Friday, January 6, 2012

social norms and social image

(or 'Vera sees a nail and gleefully pulls out her hammer.')

I've never been so happy that feminism exists - the Committee on the Status of Women in the Economics Profession has the only free diet coke at this convention. Plus, it's a nice quiet room to sit and work during this two-hour lunch break.

I just feel bad for the men who furtively pop in and out for coffee while the women sit around loungingly.

It's not that you have to be female to use the hospitality room; indeed, signs advertising it as open to all are all over the place. And it's not that men are sexistly hesitant to associate themselves with a women's association; several are sitting here working or reading (just not drinking the coffee).

But there's an unspoken norm that, when partaking in a service provided by an organization, one should reciprocate at least with interest in that organization. A man may or may not be interested in promoting gender equality, but even if he is, he can't signal his interest silently (or loudly, very credibly). A woman may or may not be interested in promoting gender equality, but whether she wants to or not, she signals her likely interest simply by being female.

And so the women stay, comfortable in their plausible deniability of having violated a norm.

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