Feminists don’t care about the gender gap in ballet. Why should we care about the one in tech?
What, if anything, do ballet and tech have in common? The obvious answer is that both fields show highly disproportionate gender distributions.
Less acknowledged but no less relevant is this uncomfortable commonality: Both are industries where it pays to be in the sexual minority. I know, because I was a ballet dancer for 16 years.
In the ballet world, men’s unfair advantage in hiring and casting is as widely understood and as rarely acknowledged as is the rampant anorexia. A less skilled male dancer is more likely to land a role or get a job than a female dancer of comparable skill. Due to the scarcity of men, the hurdles to a professional career are distinctly lower than they are for most women.
Anyone who says something similar about women in the tech industry does so at their own peril. It is assumed and unquestioned that pervasive sexism and systematic discrimination against women are to blame for their underrepresentation. But then, how did a field like tech, once dominated by nerds regularly bullied by their more athletic and popular peers, suddenly become replete with toxic masculinity?
The answer? It didn’t.
I was born in the mid-nineties, and I’m still old enough to recall a time when demographic trends by sex weren’t a titillating subject of conversation for anyone other than advertisers interested in strategic marketing, let alone a source of widespread concern. Today, gender patterns once regarded as the facts of life elicit outrage, investigation, and legislation across our country.
Particularly telling was the 2017 controversy over Google employee James Damore’s infamous memo. As you might recall, the widely-circulated manifesto made headlines for its subversive use of statistical trends, psychology, scientific data, and several well-placed bullet points. His thesis? The underrepresentation of women in the tech industry may not necessarily be the result of sexism or discrimination, but of differing interests, choices, or personality trends seen between genders on average. Damore went on to say that the tech giant’s programs and practices intended to eliminate the gender gap in question were manifesting in unjust treatment of men within the company.
This seems like common sense to a lot of people, but it certainly upset the prevailing assumptions at Google. The well-researched but socially suicidal document led to Damore's termination, catapulting Damore into an overnight viral sensation as the antichrist of the feminist Left and the champion for the politically-incorrect everywhere.
I was sitting in a ballet studio, warming up before class, when I was unexpectedly prompted to revisit the idea of the “gender gap.” Surrounded by that standard 20:1 female to male ratio, I asked myself, where is the public outrage? If we tend to assume that occupational gender disparities are invariably the result of injustice, then, by all accounts, ballet was suffering from an epidemic of anti-male sexism.
But that obviously isn’t the case, and you don’t need to launch an investigative campaign into casting or hiring practices to know why. Men, on average, simply are not as interested in ballet as women. It isn't even close, and thus neither are the numbers of men and women in ballet.
I remember distinctly from my youth the tinge of jealousy and injustice I felt watching my less talented male peers win medals, receive scholarships, and land company positions that I never did. I understand Damore's point from a deeply personal perspective.
But there is one crucial caveat: While my experience and those of women like me in ballet are an unfortunate but inevitable fact of the industry, Damore and other male Google employees are, in fact, suffering from blatant sex discrimination.
Ballet, after all, can't be done without male roles. Its canonical repertoire demands opposite-sex partnering choreography. There is no analogous constraint in the tech industry to excuse its discrimination in favor of one sex over the other. There is no inherent reason why women need to work in tech; coding is as colorblind as it is sexually indiscriminate. Yet, Google is employing discrimination against one sex and in favor of the other to combat an assumed problem — latent sexism supposedly causing the enormous gender disparity in tech — for whose existence the evidence is elusive.
The selective outrage of feminists over disparities like the one in tech is revealing. There is a conspicuous shortage of school programs, campaigns, marches, and hashtags to end the gender gap in, say, teaching, or counseling, which according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics are professions overwhelmingly dominated by women. Nursing is a pretty good gig — it pays well, is flexible, and nurses can find work anywhere. So, where should we look for the anti-male bias that made it so that more than 90 percent of nurses are women?
Meanwhile, you will search in vain for the calls to eliminate the over-representation of men in mining, trucking, sewage, and garbage collecting. The reason for all this is that the feminist Left isn't so much a political movement for equality with a consistent philosophy as much as it is an expression of rage over the fact that men and women tend to make different career decisions.
They are, however, right about one thing. Perhaps the only feasible way of totally eliminating their favorite misread statistic and rallying cry, the “gender wage gap,” would be to strong-arm the nation's most prestigious companies into discriminating against men, or alternatively, to coerce very large numbers of women into professions and career paths that they consistently opt not to pursue when given a free choice, in spite of the incentives.
I salute women who work in fields where they’re outnumbered, but I don’t appreciate or support policies that patronize women at men’s expense for the sake of “diversity” in any occupation, under any circumstances. My female friends in STEM agree, and they aren’t the ones pushing for these ridiculous reparations.
As for the radical feminists, you might ask them, if they feel so strongly about equal representation, why didn’t they themselves pursue a degree in engineering? Expect to hear something like, “well, I did always prefer English, and calculus was such a bore.”