Tuesday, November 19, 2013

They aren't meant to pee standing up

++Addition++Staffan points out that, according to Google's Ngram viewer, the concept of feminism as an organizing principle is in decline:

How much of that is due to realization of biological differences and how much is due to female concerns being superseded by the concerns of 'victim' classes like blacks and gays who higher up on the victimology pyramid?


Gavin McInnes went into the HuffPo harpy's nest to--colorfully, as is his wont--assert that women tend to be happier following their maternal instincts than they are devoting all their energy to getting ahead in the rat race. He was met with lots of supercilious condescension but, predictably, nothing he asserted was empirically challenged. Unfortunately, his empirical grounding was insinuated rather than explicitly presented. The GSS can aid him in the future.

For starters, let's look at feminism as an idea. In the mid-nineties, the GSS asked respondents whether or not they considered themselves feminists. Self-described feminists, despite being modestly better educated, more intelligent (based on wordsum scores), and wealthier than those who didn't identify as such, reported lower levels of personal happiness than non-feminists. The following table shows the feminist/non-feminist breakdown among women who describe themselves as "very happy", "pretty happy", and "not too happy":

Very happy24.5%75.5%
Pretty happy27.8%72.2%
Not too happy34.4%65.6%

Feminists comprise less than one-quarter of women who are "very happy" but over one-third of those who are "not too happy".

Sure, the argument can be made that happiness is subjective and even though the non-feminists are more content, they're not objectively doing as well since they don't have as much money or education as the feminists do. That line of reasoning doesn't contradict McInnes' point, though. Instead, it strengthens it. Making that sort of judgment in favor of feminists because of career success is to assess female success by traditionally male--that is, masculine--standards, and the women whose lives more resemble men in this regard express lower levels of happiness than do women who travel life's more traditionally feminine path.

If that's overly abstract, let's take a look from another angle, one of social cohesion. In 2004, the GSS conducted a special module querying respondents on the most important aspect of their identities. Participants were able to choose from a list of ten, three of which are of special relevance to this discussion--occupation, gender, and family/marital status. The following table shows, among women who indicated one of those three identifiers as most important to defining who they are, the percentages who are "very proud", "somewhat proud", and "not very proud" of being American:

Identifies byVery proudSomewhat proudNot very proud
Family/marital status84.3%14.3%1.3%

Women who are women, first and foremost, are the least content with the society they live in, those who most strongly identify with their work more middling, and those who care most about hearth and heart the most satisfied with it.

The survey also shows that, across a variety of measures, men are more willing than women are to make sacrifices--overtime, odd shifts, etc--in other areas of their lives for the sake of work. The converse of this, of course, is that women are less willing to put work ahead of other areas of life, like, say, raising a family.

What about the perceptions broader society has regarding what is, generally, the more preferable way for families to be raised? Collected in 2012, these figures still have that new car smell. The tables are reposted here from a post put together earlier this year. The following table shows the percentages of respondents who identified each of the following six scenarios as the most ideal:

Arrangement, all responsesDist%
Mother home, father full-time39.7
Mother part-time, father full-time41.6
Both full-time11.3
Both part-time6.8
Father part-time, mother full-time0.2
Father home, mother full-time0.5

Looks like we need a runoff to decide whether or not the woman should be a full time homemaker or should instead enjoy occasional breaks from the homestead to earn a few bucks while dad takes the kids. Fewer than 1-in-100 think Mr. Mom is the way to go, and the dual careerist path where, in McInnes' words, "shaping a human life" is put on the back burner, isn't very popular either.

Some great victory women in the workforce has been! On the bright side, though, it's self-perpetuating objective--the more women there are working, the lower the wages both working men and working women are able to command, and consequently the greater the need for women to enter the workforce to make ends meet, let alone raise a family!

Perhaps it's skewed heavily by the patriarchal enforcers of patriarchy, the patriarchs themselves. The response results, this time with only women considered:

Arrangement, women onlyDist%
Mother home, father full-time33.6
Mother part-time, father full-time45.7
Both full-time11.7
Both part-time8.5
Father part-time, mother full-time0.2
Father home, mother full-time0.3

The vast majority--we're talking 4 out of 5--of Americans conceive of the ideal family environment being one in which a man works full-time and a woman works either part-time or not at all. It's as though they recognize some sort of special bond between a mother and the child her body spent nine devoted months bringing into the world.

Maybe the patriarchs have brainwashed their own barefoot wives slaving away in the kitchen into falling for the breadwinner-homemaker ideal, but what about women who think for themselves? Liberal women only (n = 130):

Mother home, father full-time23.1
Mother part-time, father full-time48.4
Both full-time12.9
Both part-time15.0
Father part-time, mother full-time0.0
Father home, mother full-time0.6

The feminists may have three or four waves on their side, but McInnes has the tsunamic force of hundreds of thousands of years of evolutionary forces on his.

GSS variables used: SEX(2), HAPPY, FEMINIST, FAMWKBST(1-6), SEX(2), POLVIEWS(1-3), AMPROUD1(1-3), SOCID1(1,3,8)


Anonymous said...

If you look at Google's Ngram viewer, the word "feminism" has been in steady decline since 1996. By now, they are probably secretly grateful that you mention them at all. There aren't any new feminists to speak of. The most well-known name I could find was Joss Whedon, who, like feminism, has also been in decline since the 1990s.

Audacious Epigone said...

Thanks, updated accordingly.

JayMan said...

Quite interesting, but not separated by race, yes? Unfortunately, that renders the results suspect.

Anonymous said...

"How much of that is due to realization of biological differences and how much is due to female concerns being superseded by the concerns of 'victim' classes like blacks and gays who higher up on the victimology pyramid?"

It's probably the identity politics. The idea that every film or tv show should have a gay or ethnic character seems to have started back in the 1990s.

Now it seems gay characters are less popular, perhaps due to changing demographics.

Anonymous said...

Nonsense is a luxury and luxury for all but the 1% is going to be in increasingly short supply.

Ben Southwood said...

Mainly interesting and reasonably plausible, but the bit about female entry into the labour market and wages is almost certainly untrue, something I'd bet practically any economist could agree on. When a woman enters the labour force she adds to demand as well as supply. When this sort of argument comes from someone with other reasons they don't like women working, then it sounds very much like motivated reasoning.

Audacious Epigone said...


Not if they lower median wages in so doing. That's the same argument that economists make regarding open borders--bring more uneducated peasants in and we'll all become richer.

Alliumnsk said...

If we look at word "gay", "homophobia" in n-gram, they follow pattern similar to "feminism": non-increasing or in decline since 1997.

Might it have something to do with countries less obsessed with social justice publishing more literature in English?