This is an essay for stand-up guys who aren’t really convinced that our culture is crazily biased against women, and that they should be upset about it. I’m going to try to convince you of this in three minutes, two if you’re a fast reader. Just be sure to spare at least five seconds for each example I give, so you can really “get” what I’m talking about.
Here we go.
Firstly, you’re a stand-up guy, right? You don’t abuse women like the d*****bags you see in bars sometimes, groping random girls and drunkenly slurring sexual advances. You want to treat women with the respect they deserve.
However, the guys who do this sort of stuff, despite being reviled by both sexes, are just the ugliest symptoms of a deeper disease. It’s easy to see the sickness, if you know what you’re looking for, but trying to recognize your own culture’s biases is *extremely difficult.* If you seriously want to treat women with respect, you’re going to have to focus *hard* to see where things are warped.
Here’s why: your mind operates entirely in symbols from your culture.
If I say “dessert,” you probably don’t visualize rice pudding or mochi, you’re probably thinking of a bowl of vanilla ice cream, or cake, or some other mental symbol from your cultural upbringing. You can conceive of other forms of dessert, but while your brain is processing a sentence like “Michelle ate some dessert, then went to the movies,” you’re using the ice-cream-symbol or the cake-symbol. If someone then showed you a picture of Michelle eating baklava, there’d be a moment of dissonance as you adjusted to the new symbol, and it’s probably what you’d remember most about the picture.
The problem: you have literally thousands of mental symbols that are tied to unfair representations of women.
Try “surgeon.” Try “lawyer.” Try “CEO.” Now try “secretary.” Try “flight attendant.” You might be fortunate enough to have some exceptions, but for most of us, we have a clear sense of the sex of the person filling each of those positions.
Cute trick, right? But consider: less than five percent of CEO’s are women. They make, on average, $8.1M less per year than their male counterparts. Less than one in five surgeons are women, and they make 24% less. Less than one in three lawyers are women, and they make 21% less. 96% of all secretaries are women. 77% of flight attendants are women.
Some people like to cite biological differences as the reason for these massive discrepancies, as though women are somehow less qualified to be surgeons than flight attendants. (You probably don’t need help to see how this is pure sexism, so we’ll skip it.) The actual reason: those mental symbols are *powerful* shapers of behavior. If you think of the kind of person who’s an astronaut, and that person isn’t like you, you’re probably not going to be an astronaut when you grow up. It won’t even occur to you, like baklava didn’t occur to you. If you can see a male employee more easily as an executive VP, you’re going to feel more comfortable giving him the promotion over his equally-qualified female counterpart.
Now, think of living in a world where everyone is surprised if you say you don’t want kids, or if you say you want to be a firefighter, or if you’re anything but passive and submissive. Think of what it’s like to have to spend a ton of time every day on your appearance, because if you don’t, it’s going to be the only thing that people notice about you.
The openly leering idiots in the bar simply lack the behavioral checks your parents gave you to keep you from embarrassing yourself in public – they’re acting on a cultural symbol that we all share. “Woman in bar.” That’s why feminists are angry. That’s why you should be angry, too.
Go watch some TV or some movies, or listen to some music, or play a video game, and pay close attention to the cultural symbols that are being called on and reinforced. Think of how those symbols will shape behavior; what would a five-year-old girl who experiences this stuff internalize about women and how they’re supposed to act? Really pay attention, and see if you aren’t outraged too.
By: Josh Pelton