Quickies

Skepchick Quickies 1.8

Amanda

Amanda is a science grad student in Boston whose favorite pastimes are having friendly debates and running amok.

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18 Comments

  1. When I was young, I didn’t play with barbie’s, or anything like that. I did used to play with girls, but these weren’t your average dainty chicks. (bear in mind, I went to a private school where boys only played with boys, and girls only played with girls. I always chaulked it up to preventing fraternization.) I didn’t like pink, or purple, or yellow. I wanted transformers, thundercats, and ninja turtles.

    As a result, 20 some-odd years later, I still have no interest in barbies, or the color pink, or anything like that. As a matter of fact, I stopped playing with girls-all playing with girls. I only play with boys.

    the moral of the story, be careful what you wish for, you just might get it.

  2. Love love love your site–but I’m a little disappointed in the link about debunking the gender gap. Not because you posted it–it’s highly newsworthy–but because the interpretation’s missing the point, and paradoxically it’s a point your own organization does so much with to help overcome the (still real) gender gap.

    Summers’s comments, often excoriated, regard evidence that still holds: there is an underrepresentation of women in the *”hard”* sciences at the *top* levels, and this still holds true for women from these very countries mentioned in the article.

    Meanwhile, though these nations stave off the seeming gender gap we see in American high schools, it’s only a delaying action. More, in American schools there not only *isn’t* a gender gap through junior high, even here, girls indeed often do outperform boys.

    Summers’s provocative statement might even have some basis in basic fact through pedagogy, at least when averaged over populations. Math especially is not a monolithic subject, and (read Pinker’s The Blank Slate) the “natural” foundation of arithmetic math might significantly favor girls, as well as the “unnatural” but linguistic manipulations of algebraic math. Meanwhile, the spatio-temporal manipulations of geometry might be more boys’ forte–presuming they survive to that point w/o developing the erroneous notion “I just suck at math” and mail it in from that point on.

    Many boys do fall by the wayside by that point, by the way. But the reverse can be just as crushing for a girl–to breeze through years of math w/ little struggle and then suddenly encounter a significant difficulty w/o explanation can crush one’s motivation. Especially if one’s self-esteem is grade-based.

    Being encouraged that this blip may well be natural but temporary, and making sure to tie the (probably spatio-temporal) difficult material in to the (probably arithmetic and algebraic) material that she does well with can make a huge difference.

    As much as I’ve rambled on that matter, however, there may be a deeper–albeit just as easily remediable–distinction that makes sure girls who excel at math and the hard sciences do not lose interest. Again, this has to do w/ accepting a clear average *distinction* between the genders.

    It starts with a commonality: the importance of self-esteem and the aim of being seen as sexually desirable as one hits puberty. However, mountains of evidence–from our very sciences–effectively shows that the relative weight placed on physical appearance versus performance in some chosen field is different.

    If this is true, it easily explains why the (far fewer) men who have withstood a gauntlet that weeded out hordes of boys are nevertheless highly motivated to keep going in math, physics, engineering. This is there version of the big-businessman, the politician, the pro athlete–the stage on which, viscerally, “I’ll show off and shine and be *wanted.*”

    It’s a very powerful drive. But what can be done to provide something comparable for girls who are starting to judge–and often be judged, let’s be honest–on their physicality?

    The typical reply, if this concept has been raised at all, is that this driving force in men is questionable and rather pathetic (and perhaps it is questionable). So any notion that sex and desirability is important is thrown out with an “I’ll never sink so low!”

    And it’s a huge mistake. If there is anything that anyone who would promote science should not do it’s deny the realities of biology.

    Especially when the challenge can easily be met. Ask this question: Why are women like Kari or Jessi from the Mythbusters show so popular–and considered desirable? (In fact, for that matter ask why a Britney Spears is too–when there must be millions of women at least as physically attractive?)

    Because–contrary to what has been implicitly, socially taught for so long *performance seriously enhances a woman’s sexual attractiveness too*.

    That may be the very elephant in the room. Not that men and women are “equal” in all ways, but the most important ways–and that for *either* a man or woman to reach their potential in science, society pushes the fact that, as the Jennifer Aniston PSA from a decade ago so nicely put it: “Smart is sexier than stupid any day.”

  3. The “Silencing the Brain with Light” link is broken. This one seems to work.

    With regards to that article, I find myself mentally rewriting the second half of almost every sentence. For example:

    “This kind of selective brain silencing, reported in the Jan. 7 issue of Nature, could not only help treat brain disorders but also allows [Hollywood to commission yet another remake of The Manchurian Candidate.]”

  4. If I ever have a son, I hope he’ll play with a large variety of toys, including dolls, and I hope he’ll enjoy all colors, including pink and purple. I would hope the exact same thing for a daughter. I can’t imagine taking my child in for treatment because they don’t follow their gender roles closely enough. How could anyone do that to their very own child?

  5. Ok, am I the only one who saw the baby orang and thought ” Nowadays, just one; but back in the glorious days of the Centauri Republic, hundreds of servants would change thousands of light bulbs at your slightest whim!”

    However, the gender identity thing is fairly messed up. Classifying it as a mental illness? I didn’t realize the DSM still did that shit, much less that there was anyone with education defending it.

  6. Transwoman commenter here, delurking to make some issues clearer.

    GID is a horrible, horrible, HORRIBLE diagnosis and I want to make that clear before I say anything. I have not *yet* gone through transition, unfortunately (mega-understatement), because I am only 18, fiscally dependent on my parents, and they aren’t exactly supportive of the idea.

    So it’s entirely possible that I have no idea what I’m talking about. But transgender folks and gay folks are not, and should not be treated analagously. There’s nothing physiologically wrong inherent in being gay. For transgender people, the problem is that everything is physiologically wrong. We need a medical diagnosis of some sort because we have a medical condition.

    That all being said, there’s a major difference between being transgender and playing with dolls, and the idea that either is a harmful thing is ridiculous and makes me wonder which century we’re in.

    But as I said before, GID is a horrible diagnosis because it presumes, first of all, that there is something wrong and to be treated with the mind of transfolks. It’s also terribly sexist- feminine boys are held to a far stricter standard than masculine girls ( http://www.gidreform.org/gid3026.html , since I can’t figure out how to embed links in text).

    It’s not a clear-cut issue that can just be chopped out of the DSM and be done with. It’s a primitive diagnosis that needs to be significantly refined so that it does what it’s supposed to be doing- helping transfolks transition- without producing horrible side effects like “treating” boys playing with Barbies.

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