Gender-based III: But Why Cannot We Expect Women to Just Help Themeselves?

First of all, obviously, one woman alone can’t change the system she’s born into and that spreads over hundreds of millions of minds. D’uh. But more than that, it is also not fruitful to expect the people on the receiving end of discrimination to make our society a better place without concessions of those swimming on top, while leaning back in the meantime.


In a system of suppression, adjusting is always the best survival strategy if you want to avoid conflicts. No matter if in regards to women, who restrain from personal freedoms by not walking alone outside after ten at night, or children of working class families, who opt not for the university, but the family business because it’s the path of least resistance. Resistance of a kind which I, being the straight white male with middle class background that I am, never experienced or would only experience if I tried my luck on a construction site rather than in the academical career that was almost handed over to me.

Thanks to this reality the expectation that the system will change if only the suppressed change won’t lead anywhere sensible. The society must change. The expectations and decisions of the people “in charge” must change to become more permeable to skill and less category-based. A world must be created in which women experience social reward for their efforts like men would – not grudges and slander. We are on a good way in this regard, sure. But as shown above, much is yet to be done.

As to grudges and slander: Next to the articles above, I’m led to believe that there is a tendency for those people to say “not me or society, but the women in question are the ones responsible for their own well-being” to be the same people who lash out on feminists – hence on women who actually took on this fight.

As one cannot fail to mention, this works the other way around just as well!

Men must not be judged for becoming the caretaker of the home rather than the main source of income for the family. It must be okay to not try to get laid this friday. And there must not be shame in deciding not go to war. The expectations that we as a society have in regards to men must be stripped of their affinity to violence and, in some regards, power (not that control and independence wouldn’t be good traits, but the critical point here I guess is in the way these are expressed and demanded).

The often heard insistence that women need to carry the same burdens as men if they want the same rights is something no significant feminist disagrees with. Still this is constantly demanded, not to talk about the problems of the status quo, but to construct an us-vs-them-atmosphere.

Even more important: The call that women only needed to take matters into their own hands for things to change is not a path that leads to a better society. It is a mechanism to protect privilege, to protect how things are out of fear that if the hierarchies become more permeable, that if things change, ones position in this world might be at risk. But not only does this have nothing to do with equal-chances society we claim to be. In fact, I think that it is this mechanism that has held human civilisation back since the dawn of time. More egalitarian societies function better than heavily patriarchical ones in any conceivable way. They are more productive, they can provide a better standard of living, more individual freedom, and so on.

But privilege is always relative to the standing of others, and power is all too often conceived as power over others. The notion that protecting ones niche, ones own domestic kingdom, is of more worth than a change in hierarchies of which everyone would benefit is probably as old as the most primitive division of labour and it is damaging to us all.


Gender-based I: Where Are Men in This Story?

Both men and women suffer from gender-based social expectations that are to some extent not fulfillable and likely interdependant. But there is a difference.

I’m a bit neglectant to speak of „suppression“ in regards to men, since men are not as much „suppressed“ as we are „uppressed“. This means: Social expectations for men usually aim at independance, activity and control. Being able to repair stuff, being promiscuous, physical strength, etc.

Of course, many men fail at this. In a way, all men do. Not everybody can or wants to live up to these expectations, despite them being inconsistent or even contradictory. As a consequence, many men feel inadequate for all of their lives, damage themselves or others – or exert power over people over which any man in a patriarchical society can exert power over, no matter how small and „unmanly“ one is: His wife or women in general.

The social expectations towards women on the other side are coined by passivity, abstinence and privacy. We are not always aware of these expectations, but the consequent submission is certainly demanded from women in society, as shown in some of the research above or anywhere in comment sections in social media.

250 years of enlightment and feminism on (if you think enlightenment without women fighting for women would have led to the relative emancipation we enjoy today, re-read Kant), women are still expected to be passive, private and subordinate creatures, who need to adjust to men in public spaces. As also shown in the research above, women are apparently regarded to be less worthy, less able or generally less competent in at least most fields of modern work. This is something all venerated modern sociologists agree upon (check out Judith Butler, Pierre Bourdieau or, if very understandably you find these authors too complex in their writings styles and you happen to understand German, Albert Scherr).

If from any of this you draw the conclusion that somebody would be waging a war against men, you are thinking in the lines of people you probably call „feminazis“, yet I refer to as „terfs“ (Trans-Exclusive Radical Feminists): These debates aren’t about putting men and women on two sides and comparing who is somewhat „better“ or more of a victim. These debates are about the good of us all. We are all at the same time perpetrators and victims of gender expectations – all in different ways.

In general, however, and this is perhaps the actual problem, we have this situation: The gender expecations applied to boys as opposed to the ones applied to girls result in a reality, in which almost all positions of power are occupied by men. This is true for traditional families, for companies, armies, nation states, and so on. And this is a big issue, because:

A) it makes it harder for people not belonging to this group to participate in this kind of power for several reasons, such as the expectations being re-affirmed and/or people belonging to the group in charge feeling threatened by „outsiders“ closing up to them, and

B) homogenous leadership hardly makes decisions for heterogenous populations (unless forced) and/or isn’t aware of detrimental effects their decisions have on people who are not part of the group that is in charge. A committee consisting only out of men is very likely blind to the way their specific subject of interest looks from the perspective of a woman, just like most men are blind to and often surprised by how omnipresent fear of sexual violence or stories of weird strangers following them through the streets are in the world of many young girls.

Now, this being a social problem and humans not being able to exist outside of society, this isn’t a problem for individuals to solve, but for societies. States, in fact.

But wait, you might say now, isn’t everybody responsible for their own good? Don’t we live in a world in which it has been proven again and again that even the most belittled person could dig him- or herself out of the ghetto and become boxing-legend Muhammad Ali?

This will be adressed in Part II.

Shitloads of Research Evidence on Gender-based Discrimination

What is this?

genderbasedLately, I found myself increasingly often debating discrimination against women – an issue many people believe not to exist. I’ve have often heard and read claims such as that the Gender Pay Gap would be a statistical phenomenon, that feminism in todays egalitarian world would no longer be necessary and women are long since emancipated, and of course that any evidence to existing discrimination would be hear-say and individual experiences and there would be no good statistical evidence support this (who ever said this very certainly didn’t bother checking). Not to forget of the mantra that in our society, everyone could become everything if he or she only tried, a very important notion I will get to in the “evaluation” posts I will write about this very post:

Part I: Where Are Men in This Story?

Part II: The Myth of the “You Can Be Anything”-Society

Part III: But Why Cannot We Expect Women to Just Help Themeselves?

Ultimately, this piece here is me gathering tons of arguments and research evidence for later use. But I thought, why not make it accessible to anyone else? And that’s what I do.

As to my method: I didn’t actively search for studies that prove how women are being treated unfairly. Rather, I googled for studies on women in general, such as “study women pay gap” or “study women in media” or so. If any credible research providing evidence that being female brings you any bonusses would have popped up, I would have included it. I didn’t come across any, but I don’t doubt that there are situations in which women actually are on the „winning“ side of discrimination, given that it is a case in which the goal to achieve goes along with the gender stereotypes (an example could be becoming a kindergarten teacher or a nurse). You could claim that my method is flawed because google turns up the most read and shared stuff and obviously doesn’t give out the studies with the most impact. However, antifeminists have likely as much a fanbase clicking “their” articles as feminists do, maybe bigger, and either way, all of these studies are peer-reviewed.

Also, due to where research is happening and also my language barriers, all of the studies refer only to the “Western world”, aka the EU, Northern America and Australia.

The Research

Let’s start of with the Gender Pay Gap

The probably most important thing to say to this: It exists, deal with it. Even if you include all kinds of factors, including profession, experience, education, etc. women in the US still earn only 91% of what men earn (“non-adjusted” 77%).

But as quoted from the article:

Using wage data for men and women with identical degrees and experience, she was able to show that gender discrimination is ultimately at the core of the gap.

Even if differences in occupations account for some of the gender wage gap, why should gender-based educational and occupational segregation count as evidence against gender discrimination? Young girls and young women do not make choices about what to study and where to work in a vacuum. They make them under the influence of peers, family members and adults who tell them, through words and actions, the subjects, majors and careers that are acceptable for them to choose — and these influences inevitably inform their later decisions on careers.

Things are doing not quite so well in Austria, where, depending on the study and the field of work, women earn 81 to 85% of what men earn under the same conditions – for pretty much the same job, as close as one can get to say this.

All of these are .pdf and sadly, the only English one is the one where I’m not sure how much occupation is actually considered. It does say in one paragraph that it is considered, in another that it isn’t. The other studies are being pretty damn clear about it:

The comparison of men and women working in the same economic sector and occupational group, having the same level of education, length of service and age, indicate a decline of the gender wage gap [to] between 15.0 and 18.9 per cent depending on the mode of calculation (Within-Job Gender Wage Gap or multivariate model). Thus one part of the gap can be explained by differences concerning the labour market caused by economic and occupational gender segregation. Another part can be seen as a consequence of individual characteristics of the employees, like education or work experience. Even though taking all factors into account, a significant wage gap still persists that remains unexplained [by the considered socio-economic factors].

Or in the slightly less confusing German version:

Vergleicht man die Verdienste von Frauen und Männern innerhalb der gleichen Branche, des gleichen Berufs, der gleichen Bildungsschicht sowie mit gleicher Dauer der Zugehörigkeit zum Unternehmen und gleichem Alter, sinkt der geschlechtsspezifische Lohn- und Gehaltsunterschied je nach Berechnung auf 18,9% bis 15,0%. Ein Teil des Lohn- und Gehaltsunterschiedes kann demnach durch die Konzentration von Frauen und Männern in unterschiedlichen Branchen sowie Unterschiede in der beruflichen Tätigkeit und individueller Merkmale erklärt werden. Das Ergebnis zeigt aber auch, dass trotz gleicher Hintergrundmerkmale deutlich niedrigere Löhne und Gehälter für Frauen im Vergleich zu Männern bezahlt werden.

Now you could say, okay, there is a gap between what men and women get for the same work as much as this can be accounted for. But this doesn’t necessarily mean that it is because they are seen as less worthy, right? There could also be other factors that weren’t accounted for, couldn’t there be?

Well, let’s see what happens when scientists turn with the exact same application, only differentiating by the sex of the applicant, to job offers or investors.

Apparently, women have less chances than men to get a job (in Yale) and if they do, they are offered less money:

…and are less likely to be be invested in by both male and female private investors when applying for their start-up:

Fun fact: Attractive men have the best chances.

The weird thing about this is that people in HR are very likely not even aware of their bias. You could probably show someone after twenty years of job interviews a statistic proving that he or she was much more likely to hire men with the exact same background as women, and that person would be stunned in disbelief.

Still, one could speculate about potential other factors the researchers didn’t account for – but that’s a claim you can make with any research. If you don’t accept this evidence for gender gaps, I don’t know what kind of evidence you would accept. Maybe you should ask that to yourself as well.

By the way, this idea that the wage gap exists because engineers are being paid more than kindergarten teachers, despite having effect on some percentage points (see above studies) is basically a myth as well. Sure, engineers earn more, but (in Germany) typically masculine professions such as coal miner and other blue-coat jobs earn less than typically feminine professions such as the service sector – as can be read in this (German) interview with a researcher who actually focusses on how even when the wife is the main source of income, she usually does still more housework than the husband:

Most couples do believe that they split chores evenly, but it turns out that they don’t. Similarly, I’m sure most men who have issues with their female bosses don’t get behind the true reasons for their grudge:

Oh, how fragile is masculinity?

Fun fact and in accordance with the actual research: When I google “female bosses study”, next to studies such as the one above (and studies pointing out how companies with women at the top do better), google suggests that maybe I’ve been searching for “female bosses are worse”, “dealing with female bosses” etc.

It is curious how women are being ignored when they are not hated. For example, women are more likely to be “forgotten” when they are working together with men.

Women in science publish less often and are cited less often than men, a gap that can’t sufficiently be explained by pregnancy breaks but apparently has to do with networking capabilities:

How networking capabilities can be an issue for women in work environments can be seen in this study, which actually focusses on why engineering has so few women doing the job as compared to women studying engineering in the universities:

Women’s experience of their education differed along two critical dimensions — they encountered a culture where sexism and stereotypes were left unaddressed, and they saw only lip service offered toward improving society—and both of these disproportionately alienated them.

Oh yeah, and coming back to the hated-part of “hated when not ignored”:

The Guardian studied its own comment section.

Although the majority of our regular opinion writers are white men, we found that those who experienced the highest levels of abuse and dismissive trolling were not. The 10 regular writers who got the most abuse were eight women (four white and four non-white) and two black men. Two of the women and one of the men were gay. And of the eight women in the “top 10”, one was Muslim and one Jewish.

Now let’s hop from verbal violence to physical violence. Sadly, in the EU, still there is much of sexualised violence going on:

For example, one in three women (33 %) has experienced physical and/or sexual violence since the age of 15. One in five women (18 %) has experienced stalking; every second woman (55 %) has been confronted with one or more forms of sexual harassment. Given this, violence against women cannot be seen as a marginal issue that touches only on some women’s lives.

Now you could rightly argue that this perhaps isn’t actually evidence for gender-based discrimination because it doesn’t say anything about violence going on against men. Apparently, in the UK, 40% of the cases of domestic violence have men as the victims.

However, statistics like this (and all of the others, too) are to be considered with care. In this research, being slapped on the butt counts as much as being raped at gunpoint. The distorting effect this can have on the statistic the Guardian quotes can be imagined when reading this article about domestic violence in Australia:

In Australia, one in three cases of domestic violence sees a male victim. However, Australian sociologists share with us interesting observations from their research:

[Dr. McInnes] recounts some of her research that showed that when men talked about women’s violence against men, some cited abuse as not having a hot meal on the table, not having the children bathed before bed, or women spending money on gambling or shopping. At the more severe end of the spectrum, they nominated verbal and emotional violence as abuse. Then, a tiny minority documented physical abuse, and an even smaller minority named sexual abuse.

“Women were talking about being run over, being drugged and raped at knifepoint, having their children dangled over high rise balconies till they did as they were told and of course you get verbal and emotional violence,” says McInnes. “When we were talking about physical violence against men, one of the worst examples was that she banged his head with the cupboard door – which isn’t good – but the sheer level of fear, harm and terror that women talked about was simply not present in what the men’s data showed.”

It remains somewhat unclear as to how the secret world of everyday violence actually looks like under the aspect of gender, with violence in relationships still being a huge taboo and so on and so forth. However, it is not far-fetched so say that something is wrong with our image of masculinity in regards to violence. After all, as quoting from the EU’s study:

Women can perpetrate violence, and men and boys can be victims of violence at the hands of both sexes, but the results of this survey, together with other data collection,show that violence against women is predominantly perpetrated by men. This is overwhelmingly the case when it comes to sexual violence and sexual harassment.

I’m going to randomly assume that violence against men (all violence, not only domestic, so including everything from bar fights over prison revolts to actual wars) also mainly is carried out by men.

The invisibility of women, as well as an affinity for violence in the gender expecations for men, can be grasped for example by looking at popular contemporary movies in the US:

Here we see that popular movies focus mainly on men (surprise, surprise), as well as other pieces of the puzzle, such as that the goals of portrayed men and women differ in regards to being social or anti-social (male characters were more likely to strive for anti-social goals), and so on.

Even more interesting is this study (.pdf) though, concerned more detailed about how women are depicted in popular movies in several (and not only Western) countries:

Some of the findings are summarised as follows:

• Sexualization is the standard for female characters globally: girls and women are twice as likely as boys and men to be shown in sexually revealing clothing, partially or fully naked, thin, and five times as likely to be referenced as attractive. Films for younger audiences are less likely to sexualize females than are those films for older audiences.
• Teen females (13-20 years) are just as likely as young adult females (21-39 years) to be sexualized.
• Female characters only comprise 22.5% of the global film workforce, whereas male characters form 77.5%.
• Leadership positions pull male; only 13.9% of executives and just 9.5% of high-level politicians were women.
• Across prestigious professions, male characters outnumbered their female counterparts as attorneys and judges (13 to 1), professors (16 to 1), medical

As to the function of movies providing role models, in this quote in regards to body expectations:

Research reveals that exposure to sexualized and thin content can contribute to or reinforce body shame, appearance anxiety, or internalization of the thin ideal among some females.

Here, many things come together that are important.

Women in movies are to a large extent blurred out, their are sexualised and more likely reduced to appearance, they are not leaders as men are, and so on. The same study provided also a reason how this situation came across:

• Out of a total of 1,452 filmmakers with an identifiable gender, 20.5% were female and 79.5% were male. Females comprised 7% of directors, 19.7% of writers, and 22.7% of producers across the sample.
• Films with a female director or female writer attached had significantly more girls and women on screen than did those without a female director or writer attached.

A product, in this case films, comes into existence reflecting the world according to the perspectives, stereotypes and norms present in those at whoms hands it is created. Which is, in this case, mainly men. (Also, consider: This is popular films, not all films nor series included.)

One final study I want to mention is specifically interesting to me because it shows how a process of structural discrimination is hardly observable and, hinsight, looks to us like a given, “natural” constant rather than a development, or perhaps as the outcome of random individual choices rather than systemic:

Apparently, in the 70s, women would be increasingly interested in computer sciences – until in the 80s, the industry began marketing computers as “toys for boys”. This lead, for example, to families rather buying a computer for their sons than their daughters even if daughters might have shown as much or more interest in a PC. The article also points out that at that time, movies about geeks would be shown in the cinemas, also featuring exceptionally men as protagonists.

This factored into a development which we see changing slightly over the past decade or so, one that resulted in a new major source of power – being able to use computers, the internet, and all of what is connected to that – is again given in the hands of a rather homogenous group.

I could go on like this forever, but I kind of doubt anyone actually read all of it. I think the important question here is, and I will try to answer this in the upcoming pieces:

Why does this disparity exist and why are so many people so certain that it doesn’t still?

What other’s erotic fantasies taught me

Pictures of explosions always work

Pictures of explosions always work

Trash is the most popular form of art. Be it the kind of soap opera that turned Turkey into the world’s second biggest exporter of TV series, „Fifty Shades of Grey“ or the musical „Cats“. Literature studies rarely discusses what it considers simple fiction, while educated folks often only admit consuming it with a busted giggle. Think of that time when your friends discovered that cheesy pop rock album as they unexpectedly showed up in your room when you were fourteen. Yeah, you know what I’m talking about, don’t you?

But besides academics raising their noses into the stratosphere, I argue that trash is indeed well worth analysing.

By definition, trash itself isn’t meant to be deep. „The Avengers“ to me and „Doctor Hillbilly Inbred“ to my grandma are like fast food. They go in easily, you know what to expect and your brain gets flooded with pheromones in realtime while you unravel the plot and the motifs as easily as my cat unravels shoe laces.


This is a big one.

Hey, did I just refer to the 225 million dollar blockbuster „The Avengers“ as trash? It kinda is. There is no hidden subplot, barely necessity or appeal to approach on a meta level, little room for interpretation in the motifs of the characters, who themselves could have been designed by a ten year old, etc. The essential difference between „The Avengers“ today, this (sadly fake) 1978 version in which the Avengers fight against Kiss, as well as this all too real „Captain America“ from 1966 is, well, a 225 million dollar budget. The producers didn’t intend to make you reflect the world around you. What they wanted to create – and masterfully did so – was a spectacle for the senses with well-choreographised action scenes and characters easy to project on.

Still not content with „The Avengers“ being trash because it’s somewhat state of the art in mainstream film making? Well, 36 years ago, so was the first „Mad Max“.

The other day, I saw „The Phantom of the Opera“ here in Istanbul. It was a magnificient production. The chandelier rose to the ceiling right in front of us, the music blasted our thoughts, the phantom’s dungeon was as creepy and mystical as ever anticipated. Yet, in the end, the plot is based upon a 1909’s gothic novel, one of hundreds of spooky stories written around the turn of the century. Given the orchestar, the stage set, the audience’s implicitly learned expectations and the touch of Andrew Lloyd Weber, any other gothic novel of that era could have been just as tantalising. But from the myriad of shockers written en masse in the fading Victorian Age, this one and Bram Stoker’s „Dracula“ made it into the canon. Comparably, from the myriad of bad teen stories haunting the internet, the „Twilight“ series made it to 120 million sales.

Coincidence, one might say. Alas, scholars of the humanities don’t believe in coincidence on this scale.

I believe that tacky works of literature (e.g. gothic novels) can, intentionally or not, capture the stereotypes and expectations we are inclined to have due to our similar socialisation. If done well, our mental categorisations are depicted in the characters of the work at a level we don’t consciously comprehend.

Take, for instance, „Dracula“. A flamboyant foreign gentleman seduces the young girls of the British upper class, violating established values. That’s the core of the story, plus special effects like bats and immortality.

The resulting death of the young women by their guardian’s hands can be understood in the physical way, but also as a social death. To prevent further damage to the family renomation, represented in the virtue of its females, the good Victorian Brits see no other option but to exile the girls. In „Dracula“, this ends bad for the antagonist outcast as well. In „The Phantom of the Opera“, a few years of rapidly advancing social awareness later and originally set in comparably libertine France, the culprit is ultimately given a chance to understand his wrong-doing. He chooses to let go of the traditional healthy-brave-rich-young-male/healthy-beautiful-young-female couple.

Is „Dracula“ a sexist and racist piece that promotes violence against fringe groups? It’s definitely a story that processes the middle-class fears and fantasies not only of the time of its creation. And it’s not just about female fantasies concerning rich men longing for them in candle-lit ballrooms, but as much about male dreams to enslave young girls by sexual allure.



To me, understanding how trashy stories can make it to huge popularity means to understand human desires, for example for simplicity. Since personification, in the case above of sexual desire, works well to make vague abstractions comprehensible to us, can’t this be applied to fields outside of literature studies?

Sure can. Entities like „the devil“ or „demons“, known to almost any culture, are a combine of all the things we collectively consider sinful. Only that if we were actually to define what is sinful, no society would ever reach full consensus. Creating a something that has a face and limbs helps us to comprehend the concept of „evil“, while at the same time eluding costly discussions on what exactly is „evil“. Double-kill!

Media also utilizes our mental imagery. For instance, German newspapers with headlines about Islam will often come up with similar pictures of women in burqas, kalashnikovs, bearded men, etc., inadvertently feeding common pre-judicism. Apparently, US media after the 2001 terror attacks prefered to show those pictures of men saving women from the ruins and the rubble – besides Twin Tower victims having been predominantly male. A dude saving a chick is kind of what we expect, and so it’s delivered. Our subconscious is used to convey messages to us – a picture painting a thousand words. To guarantee widespread understanding of the symbolicism of the image, equally widespread stereotypes are drawn upon (male hero, female victim).

Confirmation of our immanent views is merely a side effect in normal media, as opposed to if we’d go into propaganda. I find propaganda interesting, actually, because I enjoy unravelling all those cautiously construced manipulations and ponder how they make use of the audiences mental imagery.

Revolutions usually have a face connected to them, too. Lajos Kossuth is the tragic hero of the Hungarian revolt of 1848. If I could describe with a few words what he symbolises, his name would not need to be remembered – plus, I don’t even know it. But you surely have heroes in your own country’s history, and they certainly are – to an extent – constructed, idealised, glorified.

If you are Turkish, you might think of Atatürk, founder of modern Turkey. Since Mustafa Kemal symbolises more than Mustafa Kemal, criticising him has always been interpreted as being critical of all he respresents in the eyes of the Turkish public. What exactly that is will be vaguely the same for most Turks, but differ in more or less important fringe aspects of Turkish identity (is drinking alcohol part of Turkish culture?). A situation which causes trouble till today.

By why do we even bother so much about personal representation? Generallys speaking, it’s a bit like in learning a foreign language; first, you learn to talk about people, then come places. By the time you discuss System Theory in a foreign language, you better have acquired yourself some C2 skills.

Talking (and thinking) about people needs the least abstraction, next to places. Besides other reasons, perhaps that’s why most European societies formed monarchies for very long – until an increasingly educated public demanded nationalism in the 19th century, swearing allegiance to geography and community rather than individuals. Doing so required a much higher capability of abstraction, and it requires an even higher capability of abstraction to identify with ideas, such as the complexity that is a pluralistic democracy. Well, technically, Stalinist Russia called itself a communist society, thus offering an ideology as the common denominator. But obviously, it succumbed to a semi-global Stalin cult. It’s an attack on two fronts, if you opt to see it like that.

So, next week, I will go to the movies and watch the newest „Mad Max“. And while the normal audience will gaze at the explosions and be stunned by the speed and force of the furious fortress-phalluses, I will sit there, with my finger on the chin, thinking some uppity bourgeois crap like „I wonder if the antagonist girl misses an arm because the viewer is assumed to associate bodily defects in women with viciousness“. Well, and I will also gaze at the explosions.explosion4