Global Warming and Gender

To tweak an old Rodney Dangerfield line, Women don’t get no respect–from men or from themselves. Here’s an article illustrating what I mean: “Women More Likely Than Men to Accept Global Warming.”

Now to stop male deniers from nod their heads too smugly, here’s the gist of this article by Ariel Goldring:

A new study by Michigan State University sociologists finds that “women tend to believe the scientific consensus on global warming more than men.”

“Men still claim they have a better understanding of global warming than women, even though women’s beliefs align much more closely with the scientific consensus,” said McCright, an associate professor with appointments in MSU’s Department of Sociology, Lyman Briggs College and Environmental Science and Policy Program.

I like the word “claim” here because I’ve seen this gender issue in action. From experience, both in and out of the college classroom, I know that men claim a lot of things, even when they shouldn’t.

One of the last exercises I gave in my college research-comp classes was on logic. I handed out an in-class exercise, a page of paragraphs, each illustrating a fallacious argument. I asked the students to read them, decide on the nature of the thinking error, put a name to it, and then confer with the students around them. Usually, classes broke up into groups of five or so. I then asked them to delegate a spokesperson to speak for the group and explain their choice of fallacy.

While the students were conferring, I lurked. On an extraordinary number of occasions over the years, I listened to female students carefully argue and explain the problems accurately, only to be shut down male students who were completely off course. Almost every time, that male student became the spokesperson for his group. This happened in a high percentage of the ten or more semesters I used this exercise. I have no documentation on this, but my memory is strong enough to say it was way more than just a couple of times out of somewhere between fifty and a hundred groups. It could be more, semesters and classes flow together after a few years.

I am NOT male bashing here. Overall, both male and female students performed dismally on this logic exercise. After my first graded use where students averaged something like 30 percent after having a weekend to ponder the problems, I shifted to this non-graded, in-class exercise. I wanted to see if group discussion would help students sort through the issues.

In many ways, it did. Overall, conferring helped. Their answers went up ranging from a still dismal fifty to seventy percent overall. I know because while they were conferring, I lurked and listened. My handout sheet began with a straightforward either-or argument that well over a quarter of the students still missed. After that, the arguments were more subtle and hence the failure rate for ALL students went even higher. What I noticed immediately though were the incidences where female students with the right answer deferred to male students with the wrong one. I have no idea why they did this, but they did. It was, however, quite interesting to watch the expressions on the faces of both male and female students in these groups when the correct answers came out.

Another totally anecdotal observation from me–while the female students almost always listened to everyone, only the brightest, most confident male students were likely to listen to the others in the group, both male and female. On several occasions, I heard my best students–male and female–offer up an incorrect answer in their groups, but when another student explained his or her reasoning for the correct answer, all but a couple of times, these bright students changed their minds. Many even thanked the person with the stronger reasoning.




2 Responses to “Global Warming and Gender”

  1. Percival Schares Says:

    Smart women who are definitely committed to solving the problem of CO2 and overpopulation go to for the solution.

    John Holdren, who favors compulsory abortions, would consider this a ‘market-based’ solution as well.

    • uncommonscolds Says:

      re: John Holdren

      Back in a 70s textbook, John Holdren, along with Paul and Ann Ehrlich, proposed hypotheticals where compulsory abortions and mass sterilization might arise. That he “favors” these is not a logical conclusion. He may; he may not.


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