Who likes public intellectuals?

One simple answer to a big question, in one chart.

Using the method of gathering demographic data described by Neal Caren, I asked Facebook for the “audience size” of an ad targeting people who “like” some famous academics, and then specified men or women to get the gender composition of the (U.S.) audience.

I started with Camille Paglia, after this old quote of hers surfaced: “Masculinity is aggressive, combustible, unstable. It is also the most creative cultural force in history.” I thought it was dumb as well as offensive, and wondered how many women like that stuff. Her Facebook “like” audience is quite small at 7,600, and it turns out 45% of them are female.

From there I tried comparing her to some feminists, and then some people to compare feminists with. Next thing I knew I had 15 scholars, 5 of them largely known for feminism (if you don’t count Paglia, the least popular person on the list). They are living people who interest me, who have academic jobs and didn’t become famous with major media jobs (like Paul Krugman) or political jobs (like Robert Reich). I seem to have forgotten about historians. And I accidentally included Barbara Ehrenreich, who doesn’t have an academic job.

Here are the results:

who likes public intellectuals

Note that some people don’t report a gender to Facebook. People with observable numbers of gender-abstainers (the numbers are rounded to the nearest thousand) include: bell hooks 7%, Judith Butler 6%, Cornell West 5%, E. O. Wilson 4%, Angela Davis 3%, Henry Louis Gates 3%, Barbara Ehrenreich 2%, Noam Chomsky 2%, and Jared Diamond 1%.

Lots of interesting people — like, sociologists — didn’t turn out to have enough likes to register. Feel free to add others in the comments.


Filed under In the news

7 responses to “Who likes public intellectuals?

  1. Maybe I misunderstand the graph (I did not read about the method you used to collect the data), but Gary Becker (the economist) never ever has 80% female likers (i.e. never ever are 80% of those who like “Gary Becker” women). This cannot be true. All you need for this conclusion is a little common sense and maybe some soc 101 readings on gender. The Question is: what exactly is depicted in this graph, for it is clearly not the %-share of female likers of the American economist Gary Becker… BTW: this site shows the likers of “Gary Becker” and looks more realistic with regard to gender composition (2/3 or more male): https://www.facebook.com/search/103992969636515/likers


  2. mrose

    I’d be interested to see how Melissa Harris-Perry’s audience numbers compare.


  3. Phillip N. Cohen: This is all you have to say about this? Wow. Sad.


  4. PSdan

    But, unless you use something other than our common conception of ‘culture’, Paglia’s second sentence cannot be disputed. It is just historical fact. We had certain theories about why this historical fact existed prior to, oh, roughly 1963. Since then the feminist theory for the historical reality been widely accepted. This wide acceptance does not make it true, except in the political sense.


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