In Bloomberg View, econ blogger Noah Smith writes:
Economics Is a Dismal Science for Women
19 NOV 21, 2014 3:06 PM EST
By Noah Smith
British physicist Matt Taylor, who was involved with the Rosetta comet landing, recently found himself in the middle of a controversy about sexism and bad taste, after he was interviewed wearing a tacky shirt featuring pin-up girls toting guns. In true Internet fashion, the incident was labeled ShirtStorm, and it sparked a debate about sexism in the sciences. Taylor has since apologized, issued a series of mea culpas, and showed as much contrition as one person could for a sartorial offense. Some of his female colleagues even came to his defense.
But all of this raises a question: Why is it that the sciences look like a feminist nirvana compared with the economics profession, which seems to have a built-in bias that prevents women from advancing?
Consider this 2011 blog post by George Mason University economist Robin Hanson. Hanson writes that “gentle, silent rape” of a woman by a man causes less harm than a wife cuckolding her husband:
I [am puzzled] over why our law punishes rape far more than cuckoldry…[M]ost men would rather be raped than cuckolded…Imagine a woman was drugged into unconsciousness and then gently raped, so that she suffered no noticeable physical harm nor any memory of the event, and the rapist tried to keep the event secret…Now compare the two cases, cuckoldry and gentle silent rape.
There was no outcry whatsoever over these remarks, nor any retraction that I could find.
Noah Smith shouldn’t try to sic the Social Media Justice Warrior mob on poor Robin Hanson. Professor Hanson is a very nice, very innocent, very eccentric man who tries to come up with counterintuitive thought experiments (most of which aren’t very useful thoughts, but he means well). The most publicity he probably ever had was a 2010 New York Times article interviewing him and his wife, a nurse, about how he wants to have his head frozen when he dies, and how she thinks that’s ridiculous:
By KERRY HOWLEY
Published: July 7, 2010
… The provenance of this disagreement remains somewhat hazy, as neither Peggy nor her husband, Robin Hanson, can remember quite when he first announced his intention to have his brain surgically removed from his freshly vacated cadaver and preserved in liquid nitrogen. It would have been decades ago, before the two were married and before the births of their two teenage sons. With the benefit of hindsight, Robin, who is 50 and an associate professor of economics at George Mason University, will acknowledge that he should have foreseen at least some initial discomfort on the part of his girlfriend, whom he met when they were both graduate students at the University of Chicago. “I was surprised by her response,” he recalls, “but that’s because I am a nerd and not good at predicting these things.”
“Robin is the kind of nerd who is very excited about the future, an orientation evident on his C.V., which lists published articles like “Economic Growth Given Machine Intelligence” (on why robots will give us growth rates “an order of magnitude” higher than we’ve currently got), “Burning the Cosmic Commons: Evolutionary Strategies of Interstellar Colonization” (on what behaviors we can expect from extraterrestrials) and “Drift-Diffusion in Mangled Worlds Quantum Mechanics” (it’s very complicated). His enthusiasm is evident in the way he talks about these ideas, hands in the air, laughing amiably every time he brings up the distance between his own theories and those of the mainstream. If he is in a chair, the chair is moving with him.
“I’m just really terribly curious,” Robin told me in January over Skype.”
Trying to send The Mob after Hanson is pretty weaselly of Smith. Fortunately, this stuff is awfully random.
It’s striking how it’s turning into Open Season on Aspergery nerds. Various Dilberts are being targeted as the Gender Enemy Oppressing Four Billion Women. Why? Because they are socially maladroit. In reality, Robin Hanson couldn’t oppress Bambi.