Quick Hits: those little one-liners and examples that win arguments

I’ve created this thread to collect what I call “quick hits” – short phrases and examples that put across just why a bigoted argument is wrong. It’s often hard to think of these things when you’re struggling to comprehend that yes, someone really did just say that incredibly bigoted or ignorant thing, so let’s put lots of them in this comment thread and maybe it will help us out in the future.

You can include clever remarks, scenes from fiction or absolutely anything that you believe might help in an argument.

Please keep one thing in mind, though. Some people just are not open-minded at all. Arguing with them is a waste of your time, and when I get the urge to argue with someone like that, I remind myself my energy is better spent on people who ARE willing to learn – and I go write a post here, usually. So don’t expect these “quick hits” to suddenly convert all the bigots in your life. They may make you feel better, or they may convince a more neutral third party that the bigot is wrong. Those are both good things, but the actual conversion of a hardcore bigot is not something you can do. It’s simply out of your control.

Let the quick hits begin!

Comments

  1. says

    As I mentioned recently, when crossing an “Adoption, not Abortion!” picket line to get to my annual pap smear, I asked the demonstrators if any of them had adopted any kids. The silence was deafening, so I sneered and called them assholes.

    In conversations, I tell people: “We already have tons of kids no one wants to adopt. Are you going to adopt them? I didn’t think so.” It usually stops that topic in its tracks.

  2. says

    There’s a brilliant scene from “Scrubs” in which Elliot and Turk are debating who has it worse in the medical profession: women or black men? A black female doctor walks past, and they both acknowledge her. Then, completely missing the point, they go right back to their debate. This is such an awesome example of:

    –Defaulting to whiteness (“women” means “white women”)
    –How the debate over whether “[white] women” or “black men” have it tougher is a great example of privilege among the oppressed. A black man’s male privilege may well be trumped by his race oppression, and my white privilege may (at least sometimes) be trumped by my femaleness, but we both have privilege in comparison to a black woman.

  3. says

    Once upon a time, an old man was lecturing a clerk on how “the Jews, the n—-s and [I forget who else - probably feminists or women]” were conspiring to topple the white man from his “God-given” position as ruler of the world (never said that in my Bible, hmm). I told him, “Those groups combined outnumber you by far. If they ever all conspired against you, you wouldn’t have time to be standing here telling us about it.” To my surprise, he actually mumbled that he supposed that was true and STFU. As I said in the article, I’m sure it didn’t convert him, but it silenced him, and they sure see silencing US as a win, so there you go.

  4. says

    I have one!

    I went to class wearing pretty butterfly earrings, but nothing else unusual, just my normal tee shirt and jeans. A male classmate (who sexually harassed me for most of the quarter) “complimented” me by saying, “You look like a girl today!” I pretended not to understand, frowned at him, and said, “I look like a girl* every day.” Which confused the hell out of him, so I elaborated, “I am a girl. This is what a girl looks like. All the time.” Then he clarified that he meant he liked my earrings, so I said, “Thanks! I like them too!”

    It was funny as hell watching his face as he tried to figure out where the conversation got away from him.

    * I decided not to touch on the infantalization – I’m actually a woman, dammit.

  5. Azzy says

    In the middle of yet another racist kerfuffle on YouTube, one commenter said that “prejudice is a natural human instinct!” I retorted that it’s also a natural human instinct to shit on the ground, but if you do it in the middle of someone’s living room, they have the right to be pissed.

  6. says

    Right now, I don’t find the article but some of you probably know it: one strategy a woman used was to repeatedly ask the offending person what they said because she “didn’t understand” (you should look like that was true). If the person still is not ashamed enough and shuts up after repeating it several times you can end with “Sorry, I don’t understand, can you explain to me what you mean/why this is funny?”
    I haven’t used it yet, but I think it is great if you are flabbergasted because someone directly attacked you and you can’t think of anything else.

  7. says

    Sylvia Sybil,

    Ugh, I get that comment ALL the time. I usually have a similar response to yours, but I’m usually in too much of a tail spin to make them realize my “confusion” is because they said something ridiculous.

    Worst yet is the comment “But, you’re not a real girl” as if it’s a statement I’m meant to agree with to prove their point. Could you imagine a man saying that to another man?

  8. Fairfield says

    Jessie,

    “Could you imagine a man saying that to another man?”

    Sadly, I and many others have experienced this far too often. My nickname in school was woman, sometimes girl, and I was frequently told that I was not a “real man” — this in itself a double-barrel example of prejudice: not only against those outside the rigid expectation of what a man is or can be, but also a subconscious expression of their sexist upbringing, e.g: I wasn’t good enough to be a man, therefore I must be a woman, somehow less.

    I never had a good retort for them because my mind always went blank.

  9. says

    Fairfield,

    I should have been more clear, as I meant: “Can you imagine a man saying that to another man *and not expecting it to be taken as an insult*?”

    Which falls nicely in line exactly with your point: men/masculinity perceived as good/a compliment, women/femininity perceived as lacking/an insult. I totally agree.

  10. Clay Mechanic says

    Zweisatz,
    Thank you. I, like many others, am so flabbergasted by casually offensive statements that I don’t know how to respond. That response is simple, polite and universally applicable. Genius!

  11. says

    LOL, I very often don’t understand bigoted remarks because they tend to develop regional shorthands which people who’ve lived in one place all their lives assume are universal. So, as someone who moved around a lot through childhood, I would make them repeat it, possibly spell it, explain the significance (which was often as obscure as Cockney rhyming slang), and then make them explain the stereotype behind the slur. At which point I of course end up observing that I’ve rarely or never (or no more often than with anyone else) noticed a member of the slurred demographic performing that particular stereotype, and ask for examples where the person sees this activity happening and so on. It was pure ignorance on my part, but it does point to a really good way to deal with this stuff.

    Additionally, I once attended a communications in the workplace seminar, and they actually advise this if someone says something rude or nasty. “I’m sorry, could you repeat that?” They usually “never mind” it, but if they do repeat it, then you ask what they mean or “Are you saying X?” to get them to publicly own what they’ve just said. As with family, they will sometimes stick to their guns and you still have to be at least superficially on good terms with them (some corps will fire the anti-racist who “can’t get along with” the racist employees), but at least you’re not just nodding and chuckling uncomfortably like half the rest of the staff does just to “get along.”

  12. says

    Clay Mechanic,
    Yeah, it was after exactly such a situation that I remembered the advise (someone higher up seriously agreed we could get stuff out of its box so that “I would not ruin my nails”. I was too flabbergasted to give an immediate reply apart from “That’s not the problem.”)

  13. says

    One time a guy in my Women’s Studies class brought up the false-accusation argument while we were talking about rape (“all a woman has to do to ruin a man’s life is falsely accuse him blah blah blah,” you know). So I asked him for statistics on false accusations of rape, which (surprise) he didn’t have and I did.

    If I’m arguing about someone on a subject that I clearly know more about than they do, pulling out some evidence is a good way to make them shut up, even if it doesn’t change their minds. And even if they keep arguing, they pretty much lose their credibility.

    This isn’t a good way to win arguments on the internet, but in person it can be effective – or a good way to find out if the other person is just a jackass who doesn’t care that what they’re saying isn’t true.

  14. says

    Suicidewinder,

    That’s a good point – that it can fail on the internet, but work better in person. I hadn’t thought of that, but in person, people can perceive how quickly you’re able to answer, and how confident you seem/sound. The ‘net loses those cues, and it can make arguments more befuddling.

  15. says

    Jennifer Kesler,
    Although sometimes it doesn’t work that well if you can’t look up statistics because you don’t have Internet and the only way to “prove” to someone that women are seen as sex objects while men usually aren’t is yelling “Fucking open your eyes!” (which I finally decided against).

    Really on the topic: another post written by Snarky’s Machine about badassery. She presents a really straightforward plan to deal with shit and the comments are always worth reading.
    She basically says: decide what you want to fight, don’t let other people make you backtrack, plan your reactions, rehearse your reactions, react as often as necessary, always the same way.

  16. Casey says

    Zweisatz: Although sometimes it doesn’t work that well if you can’t look up statistics because you don’t have Internet and the only way to “prove” to someone that women are seen as sex objects while men usually aren’t is yelling “Fucking open your eyes!” (which I finally decided against).

    Ugh, I remember that feeling…in my first sociology class I said, straight up that white, cis, hetero, USian men of means rule the world and that we haven’t reached true equality yet, citing the fact that there hasn’t been a woman president and there’s hardly any women in the senate/congress. All the guys dog-piled on me demanding HARD STATISTICS despite the fact that, y’know, I DON’T CARRY THIS SHIT AROUND WITH ME 24/7 and I don’t have a laptop. It was infuriating (I wound up crying, shamefully enough).

  17. says

    If you CAN memorize statistics, it helps a lot. But also remember to turn the stats question back on them when you know they can’t possibly have stats against you. I.E., if they ask for stats on how many women are in Congress, “I don’t have it with me, but I know it’s well below 50%. Do you have stats that prove otherwise?” And I would’ve made excellent use of the president part: “I’m sorry, you need STATS to prove there’s never been a female president? Okay. 0% of presidents were women. Seriously?” Shows they’re just being jackasses.

    But don’t try this tack when there are bogus stats that contradict you, i.e., the false accusation thing. There are bullshit stats that count every non-conviction as a “false accusation”, so that’s a whole different conversation.

    But for your reference: the FBI thinks false rape accusations are about 2%. Same as other felonies, and I’d credit them with a more unbiased sense of it (outside DC, anyway) than local law enforcement with local ties.

    And 17% of Congress was female a couple of years ago. If it’s changed some, it won’t be by much. That’s nowhere near 50%, which is all that matters.

  18. says

    Another thing I do sometimes, primarily when someone is trying to argue that such-and-such thing “doesn’t happen” or that no one from [specific group of people] does [certain thing], etc. is to refute arguments with personal experience. This is also not something I do on the internet, because most people on the internet seem ready to accuse each other of lying about anything in the world. It can also be risky and carry unforseen and potentially dangerous consequences, and is definitely not something I feel comfortable doing all or even most of the time, or something I think people should do if they don’t want to.

    That said, if something is saying something like “sex workers can’t be raped” or “bisexual people are incapable of being monogamous” and if I feel comfortable disclosing to that person at that very moment that I have been a sex worker and have also been raped, or that I’m a bisexual person who has been in the same relationship for two years, then I do it. Those two examples did happen, and in both cases the conversation was shut down immediately, which was what I wanted.

    I’d say it works best when one is facing a blanket generalization made by someone who doesn’t realize that a) the people they’re talking about actually exist in the world and b) the people they’re talking about might be/are people they know and/or respect.

  19. says

    Casey,
    You’ll never guess what the person I talked to studied.

    Jennifer Kesler,
    Thanks for the figures. And it’s a good idea to ask them to prove me wrong if they like statistics so much.
    Maybe I could’ve argued that most of the victims of sexual violence are women.
    But I also encountered the “What, they say x percent were false accusations? Wonder how they got the number because technically …. blabla.” *arg*

    But that’s why I usually don’t argue with people who have totally different opinions. I like to spend my time more sensibly.
    That brings me to another tip: “Could we change the subject?”, repeated as often as necessary. You do not have to engage.

  20. Casey says

    Zweisatz: You’ll never guess what the person I talked to studied.

    Erm…statistics? :(

    Zweisatz: Maybe I could’ve argued that most of the victims of sexual violence are women.
    But I also encountered the “What, they say x percent were false accusations? Wonder how they got the number because technically …. blabla.” *arg*

    In my experience, when the topic of women overwhelmingly being the victims of rape, everybody prefaces their statements with “DON’T FORGET THAT MEN ARE RAPED TOOO!” and instead of it being an acknowledgement that anyone can be a victim, it always comes off like a “WHAT ABOUT TEH MENZ!?” argument or re-centers the argument to “MEN GET RAPED AND ABUSED BY WOMEN SO WHY SHOULD WE CARE ABOUT WOMEN GETTING RAPED AND ABUSED?!”

  21. says

    Casey,
    no, sociology…

    Casey: In my experience, when the topic of women overwhelmingly being the victims of rape, everybody prefaces their statements with “DON’T FORGET THAT MEN ARE RAPED TOOO!” and instead of it being an acknowledgement that anyone can be a victim, it always comes off like a “WHAT ABOUT TEH MENZ!?” argument or re-centers the argument to “MEN GET RAPED AND ABUSED BY WOMEN SO WHY SHOULD WE CARE ABOUT WOMEN GETTING RAPED AND ABUSED?!”

    This. Always.
    The thing about statistics is: if a person asks you to prove your point with statistics because they do not want to believe your lived experienced or what you’ve read etc., sometimes they also dismiss the statistics you offer. Or they will derail the way you just described.

  22. Casey says

    Zweisatz: no, sociology…

    Sorry for the double-post but THAT DOES REMIND ME of a guy I know on a forum who’s majoring in…some kinda journalism thing where he’s specializing in the effects of portrayals of race in the media who WhiteManS’plained to a WOC poster what is and isn’t racist. BOOO!

  23. Towanda says

    Casey,

    I have, no joke, met a man who argues that men and women are raped in equal numbers but that men just don’t report it nearly as much. I was so flabbergasted that I couldn’t even think of anything to say.

  24. Casey says

    Towanda,

    I could understand the number of male rape survivors being criminally low due to under-reporting but that’s just…some MRA-style buuuuuullshit. Bleh.

  25. says

    Towanda,

    Oh, please. From our rape statistics page: http://thehathorlegacy.com/rape-statistics/

    * Little research has been done on male rape, so statistics are fuzzy. But here is what is known:

    - 1 in 10 rape victims are men. (Rathus, Nevid and Fichner-Rathus, 568)
    - In a survey answered by hundreds of rape and sexual assault support agencies, they estimated that 93.7 percent of male rape perpetrators are male and 6.3 percent were female. (Greenberg, Bruess and Haffner, 575)
    - Many people do not believe that male rape by a female exists. However, penile erection can be achieved under emotional duress such as anger, fear, and pain even if the male does not wish it. (Greenberg, Bruess and Haffner, 576; Lips, 234)

    I don’t think 10% of men is an insignificant number. It’s lower than the 25% estimate for women, sure, but it equates to a huge number of men.

    And I bet you nowhere near 10% of all men have *reported* being raped in their lifetime, at least not to the police or any sort of officials. Researchers are totally aware that all rape is under-reported, and they’ve obviously trying to arrive at guesstimates through other methods.

    Side note: in my experience with men making arguments similar to this one, many are just misogynists bent on proving that women’s issues are crap and the status quo is best for everyone. But a few seem to genuinely believe rapes of men are being ignored, and just telling them, “Yes, we realize 10% of men are raped” seems to break down a barrier. I suspect this latter group may be victims of unreported rapes themselves, who feel deeply isolated.

  26. says

    Sylvia Sybil,

    Oh, my bad – I’ve been stressed and trying to do many things at once lately. Here’s a better one – it’s more like 3%:

    http://www.rainn.org/get-information/statistics/sexual-assault-victims

    And I concur with the suggestion that 3% is low, because some sources rate the number of boys who’ve been molested higher than that (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Child_sexual_abuse#United_States_and_Europe), which I find totally plausible:

    http://www.aest.org.uk/survivors/male/myths_about_male_rape.htm

    Heterosexual males can be, and are, also raped in very large numbers. An F.B.I. statistic put the number of males that will be raped as an adult at 3 %, a number most organizations think is very underestimated. Of this 3%, over 40% identify themselves as exclusively heterosexual.

    In the mid 80′s it was thought that only 3% of boys suffered childhood sexual abuse where as now it is accepted 1 in 6 are; so the 3% for adult rape will probably rise in the next few years as well as more males start to talk about it.

  27. MariaS says

    There’s a lot of useful bits and pieces I must have gleaned from Shakesville, ways of naming problems or behaviours, of radically reframing things, and of moving a discussion on to somewhere useful, but the two that spring to mind are “this [instance of something problematic/oppressive] doesn’t happen in a void”, and in response to anything that ends up along the lines of “what do you expect?” “I expect more”.

    Can’t remember where I got this sorry but it’s very useful to remind people of this: “Emotional is not the opposite of rational”.

    I’m in the middle of reading Delusions of Gender by Cordelia Fine (great book, I highly recommend it). Here’s some things for countering gender essentialism that cites studies about the brain:

    - “foetal testosterone” – a burst of testosterone that a usually male foetus receives at about 8 weeks. Is apparently widely cited as somehow “organising” the brain in a male way. However, all we know for certain is that what this testosterone does is to grow the foetus a penis (regardless of its genetic sex). Links with “masculine” mental aptitudes etc are still hopelessly speculative

    - if someone cites the book The Female Brain by Louann Brizendine, which apparently has tons of authoritative-looking references, then they need to know that close fact-checking of Brizendine’s references shows that many simply do not support or say the things she claims they do. As well checking a bunch of references herself Cordelia Fine also refers to Mark Liberman at Language Log – here’s a couple off his (very detailed) critiques of what Brizendine claims:
    http://itre.cis.upenn.edu/~myl/languagelog/archives/003530.html
    http://itre.cis.upenn.edu/~myl/languagelog/archives/003565.html

    - neuroimaging looks pretty impressive to us laypeople but actually it’s still in its infancy and simply cannot tell us much detail about the brain’s workings, certainly not about individual neurons. “Using fMRI to spy on neurons is something like using Cold War-era satellites to spy on people: Only large-scale activity is visible.” (Science journalist Greg Miller, quoted on p.153 of Delusions of Gender)

    - more generally what I’m picking up from Delusions of Gender is that conclusions drawn about sex differences from research on the brain are often the result of massive leaps of interpretation and unquestioned gendered assumptions. Whatever we can observe about physical structures of the brain or brain activity, which may or may not show differences by sex, we simply cannot leap from that to draw conclusions about human MINDS and what shapes people’s thoughts, beliefs, personalities or aptitudes (i.e. claims like “the nature of this bit of the brain in men means that men are bad at processing emotions” are simply not authoritative).

    Fine does say that physical differences between the brains of men and women are found by some studies, but what that means psychologically we just do not know. As far as I can tell from reading so far these differences are very minor or their existence is contentious. The overall “quick hit” from citing Delusions of Gender is that there is no definitive “male brain” and “female brain” – and any argument that depends on that idea is hopelessly simplifying current scientific knowledge about the brain.

    I personally am coming to detest hearing/reading the phrase “hardwired” when pronouncements are made about the brain in any context, particularly re gender of course. The mechanical/circuitboard-type metaphor of the brain is terribly limiting, and erroneous – the brain can sometimes very effectively “re-wire” itself and change in order to cope with damage and injury to it. I have yet to deploy this in a discussion, but my riposte would be something like “the only thing the brain is ‘hardwired’ to do is to learn and adapt” and go on to talk about brain plasticity. I did a quick google for that to find a handy go-to link, and here’s one : http://faculty.washington.edu/chudler/plast.html

    The appeal of gender essentialism is that that if one can show that social inequalities differences are biologically based, then there’s no point in trying to change anything, and feminism’s core struggle is to assert that people and society can and should change. Generally expressing the belief that people can change and things can get better could be a good “quick hit” in lots of situations, and similar to “I expect more”.

    Again I can’t yet vouch for the effectiveness of this, but if talking critically about any aspect of the gender policing of children (often gingerly to parents, as a non-parent) I think I’d frame it as something like “I just think it’s very negative to set limits on children’s potential – we should be giving them the message that they are capable of all kinds of things, and encourage them to find out what things they as individuals especially enjoy/are good at”.

  28. says

    MariaS,

    OMG, so need to review Fine’s book, but not sure where to start. It’s just packed with awesome!

    And you reminded me of one more quick hit from her work, just something I took away, not a quote: environment activates and deactivates genes. Environment determines which genes will get expressed. So even if we could prove that different things are coded into male and female brains, which we can’t, environment would still play a huge role.

    For those who haven’t read it, she cites numerous studies in which girls or African American students are told that typically their demographic does BETTER than white boys on a particular test, and guess what happens? Even though that’s a lie, they outperform the white boys. Seriously, the results were just that stark. It was like flipping a switch. That’s not genes – that’s purely environment. Hell, it almost sounds like a magic trick, but if you study REAL neuroscience, this is the kind of thing it’s discovering.

    Thanks for the stuff from Shakesville, too, Maria S!

  29. says

    Holidays are great for bringing out family arguments… *sigh*. My common-law-brother-in-law remarked at a holiday gathering that “immigrants should act like Canadians”. I retorted that the Anishnaabe, Cree, Kwakiutl and Inuit shared his sentiments, but no one was listening.

  30. Casey says

    Dominique,

    Speaking of First Nations/Native peoples…my parents were watching a special about the polar bears up in…IDK, Alaska I guess and how they’re wandering into human towns and eating the trash and attacking people and my mom’s all like “Good for the polar bears!” That’s not what bugged me though, what DID bug me was her saying, “YANNO, THE ESKIMOS DIDN’T HAVE ANY OF THESE PROBLEMS WITH THE POLAR BEARS BEFORE! BUT NOW THEY’RE ALL A BUNCH OF ALCHIE DRUG ADDICTS LIKE THE INDIANS AND LIVE IN THEIR OWN FILTH!”

    Gee, I wonder WHY they’re alcoholic drug addicts who live in their own filth? It certainly couldn’t be due to mass-genocide and being sloughed off to the shittiest parts of the country and being systematically treated like 5th-rate citizens for hundreds of years, now COULD it?!?!
    No, they just turned into losers for no reason ‘cuz they’re lazy or something…right…sure…you keep thinking that.

  31. Alara Rogers says

    I’m planning to do an experiment with my daughter (that is, she is interested in psychology and would like to conduct the experiment for a school science fair), where we present students at her all-girl high school with one of two tests.

    In the first one, you have to rearrange shapes, and it’s defined as a spatial intelligence test.

    In the second one, you have to rearrange shapes that look like furniture, and it’s defined as a test of your aesthetics and skill at home design. However, aside from the Visio shapes being used being selected from the furniture wireframes, it will otherwise be exactly the same test.

    My hypothesis: Girls will do significantly better on the second test, even though in terms of actual spatial intelligence, the exact same level of skill would be required for either test, since the shapes and the tasks are the same.

    My second hypothesis: If I got those results, and tried to publish them in a paper, I might get a publication, but the mainstream media would not pick up and report on my research, even though they love to report on women’s supposed inferiority at spatial tasks.

    A second test to do would be to go next door to the mixed gender high school, and redo the test. My hypothesis there would be that girls would do as well as boys or better at the furniture rearranging test, but the boys would do better at the one defined as a spatial intelligence test.

    I just have to construct the right puzzles out of Visio shapes. :-)

  32. says

    Alara Rogers,

    I had that thought before too. The whole women and girls do poorly at spatial reasoning tests thing is because those tests are designed with boys in mind. Not consciously of course, but by using blocks and geometric shapes, boys gain an advantage because of the years they spent playing with Legos, Lincoln Logs, Kinects, etc. Whereas girls typically would not have gotten nearly as much time with those sorts of toys, but they do learn spatial reasoning skills in other forms and we can see this quite clearly in many of the occupations women work in. For instance, hair stylists need to be able to see the shape of a hair cut, figure out how it will look on differently shaped faces, and create that haircut out of a movable, multi-layered sheath of hair. That ain’t easy I’m sure. Same goes for interior decorators, fashion designers, graphic artists, and plenty of others. But because these professions are all seen as highly feminine, the skills needed to preform these tasks well aren’t seen as what they really are: spatial reasoning.

    I think y’alls experiment is a great idea and has the potential to really illuminate this concept. Also, it should totally get her 1st place in a science fair!

  33. Quib says

    Zaewen,

    Also sewing. You need a ridiculous amount of 3-D and 2-D spacial reasoning to be a competent seamstress (or seamster).

    It’s kind of hilarious how we, as a culture, categorize masculine and feminine skills. For example, baking requires you to be calculating and precise, so it’s for women, and grilling and cooking allow you to be intuitive and creative, so that’s what men do.

  34. says

    Quib,

    Mm hmm. I’ve been into crochet for a while and it is ridiculous how much math you need! Especially if you’re designing your own patterns. To crochet a doll, you need to be thinking about how increasing both vertically and horizontally will affect your results, plus the fact that if you’re changing horizontally you’re actually affecting the perimeter of a circle, not the diameter, so it doesn’t move as smoothly…. But oh, you know, crocheting is really just a hobby, not an art form or something that requires effort. *glare*

  35. Dingo says

    Zaewen,

    Sorry if this is a bit off topic but I saw a very interesting study recently (I’m sorry, I cannot find a link to it) on spacial reasoning. The researchers found that in a patriarchal society (Where property, etc. moves through the male line) boys outperformed girls on a spacial reasoning test, but in societies that were matriarchal, both genders performed equally. (I know correlation =/= causation, but I still think it’s a pretty interesting result. Plus it’s got the added bonus of blowing the whole “girl brain” thing out of the water)

  36. says

    Dingo,

    Also see this comment about studies showing that just TELLING a demographic group “Your people usually outscore the other people” even when that’s a complete lie causes them to OUTscore the others.

    I’ve always intuitively resisted the idea of pandering to the lowest common denominator, and now I understand why scientifically. If you don’t expect much from someone, they have nothing to gain by surpassing your expectations – you might even resent them for proving you wrong. But if you do expect something from them, if you take a positive reinforcement tack of ensuring that they CAN do the work and then telling them you expect them to do it, most people will in order to gain the self-respect that comes from knowing you did well on something.

  37. says

    Dingo,

    I remember seeing that study (tho I’m too don’t have a link to it). The thing that really struck me about the findings was not just that girls did better in the matrilineal* society, but that both genders did better than they did in the patrilineal one. If you ask me that heavily suggests that when the genders are treated as equals, everyone does better period. Proof that gender equality is not a zero-sum game, but a win-win all around.

    *It’s important to note that the societies were divided by matrilineal v. patrilineal (inheritance running through the mother’s or father’s line) instead of matriarchal v. patriarchal (power being concentrated in the women or men) because the matrilineal society was most likely still patriarchal or egalitarian, not matriarchal.

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