I don’t wish to expend a lot of time on this topic at the moment, so I’m going to try to keep this brief. Perhaps I’ll revisit this topic in another post at a later time.
When the James Damore Google memo story broke, a lot of people who were defending him online kept asking people such as myself who were critical of his memo:
“But did you read the Memo? I don’t think you read it, because you don’t understand it. You’re saying things that he never said, but you’re saying he said those things.”
Months ago, yes, I read Damore’s memo. It was very boring.
My understanding of Damore’s memo was that he was arguing that women lack an interest in STEM fields due to biological reasons.
Damore believes men are biologically prone to be better at STEM and/or to be more prone to want to enter STEM.
I’m not the only one who understood his memo on those grounds.
Plenty of other people understood it in that manner as well and left comments criticizing those ideas on Twitter, or under blog posts discussing the topic.
And invariably, anyone who said Damore was wrong to argue that the reason women don’t enter STEM fields as much as men is due to biological differences was told (I know I was told this several times by different people, and I saw this happen to others) that we were misrepresenting Damore’s points, and we were misunderstanding his memo.
These Damore supporters were saying that no, Damore was not arguing that women are less interested in tech, or less adept at tech than men are, based on biological factors.
Yet today, a lady who I sometimes chat with on Twitter (her name is Lydia, and she unfortunately sometimes misunderstands what feminists are saying on some topics – for example regarding the phrase “Toxic Masculinity” – she thinks feminists are saying masculinity is toxic, but that is not what they are arguing with that phrase), and she tweeted back at me in a midst of disagreement about the Damore memo that I,
“would be disappointed in a study done in Nation X about women in tech.”
I take it to mean she read a study that claims that women are less interested in tech than men are, and some researchers in Nation X are chalking difference in interest up to to innate biological sex differences.
Now, you can’t have it both ways.
I don’t know about Lydia specifically, but in general terms, Damore supporters were saying months ago, that NO NO NO NO!! Damore was not using biological sex differences to explain why more women are not into tech, why more females aren’t actually working in tech, or why men are supposedly better at tech than women.
On the one hand, you want to reassure me, if you’re a Damore advocate, that his memo was not supporting the notion that biology explains why women are supposedly terrible at STEM, or why they would prefer growing Tulips to fixing computers or writing code, yet…
At the same time, you want to cite studies which purportedly support that very concept: that women, all women, due to being born women, would rather grow flowers than fiddle with computer code.
Either you believe that women as a whole are born dumber and less interested in tech than men, or you do not.
You cannot have it both ways – citing research that claims to show female disinterest in tech stuff, but then tell me that you (or Damore) don’t believe femaleness is innate to disinterest or incompetence at scientific, computer, or technical topics
Be aware that while you yourself may not point to biological studies to discredit women or to forbid or discourage women from entering certain career fields, there are indeed sexists online (men and women) who do delight in mis-using any scientific studies which purport to show gender differences as reasons to bar women from pursuing certain employment opportunities.
I have seen MRAs (Men’s Rights Advocates) or very, very conservative gender complementarians online who do in fact point to, and link to, such studies to argue why they believe women should not be in combat positions in the military, work as doctors, or work outside the home at all.
There are Christian dinosaurs out there, such as Lori Alexander, who runs a blog where she gives advice on marriage to Christian women, who believe it’s wrong or a sin for any woman to have a job outside the home (she apparently even feels that way about un-married women who don’t have a husband to financially support them).
There are in fact people out there who do not like women, view women as “lesser” than men, and who resent equal opportunities being available for women.
There are in fact people in American culture (and elsewhere) who think women should only marry and have children and never receive much of an education or work outside the home.
And these types of idiots are more than happy to cite studies which claim to show that women are born being worse or less interested in science, medicine, math, or whatever other topic, to bolster their views that only men-folk should pursue such studies.
See my other posts for more (which contain links to articles that refute the studies that say women are more bored by tech than men, or women are not as good at tech as men are):
(Summary of blog post: Due to gender stereotypes and unconscious bias by teachers, many girls are discouraged from entering STEM fields, taking more math and science courses)