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And Here We Thought That Ideological Diversity Is Good Enough:

The Federalist Society general tries very hard to make sure that panels as its conferences represent many different views, and not just those within the Society itself. There may be some exceptions (the tribute to Judge Bork seems to have had fewer liberal speakers than is the norm for us, though I expect that some libertarian speakers, such as the Conspiracy's own Ilya Somin, expressed views that differed markedly from Judge Bork's). But as a general matter, our panels are about as diverse as you're likely to see in the conferences of any ideologically minded organization.

Eric Muller (Is That Legal?) and Mary Dudziak (Legal History Blog) are unsatisfied by this: They fault the Bork conference, and, in Prof. Muller's case, another panel for having no women. I agree that people who care deeply about the sex of the person speaking should probably go to other organizations' events. (Federalist conferences often include quite a few women, but we don't try to provide any sort of sex balance.) On the other hand, people who don't care about the sex of the speakers but care about the substance — including on whether the substance reflects genuine diversity of views — should find Federalist conferences to be quite interesting.

Federal Dog:
Why stop at complaining about women? There are innumerable ways of parceling up the population for the purposes of political complaint. Who cares? It's not as though women are being blocked from presenting.

Are these people lawyers or MLA members?
7.9.2007 3:26pm
Constitutional Crisis (mail):
Look, I don't need to carry anyone's water on these issues, but Eric Muller's blogpost title (I'm a Federalist and I'm OK, I work all night and I sleep all day) is clearly a reference to male "lumberjack" culture exemplified in the Monty Python lumberjack skit. And it's clear that Mary Dudziak's objection is based on a desire for cultural diversity that you, at least putatively, recognize as legitimate. Link:
Perhaps there weren't any qualified women, or maybe it's that women, for cultural reasons, choose not to pursue speaking engagements like this?
I think that your out of context taking of umbrage is, well...out of context. It's clear that it's not women for women's sake, that is desireable, but the diversity of cultural perspective that women may bring to such an event.
7.9.2007 3:27pm
Steve:
No one is arguing that every panel must include one Jew, one Hindu, one Wiccan, etc. But doesn't it strike you as a little odd that a group which comprises 51% of the population just magically happens to have no representation? Is it not even worth a moment's thought to ponder why that might be?
7.9.2007 4:03pm
OrinKerr:
Eugene,

The next thing you know you'll have an all-male blog.
7.9.2007 4:03pm
anym_avey (mail):
Eric Muller's blogpost title (I'm a Federalist and I'm OK, I work all night and I sleep all day) is clearly a reference to male "lumberjack" culture exemplified in the Monty Python lumberjack skit.

Haven't actually seen that skit, have you?
7.9.2007 4:04pm
Constitutional Crisis (mail):
anym_avey: It's satire, my friend.
7.9.2007 4:10pm
anym_avey (mail):
Oh, good :)
7.9.2007 4:14pm
rarango (mail):
Pushing Steve's point a bit further: What precisely is the appropriate representation for a 3 person panel? a six person panel? a 12 person panel? If someone would point me to the formula book, I would be most greatful.
7.9.2007 4:18pm
Carolina:
@Constitutional Crisis:

I don't see the difference between your "women for women's sake" and "diversity of cultural perspective." You've just named it something else.

I mean, if "diversity of cultural perspective" meant a Bedouin shepherd or something, maybe you would have a point. But how does a female attorney have a different "cultural perspective" on the law than me, a male attorney, simply by being female?

What, exactly, is the particular "cultural perspective" of a female attorney?
7.9.2007 4:18pm
Mr. Impressive (mail):
Not that I think it affects the substance of every issue (i.e. whether your a woman or a man, 2 + 2 = 4) but I am afraid that things like gender or race to seep into substance.

That fact is that we all have a partial perspective of the world. And our partial perspective is influenced by how people treat us. And how people treat us is partially a function of our gender and race.

So, in fact, when Federalist Society events exclude the views of women or minorities, they in fact are excluding particular substantive perspectives. Not that there is a deterministic relationship between things like gender and race and one's substantive perspectives. However, that there is not a deterministic relationship does not mean there is not a relationship.
7.9.2007 4:20pm
Constitutional Crisis (mail):
I actually agree with Mr. Impressive.

Impressive.
7.9.2007 4:22pm
Adam J:
So should gender be a factor in determining federalist panels, or should they be "gender-blind"?
7.9.2007 4:22pm
Constitutional Crisis (mail):
Perhaps it should be a plus factor, to be considered when the panel would be otherwise non-diverse.
7.9.2007 4:24pm
AdamSteiner (mail):
Impressive,

You're assuming there is a "view of women" or "view of minorities".

If the focus is on diverse viewpoints shouldn't the proper method of those views be, well, getting diverse viewpoints?

If the panel had been blindly picked so that different viewpoints were represented, but, upon unveiling, it consisted or all women, all blacks, all hispanics, etc, would that still be gender creeping into substance?
7.9.2007 4:25pm
Carolina:
@Mr. Impressive

You're dodging the question. Gender may be a weak proxy for views on politics, or "substantive issues" as you say. If you were picking people randomly, you might have a slightly higher chance of getting different viewpoints if you mixed male and female.

But if you ALREADY have a wide variety of diverse views on "substantive issues" (as the Federalist Society is careful to do) what is the additional benefit of a chromosome check?
7.9.2007 4:26pm
Adam J:
Constitutional, be careful, it can't be a mechanical formula that gives extra points for being non-male.
7.9.2007 4:27pm
AdamSteiner (mail):
Realized my second sentence doesn't make that much sense, comes with a fried brain from bar review. But I think its still understandable. As Carolina commented, what benefit a chromosome check
7.9.2007 4:29pm
Anderson (mail) (www):
Since I don't know how many women members the Federalist Society has, I can't evaluate what's going on.

If its panels don't reflect its membership, that suggests one kind of problem.

If OTOH very few women feel like joining the Federalist Society, that suggests another kind of problem -- the Society might want to ask itself whether its positions are actually antipathetic to women, or whether it maybe has an (undeserved) image problem.

Regardless, shrugging and saying "women, schwimmen -- who cares?" does not seem to be the most appropriate response. But presumably, EV is not the Society's official spokesman on the subject.
7.9.2007 4:29pm
JosephSlater (mail):
It's not my role to tell the Federalist Society what to do, and in general I don't think every panel at every conference needs to be "balanced."

But I would ask Eugene this. Suppose ten years from now, you attend a conference by a new organization, let's call it the Modern Law Society, hosting a panel on the jurisprudence of Ruth Bader-Ginsburg. All of the nineteen panelists (the number Mary Dudziak cites for the Bork panel) are women. Would anything at all cross your mind or make you wonder about the gender, gender balance, perspective, etc. of the panelists or the organization itself? Or would you just assume that the best nineteem folks available to speak about Ginsburg were all women?
7.9.2007 4:30pm
Constitutional Crisis (mail):
AdamSteiner:
If the panel had been blindly picked so that different viewpoints were represented, but, upon unveiling, it consisted or all women, all blacks, all hispanics, etc, would that still be gender creeping into substance?
Carolina:
You're dodging the question. Gender may be a weak proxy for views on politics, or "substantive issues" as you say. If you were picking people randomly, you might have a slightly higher chance of getting different viewpoints if you mixed male and female.

But if you ALREADY have a wide variety of diverse views on "substantive issues" (as the Federalist Society is careful to do) what is the additional benefit of a chromosome check?
Please review the actual participants at this link. Then tell me if there is any risk that the panel may have consisted, blindly of "all blacks, all women, all hispanics, etc." and whether a randomly picked "chromosome check" might not have added to the diversity of viewpoints.
7.9.2007 4:30pm
OrinKerr:
I just want to point out that of the seven commenters so far in this thread whose screennames suggest a gender, all seven are men.

That is all.
7.9.2007 4:37pm
Randy Barnett (mail) (www):
I just wanted to note that my differences with Robert Bork are legion, fundamental, and well known--especially to Federalist Society members. FWIW, the organizers of the Bork tribute event asked me early on if I would participate, but due to a scheduling conflict I regretfully had to decline.
7.9.2007 4:37pm
Carolina:
@Constitutional Crisis

OK, I reviewed the names of the panelists. There are 6 or 7 names on that list who writings/opinions I haven't read and whom I know nothing about, so I can't really opine as to whether a particular viewpoint is lacking.

But I'll extend a challenge back to you. I'll assume you are correct, and that some viewpoint is missing. Legal realists, or marxists, or specialists in Judge Bork's handwriting, or whatever.

Why not simply advocate one of those? Why not say, "Hearing the Marxist perspective on Judge Bork would have been interesting and the Fed. Soc. should have gotten one of those?" Instead of "they need a woman"? Why use the weak proxy, instead of the actual viewpoint?
7.9.2007 4:38pm
Constitutional Crisis (mail):
I just want to point out that of the seven commenters so far in this thread whose screennames suggest a gender, all seven are men.

That is all.
What's your point? Lots of Jews marched for civil rights, too.
7.9.2007 4:38pm
vukdog:
Harvey Mansfield's new book "Manliness" is quite interesting and may shed some light on this thread. Has anyone read it? In a podcast debate w/ Naomi Wolf he suggested men are in general superior philosophers. Sorry I can't find the link.
7.9.2007 4:41pm
JosephSlater (mail):
Orin is certainly in a playful mood today. And wasn't there recently a thread on this blog in which basically acknowledged that the vast majority of comments on ALL threads on this blog are made by men?
7.9.2007 4:41pm
Houston Lawyer:
Because we all know that all women think alike as do all Blacks. To piss off these identity politics bean counters more, put a conservative Black woman on the panel and watch them howl that she doesn't represent a Black or female point of view.
7.9.2007 4:43pm
Constitutional Crisis (mail):
Why not simply advocate one of those? Why not say, "Hearing the Marxist perspective on Judge Bork would have been interesting and the Fed. Soc. should have gotten one of those?" Instead of "they need a woman"? Why use the weak proxy, instead of the actual viewpoint?
Because I'm a reactionary.

Seriously, though, I didn't start this fight. I was just pointing out, in response to EV's summary dismissal of two blogposts that I read as calling for diversity of thought, that maybe he was taking them out of context and not engaging with the underlying, if subtlely stated, suggestion that the Federalist Society is not always a bastion of openmindedness.
7.9.2007 4:44pm
JosephSlater (mail):
Houston Lawyer:

Suppose I agreed with you. Sure, add Edith Jones, or Janice Rogers Brown, or any of a number of conservative women or blacks, and what does that really accomplish?

But then suppose I asked you the same question I asked Eugene above (scroll up if you're interested in answering)?
7.9.2007 4:46pm
anonVCfan:
1. Would anyone's views change if it turned out that David Lat was invited, but declined the invitation?

2. Whenever people criticize something like this for lack of diversity, I like to scan the post to see if they suggest anyone who should have been invited, but was overlooked. I see none in either of the linked posts.

3. This wasn't really a full-on conference so much as Bork's birthday party + CLE.
7.9.2007 4:47pm
loki13 (mail):
I think that some posters here are missing the two major points of this post, one explicit and one implicit:

1. Explicitly, this is about gender, and 'bringing things to the table', and not affirmative action as some posters wish it to be. There is, whether we like it or not, a power structure in our society dominated by white males. See the Presidency. See also the Senate. See generally the Supreme Court.

This is not to say that the Federalist Society is required to set aside a number of speaking positions for anyone. But the diverse viewpoints of white men may not, in fact, be encompassing of the diverse views within society. Minorites and women can be conservative, or libertarian, but their views will be colored by their gender or race in a society whose power structure is dominated by white men. While I would not discount what men have to say about abortion, for example, the viewpoint of a woman on the issue may be shaped by different forces. While you don't have to be black to have an opinion for, or against (hello, J. Thomas!), affirmative action, your viewpoint may be shaped a little differently than that of a white person's, or a woman's.

The operative question, then, is not 'Should the Federalist Society set aside spots for women and minorities?'. The question becomes 'Why, with all of their ideological diversity, aren't there any women or minorities speaking at the Federalist Society lectures?'

2. Implicit in this post is a query into the essential nature of the Federalist society. I cannot speak for the national organization, only the local chapter at my law school. Here, the Federalist Society is a proxy for the Republican Party, and those that join do so in order to have it listed on their resumes. Membership is entirely white, and almost entirely male. If you're interested in discussing Con. Law, even from a conservative vantage point, and you are black, a woman, a hispanic, or gay, you tend to gravitate to the ACS because... well, it's just not very welcoming. Instead of debating Federalism, the Fed. Soc. is a drinking organization for white, male, young Republican lawyers.

Such is their right. The problem I see is that while the Fed. Society was founded as an ideological institution, it has become a mere signal to employers at some schools.

*shrug* So it goes.
7.9.2007 4:48pm
Constitutional Crisis (mail):
Because we all know that all women think alike as do all Blacks. To piss off these identity politics bean counters more, put a conservative Black woman on the panel and watch them howl that she doesn't represent a Black or female point of view.
That's a fair point. And if you were to point to such a woman as an example of diverse thought--a feminist or identity-based critique of Judge Bork's work, for example--or to justify your open-mindedness, I would disagree with your selection. But now you're talking at cross-effect with the other poster upthread who acknowledged that the "chromosome check" could be provided by selecting someone at random.

Take the top 50 intellectual women in the field qualified to comment on Mr. Bork's writing, and I would hazard a guess that selecting one at random might give you a perspective that differed from some of the other participants. Just a guess. I could be wrong, and I'm open to empirical proof.
7.9.2007 4:49pm
Justin (mail):
Orin,

You don't think Carolina suggests a female? Yes, I know its ambiguous, but the standard here is "suggest"....
7.9.2007 4:57pm
JosephSlater (mail):
Justin:

In his first post, Carolina referred to himself as "me, a male attorney."
7.9.2007 4:59pm
Paul A'Barge (mail):
Muller doesn't give a rat's ass about women and their issues and their representation at Heritage events. He doesn't like your politics, and unable to refute your ideological points, he is reduced to counting Bic lighters in auditoriums.
7.9.2007 5:00pm
AdamSteiner (mail):
Constitutional Crisis,

My point was only that, if the panel was blindly picked and could represent diverse viewpoints, then the gender or sex of the participants is not inherent to whether diverse viewpoints are present.

If that's the case, then even when a panel isn't blindly picked the viewpoints can be just as diverse (same panel picked blindly or by invitation). Immediately jumping to the ethnic or sexual makeup of a panel, without looking at whether the views are diverse (if that's your goal) seems troubling. anonVCfan raises a good point - who else would be invited to make it more 'diverse'?

However, if loki13 is correct, having physical diversity brings something to the table, a woman with viewpoint X is more diverse than a man with the same viewpoint, then an all-male panel (or all female) would be lacking diversity.

Its an interesting (and complicated) topic.
7.9.2007 5:00pm
AdamSteiner (mail):
And with that, back to the bar.
7.9.2007 5:01pm
Constitutional Crisis (mail):
...he is reduced to counting Bic lighters in auditoriums.
This is a fascinating coinage, demanding an explanation. What does it mean?
7.9.2007 5:02pm
Mr. X (www):
This wasn't really a full-on conference so much as Bork's birthday party + CLE


I think the question of why one gets CLE for going to Judge Bork's birthday bash is a better one than why there aren't any women on the panel.
7.9.2007 5:03pm
NR:
Joseph Slater asked a good question upthread. I wonder if anyone will answer it?
7.9.2007 5:04pm
DiverDan (mail):
Mr. Impressive's point about "cultural perspective" raises the issue about whether there needs to be a test to determine whether the selected female participant[s] are "female enough". After all, I hear many African Americans continue to complain that the sole Black representative on the Supreme Court is "not black enough" in his philosophy or opinions. Will we insist not only on sufficient "female" representation, but also that all physiologically female representatives (i.e., possessing an XX chromosome pair) must also demonstrate a sufficiently "oppressed feminist" mindset to qualify? Or perhaps we need a minimum number of females, to adequately represent all possible feminine perspectives? So what happens if the Federalist Society has a panel that is just perfectly balanced by race, creed, and gender, but it only presents a one-sided view from a political philosophy perspective? If you insist upon every panel being "representative" on every possible criterion, the panels will become so large as to be meaningless.
7.9.2007 5:11pm
OrinKerr:
Loki13 writes: "The question becomes 'Why, with all of their ideological diversity, aren't there any women or minorities speaking at the Federalist Society lectures?'" Just to be clear, it is actually pretty uncommon to have an all male, all white panel for the Federalist Society. It happens once in a while, whereas with many organizations there is an understanding that this is just not permitted. But it is not common with Federalist Society events.
7.9.2007 5:14pm
Dave Hardy (mail) (www):
I just want to point out that of the seven commenters so far in this thread whose screennames suggest a gender, all seven are men.

Now up to 13 or 14 to zero, counting this post. There are obvious problems with this thread's diversity.
7.9.2007 5:16pm
DavidBernstein (mail):
Unlike most Fed Society events, the panels at the Bork event were almost entirely composed of Fed Society people, mostly law professors. I can tell you from attending some Fed Society faculty events that there aren't many women faculty willing to publicly identify as Federalists, whether that's because they disproportionately don't share the ideology or because of other factors I don't know. So let's turn the question around on Muller and Dudziak: instead of asking why the Federalist Society doesn't invite women to speak, let's ask why either (a) women faculty with Federalist-type views don't become active in the Federalist Society (peer pressure on women not to be seen as "right-wing"); or (b) legal academia discourages women with Federalist-type views from joining it to begin with. I can see either or both of these things being a problem--female colleagues at George Mason who are quite conservative or libertarian are constantly assumed to be liberals by people at other law schools, and are asked things like, "how do you put up with being around all those 'conservatives'."
7.9.2007 5:17pm
TechieLaw (mail) (www):
I just wanted to say that the Federalist Society at my school tended to have fantastic speakers which were a joy to listen to and thought-provocative. Many times, the Feds would hold balanced debates -- with both sides of an issue represented. I was always impressed, even when I vehemently disagreed with the views presented.
7.9.2007 5:20pm
Elliot123 (mail):
This reminds me of a training session I attended about twenty years ago. The trainer told us all how much superior a racially diverse project team was. I asked if a pipeline designed by four black engineers was inferior to one designed by three blacks and one white. He said it was, but only stammered when asked the difference between black and white civil engineers.

I suggest there are many people who claim viewpoints are a function of sex and gender, but don't have the foggiest idea what those differences are.
7.9.2007 5:21pm
Elliot123 (mail):
Sex and gender

Sex and race
7.9.2007 5:25pm
Eric Muller (www):
Paul A'Barge's assertion both denigrates rats and assumes something about my views about rats' asses. Yet I suspect Mr. A'Abarge knows nothing at all about my views on rats' asses.
7.9.2007 5:25pm
A.S.:
The next thing you know you'll have an all-male blog.

No, he's got this "Sasha Volokh".



(Sorry, lame joke based on the number of commenters who don't understand that Sasha is a male name. And where, oh where, is Michele Boardman?)
7.9.2007 5:25pm
Adam J:
"I just want to point out that of the seven commenters so far in this thread whose screennames suggest a gender, all seven are men."

So maybe we should "bus" commenters from a feminist jurisprudence blog to even it out? You can really only do so much to ensure diversity- people associate with whom they want to associate with.
7.9.2007 5:26pm
A.S.:
Now up to 13 or 14 to zero, counting this post. There are obvious problems with this thread's diversity.

Perhaps EV should institute an affirmative action plan for commenters to remediate the past societal discrimination against female blog commenters.
7.9.2007 5:28pm
Eric Muller (www):
David, is it really your view that conservative men have the courage (I shall not say "balls"; that would not be fair) to identify themselves as Federalists, but conservative women do not?

If there is a chilling effect in academia of the kind you describe, then what, in your view, explains its differential operation on men and women?
7.9.2007 5:29pm
Constitutional Crisis (mail):
DavidBernstein wrote:
(a) women faculty with Federalist-type views don't become active in the Federalist Society (peer pressure on women not to be seen as "right-wing"); or (b) legal academia discourages women with Federalist-type views from joining it to begin with.
DING DING DING DING DING!!!!! We have a winner in the "make-the-Federalists-into-the-underrepresented-minority" contest.

That is some serious movement discipline. Congratulations, sir. You have earned yourself a seat on the federal bench.
7.9.2007 5:30pm
Mr. Impressive (mail):

Because we all know that all women think alike as do all Blacks.


There is not exactly one black perspective nor exactly one female perspective or exactly one white male perspective. Obviously. We all know this.

On the other hand, there certainly are trends in view points. Race and gender do not determine view point. (But for some reason, this is a tempting strawman for some people.) That is, clearly not all white males have one perspective while all females have another.

But taking a moderate perspective and a trye account of the data, it is clear that race and gender do influence perspective. That is why white males are more likely to vote Republican than white females. That is why whites are more likely to vote Republican than blacks. It is not the case that no blacks vote for Republicans. But, there is a tendency to vote a certain way, which itself is a function of perspective, which itself is partially (not totally) a function of race and gender.

Now, as someone has noted, it not practical to represent every perspective in every single discussion. But, one should realize that not representing major perspectives is an unfortunate limitation to the utility of such discussions.
7.9.2007 5:30pm
Adam J:
David- did you ever consider that maybe there just aren't that many women faculty with "Federalist-type views".
7.9.2007 5:33pm
MPCampbell (mail):
I can imagine there may be fewer women commenting on this particular thread because they find it tiresome. (You see, I'm a woman, I find it tiresome, and thus the female perspective is that this is a tiresome discussion.)

Was there not some brou-ha-ha in one of the social sciences of late when a woman from entirely outside a field had to be drafted into a panel discussion, otherwise the conference wouldn't allow the panel to go forward? And a token had to be drafted because there were =no= women doing research in that very small field.

If there is a black/female/liberal/whatever Bork scholar who was deliberately excluded from the Bork tribute, then make a stink about that. Maybe specific women were invited to speak but had better things to do. Don't go looking for injustice when there's no real evidence for it, and when some of the remedies would be real injustice.

Drafting a woman just for the sake of having a "woman's perspective" is patronizing and insulting. I'm unsurprised at it showing its ugly head when legal scholars are involved and competing in showing their sensitivity to women's issues, but this crap shows up in pretty much all academic fields, even those where a "feminine perspective" makes no sense whatsoever (such as the hard sciences). So guys, I'm sure it makes y'all feel all chivalrous, but the women may not appreciate your concern.
7.9.2007 5:35pm
Adam J:
This reminds me of a party I had in college, and there weren't any girls. I assure you it wasn't because I didn't want diversity- rather it was because they didn't want to come.
7.9.2007 5:36pm
DavidBernstein (mail):
I'm sure that there is a lower baseline of women at elite law schools with Federalist-type views than men. But I also think that women "right-wingers" are given a harder time than are men, because women are "supposed" to be left-wing. It's not a question of "courage," as such, it's a question of whether the level of discrimination one faces to get into the academy, and the level of ostracism one faces once one is in the academy, is worth it on a marginal basis. Is there a male-female difference in willingness to be a lightning rod for critics from your own and other faculties (one lone libertarian I know on an elite faculty gets visits from some liberal colleagues whenever they feel the need to vent about Bush Administration policies, even very unlibertarian ones)? I don't know, but I do believe that a woman, who adopts conservative positions is more likely to be a lightning rod to begin with.
7.9.2007 5:46pm
MPCampbell (mail):
And to reply on the "feminine perspective": I have no problem with overall statistical statements, such as women, on average, are shorter than men; or single women, on average, tend to be more for big government than married women (to give a few items).

The problem is that at a panel you're not inviting a huge swathe of people, but a few individuals about a very specific topic. If you can figure out a way to bring a large population in, then fine, you can get your averaged feminine perspective. But until then, you would get a specific woman, with her own views, and with no obligation to present the feminine anything.
7.9.2007 5:47pm
JB:
It's known that women are underrepresented at the highest levels of legal academia. It's also well-known that conservatives are also underrepresented there. It's not at all a stretch from those two to conclude that female conservatives are likely very hard to find. Add the fact that there is certainly pressure to be in the closet about your conservatism, and I for one find it easy to believe that the Federalist Society has trouble scrounging up women to be on its panels.

I haven't even mentioned race yet. Blacks are also underrepresented at the highest levels of legal academia. Plus, Blacks tend to liberalism more than other races, and more than women, do. So finding a black female conservative willing to publicly identify as such is likely to be difficult.

Then we have to make sure they have time to make the conference, and want to be on the panel...getting hard to find more than a couple here...shall I continue?
7.9.2007 5:50pm
Alison N:
I generally agree with the sentiment of MPCampbell, and others who are offended by the idea that a "feminine perspective" has some meaning. Prior to going to law school, I was an electrical engineer, so I am accustomed to being in groups that are more than 90% male. Indeed, such a ratio doesn't even generally register as strange to me.

I do, however, find it odd that 19 panelists would all be male. In a field where 75% of the experts are male, there is a 0.4228% chance that 19 randomly selected members would be male. Less than half of one percent. Even if the field is 95% male, odds substantially favor having at least one female participant.

It is certainly not worth getting all riled up about, but the numbers do come across as at least a little bit strange.
7.9.2007 5:53pm
Gekkobear (mail):
Meh, who cares if they think, speak, act, or believe differently. Heck, I don't even care about qualifications.

What I really care about is the superficial appearance based differences between the participants? If they all look pretty similar, then there's a problem. Because all women think the same which perfectly validates the need for superficial diversity....

Am I being agreeable now, or sexist? Or maybe both?
7.9.2007 5:55pm
Shannon:
I have to agree with earlier posters who noted that the problem is not that the Fed Soc should affirmatively seek to be more diverse, but that there must be some reason why it is not. I go to a law school that has a reputation for being "conservative," and yet, there are only a handful of women in the Fed Soc. When I receive Fed Soc magazines, I can't help but notice how few females faces there are in the photos and how few women write articles. Given that there is no shortage of conservative and libertarian women, I find this striking.

But what I found truly disheartening was the complete refusal of the men on the Fed Soc board to engage in a discussion about this out of some knee-jerk reaction that it suggested a need for "affirmative action." At my school, I found the Fed Soc to be a huge disappointment - an outgrowth of the Law Republicans and Law Christians who were openly hostile to libertarian ideology and frank discussions about race and gender that conflicted at all with what they "knew" to be true. To pretend that being a woman or that being a minority does not shape your view of the world in the same way that growing up rich or growing up poor does is simply absurd. Being a woman does not mean that I embrace any particular point of view, but it certainly gives me an insight into certain issues - abortion, anyone? - that a man could not possibly have. That doesn't mean that the Fed Soc should create panels that include women merely for that purpose, but I would hope that it would at least cause some to wonder where all the women are... There must be something about the organization that women don't find welcoming; for me, it was that strange need on the part of my conservative male cohorts to pretend that we live in a color-blind, gender-blind world where recognition of differences somehow reflects surrender to liberal ideology.
7.9.2007 6:03pm
JosephSlater (mail):
Thanks, NR, although I guess the answer is no. I will still wonder how some of the folks on this thread would respond to a 19-woman panel.

Thanks to Alison N. for noting the number of panelists and doing the math (literally). I tend to agree with Alison's last sentence.

And thanks to David Bernstein for explaining how the lack of female participation at least some federalist events is the fault of liberals. I mean, if there's a problem of any kind, anywhere, who else's fault could it be?
7.9.2007 6:11pm
Eric Muller (www):
Well said, Shannon.
7.9.2007 6:13pm
Mr. Impressive (mail):
I agree with Shannon. And I don't think she has surrendered to liberal ideology just because she acknowledges the obvious. Her failure to surrender is obviously our loss.
7.9.2007 6:16pm
Constitutional Crisis (mail):
Shannon, don't listen when they tell you they love you and they won't do it again.

[ducks and runs...I'm out of this thread.]
7.9.2007 6:20pm
Elliot123 (mail):
Shannon,

What's your insight into abortion that a male lacks?
7.9.2007 6:26pm
Shannon:
Seriously?
7.9.2007 6:27pm
JosephSlater (mail):
Shannon:

Your first post in this thread was excellent, but your second, one-word, post is an even better and more profound comment on this topic.
7.9.2007 6:35pm
IL:
I don't know, but I do believe that a woman, who adopts conservative positions is more likely to be a lightning rod to begin with.

I agree with this statement, along with the observation that there really just are fewer conservative women in our profession and in academia. I could count maybe three or four conservative professors at my law school, and certainly none were social conservatives - only libertarians. There were maybe three women in the Republican student group, while at least half, if not more, of the Democrats were women. I took positions in class and online knowing it would make me more of a lightning rod, but while I didn't mind for awhile, I'm not sure I would have welcomed that status for my entire career.

Anyway, here are my demographics: I'm a half-Hispanic woman at an elite law firm, and I belong to the Federalist Society - but I'm just a dirt lawyer, not a scholar, so while I enjoy FedSoc events and publications, I'd never expect to be invited to speak on a panel, and that's fine with me!
7.9.2007 6:40pm
anym_avey (mail):
I will still wonder how some of the folks on this thread would respond to a 19-woman panel.

Only if we keep the playing field level. To start, we need a profession which does incorporate both genders but is overwhelmingly dominated by women -- such as nursing or K-5 primary education, or possibly pediatric medicine or the library sciences (to name but a few).

Second, we need a group that was originally organized by members of that field to host a conference that seeks to promote discussion of competing ideas within the field.

Then -- and only then -- can we fairly ask, how would people respond to a 19-woman panel in that context? The answer is obvious: female professionals would necessariliy dominate or solely compose the panel because that is where the majority of the experience is coming from.

All of the clever logic in the world is useless without context.
7.9.2007 6:44pm
IL:
Probably went without saying, but the three or four conservative professors at my law school were all men (naturally!).

As for abortion, whenever women say they have a perspective that men can't possibly have on the subject, I usually find it's in the context of women arguing for abortion while protesting against men who might oppose abortion. I don't deny women might have a different perspective on the issue, but women pro-choice advocates are usually skeptical (or hostile) to women who are pro-life. Our "unique perspective" counts as little as men's in those instances . . . (Not saying Shannon made this claim, just saying what context I usually hear it in.)
7.9.2007 6:45pm
Constitutional Crisis (mail):
June 14, 2007, Link:

AMERICAN NURSES ASSOCIATION HOLDS MAJOR POLICY CONFERENCE "NURSING CARE IN LIFE, DEATH AND DISASTER"

ANA is pleased to work with the support of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Association of State and Territorial Directors of Nursing (ASTDN) to bring together a diverse field of panelists and attendees. Speakers for the conference include Carole Jakeway, RN, MPH, Chief Nurse Division of Public Health Department of Human Resources, GA, Scott Sasser, MD of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Denise Danna DNS, RN, CNAA-BC, FACHE President-Elect of the Louisiana State Nurses Association, and Melissa Lockhart, PhD, APRN, BC and OSHA certified trainer in WMD, and a Triage Officer of the Decontamination Team for Weapons of Mass Destruction at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Houston, TX.
7.9.2007 6:49pm
JosephSlater (mail):
anym_avey:

While I appreciate you addressing my question, I think your conception of the current context is out of date. While there are more male lawyers and legal academics then women, this isn't the 1940s or 1950s. Today, the numbers are not as stark as those Alison N. gave in her hypo upthread, which I will repeat here:

In a field where 75% of the experts are male, there is a 0.4228% chance that 19 randomly selected members would be male. Less than half of one percent. Even if the field is 95% male, odds substantially favor having at least one female participant.

So, given the context of the modern legal world, a 0-19 gender difference still is, let's say, unlikely to have happened by chance.

And frankly, I would be surprised by a panel in pediatric medicine or even elementary school education today that was 19-0 women.
7.9.2007 6:56pm
advisory opinion:
"I will still wonder how some of the folks on this thread would respond to a 19-woman panel."

A raised eyebrow?

The probability of 19 randomly selected panelists being all female would be close to zero (3.63797881 × 10^-12). 0.4% for a randomly selected all-male panel was small but not indistinguishable from zero. But the odds for a randomly selected all-female is practically zero!

But it's not even an interesting question, since it's orthogonal to what is being discussed. The FedSoc panel was NOT randomly selected. Which is the whole point really. So what exactly is 'odd' in the probabilistic sense of there being no women on it?
7.9.2007 7:01pm
AndyM (mail):
Quoting Shannon:

I do, however, find it odd that 19 panelists would all be male. In a field where 75% of the experts are male, there is a 0.4228% chance that 19 randomly selected members would be male. Less than half of one percent. Even if the field is 95% male, odds substantially favor having at least one female participant.


If the field is 95% male, you're up to a 37% chance of an all-male panel, which is at the point where I wouldn't be the slightest bit surprised by sometimes finding a panel that was all male. And if the field creeps up to 96.5% male, you're up to a 50% chance of an all male panel.

But this does lead to the question: what is the fraction of females in the federalist society? (or in the pool of people that they draw on for panel members) Does it rise to the 90%+ level where the odds of large homogenous groups start rapidly growing... And are all-male panels the norm? A single data point isn't evidence of anything.

So, can someone here find a data source for the composition of enough of the federalist society's panels to say meaningfully how common an all male one is?

As one of my statistics profs used to say -- "If something has one in a million odds of happening to you today... it happened to eight people in new york today."
7.9.2007 7:08pm
Constitutional Crisis (mail):
As one of my statistics profs used to say -- "If something has one in a million odds of happening to you today... it happened to eight people in new york today."
Your stats professor made at least three errors in that statement, so far as my english major mind can tell.
7.9.2007 7:10pm
OrinKerr:
Perhaps it might be helpful, whichever side you're on, to take this out of the abstract and make it more particular.

The Bork conference that had 19 men and no women featured four panels, one on each of Bork's major books. Given that the conference was supposed to honor Judge Bork, let's assume that most of the participants should more or less agree with him (which isn't true, of course, as Ilya's example suggests, but let's go with it as an assumption).

I think it would be helpful, regardless of which side of this argument you're on, to think of who might have been invited to add to the diversity in terms of gender among the speakers.

Here are the four books:

1) The Tempting of America: The Political Seduction of the Law

2) The Antitrust Paradox: A Policy at War with Itself

3) Slouching Towards Gomorrah: Modern Liberalism and American Decline

4) Coercing Virtue: The Worldwide Rule of Judges
7.9.2007 7:15pm
Constitutional Crisis (mail):
"3) Slouching Toward Gomorrah: Modern Liberalism and American Decline"

Sounds like Ann Coulter would have been perfect.
7.9.2007 7:17pm
OrinKerr:
Constitutional Crisis,

That is the best argument against gender diversity I have seen in a while.
7.9.2007 7:20pm
JosephSlater (mail):
Advisory Opinion:

I think "a raised eyebrow" would be a good response. A 19-0 gender discrepancy doesn't "prove" anything, but it legitimately raises a question about what caused the statistically unlikely disparity.

As to the speakers not being randomly picked, of course they weren't. But if the claim is "we pick panelists without regard to gender," then the absence of any women would tend to indicate either:

(i) intentional discrimination, which folks who should know say does not happen (and I have no reason to disbelieve that); or

(ii) there very few women in the pool of potential candidates -- which leads to the follow up question, why is that?
7.9.2007 7:20pm
Constitutional Crisis (mail):
Not to mention the best argument against having editors pick book titles. I'm giving the good Judge Bork the benefit of the doubt.
7.9.2007 7:20pm
DavidBernstein (mail):
Here is a the Fedearlist Society's guide to legal experts for the media, which is largely coextensive with the pool the Feds have to choose from with regard to panels. Of the first 25 names on the list, one is a woman. So, the relevant issue again should be not "why does the Federalist Society not have more women conservatives and libertarians on its panels" but "why are conservative and libertarian women who are willing to identify as Federalists not as well-represented in the academy and other places that the Society draws its speakers from as they are in the general population of conservatives and libertarins?"
7.9.2007 7:22pm
DavidBernstein (mail):
Whoops, here's the link: http://www.fed-soc.org/docLib/20070326_JournalistGuide.pdf
7.9.2007 7:23pm
advisory opinion:
If they weren't randomly selected, then I don't see in what sense you can speak of the outcome being "statistically unlikely". See AndyM's comment.
7.9.2007 7:24pm
JosephSlater (mail):
David:

Of course the other "relevant issue" might be, is the Federalist Society -- as opposed to evil liberals in academia -- doing anything to discourage female participation, either at the national or local levels. In fact, there's been a personal testimony about that problem already on this thread. And that's even assuming that whoever drew up the speakers' list did a good job in locating women speakers/experts.
7.9.2007 7:27pm
Alison N:
In statistical terms, selection on an independent criterion from the one being studied is the same thing as random selection.

It is, of course, important to know what the relevant field is (willing experts in the subject matter). If the composition of that group is 96% male, as David Bernstein suggests, then the makeup of the panel is far from surprising.
7.9.2007 7:37pm
DavidBernstein (mail):
The speaker's list, which I participated in, was open to all members. I agree that if the Federalist Society has fewer than expected female members, that could be a result of the Society not welcoming women, or of women not feeling welcome there (didn't the Supreme Court says something about "critical mass" a few years ago?), but it also could be because being a women Federalist, especially in academia, comes with special burdens imposed by the other side, especially since we have "personal testimony" on that front, too. As an aside, my educated guess is women are significantly more heavily represented in the Society as whole than in academia.
7.9.2007 7:39pm
theobromophile (www):

(a) women faculty with Federalist-type views don't become active in the Federalist Society (peer pressure on women not to be seen as "right-wing"); or (b) legal academia discourages women with Federalist-type views from joining it to begin with.


The plural of "anecdote" is not "data," but I agree with this. I've been told (as have many of my fellow female Feds) that we are traitors to our sex. People express astonishment that a woman can be both high-achieving and conservative. I'll take the business world, thank you.

At my law school, next year's Fed Soc officers consist of six women and six men. Everyone who wants an officer position (and has been involved - i.e. goes to meetings, goes to the conferences) gets one.

As a general matter, I don't think there is a "female" perspective on most areas of jurisprudence. There is, however, an air of legitimacy when women or minorities advocate against abortion or affirmative action. Pro-life or anti-AA positions are then not seen as white male privilege but as legitimate issues.


I don't deny women might have a different perspective on the issue, but women pro-choice advocates are usually skeptical (or hostile) to women who are pro-life.


Ditto that! I seem to recall, though, that women are slightly more pro-life than men.
7.9.2007 7:44pm
Shannon:
I think that the problem is with how the issue is framed. Imagine putting together a panel for the Fed Soc composed of nineteen people, all of whom - as it turns out - are men. I can imagine that a large number of people involved in the planning would not even notice. But imagine that someone does and says to the others, "Huh... nineteen men. Maybe we should think about this." What response? See this thread. The notion of actively seeking out women or minorities is immediately dismissed as (liberal) affirmative action, but why does it have to be that way? Why can't it simply be an attempt to be more reflective of the audience or (gasp) an attempt to seek out different approaches to a shared ideology.

By way of contrast, at my law school, the Fed Soc is lucky to have a fair number of faculty supporters - including (one) woman and (one) african-american. I think this is a fantastic testament to how ideology does in fact transcend immutable characteristics, but also evidence that conservative minority academics can thrive at a top american law school. However, to think that our african-american faculty member's ideology has not been influenced by race is preposterous. Of course it is and in fact, isn't that what makes him (or a Clarence Thomas) so appealing to conservatives? My question then, is why is it okay to recognize race (or gender) here, but not recognize it when seeking to put together a group of speakers?
7.9.2007 7:49pm
advisory opinion:
3/24 from the affirmative action pool are women. If one were throwing darts at the names without actively selecting for a diversity of viewpoints, then I agree that it would be a random selection. Pretty good chance of getting at least one woman on the AA panel as it happens . . .
7.9.2007 8:05pm
Mark Field (mail):

Just to be clear, it is actually pretty uncommon to have an all male, all white panel for the Federalist Society. It happens once in a while, whereas with many organizations there is an understanding that this is just not permitted. But it is not common with Federalist Society events.


I asked this of Prof. Somin in the other thread, but do you think that other panels are more diverse because that's the way the pool probabilities work out, or do you think other panel organizers make a concerted effort to achieve greater diversity?
7.9.2007 8:21pm
my two cents:
I find Prof. Kerr's question excellent (and amusing). So, let's get concrete. Which women should have spoken on the Antitrust Paradox? What special insight would they have brought to the table as women?
7.9.2007 8:30pm
OrinKerr:
Mark, I've sent you an e-mail.
7.9.2007 9:12pm
Acksiom (mail) (www):
Um, excuse me, but. . .could we please first establish the necessary proof for the unsupported assumption that differences in viewpoint resulting from experiences differing because of race and gender are at all functionally meaningful, let alone significant?

Because it's my default position that we're all far more alike as human beings than we are different as members of gender or so-called 'racial' groups.

To say nothing of whether or not these differences in viewpoints are at all useful or not, as the mere simple quality of 'diversity' provides nothing in regards to proof of fundamental worth or value in that regard

Not to mention how the standard complaints about 'representation' pretty much necessarily assume that the white males in question are incapable of comprehending, integrating, utilizing, and expresing such alternative viewpoints; i.e., that the selected panel, being white males, simply cannot and will not understand and provide such gender and 'race' differences in their presentations at the event themselves.
7.9.2007 9:42pm
Mr. Impressive (mail):
Some basic facts about human nature:

(1) We all have only partial perspectives. This is why communication is useful. But this is also why disagreement is so common.

(2) Our perspectives are informed and influenced, though not determined, by how people treat us and how we treat them. That is, our perspectives are a partial function of how we interact with others.

(3) How we interact with others is informed and influence by our race and gender. That is, how we interact with others is a partial function of our race and gender. It follows that our perspectives are also a partial function of race and gender.

(4) As a corollory, there are some subjects where our views are more influenced by our interactions with others than others.

(5) In fact, I think that the perspective of a woman would be helpful when talking about antitrust. There is a present day tendency to denigrate the populist motives and legislative history behind the Sherman act. Instead, their is this macho view that only efficiency matters. Some feminist perspectives would successfully interrogate this unfounded assumption that efficiency is all that matters and would work to bring us to the original view, which is focused not only on issues of efficiency, but issues of power as well. In fact, it is amusing that Bork abandoned the original understanding (which is much more populist than he would like) of the antitrust acts in his book, even while he insists on originalism in other contexts.

The fact is, that people coming from different perspectives do add value. It is a view more characteristic of white males than anyone else to think that efficiency is all that matters. But, many women know from experience that power matters too and are less likely to take it for granted.

Any discussion of the AntiTrust Paradox which fails to include forceful advocates for a populist point of view is fatally one-sided.
7.10.2007 12:53am
theobromophile (www):

Um, excuse me, but. . .could we please first establish the necessary proof for the unsupported assumption that differences in viewpoint resulting from experiences differing because of race and gender are at all functionally meaningful, let alone significant?


Depends on the subject. As a woman in male-dominated fields, I hate affirmative action because it's virtually impossible to prove yourself as equal when you are perceived to be favoured.

Many men believe the same thing. For them, it is more of an intellectual thing, never having been told that they "only" got in because of their physical characteristics. Nevertheless, the opinions are the same.

I don't think that my Antitrust opinions are influenced by my gender, though.

(Add me as one whose screen name ought to indicate gender, albeit not dispositively.)
7.10.2007 1:11am
Mr. Impressive (mail):

As a woman in male-dominated fields, I hate affirmative action because it's virtually impossible to prove yourself as equal when you are perceived to be favoured.


I personally do not think that irrational insecurity and your need for validation from assholes whose stereotypes would lead them away from evaluating you fairly as an individual is a good argument against affirmative action. Why should the assholes win?
7.10.2007 5:50am
libertarian soldier (mail):
And where were the infantrypeople to add a different perspective? Obviously, the Society does not support the troops and is clearly run by traitors.
7.10.2007 10:56am
NR:
Eric Muller has posted more on this subject here.
7.10.2007 11:30am
JosephSlater (mail):
Theobromophile:

Being a fan of cocoa butter indicates your gender?
7.10.2007 3:24pm
Elliot123 (mail):
Shannon: "Seriously?"

Yes. Seriously. In all these comments we have seen no demonstration that ideas and attitudes are a function of gender. It's quite common for people to claim ideas and attitudes are a function of gender and race, but we never are told exactly what the differences are. If folks don't know what the differences are, what's the justification for claiming they exist? Perhaps they do; I'm not denying that. But if they do, it should be easy to highlight them.

So, perhaps you will tell us exactly what insight on abortion you have that males lack.
7.10.2007 5:53pm
theobromophile (www):

I personally do not think that irrational insecurity and your need for validation from assholes whose stereotypes would lead them away from evaluating you fairly as an individual is a good argument against affirmative action. Why should the assholes win?


Why give them ammo and why do you think that eliminating AA would cause them to win? Because women, on their own, aren't going to make it - having all those irrational insecurities and all? :)

I don't mean to put him on the spot (if he's even read through all this), but I believe that David Bernstein mentioned that GMU Law used to not use AA for precisely the reason I mentioned. A system without AA would allow minority students to know, with full certainty, that they earned their place amongst their classmates.

Unless I'm missing something, there's only two things that happen in admissions:
1) You admit without regards to race and sex. The people who are admitted are qualified and superlatively so (i.e. enough to beat out other people).
2) You admit underqualified persons who will underperform.

In the first situation, you are harming high-achieving women and minorities by denying them validation of their achievement and abilities. In the second situation, you are setting them up for failure. I do not like the idea of bringing harm to those who are the best among us so that others may get unearned rewards.

While my gender does not inform my take on affirmative action, it does give make me viscerally understand its harms.
7.10.2007 7:38pm
Mr. Impressive (mail):
theobromophile,

You would only have a point if:

(1) There was no such thing as legacy admissions.

(2) There was no such thing as elite highschools that give one a disproportionate advantage in ivy league admissions and admissions to other elite colleges. I am sorry, but that you went to a rich high school and had an open schedule that you could fill with extracurriculars impressive to admissions officers is not a sign of merit.

(3) A need for validation was something we should be encouraging. If you are a woman or a minority (or a white male for that matter), why don't you spend your time thinking about whether other people have merit, instead of thinking about whether they think you have merit.

The bottom-line is that merit is an illusion. If you are worried about jerks not evaluating you fairly based on false beliefs that somehow everyone who is admitted into an elite insitution "deserves" to be there but for affirmative action, then you have too much time on your hands. It is no mere coincidence that admits to the ivy league tend to come from privileged backgrounds and be first born.

There are more important things than validation from those who are too unintelligent or too uninformed to realize that merit, as conservatives imagine it, does not really exist. (Which is not to say that merit does not exist in a less ideal form.) So often, merit is nothing more than a psychological method of justifying unearned and undeserved privilege.

I personally do not care for AA as currently structured, because I think it should be focused on socioeconomic position, not race and gender. But, I do not think the best argument against it is that a bunch of dumb white males might not think your good enough and might not validate you. Validate yourself!
7.11.2007 3:12am
Mr. Impressive (mail):
Elliot123,

Shannon already responded to you adequately.

But, let me say a few words about the flawed model you have in your head. First off all, race and gender do not determine one's views. They influence them. Second, they influence different people in different ways. There impact is not precise. Think of a probability distribution, not a precise mathematical formula.
7.11.2007 3:31am
Elliot123 (mail):
Impressive,

She did respond, but did not tell us what insight she has into abortion that a male lacks. That's what her claim was. Do you know?

It's not my model. Shannon said women have insights into abortion that men lack. So, what's the insight?
7.11.2007 2:28pm
theobromophile (www):
Mr. Impressive,

You say a lot about unearned privilege, but miss an important facet of it: the presumption of competence. It is not mere "validation" or a "self-esteem" issue, but one that is deeply important in the classroom and in the workforce.

Legacies, unlike women and minorities, do not bear the stigma associated with a leg up in admissions, unless they disclose that situation to their peers and professors. There are many other ways in which legacy admissions differe from AA, but I honestly don't feel like explaining the obvious.

Frankly, I fail to see why we must remedy every other problem with elite admissions before pointing out the harms related to affirmative action.

You've twice implied that I'm psychotic (or at least mentally unbalanced). Please stop.
7.11.2007 8:53pm
Mr. Impressive (mail):
theobromile,

I am sorry that I said anything that made you think I was implying that you were mentally unbalanced. That certainly was not my intended meaning. I am not a psychologists and even if I were, I obviously cannot evaluate someone's mental fitness from superficial conversations.

Back to substance. The idea that one needs to be a "presumption of competence" to work effectively is an interesting one. But I disagree with it. A presumption of competence can lead to very high costs indeed when this assumption turns out to be wrong. Except in cases where the costs of failure are low, it is better to evaluate everyone individually rather than presume anything. The costs of losing a presumption of competence are not that high, since people probably shouldn't be working based on so many assumptions and so few fact in any case.

I think the real thing that one should worry about is a presumption of incompetence. But who would make such a presumption? Besides a minority of racists who are unwilling to evaluate people based on their individual attributes, very few.


Furthermore, I do not think that among most people, AA will in fact change their tendencies to presume competence. Most people are not so ideological invested in their opposition to AA, that they actually judge a flesh and blood individual sitting right in front of them. It is one thing to talk about this sort of thing in theory, it is another to treat a person you have to look at in the eye badly because of a stereotype.

Of course, I am not denying that racism exists that would lead some people to make these sorts of presumptions rather than making individual evaluations. But, I deny that we should bend to racists or take their illegitimate actions into account when formulating policy.

The reason I bring up legacies is not to just compare it to affirmative action. You are right that to the extent that we have a concern about stigma from AA (which I frankly to not share) that concern would be less salient in the context of legacy admissions, because it takes much more research to "out" probable legacy admits than it does make racist assumptions about a real live flesh and blood human being based on their skin color. However, my point about legacy admits is to point out that the idea we live in a meritocracy is a flat out lie. Now, legacy admissions are not the only sort of privilege that is perpetuated by the ivy league admissions process. Note also the disproportionate number of admitees from elite high school, where "merit" is greatly related to the resources directed at these privileged individuals. Does anyone bother to question why being captain of the football team involves more "merit" than having to work to support yourself during high school? Does anyone ever bother to wonder to what extent that all those extracurriculars are really a form of "conspicuous consumption" that cannot be afforded by individuals from lower socioeconomic backgrounds rather than really constituting "merit."

To a large extent (not totally), merit is a myth. Period. I do not think we should abandon AA in order to reinforce peoples' false beliefs that we live in a meritocracy and that certain people deserve a "presumption of competence" while others deserve a "presumption of incompetence" based on their "merit" and position in life.

I happen to believe that AA should be reformed to focus exclusively on socioeconomics. Because I think that racism is a less powerful force in America, and that AA focused on socioeconomics would in fact ameliorate the effects of racism much more effectively, to the extent that it exists.

But, if you are right, and people do react to AA by attaching irrational stigmas and judging people by skin color, this indicates that I am wrong about racism America and that we should stick with race-based AA. Basically, your argument boils down to people are more racists than you think. How else to explain people who develop different presumptions about the competence of live flesh and blood individuals based on the color of their skin?
7.12.2007 1:43am
Mr. Impressive (mail):
Elliot123,

It seems to me that you expect proof that race and gender matters when it comes to viewpoint formulation. But, I think your expectation of proof is absurd, given all the analytical reasons we have to expect it does. I think the burden should be on you to prove your "default" point of view, since your default point of view is so implausible on its face.

The response "seriously?" concisely expressed the absurdity of your implicit attempt to shift the burden of proof away from your "default" point of view, where it rightly belongs.
7.12.2007 1:47am
Elliot123 (mail):
Impressive.

I didn't ask for proof of anything. I asked Shannon what insight women have about abortion that men lack.

Note that I didn't make the claim that women have insight into abortion that men lack. Shannon did. So, I'd say the burden rests with the claim.

Can you tell us what insight women have into abortion that men lack?
7.12.2007 11:15am
Mr. Impressive (mail):
Elliot123,

Do you really believe that people's background has no effect on their point of view? Given the improbability of your point of view, the burden rightly rests with you.

I should point out, that there seems to be some tension in your previous post.
(1) "I didn't ask for proof of anything."
(2) "I'd say the burden rests with the claim."

First, you say that the purpose of your question was not to elicit proof of anything, then you say that the burden of proof should rest with the other side.

So, what are you saying? The burden of proof rests with the other side, but you would never dream of asking someone to produce that proof?

I think you need to concede that the whole purpose of your question was to get Shannon to prove her claim. But, the burden of proof properly lies with you. Since when is point of view disconnected from personal experience? There is no better response to your question than Seriously?

Even though the burden of proof properly lies with you, I will humor your question, since you have persisted with it with such ernestness. Why would a woman have a different perspective on abortion than a man? For one, men can never have abortions. There is a difference between the prospect of living through a particular experience versus theorizing about it from an arm chair. For example, you can sympathetically imagine what it is like to go to war. But that perspective will tend to be different from someone who has actually gone to war. The experiences we face or are likely to face influence our thinking on those subjects. Even if you haven't had an experience yet, when you know that you soon will, that will tend to have a large impact on your thought patterns. If you knew you were going to war, chances are you would think about it in more intense and in a different way than if there was no such prospect.

This does not mean that every prospective soldier views war in the same way. In fact, we would expect different soldiers to view war differently, since their experiences in a war and background they bring to a war differ. Think of a probability distribution rather than a deterministic effect of going to war on a person's perspective. Nonetheless, it is sensible to talk about a "soldier's point of view" even though there is in fact more than one view among soldiers, because the probability distribution of views for soldiers versus civilians does tend to differ. In fact, the shared experience and perspective that soldiers have versus civilians can be a source of unique bonding and understanding among soldiers or veterans.

But keep in mind, these are probability distributions, not deterministic patterns. Given soldier A &B and civilian X, it would not be shocking if soldier A's point of view and civilian X's point of view were more similar than soldier B. In fact, this is exactly what you would expect to happen in many individual instances with a force that is probabilistic rather than deterministic. One would expect to see a different probability distribution of views about war of soldiers versus civilians, even while the categories civilian and soldier are not completely determinative.

This brings me back to another failing of your question. Asking any particular soldier or any particular woman how their status has affected their point of view on issue X does not establish how the category and identity of being a soldier or being a woman affects point of view in general, since what you have is a probability distribution, not a deterministic effect. A sample size of 1 is not very informative when trying to establish the shape of a probability distribution. But this is all that your question could have possibly elicited. If Shannon thinks X, you can always point to your sister or your girlfriend who thinks Y. Then you might conclude that gender has not effect on point of view whatsoever. But this would be a fundamental misunderstanding of the way that issues of identity, like race, gender, or status as a soldier effect point of view. These forces combine with other relevant life experiences to form probability distributions, they do not have deterministic and precise effects.

Do you really think that the probability distribution of views of soldiers and civilians concerning the topic of war are identical? That a soldier's experience of war has no influence on his views of war? Or that a draftee or enlistee who has not gone to war, but anticipates going to war in the near future hasn't thought about war in a different (more intense) way than a civilian going about his or her business doing something else entirely? The view that these things do not matter really is sort of absurd. Which is why the burden of proof should be properly on you. The appropriate response to your question really is: Seriously?
7.12.2007 8:46pm
Elliot123 (mail):
Impressive,

I didn't ask about background, points of view, probability distributions, or soldiers; I asked Shannon what insight she and other women had into abortion that men lack. That's a simple follow-up on her claim that women have insight into abortion that men lack.

Questions don't fail. Answers do. Can you tell us what that insight is?
7.13.2007 2:26pm
Mr. Impressive (mail):
Elliot123,

Apparently, you don't understand the significance of the concept of probability distributions to this discussion. If you did, you wouldn't be asking about an insight (singular) that arises (as if a particular insight that arises is the most significant thing), you would be talking about probabilistic patterns that arise in peoples point of view because of their race and gender.

You are right. You didn't ask about probability distributions. Nonetheless, they answer your question. Talking about particular anecdotes is irrelevant, yet you keep on asking.
7.14.2007 7:41am
Elliot123 (mail):
Impressive,

Shannon said she had an insight that a man could not possibly have. Shannon didn't mention anything about probabalistic patterns. I am asking what that insight is.

Can you tell us what that insight is?
7.14.2007 1:12pm