The Sex Factor
The Sex Factor: How Women Made the West Rich, Victoria Bateman, 2019, Polity Press, 226pp. Pb, reviewed by ED DUTTON
Cambridge University Fellow of Economics Dr Victoria Bateman (born 1979) is notorious for her nude protests. The diminutive yet busty economist (she is just under 5 feet tall) got her kit off at academic conferences to protest about the neglect of gender in economics. More recently, she made headlines by stripping off, live on air, to draw attention to what an economic disaster Brexit is supposedly going to be.
She justifies this behaviour because feminist performance art ‘would be a creative addition for a meeting of economists’ (p.2). Indeed, she tellingly admits that even though an economist the thing that has most powerfully affected her thinking is ‘art . . . a power that goes beyond words’ (p.1). She cannot understand why ‘feminism’ has had such a huge influence over every other social science – sociology, cultural anthropology, certain forms of psychology – but not over her own discipline of economics. Why does economics overlook ‘the vital importance of women’s freedom over their bodies’ ? (p.2), wonders Dr Bateman. Don’t they understand that ‘Economics needs to embrace the sex factor if it wants to answer such questions as ‘Why is the West rich?’ Why can’t economists, like other social scientists, accept the importance of learning from other disciplines, such as Feminist Studies?’ (p.3).
The answers are obvious. Economics differs from other social sciences in a key way. It is firmly based around mathematical modelling and quantitative methods. It is – or, at least, attempts to be – a ‘science’, whereas anthropology doesn’t even try and there are strong movements towards qualitative – that is subjective and impossible, even theoretically, to replicate – methods in psychology and sociology. This means that economics is less vulnerable than other social sciences to a take over by ideologues dressed up as scholars. With its mathematical rigour, and its focus on systematizing rather than ‘empathising with the subject’, as per cultural anthropology, economics is also less attractive to women. For according to research by Simon Baron-Cohen, women tend to be lower in systematizing but higher in empathizing than men.
Dr Bateman should not be surprised that scientists are not interested in her Dadaist artistic methods. Art is about emotional power and beauty. This has little to do with logical understanding. Indeed, appeals to emotion are the enemy of logic, they lead to fallacious arguments. Unsurprisingly, the latter compose the bulk of this book. The idea that the West’s wealth has been caused by female activity is intriguing. But it goes against all of the research indicating that the smart fraction – the geniuses – who were ultimately behind the West’s wealth, were overwhelmingly male.
Bateman’s key argument is that the East used to be wealthier than the West; then the West gave women rights, this allowed women to work, and the West, consequently, became wealthier than the East. This is a classic example of post hoc ergo propter hoc reasoning. But putting that aside: in the Medieval period, the Islamic world was wealthier than the West despite women being under the system of purdah – veiled, controlled and with few rights. Conversely, there is very little control over women’s bodies among the Yanomamö tribe of Venezuela. Women walk around naked, have abortions, and do work if it is physically possible; yet this tribe is living in the Stone Age and they murder their children if they displease them.
It could be counter-argued that it is patriarchy that creates wealth. As Greg Clark has shown in The Son Also Rises, socioeconomic status is about 70% genetic across generations. Indeed, it is arguably women who have created this patriarchy. Women sexually select for high status men because such men are more likely to have the resources to look after them and their offspring, elevating their chances of survival.
If males are to invest in females, they must be sure that the offspring are truly their own; that they are not being cuckolded. This leads to the development of patriarchy and the control of females. As a result, the men are not constantly fighting over their womenfolk, because patriarchy means that they can trust each other. They are then able to trade and innovate. The ability to cooperate – and rule-following and being trustworthy – are selected for in evolutionary terms.
This, along with the luxurious and low stress conditions created, means that everybody trusts each other more, and the level of purdah can be reduced, allowing women greater freedom. This might make for some minor input to wealth – a very clever woman who, in the past, was stuck indoors can now become a scientist and innovator; Marie Curie being the hackneyed example – but it certainly isn’t causal in our wealth. Our wealth is based on a combination of high average IQ (which also makes us more cooperative and trusting) and high levels of per capita genius. Both of these factors peaked circa 1800, long before the rise of feminism (see At Our Wits’ End: Why We’re Becoming Less Intelligent and What It Means for the Future, Imprint Academic, 2018, by Ed Dutton and Michael Woodley of Menie).
Dr Bateman was raised by a single mother in a working class part of Manchester and was ashamed of having to queue to get ‘free school lunches’ for poor pupils. To avoid this daily humiliation, she avoided eating or stuffed herself with scones. She blames this for her lack of height. But is Bateman being entirely candid? The key cause of exhibitionism – especially to non-consenting people such as delegates at economics conferences or, more recently, John Humphries, during an interview – is sexual or emotional abuse during childhood. Another correlate is family dysfunction, which is something that she admits she experienced.
Dr Bateman’s bubbly persona possibly hides a damaged and sad woman. But what is sadder is that someone with such logical deficiencies should become an economist at a top university. Our universities are now so tightly in the grip of the New Religion – the Equality Cult – that, just as when the Church dominated universities, we may eventually return to a situation where serious research only occurs outside the universities – the nineteenth century scenario of scholar-rectors, people with patrons, gentleman researchers and enthusiastic amateurs. Perhaps a scientist should draw attention to this problem by exposing his penis on television.
Dr Edward Dutton is the author of How to Judge People By What They Look Like; J. Philippe Rushton: A Life History Perspective and (with Michael Woodley of Menie); At Our Wits’ End: Why We’re Becoming Less Intelligent and What It Means for the Future. He vlogs on You Tube, about controversial academic research at The Jolly Heretic: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCMRs0Ml8RF0cWVAOeQeBxTw and he is on Twitter @jollyheretic
Excellent! As the daughter of an Italian “in between feminist since she was born in 1918” and as 1970s lukewarm feminist- fighting for the other women since I myself had nothing to complain about- I am now and I have been for quite a while a human being and I totally agree with tho article!!!
Oh my, short and blunt analysis. I am in the middle of the book and as I am not an economist nor do I understand feminism much, despite feeling a tone of writing almost childlike, repetitive and full of fallacies, I did not know how to vocalize, your analysis hit the nail.