Where do we find, and how do we evaluate, gender-based statistics? Can privilege be defined by data?

Tonight I was thinking about painting the ceiling, but decided to check A|N instead.

One of the dominant topics on A|N regards gender and, more specifically, issues of representation of women on A|N, and on male priviledge. For example, one of The Nerd's posts on the topic has had 29 pages of response, as of this posting - something like 350 responses (When I checked the view did not include a response counter).

I confess at the outset that I have not read every post, and I have not read every comment. There may be a data-based discussion, I don't know. But I did not see one. If the linked sources have been posted, please pardon me, and link (if you so desire) to them so that I (and others) can sort the wheat from the chaff.

I did see the following article, in Huff Post: here, with the title "What's Happening To Women's Happiness? It's written by a male author (Marcus Buckingham), on a website that is owned by a woman (Arianna Huffington), generally regarded as liberal (I think). I state these to get some of the ad hominems out of the way, while acknowledging impression of bias.

My interest was in the data, more than in the author's further analysis. Extracting some of his numbers:

During the 2008 school year, 59% of all BS degrees and 61% of all MS degrees were be earned by women.

In 2009, 4 out of the 8 Ivy League universities--Harvard, Brown, Penn and Princeton, have female presidents.

October 2009, is the first month in which women outnumber men in the workforce.

Women hold more management and supervisory positions than men, by a margin of 37% to 31%

In like-for-like work women and men with the same amount of work experience earn the same.

Women's pay is increasing faster than men's.

The author also comments that women are running the governments of some countries, mentioning Germany, Ireland, Bangladesh, New Zealand, Chile, Mozambique, and Jamaica - although that's not really many. In the past, we can also include UK, India, Sri Lanka, Argentina, and you can probably add to the list.

It's nothing new that men die faster than women - this is true in every state of the US - data here. more here - 2004 data with the following information: "The greatest increase was experienced by black males with an increase of 0.6 year (from 68.9 to 69.5). Life expectancy increased by 0.4 year for black females (from 75.9 to 76.3), for white females (from 80.4 to 80.8), and for white males (from 75.3 to 75.7)."

OK. What am I doing here. First, what am I not doing: I am not making any claim denying male priviledge, Im not discounting any individual experience or anecdote, and I am not making a claim that there is equality. I also realize that the majority of the information here is US oriented, and there are truly horrible things going on in many countries.

What I am doing is asking how we can discuss issues of gender fairness, priviledge, and opportunity? As someone who is data-oriented, and who does not trust politics or ideology, I am stuck with a need for numbers. Are the numbers above accurate? I don't know. I don't have the primary sources. Are they current? They appear to be. Is there bias in choosing what numbers to look at? Maybe, again I don't know. Are there other sources of data? If so, it would be helpful to see them.

Given these numbers, are we able to come up with a data-oriented definition of equality? If not, how do we know when we get there?

I'm interested in rational discussion. The Nerd has posted some rules in her discussions, and I hope that similar rules can be honored here, including no ad hominems, try to stick to data, unless new ideological or semantic concepts come up that have hot been covered elsewhere are relevant - in some cases, a separate discussion might be useful, since a 350-comment discussion becomes unreadable.

Tags: feminism, gender equality, priviledge

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Nerd,

The HuffPost article also has a sequel on the topic of Happiness. While that is the focus of that article, I was more concerned with the issue of whether equality, and privilege, can be measured. The issue is sort of assumed in the article. Our discussion on A|N has been related to privilege and equality per se - happiness in not our focus here. It would be a valid and interesting topic of discussion.

The undercurrent of the article is, that in this case, loss of privilege seems to be making men happier, and more importantly gaining privilege seems to be making women unhappier. I do not beleive that would be the issue with other demographics, such as race, but race is not a focus of that article.

If the researchers showed that women's happiness improved, that is contrary to the article - interesting, to say the least.

Hope you got some rest!
Daniel,
I thought you wanted this to be data driven so lacking any hard data on happiness, I didn't post. Yet I feel the need to point out that one should be careful about accepting terminology and the baggage attached. Using the term "privilege" buys into the whole ideology, an ideology based on the application of the wrong model. The sexes are not separate groups, so a philosophy and dogma based on group conflict analysis, is wrong.

We also need to be careful in interpreting studies based on self-reports. It is well established that women are more willing to seek medical help and acknowledge difficulties, both physical and mental. So surveys that show men as "happier" could be a response bias. A strong reason for that caution is that objective measures, such as life expectancy and suicide rates, suggest men don't have it so good. A fact that feminist dogmatists always seem to ignore as they throw around labels on men as a group, such as "privileged."

I recently sat on a panel reviewing contract proposals for a mental health program aimed at preventing suicide in the elderly. One application went into great detail about the preponderance of male suicides in the elderly, something like 10 times as many male as female. The bizarre thing is that after describing the huge difference between the sexes in suicide rate, the proposed program mentioned nothing about this sex difference in the program itself. No gender specific targeted out reach, no innovative ways of connecting with these old men, and the staff of the proposed program was 90% female. Nice to see that we've made so much progress toward equality.
John, if you read Nerd's blog post on privilege, she has written some good stuff and also provided some links that may help...although I'm still not at all in agreement with the application of the idea to males.
This should help a little.

IG recently had Dr. Warren Blumenfeld who primarily talked about "Christian privilege" but also touched on white, male, hetero privilege etc. Great conversation if you have not had a chance to check it out.

Interview with IG and Dr. Warren Blumenfeld
http://recordings.talkshoe.com/TC-49897/TS-282548.mp3

Christian privilege article Dr. Blumenfeld wrote
http://www.infidelguy.com/ChristianPrivilegeFINAL.pdf
The fact that white is the default means that white is privileged.

I see a breakdown in logic here, Andrea. The fact that white is the default means that white is the default. Nothing more. A default setting implies nothing about privilege. If you're in a poor neighborhood in Haiti and a kid comes rushing home to tell his mother about a white foreigner that bought him a piece of candy at the store, he mentions specifically that his benefactor was white and that she appeared to be from another place. The default does not always mean privilege.
Yes, privilege is a slippery concept, and doesn't apply equally in every single situation.

So you're backing away from the statment "The fact that white is the default means that white is privileged"?

I think it's important to establish if the default is equal to privilege. It's central to this and any other discussion on the subject.
Not at all. In your example, white wasn't the default, and she didn't have white privilege. I don't see where the issue is, and if you really wish to discuss this further, please make a separate thread before Daniel gives us the evil eye.

The issue is that this statment is unsupported by fact:

The fact that white is the default means that white is privileged.

The example I gave was only intended as an illustration. The default position is not by necessity one of privilege.

I'll leave the thread when Daniel asks me to. I'm hardly off-topic.
Daniel: I am hoping to have a data-based conversation if there is any possibility of that.

Just sayin'.


I'm simply pointing out what I perceive to be an important defect in logic in a point that you made:

The fact that white is the default means that white is privileged.

You made the statement in this discussion because you felt it had something to do with Daniel's topic. When I respectfully challenge it, you dismissively tell me that I'm off-topic and warn me to desist from further questioning of your statement on this thread.

What part am I missing?
Group hug may be needed now. This topic can't help but generate passions. As long as people hold one another in high esteem, I'm happy. The points of view are valued.

My central question regards measurement. If there is not a way to quantify privilege or equity, then it's like "spirit" or "soul". It may well be that people know it when they see it, but measurement tells us when it's there and when it's not. When I see anecdote, it's not the same as data. In addition, it's possible to get into who has more / less privilege (I keep misspelling the word, forgive me if it's wrong) and the concept becomes really complicated. Does a white woman have more privilege than a Hispanic or Black man? What if he's gay? What if she's Lesbian? How do we define without data - even if the data are flawed or have biases? What if one of them is a veteran, a situation that both adds opportunity and removes it. What if one has a chronic illness? There may also be "wellness privilege".

A possibly poor analogy is that I've known people with diabetes. They feel that they "know" when their blood sugar is too high or too low, without measuring it. Then they over-treat or under-treat, based on how they 'feel', which is dangerous and often wrong.

On race and ethnicity, we can easily measure equity or privilege - income data, home ownership data, illness burden, life expectancy, health insurance coverage, even pollution in specific localities, can be matched to demographics. On GLBT issues, the dollar costs of denial of marriage rights represent a burden (thread in Gay Atheists forum), violence statistics are available, but I don't know about income equity and jobs.

What I am looking for here is a benchmark, so we can say something to the effect of "there is is/not income equity" - so we need to concentrate on THAT issue; there is is/not equity or equal opportunity in jobs, so we need to concentrate on THAT issue; or home ownership, or violence, or health care (which, if we look at measurable outcomes, some may regard as a situation of women's privilege - utilization, life expectency, disease burden, suicidality, all point that direction. Health insurance coverage Im not sure about).

I'm probably not expressing it well, but I'm trying in some way to de-emotionalize the topic a little too, but also get some focus on where to concentrate efforts for communication and social change.
Oh stop trying to be reasonable and FIGHT damn it. Yell at people, call them stupid....say they're just.like.theists

Ok, I'm better now. Couldn't resist jumping on the rant-mobile.
Please! This is supposed to be a happy occasion. Lets not bicker and argue over who killed who. - King of Swamp Castle.

But seriously, I think you made your self quite clear. To me, you're approaching this as any skeptic should approach something under investigation. Ex: new age alternate medicine. Sure someone might say they feel better after 'treatment' but that could just be placebo effect.

but I'm trying in some way to de-emotionalize the topic a little
Make perfect sense.
The comments so far are appreciated. I am hoping to have a data-based conversation if there is any possibility of that. Defining the terms is important in order to discuss a topic, and I wonder if we can define them in terms of numbers.

That does not discount anecdote. We all have anecdotes. I have certainly experienced prejudice, workplace discrimination (by employers and even supportive colleagues), and on a few occasions, violence, in my own situation. But those experiences are one person and do not define privilege for other people. Nor do they tell us when we move from one societal "norm" to another one.

If we have data that support workplace equality or workplace parity in leadership positions and pay, and health related statistics that actually point the other way (death and greater illness for the male population - wouldn't that be a type of anti-priviledge?), and we can't locate data on other measures or surragate measures of privilege (I hope that someone comes up with some other, current, meaningful numbers), then someone occasionally behaving like an asshole is what we are left with. Individuals can be assholes without defining that as privilege. The fact is, we can all find anecdotes of men and women behaving like jerks. We CAN quantify racial and ethnic related privilege issues, pay / health statistics / housing / positions of leadership, but this discussion relates to gender.

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