Sexism And Candor

Women! Know your place.

I like women. If you are a man, I won’t even talk to you, unless you can talk nerdy. But, if you are a girl, you just have to have a decent IQ. And you have to read books. When a girl once asked me, “Why do you talk to me? The guy who sits there told me that he tried to talk to you. But, you did not look interested.” I smiled politely, thinking, “I did not notice. But, you did not notice that he is a guy either, did you? Precisely my point.”

But, I suppose almost everyone likes women these days. I know an IIT-IIM guy who campaigns for the rights of men who are cuckolded. Even the men who agree with him find him a laughing stock. If “bad attitude” is part and parcel of our culture, how do you know whether people are prejudiced against you? You know it when you start talking about the “bad attitude” of other people and hear almost everyone saying, “Tough Luck”.

I have been thinking about sexism for a while. I think the problem is not sexism. What matters is candor, rationality and respect for human heterogeneity. Who, among men or women lacks these valuable traits? I am not going to tell you.

The case of Richard Borcherds

Richard Borcherds is a high IQ mathematician and a Fields medal winner. When guests come to his house, he will initially sit with them, but soon withdraw to a corner, pick up a book and lose himself in reading. People who know him know that this is simply how he is, but a normal person might think that Richard has just insulted him. A Psychologist who wrote about him said that only a saint of a wife can stand such men. But, why? They are not thinking enough. I think what matters is not that the guests felt insulted. What matters is that he did not intend any offense.

Mathematics is the loneliest of all professions. People feel drained. He perhaps likes one-to-one conversations where the odds of having a meaningful talk are higher. If you want to know why Richard can’t stand people, you have to see why people can’t stand Richard. You have to listen to what Helenka Przysiezniak, a female physicist at CERN, has to say about men like Richard:

“They lack basic social skills and some do not take care of themselves. There is one characteristic that all physicists have-and that is arrogance. You want to prove that something is right if you believe in it. That is just how it works when you are discussing the ‘truth’.”

Notice the contemptuous tone in which she utters the term “truth” and the hidden assumption that this is some arrogant attitude that ‘I am right, and all others are wrong”. This is the philosophy of a woman in its full glory. But, surely it can’t be a coincidence that all the men who like the truth are so arrogant?

I would argue that Richard’s preference for privacy and his love for the truth are at least as valid as a normal wife’s preference for an active social life. If you tell him that he is rude, he might be shocked because he is honoring the contract as he understands it. If you force her guests to listen to a talk of Richard, which even most colleagues of his are not curious about, how would they respond? The same way he did. If you know this, you will appreciate him for sitting with the guests for a while before he is forced to withdraw to a corner, to read.

To know this, you should value candor and rationality. And you have to take human heterogeneity very seriously. Only very strange men and women will have the three valuable traits. It takes two. Richard should be willing to state this clearly enough, and his wife should be willing to understand and appreciate these “truths”.

But, what has this got to do with sexism?

Lazy, Sexist men

One common complaint of women is that men do not help much in keeping the house clean.  But, if you know how little men value neatness, you will be surprised seeing how much they care. Bryan Caplan says that a normal bachelor does not even clean his apartment. If women have seen a normal bachelor’s apartment, they will not blame men for shirking. He is honoring the contract, as he understands his. If it is her need, what he does is probably a great service. I can imagine a woman thinking that he is leeching off her, and punishing him for his “sexism”, by shirking elsewhere. But, if he is not being hostile, she need not damage the relationship to get her point across.

Now, Imagine a self-aware man telling his feminist wife: “Look, I know that this is a big thing for you. But, I do not care much for all this. It is not my need. It is yours. I want you to get this. Now, we can negotiate our terms.” How would she respond? At best, she would think, “Weirdo!”. You can say that there is a polite way to say this, and yes, there is, but if you think that a woman would take kindly to it, that is wishful thinking. For a couple to understand what is going on, again, both have to value candor, rationality and human heterogeneity. It takes two. But, is it likely? No. What is a normal man like? A dunderhead. What is a normal woman like? Again, a dunderhead. Things are not how it appears. If you think that I am making this look like rocket science, you are ignoring how easily people miss the obvious.

A woman probably thinks that her husband is shirking, but the truth is that she had always behaved like a cockroach.

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