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February 21, 2005

The Monday Gender Wars Continue [yawn...]

Inquiring Minds Want To Know...

...whether the Gender Genie is male or female.



Flame on, dude... the epic battle between Susan Estrich and Michael Kinsley erupts into an email flame war:

Run my letter - or else

From: Susan Estrich

To: Kinsley, Michael

I am sending over my letter this morning. It is very, very temperate. It is signed by approximately 50 women, among them some of the most powerful women in town...
Anyway, the piece runs 500 words, and the signatures another 100. Since I have my own mimeograph machine, I can do a column today... but as I have every day, I would like nothing better than to work with you to declare victory. Otherwise we'll have a new website, www.latimesbias.org up by tomorrow...

Don't try to push me around girlie

From: Kinsley, Michael

To: Susan Estrich

Susan - We don't run letters from 50 people, and we don't succumb to blackmail. So we won't be publishing your letter.

How dare you accuse me of blackmail

From: Susan Estrich

To: Kinsley, Michael

You owe me an apology. NO one tried harder to educate you about Los Angeles, introduce you to key players in the city, bring to your attention, quietly, the issues of gender inequality than I did - and you have the arrogance and audacity to say that you couldn't be bothered reading my emails, spending time in the city where all of us are raising our families ... and then we should stop our efforts because you're "pissed off."

...the idea that I would somehow say STOP now because
Michael is pissed off and has offered me some onetime column down the road when he's not mad anymore is just absurd; it would make a mockery of everything I stand for.

Do the right thing for your sake ...

That's it I am taking my ball and going home

From: Kinsley, Michael

To: Susan Estrich

Susan - Your mischaracterizations of what I wrote to you are farcical, as anyone can plainly see from reading the whole string. But your references to "concern for [my] health" are disgusting. Consider my invitation to write for the Times when things calm down rescinded. John Carroll agrees.


I am now waiting for the following entry in the "Local" section of the LA Times:

The early-morning peace of West LA was shattered by violence when the body of Michael Kinsley, formerly of the LA Times, was found buried in an abandoned grain silo once used to store hog feed. The words "DIE YOU MALE CHAUVINIST PIG!" were scrawled on his forehead in what is believed to be Lancome's 'Shanghai Chocolate' lip color. The writer's body also bore the imprint of what experts described as "an alarming number of Manolo Blahnik high-heeled shoes in various sizes".


From Sally Quinn's excellent essay on the Summers controversy (which you should read in its entirety). H/t George and also my Dad, who sent me the article:

Why don't female mathematicians and scientists, particularly at Harvard, get together and research this issue until they have definitive answers instead of reaching for the smelling salts? If it's proved that women are equal in math and science, then great. We'll know it once and for all. If it's proved otherwise we'll know that, too.

Such an outcome would not be the end of the world. Have you ever had a conversation with a brilliant male mathematician? These guys can be really dumb. They may understand the theory of relativity, but they don't get the joke. There are so many ways in which women are smarter than men that it isn't even fair. I figure that if men are better in these subjects -- well, they deserve to be better at something.

Lots of men are bigger and stronger than I am. So are elephants. What I want is to live in a world where we are so confident of our own abilities that we can accept the fact that men may have an edge on us in some ways -- if in fact they do, poor devils.

As a female who routinely scores well on tests of mathematical aptitude (but does even better on tests of verbal aptitude), allow me to weigh in:

I couldn't agree more. Furthermore, aptitude isn't everything. My husband scores off the charts in engineering aptitude, but he wasn't interested in becoming an engineer for whatever reason - his interests lay more with economics and foreign policy. So if it turns out (as I strongly suspect) that females simply don't tend to exhibit strong interest in technical careers to the extent that males do, would this not also be a factor in why they are underrepresented in those fields?

In many years of tutoring College Algebra and Calculus, I observed that men and women seem to reason and learn differently - I had to use different techniques when teaching female students. I have also observed that even though I routinely did as well or better than the top male students in my math classes, almost to a man they were better than I at many (in fact, most) math tasks. And they were quicker to catch on when new material was presented.

In other words, it didn't come naturally to me in the way it did to them. I don't think in symbols easily - my mind wants to stop and translate into words. Or I need to find a real-world analogy that helps me process the concept or learn the pattern. Even though I performed equally well on tests, I simply don't think the same way.

I do think I understood the connections between concepts better than most of the male students I encountered. Once I learned something, I was able to see how it applied to a variety of different endeavors, rather than seeing it in isolation as just another problem to be solved. I believe this ability to 'make connections' may be a more typically female way of reasoning.

Like Ms. Quinn, I'm not in the least threatened by the idea that men may (as a class) be inherently better on average at certain tasks. In fact, my anecdotal experience suggests this is indeed the case.

The only problem comes when you apply to extend that generalized reasoning to individuals: you don't hire a "class", you hire an individual. Assess the individual's competence and judge him or her by that standard.

And to the extent that it is practical, I'm not averse to finding out more about how women learn, if that will enable more of them who have genuine aptitude to succeed. But that seems (to me) to be a strong case for single-sex education, where such experimental techniques can be tried without impacting the entire class or the sake of a small number of female students.

Posted by Cassandra at February 21, 2005 12:23 PM

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Pleased to discover that I'm thoroughly male in my writing. SWWBO will be *so* pleased.

Susan who?

Posted by: John of Argghhh! at February 21, 2005 01:36 PM

Oh, so the petticoats are just for show, then?

*running away*

Posted by: Nobody but us chickens in here... at February 21, 2005 01:47 PM

Susan Estrogen??? Isn't she the one with the voice that sounds like a cross between Carol Channing and Truman Capote???


Posted by: Greg at February 21, 2005 01:52 PM

I said, "Male in my writing," not in my dress.

Sheesh. Do you *ever* really read what I go to such pains to compose?

Sigh. I'm gonna go break something. Mebbe the trivet.

Posted by: John of Argghhh! at February 21, 2005 01:57 PM


Since Don can't carry the VC Oink Banner to gender victory today, it's down to me to put aside my very important legislation that would guarantee my fat cat clients a bigger piece of the pie at the expense of widows and orphans and take aim at Ms. Chicken.

It has been my experience with those of the fairer sex that they do indeed "make connections" faster and more often than their male counterparts. This is best observed by the number of women swapping drivers licenses and insurance information on the sides of the road.

Men, on the otter heiny, have a superior gift of taking the most complicated concept in the world and ignoring it completely until after football season, then taking it apart methodically into smaller and smaller pieces, before throwing the whole thin into a big box wheere it will remain until after March Madness. Or perhaps forever. We don't care.

That's what Kinsley just did to Estrich ("Call me when things calm down...like never."), and what Summers ought to do with whomever is getting her panties in a wad up in Cambridge (Beat it, lady, we're working on it.")

Okay? Okay. Now let me get back to ruling the damned world, will ya?

Posted by: spd rdr, back on Oink Patrol. at February 21, 2005 02:01 PM

How do we explain JukeBoxSilly under your paradime?

Posted by: John of Argghhh! at February 21, 2005 02:05 PM

All this gender equity stuff sucks. In the old days, I would be quite adept at luring in the man that worked hard and owned everything, then taking about half of it when J.Lo left him. Now, because women are allowed to own everything too, I have to worry about J.Lo getting duped into losing half of my hard earned bounty (and bouty) to some sorry back up dancer.

Posted by: J-Lo's Butt at February 21, 2005 02:12 PM

Look smarty - I'll put my driving record up against yours anytime...

Now you just go on back to thinking you're ruling the world, sweetie :)

[giving his behind a little pat]

Posted by: Cassandra at February 21, 2005 02:32 PM

Estrich vs Kinsley? Girl fight, girl fight!

Posted by: a former european at February 21, 2005 05:06 PM

I think they should settle this with a barb wire steel cage grudge match. Smart money would be on Estrich.

Posted by: Pile OnĀ® at February 21, 2005 05:13 PM


Posted by: Cassandra at February 21, 2005 05:20 PM


Would that be your whole driving record, or just the times you were legally licensed?

Posted by: KJ at February 21, 2005 05:52 PM

*ducking and running, a bit too late*

Posted by: KJ at February 21, 2005 05:52 PM

both...as a matter of fact :)

Posted by: Cassandra at February 21, 2005 06:02 PM

Wow. Chastised by spd rdr.

Did I let down the men today or what?

(slinking off into the sunset, or wherever I go when the sun goes down)

Posted by: Don Brouhaha at February 21, 2005 09:06 PM

Don, you are oink cadre. We understand when the tribe needs a new mastadon fur. Go fo it. You're covered.

Posted by: spd rdr at February 21, 2005 10:07 PM

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