Friday, October 7, 2016

Debate interruptions and sexism

We've got another debate coming up!

There's an old empirical observation that men interrupt women more often than women interrupt men.  It is a tendency, not a mathematical axiom, but one that is generally observable in corporate boardrooms, etc.  Anyway, it has been the subject of conversation in the debates so far.  So let's address that in an unmutual way.

And let's have some fun at the expense of Vox, which is often good, but often pretentiously PC in its lefty inclinations. Here's a Vox story counting interruptions in the first debate.  Trump interrupted Clinton more than Clinton interrupted Trump.  Conclusion?  Sexism.

Second debate?  Kaine versus Pence.  Two men.  Here's Vox again.  Not only does Kaine out-interrupt Pence, he out-interrupts Trump!  But, two men, so no sexism, right?

Not so fast!  The moderator was a woman.  Elaine Quijano.  So, here's Vox again, saying that when Kaine interrupts Quijano, it's sexism.  Remember how the moderator in the Trump/Clinton debate was Lester Holt?  Trump interrupted him too.  But, he was a man, so that wasn't sexism.  I searched the site looking for a count, and couldn't even find one, although I don't know how to count the "exchanges" of Trump trying to talk over Holt completely.

Social science time.  Mill's methods, as in, John Stuart Mill.  Let's use what we call "Mill's method of agreement."  We distinguish between a "dependent variable" and an "independent variable."  The former is the effect, and the latter is the cause.  Mill's method of agreement is what we use on two cases that "agree" on the dependent variable.  Here, watch.  Consider a set of cases in which a speaker interrupts two people, one male, one female.

Other Person        Interrupt?
M                            Y
F                             Y

Is this speaker sexist, or just a jerk?  Donald Trump and Tim Kaine were each on stage with one man, and one woman.  They each interrupted both.  What can we conclude?  Can we rule out that either speaker is sexist?  No.  However, we cannot conclude that either.  Not from the patterns of interruptions.  All we can conclude from the patterns of interruptions is that both are jackasses.  (Although the elephant might take offense to that).

Do we have other evidence that Donald Trump is sexist?  Do I have to answer that?  If you are reading this blog, then you are literate, and you know the answer.  Kaine is a harder case.  My point is merely that we cannot infer sexism from patterns of interruption.

More problematic still is that it feeds into Trump's claims of PC nonsense that there is a reflexive accusation of sexism when Trump is actually just an asshole to everyone in this particular way.  Yes, he is sexist too, but his interruptions have nothing to do with that.  The reflex to label all interruptions as sexist if they are male-to-female interruptions misses the key point that Trump and Kaine were just generally being assholes to men too.

Then, of course, there is political reality.  The fact that Trump's interruptions will be perceived as sexist is something that he should know.  And he should behave accordingly.  If he can't adjust and control himself, that's either stupidity or lack of self control.  Life ain't fair.

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