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A Swede in Germany

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Rachel from “Friends” / Follow-up: Speculations on the negative influence of female attitudes

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After watching the next episode (S05E01), I have to make a small addendum in Emily’s defense to my previous text:

I had entirely forgotten about her catching Ross about to go (at least officially platonically) with Rachel on what should have been Ross and Emily’s honeymoon. With that misunderstanding, Ross’s behavior must have appeared much more incriminating to her, which makes her later behavior a little more understandable.

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July 5, 2021 at 11:52 pm

Rachel from “Friends” / Follow-up: Speculations on the negative influence of female attitudes

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I am currently re-watching “Friends”, and (as always) find it full of examples* of poor female behavior, many reflecting the political problems I suspect in e.g. [1]—as well as a male failure to hold women to a reasonable standard and to take a stand, which could also contribute to political issues. This in particular regarding Rachel and Ross and her double-standards, self-centeredness, disregard for the interests of others, and unwillingness to take personal responsibility. Rachel: Me! Me! Me! Ross: You! You! You!

*I caution that “Friends” is in many ways exaggerated and unrealistic, but many of the behaviors of both sexes match what I have experienced myself or seen/heard/read from others reasonably well in quality, if not necessarily quantity.

Consider the last few episodes that I watched, centering on Ross and Emily’s London wedding. Examples include Rachel flying to London to wreck the wedding,* Emily freaking out about a venue problem to the point that she wants to postpone the wedding, leaving a number of overseas (and probably dozens more local) guests with wasted trips and parents with an expensively paid wedding, and Monica supporting this selfish idiocy—while Ross tries to take a stand, only to cave in the face of what amounts to “But this is really, really important to a woman/girl of five!”. That the woman was in singular and the guests in plural, that any sane person considers the marriage** far more important than the wedding, and that we sometimes have to swallow the bitter pill and do what is right, not what we want or what is easy, did not seem to figure into the equation.

*To her credit, she comes to her senses, possibly partially due to a stern talking to from Hugh Laurie (a man who took a stand). That the wedding ends up being wrecked (in the next season) was not her fault.

**Eventually, the wedding took place and the marriage crashed and burned in short order. Of course, the wedding did not take place because someone talked sense into Emily, but because Ross went out of his way to fix up the ruined original venue to cater to her childish ideas.

As to Ross’s classic line “I take thee, Rachel”, which crashed the marriage: I have considerable sympathies for Emily, as this must have been both humiliating and infuriating, but would not a reasonable person in a deep and loving relationship have been able to move past it? Either she was unreasonable for not doing so or for having pushed for a ceremony at a far too early date, before the two knew each other and the depth or shallowness of their love well enough.*

*Note that while Ross pushes harder for the marriage, per se, the extremely short time between proposal and wedding is Emily’s doing—and for a childish and superficial reason (wanting to be married in a particular venue, before it is torn down; again, missing the point of the marriage being more important than the wedding). With another few months to more than a year of engagement, they would have had so much better chances to straighten themselves out or to terminate a mere engagement instead of an actual marriage.

As to Rachel, in general, she is indeed a horrible, horrible woman (to paraphrase Hugh Laurie) and her personality defects ruined most of the Ross–Rachel saga for me. Her very first appearance on the show follows her running out on her own wedding, still in her wedding dress, and more-or-less assuming that she can move in with Monica, whom she had not dignified with her friendship in years (with some reservations for ret-cons).*

*And note that when Chandler does something similar, much later, he is talked back into the wedding, while Rachel was not. If anything, the general sentiment seems to be that Rachel did the right thing—no matter the damage to the groom, the guests, and the whatnot. By all means, she should not get married against her own convictions, but if she were to back out, she should have done so earlier, when the damage to others would have been small, and not on a last minute whim, when the costs for others were large.

Among her many other idiocies and selfish behaviors, I will give only three (watch an episode at random, if you want more):

Firstly, the whole “Were they on a break?” situation: Watch the relevant episodes, and you will find that immediately after the event Rachel (!) claimed that they were on a break, while Ross thought that they were broken up. Over time, Ross appears to have been a chicken and switched to Rachel’s position (on a break), with the effect that Rachel pushed her own position further to his disadvantage (not on a break). (Incidentally, this is another thing that well matches the current political Left. Give them an inch and they next demand an ell, instead of giving an inch of their own.)

Secondly, the events leading up to Ross’s drinking fat as an act of contrition:* Ross is in a hurry to get to an important event, likely one of career relevance to him, with her as his guest. She utterly disrespects** him and his justified (!) urgency with endless and unnecessary delays, eventually throws a childish fit, refuses to come and/or to dress, and behaves as if he had disrespected her … Eventually, in one of the most absurd scenes of television, the adult man has to earn the forgiveness of the spoiled child by drinking fat.

*That episode pisses me off to such a degree that I skipped most of it, this time around. I make corresponding reservations for vagueness and errors in detail.

**Note the hypocrisy and how the women on the show take the exact opposite attitude on so many occasions, when they are the ones believing something to be important. This is a good example of how turning the male and female roles in a certain situation around can be extremely revealing about the pro-woman double-standard that applies in much of modern society (and modern TV). Have a man be cavalier about an important career event (or a wedding!) and women hit the roof over the alleged egoistical pig. When a woman is cavalier? Not so much.

Thirdly, appearing to accept Ross back as her boyfriend, making him break up with his new girlfriend (Bonnie?)—and then springing an 18-page letter (“Front and back!”) upon Ross, making unconditional demands on him that he must accept in order to be her boyfriend. (Notably, demands that he disagrees strongly with.) As she had made him dump Bonnie, this was utterly unreasonable. If she had such demands, she should have brought them in play before the dumping, to give him an informed choice; after, she had made her bed and should have been forced to lie in it, to take responsibility for her own lack of timing. And what about poor Bonnie—either which way?

Excursion on Emily and red flags:
Looking at Emily, she had a number of earlier events, including in her very first scene, when she comes across as bitchy, but most of them, at least when taken alone, seemed to have legitimate causes. That someone is in a bad mood after a long plane ride, followed by a body-cavity search, followed by falling into a puddle, followed by (apparently) being stood up is understandable.* However, with hindsight, they could be seen as early warning signs, and it might pay to take such warning signs seriously in real life. For instance, if a girlfriend flips out once a week, chances are that a better wife can be found and that a proposal should not take place. (And, certainly, the current disastrous political situation follows decades of warning signs that have been ignored by too many until it was too late.)

*To some approximation her state during that first scene. I might have the details wrong, however.

Excursion on the Left and a childish worldview/moral system:
It strikes me again and again that most people on the left move on an apparent level of (not just women but) children in terms of how undeveloped their worldviews and moral systems tend to be. Pick up a typical children’s book or comic and chances are that exactly their type of thinking will be found, e.g. in that the protagonist is always (morally) right, that the “strong” must selflessly help the “weak” without looking into why help is needed, that the “strong” are always wrong in a conflict with the “weak”, that if the one has then he must share, etc. To some part, this might be because the authors are disproportionately often Leftist, but mostly, I suspect, it is simply that Leftists often have not moved on from ideas popular with children. Compare this with e.g. Kohlberg’s stages of moral development.

An interesting case is the Swedish comic “Bamse”, which features an eponymous bear who gains superpowers by eating a particular type of honey (similar to Pop-Eye and his spinach). Either the “bad guys” do what Bamse want, or they are beaten up—with no sign of true moral reflection, e.g. about who is in the wrong and who is in the right. (With reservations for what might have changed in the comic since my own childhood.)

Excursion on Ross and errors:
Ross was by no means ideal either, even if we disregard his weakness and how easily manipulated he was, but, interestingly, the one (off the top of my head!) truly major point where I find him in error, saw him acting in a manner more stereotypically expected of a woman and Rachel of a man: out of jealousy or love he kept pestering Rachel in her office, leading up to an attempt to force her to an anniversary (?) picnic in her office, at a time when she made clear that she had a crisis to handle and that he simply had to wait. Of course, if we switch the roles again, with Ross in the office and Rachel pestering him, chances are that she would have reacted even more negatively than Ross did—and that the female viewers would have lined up to support her.

Written by michaeleriksson

July 4, 2021 at 10:10 pm

The 2020 Nobel Prizes: Women and the Nobel Prize

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I have traditionally posted on the Nobel Prizes and women once a year. I had not intended to do so this year, as I have more-or-less closed this blog. However, the results of 2020 were unusually interesting, and I will make an exception. I might or might not make future exceptions.

(I refer to earlier years for background, assumptions, etc.)

Looking at the three core Prizes, women provided 3 out of 8 Laureates and took 1.25 out of 3 Prizes, including the entire Chemistry Prize and a share of the Physics Prize—both of which are historically quite rare.

Considering 2018, there might be some change underway:* The female Laureates of 2018 and 2020 have doubled the number of female winners in Physics from two to four and almost doubled the Chemistry winners from four to seven. Moreover, the 2020 Chemistry Prize was won without joint male Laureates, which is a further rarity.

*Or just coincidence. If there is change, I leave unstated what type of change, for want of sufficient data. (But I note that I am highly skeptical to ideas like “STEM fields oppress women”, which was an original motivation in this series.)

The last ties in well with a portion of my discussion from 2019: The possibility that some women* have received a (partial) Prize more through having the right husband or male team-member(s) than through own merit. Here there is little risk of that.

*Men too, obviously, but in the context of the proportions of male respectively female winners, these would have a far smaller impact.

The “extra-curricular” Economy Prize went to two men; while the out-of-competition Literature and Peace Prizes went to a woman respectively an organization. We, then, have a total of 4 women to 7 men and 2.25 Prizes to 2.75. Whether looking at the core Prizes or the overall situation, this is arguably the best women’s year of all times.

Excursion on Literature:
Unfortunately, I suspect that some type of quota is in place, striving for approximately alternate male/female winners, or at least a rough long-term 50–50. In the last eight years, we have the sequence* F M F M M F M F, for four male and four female winners, and only one exception to the alternating pattern—and that exception might have been caused by the choice of Bob Dylan.

*F(emale) and M(ale). I tried W(oman) and M(an), but that was near unreadable.

Looking back further, since 2004 and the unfortunate win of Elfriede Jelinek, we have the following sequence: F M M F M F M M M F M F M M F M W. Here the trend is weaker, with three (new) and seven (in all) female winners to six (new) and ten (in all) male winners, with the difference being carried by a single three-in-a-row for men 2010–2012. Noting that other non-literary concerns, including other “diversity concerns”, might have played in, and that woman might well have a harder time as authors in the non-Western parts of the world, this is still suspect. For instance, having an only second (!) Chinese Literature winner in 2012 might have trumped the fear of having three men in a row, as might having the first Peruvian (in any category) in 2010.*

*True, this leaves open why yet another male Swedish winner was needed in 2011, but the general point of sex not being the only concern holds. Indeed, as Wikipedia on Tomas Tranströmer claims: “The Swedish Academy revealed that he had been nominated every single year since 1993.” A “this year might be the last chance” criterion could have played in; and he did die just a few years later.

This type of regularity is unlikely if chance was the only thing playing in. By analogy, flip a coin thrice and there is a chance of 1/4 that it will be three-of-a-kind over just these three throws,* while here the entire series of seventeen only contained one three-in-a-row and no four-or-higher-in-a-row. Further, the above sequence sees a full twelve transitions out of sixteen possible; flipping a coin, the expectation value would be eight.** If the sexes, unlike a fair coin, do not have a 50–50 probability, then the regularity becomes the more remarkable.***

*The first flip is uninteresting, there is a 1/2 chance that the second has the same side up, and another 1/2 that the third does too, for 1/4 in all.

**There is a 1/2 chance of a transition with any throw (excepting the first). 16 x 1/2 = 8.

***For instance, if we assume 60–40, then the chance of three-in-a-row over just the first three throws rises to 0.6^3 + 0.4^3 = 0.28 compared to the original 1/4 = 0.25. 70–30 gives 0.37, etc.

(But I stress that the above is merely suspect—not outside what can legitimately happen by chance.)

Excursion on the Chemistry Prize:
My first reaction when reading the motivation “for the development of a method for genome editing” (cf. Wikipedia on Chemistry Laureates) was that this was more a matter of Medicine/Physiology than Chemistry, which would have made a female win less unusual. However, the last few decades, similar motivations appear to be quite common. I am not certain whether I agree with general idea, but it is, then, not likely to be very important in the current context.

Excursion on references:
I did not keep track on references during writing, but mostly various Wikipedia pages. I am loathe to track them back, as this text has taken much longer than intended—exactly the type of problem that moved me to close this blog.

Written by michaeleriksson

October 25, 2020 at 7:24 pm

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Idiot mothers and my rotten building

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Yet another proof that I live in a rotten-to-the-core-building ([1]): and that “Karens” are a matter of women, not specifically White women, feeling entitled and being presumptuous, self-centered, and/or uncomprehending of the rights and interests of others. The latter especially with mothers, who seem to think that the rest of the worlds has a duty to bend itself to fit their convenience.

As I wrote in [1]:

For instance, the door to the cellar is often blocked by prams. Last week, it was three-seater (!) that would have made it impossible to access the cellar without simultaneously blocking the stairs completely, so that no-one could get in. Even maneuvering it sufficiently to get to the cellar door, even at the price of blocking the stairs, might have required me to go out the front door first (and/or to push the pram out the front door). Certainly, there would have been no chance of getting out of the cellar again, had someone wanting to enter the building put it back while I was down there—and the chances with even a smaller pram might not be brilliant either.

There were some repetitions of this, during which I found that I, indeed, was forced to put the entire pram on the pavement outside the building to get into the cellar. On one occasion, it was positioned in such a manner that it was barely possible to get the door open. I decided to write a note to put in the pram the next time that it appeared—but it never did. After a handful* of weeks without incidents, I believed that the idiot responsible had come to her senses.

*The text quoted is from 1st of July, roughly six weeks ago, and the problem might have extended another week-or-so after that.

But no:

As I left the building for errands earlier today, I found a barely readable hand-written note on the door. Believe it or not, but this idiot was now actually complaining that her pram had been damaged by people trying to open the front door … Her opinion seems to be that if someone opens the front door and feels resistance, then it is time to stop pushing and try to wriggle in through whatever opening is available.

In contrast, any reasonably sane and intelligent individual would come to the conclusion that if her pram blocks the entry to the house, she has to put it somewhere else—preferably, her own apartment. (This even before factoring in the additional and more complete blocking of the cellar door.)

My position is clear: If she does something this stupid and inconsiderate, again and again, anyone entering the house has the right to use any amount of violence necessary to get in and still be blameless. The blame resides solely with her, and she should be happy that no-one has yet to simply thrown her pram away or reported her to building management*.

*Notwithstanding that this might be pointless in light of my prior experiences with their incompetence.

For a few similar incidents, also see an older text on women and awareness of surroundings, which includes e.g. a woman blocking the door to (another) apartment building from the outside with her bike, and then having a hissy fit when I presumed to push the door open to get out through the sole exit of said building.

Written by michaeleriksson

August 10, 2020 at 11:45 am

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Karens and related topics

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Recently, I have repeatedly encountered the derogatory term “Karen”, in the sense of a White woman who overreacts against Blacks as perceived threats, criminals, whatnots. This notably in relation to the “Central Park birdwatching incident” (to follow the terminology of the linked-to Wikipedia page). As this tied in well with some of my observations and a few recent texts, I intended to write something on the matter. However, the definition of “Karen” provided by Wikipedia seems to be much wider. ([1] is the same page fixed to the version that I read.)

Below, I will first give an abbreviated treatment of my original angle (based on my original understanding of the term), and then follow with a few observations around this and another Wikipedia page. (The first as it might or might not apply to “Karen”, but definitely contains some important points in general. Also, partially, because Wikipedia often is faulty and partisan in contexts like these, which leads to the second; moreover, usage might well have drifted.)

“Karen”:

While it might well be that some White women do have a particular fear or whatnot of Black men, there is fair chance that most alleged observations of this are specious—something that instead reflects undue fears in general among women and/or undue fears of men. This possibly in combination with the behavior of some Black men, or other parts of their appearance than skin color. If so, it is an excellent, multiple illustration of how people tend to jump to conclusions.* Specifically, many women display similar fear-driven behaviors even when the counter-part is not Black. For instance, Germany (a country with few Blacks) has instituted dedicated zones of parking houses for women—not because there is any actual increased danger for women, but simply because sufficiently many women have a greater fear than men and have complained long and hard enough. For instance, I (White) have myself had a few women very hurriedly change side of the street during walks after nightfall (in a manner that makes a coincidence unlikely).

*Examples are manifold, but one (with many variations) quite relevant to much of my writings is a woman who is fired because she did a poor job, but who instantly attributes this to her being a woman and the decision-maker an allegedly sexist man, without reflection on how e.g. her own behavior might have caused the events and without ever asking herself whether the same would have happened to a man with the same behavior. (Unless, obviously, to answer it with a resounding “NO!’, because she has already made up her mind that she fired because she was a woman.

Then we have to consider what might increase the risk of such a reaction: In my case, I am 6’ 3” and often on the wrong side of 220 lb. Chances are that an already skittish woman is more fearful of me than of someone 5’ 3” and a 110 lb—and that is even somewhat understandable, despite my posing no danger whatsoever to her. Similarly, if someone wears a hoodie, has tattoos, is of over-average muscularity, speaks loudly or with poor grammar, whatnot, chances are that some mixture of own experiences, somewhat true* stereotypes, and built-in circuitry will cause a stronger fear reaction in a woman than would the stereotypical accountant.** These are also, in my impression, likelier to apply to a Black man than a White man. Then: was it really the skin color or might it have been the hoodie, the tattoos, etc.? Or, in light of Feminist propaganda, that it was a man (and not a woman or child), irrespective of skin color.

*Most people who wear hoodies are not criminals, but the proportion of hoodie wearers who are criminals is almost certainly higher than for the overall population. (Possibly, after adjusting for some other factors, e.g. age.)

**With many other factors potentially applying in a similar manner.

Finally, to the degree that skin color does play in, is it a matter of racism or a knowledge of crime statistics? (Remember the context of a woman who is already skittish for irrational reasons—or rational, for all I care. She is already scared as she walks home on an empty street late at night—and then she sees someone who is disproportionately* likely to be a criminal.)

*Note that that this does not imply “likely”, just “likelier”.

Wikipedia:

I will not analyze these articles in detail, but I mention a few specific oddities that I saw during skimming:

  1. There are no less than three mentions of “privilege” in [1]. None of them make much sense and the whole concept is highly dubious to begin with—and, if not, it has by now degenerated into a generic and argument-free debate blocker. It has no place in an encyclopedic text.
  2. [1] abuses “they” to refer to someone who has already been identified as a “he”. Abuse of “they” is indefensible in general, but when there is no ambiguity about either sex or gender, it is utterly inexcusable and, again, has no place in an encyclopedic text. (Either gross incompetence or blatant ideology pushing.)
  3. [1] claims:

    Kansas State University professor Heather Suzanne Woods, whose research interests include memes, said a Karen’s defining characteristics are “entitlement, selfishness, a desire to complain” and that a Karen “demands the world exist according to her standards with little regard for others, and she is willing to risk or demean others to achieve her ends.”

    This matches my impressions of very many women quite well. At least one or two of these likely apply to a majority of all women (and more than a few men, in all fairness). When it comes to mothers, at least up to a certain age of the child, the situation is even worse, as many seem to think that every non-mother is a second-class citizen. Note e.g. the rude woman in a recent text.

    However, I stress that “a desire to complain” might need differentiation: If someone complains e.g. for the sake of complaining, in the hope of some unwarranted benefit,* for some feeling of importance relating to the complaining (all of which I do have the impression that many women do), then it is a negative. On the other hand, if the complaint strives to point out flaws that could and should be rectified, unethical business methods, governmental waste or incompetence, or similar, then it is a positive—we need more of this type of complaint. (And I engage in such complaints regularly my self. Indeed, this very text could be seen as an example.)

    *For instance, during a restaurant visit, I once heard two women at a near-by table loudly complain to the waiter about the substandard meat and how they refused to pay (or wanted a discount?)—despite having actually eaten all of the meat … They were in the restaurant business themselves, and they knew poor quality when they saw it! (My meal, for the record, was excellent.)

  4. A less reasonable portion is:

    While the term is used exclusively in a pejorative manner towards a person of a specific race and gender, some have argued that “Karen” lacks the historical context to be considered a slur, and that calling it one trivializes actual discrimination. Others argue that the targets of the term have immense privilege, and that “an epithet that lacks the power to discriminate is just an insult.”

    For fuck’s sake! Why would a slur need a historical context? How does “calling it one trivialize[s] actual discrimination”? This portion is also an excellent example of abuse of the word “discrimination”. Later we see one of the abuses of “privilege”, and the claim “an epithet that lacks the power to discriminate is just an insult” is potentially* another abuse in the “discrimination” family and misses the point about slurs.

    *Depending exactly on what is meant: if the use parallels the preceding, it is an abuse; if it implies e.g. that an insult that could apply to anyone is not a slur, it would be correct use (but still a disputable thesis).

    To this I note that Wiktionary on “slur” says “An insult or slight.”, that Merriam-Webster gives “Slur definition is – an insulting or disparaging remark or innuendo : aspersion.”, and that both match my own understanding well—a slur is a (one-word?) insult.*

    *This might be another case of significant modifiers being dropped by idiots, who do note realize that they are distorting the meaning of the core word, e.g. with “slur” as a short for “racial slur”, “sexist slur”, whatnot paralleling “discrimination” as a short for “racial discrimination” (etc.), while the true meaning of the respective word goes under in all the abuses.

  5. I followed a link to the page on “Woman card”. The very first sentence discredits the entire page: “The woman card, also called playing the woman card, the gender card or the sex card, is an idiomatic phrase that refers to exploitation of either sexist or anti-female attitudes by accusing others of sexism or misogyny.”

    If the author had left out “anti-female”, it might have been technically correct for some subset of uses (but highly confusing). However, with that portion in, it is clear that the entire concept is put on its head. The “woman card” is a woman* trying to get advantages of some kind, usually in a debate, by using the fact that she is a woman. This, in most contexts, is a irrational, despicable, and/or intellectually dishonest line of argumentation—and pointing it out is a good thing. Here, however, the “woman card” is twisted to refer to the one pointing the use out and condemning that as despicable—PC bullshit at its worst and entirely unworthy of an encyclopedia.

    *The page also gives Bill Clinton an example along the lines of “be pro-Hillary, because she is a woman”. This could conceivably be viewed as a relevant example of a non-woman, but non-women are definitely far rarer.

    The continuation is as bad: “The phrase is used to describe accusations [sic!] of women either mentioning their gender to gain an advantage in discussions or implying or accusing other people of sexism in order to garner support.” No: it is not the “accusations” but the “mentioning” (etc.) that the phrase refers to. (And this continuation removes the risk that the first quote was just extremely poorly phrased.)

    Note the recurring issue of a PC/Feminist/Leftist/whatnot double-standard: They are allowed to, and do, try to shutdown others with even entirely unwarranted accusations of e.g. “privilege” or “mansplaining”—but do not dare use a similar term against them, even should it have an actual objective justification!

    As an aside, “Karen” is an interesting example, as it might put two factions of the overall PC movement against each other: the Feminist, which would like to see it banned as anti-woman, and the “Blackist” (for want of a better word), which sees it as a means to shut-down non-compliant women.

Written by michaeleriksson

July 4, 2020 at 12:47 am

Follow-up: Speculations on the negative influence of female attitudes

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Preamble: This began as a brief clarification, but the clarification spun off footnotes that turned into excursions and then the excursions spun off other excursions. There is material enough to build a “regular” text around the excursions, but I prefer to keep them as excursions to reduce the time spent—which is already about ten times longer than I had intended.

Thinking back on a recent text dealing partially with topics like paying for services, I suspect that the superficial reader could misinterpret (or the politically hostile distort) it. To reduce the risk, a brief clarification:

These parts of the text are directed mostly at the recipient, not the performer, of the service: I do not necessarily argue that the performer should require payment. Whether he does is up to him and whether I would do so in his shoes would depend on the circumstances (see excursion). The main point is that the recipient should not have a “something for nothing” mentality and, at a minimum, make a genuine*offer to pay (see another excursion)—the antithesis of “the woman with many friends” from the original text. A secondary point is that a society which works on a “something for something” basis is fairer and more likely to be successful than a “something for nothing” society, an “I am entitled/I deserve” society, an “I am pretty and smile a lot, so do things for me” society, a “those who can are legally obligated to help those who can’t” society, etc.

*As opposed to an insincere offer made in the knowledge that it will be turned down.

Excursion on forms of payment:
Payment need not be in money. (Here, I might have been a little short-sighted during writing. However, without money, advantages like potential new businesses disappear.) Trading favors are an obvious alternative and it is possible that the lawn-mowing boy would have seen a piece of cake as fair payment. Indeed, even a token payment is better than no payment in terms of fostering the right attitudes. To some, performing a perceived (cf. excursion) good deed might be a reward in its own right. (In addition, we might need to think of at least three broad types of payments: token payments to acknowledge gratitude, payments to at least approximately cover the costs and/or efforts of the performer, and payments that allow a profit for the performer.)

Excursion on when I would require payment:
This is too large a topic for this text and I have not thought it through in detail, as the topic has not been that important in my adult life. However, there are at least four aspects that I would consider and recommend others to consider: (a) Whether the service is within the realm of professional expertise and/or is something for which the performer is regularly paid (cf. the lawyer and the physician in the joke from the original text). (b) The closeness of the relationship, e.g. whether a lawn is moved for the own mother, the neighbor, or some random person somewhere in the same town. (c) The size of both the individual service and the sum of all services requested by that recipient, e.g. in that I would not have expected anything over a “thank you” for driving that shopping cart to the rude woman (not that I got one …), but would have required payment in the hypothetical case of carrying her bags home (unless, more likely, I turned her down outright). (d) Whether requiring payment could have a positive effect of the attitude on the recipient, e.g. in light of recurring freeloading (a similar idea as with the lawyer/physician joke, but from another angle.

I caution that the right answer for the one performer might not be the right answer for another, e.g. because the one has much more spare time than the other.

Depending on the situation, the ability to pay might also factor in. For instance, if I had mowed the lawn for widows as a teenager (cf. original text), I might have gone with money in case of the rich widow and been content with cake in the case of the poor.

In addition, care should be taken when the recipient has a legitimate or perceived “pre-payment”. For instance, the mother of a teenage boy would usually be justified in seeing a mowed lawn as very partial payback of the services that she has performed for and expenses that she has had because of him.

Excursion on paying own children for house-work and similar:
Some argue that paying the own (pre-adult) children for house-work and similar tasks is a good thing, e.g. to teach the connection between work and money or having them earn their pocket money. I can see the point behind this, it is compatible with the ideas of my original text, and I might do so myself, if I ever have children. However, I also see potential problems, notably in that the children might be more likely to appreciate their parents efforts, if they are taught that “by doing chores, you pay us back”, and be more likely to develop a sound team spirit if they are taught that “by doing chores, you pull your own weight”. To some degree the suggestion amounts to viewing the children as performers, but it might be better to focus on the parents as performers and the children as recipients.

To boot, the one* case of such explicit payment within my family (that I recall) did not work well: my sister had lousy school grades and received payment for reaching certain standards**. This did nothing to help her academic career, as she eventually became a high-school drop-out, but it did make young me feel unfairly treated: In my eyes, she was rewarded for past failure and for past laziness—not for later adequacy (“success” would be too strong a word). This while my success and hard work came with a pat on the back. Or consider the game-theory point of view: someone could play this system by deliberately (!) earning bad grades the first semester, negotiating a money-for-grades scheme, and then studying normally to earn an entirely artificial reward. Or consider the psychological effects: instead of learning for life or the sake of learning, students already learn too much for the sake of grades, and now we add an aspect of trying to get grades for the sake of a small short-term pay-out.

*I did on several occasions receive explicit payment from my grand-mother for helping her with some church activities, but as she, in turn, was paid by the church, I would see that as another case entirely. (And, no, I did not ask for money—she offered.)

**I do not recall the details (or the duration of the experiment), but the amount per good grade was sufficiently much that I would have liked to have it, while not being enough that it made a major difference in the big picture. (For instance, even the amount that my better grades might have earned is bound to have been lower than the monthly value of free food and lodging.) The events were almost certainly before high school for her, and no later than the first year of high school for me.

Excursion on perceived or claimed good deeds:
Not everything that might seem, or is claimed to be, a good deed actually is. Consider e.g. giving to a poorly managed charity or two examples from my own past (the second also being a further illustration of annoying and self-centered women):

When I was a teenager, I had a summer job as a gardener/janitor. As I performed some type of work near a flower bed, an elderly man approached me and asked if I could remove that young tree that had invaded the flower bed. I was happy too do so, and pleased at the learning experience. With hindsight, I am uncertain whether I was allowed to do so, and whether the elderly man had any say in the matter, and the tree might well have been the cause of two years of heated arguments in the home-owner’s association—where I had just given the kill-the-tree side a victory that I was not entitled to give. (This is not actually likely, but it is also far from impossible and I performed that particular service without bothering to find out.)

During a train ride, a few years ago, a group of women boarded and went through the train, sitting down with the other passengers (very rude, as there were free seats apart from other passengers, and as they proved not to be “bona fide” passengers, themselves) and beginning conversations without probing for interest (mildly rude) and for the purpose of selling (extremely rude). When they came to me, I learned that they were selling some type of garage-sale* junk, from baskets that they carried, to give money to two friends who were getting married (such sales are against train regulations).

*I actually wrote “garbage-sale” before proof-reading …

As I declined and pointed out that such sales were not allowed, one of them got snippy and went on about how this was for charity (“Wohltätigkeit”, or similar). It is not: had they given own money and/or their garage-sale junk to their friend it might, possibly, have constituted charity. When they ask me to do so, with or without an alibi piece of junk in return, it is just panhandling. To this, I note that there was not even an attempt to describe the happy couple as particularly needy—they were just “our friends”, and because they wanted to give money to their friends, I should open my wallet …

But they all seemed unable to comprehend that they were doing something wrong, too self-obsessed, too blind to other people, too lacking in self-perspective, … Even the fact that I preferred to read my book over talking to them seemed to annoy them—something that must be entirely my decision and something very understandable in light of the rudeness and lack of intelligence displayed.* And, no, this appeared to be perfectly regular native German women—they were not members of some gypsy-like group who might have used a similar scheme to panhandle on a professional level.

*And here, too, I suspect a strong aspect of “men are supposed to”: they were dressed much more provocatively and uniformly than was normal for a train ride. This would be well explained by e.g. a “if we are sexy and flirty, men will be kind to us” type of thinking. (Cf. the original text and women flirting in the office.)

Written by michaeleriksson

June 28, 2020 at 2:43 pm

Speculations on the negative influence of female attitudes

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Over the years, I often contemplated whether many of the unfortunate political and societal tendencies of today might be partially rooted in a greater female* involvement in fields like politics and business, e.g. a focus on equality of outcome (instead of opportunity), the feelings-matter-more-than-facts mentality, the I-deserve-this attitude (as opposed to I-have-earned-this), the condemnation of anything considered “elitist” and the over-focus on just-different-not-better-or-worse, the misinterpretation of something as a personal** matter (as opposed as factual one), the increasing legal obligation of the “strong” to take care of the “weak”,*** the prioritization of effort over accomplishment (“A for effort”), …

*In general and not restricted to the negative influence of the pseudo-science “Gender Studies” and Feminism, which has for decades been increasingly unable to hide that it is a one-sided women’s movement, not an equality movement.

**As in e.g. “you said/did this because you dislike me, specifically and personally”, and as opposed to “you said/did this because you dislike what I said/did, and you would have said/done the same, had it been someone else”.

***Where “strong”, in reality, often amounts to nothing more than “is a hard worker who planned ahead”, while “weak” often amounts to “was lazy in school and is lazy at work”, or variations on similar themes.

A few days ago, this was again brought to my mind through a shopping incident, which, in it self, was no big deal, but did provide an excellent illustration of some problems that I have encountered again and again in interactions with women (it also illustrates why I often find women frustrating):

I went to grab a shopping cart, found that the first one in my aisle* had some sort of metal holder sticking up from the “handlebar” (for want of a better word), which served no obvious purpose, which I had never seen on any of the carts there or elsewhere, and which could not be removed. I would obviously have preferred to grab a cart without this add-on, but in order to do so, I would have had to lead this cart out of its aisle, temporarily leave it, go back down the aisle and grab the next cart, lead it throw the aisle, leave it unattended, while I brought the original cart back through the aisle, and then go out the aisle a last time to pick up the waiting cart—assuming that no-one had grabbed it, in which case I would have had to start over. Obviously, this would simultaneously have hindered others who wanted to access the aisle. In the pre-COVID-19 days, it would also have involved using two Euro coins instead of one, forcing me to go for my wallet instead of my pocket.**

*At this particular store, the shopping carts are parked in two quite long aisles surrounded by metal railings. My aisle was almost empty, while the other had exactly one cart. (In Germany, the last cart is often not removable, for unclear reasons, and going after it might have saved me some time or might have forced me to return to my original aisle with an additional loss of time.)

**Most shopping carts in Germany have a slot to insert a Euro coin to release it from the chain of carts. (The coin is refunded when the cart is returned.) During the COVID-19 era, many stores have dropped this requirement. (Presumably, to justify a parallel “you may not enter the store without a shopping cart” rule, in turn, likely, an attempt to either increase distances between people or to limit the number of simultaneous visitors to the store.)

I was halfway out of the aisle, when the following events and dialogue (from memory and paraphrased from German into English) began:

W(oman who was driving her cart back to her car): That cart is for [some baby thing or other]. It would be good if they were left for the mothers.

(Note how she does not spare a word on the extra effort that this would have implied for me, does not consider that it had been, apparently, mis-parked by someone else, and assumes in a blanket manner that only mothers would ever use it, not fathers, baby-sitters, whatnot. She also spoke in a reproachful you-should-know-better tone—but how should I have known better? Again, I have never seen this type of modified cart before!)

I: It would be good if I could reach the other carts.

W: Well, yes, that other woman did park it in the wrong place.

(If she had noticed this, why did she speak to me, now or at all, and not “that other woman” at the time? Or did she, again, just assume that it had to be a woman?)

W: Well, we can switch carts, I suppose, then I can drive it back where it belongs.

(This in a tone that and formulation as if she were doing me a favor, displaying a lack of perspective both on the situation and our respective roles.)

She moves one or two bags between carts and we go our separate ways. I soon notice that the cart is unusually clumsy for being empty, but first assume that it is just a locked* wheel, which she has pawned off on me. A moment later, I spot a carton with six (?) quart-sized juice boxes on some type of rack below the main “basket” of the cart.

*Many German shopping carts have an idiotic wheel lock that is triggered when the cart leaves a certain area, but which is not unlocked when the cart re-enters that area and the staff does not seem to unlock carts on its own initiative—if at all.

I: Lady, excuse me lady. Your beverages!

W: Oh, I forgot, come here and I’ll take them.

(She forgets, and I am supposed to come to her, a dozen-or-so meters in the wrong in direction? The forgetting, it self, is a little odd, but I might have given her a pass, had it not been for all the other oddities. I, too, occasionally forget things, but I take responsibility for them when I do.)

As I suspect that I would lose more time through arguing than I would gain, I do drive over—and then have to wait some ten seconds, while she fiddles around with her own cart, before she turns her attention to the juice. (If I cause a problem for someone else, I tend to that problem first and my own later. With hindsight, as I write some of the below, I cannot rule out that she was not just inconsiderately leaving me waiting, but positively expected me to move the juice for her.)

Now, imagine if her first line would have been that of an adult, e.g. “W: Excuse me, but someone must have placed that cart in the wrong place. It is a [baby this-or-that] and does not belong with the other carts. If you want to, we can switch, and then I will take it back where it belongs, when I am done.”—which version would you prefer and which is fairer? Alternately, she would still have left the world a little better off by just remaining silent towards me and, optionally, writing a letter to the store, suggesting some design change to prevent a return of the cart to the wrong place.

(As an aside, I would likely have been done faster, had I gone through the pick-another-cart-through-running-repeatedly-through-the-aisle scenario above. Should a similar situation happen again, I will be sorely tempted to make my first and only line “I: Take a hike, rude woman!” …)

Among the interesting sub-topics there are two overlapping that I want to address in more detail:

  1. That she spoke to the wrong person above and that women might expect more from men than from other women:

    Now, I do not know the specifics of her motivations above, and it is possible that she simply was too late to speak with the other woman (but in time to speak with me). However, it is quite possible that she picked me, because I am a man. More generally, many women still seem to work on the assumption that men are (or should be) kinder to women than other women are, are more likely (or even obliged) to do them favors, etc., which could explain the choice. (Also note the assumption that I would be the one to come to her with the juice.) If in doubt, a smile and a little flirting seems to be supposed to make men give women special treatment, and I suspect that one of the reasons that I have had proportionally more intra-office conflicts with women than with men is that I do not engage in such favors and that I do hold women to the same standard as I do men. While many women are reasonably professional, far too many are not (especially, among the younger): In a minor caricature, “I spent five minutes flirting and he still wanted me to fix my own error! Why didn’t he let it slide—or volunteer to do it for me?!?”

    The TV meme of a girl-friend wanting the boy-friend to drop everything and come over immediately has happened to me in real life and I have been asked to solve dozens of computer problems that the respective girl-friend could have solved herself in five minutes through just using her head or doing an Internet search. My niece apparently has managed to talk my step-father into driving her eighty kilometers to something as trivial as cheer-leading practice (“practice”, not “competition”) after she missed a train; and I have myself been told* that I really should have a car or I would not be able to drive my girl-friend when she needed a ride. In our teens, my sister (mother of the aforementioned niece) hardly lifted a finger in the household while I mowed the lawn and chopped wood. I once, in some context, read about a mother who had asked her (very young) daughter why she preferred to play with her father—the reply was along the lines “daddy plays like I want too”, which the mother did not. Etc.

    *In all fairness, this was a joking statement, by one of the more self-insightful female colleagues that I have had. My reply was that I did not have a girl-friend and, therefore, did not need a car. The attitude is real with some women, however.

    At the extreme end, I once read an article (blog post? whatnot?) by a woman who insisted that it was important to have many friends and, specifically, at least one friend in each area of potential need, to have a computer-geek friend (“he* fixes my computer for free”), an accountant friend (“he does my tax filings for free”), a lawyer friend (“if I am ever sued, he would represent me for free”), etc. (To avoid misunderstandings: her attitude was not “I am lucky to coincidentally have many good friends who are also very useful to me” but “I deliberately seek to make ‘friends’ because they will be useful to me—and you should do so too”.)

    *In my recollection, these friends were all or overwhelmingly male, but the general scheme was likely open to female ‘friends’, if they had the right skills to be useful and were naive enough to let themselves be used. A version which is less centered on male victims, however, would only move the example from this item to the next.

  2. Who-does-what and the contrast between selfless cooperation and own responsibility/cooperation for mutual benefit:

    Superficially, it might seem that it was reasonable that I drove my cart to her to get rid of the juice, instead of the opposite—I had a lesser load relative* my strength level, it was a lesser effort for me,** and she would now only have to reload the juice once (my cart to her car; instead of my cart to her cart to her car). This is also in line with the opinions that I had (or had instilled in me) as a child, to selflessly help others whenever we can—and to take such help from others for granted.

    *But not necessarily absolutely, depending on what she had in her bag(s).

    **At least, on a normal day. At the time, I was at the end of a ten kilometer walk with a lot of hills, but she had no way of knowing that.

    However, as I have understood as an adult, this type of reasoning causes no end of problems and unfairness. For instance, above, she made a mistake in implementing her suggestion, and I am supposed to rectify it. Why? In this particular case, it was not a big deal, but by an analog reasoning, if her car had broken down, I would have been obliged to carry her bags home for her. It fosters a lack of own responsibility, it removes the incentives to think first and take precautions (because if something goes wrong, someone else will fix it for free), it distorts markets and misses opportunities for economic growth, it lands the innocent with an undue burden, it opens the door for deliberate abuse, it keeps growth in the skills of the helped back,* etc.

    *In at least some cases, as e.g. with the child whose parents do everything for him, the girl-friend who refuses to fix her own computer problems, or the man who is given a fish instead of a book on fishing.

    For instance, consider the woman with many friends from the first item: As long as only she, or only just a small minority, follows her method, or as long as such free-of-charge services are limited to true and long-term friends and family members, things will still work fine. However, if (as per her suggestion) everyone tries to build the same type of friend network, what will happen? Take her accountant ‘friend’: He will now have next to no private business but have a roughly unchanged work-load, because people go to their “friend accountant” instead of their “paid-for accountant”. Those who deal mostly with corporate clients might still do well, but now with the additional workload from their “friends”. The profitability of being an accountant will drop, some current accountants will be forced to leave the profession,* members of the following generations will be less inclined to become accountants, etc. As an interesting side-effect, accountants with a greater interest in socializing will be hit worse, because they are more likely to have many friends, and some might deliberately cut down on friends to be able to remain in business. Is that a world that we want to live in? Especially, as the same will happen to more-or-less any useful profession? (The Leftist reader should also note the drop in tax revenue and that taxes are what ultimately pays for all those “free” government hand-outs.)

    *But they might still be on the hook for helping their friends, if they still have the right skills (and, possibly, certifications).

    Or consider fairness, incentives, and market forces, in a scenario like a teenage boy mowing the lawn for the wealthy old widow next door, because she is too weak to do so herself. If he does it for free, from the kindness of his heart, she benefits and no-one else. If she pays him, they both benefit. If the widows Smith and Wesson insist that he help them too, because he does help the widow Jones, he would he hard-pressed to turn them down. In one case, he has extra work for nothing; in the other, he has a fair recompense and, possibly, even the beginning of a small business, which will teach him valuable skills for his later life. (And the Leftist reader should, again, pay attention to taxes.) With remuneration, that one boy might not be stuck with moving all the lawns alone, because some other boy might be found willing. Or we might see two birds by one stone, when an unemployed (adult) neighbor starts to earn money. With remuneration the widow Jones might have the guts to point out that the boy occasionally nicks a flower when mowing around the flower beds. With remuneration the poorer widow Wesson might find that a bi-weekly mowing is enough, giving the boy some more spare time.

    Or consider taking or not taking own responsibility: Say that three poor co-eds go to a far-away party, stay until the middle of the night, and that one calls for a free-of-charge ride from her boy-friend, while another has to call a taxi, and the third has to walk home. Who will tendentially behave how the next weekend? (And would it not be fair for the first to at least cover gas and time spent for the drive?) Or say that the co-eds each have an unnecessarily expensive apartment, and that, at some point, rent is overdue and unpayable: The first student gets a no-strings-attached handout from her father; the second a loan, to be repaid within six months, no excuses; the third gets nothing*. Who is more and who is less likely to go through the effort of looking for a cheaper apartment, pay greater attention to unnecessary expenses during the month, and/or take on a part-time job?

    *Not that I necessarily suggest this where a parent–child relationship is involved. (Indeed, my parents volunteered to pay my rent through-out, so it would be hypocritical. With hindsight, however and from my more adult perspective, a loan would have fairer to them and I might have learned to take more own responsibility at an earlier stage.) Still, the illustration of principle is valid. If in doubt, feel free to mentally replace “father” with “boy-friend”, “landlord”, or “tax payer”.

In both cases, there is a fair chance that evolution has tilted women more strongly towards such flawed attitudes than men (and might well have tilted men to be cooperative with women, which increases the problem). For instance, in the second case, a woman in a historical setting has often been mostly surrounded by close relatives and close friends, where help has been highly likely to be reciprocated and often had a positive evolutionary effect. Most of the relatives have likely been young children, with a limited or even absent ability to take care of themselves. In this situation, an attitude focused on helping and being helped might be very useful, even up to and including the Communist mantra of “from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs”.

Move to adult life, business, politics, … and this no longer holds. These attitudes are suddenly highly problematic for reasons like those discussed above.

Men, in the same historical times, have been mostly surrounded by adults, interacted with a wider range of people, traded with strangers, been exposed to the risk of free-loaders in a different manner, seen a much lower degree of fungibility of personnel,* hunted in a different type of cooperation, lived in a world where lack of responsibility in one person might have caused the failure of all and everyone needed to be held to said responsibility, etc. If someone is too slow to hunt a certain animal, the others cannot hold back or carry him (as women going to gather berries might or might not have done), because then the hunt will fail. Instead, some other role has to be found, e.g. as a layer of traps or maker of weapons. Should the reason be old age, they would take care of him based on past work for the team, but not should the reason be laziness and a wish to get something for nothing. This develops the attitudes suitable for adult life, business, politics, …

*I am uncertain how to formulate that reasonably, but the point is that the positive resp. negative effects of working with someone with higher resp. lower IQ, strength, speed, whatnot are much larger when e.g. hunting or building a house than when gathering berries or raising children (at least by the standards of old). Moreover, the proportion of tasks in which it was possible to compensate for a lack of ability through harder and longer work was likely considerably smaller among men. Hence the degree of fungibility among women was correspondingly higher than among men, and there was less point in rewarding excellence or giving the more able incentives to work harder.

As an aside, regarding parts of the second item, there is well-known joke that is highly pertinent:

A physician asks his lawyer friend what to do about all those people who want free medical advice when they meet him in private. “Easy”, says the lawyer, “give them their advice and then send them a bill for services rendered. Either they will stop asking or you will get paid for the effort.” The physician was happy to finally have a solution. Two weeks later, he received a bill from the lawyer.

I doubt that these bills can be enforced, because the “customer” was not made aware of the fee in advance, but the principle is sound. Imagine spending the entire day dealing with medical or legal problems, trying to relax* with a few friends in the evening, and then having to deal with further medical or legal problems with not a dime of recompense. A better friend might just as well have dropped down to the office for some official, paid-for advice, which the physician or lawyer might have reciprocated with a prioritized treatment or a family-and-friends rebate.

*My idea of relaxation is a good book, movie, sit-com, whatnot, while hanging out with friends after a hard day’s work seems like a chore, but I appear to be in the minority here.

Another point of interest is the physicians failure to see the symmetry of the situation and/or his failure to realize that his “one” question might have been the lawyer’s umpteenth, just like his own umpteenth question might have been “one” question to each of his own free-loaders. This is certainly something that those should keep in mind, who wish for help from others.

Excursion on sexes in examples:
In the examples, I have mostly stuck with a male helper/female “helpee” to stress the early points on female attitudes. While these constellations are typically more likely than others, other constellations do, obviously, exist.

Written by michaeleriksson

June 14, 2020 at 4:00 pm

The 2019 Nobel Prizes: Women and the Nobel Prize

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Time for the yearly Nobel-Prize update:

Compared to 2018, the historical male dominance has returned.

The three* regular Prizes (Physics/Chemistry/Physiology or Medicine) saw a total of nine laureates, all men.

*As noted for 2018, I will ignore Literature and Peace in the future. However, they would not have changed the picture this year, with both laureates being men.

The “extra-curricular” Economics Prize saw two men and one woman (Esther Duflo).

In total, there were eleven male to one female laureate, and 3.75 to 0.25 Prizes.*

*Note that, in my understanding, Duflo received a quarter, not a third, as the price was shared equally between Michael Kremer and the team of Duflo and her husband, Abhijit Banerjee.

Excursion on 2018:
The 2018 analysis was slightly hampered by the delayed awarding of the Literature Prize. It is noteworthy that the delayed award did go to a woman (Olga Tokarczuk), which makes 2018 a truly exceptional year for the women. Factoring in the rarity of a share of the Physics Prize, 2018 could be argued as even on par with 2009.

Excursion on the married couples:
With Duflo, we have another instance of a husband/wife team sharing a Price. While this is unremarkable when looking at husbands,* the proportion of female winners is sufficiently large that there could be a distortive effect, e.g. in that a brilliant male scientist has his merely good wife as a tag-along. Official information gives four** other cases, leaving us with five couples:

*Not because the reverse scenario of brilliant female with tag-along husband would be impossible, but because removing a few male winners would not affect the overall proportions.

**Not counting the also mentioned Gunnar and Alva Myrdal. While they did both win, they won in different fields in different years, which reduces the risk of a tag-along effect. To boot, Alva was awarded the Peace Prize (1982), which is not under consideration. Also note Marie Curie’s Chemistry Prize below.

  1. Duflo/Banerjee, Economics in 2019. Duflo is only the second female laureate (in the field in question).
  2. May-Britt and Edvard Moser, Medicine in 2014. May-Britt is one of twelve female laureates. With Gerty Cori (cf. below) this makes two in twelve or one in six.
  3. Gerty and Carl Cori, Medicine in 1947. She was the first female laureate by thirty years.
  4. Irène and Frédéric Joliot-Curie, Chemistry in 1935. Irène is still one of only five female laureates. She was only the second female recipient of any non-Literature/non-Peace Prize, behind only her mother (cf. below).
  5. Marie and Pierre Curie, Physics in 1903. Marie is still one of only three female laureates, and was the first by 60 years. Indeed, she was the first female laureate in any category, Literature and Peace included.

    (But note that she won the 1911 Chemistry Prize unshared, a few years after Pierre’s death. Moreover, that the delays between effort and award were far shorter back then, implying that Pierre need not have had any effect on the Chemistry Prize, even had he had one on the Physics Prize.)

(Additional data from a Wikipedia page listing female laureates. With reservations for oversights on my behalf.)

A similar tag-along effect could, obviously, exist even without a married relationship, when a team is jointly awarded a Prize but the contributions of the laureates vary in importance. Again, such an effect would have only a small impact on men, while the impact on women could be considerable. (Most winning teams have been all-male, implying that the number of male laureates could drop, but it would still be far larger than the number of female laureates, and the number of “male” Prizes would remain almost or entirely unchanged.)

Excursion on the Economics Prize:
With repeated awardings of the Peace and Literature Prizes for “being Left”, I have some fears that the Economy prize will eventually be similarly politicized. The motivation for the 2019 Price could point in this direction: “for their experimental approach to alleviating global poverty”, which might be an indication that the award is less for scientific accomplishment and more for choice of topic. (I have not attempted the very considerable leg-work needed to judge this in detail.)

Other potential suspects include “for integrating climate change into long-run macroeconomic analysis” (William D. Nordhaus) and “for his analysis of consumption, poverty, and welfare” (Angus Deaton).

As a depressing contrast, this years Literature choice, Peter Handke, has been criticized for reasons unrelated to literary accomplishment—his opinions relating to Serbia et co. appear to be considered unacceptable.

(All motivations from official information.)

Written by michaeleriksson

October 14, 2019 at 7:38 pm

The 2018 Nobel Prizes: Women and the Nobel Prize

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Time for the yearly Nobel-Prize update:

Unlike 2017, women did reasonable well, with participiations in three out of five categories and putting up a total of three laureates out of twelve.* This even included a share in the Physics Prize—for only the third time, after 1903 and 1963.

*Including the Economy Prize. The Literature Prize is moot (cf. below).

The Literature Prize was not awarded (so far?) for 2018, due to an extremely chaotic situation within the awarding “Swedish Academy”. The situation is worthy of a longer text of its own; however, the information that has reached me through the press over months has been confusing, incomplete, and often looked like a game of mutual blame, which makes me unwilling/unable to write said text.

With this chaos on top of my previous criticism of both the Literature and Peace Prizes, and factoring in their very different character, I will probably ignore both of them in any future updates—I can no longer take either seriously. (And to the degree that they can be taken seriously, they are not that relevant to the original context of my interest.)

Written by michaeleriksson

October 11, 2018 at 2:19 pm

Why women’s roles have changed

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In a recent text, I had an excursion on moving and an out-dated world view. The first time I entertained such thoughts was in my early years in Germany, specifically concerning opening hours*, and how my lack of a house-wife put me at a disadvantage. In a next step, the observation presented it self that the opening hours could be a hindrance for women who wanted to work (or move from part- to full-time). Used as I was to the Swedish feminists, I even wondered why there were no loud protests requiring that the restrictive “sexist”/“Patriarchal” regulations were loosened.

*While the current opening hours are fairly civilized, excepting Sundays, the situation used to be horrifying. For instance, when I started working in the late 1990s (and lost the flexibility of the student) there was a blanket ban after 8 PM on weekdays, after 4 (!) PM on Saturdays, and during the entire Sunday. To boot, I lived in a small town where even the legal limits were usually not exhausted: Most stores might have closed at 6 resp. 2 PM or less on week- resp. Saturdays. Correspondingly, going shopping after a long workday was often stressful or outright impossible; and Saturdays were almost as bad. I actually often resorted to buying groceries in the morning and going to work correspondingly later—even though this increased the distance to walk considerably. (Instead of just making a short detour on the way from office to apartment, I now had to go from apartment to store, from store to apartment, and then from apartment to office.)

Ruminating on this and a few other recent posts, I have to question how many societal changes in e.g. “gender roles” or opportunities for women actually go back directly* to legislation**, “enlightened attitudes”, whatnot—and how many to a naturally changing environment.

*As with e.g. a law intended to increase equality and as opposed to a law intended to liberalize the market that happens to have a positive side-effect.

**Irrespective of who is to credit or blame for the changes. The common feminist claim that they deserve the credit is usually unwarranted, at least the positive changes typically being the result of a much wider movement, societal tendency, whatnot. (Note that not all changes have been positive. Consider the U.S. “Title IX” in conjuncture with college sports for a negative example.)

Look at e.g. a typical low- or mid-income* household a hundred years ago compared to today: No dish-washer, no washing-machine, no electric iron, no vacuum cleaner, … and consider how much extra work this implied to keep the household in shape and how much less time there was to go to an office or a factory floor. Or consider what was available to purchase at what prices, adding even more work, e.g. to mend clothes that today would just be thrown away, to grind coffee beans, to bake bread, to make meals from scratch, …

*Upper-income households were more likely to have hired help, making the practical burden of work less dependent on such factors. Indeed, with the relative rarity of household servants today, it is not inconceivable that some upper-income households are worse of today, when it comes to household work.

Or take a look at the number of children: A typical modern Western women has her 1.x children. Compare the effort involved, even technology etc. aside, with having three, four, five children*; or consider how the typically more physical work made it harder to be employed when pregnant.

*Or more, depending on when and where we look. One of my great-grandfathers had nine or ten, if I recall my grandmother’s statements correctly. He was likely already unusual by then, but such numbers are not extraordinary if we go back further yet in time.

Or look at the care for others: Daycare for children? At best rare. Severely sick family members? Often still cared for at home. Retirement homes for the previous generations? Unless we count the poor-house—no.

Or consider the types of jobs available: The proportion of the workforce engaging in heavy* manual labor was considerably larger than today (and larger still if we go back a bit further in time). Such work was simply not on the table for the clear majority of women, because they would not be physically able to handle it—and unlike with e.g. modern day firemen, this would have been obvious from day one, not just on that rare occasion when a maximum effort was needed.

*Also note that “heavy” usually had a different meaning from today, including both longer work-days and, like above, fewer helpful tools. Try, e.g., to cut down a tree with a chain-saw and an axe, respectively.

A deeper analysis might reveal quite a few other similar differences between then and now. However, even from the above, it is quite clear that e.g. the relative benefits and opportunity costs of a woman staying at home and going to work were very different from today.

As an aside, there are at least two changes that I have heard given somewhat similar credit in other sources:

Firstly, the birth-control pill, which is given credit* specifically for contributing to the sexual revolution. This, especially when extended to include other contraceptives and more tolerance against abortions, is probably correct. It would also play in with some of the above, because not all pregnancies of the past were wanted and improvements in various forms of birth-control are very likely to have led to fewer children, even assuming unchanged attitudes.

*Whether the sexual revolution is actually a positive is a matter of dispute, but in e.g. feminist discussions it is invariably seen as positive. (My own feelings are a little mixed.)

Secondly, the impact of WWII on female employment (in at least the U.S.): With a lack of available men, women were drawn upon as a source of labor in some “traditionally male” occupations, which in turn gave them a foot in the door for the future and could have indirectly impacted attitudes. On the other hand, that women were used as labor in WWII could be taken as an indication that attitudes were not the problem, but (as above) that roles resulted from a pragmatic use of people where they brought the greater utility—the war might have done less to change attitudes and more to change utility.

Written by michaeleriksson

June 30, 2018 at 10:46 pm