The Male Privilege Checklist

An Unabashed Imitation of an article by Peggy McIntosh

In 1990, Wellesley College professor Peggy McIntosh wrote an essay called “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack”. McIntosh observes that whites in the U.S. are “taught to see racism only in individual acts of meanness, not in invisible systems conferring dominance on my group.” To illustrate these invisible systems, McIntosh wrote a list of 26 invisible privileges whites benefit from.

As McIntosh points out, men also tend to be unaware of their own privileges as men. In the spirit of McIntosh’s essay, I thought I’d compile a list similar to McIntosh’s, focusing on the invisible privileges benefiting men.

Due to my own limitations, this list is unavoidably U.S. centric. I hope that writers from other cultures will create new lists, or modify this one, to reflect their own experiences.

Since I first compiled it, the list has been posted many times on internet discussion groups. Very helpfully, many people have suggested additions to the checklist. More commonly, of course, critics (usually, but not exclusively, male) have pointed out men have disadvantages too – being drafted into the army, being expected to suppress emotions, and so on. These are indeed bad things – but I never claimed that life for men is all ice cream sundaes.

Obviously, there are individual exceptions to most problems discussed on the list. The existence of individual exceptions does not mean that general problems are not a concern.

Pointing out that men are privileged in no way denies that bad things happen to men. Being privileged does not mean men are given everything in life for free; being privileged does not mean that men do not work hard, do not suffer. In many cases – from a boy being bullied in school, to soldiers selecting male civilians to be executed, to male workers dying of exposure to unsafe chemicals – the sexist society that maintains male privilege also immeasurably harms boys and men.

However, although I don’t deny that men suffer, this post is focused on advantages men experience.

Several critics have also argued that the list somehow victimizes women. I disagree; pointing out problems is not the same as perpetuating them. It is not a “victimizing” position to acknowledge that injustice exists; on the contrary, without that acknowledgment it isn’t possible to fight injustice.

An internet acquaintance of mine once wrote, “The first big privilege which whites, males, people in upper economic classes, the able bodied, the straight (I think one or two of those will cover most of us) can work to alleviate is the privilege to be oblivious to privilege.” This checklist is, I hope, a step towards helping men to give up the “first big privilege.”

The Male Privilege Checklist

1. My odds of being hired for a job, when competing against female applicants, are probably skewed in my favor. The more prestigious the job, the larger the odds are skewed.

2. I can be confident that my co-workers won’t think I got my job because of my sex – even though that might be true. (More).

3. If I am never promoted, it’s not because of my sex.

4. If I fail in my job or career, I can feel sure this won’t be seen as a black mark against my entire sex’s capabilities.

5. I am far less likely to face sexual harassment at work than my female co-workers are. (More).

6. If I do the same task as a woman, and if the measurement is at all subjective, chances are people will think I did a better job.

7. If I’m a teen or adult, and if I can stay out of prison, my odds of being raped are relatively low. (More).

8. On average, I am taught to fear walking alone after dark in average public spaces much less than my female counterparts are.

9. If I choose not to have children, my masculinity will not be called into question.

10. If I have children but do not provide primary care for them, my masculinity will not be called into question.

11. If I have children and provide primary care for them, I’ll be praised for extraordinary parenting if I’m even marginally competent. (More).

12. If I have children and a career, no one will think I’m selfish for not staying at home.

13. If I seek political office, my relationship with my children, or who I hire to take care of them, will probably not be scrutinized by the press.

14. My elected representatives are mostly people of my own sex. The more prestigious and powerful the elected position, the more this is true.

15. When I ask to see “the person in charge,” odds are I will face a person of my own sex. The higher-up in the organization the person is, the surer I can be.

16. As a child, chances are I was encouraged to be more active and outgoing than my sisters. (More).

17. As a child, I could choose from an almost infinite variety of children’s media featuring positive, active, non-stereotyped heroes of my own sex. I never had to look for it; male protagonists were (and are) the default.

18. As a child, chances are I got more teacher attention than girls who raised their hands just as often. (More).

19. If my day, week or year is going badly, I need not ask of each negative episode or situation whether or not it has sexist overtones.

20. I can turn on the television or glance at the front page of the newspaper and see people of my own sex widely represented.

21. If I’m careless with my financial affairs it won’t be attributed to my sex.

22. If I’m careless with my driving it won’t be attributed to my sex.

23. I can speak in public to a large group without putting my sex on trial.

24. Even if I sleep with a lot of women, there is no chance that I will be seriously labeled a “slut,” nor is there any male counterpart to “slut-bashing.” (More).

25. I do not have to worry about the message my wardrobe sends about my sexual availability. (More).

26. My clothing is typically less expensive and better-constructed than women’s clothing for the same social status. While I have fewer options, my clothes will probably fit better than a woman’s without tailoring. (More).

27. The grooming regimen expected of me is relatively cheap and consumes little time. (More).

28. If I buy a new car, chances are I’ll be offered a better price than a woman buying the same car. (More).

29. If I’m not conventionally attractive, the disadvantages are relatively small and easy to ignore.

30. I can be loud with no fear of being called a shrew. I can be aggressive with no fear of being called a bitch.

31. I can ask for legal protection from violence that happens mostly to men without being seen as a selfish special interest, since that kind of violence is called “crime” and is a general social concern. (Violence that happens mostly to women is usually called “domestic violence” or “acquaintance rape,” and is seen as a special interest issue.)

32. I can be confident that the ordinary language of day-to-day existence will always include my sex. “All men are created equal,” mailman, chairman, freshman, he.

33. My ability to make important decisions and my capability in general will never be questioned depending on what time of the month it is.

34. I will never be expected to change my name upon marriage or questioned if I don’t change my name.

35. The decision to hire me will not be based on assumptions about whether or not I might choose to have a family sometime soon.

36. Every major religion in the world is led primarily by people of my own sex. Even God, in most major religions, is pictured as male.

37. Most major religions argue that I should be the head of my household, while my wife and children should be subservient to me.

38. If I have a wife or live-in girlfriend, chances are we’ll divide up household chores so that she does most of the labor, and in particular the most repetitive and unrewarding tasks. (More).

39. If I have children with my girlfriend or wife, I can expect her to do most of the basic childcare such as changing diapers and feeding.

40. If I have children with my wife or girlfriend, and it turns out that one of us needs to make career sacrifices to raise the kids, chances are we’ll both assume the career sacrificed should be hers.

41. Assuming I am heterosexual, magazines, billboards, television, movies, pornography, and virtually all of media is filled with images of scantily-clad women intended to appeal to me sexually. Such images of men exist, but are rarer.

42. In general, I am under much less pressure to be thin than my female counterparts are. (More). If I am fat, I probably suffer fewer social and economic consequences for being fat than fat women do. (More).

43. If I am heterosexual, it’s incredibly unlikely that I’ll ever be beaten up by a spouse or lover. (More).

44. Complete strangers generally do not walk up to me on the street and tell me to “smile.” (More: 1 2).

45. Sexual harassment on the street virtually never happens to me. I do not need to plot my movements through public space in order to avoid being sexually harassed, or to mitigate sexual harassment. (More.)

45. On average, I am not interrupted by women as often as women are interrupted by men. (More.)

46. I have the privilege of being unaware of my male privilege.

(Compiled by Barry Deutsch, aka “Ampersand.” Permission is granted to reproduce this list in any way, for any purpose, so long as the acknowledgment of Peggy McIntosh’s work is not removed. If possible, I’d appreciate it if folks who use it would tell me how they used it; my email is barry.deutsch@gmail.com.)

(This is an occasionally updated document; the most current version of The Male Privilege Checklist can always be found at amptoons.com/blog/the-male-privilege-checklist . The views expressed here, which I started writing in 2001, unavoidably fail to precisely express my current views; that’s life, isn’t it? To see posts discussing the Male Privilege Checklist and various items on it, please visit this archive page).

* * *

Related links

For another feminist list with a different thematic approach, see Andrea Rubenstein’s “Think We’ve Already Achieved Equality? Think Again.

A list of links to many other “privilege lists.”

957 Responses to The Male Privilege Checklist

  1. 901
    Elusis says:

    Male superheroes are NOT designed with (straight) women’s prefs in mind:

    http://www.shortpacked.com/2011/comic/book-13/05-the-death-of-snkrs/falseequivalence/

  2. 902
    Abbe Faria says:

    Rebuttal macro posted without comment.

    http://i.imgur.com/qPnk0C7.jpg

  3. 903
    Harlequin says:

    Yeah, I mean, those romance novel covers are completely indistinguishable from this, or this, or this (which is Spider-Man, whom you described as a “gangly scrawny kid”–although that cover is, admittedly, closer to the romance covers in that image than the other two).

    We can see this in all sorts of other media, too. After all, as we all know, Arnold Schwarzenegger was most famous for his many rom-coms instead of his sadly underperforming action movies, right? Since it’s a general characteristic of non-lesbian women to prefer their men as muscled as possible, while guys prefer men who look like themselves?

  4. 904
    Guthrie says:

    Perhaps the issue of what body type is preferred lies in whether a woman is interested in a tryst or a long-term relationship?

    The number of competitors in the market might lead to a different behavioral choices then simple attraction.

  5. 905
    Harlequin says:

    Hmm. I was wrong in my earlier comment, by failing to distinguish (in my own head as well as in the prose) between “what people actually like” and “what marketers think they’ll like”, as well as failing to accurately portray the difference between what the average audience member likes vs the wide dispersion of the preferences of all people in the audience. I’ll try to do better next time, sorry.

    (Among other things, Arnold Schwarzenegger did have a couple of successful rom coms [how does one characterize True Lies, anyway?].)

    But I do think the general point stands, which is that, while romance novel covers and comics covers both portray muscular men, the scale and intent is different. I mean: besides the raw bulk, the romance-novel covers are partially unclothed, while the comics covers are suited up; the romance-novel covers generally show stationary men, while comics covers are more likely to show men in fights or in action poses of one sort or another.

  6. 906
    Tamen says:

    I mean: besides the raw bulk, the romance-novel covers are partially unclothed, while the comics covers are suited up;

    Saying that the superheroes on comics covers are suited up in contrast to the partially unclothed men on romance-novel covers is somewhat misleading. Apart from their genitalia the suit really does nothing to obscure any part of their anatomy. If you color Superman’s costume in a skin tone you basically have a naked man with blurry/no genitalia and a large S tattooed on his chest.

  7. 907
    Grace Annam says:

    Tamen:

    If you color Superman’s costume in a skin tone you basically have a naked man with blurry/no genitalia and a large S tattooed on his chest.

    Yes. Anyone who has seen a really cut bodybuilder wearing spandex knows that the spandex causes a loss of definition, because it bridges the little valleys between the muscles. Superheroes and superheroines aren’t wearing spandex; they’re vacuum-packed in some substance which doesn’t pass air. Or just body-painted with their genitals surgically smoothed-over.

    Also, with the alien ones like Superman we can handwave this away, but the human ones have apparently all frozen themselves in that part of the metabolic cycle which bodybuilders attain through weeks of careful diet planning and strategic dehydration, so that they have peak definition on the day of a competition.

    Grace

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  10. 908
    Ruchama says:

    For romance cover models and superheroes, I don’t know when those romance covers were from, but most of them look pretty eighties-ish to me. I do read romances, and the cover models, as well as the descriptions of the male characters, have been getting pretty steadily smaller and less muscular in the past few decades. (And, actually, nowadays, it’s mostly Harlequins that even have shirtless guys on the covers — most publishers think it’s way too cliche.) Superheroes, on the other hand, seem to have been getting more muscular.

  11. 909
    Ruchama says:

    (OK, I googled a couple of those titles, and some of them are more recent than I would have expected. They’re not typical of current romance covers, though. Those are the sort that tend to end up in the Smart Bitches, Trashy Books “cover snark” category. http://www.smartbitchestrashybooks.com/index.php/weblog/C12/ )

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  17. 910
    Brent says:

    Romance cover models and superheroes. If you color Superman’s costume in a skin tone you basically have a naked man with blurry/no genitalia and a large S tattooed on his chest.

  18. 911
    Guilaine says:

    Great start!
    A couple suggestions:
    If I am straight, in a relationship and become unfaithful, there is a good chance the at least some of the responsibility will be placed on my partner.

    Again, if I am straight, I can be fiercely independent without fearing this might affect my partner’s sense of gender security (indeed, there is no equivalent of emasculation for women?)

    What to you think?

  19. 912
    gijoe sports fan says:

    Actually Guilane, in reference to your first point, it is the other way around. If a woman becomes unfaithful, at least part (and usually all of it) of the responsibility and BLAME will be placed on the man (oh he wasn’t emotionally available and he wasn’t there for her or he wasn’t fulfilling her needs, etc.).

  20. 913
    Ampersand says:

    Surely it’s obvious that it happens both that sometimes when a woman cheats on her husband the woman’s friends will blame the husband, and it is simultaneously true that sometimes when a man cheats on his wife the man’s friends will blame the wife.

    I mean, that’s obvious. Isn’t it? I kind of wasn’t sure what Guilane was saying, but Gijoe, you seem to be think this only happens in one direction. Don’t you think that’s unrealistic?

  21. 914
    gijoe sports fan says:

    It actually primarily does only happen in one direction. So I don’t understand your point.

  22. 915
    Guthrie says:

    Men cheat for physiological reasons while women cheat for emotional reasons. Men shame other men whose wives have cheated (emasculated) them.

  23. 916
    Jordan Rutledge says:

    Do we live in the world of TV tropes? Men have emotions too and they feel neglected in relationships, they feel unsatisfied with being belittled or ignored by their wives and cheat for that reason. And just as many women cheat because a new lover is more attractive as men do, I assume that’s what you mean by “physiological reasons” (let’s hope you aren’t trying to imply men are sex robots with less free will than women).

  24. 917
    Guthrie says:

    Automatons without any free will is a bit hyperbolic. On a base level men cheat for sexual reasons and women for emotional as numerous studies bear out. In reality if 75 to 80 percent of men cheat solely because of sexual desire compared to only 25% of women your point has some validity. However, I don’t think we evolve beyond the biological imperatives of men to spread seed and women to pair bond and protect their family as much as learn to restrain our base nature.

  25. 918
    Lee1 says:

    However, I don’t think we evolve beyond the biological imperatives of men to spread seed and women to pair bond and protect their family as much as learn to restrain our base nature.

    That’s an interesting claim. I wonder what your basis for it is, given a couple of points:
    1) While the simplistic view that across many animal species males have a selective incentive to mate with as many females as possible while females have a selective incentive to choose a high-fitness mate is supported in many cases, there are numerous counterexamples (including in primates), and
    2) Humans are far more behaviorally complex and socially contingent than almost every other species for which relevant studies have been performed, making it virtually impossible to perform the necessary experiments with the appropriate level of scientific rigor in our species.

    Also, when you say “numerous studies bear out” your claim about why men and women cheat, would you care to cite any of those studies? I’m an evolutionary biologist, and I’d be quite interested to see them and see how well controlled they are.

  26. 919
    Guthrie says:

    Men have stronger sexual impulses. We don’t lack will power. The impulse to sleep with an attractive woman isn’t caused by dissatisfaction in my marriage nor does my self control prevent the desire. I’m attaching a press release of a study by Texas A&M researchers who examined the physiological signs of arousal and impulse control in participants when shown pictures of potential mates . In short it supports my point that men have stronger sexual urges and are more likely to succumb to these impulses than women. I believe the physical arousal data is objective data to base our analysis and I respectively don’t think the behavioral complexity of humans negates my point of why men are more likely to cheat.

    I’m not sure what standards you require as a evolutionary biologist but below is a synopsis and link to the press release.

    In order to measure the strength of sexual impulse relative to the strength of impulse control, the researchers recruited 600 undergraduate students (326 men, 274 women) to participate in a “Partner Selection Game.”

    Participants were very briefly shown images of opposite-sex individuals; the images were tagged either “good for you” or “bad for you.” Participants were asked to accept or reject potential partners based on the computer-generated “good for you” or “bad for you” prompt. While they were shown photographs of both desirable and undesirable individuals, participants were instructed to make acceptance and rejection choices based on the computer-generated tags. In some trials, participants were asked to accept desirable and reject undesirable individuals; in other trials, participants were asked to go against their inclinations by rejecting desirable individuals and accepting undesirable individuals.

    Men experienced a much stronger impulse to “accept” the desirable rather than the undesirable partners, and this impulse partially explained why men performed worse on the task than women did. However, this same procedure estimates people’s ability to exert control over their responses, and men did not demonstrate a poorer ability to control their responses relative to women.

    http://esciencenews.com/articles/2013/09/22/stronger.sexual.impulses.may.explain.why.men.cheat.more.women.study.reveals

  27. 920
    Lee1 says:

    The reason I mentioned I’m an evolutionary biologist is that a lot of the pseudo-scientific crap used to justify bad behavior by men over the past couple decades has been put forth under the umbrella of “evolutionary psychology,” and those claims are generally based on “studies” that are completely laughable in terms of their scientific rigor and controls compared to comparative behavioral studies performed on, for example, fruit flies.

    In the particular study you mention, I read the popular science journalism summary you linked (oddly, there didn’t appear to be a link from that page to an actual peer-reviewed study – perhaps I missed it). I can’t seem to find any info on how they controlled for the different cultural/societal messages boys and girls – and later men and women – in the US (since all participants were from the US) receive regarding the appropriateness of acting on their sexual impulses, and how that might affect their performance in such an experiment.

    Oh, wait – they didn’t have any controls for that? Gee, I wonder if that’s because that’s virtually impossible to do in humans. The claims of that study, or at least of the popular summary of it, are complete bullshit from a remotely reasonably rigorous scientific standpoint. Care to try again?

  28. 921
    Dave says:

    I know from personal experience that #1 – 5 are not true. I am a male nurse.

  29. 922
    Guthrie says:

    The crux of your argument is the physiological data collected for the study is meaningless because you can’t strip away societal influences/messaging on how to appropriately deal with those hormonal impulses.
    Acknowledging that the impulses exists is an important point. I don’t have to eliminate all other contributing factors to understand that if those impulses are stronger in men than their impact on our decisions is also more substantial than on women. I don’t need to know if the men were breast-fed, raised by a stay-at-home parent, or had their heart broken several times prior to the study. The study is most valuable as a reference point to determine how men and women respond in the real world. Frankly the “rigor” you desire is a red herring and only serves as an excuse to invalidate all the data available to objectively analyze this question. Human behavior in all its complexity has been studied in the absence of human lab rats raised under perfect clinical conditions and I’d like to avoid being mired in minutiae. The hormones in question and their properties are listed below. As a biologist you may have more knowledge or a broader perspective on these hormones. Please let me know if you feel the definitions below are inaccurate or just reply “bullshit” again if you feel the effect of these hormones can’t be determined in humans because of societal influences.

    The hormones inside our body that influence monogamy are oxytocin, arginine vasopressin, and testosterone.

    1) Oxytocin is the hormone that forms the bond between a parent and her new-born child.

    2) Arginine vasopressin increases the desire to support your mate or offspring.

    3) Testosterone, associated with libido and sex drive as well as male characteristics and muscular structure.

    Testosterone conflicts with the bonding effects of Oxytocin in driving a person to seek more sexual partners, to be single-minded and to take risks. Men usually have up to ten times more of it than women.

  30. 923
    Enlightened One says:

    Most of these are gross oversimplifications for the purpose of aiding the author’s bias agenda.

    There are gender issues for both men and women, and there is no reason to point fingers and treat one gender as the enemy.

    Feminism has long since served its purpose in north america, it should now be laid to rest and we should adopt the much more appropriate and inclusive banner of “Gender Equality” and be just as upset about wrongs to either gender.

  31. 924
    Elusis says:

    Uh oh, is it time for another round of Evo Psych Bingo?

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  34. 925
    Guthrie says:

    I cried for joy when your board game cleared all the cognizant dissonance away for me. Suggesting that testosterone has a biological effect on men was just silly. Eureka I should have realized bingo was the answer all along.

  35. 927
    Ampersand says:

    At various times in the past, Thor has also been (1) powerless, (2) a frog, and (3) an orange-skinned alien named Beta Ray Bill (actually a pretty awesome plotline). This sort of stunt never lasts – the big-name superheroes always revert back. Thor will revert back to being the Thor from the movies before either Thor 3 or Avengers 2 comes out.

    (I find it funny that the MTV article said Marvels’ “Big Three” were Thor, Iron Man, and Captain America. My guess is that Spiderman is still bigger.)

    Edited to add: Which isn’t to say that Thor being a woman might not be a cool plotline. It could be really good, depending mostly on if it’s well-written or not. But whether or not it’s a good storyline, it won’t last. At most, we’ll wind up with parallel comics coming out featuring different versions of Thor (the way that most Spiderman comics coming out now feature Peter Parker but the Michael Moranus (sp?) version still exists.)

  36. 928
    Guthrie says:

    You’re undoubtedly correct that Thor will revert to his male form before the Avengers sequel (for continuity if nothing else). It’s still noteworthy to me and I imagine a few other comic fans who have never seen such a prominent character recast as a woman.

  37. 929
    Ampersand says:

    Oh, I agree – it is noteworthy. And it could be more than that, if the creative team does a good job with the book. Despite my negativism in this post, I’m hoping it’ll be really great.

  38. 930
    Lee1 says:

    The crux of your argument is the physiological data collected for the study is meaningless because you can’t strip away societal influences/messaging on how to appropriately deal with those hormonal impulses.

    Actually, that’s not the crux of my argument at all. I never said “the physiological data collected for the study is [sic] meaningless.” What I said is that using those data to draw broader conclusions about male behavior, such as “men succumb to sexual temptations more than women — for example, cheating on a partner — because they experience strong sexual impulses” (from your link above) or “men cheat for physiological reasons while women cheat for emotional reasons” (from your own comment above) is absurd. It’s absurd because 1) there’s no way to rigorously distinguish between physiological and societal influences, and 2) we know that physiological responses themselves are influenced by societal cues. The data alone aren’t meaningless, but the conclusions some people (yourself included apparently) want to draw from them have no scientific basis.

    I’m sorry you’re not a fan of the notion of scientific rigor, but it’s ludicrous to say that it’s “a red herring and only serves as an excuse to invalidate all the data available to objectively analyze this question.” Any remotely competent scientist understands the need to see the limits of his or her data and not extrapolate beyond that; you apparently consider that “being mired in minutiae,” but in fact it’s just doing decent science. Whether you like it or not, some questions are just really, really hard (if not practically impossible currently) to answer scientifically.

  39. 931
    Grace Annam says:

    I just want to pop into a comment thread which usually fills me with frustration to say that I really appreciate Lee1′s recent comments. Thanks, Lee1.

    Grace

  40. 932
    Lee1 says:

    Thank you, Grace – I appreciate it.

  41. 933
    Ampersand says:

    What Grace said! I hope you stick around. (You’ve been here since March, right? Or am I misremembering?)

  42. 934
    Lee1 says:

    Thanks to you too, Amp. I’ve actually been lurking around these parts on and off for several years (I think I initially found my way here from the now-defunct Shapely Prose blog), but I only started commenting with some minimal frequency a few months ago. I appreciate all the work you and other writers here do.

  43. 935
    Guthrie says:

    Lee1,
    I’ll concede you the popularity contest in this argument. I believe it is possible to draw conclusions from imperfect data. The basis of scientific inquiry is a process of asking questions, developing strategies to investigate those questions and drawing conclusions from the results that you see and then further revising those conclusions based off additional questions or data. In my personal experience, you almost never have the luxury of perfect information to base your conclusions.
    The hormone data is fact. Surveys where men and woman are asked why they cheated are facts. The vast majority of articles, research and anecdotal information I have found supports my theory. A chicken and egg conversation about hormones and social cues is pointless. I know from my youth and what my wife unaffectionately describes as “my second midlife crisis” taking up bodybuilding late in my 40′s that testosterone levels significantly effect my thoughts and behavior. That said I don’t wish to needlessly play the antagonist so enjoy your kudos from the blog.

  44. 936
    Lee1 says:

    Guthrie,
    While I certainly appreciate the kind words from Grace and Amp (both of whom I respect a lot based on their writing here), I’m not really interested in winning a blog popularity contest. I also have a pretty good grasp on how science works, including the fact that no dataset is ever perfect. The question is just how imperfect a given dataset is, what assumptions we make when we interpret it, and how far we can reasonably stretch our conclusions based on those assumptions.

    The hormone data is fact.

    I’m not really in a position to judge that (and you aren’t either, as near as I can tell), but I’ll accept the data as reliable. That still doesn’t justify the conclusion that, for example, “men cheat for physiological reasons while women cheat for emotional reasons” without some HUGE and unsupported additional assumptions.

    Surveys where men and woman are asked why they cheated are facts.

    I’m not really in a position to judge that (and you aren’t either, as near as I can tell), but I’ll accept the data as reliable. That still doesn’t justify the conclusion that, for example, “men cheat for physiological reasons while women cheat for emotional reasons” without some HUGE and unsupported additional assumptions.

    The vast majority of articles, research and anecdotal information I have found supports my theory.

    I certainly won’t accept this claim, since you’ve only provided one study (not even that – a link to a popular science article about a study), and it doesn’t support your “theory” at all.

    A chicken and egg conversation about hormones and social cues is pointless.

    Umm…a chicken and egg conversation about hormones and social cues is pretty much right at the center of this discussion, since we’re talking about factors affecting human (generally male in this case, but the same ideas apply more broadly) behavior. If you think the question of how physiology and social cues interact to affect human behavior is pointless, you’ve missed the point in a truly spectacular fashion.

  45. 937
    Grace Annam says:

    Guthrie:

    Lee1,
    I’ll concede you the popularity contest in this argument.

    In other words, you’re willing to concede what was never at issue. I wouldn’t know Lee1 if they ran up and bit me on the elbow. Lee1 isn’t popular because of stellar sartorial choices. Lee1 is more popular than you are right now because Lee1′s posts are making more sense than yours are right now.

    When you were trying to assert as fact some overgeneralizations which are very disputable and inapplicable to individuals even if they’re true, and your justification was “because science”, Lee1 stepped up to say, “Okay, I’m a scientist, let’s do science.” And it turns out that the “science” you were handwaving at was methodologically flawed, and that if you were drawing conclusions at all from that mess, you should have been drawing them very tentatively. Instead, you asserted them with extreme confidence.

    I believe it is possible to draw conclusions from imperfect data.

    Sure. That doesn’t make those conclusions accurate. Or wise.

    The basis of scientific inquiry is a process of asking questions, developing strategies to investigate those questions and drawing conclusions from the results that you see and then further revising those conclusions based off additional questions or data.

    Strictly, the process of science is making an observation, proposing an explanation, coming up with a falsifiable hypothesis to test the explanation, gathering data, and then seeing if the data support or contradict the falsifiable hypothesis.

    More broadly, science can consist largely of observation. However, the observer always affects the observations, not in some subtle quantum sense, but because we are always observe incompletely, and because we always observe through the lens of our own individual unexamined preconceptions. My undergraduate training was partly in Anthropology, and while it is a worthwhile area of study, and scientific in a broad sense, my word but some Anthropologists have been shown to have royally screwed up their observations.

    That goes double, quintuple, an order of magnitude for psychologists.

    And among psychologists, evolutionary psychology is especially desperate. Evo psych leads us to the view that human beings are innately predisposed to be organized much like nuclear family units of the American 1950s. As Anne Lamott put it, “You can safely assume that you’ve created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do.” We should be very suspicious of very convenient results. They are prone to arise from very convenient preconceptions.

    The hormone data is fact.

    The hormone data is data.

    Surveys where men and woman are asked why they cheated are facts.

    Surveys are instruments, tools, for gathering data. Survey results are data. Neither is a fact.

    The vast majority of articles, research and anecdotal information I have found supports my theory.

    No doubt. Well, you have than in common with a lot of psychologists, a lesser percentage of sociologists and anthropologists, and a much lesser percentage of chemists and physicists.

    Look, there’s nothing wrong with being wrong. This happens to scientists ALL THE TIME. That’s just grist for the mill. The real tragedies happen when scientists get really confident about how well the theory maps reality, and then start applying the theory to actual human beings.

    You said, without qualification,

    Men cheat for physiological reasons while women cheat for emotional reasons.

    That’s a very definite declaratory statement. Implicit in that statement are two hidden words: “All men cheat for physiological reasons while all women cheat for emotional reasons.”

    But in pretty much every data set ever, and especially in psych data sets, the bell curve of the data from the men largely overlaps the bell curve of the data from the women. It might be valid to say, “The average man cheats for more physiological reasons than the average woman,” or “The median value for the emotional cheating quotient is higher in women than in men.” But that has no bearing on THIS man, or THAT woman. They could be anywhere on the curves.

    It’s like height. Sure, “women are shorter than men”. Mean, median, mode, all have smaller height values for men than for women (if your data set is valid – but try it with a small sample size and you’ll find that it’s not always true). But I’m a woman, and if I give a level gaze to most of the men I meet during the day, it passes over their head. It’s equally true to say, “Grace is taller than most men.”

    In other words, individuals are individuals, and when it comes to individuals,

    Men cheat for physiological reasons while women cheat for emotional reasons

    may consist of high-quality oats, but they’ve been through the bull.

    That said I don’t wish to needlessly play the antagonist so enjoy your kudos from the blog.

    Does that mean you’re taking your toys and going home? Because that’s what it sounds like.

    You can’t learn something until you concede that you now know better than you did before, which is another way of saying that before, you were less than perfect.

    I’ve learned a lot from this blog. Sometimes it smarts. But it’s been worth it. Give it a try.

    Grace

  46. 938
    Guthrie says:

    Lee1 – I disagree with you on the same points we discussed previously. My last comment expressed my fatigue with the circular nature of our discussion. You’ve made an articulate argument based on your view that its not possible to draw conclusions with the available data because people are influenced by social cues. I enjoyed the dialogue but don’t believe it has any where else to go if we can’t agree on a means to analyze the question. My comment about popularity was mostly annoyance that our discussion led to barbs from a peanut gallery. It’s a feminist blog and a well written one but independent of that the inherent bias of many of the commenters limits the value of continuing my argument once members express disdain.

    Grace,
    I am not interested in being popular nor am I interested in being the sole protagonist whose argument falls on deaf ears. I enjoyed reading this blog long before my first comment and don’t have a desire to stop anything except discussing the current subject. Your response took some of my words out of context and stated assumptions about what I am said that are neither true or reasonable. I want to clarify these points but won’t continue to restate my previous argument beyond those points.

    1) A fact is something that is known to exist. A fact is neither good or bad but something that has been verified to exist. Hormones exists and have a biological effect on men and women. Testosterone affects a man’s libido. Survey results tell you the respondents opinion or at least answer to questions asked.

    1a) I am able to control myself despite feelings of attraction outside of my marriage. Self control or will power is a reasonable response to the physical urges and I don’t believe anyone can skirt responsibility for their choices.

    2) I never said all men cheat for physical reasons or implied it. I explicitly said “75 to 80 percent of men cheat solely because of sexual desire compared to only 25% of women” later in the discussion. Adding all to my statement makes it far more salacious and presumptive.

    3) Lee1 is a scientist/ conclusions drawn from imperfect data are/may not be accurate or wise.

    Ok? I actually have an undergraduate degree in chemistry and an MBA from a top ten program. If I make an appeal based off my expert authority does it change the merits of my argument? I think in terms of having enough data to draw a reasonable conclusion more than certainty and have found it to be far more effective and efficient as it allows for course correction versus “analysis paralysis” which wastes time and resources (I have excessive free time these days but the point is still the same). When you launch a shuttle to the moon 100% accuracy is essential; for most other things being somewhere around the middle of the bell curve (one standard deviation) is a reasonable standard. The fact that there are exceptions to this rule should be expected but outliers do not change the mean result.

    4) Observers always affect observations….. Because we observe through the lens of our own individual unexamined preconceptions.

    I don’t doubt that I’m biased by a host of factors that I am not even completely aware of but if I become aroused because of a learned trait or acting solely based on my hormonal drive the fact I’m interested without any marital issues is does not change. Perhaps my attraction is a defense mechanism or I’m seeking validity from other women but I have interpreted it to mean I’m attracted to women whether or not I’m in a happy relationship.
    In terms of facts or data my views affect what I research (as was the original author/source) interpret the results. I’m ok with that and in many ways we are god in our own subjective experience.

  47. 939
    Ampersand says:

    Guthrie – sorry if you took my complimenting Lee1 as a barb at you. That’s certainly not how I intended it.

  48. 940
    Guthrie says:

    Thanks Amp – I appreciate that. As long as my comments aren’t a nuisance to the blog I’m ok.

  49. 941
    Ampersand says:

    On the contrary, I like having polite dissenters here. I figure it helps keep me honest. :-)

  50. 942
    Lee1 says:

    I used to teach a genetics course, and the textbook I used* included the following about the genetics and heritability of human IQ: “Prejudices about the causes of human differences are widespread and deep, and, as a result, the canons of evidence adhered to in studies of the heritability of IQ, for example, have been much more lax than in studies of milk yield in cows.”

    I’m not accusing you of being motivated by prejudice, Guthrie, but you’re making the same mistakes from a scientific standpoint that some people who do appear to be motivated by prejudice (or by the desire to justify bad behavior by some men) make. The standards of evidence you’re applying to move from some basic hormonal measurements to broad conclusions about very complex, highly socially contingent behaviors would almost certainly be completely rejected by the scientific community if applied to any other animal species. It goes without saying you’re entitled to your opinion, but based on generally accepted scientific standards in behavioral genetics and evolution your position is not justified. And this is not a case of “analysis paralysis” or demanding 100% accuracy when close enough will do – it’s just a simple recognition that these are incredibly difficult questions to address in humans.

    This will probably be my last word on this topic, because I think you’re right that it probably doesn’t have anywhere else to go. But I just wanted to mention that quote from that genetics textbook because I found it quite striking (I still use it in my evolution class, even though I have a different textbook), and I think it’s also very applicable to how we try to understand human behavior.

    *Introduction to Genetic Analyses 9th ed. by Griffiths et al.

  51. 943
    Guthrie says:

    Lee1,
    Thanks for the quote. I must confess to enjoying our exchange. That quote is interesting on a number of levels independent of our discussion.
    1. The financial motivation ($10.2 billion in US sales in 2012 ) of dairy farmers is obviously a driver of the milk yield studies.
    2. Human Intelligence can take on many forms and IQ tests measure a specific aptitude which may be less predictive of success than interpersonal skills/intelligence. Additionally the tests are argued by some to be prejudiced because of the disparity of results across race and social class.

    Howard Gardner’s list of different forms of intelligence:
    A. Naturalist Intelligence (“Nature Smart”)
    B. Musical Intelligence (“Musical Smart”)
    C. Logical-Mathematical Intelligence (Number/Reasoning Smart)
    D. Existential Intelligence
    E. Interpersonal Intelligence (People Smart”)
    F. Bodily-Kinesthetic Intelligence (“Body Smart”)
    G. Linguistic Intelligence (Word Smart)
    H. Intra-personal Intelligence (Self Smart”)
    G. Spatial Intelligence (“Picture Smart”)

    In regards to our discussion, I appreciate you not saying or implying I am prejudice. However I don’t quite understand how making the same mistake as “people who do appear to be motivated by prejudice or the desire to justify bad behavior by some men make” should be interpreted. I agree that we should stop rehashing the same points as neither of our positions or logic are congruent to finding a common ground.
    Given your background, like a scorpion sting to a swimming frog, I can’t resist asking about why you say evolution does not support my argument as I believe evolutionary psychology argues men cheat to spread their genetic codes as far and wide as possible. I believe humans are considered more faithful than most mammals, who have little investment in raising children, as monogamy provides the best opportunity for successful offspring (and a happy spouse) but the evolutionary urge to cheat seems to serve a logical purpose in the survival of a man’s genetic line if not our species (minus social costs – check out the Maury Povich show for depressing and humorous examples of prolific sperm donors). It’s a minor point that I don’t believe we discussed before.

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  56. 944
    anti says:

    Things I would add based on the comments here:
    “I can debate gender inequality dispassionately because it doesn’t reflect the real harm in my lived experience. This is treated as objectivity, rather than a lack of expertise.”

    “I can safely contribute to (and dominate) discussions of gender inequality in unmoderated or lightly-moderated spaces.”

    “I can consider ‘free speech’ to be more important than care for others because the criticism or abuse I face is rarely related to real harm in my life, and is less likely to reflect my previous experience in a way that is distressing. My right to full humanity is rarely questioned in these spaces.”

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