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Self-Reinforcing Misogyny


You know how when Frank Luntz would tell focus groups what Paul Ryan’s agenda was they refused to believe him? There’s a similar effect when people show male faculty evidence of systematic sexism in their fields:

A more recent study showed that science faculty at research-intensive universities were more likely to hire a male lab manager, mentor him, pay him more, and rate him as more competent than a female candidate with the exact same résumé. Another paper found that faculty respond to emails from male prospective PhD students more than from female prospective students, showing that men have greater access to professors. These are just a few of the hundreds of peer-reviewed studies that clearly show, on average, the bar is set higher for women in science than for their male counterparts.

Given the enormous amount of data to support these findings, and given the field in question, one might think male scientists would use these outcomes to create a more level playing field. But a recent paper showed that in fact, male STEM faculty assessed the quality of real research that demonstrated bias against women in STEM as being low; instead the male faculty favored fake research, designed for the purposes of the study in question, which purported to demonstrate that no such bias exists.

Why do men in science devalue such research and the data it produces? If anyone should be willing to accept what the peer-reviewed research consistently shows and use it to correct the underlying assumptions, it should be scientists.

But it is in large part because they are scientists that they do not want to believe these studies. Scientists are supposed to be objective, able to evaluate data and results without being swayed by emotions or biases. This is a fundamental tenet of science. What this extensive literature shows is, in fact, scientists are people, subject to the same cultural norms and beliefs as the rest of society. The systemic sexism and racism on display every day in this country also exist within the confines of science. Scientists are not as objective as they think they are. It is an extremely destabilizing realization for someone whose entire career has been rooted in the belief in human objectivity.

It’s hard to get a man to believe something when his salary and social status etc.

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