June 11, 2008

Larry Summers and Yves Saint Laurent

The storm of denunciation and the vast expenditures on affirmative action that followed former Harvard president Larry Summers' suggestion that one reason there aren't many female professors of, say, mechanical engineering in the Ivy League is because not all that many females want to be professors of mechanical engineering contrasts strikingly with the mostly uncontroversial lack of female representation at the highest levels of a job that many women really, really would like to have: fashion designer.

Yves Saint Laurent, who died last week, was among the first (but hardly the last) designers to be public about being homosexual. He became famous at age 21 in 1957 when his boss, the top French designer of the era, Christian Dior, another homosexual, dropped dead. The responsibilities of the House of Dior were divided up among four employees, three women and young Yves. But when the next show proved a success, he, not the three women, became the national hero who had saved French fashion.

So, why is there so much outrage over lack of female representation among math, physics, and engineering professors but not among dress designers? Money is the most obvious reason. Harvard has a $35 billion endowment and a world famous brand name largely immune to deterioration. So, when a desperate Larry Summers asked feminist educrat Drew Gilpin Faust to come up with ways to placate his critics, she returned with a $50 million wish list, which he quickly signed off on. But, that wasn't enough, and Larry was eventually shown the door, to be replaced by ... Ms. Gilpin Faust!

The value of the Harvard brand is basically immune to this kind of corruption, so the leeches have their sights set on Harvard.

In contrast, fashion businesses are much more ephemeral, so they are difficult for designated victim groups to exploit. It probably wouldn't be hard to prove in court that there's an old boys network of gay men who discriminate in favor of each other in the fashion business, but getting any money or quotas out of them would be much harder than with Harvard, since they can just dissolve their businesses and start new ones.

The other major difference is leadership. The feminists who demand more engineering professorships for women are typically led by hard-charging lesbians, like the late UC Santa Cruz chancellor Denice Denton, who stood up to "speak truth to power" to poor old Larry. These include some pretty psychologically intense people (not long after, Denton leapt from the 42nd floor of the luxury apartment building where her lesbian lover lived on the $192k salary Denton had arranged for her). Although they share many traits with men, they don't empathize with men well. The dominant traits in a Denton-type lesbian academic is ambition and resentment of anybody competing with her in clawing her way to the top, which manifests itself in anger toward men.

In contrast, the women who would like to design pretty dresses for a living tend to be much more feminine. They empathize and sympathize too much with the gay men who are blocking their rise.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer


Anonymous said...

Good article, Steve. I'm a designer and I've written about this subject in your comments before. It's rare that you see this, but I think one would get the best of both worlds with a husband and wife team. Probably the absolute most beautiful clothes made for children today are made by such a pair: the Italian label, I Pinco Pallino.

Anonymous said...

It is peculiar that a Dr De Cock is associated with AIDS and a Faust is involved in a Harvard pact.

Anonymous said...

Steve, I think you assume too much with Harvard being immune to brand degradation.

As soon as people think that it's not worth the money to send their kids to Harvard, yes the brand can be terribly degraded. Why not?

Which speaks to the alumni network, the whole reason people spend ungodly amounts of money to send their kids to Harvard. Degrade the alumni network, by more feminist demands and other interest groups, over-PC'ing which atomizes students and leaves them apathetic or resentful (particularly the men) towards the institution and the brand can go downhill fast.

This is particularly true since Harvard has no major sports team to build alumni identity and solidarity and unity. It depends totally on the snob appeal of an "elite" alumni network. Should that fail, coupled with perceptions of Harvard grads by the public as clueless out of touch PC-driven dumb-aristos, the brand can really go down fast.

As for fashion designers, the real question is why women prefer gay men over female designers? Why not simply patronize say Vera Wang or Anna Sui over gay men? Why do gay men in the marketplace have an advantage over female designers by the female customers?

I think the marketplace answer is women prefer the gay men as designers. They are assumed to be better because they are gay men. Probably because gay men are perceived by female customers to be more snobby and elite.

Anonymous said...

Just a note that most of the (British) lesbian academics I know seem rather mild mannered and pleasant people. Maybe it's a cultural thing - American female academics seem more aggressive in general.

Anonymous said...

Just a note that most of the (British) lesbian academics I know seem rather mild mannered and pleasant people. Maybe it's a cultural thing - American female academics seem more aggressive in general.

American prudishness and moralism. A lot of people find American women , straight or gay, bossy and annoying. Once the British lesbian academics get what they want, no more reason to give anyone else a hard time.

agnostic said...

Some relevant data on the sex disparity in fashion design and hair styling:



(I've tried to use my quant skills to prop up a macho image and guard against rumors that I'm gay.)

The reason a tiny handful of gay men dominate is likely better visual-spatial skills in males, plus aggressiveness and ambition.

On Project Runway, you see a fair number of women who have the visual-spatial skills, but who have a nuclear meltdown in the face of adversity (like the adorable Nora from season 1). I don't remember much of that hairstyle show Blow Out, but I do recall the women being more emotional.

Anonymous said...

All the drama in Project Runway is "how do we find somebody this year who isn't a gay man?" The gay man has to be about clearly superior in order to win.

Mu'Min M. Bey said...

Hi Steve,
I've long been a fan of your work and really enjoy the analysis you bring to things. Keep it up!

As for the issue at hand, of course the Summers thing was in large part about money, and it could be argued, why not?-no one seemed to have that huge a problem when it was all WASP males doing it. Now whether one agrees w/that view or not, its a real one out there, and let's face it, when one is in a highly competitve environment like the USA, one uses whatever advantages one has at their disposal. Its a lot lik a streetfight, and I hear ya on the Citizenism piece, but its like that sometimes.

Oh, and for the record, I'm w/Pinker in defence of Summers.

As for YSL, etc., my view is that it only highlights yet another area of inconsistency in thinking among the Sisterhood-of course, fashion has always been dominated by the gay male, and by all accounts, this won't be changing anytime soon. It also just goes to show just how uninterested Lesbian women are when it comes to looking good.


Grumpy Old Man said...

There was a legendary Duchess who didn't much care what people did, so long as they didn't frighten the horses. Perhaps she still reigns somewhere in Pommy-land.

agnostic said...

Ooops. Here are the working links:



Anonymous said...

I think I read a NYT Styles article not long about female designers complaining that gay men were better designers. Oops! I mean men in fashion discriminate against them.

I was surpised to see it, as an oppressed group homosexuals are officially incapable of discriminating.

Female designers must also find it difficult to be in a profession where they meet relatively few straight men, and have to compete with models.

Anonymous said...

Good point Rob, about fashion not being that cool for straight women designers, i.e. the competition against models and no straight guys to meet. Plus of course straight guys DETEST fashion and everything about it.

But here's what I don't get. Barriers to entry to being a fashion designer are pretty low. Sewing machine, some fabric, set up and be cooler than everyone else with better designs and and a hipper image.

Why is that the marketplace, i.e. the female customers, whenever given a choice, finds the gay male's product superior? After all, gay males can discriminate all they want but they can't prevent some girl from setting up her own small shop and getting "the right" people to wear her stuff, if they are either up and coming starlets, various scenesters/hipsters, whatever.

Somehow in the marketplace competition, women designers always lose.

Meanwhile for guys, "fashion" generally means a suit from either an old-line suit maker (Hickey-Freeman, Brooks Brothers) or Armani. Anything gay they'll stay away from, for obvious reasons.

Ron Guhname said...

I've got a relevant, recent example told to me by a department chair--a minority male. One very reliable faculty in his department--a white male--was denied tenure even though the chair made a heroic effort to save his job.

At the same time, a untenured female faculty was a nightmare (not atypical) and the chair fought hard to get her fired. But the same administrators, especially one lesbian, who denied the guy tenure, intervened aggressively and saved the woman's job.

In both cases, the female administrators went against the chair's judgment--the man who really knows what's best for the department.

While competence matters too, race/gender/orientation politics really do drive academic decisions.

Anonymous said...

"of course straight guys DETEST fashion and everything about it."

Straights of northern European extraction tend to detest it. Italians and other Meds are different. When I was Italy obviously hetero men (and little boys) were proudly turned out in subtly matched outfits (green socks with green shirts for example.) And they looked fantastic. The north-south dichotomy in style is pretty well known in Europe and even women (straight) subscribe to it. When I took a class in Switzerland there were people there from all over. A number of them talked about the self-consciousness of the Med-area people with respect to jewelry and other affectations of status and style. Meds were obsessed while northerners did not take such things so seriously and often did not bother. Perhaps it just has something to do with climate as well as genes.

Anonymous said...

I'm an academic, and I don't think female academics are so dreadful. My sense in my super-limited experience [non-elite law schools) is that female professors fall into 3 categories:

1. minorities- hired for their race
2. lesbians- hired because every school should have some, as a matter of ideological principle
3. beautiful [and usually pretty nice inside] young women - hired because male faculty members like them for obvious reasons, and the women find them non-threatening.

The real losers from this status quo (other than men) are the Hillary Clintons of the world: unattractive, unlikable heterosexual women. Being a Hillary Clinton type is like being a white male: you can get jobs, but you'd damn well better be twice as smart as the competition!