Wednesday, May 19, 2010

feminist high-horses

I can't find the feministing post on this anymore, but here's Ezra Klein's.

Admittedly, "Just wondering, are men allowed to be appointed to the Supreme Court anymore?" is a stupid question and in very poor taste to start with. But the reaction to it (on feministing, at least, and to a lesser extent by Ezra Klein) is also stupid but has not been pointed out as such.*

The feministing reaction was that "how can someone ask this after never questioning two male appointees in a row?" and the Ezra Klein reaction is a slightly more sophisticated version of the same in which he explicitly assumes a world where half of all potential nominees are women.

Taken to an extreme for the sake of making the point obvious, in a world where 999 out of every 1000 (equally-)qualified judges are male, it's completely expected that many men in a row would be appointed to the Supreme Court. If several women in a row were appointed, this would very likely indicate misandrous discrimination.

In the real world, about 20% of judges are female, and likely fewer within the higher courts since the trend of higher male-to-female ratios higher up the status/power latter seems general across occupations for whatever reason (discrimination or personal preference or cultural pressure or a mix of all of the above, doesn't matter right now). This is even a much higher percentage than in the past. Therefore, it's really not so surprising that most Supreme Court appointees have been men, and while two women in row is not so strange that I'm going to attack Obama for being sexist, it is much less likely than two men if no discrimination is taking place.

If feminists want to complain about discrimination without sounding ridiculous for complaining that a comment that points out the likelihood of misandry is itself misogynist, they should try a different line of reasoning that is much more likely and much less petty. Given that Obama is not selectively choosing women, but simply choosing the most qualified candidate available at the time, the fact that two women in a row in a very male-dominated profession were the most qualified in their field potentially indicates that female judges are more qualified on average than male judges. This in turn indicates that discrimination is going on at lower levels: if it's harder for women to get jobs as judges, then the ones who do must be exceptional compared to their male colleagues on average. (Even this isn't really a reasonable set of assumptions: while I don't think Obama is discriminating against men, I'm sure he wants to gender-balance the court for more palatable reasons.)

Over the years I have become much more sympathetic to certain 'feminist' priorities, but the virulent pouncing on any stray comment that hardly matters and isn't terribly unreasonable in the first place makes me still strongly keep my distance from the label. (As do the many other less palatable goals and overly-legal tactics and rhetoric of victimhood that made me loathe the movement from a young age...)

*One of the best things about being a woman is that I can safely stand up against the crazy feminists without being dismissed as a oldschool male-establishment woman-hater/patronizer. If only I were black too... Only people like Obama and Roland Fryer currently get away with telling black audiences to make smarter parenting and life choices. And no I'm not racist; I'm not saying only (or all) black audiences need to hear that, but certain socioeconomic problems do disproportionately affect blacks in the U.S. today, and if the audience happened to be mostly black and a white person said that they would be instantly crucified, a la the insane reaction to Larry Summer's infamous speech. But anyway, this parenthetical statement has gone on way too long to be legitimately parenthetical anymore, so I'll have to make it a footnote.

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