Saturday, July 16, 2016

If Women Discriminate Against Women, Is It Still Discrimination? Evidence From Studies.

Here's something for you to chew on:

Several studies  I've written about here over the years show that it's quite possible for not only men but also women to discriminate against women in the sense of pure sex discrimination.

Examples of this can be found in studies about customer ratings of sale force, about student mentoring and selection, about the rating of plays by critics where the plays are the same but the presumed name of the author has been changed, and about how much a fictitious worker should be rewarded for some project when that worker's accomplishment remains the same but his or her sex is changed*.

If women do it, too, at least in some studies**, does this mean that what we are seeing shouldn't be called sex discrimination?  Even if it affects women negatively as a class?

Would your answer to that be different if I told you that I have found studies which show something comparable when it comes to ethnic or racial discrimination, where members of racial and/or ethnic minorities are as likely to discriminate against their own group as are whites***?

It's important to stress that I have picked these studies out of much larger fields, that other studies don't necessarily show being a discriminator as an equal opportunity role, and that I'm saying nothing about the relative prevalence of the above results, just that they exist.

How would we explain the phenomenon of women and/or members of racial or ethnic minorities treating "their own" with bias?

My preferred explanation is twofold:

First, we are all like the fish who swim in the water and cannot tell if it has a taste because they have never experienced the alternative.  This means that both women and men, say, have been largely exposed to the same gender stereotypes, that both women and men have seen more men in positions of leadership and, in general, have been told roughly the same stories about the proper roles of women and men in the culture.

Second, all that is hiding inside most of us, and may crop up in situations of the type the linked studies create.  I believe that the responses with bias are largely subconscious ones, not explicit choices where some kind of inner conversation goes on at the same time as the choice is made.

As an example, study subjects pretending to be the representatives of a firm might award a female employee a smaller bonus than an equally productive male employee  not because the subjects believe that women deserve smaller rewards for the work, but because women, on average, get smaller rewards and some women, at least, seem to accept them, and if you are playing the role of the employer, paying smaller bonuses whenever possible is a good thing.

And to answer my own headline:  Yes, it is still discrimination.  Who does the discriminating is irrelevant from that angle.  As long as the outcome is to treat equally productive/talented/etc. women and men differently, we are talking about sex discrimination.

Now to the question of how prevalent these attitudes might be.  I cannot answer that, because the studies that look at the sex, race or ethnic affiliations of those who do the discriminating are uncommon.  But I know that not all studies demonstrate such equal-opportunity discrimination.****


*  I can't find the link to this study, even though I'm 90% certain that I covered it on this blog and 100% certain that it exists.  The study is an audit study where the study subjects are asked to tell how big a bonus a fictitious employee should get.  In some scenarios this employee is female, in other scenarios male, but in all cases the job achievement to be rewarded is the same.  Both female and male study subjects would have awarded the fictitious male worker higher bonuses.

It's also worth pointing out that the play review study doesn't show that female critics rated plays with a female author name as inferior in the sense that they themselves found them inferior, but only in the sense that they predicted those plays would do worse in the marketplace.  That's somewhat different from the knee-jerk type reactions the other studies seem to suggest.

**  A recent example where female study subjects were not biased against women whereas male study subjects were can be found here. Other studies also demonstrate different levels of bias against women by men and women.  A meta-study which found that men were rewarded more for equal performance evaluations found the only exception in the industries with a high number of female executives.

***  A quote from the Airbnb study on racial discrimination:
On the whole, we find that results are remarkably persistent. Both African-American and White hosts discriminate against African-American guests; both male and female hosts discriminate; both male and female African-American guests are discriminated against. 

A quote from the study on mentoring by faculty members prior to the student's enrollment:

We have reported two counterintuitive findings: 1) representation does not reduce bias and 2) there are no benefits to women of contacting female faculty nor to Black or Hispanic students of contacting same-race faculty. These results are consistent with past research showing that, counter to perceptions (Avery, McKay, & Wilson, 2008), stereotypes are potentially held even by members of the groups to which the stereotypes apply (Nosek, Banaji, & Greenwald, 2002) and that female scientists are just as biased against female job applicants as male scientists (Moss-Racusin et al., 2012).
****  I also think that experimental studies of various types might make the study subjects more careful about revealing the kind of sex or race discrimination that is based on much more overt dislike or antagonism, especially if the study gives hints about its purpose.  It's possible that such studies don't capture all aspects of real-world discrimination of the most overt kind.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Short Posts, 7/15/2016. Views on ISIS/Daesh, Suicides In The US and Choice Feminism, Again.

1.  Given the many recent radical Islamist terror attacks around the world it's good to remember that most Muslims do not support, say, ISIS.  The table below is from a 2015 Pew opinion survey which collected data from eleven countries with significant Muslim populations.  It shows that majorities or even super-majorities in almost all of them have an overwhelmingly negative opinion of ISIS.  The one exception is Pakistan where the option of "don't know" is the most common.

For the data on Israel, note that 91% of Israeli Arabs were also strongly opposed to ISIS.

2. FiveThirtyEight, Nate Silver's statistical site, has an interesting graphic about US gun deaths as a medical epidemics:  Almost two thirds of those killed by guns are people who committed suicide, another one third consists of homicide victims.   The graphic also suggests that roughly fifty-six percent of those who die because of guns are men who commit suicide.

But there are nuances which the FiveThirtyEight analysis doesn't seem to include, such as the racial and ethnic differences in suicides.  For example:

In 2014, the highest U.S. suicide rate (14.7) was among Whites and the second highest rate (10.9) was among American Indians and Alaska Natives (Figure 5). Much lower and roughly similar rates were found among Hispanics (6.3), Asians and Pacific Islanders (5.9), and Blacks (5.5).
The same site also states that white men committed 70% of all suicides in 2014, and that the rate of suicide increases with age.  Thus, there are both age-related, ethnic/racial and gender differences in completed suicides, just as there are age-related, ethnic/racial and gender differences in who becomes a homicide victim.  In that latter group it is young black men who are the majority or the plurality of the victims.  And though the FiveThirtyEight analysis doesn't address the perpetrators of gun homicides, most of those are also men.

Women attempt suicide at higher rates than men but are less likely to succeed.  One reason for that may be found in the much greater use of guns by men than by women, because guns are very effective killers.  For more on this topic, see my earlier post here.

3.  This article on young women becoming sex workers to finance their higher education, say,  is an example of that fairly common tendency of defining feminism in a weird way. One young woman explains her choices as follows:

“While in college,” she goes on, “I’ve had the ability to focus on developing myself because I’m not slaving away at a minimum-wage job. I reject it when people say I’m oppressed by the patriarchy. People who make seven dollars an hour are oppressed by the patriarchy.”
“She’s in control of the male gaze,” says another woman at the table, Erin, 22.
“I thought about doing it,” says Kristen, 21, tentatively. “I signed up for Seeking Arrangement when I couldn’t pay my rent. But I was held back because of the stigma if anyone finds out.”
“What right does anyone have to judge you for anything you do with your body?,” Miranda asks.

And the author of the article expands on all this:

“Is Prostitution Just Another Job?” asked New York magazine in March; it seemed to be a rhetorical question, with accounts of young women who found their self-esteem “soaring” through sex work and whose “stresses seem not too different from any young person freelancing or starting a small business.” “Should Prostitution Be a Crime?” asked the cover of The New York Times Magazine in May—again apparently a rhetorical question, with an argument made for decriminalization that seemed to equate it with having “respect” for sex workers. (In broad terms, the drive for decriminalization says it will make the lives of sex workers safer, while the so-called abolitionist movement to end prostitution contends the opposite.)
The Times Magazine piece elicited an outcry from some feminists, who charged that it minimized the voices of women who have been trafficked, exploited, or abused. Liesl Gerntholtz, an executive director at Human Rights Watch, characterized the prostitution debate as “the most contentious and divisive issue in today’s women’s movement.” “There’s a lot of fear among feminists of being seen on the wrong side of this topic,” says Natasha Walter, the British feminist author. “I don’t understand how women standing up for legalizing sex work can’t see the ripple effect of taking this position will have on our idea of a woman’s place in the world.”

So.  This is all about "choice feminism," a concept I have written about in several earlier posts, including this one.  It's a pretty problematic concept, because it omits all comparisons to men's choices, rights and behavior, because it's somewhat nonsensical when it's interpreted as "any choice by a woman makes that choice a feminist one,"* and because it's almost always combined with some statement that no choice by any woman can be criticized.  If she freely chose it, she is empowered and female empowerment is one of goals of feminism, after all.

I have, in fact, had a fundamentalist woman tell me that she is a feminist, because she has voluntarily chosen to subjugate herself to her husband.  Choice feminism leads us into a dead-end, my friends.

This particular article talks about the possibly feminist advantages of sex work without much discussion about the framework within which such choices are made. 

But the framework the article ignores is important:  

Prostitution is an occupation where it's overwhelmingly the case that women are the sellers of sex and men are the buyers of sex.  No analysis of prostitution which doesn't even mention that can be viewed as feminist, because of the two very different roles men and women play on different sides of that marketplace, and because power is very unevenly distributed between prostitutes and their customers.

The long history of prostitution as one of the most despised professions also matters, the long history of laws which criminalized the prostitute but not her customers matters, and even the way the terms "whore" and "slut" are used as common slurs in online debates matter.  But the article has little to say about any of these aspects of the sex work markets.

As an aside, the article is also guilty of another kind of common flaw:  It's all about sex work as the "new normal" for young women and some young men**, but the statistical evidence to make that argument is wholly lacking.  People refer to what their friends do or believe, there are references to articles or movies and so on, but I see no hard data on how many young women (and men) finance their college education by sex work.  Neither do I see any data on how many did that in the past.   Without such data the argument about prostitution being the "new normal" are just unproven opinions.  But great click-bait, of course.

* Suppose I decide to strangle some annoying person.  Is that, then, a feminist act?  It would be my choice, after all.  (Not that I'd ever do anything of the sort.)

To omit the comparison to the kinds of choices men have makes "I choose my choices" irrelevant from a feminist perspective.  This doesn't mean that those choices are wrong for the person who makes them, just that they are not part of the Great Feminist March Onward.

** The article interviews a few men.  As far as I can tell, their customers are gay men, not women.




Thursday, July 14, 2016

The GOP Health Care Plan. Or What Happens If "Obamacare" Is Repealed

Paul Ryan unveiled the Republican Alternative to the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in June.  

It consists of a ragtag bag of old ideas the Republicans have offered for decades, with just a few things added that they would keep from the ACA:  Keeping adult children on their parents' health insurance to the age of 26,  and a very modified version of the ban on denying insurance to those with pre-existing conditions.*

But many of the proposals in this "plan" are old hat, too focused on pretending that people can rationally and logically choose among the many complicated and misleading** health insurance policies which would crop up if some form of the Ryan plan became reality.  They are also too focused on trying to find ways to kill both Medicaid (which covers the care for certain groups of the poor and also nursing home care for many elderly) and Medicare (which covers most of the rest of the care for those over sixty-five), and utterly too focused on trying to both reduce the number of people who actually have health insurance*** and on shifting money up in the income distribution, away from the poor and straight into the pockets of insurance companies.

The basic problems the Republicans face when trying to kill ACA, aka Obamacare, are several. 

The first one is that the Ryan plan is no plan at all, as even the conservatives themselves admit

The second one is that ACA has been  very successful in getting most Americans covered for health care expenses, and to step back from that could be impossible.  It's always harder to strip away benefits people have become accustomed to than to not create those benefits in the first place.

The third one is this:

On this last point, New York’s Jon Chait explained a while back, “The reason the dog keeps eating the Republicans’ health-care homework is very simple: It is impossible to design a health-care plan that is both consistent with conservative ideology and acceptable to the broader public. People who can’t afford health insurance are either unusually sick (meaning their health-care costs are high), unusually poor (their incomes are low), or both. Covering them means finding the money to pay for the cost of their medical treatment. You can cover poor people by giving them money. And you can cover sick people by requiring insurers to sell plans to people regardless of age or preexisting conditions. Obamacare uses both of these methods. But Republicans oppose spending more money on the poor, and they oppose regulation, which means they don’t want to do either of them.” 
The Republicans' basic approach doesn't work, either, because it is based on  certain simplistic assumptions about the power of consumer choice and the nature of the medical care markets.  Those assumptions might be somewhat relevant to buying tomatoes at a farmer's markets (Are these tomatoes as good quality as those at the next booth?   If so, how do the prices compare?), but have very little to do with both the complicated aspects of buying health coverage and with the lack of information almost all patients have when it comes to determining what care they need and how excellent a particular provider's care might be.

Doctors and hospitals are not tomatoes, and if consumers cannot judge the quality of care then knowing the prices is meaningless, too.   Add to that the fact that consumers know if they want tomatoes or not, but most of us don't know what health care we might require.  That, too, needs a visit to the provider to determine.

Still, Paul Ryan flogged his previous plan (or an earlier version of this plan) under the name The Patients' Choice Act, which we are to interpret as something very different from The Government Forcing Health Care Down Our Throats Act, also known as Obamacare.  Like throwing off our shackles and marching together into the sunset singing the conservative equivalent of the Internationale.

Except that we would be marching not into the sunset but into the places where the uninsured, the high-risk and those too poor to be able to afford health insurance congregate.

The good thing is that we can delay that march by making sure that the Republican Party doesn't have the majority to turn this rickety plan into an even more rickety reality.  We can do that by exerting Citizens' Choice, which is by voting.

*  Modified, because if I had a pre-existing condition and if I then let my coverage lapse I could be denied new coverage after that or I could be required to pay humongous amounts for it:  The-One-Strike-And-You -Are-Out policy. 

Well, I would be put into a separate high-risk pool then, to be covered by whatever amount politicians would be willing to allocate towards it. Removing high-risk individuals from the marketplace increases the profits of health insurance companies and probably reduces the care those individuals can get because:
By concentrating sick people into these high-risk pools, the premiums are super high — about two times the cost of regular insurance — and the plans typically have fewer benefits and much higher deductibles. At such high costs, people must be subsidized to buy high-risk insurance. This is expensive: The Republican plan calls for $25 billion in funding. And it covers few people. Analyzing a similar plan, the CBO estimated that only 3 million people would be covered. That is a bad deal, especially considering that the ACA has now covered 20 million Americans.

**  The plan would allow the sale of rubbish policies, those which look very affordable but only because when you do get ill they pay for the band-aids and the aspirin, the rest is out-of-pocket. 

It would also encourage the sale of insurance policies across state lines.  Why would this be bad you might ask?  It's not all bad, of course, but there are real negatives to that old plank in the Republican platform:

Critics of the across-state-lines plan worry about negative consequences of letting insurers shop for the state regulator of their choice. Just as many businesses tend to incorporate in Delaware, or credit card companies have headquarters in South Dakota, insurers may end up congregating in whatever state offers the most lenient regulations. That could mean that customers who get sick could be harmed because there are few comprehensive policies available, or because consumer protections are weak when things go wrong.

***  - High-risk people would swim in their poorly-funded pool, which means their insurance coverage would be less than it is now. 

- The Ryan plan strongly pushes increased use of Health Savings Accounts (money consumers save themselves, with tax advantages that make them different from usual savings accounts)  and higher deductibles (the share consumers must pay out-of-pocket before their insurance starts paying for anything within a certain time period, usually a year).  Both these initiatives mean that insurance would pay less and that out-of-pocket costs would be higher, which means less coverage overall.

- The plan would also reduce tax subsidies for those who get their policies through their employers.  That makes health insurance more expensive and less likely to be offered at all, given that the reduction in the tax subsidies is also proposed for the employers who then would have fewer incentives to offer health insurance at all.

- Rubbish policies would be allowed, and consumers who have bought those because they are "affordable"  would find how little coverage they have only after they fall ill.

- If inter-state insurance sales are strongly encouraged, insurance companies might settle in states with the least regulations of their activity, and that could allow them to limit what the policies cover as well as make it possible for the companies to deny payment for more services actually rendered.  All those nice things the ACA requires to be covered would, once again, become optional.

- Finally, the poor would have drastically reduced access to health care coverage, because the Ryan plan's preferred alternative would turn the Federal assistance to states' Medicaid programs into block grants, and block grants are inflexible and drop in value over time:

The CBPP study observes that the real problem with block grants is their inflexibility. When a program is converted from federal funding to block grants, the initial grant is typically pegged to the most recent spending on the program, but there's rarely any mechanism to revisit the funding as conditions change or in light of population growth.
That's why the resources deteriorate over time.

The poor are also much more likely to end up with the rubbish policies, because the initial price tag is much lower, and the Ryan plan's emphasis on more out-of-pocket spending by consumers would hit the poorest consumers the hardest.

Whether the promised (but not quantified) tax credits the plan would offer to those who aren't covered by their employers or eligible for Medicaid would be sufficient the reduce the suffering to the poor is impossible to define, because of that non-quantification.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

The 2016 Draft Platform of The Republican Party: Would ISIS Like It?

Every time I get discouraged by the corporate dingleberry-ism of too many politicians in the Democratic Party I try to remind myself what the alternative is:  the Republican Party.   Today the Republicans did that job of reminding me.

That's because they are debating the 2016 party platform, and it looks* to be turning into something very rickety:

Republicans moved on Tuesday toward adopting a staunchly conservative platform that takes a strict, traditionalist view of the family and child rearing, bars military women from combat, describes coal as a “clean” energy source and declares pornography a “public health crisis.”
It is a platform that at times seems to channel the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, Donald J. Trump — calling to “destroy ISIS,” belittling President Obama as weak and accusing his administration of inviting attacks from adversaries.
But the document positions itself far to the right of Mr. Trump’s beliefs in other places — and amounts to a rightward lurch even from the party’s hard-line platform in 2012 — especially as it addresses gay men, lesbians and transgender people.

Victorian, the New York Times calls it on social values.  In common parlance, the Republicans want no same-sex marriage, trans people must use the toilets of the biological sex they were determined to have at birth, there will be no abortion for the sluts (naturally)**,  and "traditional" family roles are central. 

Some of this is written in code, so that when "traditional families" are mentioned the reference carries a lot of extra weight to the true believers.  On the surface level it means disapproval of same-sex marriages and single parents, most of whom are women, but the connotations of that term "traditional" are likely to be much wider:  Perhaps it refers to  a family where the wife subjugates herself to the husband's headship, where she stays at home fulfilling her Biblical helpmate role and her biological fertility role, while the husband is the bread-winner and the public face (even in one sense the core) and the ruler of the whole family.

Or perhaps not.  But that is what I smell.

I have heard rumors that the current power struggles inside the teetering Republican Party might be won by the religious fundamentalist faction, and the weirdness of the new platform supports that conjecture.  Also:

Social conservatives in the party exerted significant influence over the drafting and amending of the platform this week, succeeding in almost all of their efforts to add language that pushed the document more to the right.
And what Republicans will probably end up with when they formally vote next week to ratify the platform approved in committee on Tuesday is a text that can seem almost Victorian in its moralizing and deeply critical of how the modern American family has evolved.
The platform demands that lawmakers use religion as a guide when legislating, stipulating “that man-made law must be consistent with God-given, natural rights.”
It also encourages the teaching of the Bible in public schools because, the amendment said, a good understanding of its contents is “indispensable for the development of an educated citizenry.”

Did your hair rise up when you read that?  Mine did.

But something in that quote is truly hilarious, assuming it correctly reflects the draft platform:  That reference to God-given, natural rights would tremendously please ISIS, the vilest of all religious terrorist groups!  They'd love to be in charge of defining what the celestial power*** believes are the natural and divinely-decreed rights of people, they would!  Just like these US fundies love that role.

Still, I doubt that the creators of that platform plan to let extremist Wahhabist religious beliefs to stipulate what laws are being made in the United States, because the weirdos here are Christian ones, or that they want the Koran to be taught in US public schools.  I suspect their hair would rise up if anyone pointed out that their platform is also rooting for those things, because the government cannot promote one religion over others.

This is hilarious within the wider foreign politics context as well:  The Republican Party platform wants to "destroy ISIS" and then offers a bundle of so-called socially conservative goals which ISIS would certainly regard as at least a first small step in the right direction.


* Some parts of the draft report have been leaked.  Here, for example.  More of its possible contents are available hereThis is a good summary of the way the 2016 draft platform has veered away from mainstream opinions in the US and toward the extreme fringe of the Republican Party.  One snippet from it is worthwhile on this women's lib blog:

On military issues, delegates formally expressed opposition to requiring women to join the draft and rejected language that would have softened the party’s opposition to women serving in military combat roles. But an overwhelming majority of Americans support having women fight in combat and more see improved military effectiveness as a result of the change, according to polls taken in recent years by The Washington Post and the Pew Research Center.

That's really funny, too, because the Men's Rights Activists (MRAs) argue that it is the feminists who don't want women to join the draft or military women to serve in combat roles!  If they are right, then the creators of this part of the platform are feminists.  Except that everything pertaining to women, gender and sexuality in the platform is intended to nail really ancient and patriarchal values to the flag pole forevermore.  Women can't be in the military because they are supposed to be in the kitchen making sandwiches.

** Life News, an anti-abortion website,  loves the draft platform because it is the most forced-birth oriented ever.  They also note this:

Billy Valentine, director of government affairs at the Susan B. Anthony List, told Politico that the new Republican Party language could be “the strongest pro-life platform yet.”
“The life language that came out of the constitution subcommittee is even stronger than the 2012 language,” Valentine said.
Several strong pro-life leaders are in charge of drafting the new Republican Party platform. The Hill reports U.S. Sen. John Barrasso is the chair the Republican platform committee. Barrasso, who represents Wyoming, has a 100-percent pro-life voting record from the National Right to Life Committee. His appointment as chair signaled a strong party commitment to restoring unborn babies’ right to life.
There was some speculation that presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump would attempt to weaken the party’s pro-life position. In April, Trump said he “absolutely” wants to change the current pro-life platform to promote abortions in cases of rape and incest.

***  Their reference isn't to Echidne of the snakes, either.  More's the pity, because I'd run this country exceedingly well.

Monday, July 11, 2016

The First Monarch Butterfly of This Summer

Arrived today.  Monarch butterflies visit my garden every summer, possibly because I have plants from the milkweed family, many suitable weeds and lots of flowers with nectar.  Well, the weeds have flowers.

So I thought that I'd get the certificate for being an innkeeper for the Monarchs.  But that's not what the certificate is for; it's for making the inn and then trying to lure the travelers in.  In any case I love them.

But when I saw the first Monarch caterpillar some years ago

(Picture credit)

I thought I had accidentally eaten magical mushrooms.

It was a rainy summer morning, I had been up late the previous night, and I really needed that first cup of coffee I was sipping when I went outside, only to come face to face with a tiger-snake!  The caterpillar was huge.  And striped black and yellow.

In other news, I have been under the weather, which explains the not-writing business.   Something should be finished by tomorrow.  I'm sure you are happy to hear that.  Heh.

PS:  I ran after the butterfly with my cell phone, trying to catch its selfie, but to no avail.