May 24, 2005

The usual strategy for talking about sex differences.

A modern convention: To write or talk about how women and men are different, make sure you portray whatever attribute you ascribe to women as better. A typical example.


Richard Lawrence Cohen said...

Similar to the strategy used in commercials and sitcoms of having the woman or the minority group member always show up the white male. If a single man and a single woman meet in the toilet paper aisle, you *know* who's got the right brand. (I use Scott tissue, by the way.)

Ann Althouse said...

Hi, Richard.

Yes, there is an old-fashioned term for it: patronizing.

Why isn't there something called "matronizing"?

Mark Daniels said...

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. My wife, son, daughter, and I are so sick of this PC-convention. It's especially prevalent in commercials to have the man be the stupid, helpless, dimwit taught a lesson by the wise, strong, insightful female.

Of course, there have always been stereotypes in the media. Women, blacks, and others have all been subjected to such condescension. It's the male's turn now.

But I wish that we could just avoid such conventions and stereotyping altogether.

Ron said...

I wonder -- and I really do wonder, I'm not just using it as an expression -- if the women these ads are aimed at really do see themselves in that fashion. THEY have to make the shopping choices, because the men in their lives are simply too clueless about such decisions...or perhaps these are just the prejudices of advertisers?

muckdog said...

I like the column "plus women don't spend 20% of their time in the strip clubs." ahahahahah.

Do you notice, that aggressive women tend to be very successful? I'm not sure if you can teach or learn to be aggressive, though.

rafinlay said...

There is a term for "matronizing." It is "(s)mothering." Usually applied indirectly or in the background, but proven very effective at "influencing" behavior.

Finn Kristiansen said...

"A friend of mine, a businessman who buys companies, told me one of the first things he looks at is the gender of the boss..." says the author of that article, who also quotes a Catalyst study that says, in his words, "that large companies yield better returns to stockholders if they have more women in senior management".

I would think that you could take any set of corporate stats (return on equity, p/e ratio, net profits, year over year growth) and prove or disprove any generalization about the importance of women in the corporate world.

The very assertion that having more women in a company means better corporate performance should have interesting corollaries: like perhaps a company with no men might be like, really super duper profitable. We should kill them all (the men) and truly set capitalism free. It's a wonder Japanese corporations have any positive returns at all.

The article got me thinking; Darth Sidious, the evil Emperer in Star Wars, could have been killed three movies sooner had there been women Jedi. I think a Catalyst study could invariably prove that, and would prove handy in future ridiculously PC NY Times articles where the author lacks the balls to say what he means without trying to throw a rib to the ladies.

Bruce Hayden said...

Showing the minority in a good light doesn't make as much sense as showing the woman. In the later case, presumably the reason that it is done so often is that in many, obviously a majority, of cases, it is the woman who does the shopping. And so, they sell the woman by making the guys look stupid.

And, of course, in certain ways we are. And in certain ways women are.

As an example of the other side, I am always amazed when dealing with my Ex. You couldn't find a more assertive, take charge woman. And she has a lot of masculine traits.

But one she doesn't have is the ability to instinctively understand maps. Esp. city maps. Most guys I know can look at them, and know immediately how to get wherever they are trying to go, efficiently. She cannot.

Now, as a woman, once she has gone there once, she can find her way back easily. But don't ask her to take a short cut. Won't happen.

Bruce Hayden said...


Sorry to be a sexist here, but companies or groups of all women have their own problems. One notable one is in making decisions. Every one needs to be consulted, so that noone feels left out, etc.

It is almost as if when you add a couple of men to the mix, the women start dealing somewhat on a male level, and can be as decisive as any man.

I have seen this with my ex. Extrodinarily decisive with me and in business. But get her around a bunch of women, and she goes through a transformation. It is almost scary.

So, it is one thing to say that companies run by women do better, and quite another to say that companies that just have women would do better. In many case, I suggest, they won't.

Of course, being decisive is more important in some businesses than others. In the tech field, in many cases, the company that gets the first product to market wins, even if notably inferior. For them, an all female cast may be a disadvantage.

Ann Althouse said...

There's still not "something called "matronizing"?"

Judith said...

"A modern convention: To write or talk about how women and men are different, make sure you portray whatever attribute you ascribe to women as better."

This is essentialist or "difference" feminism, which in the late 70s won the intellectual war with plain old "we are more alike than different and the variation within gender is greater than between genders" feminism (I forget if there is a label for this).

This has actually been the default setting for academic leftist feminism for several decades. It's funny, because when the Right takes potshots at feminism, they use the other kind of feminism as their straw man. In fact, feminists these days agree with them that all women are essentially different from all men! Which leaves those of us who see gender as more mutable (although not completely) out in the cold.