vacations).  The lower pay, compared to other jobs which have similar college investment requirements, has been acceptable because of that flexibility.  But if the pay keeps going down further we will see a drop in the supply of teachers and the quality of the incoming teachers.

*In the bad-old days US women had three somewhat wide job paths into middle class earnings.  They were teaching, social work and being a secretary.  See what is happening to teaching, then read what is happening to secretarial jobs, and the importance of opening the IT jobs to more women looks pretty clear.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Mothers' Day Political Thoughts

1.  The political respect for motherhood is a bit like buying one of those "I Support The Troops" bumper stickers (made in China and very cheap) and then voting against any veterans' benefits.

2.  That's why the myth of the all-sacrificing female parent as the sole caregiver of children is so popular!   A special day once every year and no need for paid parental leave!  Because mothers are intended to self-sacrifice, so nobody else will have to.  This is an extreme example of how a proper mother should spend her life.  Note the guilt, note the need to erase all other parts of one's personality, and then note that all this is internalized:  The job of parenting belongs solely to mothers and its cost is pretty much everything else.

3.  That's the shadow side of basic libertarian* thinking, too, which stinks of Nietzsche.  If the √úbermensch is to be mostly free (free!), then the Untermensch cannot be.  Someone must wipe the butts and wash the diapers, but having done so will always count against the person in the labor market.  You must take time off to be a Good Mother but you will be punished for taking that time off.

4.  None of this means that fathers of children wouldn't be expected to take responsibility for their children.  But traditionally that responsibility coincides much better with a person's other goals in life:  You can advance in your career, get promoted, satisfy some of your ambitions, and nobody asks who is minding your children or how they cope with your absences.  Granted, the monetary consequences are not good for either mothers or fathers who take time off from the labor force.  Still, we expect less hands-on care or presence from fathers and guilt them much less for the choice to continue working hard.

5.  The problems of the mythologically decreed Supermom, working mostly on her own, are much exacerbated for some groups of women of color and for poorer women.  Staying at home is not an option if you are the breadwinner of the family or if the earnings of two adults are necessary, good quality daycare may be unaffordable. Those single mothers who  qualify for government assistance are often viewed as parasites sucking the blood of upstanding taxpayers.

This provocative story is by a black woman who chose not to have children because she knew she was expected to do it all on her own.

6.  The bumper sticker view of motherhood in this country means that the US is one of the few countries where maternal mortality rates are rising, and also one of the few industrialized countries where there is no nationwide policy for paid maternity leave, not to speak of paid paternity leave.  

Though the reasons for the former are complex, they clearly intersect with poverty and race.  The latter we may thank the conservatives and corporations for.  You may have heard that paid parental leave would handicap American corporations which have to compete against foreign firms.  Possibly even firms located in countries which already have paid (and long!) parental leave.  Gasp.

7.  These points are about political thoughts about motherhood, not general or philosophical thoughts.  Thus, they are not intended to negate the wonders of parenthood or to imply that the respect for individual mothers wouldn't be real.  But politicians are not meant to focus on the latter.  They are meant to create the support systems which parenting requires.  And in that sense this country gets a failing grade.


* This libertarian angle crops up in the onus put on individuals rather than the wider society:

Rather than making the environment safer and healthier for children, the onus is put on the parents, and especially on mothers, beginning from pregnancy:  Mercury in tuna?  It's your responsibility not to eat it while pregnant.  No sidewalks for school children to use to walk to school?  It's your responsibility to drive them, and when they get fat from lack of exercise, that, too, is your responsibility.  And we won't even ask the question what a parent without a car should do.

The counterargument is that people shouldn't have kids if they cannot do all that.  But children are the next generation and will become the future caregivers, doctors, dentists, farmers and so on;  the people who will one day take care of the old people that even today's young and childless libertarians turn into.  This shared aspect of the value of children is one reason why the society should support good parenting.