The structural differences that create inequality

Lara Williams at New Scientist points out James Damore’s neglect of the social aspect of perceived differences between women and men.

One truth though is that biological determinism has a history of being trotted out to justify sexism and it is problematic for a number of reasons. Damore’s manifesto portrays women as a product of inherited traits; understanding womanhood as an expressly anatomical concept without social and cultural influence. He needs to heed French intellectual and feminist Simone de Beauvoir’s famous line, “one is not born, but rather becomes, a woman”.

Feminist identity politics are, broadly speaking, concerned with the ways female identity and prescriptive modes of femininity are shaped and constructed. Damore’s assertions presume gender identity happens in a cultural vacuum.

That was my chief frustration with it. “This stuff is drilled into us, you can’t just ignore that!”

“We ask why we don’t see women in top leadership positions, but we never ask why we see so many men in these jobs,” Damore states. “These positions often require long, stressful hours that may not be worth it if you want a balanced and fulfilling life.”

But we absolutely do ask. Men do not have biological predisposition towards stressful hours any more than women do; likewise, a “balanced and fulfilling life” comes with different expectations if it is likely you are the half of a partnership required to pick up the majority of the domestic labour and child-rearing duties. The structural differences that create inequality are more nuanced than genitals and genetics.

Damore probably thinks women “biologically” want to do all the domestic labor.

Damore outlines Google’s diversity strategies, such as mentoring and classes for marginalised candidates, as harmful, stating they actually “increase race and gender tensions”. Such strategies increase tensions only for those with a sense of privilege and entitlement, threatened by the usurping of a status quo they benefit from.

What he does not address is the widely discussed prevalence of an aggressively masculine “bro-culture”, making those long office hours even less palatable for women. A 2016 survey found that 60 per cent of female employees in tech roles reported unwanted sexual advances and 87 per cent reported demeaning comments from male colleagues.

Like James Damore’s, for instance. Funny how that works.

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