I was delighted to see Claire Foy win an Emmy award for her portrayal of the Queen in the fine Netflix series The Crown. It may have helped assuage her annoyance at initially being paid £200,000 less than her co-star, Matt Smith, who did a fairly good impersonation of a young, brooding Duke of Edinburgh. Foy had more lines than Smith, is as capable an actor as Smith, was the leading role and, importantly, is at least as fit as Smith. This last point is vital because television often casts people on account of their attractiveness, because viewers like looking at attractive people rather than at hideous fat munters.
Whatever, there is still sexism around and Foy’s treatment seems to be a good example of it. I can think of no other reason she was paid less, other than sexism. There is probably no industry where sexism is so entrenched as television and it is good that this might at last be changing, having been exposed to the light. It may well mean that in future television companies will be forced to retain women once employed solely on account of their looks, but possessing the IQ and communicative skills of a small shrubbery, because otherwise they will be caught on the twin pincers of sexism and ageism. And so we will see haggard imbeciles presenting stuff and the ratings will drop. Serves us all right, I suppose.
The persistence of such blatant sexism persuades some of the more stupid feminists to subscribe to the patently absurd thesis that there is effectively no meaningful difference between men and women and that disparities in pay and employment are simply the consequence of the vile patriarchy. It does not matter how many scientific studies, or indeed the march of history, disprove this ludicrous misapprehension: they will not engage. As the journalist Charlotte Gill put it in the Times this week: ‘Some feminists resemble those people who used to think the Earth was flat. Show them any evidence otherwise and there is nothing, just silence. Feminist obliviousness is now clear because scientists and writers are having to constantly repeat their findings.’
Gill had been addressing the issue of a new study, from Sweden, which showed that the greater the equality of opportunity in society between men and women, the greater the differentiation in what men and women choose to do. In other words, the differences between us are innate. There is nothing terribly new in this finding — simply that, as Gill pointed out, feminists are completely unable to take it on board. It is ignored or at best dismissed with a wave of the hand. And yet it is startling in its obviousness. There is not terribly much sexism these days in the National Health Service, for example. So why are 96 per cent of speech therapists female and 81 per cent of surgeons male? Because, I would suggest, a greater proportion of women than men would prefer to be speech therapists and have a greater aptitude for the job. With surgeons, the reverse applies.
Take a better example: education. An awful lot of energy, money, time and angst has been devoted to various schemes to persuade girls to take up physics. And indeed the proportion of women taking physics at undergrad level has edged slowly upwards as a consequence, peaking in 2009 at about 22 per cent. Since then it has plateaued, despite even more frenetic attempts to ‘level the playing fields’. Now, if you are able to argue that sexism in schools and the home was why so few girls once studied physics, then you are bound to accept, if you are sentient, that a concentrated effort over 30 years to shepherd girls into physics must have persuaded a small number of them to study the subject, perhaps unwisely. You can’t have it both ways. And indeed, the proportion of female physicists who go on to study at Masters level falls sharply to about 16 per cent (whereas at Masters levels in many arts subjects the proportion of women studying actually rises). That 16 per cent figure, I would suggest, is about right, for the proportion of women compared to men who have an aptitude for physics. And there is nothing you can do about it: it is innate.
Those on the other side of the argument, the feminists, will sometimes point to the ever-greater number of girls studying maths at GCSE as evidence that all we need is to encourage and nurture, etc. But this is a transparently fallacious argument. The reason that more than 40 per cent of maths GCSEs are taken by girls is a consequence of the fact that in most cases there is no choice: in schools today you MUST take maths if you are going to further education, just as you must take English.
This also answers the question long agonised over by, among others, the Institute of Physics. Why, when the numbers studying maths are rising do so few girls, comparatively, opt to take physics? The answer is because they don’t have to. They can choose two of three – chemistry, physics or biology (plants and bunnies!) and physics gets dropped by the wayside by the overwhelming majority who have no love or aptitude for it. If maths were entirely optional, then I suspect the number of girls studying it would drop similarly. As it is, the proportion of maths professors who are female stands at about 6 per cent. Does that not tell you something?
Or, finally, take computer science. Here is a new subject, born in age of anti-sexism. Parents will know that their daughters, just as much as their sons, are in love with their bloody tablets, their devices. Girls studying computer science? The usual 19 per cent. Around about the same proportion every time. We are born equal but different. Not all women, not all men. But in the generality, the differences are innate.