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The Daze of Summers

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I have been thinking much of the day about this post by Dr. B, only to come to find that several of the most prominent bloggers have already linked to it. So, evidently, the added value in terms of attention that I can add is nearly zero. The good news this that you’ve probably read it already, and it cuts right to the heart of the matter. A couple additional points:

  • In addition to being crude stereotypes, the analogies adduced by Summers are particularly telling because nobody less crackpotish than Charles Murray would claim that genetic differences at the group level have anything to do with these social outcomes. Who thinks that there’s a gene that causes more Jews to go into banking? Nobody with anything approaching a sane mind, of course. So I think it’s instructive that despite the fact that various cultural differences can persist that genetic and biological factors have nothing to do with, when it comes to women Summers thinks that genes are likely to play a dominant role. I think this tells you most of what you need to know.
  • It should be noted, as well, that women are severely underrepresented even in academic fields that don’t require 80-100 hour workweeks, and in which even Summers doesn’t seem to claim that genetic factors play a significant role. This, in itself, suggests that discrimination is rather more widespread than Summers is claiming.
  • Of the many subtle forms of discrimination against women that can be seen by anyone within it, one that’s worth emphasizing is the Catch-22 that faces women when they’re being personally evaluated in job searches and in the time leading up to tenure decisions. Women who are strongly self-assured or arrogant are frequently, and quite explicitly, scorned (often in the every terms that the good doctor b. is presumably trying to redefine), while a certain level of arrogance is expected if not an asset for men. On the other hand, women who are relatively taciturn are often perceived as being lightweights not really cut out for the rough-and-tumble world of academia. As Atrios suggests. I think most people who have been involved in academia will have stories that reflect the persistence of this type of discrimination.
  • Finally, to those trying to draw an equivalence between the Summers and Churchill situations, a question: is anyone saying that Steven Pinker–who basically shares Summers’ objectionable substantive views–should be fired? Of course not. Look, Summers is a university president; he doesn’t have tenure. A president can be fired for things that a tenured faculty member cannot. Not making p.r. blunders and not doing things to alienate female faculty members is part of Summers’ job. Anybody who can’t grasp this basic distinction doesn’t have a clue what they’re talking about and should shut up before they embarrass themselves further.

 

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