Sexual Misconduct on College Campuses

Every week there's another appalling story about the way college campuses deal with sexual misconduct.  A Rolling Stone investigation of UVA shows that on some campuses there's not much of a response even if  a student complains of being gang raped by seven men at a frat party. Among many astonishing details in the story: there were 38 allegations of sexual assault in a recent one year period at UVA; and no student has ever been expelled for sexual misconduct there, while many have been expelled for violating UVA's revered honor code. 

On the other hand, there's this amazing story today about the other side of the sexual misconduct spectrum.  A male Swarthmore student was expelled for an allegedly non-consensual, non-penetrative sex act that occurred a day before the alleged victim initiated consensual intercourse with him (she complained about the earlier act nearly two years later).  Now Swarthmore is vacating that decision and giving the student a chance to have his case re-considered. (Understandably, he's moved on to another school.) Follow the link and read about the judicial process that led to the student's expulsion. Even if you're prepared to think an instance of sexual assault could conceivably precede consensual sex by just 24 hours, you have to agree that the accused student's case was horribly mishandled.

Anyone with college age sons and daughters (I have one of each) has to be completely appalled by both of these stories.  And everyone else with empathy and a sense of justice.

"I should but I'm not going to"

This phrase intrigues me, every time I think about the fact that I'm not a vegan. Here are some interesting and relevant reflections from someone who's neither a vegan nor a vegetarian.


Bedtime Stories

Harry Brighouse and Adam Swift ask an interesting question about conferring advantage on children in their new book Family ValuesWe do all sorts of things that confer advantage, from reading kids bedtime stories to sending them to private schools.  All these things get in the way of fair equality of opportunity, they say, giving children a leg up just because they happen to be born into better off, more educated families. But where should we draw the line?  Which of our advantage-conferring practices, as parents, can be justified?  Actually, they focus on a narrower question:  which of these things can be justified "by appeal to the value of the family and must be permitted if people are to realize that value in their lives"? (p. 246) 

Their answer is that advantage-conferring practices can be justified by appeal to the value of the family only if they are needed for intimate family life. Reading bedtime stories is fine, even if it does confer advantages over others, and so is attending church together.  Here's a passage that conveys the general idea--
Without substantial opportunity to share himself intimately with his child, in ways that reflect his own judgments about what is valuable, the parent is deprived of the ability to forge and maintain an intimate relationship, and the child is deprived of that relationship.  The loss is to the core of what is valuable about the relationship.  The loss is to the core of what is valuable about the relationship.  Imagine that parents are barred from engaging in these or relevantly similar activities, or, less drastically, that such activities are made very difficult: the opportunities for realizing the familiar relationship good that justify the family would be severely limited. (p. 125)
Their paradigm case of a practice not justified along these lines is sending kids to private school.  That confers an advantage that interferes with equal opportunity and isn't necessary so that parent and child can enjoy an intimate, mutually satisfying family life. 

This way of drawing the line is going to validate some of what affluent parents do, but also condemn a lot of what they do.  So let's see, what gets validated?  (Most of these examples aren't theirs.)
  • Bedtime stories, they say. I'm not so sure.  Possibly I could have as much quality, intimate time with my kids if we watched a little TV before bed.  But let's let that pass.  Bedtime stories are in.
  • Going to museums.  This confers an educational advantage, but maybe it passes muster, if my child and I love being together at museums in a way we don't love being together at, say, a bowling alley.
  • Traveling to national parks. There's definitely an educational advantage conferred, but it might be OK, since vacation time does generate family intimacy, and I just can't enjoy Disneyland in the way I can enjoy a national park.
A lot will not get validated.
  • Buying high school students laptop computers so they can easily manage schoolwork, access online assignments, etc.  The computers confer an advantage and aren't necessary for family intimacy. Yes kids appreciate the gift, but only briefly so, and laptops actually tend to make kids retreat from the family.
  • Flying around on college trips so kids can decide where to apply "early decision".  All of that confers an advantage, reducing fair equality of opportunity, and doesn't do much for family intimacy.  (Stress, arguing, etc.....)
  • Music lessons.  All advantage, not a lot of intimacy, considering the stress over the years about practicing, performing, etc.
I have felt bad over the years about conferring advantages, but haven't had the view that the authors put forward: that it's wrong for parents to confer advantages on children, except when required for intimate family life; and that the state would be entitled to prohibit parents from conferring advantages like those in the second group. There is a milder judgment one could make: that collectively we should make up for or avoid the inequalities.  Schools should give kids access to computers.  Colleges should get rid of "early decision."  There should be cheap music lessons in public schools.  I'm for all of those kinds of solutions, but should I go farther and admit to wrongdoing, to the extent that I've offered my kids advantages that aren't needed for intimate family life?

Though not a libertarian, I am drawn to what many libertarians say about the family.  My personal liberty to spend my own money includes liberty to spend on my kids, because "children themselves form part of one's substance."  They "form part of a wider identity you have" (Robert Nozick, The Examined Life, p. 28).  If I may buy myself a laptop and thereby have advantages over other workers (Brighouse and Swift don't say otherwise), I'm very tempted to think I can also buy my kids a laptop.  The worry that all kids ought to start life on an equal footing falsely presents kids as totally distinct from their parents.   But that's a huge thing to try to argue, especially in a quick blog post.

I have a more modest objection to what Brighouse and Swift are saying about when it's OK to confer advantages.  Suppose I have all sorts of money to spend on laptops, books, education, and whatnot, for myself.  I may secure those advantages for myself; presumably I'm entitled to them, on their view.  What kind of family life would I have if I bought myself a laptop and then told my kids they couldn't have one, because they needed to remain on a level playing field with other children?  Imagine this happening again, and again.  "X is fine for me, but not for you!"  Conferring advantages (without an intimacy payoff) may actually be necessary for a family life that's internally harmonious and egalitarian.  An alternative would be that I don't get to have a laptop either, but that would put an awfully heavy burden on parents. Do they really have to make themselves less competitive at work, once they have kids?

Surely there are some ways of conferring advantage on children that are illegitimate (I can think of several that amount to outright cheating). I'm just not entirely convinced that as many things are illegitimate as the authors claim.



My review of Well-Being: Happiness in a Worthwhile Life, by Neera K. Badhwar, is at Notre Dame Philosophy Reviews. 

Prague Restaurants and the Duties of Adult Children

So we were in Prague last summer and discovered this thing called a "table charge."  I'm not really sure exactly what it is, but here's one possibility--the table charge is for stuff that's standardly put on the table--bread, water, a spot of liqueur after the meal.  I thought it was pretty annoying, because I wasn't given a choice whether to order that stuff or not. The prices on the menu suggest a rule that goes "You pay for what you order" and the table charge violates that rule. I could have protested the charge, I think (note: it's not standard in Prague and wasn't stated anywhere).

Segue to the duties of adult children... A famous paper by Jane English says adult children owe nothing to their parents because they didn't ask to be born and raised.  For kids to have a duty to support their parents in old age, for example, would be like me having to pay the table charge even though I didn't ask for the bread, water, etc.  They have no such duty, she claims.

I do think adult children have duties to their parents, but how so?  Adding a second chapter to the restaurant story sheds some light.  Suppose on my second night in Prague, I deliberately go to the restaurant with the table charge because I like the food. I also now realize that, compared to restaurants without a table charge, the prices on this restaurant's menus are fairly low. Furthermore, I now anticipate the liqueur at the end of the meal, so order less wine.  On the second night, would I be entitled to protest the charge, let alone with righteous indignation?

My sense is that after the first night, I've altered my attitudes and dispositions so that, though I never ask for the bread, water, etc., I can be counted as "pro" receiving them.  I'm on board with the system, so to speak. And so I do have a duty to pay the table charge and can't protest.   Moral of the story:  asking for items is not the only way I can acquire a duty to pay for them.

Children don't ask to be born, and don't accumulate a duty to care for their aging parents starting on the first day of life.  But over the years of being cared for, they can be reluctant recipients of care they'd rather not receive, or enthusiastic recipients.  When they are past the tender years of childhood, they can take steps toward independence or deliberately continue being cared for and supported.  If you enthusiastically encourage your parents' support, it seems to me you do start to be indebted to them, like I was indebted to the Prague restaurant for the table items, despite not asking for them.

Wouldn't it be awful if adult children actually thought about how to treat their elderly parents as if they were related as restaurant owner to customer?   And yet even if they do, it's not out of the question at all that adult children do owe something to their parents, even if they never explicitly asked to be born or raised.


Sending affluence, receiving pestilence

Peter Singer makes a very persuasive case that we ought to spend money to alleviate extreme poverty rather than buying the latest luxuries   But what if what is needed is not sending away our affluence but letting in disease?  Allowing travel to and from west Africa might increase the number of cases of Ebola in the US and slow the epidemic there;  closing borders could both protect us here and intensify the epidemic there.  If those are the facts, must we not only send money to distant places to help people over there, but let people living in those places bring disease here?

One question is about what each of us should do, individually, but another is about the government we've elected.  Suppose they know a policy will add 100 new cases of Ebola to the US, but reduce new cases of Ebola in West Africa by 50%.  Should our leaders enact that policy?   Do they have special duties to protect the citizens of the country they lead, or should they maximize total good, without regard for who lives where?  Are borders morally important or just arbitrary lines?

Questions, questions.  Here's some good news on the Ebola front.


Harvard's Sexual Misconduct Policy

Harvard has a new and more victim-friendly sexual misconduct policy as of this fall, and 28 professors in the law school have complained about it (out of a total of 110).  It sounds to me as if they have some legitimate worries but I'm puzzled by one of the complaints.
The faculty members, including emeritus professor Alan Dershowitz, said the policy should be retracted because it denies the accused access to legal counsel, knowledge of the accusations against them and the right to question witnesses, potentially exposing them to “unfair and inappropriate discipline.” It also holds one party more culpable when both are impaired by alcohol or drug use.
What's the problem with holding one party more culpable when both are impaired--provided that one was the sexual aggressor?   A lot of people seem to find that unfair, but is it really?

A long time ago when I lived in Boston I was on a jury in a manslaughter trial.  The drunk defendant (along with a group of friends) had chased the victim into a subway station shouting racial epithets and threats. The victim, also drunk and evidently fearing for his life, decided to walk home along the tracks (above ground). He was killed by an oncoming train that he might have heard if he hadn't been drunk.

Though this was 30 years ago, I still vividly remember what the prosecutor said about intoxication.  About the defendant: you can't hide behind alcohol.  If you committed a criminal act, the fact that you were drunk is not exculpatory.  About the victim:  you take your victims as you find them.  The victim may have heard the train if he hadn't been drunk, but the defendant cannot use that as a defense.  These two rules made sense to me and to all the other members of the jury.  We convicted the defendant, and later realized this was a retrial: another jury had previously convicted the defendant too.  The prosecution's instructions about alcohol were persuasive to all 24 jury members.

Now transpose into a sexual scenario.  A drunk man forces himself on a woman, who doesn't resist effectively because she's drunk.  It's surely the same: the man can't hide behind alcohol; he takes his victim as he finds her.  So I have no idea why Prof. Dershowitz & Co. find any problem with holding "one party more culpable when both are impaired by alcohol or drug use."  Would they really want the defendant in the manslaughter case to be acquitted because the victim was also drunk?

Maybe to the average person (but surely not the law professors) it may appear as if there's an asymmetry here--we're holding the man to higher standards. But no, that's not true.  We're holding the man responsible for criminal acts he performed while drunk.  The woman performed no such criminal acts.  She only made it easier for the man to perform his criminal acts.  There's no inconsistency in saying his inebriation doesn't excuse him and then saying her inebriation doesn't excuse him either. 

Of course, not every case where both parties are drunk is a case of rape.  If both actively participate in sex acts, with one no more the aggressor than the other, then it wouldn't make sense to see the man as guilty of non-consensual sex and not the woman.  But in cases where women file complaints, usually there's an allegation of aggression on the man's part. That's why one party is responsible and the other isn't, even though both are drunk.

People seem to want to find fault with both parties and surely we can do that.  If drinking makes you less in control of yourself, you shouldn't do it in a setting where self-control is important.  Men are foolish to get totally drunk at college parties and so are women.  The men because they're liable to commit acts they're going to be accountable for.  The women because they become defenseless against those acts (or maybe even, in very rare case, commit them).   If you're drunk, you shouldn't drive a car, even if the person you hit may be drunk too.  If you're drunk, you shouldn't ride a bicycle, making yourself defenseless.   Being foolishly defenseless obviously doesn't mean being to blame. 

Surely it would be completely backward to revise the way we handle double-drunk cases, holding both parties somehow "accountable" even though one killed the other, raped the other, maimed the other, and so on.  If the law professors aren't for that across the board (surely not), why are they for that in campus sexual assault cases? 

p.s.  Maybe I'm not understanding the professors' point--I couldn't find more about the Harvard policy on sexual assault and alcohol, or more about the law professors' objection, despite some energetic googling. If they're not saying men can't be accountable when women are also drunk, I'd love to know what they are saying.


The Accidental Mixed Race Baby

It's all over the news:  a lesbian couple used a sperm bank to create their baby girl and now they're suing, because the bank used sperm vial 330 (from a black man) when they had selected sperm vial 380 (from a white man).  They love their daughter, but they're claiming they've somehow been damaged by the mix up. 

One thing's for sure, this legal wrangle should have been conducted privately, because even if the couple is right to hold the sperm bank accountable for their error (should sperm banks really be less accountable than Best Buy for flubbing up orders?), their daughter may be harmed when one day she finds out about her parents' dissatisfaction with her race.  The parents and the sperm bank should have reached a discreet settlement.  Aside from that, is there any problem here?

There are those who condemn this couple for having any racial preference at all.  But why? Race enters into people's attractions, like hair color or body type or other superficial features do.  Your attractions at the romantic level probably have some bearing on which children you find attractive.  (Hey, don't pretend you find all children equally cute and lovable! You don't.)   Picking white donor 380 sounds more racist, but is it really more racist than marrying white guy John Doe, knowing and welcoming the fact that the two of you will have white children?  People condemning the couple for caring about the race of their sperm donor ought to have to publicize a list of people they've dated and 'fess up to how racially selective they've been!  It is not entirely different.

Another unfair accusation is that the lesbian couple wanted a "bespoke" baby, as all sperm bank clients supposedly do.  Clients at sperm bank do have the option of choosing a donor who's extra smart, athletic, good-looking etc., and so this looks very designer-baby-ish.  But you have to put your feet in the shoes of the clients for a moment.  Fertile male-female couples narrow down the type of child they'll have enormously, by choosing each other.  So they can seem completely open to the unbidden, in a Michael Sandel-approved fashion.  A lesbian couple, by contrast, has vastly less control.  Should we really expect them to be, unlike the rest of us, open to having a child with absolutely any father in the universe?  It's true that sperm bank clients often gain control by choosing a smart, handsome whatever-race father, but I suspect this is  in some respects fortuitous. What they want is really just control over the way they reproduce, and the only form of control on offer is optimizing the sperm donor.

So, allegations of racism and wanting a "bespoke" baby: dismissed.  I don't think the couple's choices are objectionable. However, there is something unfortunate here. Ordinary reproduction with a partner has a tendency to make us exclaim, when a child is born, "He's perfect!" or "She's perfect!"  You have to wonder if this baby has been received with that much joy and appreciation, given the lawsuit.  Are babies more vulnerable to parental rejection and dissatisfaction when the gametes are bought at a sperm (or egg) bank?   The lawsuit (regardless of its merits) makes you think "maybe". 


Moral Mediocrity

Interesting post here by Eric Schwitzgebel, with a lot of relevance to the fact that very few people succeed at being perfect or even near-perfect vegans.


Self Preservation

I wonder about some choices made by Thomas Duncan, the Ebola patient who's being treated at a hospital in Dallas, and may have infected other people here.  The New York Times reports that on Sept. 15 Duncan helped carry a pregnant, 19 year old Ebola victim from a taxi to her home, where she died hours later (the hospital wouldn't admit her).  Four days later he few from Liberia to Brussels, from Brussels to Washington D.C., and from Washington to Dallas.  He must have known these things, each with some relevance to the decision:
  1. His contact with the dying woman gave him a significant chance of having contracted Ebola.
  2. Traveling by air would increase the chances that he would spread the disease, if he had it.
  3. If he had the disease, his chances of surviving in the US were much better than his chances of surviving in Liberia. 
  4. His extended family in Dallas would not have been at risk if it were not for his visit.
  5. The airfare was non-refundable or refundable only with a penalty.
To defend Duncan's decision to come to the US, you have to think that people have some sort of right of self-preservation, and that it "kicked in" in this situation. Obviously we can't do just anything to save ourselves--robbing others of their bodily organs if we need a transplant, for example--but we can subject others to the risks in question here, whether the others are strangers (as in #2) or family (as in #4).

I do think people have some sort of right of self-preservation.  For example, right now the medical care for Duncan is costing vast amounts of money, and I doubt he is in a position to pay the bills.  The same money could probably be used by Oxfam to save hundreds of lives.  I think it's fine for the man to opt for treatment rather than refusing and dying.  In that particular case, it's okay to prefer your own good to the greater good.

But in the case at hand?  Was it wrong of him to get on that plane and then interact with his extended family, knowing that if he were carrying Ebola, the alternative was dying in Liberia?  If you believe in any right of self-preservation (as I think we all do), it's hard to see where it ends.


Male and Female Brains

My trek through the literature on sex differences continues. These podcasts from NeuroGenderings III are interesting, especially the talks by Anne Fausto-Sterling and Rebecca Jordan-Young.  The Jordan-Young talk led me to version 2, which she gave at a symposium in honor of Fausto-Sterling (video here).  And from there, I was led to two papers--"Male or Female? Brains are Intersex," by Daphna Joel; and "Reframing Sexual Differentiation of the Brain," by Margaret McCarthy and Arthur Arnold (which I haven't read yet).  A nice break in the technical slog: there's also this TED talk by Daphna Joel.

The Joel paper and talk (parts of which are highlighted by Jordan-Young) makes me wonder about several things.   First, a philosophical question.  What would you need to find out about brains to say there is a male brain and a female brain?  Joel is emphatic that there is no such thing as a male brain or a female brain because there aren't two forms for brains, just differences in averages on hundreds of parameters.  Plus, a person can score "female" on one parameter but "male" on another--the scores don't line up consistently. Plus, the scores on various parameters can change over time, for one individual, due to environmental factors like stress.  But what about the reproductive machinery in the brain, which takes different forms in males and females?  Donald Pfaff writes, "The most striking sex difference is that the female hypothalamus can command the pituitary to put out pulses of hormones that will cause ovulation by the ovary, whereas the male hypothalamus cannot do that."  (Man and Woman: An Inside Story kindle loc. 586).   How is it that this difference in the hypothalmus doesn't mean that there actually is a male brain and a female brain?  I have to surmise that "male brain" means, to Joel, a brain that's male through and through.  A difference in one part won't do.  Likewise for "female brain."

But why?  There are male and female bodies, right?  And they're male and female because of differences in certain parts. Among other things, males and females have different gonads.  You wouldn't say "there are no male and female bodies" just because male and female kidneys, livers, hearts, gall bladders, and so on, don't take different forms.  So I am honestly puzzled by this insistence that there are no male and female brains.

I suppose what's going on here is that folks like Joel want to disabuse people of a popular error--the belief that the brains of men and women are different through and through.  That is not the case (if Joel is right), though certain parts are different (if Pfaff is right).  I would think that, using language carefully and literally, the difference at the level of parts means there are male and female brains.  It's just that this isn't the super big deal some people say it is--like The Female Brain author Louann Brizendine.

Now for an empirical question. Jordan-Young embraces the part of Joel's paper that says it's impossible to say how one individual will score on one sex-dependent parameter, based on how they score on another. The various parameters don't necessarily line up, making each individual's mind/brain a pink, blue (and other) mosaic.  What I wonder, though, is what kinds of covariance you find between the different parameters.  Given a person scoring high on aggression, is there a higher probability that they will score high on other "male" traits like willingness to take risks?  If a person scores high on compassion, is it more probably they will score high on sensitivity and squeamishness?  This is really an important question for understanding sex, particularly if you want to evaluate a point Jordan-Young makes many times: sex is not a mechanism.  If there's even just pretty good covariance, it makes you think sex probably is a mechanism.  Something's got to be making these traits tend to cluster together (if they do).

The covariance question is an important question for me because I'm trying to think about the way parents react to the sex of their children, on ultrasound or at birth. If the mosaic of traits for each individual shows no internal coherence--from one tile you can't predict the others at all--then we ought not think much of it when we hear "it's a boy!" or "it's a girl!".  But if there's quite a bit of internal coherence--from one tile you can predict the others pretty well--then the natal sex of your child tells you more.

Questions, questions.  In another life I will study the neuroscience of gender full time, because it's a vast subject and awfully interesting.


What Sam Harris Said

Lately I've been working on the gender chapter of my book about parenthood. Because I've been knee deep in the literature about gender differences, I've been intrigued by the recent Sam Harris dust up in the blogosphere.  Michelle Boorstein, a Washington Post reporter, gives this account of an interview she did with Harris at a Center for Inquiry event in DC:
I also asked Harris at the event why the vast majority of atheists — and many of those who buy his books — are male, a topic which has prompted some to raise questions of sexism in the atheist community. Harris’ answer was both silly and then provocative.
It can only be attributed to my “overwhelming lack of sex appeal,” he said to huge laughter.
“I think it may have to do with my person slant as an author, being very critical of bad ideas. This can sound very angry to people..People just don’t like to have their ideas criticized. There’s something about that critical posture that is to some degree instrinsically male and more attractive to guys than to women,” he said. “The atheist variable just has this – it doesn’t obviously have this nurturing, coherence-building extra estrogen vibe that you would want by default if you wanted to attract as many women as men.”
So, angry criticism of bad ideas: intrinsically male.  Nurturing and coherence-building: intrinsically female.  Plus, a tentative explanatory claim: the gender difference "may be" the cause of Harris having more male readers and atheism having more male adherents.

Many feminists in the atheist community think what Harris said was sexist and contemptible. If you look around, you'll see people accusing him of "gender essentialism,"  seeing women as "biologically inferior," and all manner of other screw ups.  One person's response is a simple "fuck you."  The demonizing of Harris says a lot about why feminism has become such a divisive topic among atheists, skeptics, and such. A certain kind of feminist does regard any assertion of intrinsic gender differences as anathema, taboo, sexist, and grounds for dismissal.  But that kind of feminism just isn't compatible with reasoned, science-based inquiry.  The scientific literature does not, just does not, support the idea that all assertions of intrinsic gender differences are beyond the pale, signs of sexism, or taboo.

To see this, you might want to start with the book Touching a Nerve: Our Brains, Our Selves, by the philosopher Patricia Churchland.  A whole chapter of the book is devoted to arguing that males are more aggressive than females, because of brain differences.  She sums up at the end:
To a first approximation, human males and females display differences in aggressive behavior that are linked to male and female hormones, though these behavioral dispositions can be modulated by the cultural matrix.

Churchland relies heavily on Man and Woman: An Inside Story, by Donald Pfaff, for her account of how hormones create innate differences.  This is a rather technical book that covers a vast amount of research about hormones and fetal development.  Aside from being tough going, it's also quite focused on rat and mouse models.  A more digestible and people-centered book is Brain Gender, by Melissa Hines.  Hines strikes me as a model of restraint, yet she does assert that there are innate brain differences. Again, the claim is that hormones make the difference, causing boys to be (among other things) more inclined to rough and tumble play than girls.  She says the research backing up her picture of brain gender amounts to over a thousand studies.

All that at least shows one respectable position is to assert innate differences, but if you're still not convinced, there's Pink Brain, Blue Brain by Lise Eliot, who argues that there are very small but real innate differences between boys and girls.  Note: she's not at all a Louann Brizendine,  one of these "vive la difference" authors who seize upon and exaggerate every difference they can get their hands on. This is cautious, restrained science that finds small differences and only small differences.  Another author of the same character is Janet Hyde, who's very critical of authors like Brizendine, but still does find small differences--as she explains in this talk.  Even an outright feminist and gender social constructionist like Anne Fausto-Sterling acknowledges small innate differences and cites Hyde with approval.  See, for example, her book Sex/Gender.

No discussion of this literature would be complete without a mention of critics like Cordelia Fine, author of Delusions of GenderThe subtitle sums up her attitude:  "How our minds, society, and neurosexism create differences."  She does appear to take the ultimate social constructionist position--that all apparent gender differences are created, not found.  By all means, she does an effective job of dismantling "vive la difference" authors like Brizendine and Simon Baron-Cohen (author of The Essential Difference).  Her book includes a very illuminating chapter on how non-innate factors like stereotype threat can create significant differences.  This is definitely a book worth reading, but for my money, it does not undermine all of the research on innate gender differences.  And neither does a second book of the same sort--Brain Storm, by Rebecca Jordan-Young, which does have some compelling chapters and sections.  Both Fine and Jordan-Young are worth reading, but effectively criticized in this review.

All in all, I think people could read the gender differences literature and come away with different conclusions, which is why the science of gender is lively and interesting.  What is really clear, though, is that there's nothing taboo or shocking or offensive or sexist about thinking there are some innate gender differences.  And that brings us back to Sam Harris. As a neuroscience PhD, I imagine he's familiar with some of this literature.  He's right to protest (here) against being accused of sexism for thinking (along with the likes of Patricia Churchland!) that there are some innate differences between men and women.

But let's cut to the chase. Do I entirely agree with what Sam Harris said?  I agree that men are innately a bit more aggressive (on average) and women innately a bit more affiliative (on average).  I'm less sure about Harris's tentative explanatory hypothesis.  It's tricky to say how a set of inborn differences must manifest themselves in the real world.  Supposing women are less aggressive, are we really to believe that they're aggressive enough to be half of law school students, but not aggressive enough to be half of Sam Harris's readers?  That's not all that plausible.  To me it seems as if something else is going on here, something more complicated.  Women can be aggressive enough for doing philosophy and debating religion, but have less room on their "mattering maps" for those activities (to use Rebecca Goldstein's phrase).   But why?  Is it for innate reasons or because culture steers them in certain directions and not others?  I really don't think we know.


Taboo Questions

I've been working forever on one chapter of my manuscript/book on parenthood--the chapter on gender.  I think I know part of the reason why it's been so hard and time consuming to get this done.  In other chapters I've felt free to philosophically explore, even if the issues are controversial, but there are a lot more constraints here.  Certain views, and even certain questions, are politically incorrect, taboo, probably genuinely hurtful to some audiences.  And so I can't get into "figuring it out" mode and stay there. I keep feeling hemmed in by what I'm supposed to think, as a feminist, or what I'm supposed to say, as a respecter of LGBT people. And so I read some more, think some more, read some more.  Well, maybe the end result will be a better chapter!

As evidence of how political correctness can distort inquiry, take this New Yorker article about clashes between so-called radical feminists and transgender activists.  It does sound to me like the radical feminist side has some daft views about transgender people and cares too much about safeguarding born-women's spaces, but they do ask some good questions.  It really is puzzling how it could be that a biologically female woman and a trans woman are both women in exactly the same sense.  What is it that makes them both women?  I believe that's a hard question worth thinking about.  The radical feminists asking the question may approach these things with inappropriate animus, but at least they're asking the questions. I get the impression from the article that one is no longer allowed to in some academic settings.

There is some philosophical literature on the hard question but I honestly find most of what I've read not in a purely philosophical mode.  Politics is in the driver's seat a great deal, not the usual philosophical methods--analysis, thought experiments, testing claims with counterexamples, etc.  So people say things that would not withstand philosophical scrutiny, if the topic were something politically neutral like causation, or intentionality, or reference, or whatnot.

What does gender, or transgender, have to do with parenting?  The question I'm trying to tackle is whether parents should care about or cultivate gender differences at all.  But as a preliminary, I tackle the metaphysics of gender.  Are girls/women and boys/men two naturally distinct groups?  Interesting, difficult question. I'd really like to approach it as a philosophy question, not as a matter of politics.

Against empathy?

When I have time to read this I think I'm going to enjoy it!


"Socially constructed"

I've been thinking and reading about the idea that sex and/or gender are "socially constructed."  This is often asserted by feminists who have a debunking and liberatory agenda.  The idea is that sex and gender "binaries" are not written into the nature of things, but results of choices, perceptions, customs, cultural assumptions, etc. You couldn't abandon the cat vs. dog distinction (it's real), but you could abandon the man vs. woman distinction (it's constructed). 

I don't quite get this, because "socially constructed" categories can earn their keep, even if they're not written into the natural world.  In fact they're quite diverse, coming to be in many different ways.  Some examples:

Doctors and lawyers.  Nobody's by nature a doctor or a lawyer.  As a society we created the institutions of medicine and law and established procedures that make one qualify, or not qualify, as a doctor (or lawyer). 

Teenagers, seniors. We have lots of age categories that are socially constructed.  To be a teenager, you have to have an age ending with "teen" but we draw a circle around people with those ages because of various facts about them, and also because of various decisions, perceptions, norms, etc.    Likewise, seniors have to be at the elderly end of the age spectrum, but there are further facts about them, and decisions and perceptions, involved in marking them out.  Seniors are not just old, but assumed to be leisured, retired, slowed down, etc. Other age categories are worth thinking about here too: baby, toddler, tween, middle aged, etc.

Blonds, brunettes, redheads.  If you listen to people talk about "blonds" you'll realize that a blond isn't just someone with blond hair.  Being "a blond" involves a certain amount of ditziness, extra attractiveness, and so on.  You can have blond hair but not be "a blond" and you can have brown hair and make yourself a "blond"--by dyeing your hair and taking on the necessary ditziness and sex appeal. Likewise for brunette and redhead--hair color is involved, but also character traits.  The whole thing's  bound up with culturally perpetuated perceptions.

These three examples reveal various things about "social construction":
  1. The doctor/lawyer example makes it especially obvious that a category isn't disposable just because it's socially constructed.
  2. A socially constructed category can have natural prerequisites. You cannot be a teenager without having an age in the teens.  So it's possible to agree that male/female is a socially constructed distinction but still think there are natural prerequisites for being one or the other.
  3. The examples show that socially constructed categories vary in their superficiality and connection with mere perceptions. "Blond" is like that, but teenager much less so and doctor/lawyer not at all,
My sense (backed with no defense at the moment) is that biological sex really is natural, not socially constructed, but gender in a broader sense is socially constructed.  The closest analogy, of the three above, is the age categories.  Doctor/lawyer is much more bound up with institutions than gender, and blond/brunette/redhead is more superficial and bound up with (stupid!) perceptions.  There's a "constructed" aspect to being a teenager, as well as a basis in reality, and I'd say the same thing about being a man or being a woman. Which is not to say gender categories are just like age categories--just as useful, just as relevant in all the same contexts.  It's the type and degree of constructedness that seems roughly the same.

What I'm really interested in at the moment is the idea of social construction. It doesn't seem as if lawyers is a socially constructed category in anything like the way blonds is, and blonds seems very different from teenagers.  So assertions about the socially constructed nature of gender need to come with clarification:  in what sense?  The idea is more or less radical depending on the answer.


Ethics in Gaza

Philosophers have been writing a lot lately about Israel's military campaign in Gaza.  Francis Kamm writes on proportionality in the Boston Review; Peter Singer is critical of Israel in this essay; and Jeff McMahan also discusses proportionality in Prospect magazine.   I find Singer's essay illuminating, Jeff McMahan's not so much, and Kamm...well I haven't finish it yet. 

McMahan's main claim is that too few deaths of Israeli civilians will be prevented by Israel's campaign, considering the cost in Palestinian civilian deaths; this is largely because Israel's anti-missile system is already preventing Palestinian missiles from killing civilians.  There's therefore a problem of disproportionality.

As plausible as that conclusion is, it's strikingly unpersuasive how McMahan gets there. He proposes to start with ordinary, personal self defense:
Suppose your life is threatened by a culpable aggressor but your only effective means of defence will kill an innocent bystander as a side effect. Most philosophers believe that it would be impermissible to save yourself at the cost of killing this innocent person.
Is that what "most philosophers" believe?  I'm not sure, but I think McMahan is surely wrong about why they believe it, if they do.  Here's his proposed explanation:
This is mainly because the moral reason not to kill a person is stronger than the reason to save a person. It is therefore generally impermissible to kill one person to save another, even if the killing would be unintended.
This can't be the whole story about bystander deaths, because this story also implies that it's wrong to kill an attacker in self defense.  Suppose someone is aiming a missile at my house and I (an innocent civilian) can't escape.   All I can do to save myself is fire back, killing the attacker.  This would be a case of saving a person (namely me) by killing another.  Should I stop and think "the moral reason not to kill a person is stronger than the reason to save a person"?   No, so the ''better not to kill than to save" principle, so simply stated, isn't tenable and probably also isn't what most philosophers believe.

McMahan actually aims to discuss proportionality as it pertains to unintentionally killing bystanders, not attackers, in a self defense situation, but it's interesting first to notice how little we care about proportionality when it comes to attackers.  Suppose it takes 10 people to operate my attackers' rocket launcher, while mine is a solo model.  I don't have any reluctance to say I can fire back and kill 10 to save just one (me). If it takes 100 to operate their rocket launcher, I may kill 100 to save myself.  People trying to kill me can't undermine my right to fight back simply by piling on!

McMahan asks how many bystanders you may unintentionally kill, if you're killing an attacker in self defense.   His answer is simple:  not even one innocent bystander may be killed to save yourself.  That follows from the "better not to kill than to save" principle.   Sticking with that analysis, his objection to Israel's campaign will be that there are more bystanders being killed than civilian deaths being prevented.   But McMahan takes on board what most people think: that there is some special prerogative to preserve yourself, permitting one bystander to be sacrificed to save yourself from an attacker.  How about two?  Maybe, he says, but not three!  From that standpoint, McMahan judges that Israelis should be killing at most 2 Palestinian civilians to save 1 Israeli civilian.  And then the problem is that the actual ratio is far from that:  there have been over 1800 mostly civilian deaths in Gaza so far and perhaps only a handful of Israeli civilian deaths have been prevented, considering that Israel does have an anti-missile defense system already protecting civilians.  
These numbers--1 or 2 bystanders may be unintentionally killed to save yourself, but not 3--have nothing but intuitiveness going for them, but do they have even that?   Again, 10 guys are operating a rocket launcher and I'm on the verge of firing back with my solo launcher to save myself.   Let's suppose (contrary to the simple "better not to kill than to save" principle) that I'm entitled to kill the 10 guys.  So the issue is only about bystanders.  It's part of the 10 guys' strategy that they will keep some children close by while firing at me, knowing I'll be  reluctant to fire back under those circumstances. McMahan gives me, at the outer limit, the right to cause two bystanders deaths, but not three.  If I happen to have my own child in my house with me, then to save the two of us, I get, at the very most, four bystander deaths. If there are five or more kids in the attacker compound, morality requires me to succumb to the attack, along with my two kids.  Obviously, we're being offered just an illusion of precision here. There really isn't an answer to how many bystander deaths are tolerable. The real intuition most of us have is that there shouldn't be gross disproportionality!

But perhaps we have other thoughts about this as well.  It seems different that the attackers are deliberately using the children as innocent shields, compared to a situation in which, by sheer accident, there happen to be children nearby.  We might be inclined to say, in the first case, that if I exercise my right to preserve myself, the deaths of the children will on my attackers' conscience, so to speak.  In the second case, they've got to be on my conscience.  We care not just who causes which deaths, but who is to blame for which deaths.  Assessing causality is just part of assessing blame.

McMahan highlights something I do find morally perplexing:  Israel does have an anti-missile defense system already in place, so the number of Israeli civilians saved by the Gaza campaign cannot be great.  That does make the number of Palestinian civilians killed seem troubling. But you can say why without even mentioning proportionality. It's a truism that if you can kill fewer rather than more to achieve the very same goal, you should.  Killing the larger number makes you guilty of gratuitous killing.  Granted, we do have some moral intuitions about proportionality too, but they're very imprecise (contrary to McMahan's pretend moral math).  There's nothing imprecise about the prohibition against gratuitous killing.


Leiter and Pollitt on Hobby Lobby

I've been busy with this and that, so haven't had time to read the Hobby Lobby decision myself.  For those trying to get a grip, Brian Leiter's interview on Point of Inquiry is illuminating and so is Katha Pollitt in The Nation. They both do a good, careful job of articulating why, despite the good of religious freedom, we should be bothered by this decision, especially as women, or on behalf of women.  The heart of the matter, from Pollitt:
Where will it all end? “It is not for us to say that their religious beliefs are mistaken or insubstantial,” Justice Alito writes. There is no limit to religious requirements and restrictions in our land of a thousand “faiths.” Several companies have already filed cases that object to all forms of contraception, not just the four singled out by Hobby Lobby, and the day after the decision the Court clarified that its ruling applied to all methods. And why draw the line on legal exemptions at religion anyway? Plenty of foolish parents now risk their children’s lives and the public’s health because they reject vaccines on “philosophical” grounds. What happens when Aristotle, the CEO, claims that birth control—or psychotherapy or organ transplants—goes against his “philosophy”?
Justice Alito’s opinion is canny. Slippery slope? No problem: “our decision in these cases is concerned solely with the contraceptive mandate. Our decision should not be understood to hold that an insurance-coverage mandate must necessarily fall if it conflicts with an employer’s religious beliefs.” He specifically mentions vaccines, blood transfusions and protection from racial discrimination as being in no danger, but he gives no argument about why Hobby Lobby’s logic would never apply. In other words, birth control is just different. Of course, it’s about women. Anyone could need a blood transfusion, after all, even Alito himself. And it’s about powerful Christian denominations, too, to which this Court slavishly defers—for example, in the recent decision finding no discrimination in the Christian prayers that routinely open town council meetings in Greece, New York.

One little quibble about a point Brian Leiter makes toward the end of the interview.  He says the US doesn't protect freedom of secular conscience in the way it protects freedom of religious conscience, except with respect to wartime conscientious objectors.  But in fact, at Pollitt notes, many states are now allowing "personal belief" exemptions for parents who don't want to vaccinate, in addition to religious exemptions.  On the one hand, hurray, equal rights for the secular conscience! On the other:  this is just more of a really bad thing.  Perhaps the right thing to say here is that in cases where freedom of religious conscience should be limited, because it's trumped by collective interests, there's nothing good about also allowing freedom of secular conscience.


Gender Gaps

There's a lot of worry in philosophy about the gender gap: Why does it exist? What should we do about it?  I sometimes wonder why this is thought to be so vexing and urgent, compared to other gender gaps.  The person who fixes our air conditioning is always a man. The people who mow our lawn are 100% male.  The folks who service our car are all male.  The people who try to sell you a car are almost always male.  The termite inspector is male.  Food for thought: is the gender gap equally problematic in all these areas, or especially problematic in philosophy?   Should we care about all gender gaps equally?


Borderline Cases

Anne Fausto-Sterling's books are informative and fascinating.  She writes in an exploratory, non-dogmatic way that I really appreciate.  She is hard to pin down and I (often) like authors who are hard to pin down. But one argument she seems to make in her books does not convince me much -- the argument that sex must be socially constructed, based on there being intersex individuals who wind up "assigned" to a sex in a social fashion.

About 1.7% of people are born with some sort of an intersex condition, she says.   In these cases, decisions have to be made about whether the child will be brought up male, female, both, or neither.  These decisions are typically made in light of cultural understandings of what is important in males and females.  Therefore...what?  Therefore, all sex categorizations are "socially constructed"?   

Surely that doesn't follow.  Why shouldn't we simply construe intersex individuals as borderline cases?  There are clear male babies and clear female babies, and there are also individuals who fall in between.  This is so in all sorts of other domains.  There are clear chairs and clear couches, but also pieces of furniture that fall in between.  There are clear trees and clear bushes, but plants that fall in between.  Borderline cases can just remain borderline, unless there's some particular reason to categorize them.  Maybe the furniture store has a chair room and a couch room, so we simply must put a chair/couch in one or the other.  If we do that on some basis, such as which room has more space available, we don't have to think that has any general relevance to what makes chairs chairs or couches couches. Likewise, even if the sexes of intersex people are "socially constructed," if doesn't follow the sexes of clear cases are socially constructed. 

And then, should we even embrace the social construction of sex in the intermediate cases? If you take "social construction" very literally, it seems to suggest we leave it up to society--the community, the state, the doctors, the family.  If the community says it takes a penis to be classed with males, then so be it. If the community says it takes two X chromosomes to be classed with females, then so be it.  But that's a terrible way to "assign" sexes to intersex babies.   Fausto-Sterling actually advocates intersex children being tentatively (and non-surgically) assigned to a sex but later making their own choices based on how they see themselves.  These kids will come to see themselves as male or female in a cultural context, so there is a social element there, but the child's self-perceptions have an internal component too, as I think she recognizes.  If the child's eventual self-perceptions are given lots of weight, the sex classification of intersex children is at most partly "socially constructed."

As the chair/couch example shows, self-perception could be relevant to categorizing intersex people, but not relevant to clear-case males being male and clear-case females being female.  The way borderline cases are dealt with does not necessarily have anything to do with how clear cases are classified.  But perhaps that's merely a logical point:  in principle, self-perception doesn't have to be relevant to clear males being male or clear females being female.  But you might think it is relevant, even if it doesn't have to be.  Clear males can come to have a sense of being female and clear females a sense of being male.  If we do respect these self-perceptions for intersex individuals, then maybe self-perceptions should also take precedence when sorting supposedly clear cases into male and female categories. All maleness and femaleness would be defined in terms of self-perceptions, as opposed to self-perception entering the picture when other criteria aren't decisive.

That would be a win for the psychological nature of sex, not the social construction of sex.  And it certainly would be a hard thing to embrace. It makes sense to think a truly intersex child has no sex until self-perceptions emerge, but some kids are born with a definite sex.  Coming to see yourself as having a sex different from your natal sex is difficult for transgender kids precisely because there is (usually) a natal sex.

In any event, I really don't see at all how intersex children provide much support for the claim that all sex classifications are socially constructed.  That seems to be the idea in Fausto-Sterling's work (again, she is hard to pin down), and she's had a lot of influence.  But I don't see how this reasoning is supposed to work.


Knowing Your Gender

I just raced through John Colapinto's fascinating book As Nature Made Him and now I'm reading Anne Fausto-Sterling's Sexing the Body, so my head is filled with intersex states and genital accidents. But also with some curious questions about how we know our own gender.  Colapinto's book is about David Reimer, a man who started life as one of identical twin boys and then lost his penis in a botched circumcision.  John Money, the famed sexologist at Johns Hopkins University, convinced Reimer's parents to have him reassigned as a female.  His testicles were removed, and over the next 12 years Reimer's parents dressed him like a girl and demanded feminine behavior.  Throughout her childhood "Brenda" was unhappy and rebellious, constantly insisting "she" was a boy, not a girl.   When Money tells her it's time for vaginoplasty when she's about 12, she won't submit.  When she's 14 her history is finally revealed to her and Brenda reverts to her natal gender (with many surgeries required), becoming David Reimer. 

One way to read this history is to say David Reimer "knew he was a boy" all along.  It's a little odd to put it that way, because for him to know it, it's got to be a fact (assuming we can only know what is true).   Is there really a fact of the matter about what gender a person is, independent of their choices and perceptions? But setting that aside, what I find intriguing is how we know our own gender.  How does it work? What is it like? One possibility is that we know it introspectively.  We peer inward and there it is--we sense boyness or girlness directly. So "Brenda" knew she was really a boy by finding boyness within her consciousness. 

Another possibility is that we know our own traits, both physical and mental, more or less directly, and then we draw conclusions about our gender using a learned "theory" of gender.  Brenda observed that she was feisty and aggressive, loved all the same activities her twin brother did, felt attracted to girls, but on the other hand, lacked a penis.  Reasoning from that set of facts, plus her understanding of gender, she was confused, yet often inferred that she was really a boy. 

Do we apprehend gender itself, or just traits from which we infer our gender, using learned premises like"boys have penises" and "girls like to play with dolls" and "boys like to fight"?   If you know about your own gender in the second way, then you can be wrong about it.  Can you be?  No answers today...just some interesting questions.


Had to take down a post

I had to take down the recent post "Campus Rape Statistics" because certain links in it were creating strange problems in other posts--a sentence linking to another website kept floating on top of other posts.  After an hour of trying to fix the problem I gave up!  Sorry, especially to those who left comments.


Mixed Gender Birds

Goodbye vaccination, for a while, hello gender.  With the vaccination chapter of my parenthood book 90% finished, I'm going back to the gender chapter.  First, more reading.

From reading social constructionist writing on gender, I've gotten the impression that Leonard Sax, author of Why Gender Matters, is seen by feminists as an idiot.  Based on a quick perusal, he doesn't seem to be a total idiot.  He wants parents to anticipate gender differences, not reinforce them ... or so it seems.  Maybe it will turn out that he's not an idiot at all.

He does say "for starters" too much. And there's a funny argument about a bird on pg. 13.  "Research in laboratory animals, for starters, has demonstrated large, innate, genetically determined sex differences in the brain."   Given the sweeping scope of the claim, it's odd for the first item of support to be one bird.  UCLA scientists found this bird. (Where? When? Are there others?  Who knows?)  The bird was a "lateral gynandromorphic hermaphrodite."  Wow.  Male on one side, female on the other.  On the left, an ovary, on the right, a testicle.  On the left, female plumage, on the right, male plumage.

Here's where it gets funny, if you like black humor.  So they killed the bird.  Or as he puts it, "Now let's take a look at this bird's brain."   Right, they had this amazing bird, and they chopped off its head to get a look at its brain.  Okaaay....what did they find out?  The male and female sides of the brain contain "intrinsically different" brain tissue.  The image in the book certainly shows that it looks different--

So how is it different?  I guess this book isn't oriented to people capable of asking such a penetrating question. 

Brief aside:  When I searched online for the image in the book, I found it in an article by Sax, but found a second image as well (both are from a Nature article).   I wonder why he put just the image on the left in his book, not the image on the right.  (Translation:  I don't wonder.)

Anyhow, did the UCLA scientists actually slay the only lateral gynandromorphic bird who ever lived?  No thanks to Sax, I now know the answer is "no"-- these birds show up here and there.  In fact, a nice article about these birds is at Jerry Coyne's website.  Here's a picture Coyne got from a reader.

Cardinals make the best lateral gynandromorphic birds!

I'll probably have another report or two from Sax's book. One last quick grumble.  What's with the gender quiz at the back?  Does Sax really think it's indicative of innate femininity that I know what an endive is?  I confess that I do, but I'm pretty sure I learned my vegetables types.  Males, I think, could manage this. I bet many foodie males even know there are two sorts of endive, the one on top being especially delicious.

Liberal Idiocy?

Samantha Bee, of the Daily Show, was apparently wrong when she said anti-vaxxers tend to be liberals (this is via commenter Scu).  They come more from crunchier parts of the country, but they appear to be crunchy-cons as often as crunchy-libs, according to Kevin Drum at Mother Jones.  This graph (based on research done by Dan Kahan) shows what people of different political persuasions regard as risky.  All find vaccination about equally risky.

The Daily Show segment was still terrific.  Here it is again:


Where the Vaccine Refuseniks Are

Samantha Bee had a fantastic segment on vaccine refuseniks last night, charging that these people come out of the left, not the right, and they tend to be highly educated and well-to-do. (Video at the bottom of this post.)

Looking at vaccination statistics of late, I've been noticing much the same thing.  My very own state of Texas is more enlightened than the great state of California when it comes to childhood immunization.  More kids in Texas kindergartens (public plus private) are vaccinated than kids in California kindergartens.
2011/212 Texas Kindergarten Annual Report

2012/13 California Kindergarten Annual Report

Another surprising thing is that the strictest vaccination requirements are found in two very conservative states.  West Virginia and Mississippi don't allow exemptions for any reason, religion or personal. 

(click to enlarge)
Texas allows exemption for any reason, lumping together all motivations under "conscientious exemption," but very few people take the conscientious exemption, as the immunization statistics show.  The number has doubled in the last few years, and the conscientious exempters are more numerous than medical exempters, but they are still very few. 

Yes, when people don't vaccinate, there is more vaccine-preventable disease.  
Take it away, Samantha Bee (I can't seem to embed)!


The Misogyny Debate

Frank Bruni is really, really brilliant today. 
WE no longer have news. We have springboards for commentary. We have cues for Tweets.
Something happens, and before the facts are even settled, the morals are deduced and the lessons drawn. The story is absorbed into agendas. Everyone has a preferred take on it, a particular use for it. And as one person after another posits its real significance, the discussion travels so far from what set it in motion that the truth — the knowable, verifiable truth — is left in the dust.
I hope I am not guilty as charged.  I don't have an agenda or a use for the Santa Barbara tragedy ... as far as I know. I wrote the post below yesterday. Maybe, after reading Bruni, I would have thought "enough already" and dropped the subject. Maybe I'm thinking about the feminist debate about Rodger so much because it's just too painful to think about the parents mourning their children.  That's too close to home for someone soon to send children off to college.  So--mea culpa, but I hate to throw out this post after putting together all the data.


Salon editor Joan Walsh observes, "The widespread recognition that Elliot Rodger’s killing spree was the tragic result of misogyny and male entitlement has been a little bit surprising, and encouraging."  So now it's all settled--the guy was a misogynist pig, done!

And here's a line of argument I've seen over and over again, in various quarters.  When racists attack people, we blame racism.  When homophobes attack people we blame homophobia.  Why is it that we can't just go ahead and blame misogyny, in this case?  We must be willing to give a free pass to misogynists!  The horror!

But no.  I'm reluctant to accept Walsh's diagnosis because misogyny comes into the picture very late in Rodger's manifesto, when all the antecedents of his rampage have already been festering for 10 years.  The antecedents are hatred, resentment, misery, loneliness, a sense of unfairness, rage (what you might call being "emotionally disturbed" as opposed to "mentally ill"--we don't know yet about the latter).  Until late in his short life, his hatred doesn't take a specifically misogynistic form.

Of course, not every feeling of hatred for girls or women is misogyny, if you use the term correctly.  Misogyny is not just hatred of women.  If you hate popular boys and attractive girls, the second half of your hatred doesn't add up to misogyny; the first half isn't misandry.  Misogynists both hate girls or women and hate them for particular sorts of biased, gender-related reasons.  They hate then because of actual or perceived feminine traits toward which they feel antipathy.  For example, a misogynist might hate women for being dirty (menstruation!) or for perceived inferiority (dumb, emotional!).  If you hate girls for not liking you, that's not misogyny any more than hating boys for not liking you is misandry.

What I'm going to show is that misogyny makes a very late appearance in the manifesto, after dozens of expressions of revolting but non-misogynistic hatred.

Age 11 (p. 28) - hatred toward other boys

Age 11 (p. 31) - hatred toward cool kids

Age 11 (p. 32) - hatred toward girls

Age 12 (p. 38) - hatred toward boys

Age 13 (p. 42) - hatred toward girls

 Age 14 (p. 45) - hatred toward peers who bully him

 Age 14 (p. 46) - hatred toward peers who bully him


Age 14 (p. 47) - hatred toward boys

Age 15 (p. 48) - hatred toward boys and girls

Age 16 (p. 53) - hatred toward boys

Age 17 (p. 56) - hatred toward boys; hatred toward people who have sex
 Age 17 (p. 57) - hatred toward couples
Age 18 (p. 65) - hatred toward couples
Age 18 (p. 65) - hatred toward couples
Age 18 (p. 70) - hatred toward couples

 Age 19 (p. 72) - hatred toward boys
 Age 19 (p. 75) - hatred toward boys
 Age 19 (p. 80) - hatred toward boys
 Age 19 (p. 81) - hatred toward boys
 Age 19 (p. 82) - hatred toward boys and women
 Age 19 (p. 83) - hatred toward everyone
 Age 19 (p. 84) - hatred toward boys, couples, girls

Now we come to misogyny. He starts expressing antipathy toward women for perceived traits. 
Age 19 (p. 84) - misogynistic hatred toward women

But mostly the rest of the manifesto contains the same sorts of thoughts and feelings as before.

Age 19 (p. 87) - hatred toward couples
Now the first acts of violence take place. They are directed at a couple, not only at a woman. 

Age 19 (p. 87) - hatred toward couples

The rest of the manifesto mostly contains the sort of hateful talk that's predominated so far, not the explicit misogyny on p. 84.  He starts to plan for the "Day of Retribution" and buys himself guns.  Close to the end, there are a few more misogynistic fulminations, alongside plans to flay people, chop their heads off, and so on.

Age 21 (p. 111) - misogynistic hatred of women

 Age 22 (p. 136) - misogynistic hatred of women


Even though the misogynistic passages are a small minority of the hateful passages, you could say they are critical. You could say that if it weren't for Rodger's theories about female inferiority, he wouldn't have come up with his plan for the Day of Retribution.  Or he wouldn't have carried them out. That's not out of the question, I guess.

But if you read this manifesto, what seems much more overwhelming is the overall pattern of hate, envy, loneliness, resentment, sadness, hopelessness, craving for status, humiliation, despair, etc.  So it is baffling to me that we've settled on misogyny as key to understanding why this happened.

Maybe the focus on misogyny is helpful, in so far as there are other misogynists out there rallying at websites.  We ought to be on the alert for them.  We should be concerned about what they have done or may do to women. Obviously we should condemn misogyny and recognize it's not such a rare thing. But the one who went on the rampage is this one man, who left a very extensive record of his state of mind. What's in that record is mostly other things, not misogyny.  Shouldn't we pay attention?


But then what Bruni said. I think he's right and so I'm going to stop writing about this subject!