Saturday, June 25, 2011

Alva Noë - Gender Is Dead! Long Live Gender!

This was an interesting post from Alva Noë the other day that was posted at NPR's 13.7 Cosmos and Culture blog - the day before, NPR posted an article by Linton Weeks called 'The End of Gender?" The two pieces work well together . . . .

In the end, both authors agree that gender matters - even more so in kids. And they cite two of my recent favorite books on the neuroscience of gender: Cordelia Fine's Delusions of Gender and Lise Eliot's Pink Brain, Blue Brain.

[And kudos to Mr. Noë for choosing the U of O cheerleaders. Go Ducks!]
Imagine yourself as a cheerleader ...

Imagine yourself as a cheerleader ...

Conjure before your mind the image of a physics professor. Imagine what his life is like. Now pretend, for a few moments, that you are that person. Try to get a feel for what it is like to be him.

Now let's start anew. This time think of a cheerleader. Picture her; imagine what her life is like. Now pretend to be her. Imagine what it is like to be her.

When psychologist Adam Galinksy and his collaborator at Northwestern University asked subjects to carry out this sort of exercise, they made a startling finding. After the exercise, subjects were asked to characterize themselves. Those individuals who had imaginatively adopted the perspective of the professor were more likely to describe themselves as clever than those who had been assigned the cheerleader persona. And those who had adopted the cheerleader perspective, were correspondingly more likely to describe themselves as gorgeous.

But that's not all. The exercise had actual effects on how people performed on tests. Those who had identified with the professor performed better on tests of analytic intelligence than those who had identified with the cheerleader!

This study, and many others like it, is described in Cordelia Fine's brilliant new book Delusions of Gender. She offers a fair and detailed review of research on the psychological and neurobiological foundations of gender difference. Her finding is clear and persuasive: Whatever cognitive or personality differences there are between men and women cannot be attributed, except in a few isolated cases, to intrinsic biological or psychological differences between men and women, at least not in the current state of knowledge.

Which is not to say that there may not be differences.

Witness the study just described. The differences in performance on the test were pronounced; this is a real behavioral difference, the sort of different that could easily make a difference, for example, to performance on the job. But what caused the difference? Not anything in the make-up or constitution of the tested individuals. The controlling factor was an accidental fact about which imaginative exercises individuals had been assigned in the pre-test situation.

This is a glorious and beautiful finding, for it reveals something deep and pervasive in human life.

Human beings don't just fall under categories. We don't just happen to be professors, or cheerleaders, Americans or Pakistanis, gay or straight. We think of ourselves as being these kinds of people. And with these thoughts comes a whole matrix of associations, beliefs, attitudes, feelings, interests, anxieties and expectations.

Consider this question: Were there heterosexuals in Ancient Rome? You might say: Of course! After all, there were men and women whose primary target of sexual desire was people of the opposite sex.

But in another sense the answer to this should surely be: Well, not really. After all, Ancient Romans didn't think of themselves as straight. Not in our sense of the term, at least. After all, the whole matrix of ideas — gay, straight, queer, and so on — did not exist, and neither did the particular loading of values that these ideas bring to mind for us here now.

In some thin descriptive sense, people might have been heterosexual back then; but in a thicker sense, there was no such thing as heterosexuality.

Categories like heterosexual, professor and cheerleader exhibit what the Canadian philosopher of science Ian Hacking has called looping effects. It is only if you have the relevant concepts, that you can come to think of yourself as classified as this way or that. And once you can think of yourself as being a person of a certain kind, you can also, through choices both conscious and unconscious, either make it the case that you are a person of the kind of question, or that you are not. You can, in this sense, construct your identity. But you couldn't do this without the availability of the category in the first place. As Hacking writes:

"Looping effects are everywhere: Think what the category of genius did to those Romantics who saw themselves as geniuses, and what their behavior in turn did to the category of genius itself. Think about the transformations effected by the notions of fat, overweight, anorexic."

I don't mean that we decide to be straight, in the way we decide to be a professor or a cheerleader. What I mean, rather, is that being straight isn't only a matter of acting or being disposed to act this way or that. It's a way of thinking about yourself. And with this way of thinking about yourself comes a whole complex of associated qualities, limitations and also expectations that loop back on to the way we act and are disposed to act.

And so with the concepts male and female.

Consider another study Fine reports on in her book. Students at a private college were asked to perform a spatial reasoning task. Before the test one group of students filled out a form on which they were asked to report their gender. The other group was not asked this question but was instead asked to name their university. In this way, one group was "primed" to consider themselves in the light of gender identity, whereas the other was primed to think of themselves under the category "private college student."

Men primed to think of their gender showed a marked improvement in performance over men who were primed to think of themselves as students at a private college. Exactly the opposite was observed in women. Women primed to consider their status as students at a private college significantly outperformed women who'd been primed to think of themselves as women.

It is as if the mere questions — male? female? student? — by reminding the students what kind of person they are, determined how well they could perform on the test.

The significance of studies such these cuts in different directions. It suggests that you won't find a legitimation of our self-categories in neurobiology. If biology is the measure of all things, then many of the categories we use to group ourselves into kinds of person — man, woman, gay, straight, black, white, professor, cheerleader — are, in fact, unreal. You don't find them in nature as it is apart from our attitudes and beliefs about that nature. At the same time, what could be more real than the way we experience ourselves as being?

Question: Would you want to free yourself from your self-categories, if you could?

* * * * *
Here's the other article - which includes a brief bit about Andrej Pejic, the androgynous runway model who worked both the male and female runways at the Paris fashion shows earlier this year.

The End Of Gender?

Look closely and you may see signposts.

• Kathy Witterick and her husband, David Stocker, are raising their 4-month-old child, Storm, without revealing the child's gender. According to the birth announcement from the Toronto couple: "We've decided not to share Storm's sex for now — a tribute to freedom and choice in place of limitation, a stand up to what the world could become in Storm's lifetime (a more progressive place?)"
• Andrej Pejic, an androgynous Australian model, worked both the male and female runways at the Paris fashion shows earlier this year.
• A recent J. Crew catalog drew national attention when it featured a young boy with his toenails painted pink.

Androgynous male model Andrej Pejic on the runway in Rio de Janeiro, June 4.
Androgynous male model Andrej Pejic on the runway in Rio de Janeiro, June 4.

Could we be heading toward the end of gender?

And by "gender" we mean, according to Merriam-Webster, "the behavioral, cultural, or psychological traits typically associated with one sex." In other words, the cultural expectations that go along with saying that someone is a boy or a girl. In other other words, not someone's sex — the person's gender.

"Sex differences are real and some are probably present at birth, but then social factors magnify them," says Lise Eliot, an associate professor of neuroscience at the Chicago Medical School and author of Pink Brain, Blue Brain: How Small Differences Grow Into Troublesome Gaps and What We Can Do About It. "So if we, as a society, feel that gender divisions do more harm than good, it would be valuable to break them down. "

As history shows, one enterprise in which Americans excel is the breaking down of divisions.

Gender Neutrality

Perhaps you have a friend or family member who is more comfortable with a new gender. Or maybe you have had dealings with someone of indeterminate gender in the checkout line. Maybe you have seen the old "It's Pat" routines from Saturday Night Live.

Because there is a growing societal awareness of gender consciousness and of a certain blurriness of genders, the question "Is it a boy or a girl?" may not just be for expectant parents anymore.

And so what? Does gender matter? In a country with the ideal of treating everyone fairly and equitably, do we really need to know if someone is a boy or a girl? These questions are driving decisions and actions around the country.

• In Muskegon, Mich., officials at Mona Shores High School declared this year's prom court would be gender-neutral — with no "kings" and "queens" — after denying a transgender student the homecoming-king crown last year.

• In Johnson City, Tenn., East Tennessee State University recently announced that it is exploring gender-neutral housing for students — following the lead of Stanford University, the University of Michigan, Rutgers University and other colleges. These are not just coed dorms, but dorms for anyone regardless of how they express their gender. The roommate you choose can be gay or straight or whatever.

Four-month-old Storm Stocker (right) gets a hug from older brother Jazz in Toronto. Storm's parents, Kathy Witterick, 38, and David Stocker, 39, are keeping Storm's gender a secret.
Steve Russell/AP

Four-month-old Storm Stocker (right) gets a hug from older brother Jazz in Toronto. Storm's parents, Kathy Witterick, 38, and David Stocker, 39, are keeping Storm's gender a secret.

• Around the beginning of this year, the State Department began using gender-neutral language on U.S. passports — replacing "father" and "mother" with "Parent One" and Parent Two" — to make it simpler for nontraditional parents, beyond the male/female combination, to get passports for their children.

Everywhere you turn, it seems, there is talk of gender-neutral this and gender-free that: baby bedding (Wild Safari by Carousel); fashion (Kanye West in a Celine women's shirt); Bibles (the New International Version).

Gender neutrality, writes one blogging parent, is the new black.

'High-Stakes Social Constructions'

A female-to-male transsexual and advocate for transgender rights, Dean Spade writes often about gender issues. Spade is an assistant professor at Seattle University School of Law and founder of the Sylvia Rivera Law Project in New York City, which offers free legal guidance to transgender, intersex and gender-nonconforming clients.

In a 2008 paper, "Documenting Gender," Spade examines the gender reclassification polices of public agencies and departments in the United States. In the past 40 years, Spade observes, society has come to recognize the existence of a group of people, currently known as "transgender," who identify with and live as a different gender than the one assigned to them when they were born.

In an interview, Spade makes a passionate pitch for the elimination of gender categorization in most government record-keeping. "I really don't think that data needs to be on our IDs or gathered by most agencies and institutions," Spade says. Tagging someone as female or male "enforces binary gender norms and it pretends that gender is a more stable category of identity than it actually is."

Spade says, "I can see why we might want institutions to be aware of gender at a general level in order to engage in remediation of the sexism and transphobia that shape our world."

For example, Spade says, gender-based affirmative action — that rectifies discrimination against women — might be called for in certain programs and institutions "so we might want institutions to do an analysis of who is getting to participate." But, Spade adds, in order to gain a general idea of the gender makeup of a particular population, it is not necessary to then turn around and post that information on a particular participant's personal record.

Developing policies to counter the impact of sexism and transphobia, Spade adds, does not require a belief that gender categories are "real — stable, unchangeable, natural. We can engage such strategies while understanding that gender categories are high-stakes social constructions deployed in ways that endanger and harm socially determined groups."


To chronicle her adventures in gender-neutral parenting, Arwyn Daemyir writes a blog called Raising My Boychick. She describes herself as "a walking contradiction: knitting feminist full-time parent, Wiccan science-minded woowoo massage therapist, queer-identified male-partnered monogamist, body-loving healthy-eating fat chick, unmedicated mostly-stable bipolar."

She describes her boychick, born in March 2007, as a "male-assigned at birth — and so far apparently comfortable with that assignment, white, currently able-bodied, congenitally hypothyroid, co-sleeper, former breastfed toddler, elimination communication graduate, sling baby and early walker, trial and terror, cliched light of our life, and impetus for the blog. Odds are good he will be the most privileged of persons: a middle class, able bodied, cisgender, straight, white male."

The adjective cisgender — as opposed to transgender — describes someone who is at peace with the gender he or she was assigned at birth.

Daemyir lives in Portland, Ore. She and her straight male partner are expecting another baby in September.

For Daemyir, gender-neutral parenting is not an attempt to eliminate gender, "because the 70s'-era gender neutral parenting movement proved that's not possible."

But, she adds, she has concerns about the ways we designate and segregate gender in public, "starting with the idea that there are two-and-only-two genders — a construction, and a myth, in our society that excludes many."

To that end, Daemyir supports, among other changes, non-gender-designated single-stall bathrooms and an option for unisex washrooms and locker rooms. "Right now, when an establishment only has one toilet stall, of course it is non-gendered. Why, when there is room for two, must they arbitrarily be designated for 'Men' and 'Women'? When a place has room enough for several large rooms of toilets and free-standing single-stalls, why must they all be gendered, when it would be as easy to make some single-gendered and some not, giving people the ability to make choices that are most comfortable or convenient for them?"

Daemyir does not think that eliminating all single-gender areas "is beneficial or safe either, necessarily, but ... we over-designate many of these things when it's simply not necessary, and actively harms a particularly marginalized population — people with non-binary genders."

Eliot, the neuroscience professor, is not so sure about total change. "Perhaps I'm too old-school — or fussy — to argue for the elimination of men's and women's bathrooms," Eliot says, " but certainly employment forms and loan applications should not require gender information. Also, if parents did not buy into the gender stereotyping of children's toys and clothes, kids would stay open-minded longer during childhood. The goal is to keep girls physically active, curious and assertive, and boys sensitive, verbal and studious."

Why Gender Still Matters

Gender matters to Leonard Sax, a family physician, psychologist and founder and executive director of the National Association for Single Sex Public Education. Sax has written several books on gender, including Why Gender Matters and Girls on the Edge.

When NPR asked Sax whether he sees signs of the end of gender in contemporary society, he responded with a lively defense of gender distinctions, an edited version of which appears here:

The tidbits you mention — the Toronto couple, or the J. Crew fashion catalog — are of interest only to a small segment of media people, and without resonance in the larger society.

As opposed to the tidbits you cited, I would observe:

• The new head of New York City Public Schools, Dennis Walcott, has called for more single-sex public schools in New York City.

• The newly elected mayor of Chicago, Rahm Emanuel, has called for more single-sex public schools in the city of Chicago.

• Tampa public schools are opening a girls' public school and a boys' public school this fall. Not charter schools, but regular public schools under the authority of the district.

Ignoring gender won't make it go away. On the contrary: Ignoring gender has the ironic consequence of exacerbating gender stereotypes.

The determined lack of awareness of gender difference which you describe ... puts both girls and boys at risk — but in different ways. Not merely academically, but physically — increasing girls' risks of knee injury and concussion — and spiritually — increasing girls' risks of drug and alcohol abuse; increasing boys' risk of disengagement and apathy.

If you don't think gender matters in the classroom, you haven't been in a third-grade classroom recently. I have visited more than 300 schools over the past 11 years.

You will find that white, black, Spanish-speaking doesn't matter on this parameter; affluent or low-income doesn't matter; urban or rural doesn't matter. Gender is far more important, more fundamental, than any of those other parameters. On many parameters relevant to education, such as attention span, a white boy from an affluent home in Bethesda or McLean has more in common with an African-American male from a low-income home in Southeast D.C. than he has in common with his own sister, a white girl.

Many third-grade boys today in the United States have told me "school is a stupid waste of time." I have never heard such a comment from a third-grade girl in this country. Do you think that doesn't matter?

— Linton Weeks


Anonymous said...

Trinity 2007

Opposite Sexes or Neighboring Sexes?

C.S. Lewis, Dorothy L. Sayers, and
the Psychology of Gender
Mary Stewart Van Leeuwen

Gender and Modern Social Science

C. S. Lewis was no fan of the emerging social sciences. He saw practitioners of the social sciences mainly as lackeys of technologically-minded natural scientists, bent on reducing individual freedom and moral accountability to mere epiphenomena of natural processes (See Lewis 1943 and 1970 b). And not surprisingly (given his passion for gender-essentialist archetypes), aside from a qualified appreciation
of some aspects of Freudian psychoanalysis (See Lewis 1952 (Book III, Chapter 4) and 1969). “Carl Jung was the only philosopher [sic] of the Viennese school for whose work [Lewis] had much respect” (Sayer 102).

But the social sciences concerned with the psychology of gender have since shown that Sayers was right, and Lewis and Jung were wrong: women and men are not opposite sexes but neighboring sexes—and very close neighbors indeed. There are, it turns out, virtually no large, consistent sex differences in any psychological traits and behaviors, even when we consider the usual stereotypical suspects: that men are more aggressive, or just, or rational than women, and women are more empathic, verbal, or nurturing than men. When differences are found, they are always average—not absolute—differences. And in virtually all cases the small, average—and often decreasing—difference between the sexes is greatly exceeded by the amount of variability on that trait within members of each sex. Most of the “bell curves” for women and men (showing the distribution of a given psychological trait or behavior) overlap almost completely. So it is naïve at best (and deceptive at worst) to make even average—let alone absolute—pronouncements about essential archetypes in either sex when there is much more variability within than between the sexes on all the trait and behavior measures for which we have abundant data.

This criticism applies as much to C. S. Lewis and Carl Jung as it does to their currently most visible descendent, John Gray, who continues to claim (with no systematic empirical warrant) that men are from Mars and women are from Venus (Gray 1992).

And what about Lewis’s claims about the overriding masculinity of God? Even the late Carl Henry (a theologian with impeccable credentials as a conservative evangelical) noted a quarter of a century ago that:

Masculine and feminine elements are excluded from both the Old Testament and New Testament doctrine of deity. The God of the Bible is a sexless God. When Scripture speaks of God as “he” the pronoun is primarily personal (generic) rather than masculine (specific); it emphasizes God’s personal nature—and, in turn, that of the Father, Son and Spirit as Trinitarian distinctions in contrast to impersonal entities... Biblical religion is quite uninterested in any discussion of God’s masculinity or femininity... Scripture does not depict God either as ontologically
masculine or feminine. (Henry 1982, 159–60)
However well-intentioned, attempts to read a kind of mystical gendering into God—whether stereotypically
masculine, feminine, or both—reflect not so much careful biblical theology as “the long

arm of Paganism” (Martin 11). For it is pagan worldviews, the Jewish commentator Nahum Sarna reminds us, that are “unable to conceive of any primal creative force other than in terms of sex... [In Paganism] the sex element existed before the cosmos came into being and all the gods themselves were creatures of sex. On the other hand, the Creator in Genesis is uniquely without any female counterpart, and the very association of sex with God is utterly alien to the religion of the Bible” (Sarna 76).

Anonymous said...

Trinity 2007

Opposite Sexes or Neighboring Sexes?

C.S. Lewis, Dorothy L. Sayers, and
the Psychology of Gender

Mary Stewart Van Leeuwen

Gender and Modern Social Science

And if the God of creation does not privilege maleness or stereotypical masculinity, neither did the Lord of redemption. Sayers’s response to the cultural assumption that women were human-not-quite-human has become rightly famous:
Perhaps it is no wonder that women were first at the Cradle and last at the Cross. They had never known a man like this Man—there never has been such another. A prophet and teacher who never nagged at them, never flattered or coaxed or patronised; who never made arch jokes about them, never treated them either as “The women, God help us!” or “The ladies, God bless them!; who rebuked without querulousness and praised without condescension; who took their questions and arguments seriously; who never mapped out their sphere for them, never urged them to be feminine or jeered at them for being
female; who had no axe to grind or no uneasy male dignity to defend; who took them as he found them and was completely unself-conscious. There is not act, no sermon, no parable in the whole Gospel which borrows its pungency from female perversity; nobody could possibly guess from the words and deeds of Jesus that there was anything “funny” about women’s nature. (Sayers 1975, 46)
It is quite likely that Lewis’s changing views on gender owed something to the intellectual and Christian ties that he forged with Dorothy L. Sayers. And indeed, in 1955—two years before her death, Lewis confessed to Sayers that he had only “dimly realised that the old-fashioned way... of talking to all young women was v[ery] like an adult way of talking to young boys. It explains,” he wrote, “not only why some women grew up vapid, but also why others grew us (if we may coin the word) viricidal [i.e., wanting to kill men]” (Lewis 2007, 676; Lewis’s emphasis). The Lewis who in his younger years so adamantly had defended the doctrine of gender essentialism was beginning to acknowledge the extent to which gendered behavior is socially conditioned. In another letter that same year, he expressed a concern to Sayers that some of the first illustrations for the Narnia Chronicles were a bit too effeminate. “I don’t like either the ultra feminine or the ultra masculine,” he added. “I prefer people” (Lewis 2007, 639; Lewis’s emphasis).

Dorothy Sayers surely must have rejoiced to read this declaration. Many of Lewis’s later readers, including myself, wish that his shift on this issue had occurred earlier and found its way into his better-selling apologetic works and his novels for children and adults. But better late than never. And it would be better still if those who keep trying to turn C. S. Lewis into an icon for traditionalist views on gender essentialism and gender hierarchy would stop mining his earlier works for isolated proof-texts and instead read what he wrote at every stage of his life.

Mary Stewart Van Leeuwen is Professor of Psychology and Philosophy at Eastern University, St. Davids, Pennsylvania.

Anonymous said...

Trinity 2007

Opposite Sexes or Neighboring Sexes?

C.S. Lewis, Dorothy L. Sayers, and
the Psychology of Gender
Mary Stewart Van Leeuwen

Gender and Modern Social Science

This essay originally was presented as the Tenth Annual Warren Rubel Lecture on Christianity and Higher Learning at Valparaiso University on 1 February 2007.

The Cresset


Evans, C. Stephen. Wisdom and Humanness in Psychology: Prospects for a Christian Approach. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1989.
Gray, John. Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus. New York: HarperCollins, 1992.
Hannay, Margaret. C. S. Lewis. New York: Frederick Ungar, 1981.
Henry, Carl F. H. God, Revelation, and Authority. Vol. V. Waco, Texas: Word, 1982.
Lewis, C. S. The Collected Letters of C. S. Lewis, Vol. III. Walter Hooper, ed. San Francisco:
HarperSanFrancisco, 2007.
_____. The Discarded Image: An Introduction to Medieval and Renaissance Literature. Cambridge: Cambridge University, 1964.
_____. The Collected Letters of C. S. Lewis, Vol. I: 1905–1931. Walter Hooper, ed. San Francisco:
HarperSanFrancisco, 2004a.
_____. The Collected Letters of C. S. Lewis, Vol. II: 1931–1949. Walter Hooper, ed. San Francisco:
HarperSanFrancisco, 2004b.
_____. “On Three Ways of Writing for Children,”[1952] Reprinted in Of Other Worlds: Essays and Stories, ed., Walter Hooper, 22–34. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1975.
_____. “Priestesses in the Church?” [1948]. Reprinted in God in the Dock: Essays on Theology and Ethics, ed. Walter Hooper, 234–39. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1970a.
_____. “The Humanitarian Theory of Punishment,”[1954]. Reprinted in God in the Dock: Essays on Theology and Ethics, ed. Walter Hooper, 287–300. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1970b.
_____. “Psychoanalysis and Literary Criticism,”[1942]. Reprinted in Selected Literary Essays, ed. Walter Hooper, 286–300. Cambridge: Cambridge University, 1969.
_____. [N. W. Clerk, pseudo.] A Grief Observed. London: Faber and Faber, 1961.
_____. The Four Loves. London: Geoffrey Bles, 1960.
_____. Till We Have Faces. London: Geoffrey Bles, 1956.
_____. Surprised by Joy: The Shape of My Early Life. London: Collins, 1955.
_____. Mere Christianity. London: Collins, 1952.
_____. That Hideous Strength. London: John Lane the Bodley Head, 1945.
_____. The Abolition of Man. Oxford: Oxford University, 1943.
_____. A Preface to Paradise Lost. Oxford: Oxford University, 1942.
The Cresset
_____. Perelandra. London: The Bodley Head, 1942.
Martin, Faith. “Mystical Masculinity: The New Question Facing Women,” Priscilla Papers, Vol. 12, No. 2 (Winter 1998), 6–12.
Reynolds, Barbara. Dorothy L. Sayers: Her Life and Soul. New York: St. Martins, 1993.
Sarna, Nahum M. Understanding Genesis: The Heritage of Biblical Israel. New York: Schocken, 1966.
Sayer, George. Jack: C. S. Lewis and His Times. San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1988.
Sayers, Dorothy L. “The Human-Not-Quite-Human,”[1946]. Reprinted in Dorothy L. Sayers, Are Women
Human?, 37–47. Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity, 1975.
Sayers, Dorothy L. Gaudy Night. London: Victor Gollancz, 1935.
Sterk, Helen. “Gender and Relations and Narrative in a Reformed Church Setting.” In After Eden: Facing the Challenge of Gender Reconciliation, ed., Mary Stewart Van Leeuwen, 184–221. Grand Rapids:

Eerdmans, 1993.
Copyright © 2007 Valparaiso University Press

Anonymous said...

I have an excellent book from 1979 written by 2 parent child development psychologists Dr. Wendy Schemp Matthews and award winning psychologist from Columbia University, Dr.Jeane Brooks-Gunn, called He & She How Children Develop Their Sex Role Idenity.

They thoroughly demonstrate with tons of great studies and experiments by parent child psychologists that girl and boy babies are actually born more alike than different with very few differences but they are still perceived and treated systematically very different from the moment of birth on by parents and other adult care givers. They go up to the teen years.

They also show that surveys show that boys are overwhelimingly prefered over girls,(sadly nothing has changed and shirts (and other sexist anti-female ads,pornography,etc do too) like these both reflect and contribute to this injustice.They also explain that when people guess if a pregnant woman is having a girl or a boy,and they list a whole bunch of false unproven old wives tales,that assign all negative characteristics to a woman if they think she's having a girl,and the imagined girls or given all of the negative characteristics.

For example they say that author Elana Belotti(1977) explained these examples, The man and woman each take hold of one end of a wishbone and pull it apart.If the longest part comes away in the man's hand,the baby will be a boy. If you suddenly ask a pregnant woman what she has in her hand and she looks at her right hand first ,she will have a boy;if she looks at her left hand it will be a girl.If the mother's belly is bigger on the right-hand side a boy will be born,and also if her right breast is bigger than her left,or if her right foot is more restless.

If a woman is placid during pregnancy she will have a boy,but if she is bad-tempered or cries a lot,she will have a girl.If her complexion is rosy she's going to have a son;if she is pale a daughter. If her looks improve,she's expecting a boy;if they worsen,a girl.If the fetal heartbeat is fast,it is a boy;if it is slow it is a girl.If the fetus has started to move by the fortieth day it will be a boy and the birth will be easy,but if it doesn't move until the ninetieth day it will be a girl.( Belotti 1977,pp.22-23)

Dr.Brooks-Gunn and Wendy Schempp Matthews then say, now rate each of the characteristics above as positive or negative. A woman expecting a girl is pale,her looks deteriorate,she is cross and ill-tempered,and she gets the short end of the wishbone,all negative characteristics. They then say,furthermore ,a girl is symbolized by the left-the left hand,the left side of the belly,the left foot,the left breast. They say,left connotes evil,a bad omen,or sinister,again the girls have all of the negative characteristics. They then say,that sex-role stereotypes about activity also characterize Belotti's recipes:boys are believed to be active from the very beginning and girls have slower heartbeats and begin to move around later.They then say,the message although contradictory(girls cause more trouble even though they are more passive) is clear in that it reflects the sex-role stereotype that boys "do" while girls "are" and the belief that boys are more desirable than girls.

I once spoke with Dr.Brooks-Gunn in 1994 and I asked her how she could explain all of these great studies that show that girl and boy babies are actually born more alike with few differences but are still perceived and treated so differently anyway, and she said that's due to socialization and she said there is no question, that socialization plays a very big part.

I know that many scientists know that the brain is plastic and can be shaped and changed by different life experiences and different enviornments too and Dr.Mary Stewart Van Leewuen told this to me too when I spoke to her 12 years ago.

Anonymous said...

I know that many scientists know that the brain is plastic and can be shaped and changed by different life experiences and different enviornments too and Dr.Mary Stewart Van Leewuen told this to me too when I spoke to her 12 years ago. Dr.Van Leeuwen also told me that humans have a unique highly developed cerebral cortex which allows us to make choices about our behavior,and to learn things that animals can't.

Also there are 2 great online rebuttals of the Mars & Venus myth by Susan Hamson called, The Rebuttal From Uranus and Out Of The Cave: Exploring Gray's Anatomy by Kathleen Trigiani.

Also have you read the excellent book by social psychologist Dr.Gary Wood at The University of Birmingham called, Sex Lies & Stereotypes:Challenging Views Of Women, Men & Relationships? He clearly demonstrates with all of the research studies from psychology what Dr.Mary Stewart Van Leewuen does, and he debunks The Mars & Venus myth and shows that the sexes are biologically and psychologically more alike than different and how gender roles and differences are mostly socially created.

Anyway, if you could write back when you have a chance I would really appreciate it.

Thank You

Anonymous said...

As a result of stereotyped thinking, mathematically talented elementary-school girls may be overlooked by parents who have lower expectations for a daughter's success in math. Hyde cites prior research showing that parents' expectations of their children's success in math relate strongly to the children's self-confidence and performance.

Moving Past Myth

Hyde and her colleagues hope that people use the consistent evidence that males and females are basically alike to alleviate misunderstanding and correct unequal treatment. Hyde is far from alone in her observation that the clear misrepresentation of sex differences, given the lack of evidence, harms men and women of all ages. In a September 2005 press release on her research issued by the American Psychological Association (APA), she said, "The claims [of gender difference] can hurt women's opportunities in the workplace, dissuade couples from trying to resolve conflict and communication problems and cause unnecessary obstacles that hurt children and adolescents' self-esteem."

Psychologist Diane Halpern, PhD, a professor at Claremont College and past-president (2005) of the American Psychological Association, points out that even where there are patterns of cognitive differences between males and females, "differences are not deficiencies." She continues, "Even when differences are found, we cannot conclude that they are immutable because the continuous interplay of biological and environmental influences can change the size and direction of the effects some time in the future."

The differences that are supported by the evidence cause concern, she believes, because they are sometimes used to support prejudicial beliefs and discriminatory actions against girls and women. She suggests that anyone reading about gender differences consider whether the size of the differences are large enough to be meaningful, recognize that biological and environmental variables interact and influence one other, and remember that the conclusions that we accept today could change in the future.