Posted on | May 17, 2014 | 38 Comments
Does anyone else remember the “Teen Talk Barbie” controversy?
In July 1992, Mattel issued a talking Barbie doll which said various phrases that a teenager might say. One of these phrases was “math class is tough” and, to judge from the reaction by feminists, Barbie might as well have said, “All girls are stupid”:
A talking Barbie doll criticized by a national women’s group for saying “math class is tough” will no longer utter tve the offending lament, Mattel Inc. has decided. . . .
The American Association of University Women attacked the math comment in a report on how schools shortchange girls.
What was the problem? Math class is tough, after all, and for a kid’s toy to say so — well, who cares? Did anyone believe that girls were going to be brainwashed because of a four-word sentence they heard from a talking doll? It was absurd. But believing absurdities is what feminism is all about, so it became a huge controversy.
In fact, differences between males and females in terms of mathematical aptitude have been the subject of feminist protest for decades. In his 1999 book The New Know-Nothings: The Political Foes of the Scientific Study of Human Nature, sociologist Morton Hunt recounted an earlier uproar over the same basic topic:
Neither [John Hopkins University] Professor Julian Stanley nor his co-author, Camilla Benbow, a graduate student, anticipated that they would be fiercely attacked by feminists or, indeed, by anyone when their brief report, “Sex Differences in Mathematical Ability: Fact or Artifact?” was accepted by the journal Science and published in its December 12, 1980, issue. . . .
Their final conclusion was that differences in innate ability accounted for the results, although they allowed that environmental factors might also have played a part:
We favor the hypothesis that sex differences in achievement in and attitude toward mathematics result from superior male mathematical ability, which may in turn be related to greater male ability in spatial tasks. This male superiority is probably an expression of both endogenous and exogenous variables. . . . It also seems likely that putting one’s faith in boy-versus-girl socialization processes as the only permissible explanation of the sex difference in mathematics is premature. . . .
Their report, only two pages long, was like a lighted match tossed into dry underbrush during a windstorm; it touched off a fast-spreading conflagration of articles and letters in the media throughout the country and in scientific journals. . . .
Articles and letters in the Washington Post, the New York Times, Time magazine and many other magazines and newspapers, and many scientific journals, reported Benbow and Stanley’s finding, in most cases stressing its inflammatory nature. Some popular articles distorted the message in ways bound to enrage the public and scientists: Newsweek’s article was headlined “Do Males Have a Math Gene?” (Benbow and Stanley never mentioned the word “gene”). An Associated Press special was headlined , “Hopkins Study Called ‘Ridiculous’” and quoted the public statement of a feminist contingent at an annual meeting of the American Mathematical Society in San Francisco, “It is virtually impossible to undo the damage of the publicity surrounding the report” . . .
Think about that last phrase: “the damage of the publicity surrounding the report.” Who or what was “damaged” and how? All that Stanley and Benbow had done was to compile and analyze data and presented their conclusions which, although couched in qualifiers like “may” and “seems,” contradicted the feminist assumption that “socialization processes” explained the differences. If articles in the popular media misrepresented the Stanley-Benbow study, this was not their fault, but still: Who was “damaged”?
If your daughter excelled at math, would you stop encouraging her because a study found that, on average, boys scored higher on math? To say that Group A, on average, outperforms Group B in a skill is not to say that no members of Group B possess that skill.
Yet because feminists are very much obsessed with women as a group — and believe that any advantage exhibited by men (on average, as a group) must be a result of discrimination against women — the Stanley-Benbow study was a problem, in that it strongly suggested that anti-female discrimination did not explain everything.
We are, therefore, back at the kind of “is”/”ought” issue previously discussed, the feminist obsession with Equality, where every statistical disparity between men and women becomes a grievance.
Despite the fact that now women are 33% more likely than men to earn a college diploma, this disparity in favor of women hasn’t stopped feminists from whining about “discrimination.”
As for differences in math ability, a 2008 study found that most of that disparity had also disappeared, but this didn’t stop the study’s author from claiming that girls still suffer from prejudice:
Parents and teachers persist in thinking boys are simply better at math, said Janet Hyde, the University of Wisconsin-Madison researcher who led the study. And girls who grow up believing it wind up avoiding harder math classes.
“It keeps girls and women out of a lot of careers, particularly high-prestige, lucrative careers in science and technology,” Hyde said.
For the class of 2007 . . . boys scored an average of 533 on the math section of the SAT, compared with 499 for girls.
Alas, women are being denied “high-prestige, lucrative careers” because of anti-female prejudice and talking Barbie dolls!
Perhaps, someday in the Feminist Future, women will receive 100% of college degrees and there won’t be any difference between boys and girls in SAT scores, because boys won’t be allowed to take the test, as boys will be prohibited from attending college.
And this result will be called Equality!