Tag Archives: feminism

Women in Philosophy – Redux 1

Back in 1999, when The Philosophers’ Magazine was only a couple of years old, Julian and I put together a “forum” on women in philosophy.

I thought I might resurrect some of the pieces, starting with an interview with Mary Warnock.

You can read it here. It’s in PDF format, but feel free to comment below (if you’re so inclined). Also, apologies for the production values – TPM was being produced out of two bedrooms at this point.

Actually, there’s a somewhat amusing story relating to this interview that I can probably tell now. In the early days of TPM, we used to chase “big names” for interviews, because we figured this was the most effective way of generating interest in what we were doing. So we were very pleased when Mary Warnock agreed to be interviewed. Thing is, she wanted to do the interview by phone, which meant that Julian had to buy a little gizmo thing to record the interview. This involved a lot of fairly farcical pfaffing around ensuring that it was working properly, with Julian on one end of a phone and me on the other. Eventually he got it as he wanted it, and it worked – it was possible to hear enough to transcribe a phone interview.

Anyway, the interview went ahead, the gizmo did its job, Warnock was audible, and everything pretty much worked perfectly, which meant we had the centre piece for our women in philosophy forum. Except, as it turned out, we didn’t, because Julian promptly managed to lose the tape! We searched everywhere, but it was nowhere to be found. In the end – and much to my amusement, it’s got to be said – Julian had to confess what had happened to Baroness Warnock (I’m sure I used her title a lot when telling him he’d have to fess up), and ask her whether she’d be willing to redo the interview. She was very gracious about it, so we got our piece in the end.

There’s quite a lot of other material on the topic of women and philosophy floating around in our archive – including a large survey, if I remember correctly – so I’ll flag some more up here in due course.

The hijab versus the hoodie – or how to bully dissenters

A tip of the hat to Ophelia Benson for bringing this to our attention. Let’s go through the links:

First, Adele Wilde-Blavatsky writes an article called “To Be Anti-Racist Is To Be Feminist: The Hoodie and the Hijab Are Not Equals”, which is originally published at The Feminist Wire, apparently on 13 April.

Second, only two days later, a “collective response” eventually signed by over 80 self-identified feminists appears on 15 April, replying to Wilde-Blavatsky’s article. It is not clear to me how many of these people signed the letter when it first appeared, but unless I’m missing something it was a rather large number.

Third, Wilde-Blavatsky gets her further reply published at Butterflies and Wheels on 1 May.

As far as the original issues go, I don’t have strong feelings. I’m not especially taken with “the hoodie” as a garment. Hijabs can sometimes be very attractive – and unlike some of the people involved I’m clear on the difference between a hijab (the primary meaning is the Muslim headscarf, though you can read up for yourself about how the expression relates to “modesty” in general) and a niqab (which veils the face). For what it’s worth, I argue in Freedom of Religion and the Secular State, against bans on publicly wearing “the burqa” (which is how Westerners tend to refer to various garments or combinations that almost totally cover women’s bodies, including their faces). I also argue that undue deference should not be paid to people’s wishes to wear these various garments/combinations if they are indirectly proscribed, in certain circumstances, by religiously-neutral laws of general application or by, for example, the reasonable work requirements of employers.

So, I’m not out to ban the niqab, let alone the hijab, although I don’t think we should recognise a positive right to wear them that prevails over otherwise-justifiable and generally-applicable laws, work requirements, etc. For more, consult the book. I’m not going to argue it all here. Suffice to say that nothing in this post is motivated by an extreme position, such as wish to ban any of these garments entirely.

Nor do I agree with all of Wilde-Blavatsky’s own extreme rhetoric about all-pervading patriarchy and male power, etc. The subordination of women to men remains common in virtually all extant cultures, but it would be better to refer to its actual extent in different places, social strata, milieux, etc., than to make such sweeping statements (hiding too much away in false moral equivalence). Furthermore, there is a fair bit in Wilde-Blavatsky’s reply that I take issue with, not to mention my dislike of her tone of obsequiousness to her attackers at various points (they’ve effectively waived any claim even to respect and civility from her).

Still … the struggle for gender equality is ongoing, and it merits our support. Also, I do agree with Wilde-Blavatsky that there is a difference between the hoodie (however annoying I might personally find this fashion choice) and the hijab. I.e., only the latter expresses a moral imperative that a woman not show her beauty – in this case her hair – to the world. This imperative can be regarded variously as misogynist, gynophobic, sexually puritanical, and/or offensive to men (who are apparently unable to see female beauty without being gripped by uncontrollable lust). One way or another, I am opposed to the Islamic concept of female “modesty”, and I sympathise with those feminists who look askance at the hijab … and moreso at the niqab, jilbab, chadri, etc. But I don’t want any of these banned.

Whether I agree with Wilde-Blavatsky beyond that, I’m not actually sure. What I want to draw attention to is the way she was treated. Instead of someone writing an article that simply deals with her arguments in a thoughtful manner and on their merits, we see an inflammatory letter produced very quickly and ultimately signed by a very large number of people. This looks more like a lynch mob than someone wanting to engage in reasoned discussion with the original writer. Then, look at the kinds of things that get said in the collective letter, such as this:

a respondent posting as “The Feminist Wire” (who later identified herself to be Wilde-Blavatsky), attempted to counter some of these objections by obfuscating whiteness and showcasing a lack of knowledge of the history and function of the hijab. To defend her position, the author cited her intimate connections with people of colour and informed her critics that “acknowledging the differences between women in terms of race, religion and culture” was politically divisive. We know these to be common defensive responses from those in positions of privilege. And our response is as common: “Listen.”

Wilde-Blavatsky rightly objects to this in quite strong words, and she deserves support on that much, at least. We really need to stand up … and call out this sort of thing whenever we see it. It is deeply anti-rational, anti-intellectual, and just plain bullying to attack your intellectual opponents on the basis that their arguments are “common defensive responses from those in positions of privilege” and to tell them, in effect, to shut up and “Listen.” Then, of course, we get this sort of rebarbative and reductive jargon:

In writing this, the author has all but stripped women of colour of an intersectional understanding of violence against women, one that is attuned to both patriarchal and racist violence. Instead, Muslim women and women of colour feminists are reduced to a piece of cloth and the experiences of people of colour and practioners of an increasingly racialized and demonized religion are repeatedly questioned and denied.

Some of the points made in the collective response sound reasonable in themselves – e.g. I agree that ideas of “false consciousness” are problematic and at least need discussion – but it is difficult to take the collective response seriously when it sanctimoniously claims to welcome debate on difficult issues of patriarchy and race. Given the way this response was actually handled, the signatories look more like they want to shut down any dissenters from their political position. Even more troubling, Wilde-Blavatsky was not allowed to reply, and apparently even her original article has been removed from the site where it originally appeared (along, consequently, with the collective response to it). So she has, indeed, been shut up by the bullies, at least in her original forum – which is why her reply has ended up being published at Butterflies and Wheels.

Ophelia Benson has made a good call with this.

Kathrine Switzer Interviewed

In 1967, Kathrine Switzer became the first woman to enter the Boston Marathon as an official participant. She didn’t get very far through the race, before she was attacked physically by the race organiser, Jock Semple. She tells the story here:

If you’re tired of much that passes for feminism in the blogosphere – you know, identity politics, endless banging on incoherently about privilege, elevatorgate, banalities about sexual epithets, worries about the trolley problem, etc, etc, – then have a listen to this interview with Switzer (starting about 45 minutes in). Even if you’re not interested in sport, it is kind of inspirational if you’re interested in the history of feminism.

Seriously, listen to it – it’s a very cool story.

Yes, But…

In the 1890s when gender role reversals could ...

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I have been a consistent supporter of the idea that women should be regarded as the moral, legal, and political equals of men. In general, I have based this support on the principle of relevant difference: people can (morally) be treated differently only the the basis of a (morally) relevant difference between them. So, while it would be acceptable to pay someone who has more education more than another person, it would not be acceptable to pay someone less simply because she happens to be a woman (or he happens to be a man). I first learned of this principle as an undergraduate during a class on feminism. This class had a lasting impact on me, including an interest in gender issues that persists to this day.

As time marched on from my undergraduate days, I was pleased to see various unjust aspects of American society change. Women had ever increasing opportunities in business, education, sports and in many other areas as well. This trend continued, with the occasional specific set back, until some feminists went so far as to claim that feminism had grown stale or even that there was no longer a need for feminism in America.

While I was pleased with the trend towards equality, another trend that has stood out is what could be called the “yes, but…” trend. I first noticed this when I was doing research for some essays on men, women, and higher education (which appeared in my book). I found that the although the majority of undergraduates were women, there seemed to be almost no concern about this new gender inequality. This initially struck me as odd. After all, feminists and their allies had always been very quick to point out gender disparities that were not in favor of women and endeavored to rectify such imbalances. When I would bring up my concerns about the male decline in higher education, I would most often by the phrase “yes, but…” where the “but” would be followed by some area where men still exceeded women, such as in  physics or the highest levels of the corporate world. Watching the occasional news report that mentioned gender issues, I noticed a similar pattern: it would be pointed out that women exceeded men in some area, but this would be followed by pointing out some area (like income) where women were said to lag behind men.

I most recently noticed this in a Newsweek article, “Born Again Feminism“, by Kathleen Parker. She writes:

As a group, we are worse at some things, but better at others—the very “others,” it also turns out, that happen to be driving today’s economy and that of the future.

Consequently, in the U.S. today, women hold a majority of the jobs, and dominate in colleges and professional schools. They also hold a majority of managerial and professional positions, and about half of all accounting, banking, and insurance jobs.

These socioeconomic facts don’t mean that women have achieved perfect parity with men, who still dominate at the highest levels of business.

As a side point before getting back to the main issue, it is interesting to note that Parker also makes use of a common device in today’s discussion of gender issues: men and women are different, but women are better than men in terms of what is needed today. This, in many ways, is a distorted echo what might be called the old sexism in which men and women were seen as different, but men were regarded as being better than women in the ways that mattered economically, politically and so on. Given this similarity, this sort of thing should be a point of concern among those who are worried about sexism.

Getting back to the main point, this nicely illustrates the “yes, but…”approach. Parker notes that women hold the majority of American jobs, classrooms, managerial positions and have parity in accounting, banking and insurance. But, they have not “achieved perfect parity with men.”

One obvious response is that she is quite right. In America, women have not achieved perfect parity because they are the majority in the areas she mentioned. Perfect parity would require that no gender dominates in any area-even if the dominate gender is female.

I always find it interesting how quickly certain people can transition from saying how women dominate in so many areas to criticizing the fact that there are still areas dominated by men. What is most interesting about this is that the arguments used to argue for equality in the areas still dominated by men would certainly seem to apply to the areas that are now dominated by women. As such, it would seem that the concern about the remaining male dominated areas should also apply to those areas where women now dominate. After all, if gender inequality is unjust when it favors men over women, it would seem to be unjust when it favors women over men. However, this concern often seems to be lacking and it might be suspected that there is a certain moral inconsistency at play in some cases.

This is not to say that there are not areas where the inequality does not unjustly favor men nor is it to say that there are no longer any valid problems left in the area of women’s rights. When people use the “yes, but…” approach they often do point out legitimate problems that need to be addressed. However, they all too often seem to miss the legitimate concerns in regards to areas in which women dominate.

Naturally, I am open to the idea that cases of gender inequality need not be cases of injustice. For example, in my book I consider that the gender disparities in higher education might be due to free choices on the part of men and women and not the result of any form of sexism. However, I am also careful to consider (as I learned from the feminists) that gender disparities could be the result of injustice. Those who use the “yes, but…” approach should be careful to apply a consistent set of principles to both sorts of situations, those in which men dominate and those in which women dominate. After all, we surely do not want to trade one form of sexism for another.

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Is Motherhood Liberating or Confining?

This past year, two significant feminists have spoken out against an increasingly popular trend in parenting. French philosopher Elizabeth Badinter says that today’s mothers are experiencing a “relapse to times long past.” American essayist Erica Jong writes that contemporary motherhood is like a “prison.” Are we truly experiencing a devolution in women’s liberty?

The trend in question, attachment parenting or, a similar variant, green-parenting, encourages mothers to breastfeed, make baby food from scratch, frequently carry them around in a sling, and to generally not be absent the first 3-5 years of the child’s life. Badinter and Jong both see this as severely restricting of a mother’s time. But that is not enough to warrant criticism. On their view, this trend is problematic insofar as it has become so popular and in cases so self-righteous as to eliminate alternate ways of mothering. Women are pressured to always be at their baby’s side, and if they’re not, then they’re made to feel guilty. In this oppressive environment, argue Badinter and Jong, mothers are likely to toss out their ambition with the bath water. In short, Badinter and Jong believe that the ideal for mothers today is counter to the feminist ideal of self-actualization. But is this true?

Not according to everyone. There are some who argue that being a mother is a political act. For instance, these mothers extol breastfeeding because by denying to buy formula, they are shunning consumerism and so sticking it to the man. Similarly, they reject the medicalization of birth, in which hospitals and pain killers alienate women from their bodies. For these women, being a mother is empowering because it allows them to take back control over something that they feel society has progressively taken from them: their bodies and their relationships to their babies.

Who is right? Badinter and Jong have us believe that in the current climate, motherhood keeps women from acting in the world, whereas the other school of thought tells us that motherhood can have a significant impact on society. Yet both sides argue that they are feminists fighting the good fight against oppression. In a way, this is an iteration of the age-old battle in feminism between defenders of women’s individualism and defenders of women’s ability to nurture others. It seems that the question of whether motherhood is liberating or not requires us to answer a deeper question: are we best defending women’s liberty by advancing their individuality or rather their woman-ness?

Women, Wollstonecraft & Wealth

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For those concerned with equality, wealth presents something of a two-edged sword. Or, to present a slightly better metaphor, a two-sided coin. In her Vindication of the Rights of Women Mary Wollstonecraft considers this coin.

On the negative side of the coin, Wollstonecraft contends that a focus on wealth is harmful to both men and women. In the case of men, the focus on wealth distracts them from their moral duties. In the case of the women of her time, their main hope for wealth rested in working hard on the beauty and charm needed to win a wealthy man. Of course, she regards this as both a waste of the woman’s life and a distraction from being virtuous (in the classic sense).

On the positive side of the coin, Wollstonecraft argues that women need to be able to have respectable jobs so as to avoid being dependent on men or being forced to work subservient and menial jobs. She also argues that women need property of their own so as to exercise certain virtues, such as generosity. As such, the possession of wealth is a critical factor for women achieving equality with men (or at least a greater equality).

Fast forwarding from 1792 to 2009, it is evident that much of what Wollstonecraft hoped for has come about. In the U.S. and the E.U. women are now the majority in colleges and universities, some estimates place women in control of $12 trillion of the world’s $18.4 trillion consumer spending, and in some major Western cities 25-30 year old women make more than men in the same age bracket. Ironically, the world economic mess has also changed matters since most of the jobs lost were held by men. Interestingly, this shift in favor of women has been marked by a general silence in regards to concerns about inequality. Perhaps this is because such concerns are masked under the belief that such a shift will be beneficial.

One commonly made claim is that women spend more wisely than men. This is often used to explicitly or implicitly to present the shift in favor of women as a good thing. In terms of what this wisdom means,  it is that women tend to spend their money on health and education while also saving more  than men and avoiding many of the financial risks men take. It has also been claimed that women in politics take a similar approach and are more inclined than men to focus on what are regarded as family issues. Put a bit roughly, women are cast as natural liberals.

Interestingly enough, Wollstonecraft anticipated this when she urged that women be allowed to enter into politics and thus “settle their benevolence on the broadest basis.” This view, of course, fits nicely in with stereotypes of men and women. Of course, the mere fact that something is a stereotype does not entail that it is not true.

While the progress of women has clearly been generally good, it is also wise to consider the other side of the coin. As Wollstonecraft argued, a focus on wealth can have a rather negative impact on people and, of course, inequality spawns a wide variety of evils. As noted above, there are signs that the scales of inequality have tipped in the favor of women in some areas (and some parts of the world). While this might be due to factors that are not unfair or oppressive, this is something that needs to be watched, lest a new inequality be created and institutionalized. If arguments are needed for this, we can simply help ourselves to the feminist arguments used to argue against the unequal situation of women in regards to pay and education.

A final point of concern is whether the more benevolent approach of women to spending and politics is something intrinsic to women (that is, part of their nature) or if it is actually artificial. After all, while women are said to spend and engage in politics in ways that focus on family matters, this could very well be due to social conditioning and expectations rather than a natural female benevolence. We might find that women will start acting more like men as they continue to gain wealth and political power. Also, as feminists have often argued, what is taken as female nature might merely be the result of education and social conditioning. Women might generally exhibit this alleged benevolence because they have been trained and shaped to have those tendencies. If so, as social conditions and education changes, then the behavior of women would change as well. One indication of the shape of things to come is that there has been a significant increase in violence on the part of girls and women. As such, it is not unreasonable to expect this special benevolence to fade and that women will act more and more like men.

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Gender & The Economy

As the economy continues to spiral down, the percentage of workers who are women continues to rise. Unfortunately, this is not due to an increase in the hiring of women. Rather, it is due to the fact that the majority of jobs being lost are held by men. As such, as the number of employed men drops, the percentage of the work force composed of women will increase.

Somewhat ironically, the jobs that are being lost have often tended to be jobs that pay relatively well. Meanwhile, certain lower paying jobs remain. This helps explain the gender shift: men generally have the better paying jobs and women tend to have the lower paying jobs. Further, the jobs that are being lost have tended to be in fields that are male dominated (finance, manufacturing, etc.).

While the majority of people losing their jobs have been men, this has obviously not been a good time for women. Women are not moving into better jobs-they are mainly just keeping the same jobs. Further, in most families the main income provider is still the man. Thus, the reduction in male employment is hurting women indirectly.

Interestingly, I have heard some arguments to the effect that this change can be advantageous to women by shifting the balance of power in the family. After all, power goes with income and if the woman becomes the main provider, then her power will increase. However, this shift in power obviously comes at a cost: while some women might benefit from this shift, the family as a whole will be worse off financially. Also, as noted above, this situation is not a case in which women are making gains in the workplace. They are, rather, not losing as badly. At least for now.

One point of concern is the impact that this shift will have on the family. On one hand, families sometimes grow closer and stronger in times of crisis and stress. On the other hand, families sometimes shatter under such stress. Given that one major factor in marital problems is money, it is not unreasonable to worry that the gender shift could lead to an increase in divorces.

Historically, gender shifts in employment have occurred in times of crisis (mostly wars) and have lead to lasting effects. For example, the entry of women into the workforce during WWII (to replace the males who were off in the war) changed how women and work were viewed. While the 1950s saw a return to more “traditional” roles, the impact of the shift remained. The same will probably be true of the latest gender shift. It will remain to see what sort of impact it will have.

The Leadership Lid?

Anna Quindlen recently wrote an article about the leadership lid. Her thesis is that America is making an error in not using her greatest natural resources: women leaders. I found much to agree with in her article, but I also found much I wish to contend. Naturally, the purpose of this blog is to assess her case.

Quindlen begins by addressing one obvious reply to the claim that America is not making use of women leaders: women seem to be doing quite well. In fact, Quindlen has her own regular feature in Newsweek and Sarah Palin is the Republican VP candidate. In reply to this view, Quindlen asserts that she and women like Palin are show ponies who are “trotted out” to send the message that women are doing well. She regards this as a deception.

Second, she addresses three apparent signs that women are doing well: most Americans accept the idea of women leading, leadership positions are open to women and many more women are entering professional fields (and hence will rise to the top over the years). She regards these signs as being deceptive as well.

To back up her claim that these alleged signs are mere deceit, she relies on data from the White House Projects Corporate Council. According to this source, there is a leadership lid: on average, women make up 20% of the leaders in America (political, business, military, etc.). Since women are (about) 51% of the population, this is taken to indicate a problem.

It should be noted that the White House Project is dedicated to advancing women’s leadership. While it would be a fallacy to assert that this makes their claims false, it does provide grounds for being skeptical. After all, any group with an agenda should be subject to an extra degree of scrutiny. I am not asserting that their numbers are mistaken-just that they have a strong potential bias when assembling and assessing data.

Despite this concern, let it be granted that women make up only 20% of the leadership in America. While this might seem problematic, this need not be a matter of concern. After all, if women are freely making life choices that do not lead them to be 50% of the leadership, then there would seem to be no problem to be worried about (unless, of course, you think that women should be choosing to be leaders).

To use an analogy, consider my gaming group. The group is, coincidentally enough, 20% female. However, it should not be inferred that there is any sexism or unfairness involved in this. The group is open to all gamers regardless of gender. However, the fact is that most women do not find such games (like Dungeons & Dragons and Call of Cthulhu) very appealing and hence most women do not play them. Since this is a matter of free choice, there is nothing wrong with the fact that my group is only 20% female. Obviously, if I and the other male gamers took steps to limit the involvement of women simply because they are women, then sexism would be in play.

Quindlen, well aware of this fact, turns to considering the factors that keep women out of the leadership roles. She makes use of an article in the Harvard Business Review by Alice Eagly and Linda Carli. According to them, women face a “labyrinth of leadership full of twists and turns.” Of course, getting into leadership positions is not easy. While most women are not in leadership positions, neither are most men. Naturally enough, the question arises as to whether everyone faces roughly the same labyrinth or whether women are confronted with one that is more dire and difficult than the one between men and leadership positions.

In considering this, Quindlen brings up the stock problems that women face: women are supposed to face more burdens at home and in the family. Of course, this would not apply to single women who do not have children and the same challenges would apply to men who are single parents or have to bear the majority of the burdens in the home. Perhaps it is the case that women still, on average, bear a greater burden than men. If this is the case, then women must accept some of the blame: they are allowing men to put this burden on them. As such, I would suggest to single women that they steer clear of men who will burden them in this manner. Women who are already burdened should do what it takes to get a more equitable division of labor. When I was married and my (now ex) wife was finishing her PhD, I did all the cleaning and housework with the exception of her laundry (I can’t be trusted with complex laundry) and grocery shopping (carnivores cannot be trusted shopping for vegetarians). While I might be unusual, most of my married male friends do a large amount of housework and child care. Hence, it seems evident that men can do their share (and more, in some cases). So, women need to show leadership in getting men to do more.

Quindlen next turns to a standard maneuver in the gender dispute: women are actually better than men, but men somehow twist things so they are in charge. She begins by considering the results of a Pew Research Center survey about leadership traits. Naturally, the survey ranked women higher than men in almost all these traits. Oddly enough, the majority of respondents ranked men and women as equally qualified to lead.

There is a fairly obvious explanation for this disparity-most Americans have been trained to say that men and women are equal. However, Quindlen presents an alternative explanation: men are judged by male standards (control and strength) while female leaders are judged by the male standards and the stereotypical standard applied to women (mostly involving social skills).

Her reply does raise an excellent question: how should potential leaders be judged and selected? Men seem to be better at getting into leadership positions-which might be a sign of leadership. After all, a clear mark of leadership is that people accept you as a leader. Laying that aside, if she is right, should women be judged the same as men by removing that third standard? Or should a different set be selected? If so, should it be based on traits that women are supposed to excel in over men? In short, should the standards be switched from an alleged male biased set to a female biased set? My thought is that we should try to find the qualities that would objectively make for a good leader and use those. Obviously enough, the way leader selection really works would almost always ruin that approach-but starting with high standards means that corruption will drag things a bit less low.

Quindlen then turns to to case of Sarah Palin. While people point to Palin as a sign that women are in positions of leadership, Quindlen takes this as just another piece of evidence that there is a lack of women leaders. Palin, she contends, was simply dragged in “to fill a vacuum for the convenience of men.”

Given her view, it is not clear what would count as evidence that women are moving into positions of leadership. After all, if each example can be dismissed as yet another ploy on the part of the patriarchy, then how can we tell if any improvement is being made?

Quindlen then finishes with another standard argument: if women occupied more positions of leadership, things might be better and perhaps we would not be facing the problems we are facing now. She asks: “if women made up half the leadership of that industry, half the members of Congress, half the overseers in government agencies, might it have ended differently? If women led in proportion to their numbers, would things be better?”

Obviously, she most likely thinks the answer to these questions would be “yes.” Fortunately, these questions can be empirically examined. While women are 20% of the leadership, we can examine the current female leaders and see how they have dealt with problems. If they averaged better than comparable men, then there would be a good case for the superiority of female leadership. On the face of it, the female leaders have not seem to have done a better job on average. For example, Nancy Pelosi has been Speaker of the House and the House has done dismally. As another example, Rice has been Secretary of State and does not seem to have done a superior job. I think the evidence is that women can be just as good and just as bad as men when it comes to leadership. As such, I do not endorse merely getting more women into leadership positions out of a hope that their being women will make things better.

I do, however, agree with her point that excluding women from leadership can be a terrible a waste of talent. If less competent men are occupying leadership positions that could be occupied by more competent women, then things are worse than they should be. Assuming that leadership positions should be assigned based on merit, then this situation would also be morally wrong in that regard as well. In general, we would be better off if the best people were able to become leaders. If competent women are being unfairly kept out of such positions, then action should and must be taken, if only out of the selfish desire to get better leaders working on the problems we face. As such, less competent men should be removed to make way for more competent replacements: male or female.