Thursday, March 17, 2016

Why Men are Quoted More Often

Because we're arrogant:
Research shows that men tend to be more confident in their opinions and less worried about being publicly wrong. That can make them more willing to make bold predictions and sweeping arguments. That's not necessarily the way to ensure accuracy — it's called "overconfidence bias" for a reason — but it does make for entertaining quotes and lively panels. Women, by contrast, tend to be less overconfident in their expertise and thus less willing to make sharp and sweeping arguments in public.

That's not to say that women are making the wrong choice by being careful about their public statements. It's likely, after all, that women need to work harder and be more careful about errors in order to be taken as seriously as their male peers because of biases like the citation gap described above. Being extra careful makes women less likely to be caught saying something incorrect in public, so it might, on balance, be worth it. But it also means they're less likely to give pithy quotes than men who don't have to be so careful.

That's a dynamic I've encountered in my own reporting again and again: Women I interview are much more cautious about hewing closely to their own research and area of expertise, and much more likely to insist on speaking off the record when making a controversial or critical argument. My male sources, on the other hand, are much more willing to freely hold forth on whatever I ask about, confident that whatever opinions they might have are useful enough to share with my readers.

The result is often that female experts give me little information beyond what I already know from reading their published work — and that the men's quotes are the ones that survive final edits.
This comes from journalist Amanda Taub, who says she has been making a conscious effort for years to interview and quote more women, but that this has had little impact on her published work.

I would say that Hillary Clinton is a good case of what Taub is saying: nobody in politics knows more than she does, but she very often cannot find a clear and pithy way to express her knowledge. She never gives an answer without at least one qualifier and sometimes there are more qualifiers than all the other words put together. Many people find the result weaselly and off-putting; why can't she just give a straight answer? But maybe the whole fascination with "straight answers" to what are often very complex questions is a masculine bad habit we would be better off without.

2 comments:

G. Verloren said...

Definitely this seems to me to be the case with Hilary.

She's made a few stupid statements so far that have been a little baffling to me, but ultimately they were just minor gaffs of the sort every politician makes. But I've seen some people responding to those errors as if they were the end of the world, while simultaneously ignoring outright lies and fabrications of stunning proportion from male presidential candidates.

When asked about dealing with ISIS, Trump could flat out say he plans to nuke the Middle East (as well as anyone who doesn't like that idea) and he'd be met with rampant applause despite the utter insanity of that statement, but Clinton pausing to devise a nuanced, qualified statement about such a supremely complicated subject would be perceived as weak or indecisive.

It says a lot about a people and a society when their culture more highly values bold and brash statements or behaviors over thoughtful and prudent ones.

Shadow Flutter said...

Here you go!

"Democracy, freedom and the rule of law," have "absolutely no value any longer," President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told local leaders in Ankara on Wednesday.
"Those who stand on our side in the fight against terrorism are our friend. Those on the opposite side, are our enemy,"

That second quote sounds familiar, No?