I stumbled on an interesting post over at double X blog that roundly criticized much writing about how women have been affected by the economic downturn as “recession lite.” Its central complaint amounts to too much soft news, not enough numbers. The author—Linda Hirshman, a retired professor of philosophy and women’s studies at Brandeis—goes on to commend a number of feminist blogs and initiatives that are making a point of grappling with the relevant statistics, with an eye to affecting public policy.
I don’t know how accurate Hirshman’s overall picture is—though I picked up on it partly because I had long since become annoyed myself about all those silly depressionista stories about how Clipping Coupons Saves Thousand$! or When Mom and Dad Move In to Your Basement! Hirshman is mainly taking women writers to task for this, so I don’t know if she shares my (admittedly anecdotal) sense that just as much of this fluff is coming from men as from women writers but wants to hold feminist bloggers to a higher standard, or if she really thinks women writers churn out more anumerical fluff than men do.
If the latter is true, I am left wondering: is this one of the predictable downstream effects of an acculturation process that has pushed so many women away from mathematics in high school? Or an effect of longstanding gender assumptions in the publishing field, regarding both which stories women reporters should cover and which stories women want to read? Or both? Or, more optimistically, is the interesting story here to be found in the signs of a reversal, given that recent statistics show more women now take advanced math in high school and beyond (e.g. the 2008 study published in Science)?
OK, count me also guilty here of speculating about trends in the absence of good—make that: any—numbers. So tempting, and so dangerous…