Posted by BE on December 15th, 2016
When I’m writing a post to appear on my site, I take great care to ensure that what I’m writing is factually correct. I may then draw certain conclusions based on those true facts. The truthfulness of the facts will not, however, guarantee the correctness of my conclusions. Reaching those conclusions requires logic and independence of mind .
Those same qualities are required of those reading what I have written if they are to fairly assess or judge my argument. Race and gender are areas in which logic and independence of mind are most threatened by illogic and mental bias. This is scarcely surprising since those areas also provide the best/worst examples of prejudice against and mistreatment of one social, national or racial group by others.
In everyday conversation and debate, however, I am less likely to be so scrupulous. A conversation in which one weighed every word, sentence or statement of opinion before delivering it would be very stilted indeed. My experience of having given literally thousands of off-the-cuff interviews to journalists, whose editors then decided which bits were interesting or newsworthy and which weren’t, has led me to the firm conclusion that fairness and accuracy are most at risk in the reporting of ad lib chats with journalists on the phone.
I was led to thinking about all of this by the reporting in yesterday’s Herald of the resignation of the Chancellor of Massey University, Chris Kelly, who, in an interview, had told the Rural News that a female veterinary graduate was worth only ‘two fifths’ of a full time veterinarian. When Kelly went through vet school, it was dominated by men:
“Today it’s dominated by women. That’s fine, but the problem is one woman graduate is equivalent to two fifths of a full-time equivalent vet throughout her life because she gets married and has a family. So although we’re graduating a lot of vets, we’re getting a high fallout rate later on.”
I could almost hear the rumbling of the tumbrils and the clacking of the knitting needles as I read those words. “Off with his head! “
So what else did this MCP have to say about male and female vet students at Massey? Well…
That he’d like to see a more equal balance in veterinarians graduating;
That many men drop out in the first year leaving up to 85% women;
That this is because “women mature earlier than men, work hard and pass.”
“Whereas men find out about booze and all sort of crazy things during their first year.”
The sexist pig! Putting down guys like that! And it gets worse. This fellow had actually just employed a woman who is a qualified veterinarian to be Massey’s next vice-chancellor! A woman! Whatever next?
The National Council of Women had a thing or two to say about that: “If anyone is still wondering whether there’s a prevalence of outdated and insulting attitudes held against women in scientific fields, check out these recent comments by Massey Uni Chancellor Chris Kelly about changes being made to their veterinary courses .#sexism”
Local MP Iain Lees-Galloway was meanwhile sharpening the guillotine blade:
“Just because Trump won doesn’t mean this kind of moronic sexism is suddenly okay again.”
Good one, Iain! Not entirely sure of the relevance of Trump to this, but who cares when you can score a convenient vote or three?
OK! Here’s my summary:
The stuff about women getting married and having kids and dropping out of veterinary practice early wasn’t good, mate. Asking for bloody trouble and apparently getting the facts wrong as well. Black mark.
But the rest of the stuff actually seemed aimed at the useless and irresponsible bloody male veterinary students at Massey.
And the guy apologised for the error of his ways, apologised promptly and resigned. So now he’s out of a job.
What concerns me about all of this is that we now place greater importance on something a person has said, possibly out of character, possibly in an unguarded moment, than what they have done, their record to date. And this is nowhere more true than in the field of gender bias.
[Please note that the phrase ‘political correctness gone mad’ does not appear in this post. I wouldn’t dare.]
People who go out of their way to be offended are not quite as bad as people who go out of their way to be offended on behalf of others.
What is worse is the way an unguarded comment taken out of context can ruin someone’s career.
Curious how it’s the “shock horror” 2/5th comment is the one that makes the headlines rather than the very high early drop out rate of men. Don’t think he should have resigned. An apology and a “what I meant was ….” should have done it. The real “shock horror” is the drop out rate of young men and the reasons for that. That’s what the media should be investigating. “Booze and all sorts of crazy things” is not news, but maybe look at why they are so unprepared for university might be.
If he’s working in a place that doesn’t support him for his talents and experience then he’s far better off out of the place. Massey’s loss, not his.
Maybe, just maybe, a restructuring of jobs would allow women to raise children AND work in their trained profession.
Job sharing for vets seems perfectly achievable. Too many employers with Procrustean expectations?
Agree we need to see whether boys should only be allowed to enter vet training after their first year of uni(when apparently they go doolally) – perhaps institute a qualifier course?
Personally i think what he said did not in fact need to be balanced by what else he said because it was actually a fact.
If the system is training x vets and the proportion of those graduating includes an increasing percentage of people who either leave the profession or take breaks from it, then by definition the total quantum of vet resource available is falling.
There is no logic to the criticism expressed about this. Just an ideology that concentrates on what words apparently connote rather than what they actually mean. There is no suggestion he used the “worth” in a qualitative sense, only in a quantitative one.
We are rapidly developing a new cliched take on why Trump got elected which includes the fact that people saw him as an antidote to this kind of nonsense. No doubt that is at least partly right. And this a really good example of how that could be.
What he said wasn’t true. The lifetime hours worked of a female vet is not 2/5th of a male’s.
If someone is going to make statements about gender in an official capacity representing an organisation then they ought to get their facts correct.
I don’t think he should have lost his job over it. But when he was pulling facts out of the air, they clearly came with a bias against females. So you have to wonder how often he has made other decisions with that bias.
…and there it is. That’s how you convict someone of a thought crime.
What are the facts? Those who attacked him could only produce: female vets work an average of 37 hours a week compared to male vets’ 45 that works out to be 82 per cent rather than “two-fifths”
That doesn’t address his point. His comparison was not with female/male working hours, but that females drop out of the profession. Was he right or not?
I can only go by second hand information but this is what was said
” Massey did research to work out how many vets we need into the future, and yes it showed women worked less hours at certain stages but it was closer to 0.8 not 0.4. It did not show women drop out more than men.”
…..and so, to the sexist, racist Sir Mad Butcher, his grasping victim, and her 15 minutes of fame…..
Perhaps we should play it safe and ignore everyone of a different race.
Or would that be racist, too?