Atlas Shrugged: Unfortunate Implications

Atlas Shrugged, p.54-55

I’ve said that Ayn Rand, although she never misses an opportunity to tell us that her characters are bold and heroic, only rarely shows us what it is they actually do on a day-to-day basis. We have to glean what her worldview would mean in practice from the little details that slip in around the edges. The next scene, with Dagny, is thick with these implications:

Dagny Taggart was nine years old when she decided that she would run the Taggart Transcontinental Railroad some day. She stated it to herself when she stood alone between the rails, looking at the two straight lines of steel that went off into the distance… What she felt was an arrogant pleasure at the way the track cut through the woods: it did not belong in the midst of ancient trees, among green branches that hung down to meet green brush and the lonely spears of wild flowers – but there it was. [p.54]

Notice that Dagny takes “arrogant pleasure” at the thought of a railroad cutting through an old-growth forest (“ancient trees”). It seems fairly safe to say that, in an Objectivist world, there wouldn’t be any such thing as national parks. Any preservation of wilderness would only come about because of the benevolence of wealthy landowners – except that Rand’s characters take an almost dominionist pleasure in “subduing the earth” by damming rivers, excavating mines, and cutting roads and rails through unspoiled territory. In their eyes, a piece of land with industry and business carved out of it is always better than that land left unimproved.

She was fifteen when it occurred to her for the first time that women did not run railroads and that people might object. To hell with that, she thought – and never worried about it again. [p.55]

I’ll give Rand credit for one thing: she consistently depicts her female characters as being just as capable, motivated, and intelligent as the male ones. (Her depiction of sex is a very different matter, which we’ll come to later.)

However, her treatment of sexism is missing something. To wit, it’s missing any actual sexism. Dagny thinks in a throwaway line that a woman running a company isn’t done; then she does it, and nothing further is said on the matter. That’s the extent of the book’s discussion of prejudice. Dagny never encounters a boss who refused to promote her because he thought that running a railroad was a man’s job. She never has a supervisor who threatens to fire her unless she has sex with him. In fact, she never encounters a barrier of any kind that can’t be surmounted by simply making a choice to work harder.

This is in line with Rand’s theme that the grit and determination of her heroes can overcome all obstacles. But it carries the definite whiff of an implication that anyone who can’t do the same in the real world must just be lazy, that they must not want it enough.

Although Rand herself doesn’t put it in these terms, this is the same crude apologetic that’s often used to explain away the pervasive underrepresentation of women and minorities in the upper echelons of business. If they were as smart and put in as much effort as competent, hardworking white men, the argument goes, they’d be rewarded and promoted just the same! Therefore, complaining about prejudice must be something that only lazy looters do, because they want to subvert the meritocracy and be promoted based on their race or gender and not their performance.

But the reality is that the free market isn’t even close to a perfect meritocracy, because few if any people are perfectly impartial judges. Workers are often rewarded based on factors that have nothing to do with talent. And these biases are all the more difficult to combat because they’re often unconscious, affecting the judgment of people who don’t even think of themselves as racist or sexist.

I’ve mentioned some of these studies before: orchestras which hold “blind” auditions, with the candidates playing behind a curtain, find that the rate of acceptance of female musicians shoots up. Social-science studies which mail out large numbers of resumes that are identical except for the name find that “white” names get more callbacks than “black” names, and male candidates are rated more competent and offered better salaries than female candidates. (Another example along the same lines is the fact that taller-than-average people are dramatically overrepresented in executive jobs, apparently from an unconscious belief that height equates to better leadership skills.)

There’s also explicit bigotry. It’s not as common as it once was, but it still does come to light on occasion, such as in the 1990s when Texaco executives were caught on tape joking, in regard to their company’s hiring policies, about how “all the black jelly beans seem to be glued to the bottom of the bag”. Predictably, a huge lawsuit ensued, which the free-market Ludwig von Mises Institute called a “mugging” and a “legal race riot” and wrote the following apparently sincere passage:

Let’s say that blacks as a group are advancing on the corporate ladder more slowly than whites. There are any number of possible explanations for this fact, other than a gigantic conspiracy to keep blacks in their place.

You may notice that they don’t expound on what these other, non-racist explanations are.

This is why libertarians have an image problem. All too often, they go out of their way to send the message that their highest concern is defending the right of rich business owners to be bigots, and that they have no sympathy left over for the people who suffer from unjust discrimination. In fact, they often argue that victims of discrimination should blame themselves for not surmounting accumulated centuries of prejudice all on their own. A person who truly believed in meritocracy would support legal efforts to curb harmful discrimination, so that talented people of any race or gender could rise to the top. Opposing these efforts sends the message that they’re more in favor of preserving a skewed status quo where the contributions of women and minorities are undervalued.

Other posts in this series:

About Adam Lee

Adam Lee is an atheist writer and speaker living in New York City. His new novel, Broken Ring, is available in paperback and e-book. Read his full bio, or follow him on Twitter.

  • Denis Robert

    The fact is, none of Rand’s heroes ever actually do anything. They “run” things, but she’s never quite clear of what “running” something actually entails. That’s because to her, it’s not what you do, it’s who you are that matters. She was a plain-old aristocrat who used “libertarian” ideology to hoodwink herself and her coterie of over-serious bootlickers into thinking they weren’t just a bunch of wannabe-bluebloods.

  • Duke York

    Dagny never encounters a boss who refused to promote her because he thought that running a railroad was a man’s job. She never has a supervisor who threatens to fire her unless she has sex with him. In fact, she never encounters a barrier of any kind that can’t be surmounted by simply making a choice to work harder.

    Does she ever encounter an actual boss or supervisor? I mean does she ever meet someone who can tell her to do something not because “society” or “government” has placed this disgusting moocher over her, but because she has willingly agreed to follow this person’s orders?

    Opposing these efforts sends the message that they’re more in favor of preserving a skewed status quo where the contributions of women and minorities are undervalued

    I’ve come to think that libertarianism is, at its heart, authoritarianism, with the proviso that the libertarian refuses to acknowledge that anyone could ever have authority over them. They crave authority over others – which is why libertarians often pose with assault rifles and other implicit threats – but anyone who uses the same authority over them is illegitimate and evil

  • smrnda

    Denis Robert

    I think part of that is that Rand herself never ran any sort of business, never did any sort of scientific research, and aside from writing, did very little work. She also decides not to do any research on how any business is actually run, which leads to either completely vague rants about people ‘running’ things with zero detail, or where she gets so many details wrong that it’s laughable.

    Her idea that willpower alone can achieve anything reminds me of Chairman Mao with his great leap forwards that never delivered, because in the real world, willpower isn’t enough. The idea that an extreme libertarian like Rand and a totalitarian communist like Mao share this belief tells me a lot about how grounded in reality their respective ideologies are.

    I tend to find libertarians are authoritarians, just they believe in the authority of corporations, shareholders, parents and not a bureaucratic state.

  • Alejandro

    I have said several times that many examples of “discrimination” based on mere statistics can be very easily traced to the behaviour patterns of the so called discriminated group itsef. Your reference regarding taller men (notice that the link you provided speaks only about taller men, not taller people) is a good example of it. While it is true that some people may have some form of unconscious prejudice against short guys, it is also true that taller men just tend to be more confident and assertive (important leadership skills) than short men. Think about all the tall and short men you know in real life and you will probably agree.

    Also, shorter men are usually seen as less attractive and tend to have relatively less succes with women, which also affects confidence/self-esteem. Is it fair? Maybe not, but thats just the way things are. Are you also going to lecture women about being prejudiced when they prefer to date taller men?

  • Reginald Selkirk

    Dagny never encounters a boss who refused to promote her because he
    thought that running a railroad was a man’s job. She never has a
    supervisor who threatens to fire her unless she has sex with him.

    Well duh. It’s her family’s business. She didn’t have to climb the ladder, she owned it.

  • Jenora Feuer

    I remember hearing a story several years ago (warning, vague imperfect recollections ahead), I believe it was about University grad student interviews, where they had been accused of racism in their selection practices. In order to try to reduce that, they set up an ‘expert system’ to go through the first round of the selection process, and taught it what to look for by sending through several previous CVs along with whether or not they had been accepted or rejected originally.

    A later social science test like the one mentioned above still found racism in the system. The problem: all the CVs they had taught the system with included the names. There had been racial profiling with the original CVs, with ‘white’ names more likely to get through the first round than ‘black’ names for otherwise identical CVs. The expert system picked up on that, and as a result short Anglo-Saxon names were given a positive weighting.

    Needless to say, the expert system got re-taught without the names once that became public.

  • Alejandro

    I now see how my comment can be taken as saying that there is no discrimination, or that is always the victim’s fault. i expressed myself worngly, that is not what I ment. While I don’t think it is as widespread as many people believe, I agree discrimination based on sex, race, etc is real and it is a real issue. HOWEVER, I don’t think this is a problem the government can or should try to solve. Think about it. If an employer is really racist an simply doesnt like to hire black employees, what can the government do about it? Force him to hire black people?

    The kind of policies that are sometimes set in place to prevent discrimination, while very well intentioned, usually end up causing more problems, or result in discrimination itself. For example, last year the University of Vienna decide to lower the requirements for women who wanted to study medicine after they found out that women were performing worse at acceptance test. (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/06/vienna-medical-university-grading_n_1653924.html) So if you are a man it will be automatically harder for you to get in than if you are a woman. The same could be said regarding measures such as forcing companies to have certain women quota at all times. Do you support such policies? Or what kind of policies do you actually think can be used to prevent discrimination?? Most of the time there is no way to prove the reason somebody did not get a job/promotion/whatever is because of bias.

  • Sky

    Why don’t you lecture shorter men to get taller?

  • Alejandro

    Actually Sky, is quite off-topic but I think that if you are a short man and it bothers you, you should wear shoe lifts and/or boots to make you look taller. It would be better than just complaining about it.

  • Azkyroth

    I have said several times that many examples of “discrimination” based on mere statistics can be very easily traced to the behaviour patterns of the so called discriminated group itsef.

    Do you expect it to magically become true at some point? Have you tried disrobing, painting runes on your body, and circling widdershins while repeating your mantra?

    While it is true that some people may have some form of unconscious prejudice against short guys, it is also true that taller men just tend to be more confident and assertive (important leadership skills) than short men.

    1. Citation needed.
    2. Are you even slightly interested in WHY that might be? How can someone BE this uncritical without stumbling into traffic by now?

  • Leeloo Dallas Multipass

    “If an employer is really racist an simply doesnt like to hire black
    employees, what can the government do about it? Force him to hire black
    people?”

    I don’t think he should be able to get out of it unless he’s really, really, REALLY racist, and even then he should have to get a permission slip signed by his Grand Wizard.

  • Loren Petrich

    Alejandro, what examples of discrimination do you *not* consider the fault of those discriminated against? Preferably examples of discrimination other than discrimination against affluent straight white males.

  • http://patheos.com/blogs/hallq/ Chris Hallquist

    “Shighest” should, presumably, be “highest.”

    (Hate to leave a comment just to nitpick. Glad you’re doing this series, Adam, could never bring myself to read the thing for myself; tried once but too goddamn tedious.)

  • Alejandro

    Discrimination againt black people would be an example. In United states at least, a lot of people do seem to be quite racist. But as I said I really don’t see how the government could solve this problem. Is not like companies are going to include “do not hire black people” in their official guidelines. In some particular cases you will have a white guys making racist jokes on tape, but most of the time it won’t be that obvious.

  • busterggi

    Rand’s heroes are too busy runnung things to actually do anything – they must be constantly prepared to make that one important decision to be distracted by working.

  • RowanVT

    So…. it’s the fault of short people that they’re short? Tall men are more confident NOT because they are tall (there is nothing genetic that says tall = confident), but because we’re taught that men are supposed to be tall. So a man who is short is effectively told that he’s not very ‘manly’, which will affect his confidence.

    As to assertiveness, it’s much easier to be assertive when you are towering over someone and can intimidate them through sheer size alone. Nothing to do with leadership skills there at all.

  • arensb

    I believe the currently-fashionable way of justifying bigotry is to claim religious persecution. That seems to be what all the cool kids are doing to avoid having to hire gays or provide full medical insurance to women.

  • http://bigthink.com/blogs/daylight-atheism Adam Lee

    Yep, fixed. Thanks!

  • http://bigthink.com/blogs/daylight-atheism Adam Lee

    It does seem to be suggested that she worked her way up through the ranks. It’s her brother who gets the top job handed to him on a silver platter. Of course, the idea that under those circumstances she’d likely have gotten preferential treatment is something Rand never mentions.

  • James_Jarvis

    Rand’s hero never seem to have to deal with the real world. Dagny never has to deal with sexism because she gets what she wants through sheer strength of will and by being better at what she does than anyone else. Like all Rand heroes the only opposition she ever faces is from the looters who despise her for her success and the evil politicians that cater to them. If you don’t succeed it’s your own fault or that of the looters who will drag down the successful business person because they can not pick his pockets fast enough.

  • smrnda

    This is regarding Alejandro’s ‘short guy’ hypothesis.

    A few of the tallest men I know are pretty timid, mopey types who don’t exactly exude confidence. I’ve actually never encountered that stereotype at all, though I’m not disputing it might be prevalent.

    Something that tends to be true about stereotypes is that they are as much a cognitive deficit as a moral one, if not more. People tend to be affected by confirmation bias – if they believe tall men are more confident, then they notice tall, confident men, or interpret behaviors differently.

    There’s also the issue of how stereotypes can be untrue but still affect people. Think of how a person who believes ‘short men are not confident’ might interpret behaviors of short and tall men differently. If a tall man asks permission to do something, it’s interpreted as being polite. If the short man does exactly the same thing, he’s being timid.

    My take is that we should be aware that we’re all affected by biased thinking, and that we need to just accept it and deal with it. We should question our judgment, particularly in situations where we know stereotypes and prejudice tend to steer us in one direction. We might need to adjust certain decision making processes, like removing names from resumes.

  • Alejandro

    Bigger guys simply command more respect than smaller guys (in general, not always), which has an impact on leadership. It is something that is prbably rooted in a biological level. It may not be fair, but that is just the way things are. What can you do about it, really? Have taller people pay more taxes to make up for it?

    If we lived in some hypothetical sci-fi society where there was a quick and easy way to reduce someone’s height, I guess the socialist there would be asking the government to reduce everyone to the same height in order to remedy the injustice and “even the playing field”.

  • RowanVT

    It is not rooted in biology, the way you mean. It’s rooted, again, in the fact that tall guys are better able to physically intimidate. The same with tall women. People are more respectful to my friend who is 6ft tall, and often dismissive of me at my 5’6″, especially men who tend to be less respectful to women anyway.

    However, you better believe that turns around when they learn that I can pick up and walk away with a standing 300lb person. I become the more physically intimidating one at that point, and then the “respect”/deference is transferred to me.

    Basically, being tall lets you be a better bully.

    So how do we deal with this? Teach people to respect ACTUAL leadership abilities (communication, organisation, idea generation, cooperation, etc), instead of assuming that tall = leadership.

  • smrnda

    I notice that none of Rand’s heroes ever encounter setbacks in the form of medical problems either. Even rich people get cancer, and even when they get the best treatment, it isn’t a walk in the park. I don’t recall any of her protagonists having any disabilities of any kind, even mild ones.

  • fuguewriter

    It’s not true tat she did very little work. She worked her ass off in Soviet Russia to survive, then did all kinds of odd jobs in America – rising quite rapidly to a very responsible position in wardrobe at one of the big studios. The premise in these comments is that AR was trying to prescribe how one’s whole life was to be lived, in every detail. That’s completely contrary to her doctrine. She said flat out that in her kind of world, there would be a *greater* diversity of opinions.

    LOL @ authoritarian libertarians. Many of them don’t even believe in corporations Please, try and critique something real and not cartoons.

    ( And save the insults. I’m not an Objectivist. )

  • smrnda

    My take on libertarians is that every single one I meet tells me that every other libertarian has it wrong. It kind of reminds me of Christians.

    I don’t deny she worked, I was pointing out that her work experience was very limited, and when she writes about areas outside of her personal experience, the results are pretty laughable. Check out the post ‘signal passed at danger.’ If you’re writing about railroads, do some research.

    Having read her works, it’s clear that ‘diversity of opinions’ is really quite limited. She’s pretty much declared a whole lot of opinions forbidden, and within her own clique she pretty much declared herself infallible. I read most of her stuff years ago, but I got sick of someone telling me that ‘self-interest’ is what I’m here for, and then defining what self-interest is. Apparently she also can’t conceive of life being anything aside from paid employment as well.

    Either way, she’s a shit writer, and has only caught on in the US because she’s an apologist for the wealthy and because she helps maintain the fiction we’re some sort of meritocracy, which we aren’t.

  • smrnda

    This reminds me of a guy I knew in college whose father owned a car dealership. He worked in it a few hours every week, and always won ‘employee of the month.’ He got the dealership handed to him after spending 4 years of college binge-drinking.

  • Azkyroth

    It is something that is prbably rooted in a biological level. It may not be fair, but that is just the way things are.

    Citation needed.

    And why shouldn’t we try to change the way things are to make them more fair? Because it’s too hard, too much work? I thought you gibberlings were passionate believers in the value of hard work.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jerrad.wohlleber Jerrad Wohlleber

    They also never encounter setbacks in the form of having children. Or even being children. And no, Hank Reardon working in the mines at age 14 doesn’t count. Kim Possible is a more realistic child than that.

  • GCT

    I was going to reply to this, but I’m finding it hard to say anything that isn’t a combination of the words, “Fuck” and “off.” This IS victim blaming. Why shouldn’t we tell black people to put white makeup on? Asshole.

  • GCT

    or example, last year the University of Vienna decide to lower the requirements for women who wanted to study medicine after they found out that women were performing worse at acceptance test. (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/…So if you are a man it will be automatically harder for you to get in than if you are a woman.

    No, you moron. Do you ever stop to wonder why women might be under-performing on tests? Could it have anything to do with systemic bias against women? The system already seems set up to make things harder for women, because men already get special privileges. Taking those privileges away to make things more equal is not persecution, no matter how much you whine and complain about the loss of your special privileges that you don’t deserve over others.

  • Azkyroth

    LOL @ authoritarian libertarians. Many of them don’t even believe in corporations Please, try and critique something real and not cartoons.

    Never met one. Got a citation?

  • DavidMHart

    Well, an obvious thing you could do is to require companies to have a system to detatch any race-related information (including applicant’s names) from the decision-making persons when reading job applications, and only re-aggregate names with applications after the decision has been made on who to invite for interview. Sure, that won’t totally cure the problem if the in-person interviewer has a beef against certain racial groups, but it will make it at least possible for members of those groups to avoid being turned away at the first hurdle.

    [Edit - Jenora Feuer has already addressed this phenomenon further downthread - but I still contend that if a government was serious about preventing racial or sexual discrimination in hiring, it could easily require such name and gender decoupling from applications processes. And for companies too small to be able to have one person decouple the names and another make the pre-interview decisions, it would even be possible to require companies that can't do it themselves to do their recruiting via a professional name-decoupling agency ... though I will freely agree that that is starting to look like a lot of bureaucracy]

  • http://bigthink.com/blogs/daylight-atheism Adam Lee

    Does she ever encounter an actual boss or supervisor? I mean does she ever meet someone who can tell her to do something not because “society” or “government” has placed this disgusting moocher over her, but because she has willingly agreed to follow this person’s orders?

    Not that I recall. That’s another departure from reality, really; Rand’s protagonists never encounter bad bosses who simply fail to recognize their obviously superhuman talents. It’s only the machinations of evil looters that ever prevent them from getting the rewards they deserve.

  • http://bigthink.com/blogs/daylight-atheism Adam Lee

    Her idea that willpower alone can achieve anything reminds me of Chairman Mao with his great leap forwards that never delivered, because in the real world, willpower isn’t enough. The idea that an extreme libertarian like Rand and a totalitarian communist like Mao share this belief tells me a lot about how grounded in reality their respective ideologies are.

    Ha! Well said.

  • http://bigthink.com/blogs/daylight-atheism Adam Lee

    Just in case anyone doesn’t know, the technical term for this phenomenon is stereotype threat (although it’s detectable for both positive and negative stereotypes).

  • ORAXX

    Of course, Dagny, being the owner’s daughter, had nothing, what so ever, to do with her advancement. She would have, no doubt, accomplished just as much had she come in off the street. In Ayn Rand’s fantasy world maybe.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=3007125 Denver Greene

    I just wanted to add another level of discrimination that I think is interesting. I cant find the paper but I know it belonged to Michelle Hebl. Here is someone talking about it.

    Basically, they had people write letters of recommendation for men and women, then they removed all of the gender terms and made the resume gender neutral. Then they showed them to employers and found that the letters written for men were chosen more frequently. When writing letters for women, writers will often use qualifiers, which shows doubt in ability. They also use different types of words to describe women than men and these words hurt the women looking for jobs.

  • Alejandro

    Right, I am sure the application exam is full with question for which having an extra finger to count on would be advantageous.

  • random jerk

    “Is not like companies are going to include “do not hire black people” in their official guidelines. ”

    Actually this exact statement (or it’s equally ugly sibling, “do not hire black people for anything other than menial tasks”) was literally the policy of a very large number of companies. Also “do not hire Chinese” and “do not rent or sell real estate to black people” and “do not rent or sell property to Asians” and “do not admit Jews” and “do not admit ladies” and so on and so on and so on. I leave the [Citation Needed] four-second Google search for employment discrimination lawsuits as an exercise for the reader.

  • smrnda

    There’s something you should look into called ‘stereotype threat’ – exposing people to negative stereotypes about themselves can often lead to a decrease in performance, even when the person disbelieves in the stereotype.

    This isn’t the best, but it does name some studies on the topic:

    http://www.arizona.edu/sites/arizona.edu/files/users/user14/Stereotype%20Threat%20in%20the%20Academy.pdf

  • Alejandro

    Wow…the things you guys come up with…let me see if I get this…some women may hold the stereotype that boys do better at math than girls, which causes them to underperform. So the “fair” thing to do is to in academia is to lower the exam requirements for women in admission test, in order to counteract the “privileges” male students have by not having this stereotype apply to them…. Yeah, right, that is very fair…that is not discriminating against male students at all.

    If I was a woman and I had this stereotype, I would feel even WORSE when knowing that the universities are making it easier for me to get in just for being a girl. (See, darling, we don’t think you can do as well as all those boys, but don’t worry, we will give you an extra help to even things out). If anything such measures reinforce the problem you are describing, not solve it.

  • GCT

    So, your contention is that men are just better at math, science, medicine, etc?

    And, no they aren’t making it easier to get in, because it’s already been made harder. Girls are discouraged from doing math and science because of sexists like you. They are told that they can’t do it, they are taught differently (or not at all in some cases), and when outcomes match the boys they are still discouraged from taking up the fields.

    (See, darling, we don’t think you can do as well as all those boys, but don’t worry, we will give you an extra help to even things out). If anything such measures reinforce the problem you are describing, not solve it.

    Actually, you’re the one saying they can’t do as well, just as all the other people they’ve met who have put down their efforts and made it that much more difficult for them. There’s a stark difference between recognizing inequality and working to alleviate it and what you do, which is look squarely at inequality and decide that it’s because women really are unequal, you sexist pig. Guys get to start on third base and dumb-ass guys like you think that it means you hit a triple, when in reality you just got to start there.

  • Alejandro

    So, your contention is that men are just better at math, science, medicine, etc?

    Not better, they just seem to be less interested in things like engineering and related stuff. Today they still make up around 20% of the field in the U.S, and even less in Europe, which is far more feminist/liberal than the U.S. (But of course, when you say such a thing people tend to get pissed off in a way they wouldn’t if you said, for example, that girls are less interested in first person shooter video games.)

    And, no they aren’t making it easier to get in, because it’s already been made harder.

    They need to get less points than men in the test to get in. That is making it easier according to any reasonable definition.

    Girls are discouraged from doing math and science because of sexists like you

    Who is discouraging them? Citation needed.

    I studied chemical engineering in Germany and never once in my university or at work have I heard something negative about women, or somebody suggesting that engineering is a guy field. Maybe is a U.S thing?

    they are taught differently (or not at all in some cases)

    “Not at all?” Maybe in Iran or some retrograd muslim country. I am talking about the west here. I completely agree with feminist about women being widely discriminated against if we are talking about muslim or third world countries. But here in the west women have had the same rights and oportunities than men since decades.

    Actually, you’re the one saying they can’t do as well

    I never said such a thing. In fact, I can tell you from my own experience studying chemical engineering than there is no substantial difference in the grades of men and women. (Off course, where I studied the application exam does not differentiate between boys and girls. I guess that makes them sexist according to you since they don’t take into account all those privileges boys have.)

    There’s a stark difference between recognizing inequality and working to alleviate it and what you do, which is look squarely at inequality and decide that it’s because women really are unequal

    There is a huge difference between recognizing than men and women tend to behave differently, and saying that women should not have the same rights or opportunities.

    I will try to give one last example of the point I am trying to make. Imagine I come to you and I tell you “Over 90% of all the population in prison are males!!! There is discrimination against men in the legal and penal system!!!!”

    You could point out (correctly) that men simply tend to be more violent than women. And that the vast majority of violent acts are comited by men, so that is why there are more men in jail.

    Now imagine I get all outraged and start screaming: “How dare you say such a thing!!!! That is sexism!!! How dare you suggest men and women are unequal!!!!!” Then I proceed to get all pissed off and start calling you names and act like a child.

    Off course, I would be wrong. I could get angry about it and scream until my face turns blue, it still wont change the fact that men are more violent than women. You can also try to convince yourself all you want than women are just as interested as men in science, and that the only reason there are more men than women in science is becaue of a huge worlwide conspiracy in academia dedicated to prevent women from entering the field, but it won’t make it true.

  • Alejandro

    I couldn’t find all those lawsuits on which the company officially stated “do not hire black people”. Any examples?

  • Alejandro

    You said it yourself. If an employer is really racist he will turn down the applicant after finding out he is black in the interview. This is what I mean when I say there are problems the governement can’t effectively solve. What difference does it makes it they got an interview? It was only a waste of time if the employer is really firm against hiring black people. Like you conceed yourself, it would only add a lot of bureaucracy and legal hassle to everything.

    Do I think racism is wrong? Yes. Do I think this should be the government business? No.

    I think cheating on your wife/husband is wrong as well. Do you think the government should get involved in that too?

  • luco

    you wouldn’t know the “biological level” if it slapped you in the face and peed on your carpet. go take a freaking sociology course you evolution-abusing ding-dong.

  • GCT

    Not better, they just seem to be less interested in things like engineering and related stuff.

    If that’s even true, do you have any idea why that might be? Do you think men are naturally more inclined to science, or could it possibly be due to bias against women pushing them out of those fields?

    And, you are claiming that men are better. When we find a discrepancy in test scores we have a couple options to explain that discrepancy. We could assume that men are just better, which is what you did, meaning they get better scores. Or, we could not make the assumption that men are better and look for other causes.

    They need to get less points than men in the test to get in. That is making it easier according to any reasonable definition.

    Sigh. If girls already start out with less points due to having to fight against systemic bias, then giving up a few points to correct that situation is not actually making anything easier for them. It’s noting the reality of the situation. Oh, but you’re so poor and put upon for getting to start at third base while women have to start at home plate!

    Who is discouraging them? Citation needed.

    Seriously? Are you that fucking clueless you sexist piece of shit?

    http://www.now.org/issues/title_ix/2007-10-12oped.html

    And, of course, you’ve also just got done telling us that math/science is a guy thing. Do you even think for 1 second before opening your sexist mouth and saying stupid shit?

    I studied chemical engineering in Germany and never once in my university or at work have I heard something negative about women, or somebody suggesting that engineering is a guy field.

    Um, you just did it yourself dipshit.

    But here in the west women have had the same rights and oportunities than men since decades.

    Oh, fucking bullshit. You can’t honestly think that women have achieved equality when they are payed less, rape culture still abounds, are continually under-represented in things like science, and a host of other things.

    I never said such a thing. In fact, I can tell you from my own experience studying chemical engineering than there is no substantial difference in the grades of men and women.

    Yet, you implied it, and you continue to imply it. No, you didn’t come right out and say it, but you seem to believe it. Women get the same grades, but score lower on the tests, so therefore men are just better, right? Fuck off asshole.

    You can also try to convince yourself all you want than women are just as interested as men in science, and that the only reason there are more men than women in science is becaue of a huge worlwide conspiracy in academia dedicated to prevent women from entering the field, but it won’t make it true.

    Ah, now pointing out your rampant sexism is “screaming until I’m blue in the face?” Fuck off asshole. You’re a misogynist and a fuck-brained asshole that doesn’t even care enough about the topic to do the most basic of research. No one is claiming a world-wide conspiracy. It’s cultural you dipshit. It’s ingrained in a sexist, patriarchal culture that men are better at math/science, and people tend to follow suit and discourage women from participation. Not that you give a shit, since you’re a guy and you are in CHEMICAL ENGINEERING (WOOT!!!!!) and to hell with the women who you deem as inferior.

  • phantomreader42

    You left out “No Irish Need Apply”.

  • James Yakura

    Somehow I get the feeling that she didn’t work her way up so much as get Kicked Upstairs. We’re told that she’s incredibly competent, but the decisions we’ve seen her make at this point (order a train on ahead through a red light on a hunch that the signal was broken because she didn’t want to be late, stake the entire business on an experimental material that the best metallurgists said was crap because she’d taken engineering classes and saw the formula) don’t show it.

    So my guess is that her bosses were faced with the decision of a) fire her and make Daddy angry, b) let her earn her Darwin Award and make Daddy really angry, or c) promote her and let their higher-ups deal with her.

  • Anonymous Coward

    In defence of Smmda, I’ve done both menial work, including carrying felled spruce (alone), throwing boxes of goods from A to B, assembly line work and various attendant-like crap and… software engineering (both programming and architecture), and in my opinion, while odd jobs may be physically tiring, they aren’t real work in comparison.

    Not just in the sense that I can easily do menial labour for ten hours straight, yet I’m really glad I don’t have to do real work for more than eight hours, but also in the sense that odd jobs hold very little value to society. You’re slightly cheaper than a robot (or the next jobless in line) that’s all.

    But you aren’t doing anything you’ll ever be thanked for and it’s basically a form of charity that takes up your time if you need to benefit from it.

  • Demonhype

    Considering someone upthread mentioned that most tall men of his acquaintance are actually quite timid and meek, no I don’t think that most people will agree with you. Do you understand the concept of “confirmation bias” though? That is why “well, all the tall men I know are quite confident and all the short men I know are pants-wetting babies” doesn’t count as evidence of anything. Because if you already believe that tall men are by definition more confident, you will only notice the tall men who confirm your bias (hence “confirmation bias”) and automatically filter out anyone who doesn’t fit this bias. Same with short men. When a short man confirms your bias by being meek and timid, your brain takes notice and makes a note of it, but fails to do the same with any short men you might meet who don’t fit that stereotype.

    I was doing it myself, regarding people on food assistance who were coming through my line at the checkout at one point–and I’m not even like that! But somewhere our benighted culture ground it into my subconscious that people on public assistance are just squandering tax dollars. Someone would come through with a few bags of candy and I, already in a rage that I even have to work in such a hellhole, would start thinking nasty thoughts about the “deadbeats” buying candy with foodstamps. Then, because I am aware of the insidiousness of confirmation bias and aware of the facts about people on public assistance, stopped myself at some point and said “wait, I KNOW better than this, why am I thinking this way?” Is it because those people on public assistance were just objectively wasting MY tax dollars on candy, and that my experience was a confirmation that they deserved the abuse they get for their status? NO! I MADE myself pay attention to EVERY time someone used a food stamp card, not just when they were buying something you might think is frivolous, and guess what? They actually weren’t buying all that much candy on the food stamp card–the vast majority of what they were buying was actual food! And when they did buy candy in large amounts, it was usually sale candy and I also noticed that in nearly every case they either had children with them or I saw them with their children at a later date or had seen them with their children. So I rather suspect they were trying to stockpile a nice cheap treat for their underprivileged children to enjoy, since kids on public assistance get so few privileges in life, and what kind of ogre is going to object to a poor child getting the occasional piece of candy? (I know the answer to that: libertarians, objectivists, randroids.)

    You see, even with my knowledge of the realities of people on public assistance and my awareness of various psychological quirks like confirmation bias, I was susceptible to it. Because everyone is. I had this subconscious little worm in my brain that said that people on public assistance were shiftless losers who are just squandering other people’s money, so I only noticed food cards when the purchase confirmed that bias and my brain automatically ignored the vast majority of purchases that did not confirm my bias. Only when I admitted my mistake, my fallibility, could I fix that biased observational “evidence”.

    I still had some coworkers wanting to badmouth people on assistance though. I had one woman come to me wanting to start a conversation about how disproportionately “rude” all the people on WIC were–and was astonished when I disagreed and said that I hadn’t noticed that people paying with WIC coupons were any ruder than any other customer, and most of the ones I had were actually quite polite and apologetic–and I wasn’t lying either. A food stamp card can be swiped pretty easily like a credit card without anyone knowing, but I HAVE to process every WIC coupon myself, so that’s not something I can be passively ignore. She didn’t seem to know what to say to that, and just blinked and went back to her register.

    Another one was whining to a different coworker about working in a bakery once and that there were so many “deadbeats” buying nice cakes on the public dime with food stamp cards. I wasn’t about to run over there while working and butt into the conversation to correct her, but it’s been my experience that when people make those kinds of complaints what really happened is that they saw one person buy something with a food card that they didn’t think that person, being on public assistance, deserved, and then extrapolated from that to ALL people on public assistance. I’ve actually caught people pulling that–like this one woman who was talking about all the steaks being consumed with food stamps, on HER dime! I pushed and prodded for examples, since she said she had SEEN it happening many times! Finally, she had to admit that her entire complaint about “welfare people” constantly enjoying luxurious steak dinners on her dime boiled down to this one single time she saw some guy buy several steaks using food stamps. And I pointed out that that was unfair, to take that one example and apply it to every single person on food stamps, and that she didn’t even know his situation. Everyone needs something to look forward to and to enjoy, even the very poor, and this guy might have been stockpiling all sorts of things for months in order to buy a nice little pocket of steaks to dole out once a week for a while to cheer himself up–because believe me, being in that situation is depressing as hell on several levels.

    Confirmation bias rears its ugly head in many different ugly ways, and can affect anyone. Whenever you start thinking about how your “experience” is evidence that some social stereotype is true, that is when it is most crucial to critically and even minutely examine that experience and, most importantly, do so while honestly admitting you could be wrong about it and could just be filtering out contradicting evidence because you are no different than any other human being.

  • Demonhype

    Yes, and if women are so upset about being considered inferior a priori for being women, they should consider wearing a strap on and binding down their breasts. It would be better than just complaining about it.

  • Demonhype

    Are you dense? Are you not understanding what is being told to you? What they are saying is that people often internalize social expectations, even when they actively oppose them. You would be amazed at how many “truths” people internalize about themselves that they absorb from societal and cultural expectations, no matter how demonstrably untrue they are. And since it’s mostly subconscious, it’s hard to fight–especially when you have people in the societally and culturally privileged class constantly punching down and trying to reinforce the idea that you are inherently worthless and they, by extension of the concept, are just better at everything than you are entirely because they are male. Or white. Or whatever. And it can happen to anyone, just like confirmation bias, and it is just as insidious and works just as efficiently on that hard-to-reach subconscious level.

    I am a feminist, but I was terrible at math because I had internalized the expectation that as a woman I didn’t have what it took to do math. Combine that with a myriad of teachers throughout my schooling who would make a cursory attempt to teach me and then give up because they also believed that my not having a penis made me bad at math.

    Then I started working in 3d programs, learning to write algebraic equations to make a rig control work on a hand, and after that I had my last year in college where I had an extra chunk of money from a grant and nothing to take, so I decided to challenge myself to taking some math classes. And I got one hell of a great teacher who didn’t assume that women sucked at math and if I didn’t understand something tried to figure out what I didn’t understand and found a different way to explain it–and never seemed to exude that attitude that all my other math teachers did my whole life, the attitude that I was an unworthy and unreachable math student because I was a girl. And it turns out that I kind of like math and I’m not too bad at it when some internalized self-image from other people isn’t sabotaging me.

    When society says that girls suck at math and teachers teach girls as if they a priori suck at math, then girls will suck at math. And that is not a reason that girls need to get out of the “man” business of math and leave it to the penis-havers either.

  • Demonhype

    Thank you, thank you, thank you! I cannot upvote this comment enough!

  • Demonhype

    You have no idea how social interaction works, do you? You are aware of those studies where they gave a math test to groups of mixed girls and boys, and the control group was just given the test with the basic verbal instructions beforehand, but the test group was given the same thing but with a small aside “girls usually do terribly at this test, but boys do very well”. If girls were just inherently stupider than boys, then the girls should do terribly in both cases, but that didn’t happen. In the control group, the girls did as well as the boys, but in the experiment group the boys’ scores skyrocketed while the girls’ scores plummeted. Internalized social expectations really do make a difference.

    And there is an outright and openly hostile attitude toward women in math and engineering that is intended to actively drive them away. This is fact that is available to everyone with the internet. A common complaint of women in the field and women who leave the field is about this hostile treatment. In some cases, they have been told that they will never be advanced to being full engineers no matter what, because hell will freeze over before their superior promotes a “skirt”. There was one instance of a woman who got into science and then got a sex change, and afterwards “his” work was considered to be far superior to “her” work. One person at a conference actually said out loud, after hearing him give a speech, that his work was far superior to “his sister’s”. And it was the same damn work.

    This is all out in the open and obvious to anyone who isn’t deliberately closing his eyes and refusing to see lest he lose his privilege. Women are not failing to get into math and science because of lack of interest. They are failing to get into math and science because of an actively hostile environment that is trying to prevent them from entering the fields or, should they withstand that, advancing them in any way beyond the status of lab assistant.

    But I suppose if you’re a man, you have every interest in believing that it’s just their inherent inferiority combined with their “lack of interest”, so you can continue to be considered superior just by right of having a penis.

  • Demonhype

    Oh, they taught me that in Catholic school, dontchaknow? That “we christians” are being “persecuted” by right of being prevented from imposing our religion on other people using any means necessary including the government. Because part of our religion is to force ourselves on everyone using any means necessary including the government, so if we are not allowed to commandeer the government and force every knee to bend to Jesus then we are being denied our right to free exercise of religion, and that is persecution!

    I was six, and still technically a believer, and I couldn’t believe what I was hearing! That they were seriously telling me that to be prevented from persecuting others is in itself persecution. That my freedom to swing my arm ends where your nose begins–unless I declare it part of my faith that I should be able to swing my arm right into anyone’s face, even to the point of breaking their nose or knocking them down, and it would be persecution to deny me that right. And somehow, even at that tender age, I knew they wouldn’t accept that excuse from someone in another religion trying to force their knee to bend to, say, Allah or Vishnu or what have you, regardless of what their religion says they should be allowed to do to other people.

    And I rather suspect that if some atheist CEOs decide they don’t want to hire Christians, or some liberal Christian company owner decides he doesn’t want to hire anti-choicers, you’d hear one hell of a loud roar from that crowd. Always with the special double-standards.

  • GCT

    Right back at you. I’m definitely learning new things from your comments!

  • Don Sakers

    Dagny never encounters barriers of any kind because her Daddy ran the railroad. If you want to give Rand credit for any shred of non-sexism, a better example would be one of the other strong, independent women characters, like…uh…uh…er….


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