It’s statistically nonsensical

Mar.20, 2009, filed under Miscellany

There are many labels people use to describe themselves that I don’t, and while some people might feel justified in accusing me of refusing to take a stand in order to have an easy life, the simple fact is that I detest defining myself by anything so rigid as a label.

I’m not monogamous: I’m picky. I’m not a triathlete: I happen to do triathlon. I’m not an environmentalist: I understand that this is a closed system and think that Malthus might have had a point.

My sexuality is no one’s business but mine and those with whom I’m intimate, thankyouverymuch.

So I don’t consider myself a feminist. Whether someone has tits or a dick is not top of my list of defining characteristics. Intelligence, wit, humour, tolerance, education — even diction — are all much higher on my list of factors to consider when it comes to deciding whether I like someone or not and wish to spend more time in his company (and that’s the grammatically correct third person neutral, not a Freudian slip); and I don’t make blanket decisions about whether women can do a job just as well as men can, never mind better.

There will always be some women who can do any given job better than most men. There will always be some men who can do any given job better than most women. You try telling a female Chinese powerlifter that girls are always weaker than men. Then run away.

True, there are biological differences that mean in some fields of endeavour women will almost always fail to beat a man in straight competition given an equal degree of training and similar degrees of natural talent. 100m sprint, for instance. Deadlift. Equally there are some things women are physically better able to do than men. Ultra endurance, for example, favours the female physiology over the male.

My point is, basically, that given the distribution of talent, skill and ability in the population, I think it’s ludicrous to make generalisations such as “women are just as good as men, if not better”. I would prefer the statement “any individual woman selected at random from a standard distribution of population has an equal chance of showing ability to perform a given task as any individual man selected at random from the same standard distribution of population, unless said task involves physical biological processes found predominantly in one of the sexes.”

Problem is, that doesn’t really trip off the tongue. What it means is that I believe, all things being equal, you’re just as likely to find a girl who can do a great job as you are a bloke. Not more or less likely: just as likely. The crucial difference between this and the feminist message I have seen most often stated is the probability factor. Because women have an equal likelihood to men of being crap at something, as well.

All this preamble brings me to last night’s going-to-bed-after-this-cup-of-tea-is-there-anything-on-telly-for-five-minutes?

When Women Rule The World takes ten men and eight women and dumps them on a desert island where the girls have to wear ludicrous costumes and the men have to do what they are told.

In this new series Steve Jones presents the ultimate gender experiment. Ten men and eight women on an island with only one law – women rule, men obey. Find out how the men cope with being the weaker sex, how the women deal with holding all the power and how both sexes cope with the backstabbing, bitching and infighting which runs riot.

With a £30,000 prize up for grabs, the men have a lot to lose if they stand up to the women. And with one man sacrificed to the sea at the end of every show, there’s even more to lose. In a village rocked by everything from strikes to arguments to all-out physical violence, anything can happen. Both the men and the women have to learn a lot about themselves in the process, because in this show it’s all about the journey.

So who will win the £30,000? Can the women keep control? Can the men accept the women’s rule? And can women really rule the world? Find out, in When Women Rule The World…

It’s fucking insulting to both sides.

Let’s just look at the use of the word “experiment”. For it to be an experiment there has to be a hypothesis and a null hypothesis. From the description of the programme their hypothesis is that women are just as capable of being in charge as men, which means their null hypothesis, the one that describes the accepted status quo and must be disproven, is that women are incapable of being in charge of men.

Fuck that.

Picture showing how ludicrous the girls look.It’s not helped by their selection of contestants. Some of the guys might get off on the idea but at least one or two are being egged on into displaying macho chauvinism and stereotypical alpha-male behaviour (right down to one of them describing himself as an alpha male!). The girls range from some bitchy, petulant, whiny-ass “queen” to a holistic therapist Newage type who does nothing but praise, describes herself as “soft” and gets upset when she has to choose which of the men she doesn’t want to stay any more.

This isn’t a social experiment about gender roles. It’s a half-assed Amazonian fantasy re-enactment, but the girls they’ve picked would make Amazons ashamed to call themselves women. They have no leadership skills, no management skills, no diplomacy skills and, lacking all of those, no capacity to beat the crap out of the blokes. They have been dumped there as a putative kratocracy: they are anything but.

Given the right skill set, talent and teamwork, a group of women is just as capable of despotism as any group of men. But these women do not have the skills or talent and they definitely do not have the teamwork. What they have is the ability to look good in a bikini.

This is not a social experiment: it’s telly. And that means the only qualifications they sought were that the girls were gorgeous and the males wanted the cash. The men didn’t even have to be particularly attractive: merely avaricious.

I can’t work out whether I’m insulted more by the premise of the show or by the fact that they are calling it an experiment. I think it’s the latter. If they didn’t call it a social experiment but were truthful about what it is — car crash TV — then I could shrug and let them get on with it. If they want to be crass and insulting about sexual stereotyping because their producers have run out of good ideas, then fine. But they called it an experiment. Which would imply that everyone knows women are the weaker sex.

What, have we slipped back in time to the Victorian era?

Oh, and you’ll note that there’s no mention of a prize for the girls. So what do they get out of it? Are they supposed to be satisfied with a nice beach holiday and being bitchy to a bunch of men?

I’d like to see a programme something like this, but I’d like to see one in which a group of competent, confident, strong women who work together and know what they are doing was put in charge of a group of misogynistic males. Hypothesis: exposure to women who show strength and capability will have a positive effect in removing stereotypical sexual prejudices. Null hypothesis: too much shite TV has indoctrinated some sections of the population beyond all help and we should probably just shoot them and the makers of said TV.

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