The Morning After: Peevish Humorless Feminist Edition
* Scientific American's Jesse Bering debunks feminism:
The IAT was designed to assess people’s “hidden” beliefs about minority groups. If you ask folks in, say, a straightforward interview format, most will tend to report explicitly that they’re not racist, or that they don’t think obese people are stupid or that those with handicaps are dull. Obviously such views aren’t exactly okay to say aloud or to even acknowledge having as a fleeting thought. But the IAT presumably flushes out people’s unconscious (implicit) negative associations with such social outliers.
Although administration of the IAT varies, the basic idea is this. Participants see randomized combinations of negative and positive words at the top right and left corners of a computer screen (for example, in one trial, they might see “lazy” on the left versus “hard-working” on the right). Then words representing different social targets appear in the middle of the screen (for instance, “black” in one trial and “white” in the next) and participants are asked to rapidly decide—by pressing the e key for the left side or the i key for the right—which of the two words at the top of the screen it belongs with. In some cases, the participants are instructed to match the social target with the stereotypical concept; in other cases, they’re told to associate the social target with the non-stereotypical concept.
So implicit bias is said to be evidenced by faster reaction times when stereotype-consistent words are paired with a marginalized social group (e.g., black-lazy) relative to other groups (e.g., white-lazy), and slower reaction times to pairings of positive words with the marginalized group (e.g., black-intelligent) relative to the comparison group (e.g., white-intelligent). The idea is that, when asked to match positive concepts to words describing marginalized outgroup members, participants’ latency of response captures a dragging of their cognitive heels because they’re working against the grain of their inner bigot.
So guess what happened in Jenen’s IAT study when college-aged men and women were asked to match the category “feminist” with either positive or negative words? The most pertinent findings were that the participants were significantly slower to associate positive words (“happy,” “joy,” “peace,” “wonderful”) with the feminist than they were negative words (“awful,” “evil,” “nasty,” “terrible”).
Bering takes these results to mean that the feminist movement has been hijacked by "the most obnoxious, peevish and humorless feminists," turning it into "a term loaded with negative stereotypes of the kind exemplified by [the] sour and overly vigilant, accusatory, men-are-brutes outlook on life."
So, can we also use the IAT results to conveniently ignore ingrained racism and instead accuse lazy people of "hijacking" the black community? Or does the poor view of the feminist movement instead reflect the work of people like Bering, who are invested in framing feminism exclusively in negative terms?
* Seed Magazine reviews Sex at Dawn, a husband-and-wife team's take-down of human monogamy:
When we think of the first swinger parties most of us imagine 1970s counter-culture, we don’t picture Top Gun fighter pilots in World War II. Yet, according to researchers Joan and Dwight Dixon, it was on military bases that “partner swapping” first originated in the United States. As the group with the highest casualty rate during the war, these elite pilots and their wives “shared each other as a kind of tribal bonding ritual” and had an unspoken agreement to care for one another if a woman’s husband didn’t make it back home. Like the sexy apes known as bonobos, this kind of open sexuality served a social function that provided a way to relieve stress and form long-lasting bonds.
Photo via Nationaal Archief