Take Our Daughters to Work Day
by Walter Block
When Murray Rothbard was asked to account for his writing output, he would sometimes reply, "Hatred is my muse." By this he meant that he would read something — a book, an article, an op ed, whatever — and he would be filled with a loathing for its content. He would be almost driven to blast away at it, swearing a mighty oath that the offending verbiage would not be allowed to stand unanswered.
Right now I have in front of me a piece by sob sister Anna Quindlen (Newsweek, 4/15/02) extolling the virtues of Take Our Daughters to Work Day. While I don't mean to equate my output with Rothbard's writing, certainly not with the sheer enormity of it, to say nothing of its quality, something of the same reaction is welling up in me. If I read any more of this sort of thing, I think I'll be sick. It's either that or criticize it, however unaccustomed I am to such a role. Accordingly, I shall attempt to at least start the process of peeling away some of the many fallacies and pretensions of the feminists who argue in this way. Not that Miss (sic!) Quindlen is the worst offender of this ilk, but as the wrap-up writer for every second issue of Newsweek, she certainly reaches a large audience. Hence, a few critical remarks.
1. There is nothing wrong with taking children — both girls and boys — to work to see what their parents are up to on Monday through Friday, 9—5. If the kids can more easily picture their parents while separated from them, this cannot help but be all to the good. But surely this applies equally to boys and girls.
Even here, however, there are problems. For one thing, why is it that there are so many mothers who have abandoned their children, many at very tender ages? If poverty has engendered this decision, well and good. But all too often this stems either from feminist ideology ("work good, motherhood bad;" "we can too have it all"), or from the avaricious nature of the modern state, which has raised taxes to such unconscionable levels that both parents are often forced to work.
2. Another motive for taking the kiddies to work is to get them acclimatized to this activity. Here, the case is far less compelling. For one thing, it is way too premature, especially for the very young. For another, there is always the danger that the lesson learned will be that the kids should follow in their parent's footsteps, not with regard to work in general, but rather that specific type of employment. This is problematic because the well being of the next generation depends upon their making their own way in this regard. There is nothing more sad than picking a career not based upon personal likes and dislikes, but rather on the basis of following in the footsteps of someone else. Of course, one Take Your Kids to Work Day per year is unlikely to lead to any such result, except for fanatics, such as populate the women's "liberation" movement.
3. But assume, for the sake of argument, that introducing children to the world of work has unambiguous good effects. Who should have preference in this regard, given that for some reason this must be done, males or females? Members of the feminist cult will froth at the mouth that such a question should even be raised (that's no news; they have this emotional reaction to anything or anyone disagreeing with their party line) but they themselves started this by organizing a day at the office or factory for only one gender.
To ask this question is to answer it: boys should have preference over girls. After all, it is man, not woman, who will spend the lion's share of their adult life behind a desk, or on an assembly line. It is women, not men, who will take time out to raise the next generation, if there is to be one, a less than certain state of affairs if feminists get their way.
How many women's lives have been immiserated, when they follow the siren song of equality between the sexes, of the "we can have it all" school, only to arrive, childless, at early middle age, when certain options are forever foreclosed? Ask not for whom the clock ticks; it ticks for thee! To avoid this horrendous fate, both individually and for the species as a whole (although it cannot be counted as totally bad that the genes of these foolish women will be less likely to be passed on), little girls ought to be taught homemaking, cooking and make-up application, the better to attract a husband. Now, no one is calling for "barefoot, pregnant and in the kitchen," and for less than full attachment to the labor force, on a coercive basis, through law. But as generations of experience have shown, this is not an altogether bad recipe for personal happiness on the part of women and species survival (the lefties seem more worried about the extinction of any and all species with the exception of our own).
4. But what about the "glass ceiling," feminists, including Miss Quindlen ("the Senate is still 87% male," she wails) are always decrying? Won't Take Our Daughters to Work Day (and dozens of other such programs) at least put a dent in this injustice?
Not at all. Females are under represented in the highest reaches of law, politics, Nobel prizes, chess grand master rankings, I.Q., SAT and ACT scores, etc., not because of male plotting, nor discrimination, nor yet general injustice. Rather, this stems, mainly, from biological considerations. Yes, the normal or bell curve for male and female ability (as measured, say, by I.Q.) peaks at around the same point. This is why, barring the asymmetric effects of marriage, male and female incomes are indistinguishable, on average. (Marriage raises male incomes and reduces those of females, due to the unequal sharing of household tasks, labor force participation rates, time spent on child rearing, etc. The evidence? There is no pay gap whatsoever for never-marrieds; zero; nada.) But the variances between men and women are very different. Relatively more females cluster around the mean (YX). Proportionately, males are all over the lot (XY). If women are God's (or evolution's) insurance policy, then men are the crap shoot. It is for this reason that men but not women, in the main, have been able to rise above the "glass ceiling" (A), and that women but not men are rarely found below "hell's floor" (D), to coin a phrase. Go to any prison, mental institution or homeless shelter, and count the numbers of men (C) and women (D) on the left tail of the bell curve. The former outnumber the latter by roughly the same proportions that hold true on the right side of the normal curve in the boardroom, or in the executive suite, or in the president's office, or on the battle field (A vs. B). (The curves are drawn freehand so as to exaggerate the differences between male and female standard deviations for purposes of illustration.)
Moreover, there are good and sufficient sociobiological reasons why this should be so, which stem from requirements for the survival of the human species (something very far removed from the concerns of the feminists): it takes far fewer males than females to create the next generation. It is not for nothing that the farmer keeps 50 cows and 1 bull, not the reverse. Biologically speaking, if there were 50 bulls to go along with a like number of cows 49 of the former would be superfluous, and the reverse does not hold at all.
If human males are heterodox in their abilities, and there is a bias in favor of the genes of the smarter ones (strictly speaking, those whose survival until child rearing age is more likely for whatever reason) then great male but not female variation improves the quality of the human herd. This argument does not apply to females, since they are the bottleneck when it comes to raising the next generation. That is, with the usual proportion of 50 cows and one bull, not a single one of the former is superfluous, so there are no particular gains if they vary greatly in ability.
Imagine two tribes of ancient humans, otherwise identical, except that one was like our own, and the other had a great variation in female, but not male abilities. Which would out compete the other insofar as improvements in the gene pool were concerned? Ours would, since virtually all the females who wished to could become impregnated (this was before the era of feminism), while mainly the superior males would supply the sperm. In the other tribe, again virtually all of the females would become pregnant, if the tribe is to survive, but very few of the fathers would be "superior" types, since by stipulation, there are few such in this tribe. Thus, our tribe is eugenic, and survived, while, relatively speaking, this other tribe was dysgenic, and becomes extinct.
June 6, 2002
Dr. Block [send him mail] is a professors of economics at Loyola College in New Orleans.
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