You are currently viewing Hostile sexism is live and well, but mostly in favor of women

Hostile sexism is live and well, but mostly in favor of women

The feminist movement can be seen as a reaction of egalitarians against then prevailing views about women vs. men, that viewed men in a too favorable light for their tastes. This fits well with Bryan Caplan’s proposed definition of feminism:

Feminism: Our society treats men more fairly than women.

Here’s some interesting survey data about how views of men and women have changed over time (Eagly et al 2019):

This meta-analysis integrated 16 nationally representative U.S. public opinion polls on gender stereotypes (N = 30,093 adults), extending from 1946 to 2018, a span of seven decades that brought considerable change in gender relations, especially in women’s roles. In polls inquiring about communion (e.g., affectionate, emotional), agency (e.g., ambitious, courageous), and competence (e.g., intelligent, creative), respondents indicated whether each trait is more true of women or men, or equally true of both. Women’s relative advantage in communion increased over time, but men’s relative advantage in agency showed no change. Belief in competence equality increased over time, along with belief in female superiority among those who indicated a sex difference in competence. Contemporary gender stereotypes thus convey substantial female advantage in communion and a smaller male advantage in agency but also gender equality in competence along with some female advantage. Interpretation emphasizes the origins of gender stereotypes in the social roles of women and men.

Clearly, the net social view of the sexes is that women are more intelligent, competent (since about 1965), and higher in ‘communion’ (e.g., affectionate, emotional), while men still retain some shrinking advantage in agency. The matter of intelligence and competence is the most important, which is of course why the study of intelligence is so fraught with emotions for egalitarians. And it’s not just women who favor their own sex:

Men on average think women are more competent and intelligent too with a 65% majority. Women are much more pro-female with about 85% agreeing women are more competent and intelligent. Strangely, they did not include political ideology in their figures, but this would surely show an effect such that conservatives are relatively more pro-male (that is, more egalitarian).

But we can go further, and just ask people who they like more. In political science, this is often done using a so-called feeling thermometer. It looks like this:

Here’s the ANES 2022 (American National Election Studies) results for men vs. women based on my analysis:

The male average is 69.9 and for women 79.3, a difference of about 10 points. This corresponds to a Cohen’s d of 0.43 in women’s favor, quite a substantial advantage. Here’s the full American picture, using all the groups they included:

So of all groups rated, women are the most liked group. Furthermore, every other race is more liked than Whites, with Blacks in top. The various political groups are roughly equally around 50 (“meh”), but Trump and 6th January rioters are distinctly below, and Biden is halfway there.

In science too, women are favored. Research findings that favor women are rated more favorably despite identical research designs. That is to say, there is a pro-female bias in evaluation of research. Bayesionally, this reflects people’s existing beliefs that women are actually better, thus leading to higher standards for pro-male findings (same idea as Sagan’s dictum extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence). Bo Winegard and Cory Clark has a summary of such findings in their recent article The Myth of Pervasive Misogyny:

This pro-female bias in evaluation of scientific findings has been replicated by the same authors in a follow-up study, which found essentially the same results (Steve Stewart-Williams et al 2022). These findings replicate a prior 2018 study by Bo Winegard and colleagues. In fact, that study has been submitted to 5-10 journals in the last 5 years and is still not published due to hostile reviews. This is a testament to the findings in the paper: even meta-research showing that women are favored in science is difficult to publish in mainstream scientific journals! Here’s their study summary:

Recent scholarship has challenged the long-held assumption in the social sciences that Conservatives are more biased than Liberals, yet little work deliberately explores domains of liberal bias. Here, we demonstrate that Liberals are particularly prone to bias about victims’ groups (e.g. Blacks, women) and identify a set of beliefs that consistently predict this bias, termed Equalitarianism. Equalitarianism, we believe, stems from an aversion to inequality and a desire to protect relatively low status groups, and includes three interrelated beliefs: (1) demographic groups do not differ biologically; (2) prejudice is ubiquitous and explains existing group disparities; (3) society can, and should, make all groups equal in society. This leads to bias against information that portrays a perceived privileged group more favorably than a perceived victims’ group. Eight studies (n=3,274) support this theory. Liberalism was associated with perceiving certain groups as victims (Studies 1a-1b). In Studies 2-7 and meta-analyses, Liberals evaluated the same study as less credible when the results concluded that a privileged group (men and Whites) had a more desirable quality relative to a victims’ group (women and Blacks) than vice versa. Ruling out alternative explanations of Bayesian (or other normative) reasoning, significant order effects in within-subjects designs in Studies 6 and 7 suggest that Liberals believe they should not evaluate identical information differently depending on which group is portrayed more favorably, yet do so. In all studies, higher equalitarianism mediated the relationship between more liberal ideology and lower credibility ratings when privileged groups were said to score higher on a socially valuable trait. Although not predicted a priori, meta- analyses also revealed Moderates to be the most balanced in their judgments. These findings indicate nothing about whether this bias is morally justifiable, only that it exists.

As a matter of fact, much research over the years have found that women are generally viewed more positively in various ways. This has been appropriately labelled the “women are wonderful” effect, and even has a Wikipedia page (for now at least).

We can go further. There is a lot of talk about differences in society that favor men. Here’s some numbers:

  • “gender wage gap”, 967,000 hits on Google
  • “gender pay gap” 54,800,000

Of course, in other ways men are worse off, and we can check how many people are interested in these gaps:

  • “gender lifespan gap”, 69 hits
  • “gender life expectancy gap” 1010
  • “gender mortality gap” 2070
  • “gender jail gap” 312
  • “gender crime gap” 1680
  • “gender work hours gap” 165

That is, basically no one seems to care much that men live about 5 years shorter than women, are jailed more often, are more often victims of crime, work more hours to support their families, pay more in taxes etc.. Instead, people care a lot about women getting paid less, even though the reasons for this are well known to be benign (prefer easier work hours, work less, work in lower paid jobs etc.).

Despite all this evidence, society has ministers appointed in many Western countries whose job it is to favor women even more, for instance, by making laws that require their inclusion in political decision making (despite women voting more already), sit on company management boards, hired for academic jobs, sit on academic journal boards etc. At the same time, the media is overflowing with sob stories about women being discriminated against, and having negative stereotypes about them. In other words, a completely delusional society. Bryan Caplan wrote about this problem in his recent essay book Don’t Be a Feminist: Essays on Genuine Justice. He makes all the usual economist points. Most obviously, if women were truly discriminated against for job-irrelevant reasons, then companies that wanted to save money and have a better or equivalent work force could and would of course just hire those women, outcompete the pro-male biased competitors and the problem would disappear. The fact that companies have to be legally forced to hire women shows that this is not the case. The various women-made disasters in these forced roles serve as nice illustrations.

Lastly, I want to say that I have nothing against women having a feminist movement to favor their interests. This is just as rational as it is for banana farmers to have an advocacy for banana farming, football clubs having an advocacy group for the greatness of football etc. However, due to the strong pro-female biases in Western societies, an equivalent male’s interests movement is bound to be politically maligned, as indeed such movements are. What can really be done about this pervasive hostile sexism against men? Given men’s proclivity towards non-complaining and general White Knighting, I guess not much.