Is IMDB a conspiracy against men?

I have a theory: there’s a conspiracy against men on IMDB because women give higher ratings to shows like Sex in the City compared to Breaking Bad.

I know this sounds nuts. And it is. But hear me out.

The latest viral story comes from, a site that does statistical analysis of all sorts of things. Walt Hickey’s research finds that (surprise!) men give higher ratings to male themed shows and women give higher ratings to female themed shows. But overall women’s shows get lower ratings (though not bad ratings), and this proves that men are deliberately sabotaging women’s shows.

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The media, ever eager to show just how powerless women are, picked up the story with Elle, the Huffington Post, and Salon adding their two cents. The media’s frequent illustrations of how women are oppressed over subtle things strikes me as sexist, even though it’s presented as speaking out against sexism. The constant media theme of men bad/women good empowers neither women nor men. 

Blogger Cathy Young pointed out that the reason women’s shows have lower IMDB averages is that 70% of people rating programs are men. Because the male:female ratio is 2.3:1 rather than 1:1, ratings have a male bias. But this doesn’t prove that men deliberately have it out for women. 

The real question (which fivethirtyeight fails to address) is why men are twice as likely as women to post a rating on IMDB. To get to the root of the issue, IMDB could ask women and men why they do or don’t post ratings. There may be something about the site itself that needs to be adjusted to balance out the male:female ratio.


Man & Wife: Word Origin & Sexism

Why is a happy couple is declared man and wife? Why not man and woman, or wife and husband?

One view is that upon marriage a man retains his personhood while a woman becomes a possession. Similarly, the word mankind implies that only males are people, thus excluding half the population.

Language is fascinating. My interest in the history of the English language began in high school when my English teacher had us listen to a recording of Beowulf‘s prologue in the original Old English:

Hwæt! Wé Gárdena in géardagum
þéodcyninga þrym gefrúnon
hú ðá æþelingas ellen fremedon.

It’s hard to believe that this is actually English. But English’s Germanic origins were dramatically altered after the Norman French invasion of England in 1066.  Geoffrey Chaucer wrote the Canterbury Tales in the late 1300s, six centuries after Beowulf:

Whan that Aprill, with his shoures soote
The droghte of March hath perced to the roote

English has always been a rapidly changing language, and this remains the case today. People sometimes ask when Americans lost their English accents. But reality is that Americans never had a modern British accent. English sounded very different in the early 1600s when the first settlers landed at Jamestown.

But back to the original question of sexism when declaring a couple man and wife.

Originally the phrase simply meant man and woman. The Old English word for an adult female, single or married, was wif (pronounced weef). An adult male was wer (pronounced ware). But wer eventually disappeared (the only form in Modern English is found in werewolf).

And there was a gender neutral word that meant person: mann. Being gender neutral, a female could also be called a mann. The Old English compound word wifmann meant female person, and eventually became woman. But the definition of wif, now wife, narrowed to exclude unmarried women. Wer fell out of use, however, and man became the masculine when referring to a specific person while retaining its gender neutral status when referring to people in general, such mankind.

By the late 20th century man and mankind no longer felt gender neutral and thus were seen as excluding women. And so a new gender neutral word was needed: humankind.

Because the word wife no longer means any woman, married or unmarried, many couples now choose to be pronounced husband and wife. The Old English word husbonda meant head of the household, and usually referred to a married man, though any male head of household could have claimed the name. But the term was always male.

Finally, the word female comes from the Norman French femelle. The Norman French word masle was Anglicized as male to more closely resemble the word female.