Scott Alexander's Rebuttal to Sexism Theory of Occupational Gender Difference


How do you know that biology is not the reason social pressures are the way they are and that they do not just reinforce innate gender differences?

This article is garbage. It shows no causal link between STEM based toys being targeted more towards males and there being fewer female engineers and just assumes the reader will be dumb enough to just assume that this correlation means causation.


Regarding the Pictures
No that is not sexism. That is the same company targeting to two different audiences. The Lego Club is not being sexist by doing that.

Number one: Who/What is the patriarchy? Is it a council of all knowing beings deciding what is right and wrong?

Going back to that study you first mentioned. 80% of bachelors earned in education are earned by women. I have never once heard education as a “women’s job.” Yet only 20% of men go into that field. So how can you say that it is only cultural pressure. I think cultural pressure maybe a small factor but biology is just as important if not more. So you can call me insane for believing in Science.

To be honest I have had a lot of fun doing this debate.


Well firstly there are a myriad of reasons we could get into, the first one being the tremendous variation in gender expectations throughout history and more importantly the huge amount of progress women have made in overturning many expectations over the last century. However, the main point is: why are we enforcing gendered standards if we live in a liberal humanistic society where people should be treated (and encouraged) to pursue their own dreams regardless of social expectation?

I think the fact that STEM-orientated toys are disproportionately aimed at boys, along with all the other gendered social standards that push women into one box and men into another, is a pretty good explanation for the disparity. We are talking about complicated social ideas and values and behaviours and seeking explanations for them via analysing culture, this is a very nuanced territory, and you are trying to treat everything with blanket statements. Do you think gendered toys do nothing to influence the perception of children?


[quote=“oli, post:13, topic:112563”]
I don’t think any of that contradicts the argument that social stereotypes of women do exist and that these influence women’s career path decisions, nor does it present any argument against the belief that these stereotypes should be deconstructed and all students should be encouraged to think critically about what kind of life they want and why they want it. This is the most important point: negative stereotypes clearly exist, they suck and we should try and stop them limiting the potential of young people to succeed.[/quote]

Quite frankly no, the most important point isn’t that negative stereotypes exist, and that they perhaps in some way limit the career path of some people. This is not the end-all of existence, and the current obsession with it goes beyond reason. If in countries with much more rigid and bigoted views on gender have more equal gender representation in the fields of work where in the West people complain of sexism and stereotypes being the reason for a gap in gender, then it calls into question whether sexism and stereotypes with the field are the root cause in such a gap.

That’s because the subject of the article wasn’t whether or not sexism and stereotypes was the root cause of gender differences. It was about occupational gender differences. It merely pointed to the fact these difference exist- and they appear as early as 13/14 years old.

However I would say he makes a fairly strong point as to why it would be the contrary. That is- if the root cause of gender difference isn’t biological, why is it that women with the condition of “congenital adrenal hyperplasia”- a condition of having a more typically male hormonal balance- portray vastly more interest in ‘male’ toys, ‘male’ occupations, and ‘male’ activities from childhood and through adulthood than other women?

If you want to continue to believe that males and females, which portray behavioral and physical differences among countless other mammal species, are somehow biologically equal among humans, then you can fight this uphill battle to the bitter end as technology unravels the workings of the body and mind. But do try and fix the massive difference in interest in middle school before instating quotas and cultural campaigns upon the fields themselves, dragging down employee quality and instilling an environment of hostility in the process. If the answer is “raise boys and girls the same, because how they’re being raised affects their interests and choices later in life”, then I would really question whether or not it is such a moral imperative to have boys and girls with the same interests outside of a fetish of total equality.


Here is a thing I wrote a while ago. You sound like you have literally no fucking clue what you are talking about. The patriarchy isn’t a group of men conspiring against women you fuckwit, go read about what you talk about before you make yourself look dumb

[spoiler]What is ‘the patriarchy’? One of the most misused words on the web, a lot of anti-feminists and self-proclaimed ‘meninists’ seem to be under the impression that patriarchy refers to a conspiring group of men who work together to come up with ways to oppress women. This is of course is not the case; far from being a conspiracy theory, the patriarchy is a real social phenomenon which can be seen in almost all cultures in some way, both historical and in contemporary society.

According to Oxford English Dictionary, patriarchy refers to “the predominance of men in positions of power and influence in society, with cultural values and norms favouring men”[1]. What this shows us then, is that far from being a group of evil misogynistic men the patriarchy is in fact a complex web of social relationships which promote male dominance. With only 22.6% of Members of Parliament in the commons being women (23% in the Lords)[2], a gender pay gap[3][4] and a lack of women in senior roles in the private sector[5] it is easy to see how our society resembles that of a patriarchy. However, the contemporary usage of the term in feminist critical theory is fluid and usually has multiple definitions, being generally broadened to include any social mechanism that exerts male dominance over women, such as the social enforcement of gender roles. In this sense, patriarchy is an ideological construct perpetuated by the actions and beliefs of both men and women which can be harmful and oppressive to both.[6][7]

Many in contemporary feminist discourse prefer to use the arguably more accurate and socially relevant term ‘kyriarchy‘, a neologism coined in 1922 by Romanian-born German feminist Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza[8] to describe a system of interconnected oppressive relationships and social stratification that takes many different forms, i.e plutocracy, colonialism, sectretarianism etc. This term therefore more accurately describes the combined effect of unequal wealth distribution, sexism, racism, homophobia, transphobia and other coercive pyramidal social structures and mechanisms to better account for the contemporary cultural theory paradigms of intersectionality and transnational feminism.[10][11] What this means is that not all men share the same standards of privilege and social dominance as others, this is intersected by various social factors like socioeconomics, age, colour, and sexuality. Similarly some women will enjoy certain social privileges above others thanks to certain factors.[12]

So how did patriarchy come about? Almost all sociologists reject predominantly biological explanations of patriarchy and contend that social and cultural conditioning are primarily responsible for establishing male and female gender roles. (I forgot to put in sources and can’t be bothered to change the numbers but: [1][2]) Most evidence suggests that the subjugation of women came with the agricultural revolution, which gave birth to the development of specialization and the use of inherently socially-stratifying, alienating and coercive productive means instead of the traditional hunter-gathering method of requiring subsistence. This is backed up by the amount of resources that emphasise the actively egalitarian nature of pre-agricultural society.[13][14][15][16] There are various views about the specific period that males came to hold a position of superordination, Gerder Lerner claims in Creation of Patriarchy[17] that the agricultural revolution allowed for the commoditization of people, (women and children) to achieve practical means like tribal relationships and labour. She says:

The development of agriculture in the Neolithic period fostered the inter-tribal “exchange of women,” not only as a means of avoiding incessant warfare by the cementing of marriage alliances but also because societies with more women could produce more children. In contrast to the economic needs of hunting/gathering societies, agriculturists could use the labor of children to increase production and accumulate surpluses. (…) Women themselves became a resource, acquired by men much as the land was acquired by men. Women were exchanged or bought in marriages for the benefit of their families; later, they were conquered or bought in slavery, where their sexual services were part of their labor and where their children were the property of their masters. In every known society it was women of conquered tribes who were first enslaved, whereas men were killed. It was only after men had learned how to enslave the women of groups who could be defined as strangers, that they learned how to enslave men of those groups and, later, subordinates from within their own societies.
James DeMeo[18] similarly argues that famine and climate change of the Arabian Peninsula 4000 BCE led to the adoption of patriarchal control mechanisms to secure food and resources, he states:

Famine, starvation and mass-migrations related to land-abandonment severely traumatised the originally peaceful and sex-positive inhabitants of those lands, inducing a distinct turning away from original matrism towards patristic forms of behaviour.
There are other theories of how patriarchy emerged [19][20], but it’s clear that the need for control of resources and the emergence of the means of production as a means to power was the primary causes for the subordination of women, and it’s also clear that this subordination quickly took root it philosophy, culture and religion to maintain itself; showing that the way patriarchy managed to permeate the dominant ideology of society and take root there is through the traditions, practices, education and beliefs of that society. Like, for example, traditionally referring to women in relation to men, as Lerner says:

sexual control of women was linked to paternalistic protection and that, in the various stages of her life, she exchanged male protectors, but she never outgrew the childlike state of being subordinate and under protection.
This symbolic degradation is therefore a cultural, traditional one. In ancient Athens women were treated as sub-species, unable to vote, trade, own property or live their own lives; their purpose in life was to serve men, both domestically and sexually.[21][22][23] This was reflected in philosophy and religion, Kimberly M. Radek[24] notes:

In Theogony, Hesiod explains the creation of the universe:
The female goddess Earth (Gaia) generates Heaven (Ouranos), and together they produce the Titans. Ouranos tries to prevent the birth of his children by holding them in Gaia’s womb. Gaia arms Kronos, her youngest son, who castrates Ouranos and declares himself ruler of the gods.
Kronos and Rhea generate the Olympian gods. Kronos, fearing his father’s fate, swallows his children as Rhea brings them forth. She deceives him, saving her youngest son, Zeus, who eventually tricks Kronos into vomiting up his swallowed children, Zeus’s siblings. War ensues, the Olympians win, and Zeus establishes himself as ruler of the universe.
Zeus and Metis (Intelligence) marry, and Zeus swallows her when she becomes pregnant. He gains control over her powers of reproduction. His first child, Athena, springs from his head, symbolizing the male dominance of the universe.
Interestingly, Arthur notes of these stories that all of Zeus’s other children (all female: Justice, Order, Peace, etc.) signify the beneficence of the female principle when subjugated to regulation by male authority. Arthur concurs that Hesiod’s model shows a progression from a world dominated by the generative powers of the female to one overseen by the moral authority of the male.
Thus the notion of female subjugation and male domination over them and their reproductive systems managed to maintain and replicate itself through the dominant ideology of the period it lived in throughout history; and was present wherever there was agriculture, production and consumption. Regardless of politico-economics, patriarchy has been seen throughout the world in many different forms consolidated by many different beliefs, from the harems (purdah, zenana) and polygamy of the Islamic orient to the monogamous sexually regulatory view of women as sexual property that was not swayed by Enlightenment Europe[25] patriarchy has managed to stay; as Lerner suggests, the very basis for hierarchically organised society rests in the personality fostered within the patriarchal family. She says:

The control of male family heads over their female kin and minor sons was as important to the existence of the state as was the control of the king over his soldiers. This is reflected in the various compilations of Mesopotamian laws, especially in the large number of laws dealing with the regulation of female sexuality. From the second millennium B. C. forward control over the sexual behavior of citizens has been a major means of social control in every state society.
If hierarchical organization really was born out of patriarchal structures like DeMeo and Lerner suggest then this makes a lot of sense, and hence why the patriarchal family unit is present in every society in the modern world; It’s easy to see how Marxist and Socialist feminist thinkers have incorporated this branch of sociology into their social analysis. This is further supported by Michele Barrett and Mary McIntosh in their book ‘The Anti-social Family’[26] who identify the nuclear family as a widely held ideal that provides both emotional security and personal fulfillment whilst reinforcing material conditions of inequality, they call this the “hegemonic family form”, and others like Natalie Sokoloff[27] have pointed out that this produces detrimental repercussions such as a mirroring of the sexual division of labour in the home and the marketplace. 83% of domestic workers for example are women[28].

This commoditization has somewhat disappeared since ancient times, no longer do men in Western countries explicitly use women as property and keep them as what are essentially sexual slaves, patriarchal gender roles are most pronounced in societies with traditional cultures and less economic development like Saudi Arabia[29] or the Democratic Republic of the Congo[30]. However even in the Western world gender messages conveyed by family, mass media, and other institutions largely favour males having a dominant status thanks to dual and gendered thinking of roles, and through holding up traditionally ‘male’ qualities as central.[30] What these shifts have shown however, is that women have been able to free themselves from the ideological confines of the patriarchal framework; they have been able to think for themselves rather than think the way they have been taught. As Gerder Lerner says: “The feminist critique of the patriarchal edifice of knowledge is laying the groundwork for a correct analysis of reality, one which at the very least can distinguish the whole from a part. A feminist world-view will enable women and men to free their minds from patriarchal thought and practice and at last to build a world free of dominance and hierarchy, a world that is truly human.”[/spoiler]

Educational careers are literally all about raising and teaching children, which is literally one of the main characteristics of what is considered ‘feminine’. When I was in primary school only one of my teachers was male and he joined when I was in year 6. Most of my schoolteachers in secondary school were women, although less so than in primary.


No one is forcing anyone to be in “gendered standards.” The whole point of the American Dream is to pursue your own dreams.

To be honest I doubt children care about gendered toys.


well, just how often do you see young boys asking their Dad’s for a Barbie doll at Christmas? (not very)


Thank you for clearing up what the patriarchy is. The second part about all knowing was a joke in case if you didn’t get that.
Same here in Elementary School every single one of my teachers except two were a woman. In Middle School and High School I had more that were male.
So you agree that teaching children is a feminine role which is characterized by the biology of women then?


yes it prob is,and women are better with little kids than men, hence many primary teachers are female


Computer science was once a gender neutral field actually, before nintendo and the like proto software engineers where one of the most gender balanced of the tech industries (I say proto because there wasnt an engineering standard back then, it was just hacked up pieces of code forced to “work” and often poorly)


Because when these pressures are accounted for or removed the women or men in question are more likely to adopt something outside the cultural norm, i remember a female engineer basically changed how engineering was advertised in schools as a controlled experiment and the number of female students who ended up in the pursuit of hard sciences increased dramatically, toys which promoted skills that form the foundation for any engineer or scientist also dramatically increased them , i can try to find the TED talk where she discusses it.


I’m not angry that their isn’t an equal proportion of men and women doing every single job, i’m just saying that I think social expectations push men and women into boxes, which sucks. I think we should work to dismantle those expectations and raise boys and girls the same way, and once we do that then I really could care less how many men or women do engineering. As long as people are free from ancient patriarchal attitudes that we have yet to shake off, then no one should care what people do. Whether biology or genetics or culture explains this choice better, the fact is that expectations do exist and I think they shouldn’t be there, so the debate over which one is more influential is really irrelevant.


He didn’t say that. He’s talking about how neurological differences between the sexes lead to personality differences which partially causes decisions made regarding careers or study options.

Also no way in hell have social expectations or cultural pressures against women in tech worsened since 1983 to more than halve the proportion of comp sci majors. All that suggests to me is that there are things other than social expectation which are much more important.


The point is that looking at raw proportions and crying sexism is looking through the wrong end of the telescope. Countries ranked highly on sexual equality and freedom have “worse” equal representation in numerous fields compared to less equal and less free countries.



I’m not, I literally just said at the end of the day it’s not about the statistics, it’s about the values and expectations that (I believe) cause them. What we need to do is stop putting girls and boys into boxes, and tell girls that they can be great engineers if they want to be. If they don’t, then who cares, but to deny that we live in a culture where those social pressures and expectations exist is ludicrous.

Well since 1983 computers and the internet have gone from not really being a thing at all to being literally the biggest thing ever, so I don’t think your argument is valid. The way society sees computer science has changed dramatically, and I would say it is considered a ‘male’ subject. Until very recently, ‘geeky’, tech/computer culture was definitely seen as a male thing. There is a book by Jane Margolis about how from a young age boys are given computers and girls are expected not to be (at least at the time she wrote it). I think this is changing a lot in recent years, even a few years ago the idea of a ‘girl gamer’ was something of a rarity, whereas now it’s a lot more common.


A description of how society is influenced by a wide range of gender stereotypes, girls like pink boys like blue, etc. and how those gender stereotypes are pushed onto people.

Patriarchy isn’t just about how women can be oppressed, it’s also about the trouble guys have when they don’t or don’t want to conform to various male stereotypes and roles.


Ok so that is what the patriarchy is. I still have seen the lack of evidence how men and women who don’t conform to their stereotypes are looked down upon or pressured out of their jobs in society.

What is your evidence for this if you say that it is not about statistics?
I will take Google for an example. They have set special networking standards for women to make it easier for them to get into Google. (Source) They don’t have this for white men.
If it is easier for women to get into tech now than ever before then why are they not? It is because they do not want to because of biological differences.
If you don’t agree with me I have more evidence in my previous posts.


This is what we do, though. There is absolutely no institutional arrangement in this country which suggests to girls that they cannot be engineers; if anything precisely the opposite occurs.


Then you haven’t been in school recently or are being deliberately obtuse.