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[P]
Legos vs. Dolls

By atomic in Culture
Mon Sep 24, 2001 at 05:13:52 PM EST
Tags: Culture (all tags)
Culture

In 1913, the first Erector Sets designed by Gilbert Co. were being sold. Soon after "in keeping with his idea that the Erector set was as much a learning tool for future would-be engineers" as it was a toy, Gilbert started his annual 'Gilbert Prize Contest for Boys'. At the same time, girls were playing with dolls and carriages, designed in preparation for their acceptable futures as homemakers and mothers. More than 85 years in the future, little has changed in the world of children's toys. Although it is now acceptable for women in the United States to take a professional rather than a purely domestic role in society, society has yet to raise its little girls differently to accommodate the change, resulting in sparse populations of women in technological fields.


Toys for youths of different sexes in the United States, although changing to reflect the styles of the present, have stayed relatively the same. Toys that encourage building, questioning, exploring, are continuing to be marketed toward boys. Toys emphasising the domestic, such as play houses, dolls, dress-up, continue to be the only toys marketed toward girls, with few exceptions. While boys are encouraged to explore and build as they grow, girls are gently nudged into the still-existing paradigm of woman's place in society, which has been formed for hundreds of years.

The result is adult women who fit into that paradigm, and adult men in turn being blamed for the lack of women in predominantly male fields because of discrimination. Although there is no denying that there are some sexist males in high places, this is by no means the reason of the absence of feminine presence. It is not that simple. Men are not holding women back. Women are just not as interested in technological fields as men are. This is not because they are incapable of the work that men more often do. It is because they are not raised like boys are: to ask questions, to figure out how things work, to do things on their own. Women are often more ready to accept that things work where as men are more likely to want to know why. Therefore the presence of women in fields requiring precisely that quality is lacking.

According to a report by the National Council for Research On Women, one way to get girls more interested in studying the sciences is by cooperative, hands-on learning. This sort of learning is exactly what building sets and the like provide for little boys. Since virtually nothing of this sort is ever marketed toward girls, they lose their early chances of developing an interest in technology and science in general.

In addition to my own experiences as a woman beginning my college education in computer science, which I will recount toward the end of this article, I have observed this theory first hand on a few occasions.

A few friends of mine (both male) were leaning over a computer I had just built , and one expressed his desire to rebuild his ancient machine. I mentioned that it was not nearly as complicated as it looks, to which my other friend affirmed, "Yeah, it's easy. It's just like Legos."

Observation of two young siblings, cousins of mine, a nine year old boy and a six year old girl, uncovered the beginnings of this theory at work. The boy in this family is given all the video game systems and building toys, while his younger sister is given dolls, princess clothes, and tea sets. This has been the case since the birth of the little girl; she has grown up with little contact with technology, especially in comparison to her brother. The result seems to be that the girl shows very little interest in science, while her brother is more eager to learn and observe scientific happenings in his environment. The girl shows an interest in nature, but at the same time lacks the patience to learn more. The quality of patience to learn is imperative to scientific fields.

It is apparent that the young girl is already leaning away from interest in science or technology. She has given up asking her brother to let her play his video games and she has none of her own to play. The result is a loss of interest in something she might have been quite good at.

Simply observing my friends and colleagues in and out of the technical realm indicates an air of confidence from the males when approaching the technical, where as females subconsciously seem more ready to step back, with less confidence. Further discussion reveals the facets of their respective childhoods. The women who show less confidence in their technical abilities have genuinely had a less technical childhood. The toys they enjoyed were play kitchens, dress-up, and dolls. Again,these women are very intelligent and do not lack the intrinsic capacity to competently use technology, or even excel in its creation or manipulation. It is a deep-seated lack of interest and, more importantly, of confidence that they possess.

This is obviously not the case for all women, myself being an example, although I had to struggle a bit. I was raised on traditionally 'girlie' toys and enjoyed them. My earliest memories of computers involved teachers who were so afraid of breaking the few precious computers afforded the school that they instilled a feeling of fragility in me that took a while to get over. But as I always excelled at math I searched for something to compliment that, and discovered a love for computers. Still, as I study computer sciences, every once in awhile a feeling of being ill-equipped creeps upon me, and I feel like many women I have talked to and observed: less than confident about my technical abilities.

So much blame is put on the present male-dominated technical world for the lack of female presence, but the issue starts much earlier than that, with a society that has every intention of accepting women as competent scientific people but does nothing to change how women see themselves from the very beginning. Present-day toy marketing has much in common with that of the first quarter of the 20th century, despite the fact that women's rolls have changed drastically. The correlation between a child's toys and his adult-life is undeniable.

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Poll
Have the toys you played with as a child had an effect on your chosen profession?
o Yes 45%
o No 22%
o Yes, I became a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle 20%
o Yes, I became She-ra 5%
o No, He-man was stupid 7%

Votes: 95
Results | Other Polls

Related Links
o Also by atomic


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Legos vs. Dolls | 110 comments (98 topical, 12 editorial, 0 hidden)
Bravo. I'm an adult, and I still see this behavior (4.58 / 12) (#3)
by tankgirl on Mon Sep 24, 2001 at 01:22:11 PM EST

...from my family.

As an only child, my mom invariably asks me what I want for my birthday. Which is really quite nice of her. I usually answer with a request for something that's financially within her means, generally not too extravagant.

For the last three years I've asked for a drill/driver kit, cordless, preferrably a Makita. I know the 14 volt is affordable, and would probably suit me just fine. Mom doesn't take me seriously on these requests, even when I provided her with an ad from Sears. She sent me back an email invitation to go on a clothes shopping instead, and said we could look at drills 'if thats what you really want'. That last bit really got to me. She'll buy me kitchen appliances and clothes until my closet and kitchen are so overstocked I have to give stuff away, but not tools. I don't blame her for this. I know it has to do with how she was raised.

BTW, we did go shopping, and after Macy's and Ann Taylor, mom was too tired to head over to Sears, and 'wasn't I satisfied with the clothes' she'd gotten me?

I hope to correct that oversight when I have children, and I'm proud to know that there are more women seeking to do this.

You're right, though, we do need to start with the toymakers, and their advertising drones. One way to get them to take notice, register your daugther's telescope. Get her Tinker Toys, Legos, and anything else that will help her to question the world around her, and make sure the manufacturer knows it went to a girl. That oughta skew the statistics for the advertising drones!

Note to Mom- diamonds are _not_ a girl's best friend. A computer will get me alot further than any diamond ever could ;-)

jeri.
"I'm afraid of Americans. I'm afraid of the world. I'm afraid I can't help it." -David Bowie
Take it easy on old mom (4.50 / 4) (#11)
by DesiredUsername on Mon Sep 24, 2001 at 02:45:09 PM EST

Obviously you know her better than I do so you may well be right in the motivation you assign her. But I act similarly to her (except the opposite suggestions) towards my wife with a totally different motivation.

For every gift-giving occasion my wife gives me a list of things she likes (some are specific items, some are suggested avenues). And every year I ask if maybe she'd like some software or a new digital camera or something. Not because I'm trying to make her a stereotypical boy but because those things are fun for me to buy.

Obviously I'm a lamer with no imagination, but that's not the point. The point is that a gift says as much about the giver as about the receiver. To your mom, drills say nothing. Of course, to *you* blouses say nothing. But now we've modified the problem from one of gender to one of simple etiquette.

Play 囲碁
[ Parent ]
I was, I love her... (4.00 / 3) (#26)
by tankgirl on Mon Sep 24, 2001 at 04:46:19 PM EST

...and since she's the giver I hope you'll note that I tried not to hurt her feelings on that last shopping trip by appreciating the gifts she wanted to give.

She's always enjoyed giving me gender typical gifts, and my point is that's because of her own environmental conditions (the way she was raised). I read this article, and it reminded me of my childhood.I had personal experiences that paralleled those of Atomic. Everyone bought me the stuff they liked to give, and their likes are predisposed, IMHO, by gender because of the givers personal experiences. I think that this sort of predisposition has decreased with each generation. That's why you see me hear now, working to decrease it further.

I really wasn't trying to beat up on mom, just get her to recognize I'm a person, not a girl. Anyway, she was so proud of me for building my doll house and all of the furniture in it. When I finished, she offered to buy the dolls for it, and didn't argue when I said that I'd had more fun building it than I would playing dolls in it. She still has the house, and never did make me gets dolls for it.

;-)
jeri.
"I'm afraid of Americans. I'm afraid of the world. I'm afraid I can't help it." -David Bowie
[ Parent ]
hey :-) (none / 0) (#101)
by mami on Fri Sep 28, 2001 at 10:24:00 AM EST

it's more important to love her than anything else. I guess if you are a mom you will know what I mean... My mom is now 83 and she gives me gifts I really, really don't want. Guess what, I love her for it nevertheless, as you do with your mom. So, peace. It's not the world this whole "toy-gender-socialization-thingy", really.

Just remember, when women do HAVE to be manly, they can and they are. It's just showing in real crisis situation of war and complete destruction of the "male" society overwhelmingly clear, in normal times that's hidden for matters of practicality. :-)

[ Parent ]
Are you honest ? (4.00 / 1) (#94)
by mami on Thu Sep 27, 2001 at 09:30:49 PM EST

Aren't you stretching it a bit ? If the tool set was affordable to buy for your mom, I guess it might have been affordable to buy it on your own too, or not ?

Once you have bought such a tool set out of your own pocket money, you still think your mom wouldn't have taken your wishes serious anymore ? I have bought my "toys" like a microscope, things to breed flies, press plants etc at age thirteen and we didn't get a lot of monthly allowance. My parents always added to what I initiated, when they understood I really did something with it.

I just can't believe that parents in general are so "blindly one-sided" as you describe them. Contrary I have the feeling they try almost too much to make sure that everything is "genderblind" when it comes to how to raise their children.

But I admit I was not raised here in the U.S., so I am listening.


[ Parent ]
Have you ever raised any children? (4.50 / 10) (#4)
by DesiredUsername on Mon Sep 24, 2001 at 01:25:12 PM EST

I have two boys. I've also played extensively with other people's little children. And I can state categorically that you are wrong, wrong, wrong.

"...girls were playing with dolls and carriages, designed in preparation for their acceptable futures as homemakers and mothers."

While I agree that it is wrong to force girls (or boys, for that matter) into pre-defined roles and that excluding anyone from (nearly) any profession solely on the basis of gender is wrong, you've got cause and effect screwed up here. (Most) women don't become homemakers because they spent hours playing house with dolls. They spent hours playing house with dolls because they were fantasizing about being homemakers.

Look at it from the boy's end, which I'm a little more familiar with. My oldest is nearly 3. He has toys ranging from Very Boy (construction machines that come apart with a toy drill) to Neutral (music, chalkboard, etc) to Somewhat Girl (dolls, etc). We didn't buy these before he was born. We bought them based on what he was interested in. We bought a doll so he could pretend to feed it, dress it, etc. Not even a second glance. One of his stuffed animals (Maisy Mouse, a girl, btw) did get a few baths + bedtime rituals for a few weeks...but then nothing. However he just about wets his pants if I suggest we "fix something" (meaning getting out the hammer and screwdriver, etc). He is almost entirely uninterested in his new baby brother (despite much propaganda on our part) whereas a typical girl toddler will fawn over a baby.

And then there's my own case: From age 7 to age 16 we had a basement workshop that had everything from drillpress to lathe to tablesaw to jigsaw, plus plenty of lumber. I spent hours diddling around down there. My sister (3.5 years younger) never once did anything. However she did do a lot of pretend shopping/baking. There were no signs (physical or metaphorical) on the workshop saying "Keep Out". She just wasn't interested.

I'm not suggesting that science-inclined girls or doll-playing boys are freaks or should be dissuaded. Far from it! I think *everyone*, boys and girls, should be encouraged to follow their interests. Just keep in mind that your non-mainstream girl interests do not indicate that all girls are repressed technologists...

Play 囲碁
Well... (4.00 / 2) (#7)
by Xeriar on Mon Sep 24, 2001 at 02:15:10 PM EST

It's not like these things aren't influenced by the presents and things we got as kids. Looking at it, and my sisters:

The older one is a year younger than I am. She posesses a moderate interest in RPGs, and is competant with a computer, and has a wide range of interests across all fields. She's not very good with computers, compared to my father or I, but I can go over basic HTML, most configuration settings, the registry, etc. with her if need be. Her upbringing, as far as what toys, etc. she got, was quite similar (lots and lots of different things, constructs, legos, tinker toys, She-Ra, Rainbow bright, chalkboards, artistry kits...), though more focused on a social life.

They younger one is in third grade. She's focussing on more technology... We'll certainly see how that turns out. She can already do quite a bit with a computer, and she has her own Pentium 166 to play with.

I think a lot of people don't notice their impact on others, especially the children they are around. It may pay to pay more attention.

----
When I'm feeling blue, I start breathing again.
[ Parent ]

my point, clarified. (4.00 / 2) (#8)
by atomic on Mon Sep 24, 2001 at 02:36:02 PM EST

While I agree that it is wrong to force girls (or boys, for that matter) into pre-defined roles and that excluding anyone from (nearly) any profession solely on the basis of gender is wrong, you've got cause and effect screwed up here. (Most) women don't become homemakers because they spent hours playing house with dolls. They spent hours playing house with dolls because they were fantasizing about being homemakers.

I am sorry if I came across as someone who believes children do not have minds of their own. Nowhere do I state that women become homemakers because of their dolls and play things. I simply stated that the lack of more interactive learning toys may adversely affect their desire to enter technical fields.

As a girl I enjoyed playing with dolls (as I state in the article), not because I thought I had to, but because I wanted to. My point was that many building and construction toys are marketed toward boys, not girls. Unfortunately, not enough families are as enlightened about their children's toys as your family seems to be. Many still continue to propogate the paradigm that the toy market is still grasping on to. I don't claim that this theory is absolute, as I also stated in my article. In no way do I think all women could and should be scientists, just as all men aren't scientists as well.


atomic.

"why did they have to call it UNIX? that's kind of... ewww." -- mom.
[ Parent ]

I dunno about "enlightened" (4.00 / 2) (#15)
by DesiredUsername on Mon Sep 24, 2001 at 02:58:49 PM EST

"Unfortunately, not enough families are as enlightened about their children's toys as your family seems to be."

I'm not sure "enlightened" is the word to use here. I have difficulty believing that there are more than a handful of (American) people who would buy a child a stereotypically-gendered toy *specifically for the purpose of somehow "forcing" them to become more like that gender". I think it's more an issue of thoughtlessness: Parent rushes to toy store on xmas-eve. "Ummmm...what do I get little Janie?" *grabs a Barbie and runs*. Whereas a little thought (based on careful and loving observation of the child) would have produced the realization that Janie might like a chemistry set.

Now, I agree that the knee-jerk present is currently based on gender. But the real problem here is the insensitivity to the child's interests, not an over-fixation on gender. If the parent is non-biased but still inattentive they could have come back with a GI Joe--still light-years away from the ideal of the chem set.

That's not to say that gender-bias is non-existent. I just don't happen to think that children's toys is the root cause or even a particularly good example.

Play 囲碁
[ Parent ]
"forcing" them to become more like that (none / 0) (#70)
by dbc001 on Tue Sep 25, 2001 at 02:34:12 PM EST

I have difficulty believing that there are more than a handful of (American) people who would buy a child a stereotypically-gendered toy *specifically for the purpose of somehow "forcing" them to become more like that gender".

Actually I would guess that this is pretty common in America. If the dad thinks the kid is too much of a sissy, he might make him play football, teach the kid how to box, etc.

[ Parent ]
When you're not around influencing them.... (4.00 / 1) (#27)
by tankgirl on Mon Sep 24, 2001 at 04:56:27 PM EST

...the TV is, and so are their friends/playmates. Advertising is the one convincing children and some parents that gender specfic toys are important. I think they are really the only 'bad guys' in this, because they knowingly market to certain 'target groups'.

I'm glad to know your family is working hard to temper the influence external mediums have on children, and providing yours as well rounded approach as possible.

Wishing you the best,
jeri.


"I'm afraid of Americans. I'm afraid of the world. I'm afraid I can't help it." -David Bowie
[ Parent ]
I still hate brussel sprouts (4.62 / 8) (#13)
by Wing Envy on Mon Sep 24, 2001 at 02:46:02 PM EST

Toys are irrelevant in the outcome of a child's personality or desires. It's the questions you pose to the child and the compliments and attention they recieve that matters.

Telling a child they are smart or stupid, ugly or beautiful, kind or mean, makes all the difference. If a girl is to wear a new dress and get an "A" on an assignment and the parents say "You look so beautiful in that dress", disregarding their academic achievements, of course this child will see no point to knowing much.

Another factor is the answers the parents give to the child. Just yesterday, I went to visit my sister in the hospital - she just delivered a baby boy, and her daughter, who's 3, asked why the baby couldn't talk. My sister told her "Because that's the way it is". Now, this doesn't say anything to the child. There is no reason or explanation. So I told my niece "He can't say words because he doesn't know the letters yet", so she began to sing him the ABC's. I told her it was important for her to know and teach her brother so he could be as smart as she is. And I know that comment will make an impact on a child. She may have dolls, but give her reasons to learn, to know, to understand, and dolls aren't going to be her favorite toy. Books will.

And yes, my parents made me eat brussel sprouts all the time, and I have yet to become an adult who likes them.


You don't get to steal all the deficiency. I want some to.
-mrgoat

These are excellent points (3.50 / 2) (#14)
by atomic on Mon Sep 24, 2001 at 02:51:38 PM EST

What you have described goes hand-in-hand with my point. Toys are merely the foundation on which parental interaction succeeds a child or fails him. The want and need to learn and discover was instilled in me by my mother, and I attribute much of my successes as a student to that fact.


atomic.

"why did they have to call it UNIX? that's kind of... ewww." -- mom.
[ Parent ]
But the toy is irrelevant (3.40 / 5) (#18)
by Wing Envy on Mon Sep 24, 2001 at 03:23:30 PM EST

Say for instance, a little girl is holding a doll and the comments they hear are "Oh, isn't that baby doll so adorable? You're a good mommy, aren't you?"
And a boy is playing with some lincoln logs and the parents say "What are you building there? How many walls does it have?"

Now let's see the reversal of the girl with the doll "How many fingers does it have? Where is the stomach, the neck, the heart?" and the boy with the lincoln logs "Pick that crap off of the floor. Look at this mess, you better hope your father doesn't see this"

Dolls can be just as useful in teaching- to a point, as lincoln logs or any other toys. Of course, a girl who continues to play only with dolls is just as bad as a boy who continues to play only with lincoln logs. If they are only learning one thing, they are only being hindered in the development of other factors.


You don't get to steal all the deficiency. I want some to.
-mrgoat
[ Parent ]

I agree! Except ... (3.66 / 3) (#16)
by Dlugar on Mon Sep 24, 2001 at 02:58:55 PM EST

Well, I mean, really speaking a language and knowing the letters don't have a whole lot to do with each other. Lots of people can do one but not the other, and babies learn how to speak long before they know the ABCs. But seeing as how I can't think of a better explanation for a three-year-old off the cuff ... heh.

But yes, I much agree with your statements, and I do think that your comment will have a good effect on your niece. I hope I do as well. Thanks :-)

Dlugar

[ Parent ]
But it will help her to learn as well (4.33 / 3) (#20)
by Wing Envy on Mon Sep 24, 2001 at 03:29:28 PM EST

And will make reading and writing more logical if she learns that words consist of letters, and that words are spoken, written, or read. Now I just need to talk to her about numbers : )


You don't get to steal all the deficiency. I want some to.
-mrgoat
[ Parent ]
Two approaches (4.25 / 4) (#21)
by DesiredUsername on Mon Sep 24, 2001 at 03:31:37 PM EST

First, don't *tell* the child why the baby can't talk. *Ask* him. It's true that providing an explanation rather than a "so mote it be" is more stimulating, but having the child provide *his own* explanation is even more so. It also provides you with feedback on his worldview--which is an excellent chance to make corrections. For instance, my 2.75 year old was using "he" to refer to everybody. Then he was using it right for people but not for our girl cat. I asked him once if Mouse (the cat) was a girl or a boy. "Mouse is not a girl and Mouse is not a boy. Mouse is a cat so I should say 'he'." This led to a fuller explanation on my part and a correction on his.

However, if the child can't think of one or whatever (my oldest says "Hmmmm...let's see....hmmm..." whenever he wants ME to answer the question) here's what I'd say: "Well, look at the baby. She can't even sit or or open her eyes. That's because it takes a long time for a baby to learn how to do all the things you can do. In a few months she'll start making cooing sounds *insert some funny coo sounds to recapture child's interest* and by the time her first birthday is here she'll probably say a word or two." Depending on how interested the child is, you could ask for guesses on what the baby's first word will be or what his own first word was or whatever.

Play 囲碁
[ Parent ]
Cat is always 'he' (4.00 / 1) (#48)
by dadragon on Tue Sep 25, 2001 at 03:20:26 AM EST

In the English language, as with the French language, the noun "cat" has the masculin gender associated with it. Therefore, the child was correct when he referred to the female cat as "he". Of course, in the US that useage has fallen out of favour and is slowly being replaced with the gender of the cat.

[ Parent ]
Are you sure you are talking about English? (none / 0) (#54)
by DesiredUsername on Tue Sep 25, 2001 at 08:21:02 AM EST

I've never heard a female cat referred to as "he" (except by notional toddlers). Never. Not in speech, movies (including foreign films) or books (including old books from other countries). Never.

Please provide a reference.

Play 囲碁
[ Parent ]
Gender References (none / 0) (#63)
by dadragon on Tue Sep 25, 2001 at 12:32:40 PM EST

Oxford Guide to Canadian English Usage:

"In English with few exceptions, nouns are not gendered, and the gender of English pronons refers to biological sex, or lack of it." It goes to state that ships and cars are refered to as "she" while certain animals are "he"

I wasn't saying you're not correct that the cat could also be refered to as "she" due to its biological gender, but the kid wasn't wrong with calling it "he".

[ Parent ]
Oh yes he was (none / 0) (#64)
by DesiredUsername on Tue Sep 25, 2001 at 12:50:56 PM EST

First of all, I seriously doubt my pre-schooler consulted a usage guide in determining what to call our female cat. The reason he said "he" was that he was unclear which word to use--and therefore he was wrong. While you are living under my roof, young man, we call female cats "she".

Secondly, the atrocities you in Canada peform on our supposedly "common" tongue bear little or no relation to correctness. 8^) AFAIK, there are no rules in America (or Britain for that matter) that relate to pronoun gender and animal sex. (Just talking about pronouns, now; I'm well aware that "cow" and "chicken" are both female and generic).

What I'm really surprised about is that cats are considered male. They are so clearly feminine from their grace to their fastidiousness. And yet, while I don't know any French, I just realized that "the cat" in Spanish is "el gato"--male. Weird.

Play 囲碁
[ Parent ]
Spanish cat (none / 0) (#104)
by whoever on Sat Sep 29, 2001 at 09:08:01 PM EST

Actually when I was taking a Spanish class in college, my teacher (who was originally from Spain) told us that it was customary to feminize animal nouns when referring to a female animal. ie, el gato became la gata when speaking about a female cat.

[ Parent ]
English nouns... (none / 0) (#56)
by superflex on Tue Sep 25, 2001 at 10:05:11 AM EST

are always neuter. The use of he/she in reference to animals is simply a result of personification in conjunction with the gender of the animal. The only analogue to "le/la" in French is "the" in English.

[ Parent ]
What about 'it'? (4.00 / 1) (#75)
by Karmakaze on Tue Sep 25, 2001 at 04:11:40 PM EST

I was under the impression that the third person neuter pronoun in Modern English was "it".

French is perhaps not a good model for this, in that it lacks a neuter pronoun.

Nouns in Modern English don't generally carry gender, unless the object itself has a gender of it's own. The whole referring to cars/boats/etc. as "she" is more or less an abberation.


--
Karmakaze
[ Parent ]

I agree (3.25 / 4) (#17)
by miah on Mon Sep 24, 2001 at 03:14:49 PM EST

I would like to add to this that children also learn by watching their parents. My father reads books all the time, in fact I don't think that he is never not read a novel. I find myself enjoying more technical books.

My mother would always explain things (in detail) to me when I asked a specific question. I can recall learing about how a transmission in a car works by listening and watching her use one in the car. When I was sixteen, I had no trouble learning to drive a stick and I would attribute that to the words "that's just the way it works" crossing my parents lips.


Religion is not the opiate of the masses. It is the biker grade crystal meth of the masses.
SLAVEWAGE
[ Parent ]
personality (3.00 / 2) (#36)
by mrBlond on Mon Sep 24, 2001 at 06:26:03 PM EST

Thinking-Feeling differences affect how we make decisions. Thinkers (T) make decisions objectively and impersonally using logic. Feelers (F) make decisions subjectively and personally based on what they feel is "right". This personality grouping is the only one that shows any gender difference, with male Thinking- Feeling preferences being 60%-40% and female Thinking-Feeling preferences being 40%-60%. - The Myers-Briggs type indicator

iNT*p
--
Inoshiro for cabal leader.
[ Parent ]

interesting, but... (none / 0) (#85)
by 'abstrakt on Wed Sep 26, 2001 at 01:28:14 AM EST

Is there any evidence to show a relationship between "Thinking"/"Feeling" preference and the play activities of children?

Personal experience suggests it may be more complicated than that. I test as "Feeling" preferenced (& am female), however I remember enjoying cars, construction sets, transformers etc as a child. Even though they were often pushed my way, dolls were never interesting to me (except in the context of sending to war against the more "masculine" toys...).

abstrakt.

[ Parent ]

Barbiepedes (4.68 / 19) (#19)
by Karmakaze on Mon Sep 24, 2001 at 03:27:59 PM EST

I used to get Barbie (or Brand-X Fashion Doll) toys from relatives and friends of the family who didn't really know me. (My parents knew, for example, that I wasn't really the doll type.)

I discovered the following things:

  • Barbie (and Ken) dolls can be taken apart and reasembled
  • Barbie (and Ken) dolls are made of six pieces:
    • one (1) torso, with holes for arms and legs and a peg for the head
    • one (1) head, with a hole for fit the peg on the torso
    • two (2) legs, with pegs to fit in the torso leg holes
    • two (2) arms, with pegs to fit in the torso arm holes
  • Female doll parts are interchangeable with other female doll parts, regardless of race or accessory set:
    • the same goes for male doll parts
    • Skipper is an exception, she's incompatible
  • Parts can be exchanged across dolls:
    • Barbie's leg pegs will fit Ken's arm holes
    • Ken's arm pegs will fit Barbie's leg holes
    • Barbie's head peg will fit Ken's arm holes or Barbie's leg hole
    • Ken's head peg will fit Ken's arm holes or Barbie's leg hole
Using this key information, it is possible to make such creatures as "Multiracial Barbie" or even "Barbiepedes" (a string of bodies with multiple legs, of course). I had great fun with this.

Once, I demonstrated these things with enthusiam to an adult, who was apparently the main source of the toys, since I never recieved any more after that day. I don't know why...

I have met a few males who used to do this as children, but I am the only female I know whose approach to fashion dolls was to disassemble them.

I recall my favorite toy as a child to be a box of assorted magnets (not refrigerator magenets, but the magnet backing for them, plus assorted sizes - one was as large as my fist and took all of my strength to remove from a steel bookcase). I also rathe enjoyed computer punch-cards (they make the best card houses).


--
Karmakaze

Ah, someone else! (3.66 / 3) (#22)
by atomic on Mon Sep 24, 2001 at 03:33:21 PM EST

I too disassembled my unsuspecting Barbies, until I was so chastised by my aunt for being so 'destructive' that I was afraid to go near Barbies after that! :)


atomic.

"why did they have to call it UNIX? that's kind of... ewww." -- mom.
[ Parent ]
Aww, but it's harmless (4.33 / 3) (#23)
by Karmakaze on Mon Sep 24, 2001 at 03:42:28 PM EST

I too disassembled my unsuspecting Barbies, until I was so chastised by my aunt for being so 'destructive' that I was afraid to go near Barbies after that! :)
But...

You can put them right back together. It doesn't hurt them any.

Some adults just don't understand.

I never got yelled at for experimenting with the dolls, I just suddenly stopped recieving them as gifts. There may have been looks of faint horror, but I didn't pay any attention.


--
Karmakaze
[ Parent ]

I was forced to put them in a China cabinet... (3.66 / 3) (#24)
by tankgirl on Mon Sep 24, 2001 at 04:18:05 PM EST

...and revere them. No touching. They were collectors items, and I was apparently having them collected for me. :-)

Which left me with more time to ignore them and go play with my neighbor and his Evil Kenevil motorcycle track. Much more interactive and fun. I still get Barbie's. I don't do anything with them. They're like the frilly flower shaped hand soap in my mom's bathroom- just for looks. So I figure someday Barbie will really pay off for my might be daughter, cause I'll sell'em for her tuition or something like that.

jeri.

"I'm afraid of Americans. I'm afraid of the world. I'm afraid I can't help it." -David Bowie
[ Parent ]
Barbie remodeling (4.50 / 2) (#29)
by cyclopatra on Mon Sep 24, 2001 at 05:11:57 PM EST

Maybe this isn't quite the same, but my best friend and I used to exchange the heads on our barbies all the time, and one day we decided we didn't have enough Kens...so we took the Barbie we liked least, gave her a crew cut, and used a nail file to perform a mastectomy...

On the other hand, my Tonka trucks were some of the greatest toys I ever had. Thank the gods my parents didn't subscribe to the gender-based toy theory..

Cyclopatra
All your .sigs are belong to us.
remove mypants to email
[ Parent ]

I (female) too (4.00 / 1) (#49)
by nefertari on Tue Sep 25, 2001 at 04:26:48 AM EST

.. disassembled a Barbie doll (not really, i removed only the head, but then i couldn't put it back.) In the end, i made some cuts on the hole, and then it fit back, but fell off, to often, then i gave it to my sister.

But on the other hand we both were playing with Fischer Technik. But my parents had it too, and both of them played with theirs. But i can't remember any case, when we played with an other girl with Fischer Technik. When my father got his computer (Atari ST 1040) we were allowed to play sometimes, but we also had to learn programming. in the end the computer was my realm, and my sister went over to housekeepingrelated things (baking, cooking).

When we were playing with another girl we often played father-mother-child, i was the father, she the mother and my sister was the child. I had a doll too, but at sometime i got bored of it.

I study mathematics, and she is in biology, and there in the more technical field of genetics.



[ Parent ]
Barbie can be a matter of interpretation (4.00 / 7) (#25)
by Ranma on Mon Sep 24, 2001 at 04:36:49 PM EST

Interesting, when exploring this I idea I would encourage you to look at how the children play with the toys they are given, not only what toys they are given. This is to say, I've noticed when some young boys are left to play with "dolls" that were in fact designed for girls a lot of their play is still very masculine in nature. As a small boy visiting family friends without any sons I recall there being no boy toys yet managed to make the likes of Ken a police officer and the likes of Barbie a the sweet innocent victim of a crime requiring Ken's attention and services. Girl toys, masculine spin. I've moved considerably futher and futher away from the notion that we are mostly products of our environment to thinking that we are the result mostly of our biology and to a far lesser degree the oppurtunities that present themselves.

Play orientation.... (none / 0) (#68)
by Elkor on Tue Sep 25, 2001 at 02:11:53 PM EST

When you visited the family friends, had you already been playing with "masculine" toys for a while?

If so, then your play orientation (masculine) had been established by your previous exposure to certain types of toys. Thus, when exposed to toys you didn't normally play with, you still played with them in the way you were "trained" to, despite the "correct" way to play with them.

In other words, since you had been using a hammer to drive nails for years, when given some screws, you still pounded them with the hammer.

Regards,
Elkor


"I won't tell you how to love God if you don't tell me how to love myself."
-Margo Eve
[ Parent ]
My daughter ... (4.33 / 6) (#28)
by mattx on Mon Sep 24, 2001 at 05:00:56 PM EST

I am divorced from the mother of my daughter, and I have her every other weekend. So of course she has a fair amount of toys stocked away at my place.
Whenever I do get toys, I always steer away from barbies, dolls, etc, and get her toys that make her brain work (she's 3 years old).
For her birthday last month, she got maybe 1 "girlie" thing from someone at "our party" (lucky girl gets two b-day parties!). I got her a big bucket of legos (standard, not duplo, she graduated from duplo), the classic "Memory" game, and a couple books. What did she get from the "other party"? Mostly girlie stuff: dolls, barbies, clothes, etc.
You don't have to guess that the mother is very uninterested in anything creative or technological.
My point is that I am doing my part, I hope that parents are wising up and giving the girls a wide variety of toys, and not just dolls and tea sets.

-- i fear that i am ordinary, just like everyone


When boys get dolls... (4.16 / 6) (#30)
by Gregoyle on Mon Sep 24, 2001 at 05:19:46 PM EST

I just remember my best friend and me constructing elaborate "Barbie Car Wreck" scenes to terrorize his little sisters.

We would crash the Barbie Corvette (tm) through the downstairs window of the Barbie Town House (tm) and put together grisly scenarios. Barbie would be hunched over the steering wheel while Ken's leg was inside the car, his torso was on the kitchen table of the Town House, and his head had gone through the doorway to the living room.

Boys can be so ghastly. But this does show that there are very creative things to be done with dolls. I might move that the toys themselves play very small factors. The larger factors would be the encouragement from the parents and watching to see what the parents do. Parents who play games in ways they think their kids should like will shape their kids in that direction; sort of a self-fulfilling prophecy.
-------

He's more machine now than man, twisted and evil.

What kids were limited to one or the other? (3.00 / 7) (#31)
by theboz on Mon Sep 24, 2001 at 05:24:49 PM EST

I think that your premise, while possible, never occurs in the real world.

As a child, I had legos, an erector set, and many other construction like toys. I also put together models and things like that. However, I also had "dolls" such as G.I. Joe, Transformers, He-man, etc. These are very similar to Barbie and the like, you just put little plastic guns in their hands instead of a purse, and they kill each other instead of playing house. Other than that, both are dolls used to support the imagination of children using them as animate objects.

Girls had things like this as well. I know my sisters had plenty of crafts, artsy, and building things they liked to do. They had their own legos. They had Lite Brite. They made stuff out of pine cones. This is just as creative and supportive of engineering skills as tinker toys. Even the Barbies could be used some for real life skills other than being a mother if you want to extrapolate it. They learned about clothing and interior design. They could probably design structures well in autocad based on their experiences of designing Barbie houses.

So I think this article is based on an assumption of something being the norm, when it happens rarely at best. In fact I think I read this somewhere else before so I wouldn't be suprised if this article was copied from somewhere else without permission.

Stuff.

Left/Right brain dominance (4.66 / 6) (#33)
by Best Ace on Mon Sep 24, 2001 at 05:52:45 PM EST

I am glad you have pointed out that men are not the main reason for the lack of women in technical fields. I have felt for some time that it is unfair to blame chauvinism and an unwillingness to accept women. I have just finished an engineering degree where out of a year of around 50, there were just three women on the programme. I asked one of them once why she thought there were so few women interested in technical fields, and she replied that women were generally clever enough to let the men do the dirty work!

I wonder whether it is fair to blame the marketing people for these gender differences. I agree that they do target gender-specific toys to boys and girls, but is this not because we all tend to treat boys and girls differently anyway? If you watch parents dandling thair babies on their knees, they tend to treat boys a bit more roughly, bouncing them up and down, whereas with girls, they tend to speak to them more and act more gently. This is probably completely subconscious, but even at this early age, babies are pushed into these gender stereotypes. So who is driving who? the toy marketers or society?

The differences also extend beyond the obvious biological ones: male babies develop the right side of their brains quicker, while females develop the left side more. This goes a long way to explaining, even before the effect of all the stereotypes our society pushes on them, why males are generally better at spatial orientation, while females are better at communicating their emotions and speech. This isn't a hard and fast rule. Some men are left-side dominant while some women are right-side dominant. (You can do tests to find out which you are; A quick google search reveals this and this).

Of course the gender stereotyping of toys does nothing to counter this trend, and the best result is to have both sides of the brain equally developed.

hmmm....So what am I? (3.00 / 1) (#34)
by BloodmoonACK on Mon Sep 24, 2001 at 06:17:39 PM EST

I just found this humorous - I took both tests and ended up responding to 50% of the questions as a left brained person and 50% of the questions as a right brained person - I'm perfectly split. So what does that make me? ;)

"It's like declaring a 'war on crime' and then claiming every (accused) thief is an 'enemy combatant'." - Hizonner
[ Parent ]

I dunno.... (3.00 / 1) (#37)
by Best Ace on Mon Sep 24, 2001 at 06:32:06 PM EST

Maybe god's gift to humanity? :)

I should have pointed out, although its pretty obvious, that neither test is particularly scientific or rigorous. It's only a laff!

bA

[ Parent ]
uh-oh (3.00 / 1) (#43)
by BloodmoonACK on Mon Sep 24, 2001 at 09:54:10 PM EST

If I'm god's gift to humanity, the world is in pretty big trouble. But I know it's not exactly, uhh, scientific at all ;)

"It's like declaring a 'war on crime' and then claiming every (accused) thief is an 'enemy combatant'." - Hizonner
[ Parent ]

That second test (3.00 / 1) (#47)
by bunsen on Tue Sep 25, 2001 at 01:43:45 AM EST

Was about as accurate as the average horoscope in describing my tendencies. That is, exceedingly vague and mostly dead wrong. The stupid thing claimed I was organized, for Jebus' sake! One look at my desk/backpack/dorm provides an instant counterexample for that one. The first test was only slightly less wrong, but it accomplished that through even more nebulous language. Ah well, at least they don't have fake Jamaican accents and charge $2.95 a minute.

---
Do you want your possessions identified? [ynq] (n)
[ Parent ]
Rebuttal: Factually flawed, Politically Loaded (4.05 / 17) (#38)
by Signal 11 on Mon Sep 24, 2001 at 06:55:30 PM EST

Although it is now acceptable for women in the United States to take a professional rather than a purely domestic role in society, society has yet to raise its little girls differently to accommodate the change, resulting in sparse populations of women in technological fields.

As my rebuttal will demonstrate, this is a false conclusion to reach. The fact that event A preceeded event B does not mean event A caused event B. There is no causal relationship between the events you name above, and as I will prove below, little correlation as well. ...continue to be the only toys marketed toward girls, with few exceptions.

In today's toy stores, you will frequently find pictures of little girls and little boys on traditional "boy's toys". There has been a huge push by modern feminists to guide girls towards more masculine toys. Elementary teachers frequently encourage girls to play with legos, and other "male" toys, in our public schools. Marketing, such as found in TV advertisements and packaging materials, have both boys and girls on them. It is not the marketing that is to blame - they have tried.

A better explanation comes from Hasbro Toys, which "tested a playhouse the company was considering marketing to both boys and girls. But it soon emerged that girls and boys did not interact with the structure in the same way. The girls dressed the dolls, kissed them, and played house; the boys catapulted the toy baby carriage from the roof. A Hasbro general manager came up with an explanation: boys and girls are different." [Source: Paul Davis, "Danes Discover Difference Between Boys and Girls: For Years Hasbro Has Known the Difference", Providence Journal-Bulletin, September 12, 1995. p. 1E.]

girls are gently nudged into the still-existing paradigm of woman's place in society

By whom? The Department of Education has allocated massive amounts of funding persuant to Title IX to correct "gender inequity". Clearly, it is not our public institutions that are doing this. Popular media isn't doing it either - pictures of girls playing with boy's toys are commonplace - simply tune in around 1:30-4:00p local time and watch the commercials. Who's left?

The result is adult women who fit into that paradigm, and adult men in turn being blamed for the lack of women in predominantly male fields because of discrimination.

Again, you make a logical fallacy that because Event A preceeded Event B, Event A caused Event B. An (at least) equally plausible explanation would be that boys and girls are different, physically, and have certain behaviors "hard-wired" into them. However, I will agree that men are being blamed.

Although there is no denying that there are some sexist males in high places, this is by no means the reason of the absence of feminine presence.

So we've eliminated popular media, education, and the workplace environment as causes, if I follow you so far. If you still doubt education is the cause, I would direct you to one of the dozens of government sites which are trying to reverse this "trend".

It is because they are not raised like boys are: to ask questions, to figure out how things work, to do things on their own. Women are often more ready to accept that things work where as men are more likely to want to know why. Therefore the presence of women in fields requiring precisely that quality is lacking.

This is essentially a thinly-veiled "Nature v. Nurture" argument. Let me assure you that Nature wins this one. According to a report by the National Council for Research On Women...

Okay, I have a strong inclination to plug some information here about the political bias of this organization, and do an analysis on where it gets most of its funding, but I won't disagree with the conclusion you claim they have reached (this time):

one way to get girls more interested in studying the sciences is by cooperative, hands-on learning.

That's good advice. Is there any evidence this is not occurring? I recall in biology class girls having to dissect frogs (I also recall many pleas that they be excempted - which the teacher denied), I recall them in my chemistry and physical science classes, and I do believe that under the "liberal arts" education system we have today, they're exposed to this quite a bit.

Since virtually nothing of this sort is ever marketed toward girls

This has already been demonstrated as false (see above comments)

they lose their early chances of developing an interest in technology and science in general.

This implies an irreversible trend - that behaviors learned early on cannot be reversed. This has only some merit, from a psychological perspective. However, the argument is wholly irrelevant, since the premise that girls are being shortchanged in terms of "hands on" education is false.

In addition to my own experiences as a woman beginning my college education...

You just jumped from early education to high school in the span of one sentence. There are developmental differences between someone who's in their mid-twenties and someone who's nine years old.

"Yeah, it's easy. It's just like Legos."

The use of anecdotal stories in place of hard data is misguided at best, and harmful at worse. You can't say that women as a whole are being kept away from hands-on experience, and thus not gravitating towards the sciences, and then base it on your own personal experience with a small number of men.

Further discussion reveals the facets of their respective childhoods. The women who show less confidence in their technical abilities have genuinely had a less technical childhood.

Everyone who starts on a new project begins filled with self-doubt and anxiety over their capabilities. It's not simply women who have "less confidence". To drive home the point, look at men who become fathers - are they filled with a lack of confidence and self-doubt over parenting - perhaps lacking skills that women develop earlier in life, by playing with dolls, house, etc.? Does this mean the expectations of fathers should be lowered - that women should assume a larger role in taking care of the children, as a result?

Still, as I study computer sciences, every once in awhile a feeling of being ill-equipped creeps upon me, and I feel like many women I have talked to and observed: less than confident about my technical abilities.

I've been faced with difficult to solve computer problems as well. Dealing with a customer who's on the phone "live" with a network of a thousand computers that are all non-responsive, running down a checklist of problems and finding that all the solutions you've been trained to try, have failed... that the programmers who designed the product keep muttering "It can't happen!", and having a manager and two coworkers breathing down your neck because you're the "fix it guy", yeah, I can say that I too have at times been less than confident about my technical abilities. I again reiterate: This is not a problem limited to women.

Your argument thus far, if I state it in formal terms, has been as follows:

  • 1. Girls do not get hands-on experience with technology.
  • 2. Girls are not encouraged to use technology.
  • 3. Therefore, because of (1) and (2), they develop self-confidence problems.
  • 4. ConclusionP: These self-confidence problems lead to fewer women joining the technical fields.

The premises which this argument is based on is wholly false - girls do get hands on experience, they are being encouraged to use technology - both in the "adult" world by means of affirmative action and pro-women groups, and propaganda messages by the media, as well as in school by teachers.

So much blame is put on the present male-dominated technical world for the lack of female presence,

In other words, the blame is on men. I notice you don't go as far as to say that the responsibility for correction thus falls on men (thank you).

but does nothing to change how women see themselves from the very beginning.

Not only is there intent, but there is obviously action being taken. This has not changed things. Present-day toy marketing has much in common with that of the first quarter of the 20th century,

It has almost nothing in common with the "first quarter of the 20th century". That was an age when male/female roles were much more clearly defined, and there was more of a "caste" system of gender in place. Toys were not nearly as sophisticated, television didn't exist, and toys were not mass-produced at nearly the level they are today. The social dynamics of the early 20th century compared to today are almost completely at odds with each other, and the role of toys has likewise changed dramatically.

This article tries to, but fails, to conclude that the reason women are not in the technical fields is because they are not given opportunities earlier, or later, in life to experience "hands-on" learning with technology, and are forced into roles. The conclusion I have reached, based on a lot more research than anecdotal stories and popular rhetoric, is that women are hardwired differently than boys.

Based on recent psychological studies, definate differences in the brain have been observed with women, most notably the enlarged "connector" between the two hemispheres (who's name escapes me presently), and the fact that women process information differently than men. Men have consistently scored higher on visual spatialization - the ability to rotate a multi-dimensional object inside your head. This is due to actual, physical differences in the brain, which have been traced to testosterone's influence on the fetus, and early childhood development. Likewise, women seem better equipped to handle language, as demonstrated MRI scans showing that women use multiple parts of the brain for auditory and speech centers, whereas men have only one region used - in the prefrontal area.

In short, men and women are wired differently and this is why you see the large statistical gap. While I commend efforts to allow women who do not fall squarely on the bell curve, and who can get into these professions and have the drive to do so, the efforts of many to reverse this trend is doomed to fail. Mother Nature is not a feminist, to quote a famous parody. Your article is misleading and factually flawed. I will, however, compliment you on refraining from stating the party line - namely, that "male-dominated society" is the cause.


--
Society needs therapy. It's having
trouble accepting itself.

Rebuttals (4.42 / 7) (#39)
by K5er 16877 on Mon Sep 24, 2001 at 07:36:04 PM EST

A rebuttal is much easier to construct than an argument. You have done a good job in attacking the premises of the article. However, your response is more than a rebuttal. You also provide a counter argument. Your counter argument is equally flawed.

This article tries to, but fails, to conclude that the reason women are not in the technical fields is because they are not given opportunities earlier, or later, in life to experience "hands-on" learning with technology, and are forced into roles. The conclusion I have reached, based on a lot more research than anecdotal stories and popular rhetoric, is that women are hardwired differently than boys.

This smells heavily of a false dichotomy (as well as an appeal to authority). While you do provide additional information to support your view, you fail to take into account other potential reasons for differences. Perhaps this isn't a dichotomous situation. Or, perhaps there is a third explaination.

As for your evidence, you fall victim to the same logical fallacies that the original article performs: false analogy and confusing correlation with causation. Just because men and women have different brain patterns in visual spatialization and auditory and speech processing does not necessarily mean that similar physical differences explain choice of profession. If you want to show that the two are analogous, you are going to need to show how. I see no obvious way the two are connected. You are relying on the unstated assumption that differences in brain patterns on one task are similar to the differences in brain patterns used to choose professions. This is a false analogy.

Psychophisiological studies are almost never controlled experiments when human subjects are used. Instead, they are observational. Observational studies do not imploy a controlled independant variable. As such, observational studies do not show causation. They are purely correlational in nature.

Animal studies, where controlled independant variables are ethical, are not generalizable to humans in advanced forms of cognition and motivation. What does an understanding of the psychophisiology of animal behavior tell us about gender differences in choice of profession in humans? Essentially, with psychophisiological experiments, you have to choose from results based on correlation or results that are not generalizable to humans (at least for the issue currently at hand -- choice of human professions). Neither of these provide good support for your counter argument.

I'm not about to put forward a counter argument. As I said, rebuttals are much easier to construct.

[ Parent ]

Counterpoints... (3.33 / 3) (#41)
by Signal 11 on Mon Sep 24, 2001 at 08:18:02 PM EST

I agree my counter-argument is a bit weak, but not for any of the reasons you describe --

This smells heavily of a false dichotomy (as well as an appeal to authority).

Appeal to authority isn't necessarily a logical fallacy, and in this case, the only authority I specifically cite is the article by Paul Davis. To make a valid "appeal to authority", one must specify the authority... I don't believe I gave any cites to support my argument, beyond my own experience and research, which isn't sufficient for a formal argument. As for "false dichotomy", without a specific example I can't defend myself there.

...does not necessarily mean that similar physical differences explain choice of profession.

By itself, no. I did not formally state it, but visual spatialization is critical to success in technical fields. In programming, it is necessary to keep abstract principles such as classes and objects, as well as the rules for such interactions, in a "visual" model in one's head. Engineering most definately relies on spatialization, in addition to mathematical prowness. I hope this clears up the confusion.

Psychophisiological studies are almost never controlled experiments when human subjects are used. Instead, they are observational. Observational studies do not imploy a controlled independant variable. As such, observational studies do not show causation. They are purely correlational in nature.

It is true that the natural sciences have a stronger empirical basis than the social sciences, but that does not mean that useful results cannot be derived from observational studies alone. However, the argument is wholly irrelevant, because I have provided no studies!

...are not generalizable to humans in advanced forms of cognition and motivation.

Well, again, for the purposes of avoiding misinformation only, this is something that is well-understood within the social sciences, and also corrected for. Most studies on animals are done because animals have simpler behavior patterns, and are easier to recognize. Once a firm link has been found in animal behavior, we use observational studies to answer the question of "Do humans do this too?"

We frequently test chemicals on pigs' skin to see if there will be an adverse reaction to it before selling it to humans, because there is a strong correlation between what a pig does (and does not) react to, and what people do (and do not) react to. Comparatively, psychological studies use the same kind of inductive reasoning. And please don't ask me to defend inductive reasoning - it's been a long day. :)

Neither of these provide good support for your counter argument.

Well, I can't argue specifics since (again), I provided no studies, however I will defend the position that correlative studies between animals and people, and inductive reasoning, can and does yield useful, and reasonably complete, information.

People, however, aren't subatomic particles, and they often do irrational and unexplainable things, which immensely complicates study. Really, it's what makes life so damned interesting... and I rather hope science never has a full answer for it. But "good support" is relative... and I'm content to use the best information we have today to answer our social concerns, and if I turn out to be wrong down the road, I will admit it, and use the new information as the foundation for my actions from that point on. Such is the nature of science...


--
Society needs therapy. It's having
trouble accepting itself.
[ Parent ]

Trivia (4.00 / 2) (#46)
by zerth on Tue Sep 25, 2001 at 01:23:45 AM EST

> the enlarged "connector" between the two hemispheres (who's
> name escapes me presently)

The connective tissue is called the corpus callosum.

Rusty isn't God here, he's the pope; our God is pedantry. -- Subtillus
[ Parent ]
From birth (4.33 / 3) (#62)
by ttfkam on Tue Sep 25, 2001 at 12:23:51 PM EST

You imply that the differences are not started from the marketing of childrens' toys. I am inclined to agree. It is probably more likely that they are later reinforcements of a cultural bias.

Case in point, most babies are differentiated at birth. The girl is given the pink bow and the boy is given the blue one. Little boys are wrestled with much more than little girls. Little girls are told how pretty they are much more than little boys are told they are handsome (because little boys are taught that being "pretty" is an insult). Try to tell me that the clothes are the same. Try to tell me that boys and girls are treated the same from a young age. We as a society enforce the sexual divide. This is not just politics.

I have met a few women who are very strong technically. I have met more men that are very strong technically. I have met many women who were technophobes or incompetent at their jobs. I have met many men who were the same. Even if we were to accept the notion that men were inherently better at math/science/engineering, it does not adequately explain the (growing!) number of women entering technical fields.

With regards to your rebuttal about toy marketing pushing for equal representation (for lack of a better term), you must observe that there will be a lag. These little girls need time to grow up before you will see the effects. Coupled with the fact that our society is increasingly reluctant to force women into a domestic role and the rise in women employed in technical fields, how can you simply dismiss that much of the disparity was social in nature and not biological?

So far I have dated a woman with a BS in biochemistry and another with a double-major biochem + comp sci. They were by no means "manly" or somehow lacking in feminine qualities. They were like everyone else. Good points. Bad points. One was shy. The other was VERY extroverted. Women have just as much potential for social diversity as men, so why perpetuate the myth that women are somehow incapable of expanding their horizons to include the sciences?

If I'm made in God's image then God needs to lay off the corn chips and onion dip. Get some exercise, God! - Tatarigami
[ Parent ]
social forces (2.00 / 2) (#69)
by Signal 11 on Tue Sep 25, 2001 at 02:29:42 PM EST

how can you simply dismiss that much of the disparity was social in nature and not biological?

Because many things have changed over the years - men used to wear makeup and skirts, societies have come and gone... imagine the number of different societies, let alone cultures, since the Roman era. But some things have remained constant throughout human history. Men have always excelled in the sciences, have been the ones to fight in wars, etc. Traced back, eventually these behaviors have a root somewhere - we're biologically predisposed towards certain behaviors. Is it overrideable? I do not know. Puritans legislated away sex in this country for a period of time for their followers - it resulted in lots of mental anguish amongst their ranks. While any behavior is possible of anyone, the question is actually of whether we should go against nature... and cause those people pain, to benefit those who do not share those traits.

It is the age old question of justice and fairness... except in this case, we may be fighting mother nature to achieve some idealistic goal... a goal which may very well, in its success, spell failure for our society.


--
Society needs therapy. It's having
trouble accepting itself.
[ Parent ]

Scientific method? (3.00 / 3) (#76)
by tankgirl on Tue Sep 25, 2001 at 04:48:29 PM EST

You can never prove this theory unless you eliminate the social variable. This is not possible to do with human beings. Therefore this will always only be just an unprovable hypothesis, because all of your data is corrupted by multiple variables.

Constantcy through human history proves nothing, because all societies have social interaction based social mores believed at the time. Men in Athens were schooled, men in Sparta were trained for war....so referencing them in a predisposition aguement serves no purpose.

I suggest you take a more defensible stance, Siggy, because this one isn't.

sorry,
jeri.
"I'm afraid of Americans. I'm afraid of the world. I'm afraid I can't help it." -David Bowie
[ Parent ]
Scientific Method (none / 0) (#108)
by vectro on Sun Sep 30, 2001 at 10:04:36 PM EST

I guess what we really need to do is try to raise some children in an environment lacking present culture. Maybe raise them with machines? Of course, the ethical consequences of such a study are overpowering.

“The problem with that definition is just that it's bullshit.” -- localroger
[ Parent ]
Your Factual Errors (4.00 / 1) (#87)
by red on Wed Sep 26, 2001 at 10:32:36 AM EST

Factual errors also bless your post, and create a misleading conclusion.

This article tries to, but fails, to conclude that the reason women are not in the technical fields is because they are not given opportunities earlier, or later, in life to experience "hands-on" learning with technology, and are forced into roles. The conclusion I have reached, based on a lot more research than anecdotal stories and popular rhetoric, is that women are hardwired differently than boys.

I don't think anyone will argue that there are some hardwired differences. However, I don't think you have a very good grasp of how, why, and where these differences are, and what they really mean.

Based on recent psychological studies, definate differences in the brain have been observed with women, most notably the enlarged "connector" between the two hemispheres (who's name escapes me presently), and the fact that women process information differently than men.

This is true in some studies. So what? The fact that processing is different is mostly relevant to how the brain adapts to injury. Processing doesn't really matter much with regards to ability.

Men have consistently scored higher on visual spatialization - the ability to rotate a multi-dimensional object inside your head. This is due to actual, physical differences in the brain, which have been traced to testosterone's influence on the fetus, and early childhood development.

Yes, boys (it's almost always boys in these studies) score higher on average. This is not always the case and this difference (which is not huge) in no way prevents girls from being into spatially heavy activities (the increase of women's sports in the past few decades is a good illustration.) Boys may be somewhat better, but girls are already good (boys aren't good while girls struggle). It's only in extreme genetic situations where you see girls struggle significantly more spatially.

Likewise, women seem better equipped to handle language, as demonstrated MRI scans showing that women use multiple parts of the brain for auditory and speech centers, whereas men have only one region used - in the prefrontal area.

Again, the structural differences don't mean differences in ability. Girls better at language, boys better at math, right? Only, as these studies are replicated, we have seen a narrowing of this gap over the past decades (a gap never very large to begin with). This has indicated a cause more likely to be nuture. I could go further into findings, but it would take a while. Suffice to say, girls are in situations where learning language skills is better facilitated and rewarded, the same goes for boys and math.

In short, men and women are wired differently and this is why you see the large statistical gap. While I commend efforts to allow women who do not fall squarely on the bell curve, and who can get into these professions and have the drive to do so, the efforts of many to reverse this trend is doomed to fail. Mother Nature is not a feminist, to quote a famous parody. Your article is misleading and factually flawed. I will, however, compliment you on refraining from stating the party line - namely, that "male-dominated society" is the cause.

Next time you decide to try and take someone down for factual errors, check your own facts. As for the Hasbro case you mention, I recall another similar situation discussed in one of my Psychology classes. In this toy free for all (with pre-school kids) boys and girls happily played with cross gender toys (boys even used make up). The researchers figured, by looking at other research and their later discoveries, that a combination of parent toy selection and peer socialization were primary factors in later childhood toy preferences (because their prior findings appeared to eliminate the hardwiring theory).

I'd write more in depth, but I have RSI and my wrist is killing me. If you want more detail, let me know and I'd be happy to oblige. I've done quite a bit of study in this area.



[ Parent ]
Some commentary... (1.00 / 1) (#96)
by Signal 11 on Fri Sep 28, 2001 at 03:02:09 AM EST

The fact that processing is different is mostly relevant to how the brain adapts to injury. Processing doesn't really matter much with regards to ability.

Any electronics engineer would disagree... the processor makes the computer - design is relevant. And the male and female "CPU" of humans are wired differently. It really does matter much.

score higher on average

Look, I don't want to get into a debate about statistics with you - we're talking about men and women in general. It's good probability that this will be true for any one person... it's not definitive, and I refuse to argue with the four thousandth person about how scientific knowledge works, and doesn't!




--
Society needs therapy. It's having
trouble accepting itself.
[ Parent ]

Design is relevant? (none / 0) (#107)
by vectro on Sun Sep 30, 2001 at 10:02:17 PM EST

the processor makes the computer

... So I guess when I run Linux on a Sparc, that's substantially different from running it on an x86, huh?

“The problem with that definition is just that it's bullshit.” -- localroger
[ Parent ]

My little sister (3.66 / 3) (#40)
by jdtux on Mon Sep 24, 2001 at 07:56:48 PM EST

who's 6, loves playing with constructs(kind of an early lego). she doesn't understand most of the instructions for my old lego technic sets yet, but I'm sure she will.
She has no problems when using a computer, playing games and such.
She also plays dolls, dressup, etc.

I wonder what she'll turn out like...

Probably... (none / 0) (#60)
by glothar on Tue Sep 25, 2001 at 11:50:11 AM EST

...one of the most well rounded, educated, and successful members of our society (assuming she is part of our society).

While A1 may be the spice of life, diversity is the spice of success.

[ Parent ]

I got news for you... (3.50 / 10) (#44)
by christianlavoie on Mon Sep 24, 2001 at 10:07:27 PM EST

First of all, learn that if Hasbro could sell more Legos to girls, they would. If they could sell more dolls by selling to boys, they would.

Simple thing. Most of marketing is american-related, therefore anything will be done to get more money. Simple thing.

If they don't sell dolls to boys, it's because boys just aren't interested in dolls. If they don't sell Legos to girls, its because not enough girls are interested in legos.

Now, why is this?

Well, I'm a boy (well, man -- in theory anyway). I never had the slightest interest in dolls, save for taking 'em apart. When I was young, I had probably 4 or 5 times my weight available in any sort of lego I could want. My parents like to tell the numerous stories about how I managed to build towers that were 3-4 times as high as I was when I was 2-3. (Use the basement walls halfway thru. Simple no?)

I've got a female cousin. She never, ever, _ever_, gave a darn about my legos (she's a single year younger than I am). Her brother and mine (both are 3 years younger than I am) could hardly ever leave me alone when I was playing with legos. Now, this is anecdotical evidence, yes. But bare with me.

Today, I'm a computer science and maths undergraduate (with an aside minor in philosophy) at McGill University. My brother is going for carpentry and woodworking, my male cousin for mecanics. And my female cousin is going in physiotherapy.

All 3 males went right to technical professions of all sorts, the girl right to caring for others.

And her program is overwhelmingly female. And mine, my brother's and my male cousin's are overwhelmingly male. In one case -- my brother's -- exclusively male.

And I know for a fact that this is close to country-wide statistics (Canada).

But why, do you ask.

Well, there is one major difference between girls and boys that you _have_ to understand to see light through all of this.

Deal with it: Girls get pregnant, boys don't.

Go back 5000 years in history. A woman is pregnant. She's useless as a hunter, close to useless as a fisher, but can stay at home at do some basic chores. If it needs any sort of hard-earned skill, she can't do it while pregnant (and we need her pregnant for the survival of the specie -- remember, 5000 years ago). Boys naturally filled these roles since girls never would. If you have to spend 3-4 months at home at every child you get, you might as well always stay at home (5000 years ago, 'stuff to do at home' was very important. Sewing clothes, preparing food, etc. No freebie by shopping around), and let the man do things that might require you to go away for long periods of time.

There's something fundamentally practical behind all that sexism. And it's based on the fact that we're fundamentally different beings.

Now, these days, its much less practically obvious why girls are more naturally biased towards housecaring and such, and much more psychological. As 5000 years ago, the hormones that rule your world are the same. Girls have a _much more_ strong link with very young babies (breast-feeding, birth itself, etc.) than men do. So they ARE predisposed to caring for child. (That doesn't make them superior parents in any way, but that's another can of worm)

Where do the toys come in? Girls will buy (or want) toys that have to do with childcaring -> Dolls, and such. Boys will go for something else. Why is it technical stuff? Not too sure. But it sure is not dolls. Young kids buy simple things around the simple urges they've got. Girls are slowly getting the fact they'll be caring for kids -- so they right away learn for that task.

I don't know why boys are more oriented with down-to-earth things and girls to feeling-and-emotional stuff. But I know for a fact that 3 of my aunts discussing together will bore me to death. Me and my dad discussing together will leave just about any woman in our family miles behind in terms of technical knowledge and the various other skills required to 'get it' (like spatial orientation, abstraction of real-life, etc.)

And I've seen that with most girls I talk to, and most boys I talk to.

I just don't know why.


Maybe Computer Science ought to be taught in the school of Philosophy
   -- Christian Lavoie [modified from RS Barton]
Quibbling (4.00 / 1) (#79)
by Happy Monkey on Tue Sep 25, 2001 at 07:11:08 PM EST

If they don't sell dolls to boys, it's because boys just aren't interested in dolls. If they don't sell Legos to girls, its because not enough girls are interested in legos.

One quibble: it is usually adults who do the buying, rather than the children, so it is the adults' preferences that toy companies will pander to.
___
Length 17, Width 3
[ Parent ]

Admitedly, but... (none / 0) (#82)
by christianlavoie on Tue Sep 25, 2001 at 08:15:17 PM EST

Admitedly, but parents usually buy what their kids want and or play with -- well mine did anyway[see footnote]. I _do_ have a doll (well, a teddy bear-like thing) that has been taken apart in a matter of minutes, if I am to believe their story -- which I do. They got the message loud and clear: I like to investigate how things are done/built/taken apart.

They got me legos after that.

[footnote] -- Of course, if it's safe for kids, doesn't promote violence/discrimination/whatever they oppose, its main use won't be to beat my little bro and it's not costing an arm and a leg. But save for that, exactly what I wanted. =)


Maybe Computer Science ought to be taught in the school of Philosophy
   -- Christian Lavoie [modified from RS Barton]
[ Parent ]
re: I got news for you... (4.00 / 2) (#90)
by technik on Wed Sep 26, 2001 at 02:05:12 PM EST

Go back 5000 years in history. A woman is pregnant. She's useless as a hunter, close to useless as a fisher, but can stay at home at do some basic chores. If it needs any sort of hard-earned skill, she can't do it while pregnant (and we need her pregnant for the survival of the specie -- remember, 5000 years ago). Boys naturally filled these roles since girls never would.

If you hope to argue for genetic predisposition, your timeline is too short, start thinking in terms of 250,000 years at the near end or more like 1-2 million years at the far. Even reading into your comment and arguing that you really mean 5,000BC only puts human beings in the earliest Mesopotamian cities and near the time of the first known Egyptian calendar- things that demonstrate a higher order of social organization than could be sustained by a hunter-gatherer. This requires agriculture and represents a relatively high level of technology and culture. And, as anyone who knows anything about subsistance agriculture and animal husbandry knows, women can and usually do perform much of the labor. Further, much of the daily labor is neither exceptionally difficult nor hard to learn. Facts that argue directly against your assertion.

Now, going back much further, there is strong evidence that the steady, consistent food contribution made by the female "gatherer" far exceeds the occasional and irregular but large contribution made by the male "hunter" and makes survival possible, something that is the case in contemporary hunter-gatherer societies where they have tools and implements like the bow and arrow that are technologically superior to the earliest hunters. This cultural effect would propagate and one could assume that those with a genetic predisposition toward this would have higher survival rates but, before anyone gets in a snit, such a disposition might be just the expression of the predisposition toward cooperation which would itself have a very strong effect on survival. There is also a theory in currency (I think I read it in Science circa 1999) that downplays the value of hunting on hominid survival and points to cooking and eating tubers- gathered by females- as the turning point for human intelligence, social organization, and gender roles. If anything, her pregnancy probably encourages the male to leave the tribe for short, frequent hunting trips- periods when he would support himself- since his presence represents a net drain on the food resources needed by the women who will produce and raise the next generation. Also note that this includes post-childbearing women such as grandmothers and aunts and pre-childbearing or currently childless women such as sisters, cousins and adolescent children. Survival culture probably descended down the maternal line.

Now, what does any of this have to do with contemporary gender roles? Not much. We have countless examples of both individuals and large groups acting in ways that defy "accepted" (what ever that means) gender norms. Can you argue that there are genetic differences between boys and girls- yes, absolutely. Can you argue that because of these genetic differences boys and girls may have behavioral differences- sure. Can you assert that because boys are boys and girls are girls they can and do act the way they do without accounting for the cultural pressures around them- not a chance.

- technik

[ Parent ]
re: I got news for you... (none / 0) (#91)
by christianlavoie on Wed Sep 26, 2001 at 03:53:46 PM EST

Agreed, looking back on it, my timeline is way too short. But still, the main point is there: A pregnant female is more or less defenseless and physically unfit for most tasks. At the very least for the last 3 months of pregnancy, and let's say another one after birth.

There is a strong psychological burden on an individual not to show utter defenselessness for such a long period -- even today. Females don't exactly have a choice. It's their role to be pregnant. The mental connection to "It's their role to be physically unfit" is not a hard one to make. It seems sexist, yes. It probably is, too. But tradiotionally (and by that I mean 100 years ago and before), 'working' (think construction or mining) or 'hunting' (including fishing, etc. The tradional males' food gathering tasks) are impossible for females.

Add to that the biologically-imposed muscular superiority of men, and you see more and more why males are pushed toward technical (mecanics, woodworking, etc) tasks than woman. Men are physically capable of performing those tasks for as long as they live (save for exceptionnal condition like illness or wounds or whatever -- things that affect females just as much) while pregnant females cannot.

Counting on the 'physically superior' male image, think that not so long ago, war and combat was the main way to impose superiority in most hierarchical societies. (Today's capitalist societies are still a good example of that anyway). The physical strength implies superiority mentality was easy to extend to superiority over women (if I am not mistaken only a handful of african civilizations actually had matriarcal societies, the rest of the world was patriarcal -- especially Romans and Greeks which imposed that women lived in their own special rooms, with obvious housecaring tasks for them).

How does that fit with our main argument?

Men would get the first choice for what they wanted to do, and women -- being inferiors -- would get whatever was left, or considerer 'unworthy' of men. Since physical strength was so important, physically demanding tasks might be considered 'worthiness symbols', so anything that required physical fitness was a men's task.

The fitness-requirement of mechanics, woodworking, carpentry, etc. is more important than sewing, knotting, food-coocking, etc. At least on the strength requirement. (It can easily be argued that raising children can tax endurance in surprising ways =)

So, the technical careers would be men-dominated simply because tradiotionnally, they were fitness-demanding, and men are physically more fit (generally speaking) and the housecaring'd be reserved for woman because its "what's left" and "not a worthiness symbol".

Also, this would explain why careers like policemen, firefighters, security guards are greatly men-dominated. And why nursing, secretaries, and such are mainly womem-dominated.

But back to technical careers: They are today's 'worthiness symbol'. That's men's traditional playground. Social pressure.

Or is it?


Maybe Computer Science ought to be taught in the school of Philosophy
   -- Christian Lavoie [modified from RS Barton]
[ Parent ]
oh well, here we go again (4.11 / 9) (#45)
by mami on Mon Sep 24, 2001 at 11:01:47 PM EST

1. There is absolutely nothing wrong with a girl apparently spontaneously having another playing pattern than boys. I think it's even an insult to girls to "judge" how they play and draw a conclusion about their "intelligence" from their playing pattern.

2. I don't believe that on the level of playing with lego or some other relatively easy "construct something" toys there is a real difference. Girls are better in memory games (visual memory). Girls do play with lego and other stuff, which involves construction, but they don't go further.

3. Differences start when the "construct something" games become serious, like radio, electronic or serious woodworking etc. Boys do it on their own and they stick with it. Girls start doing other things (also on their own - at least in the culture I grew up) related to more fine motorical skills, painting, sowing, knitting, music, art related constructions like sculpture or movie making.

4. That usually is not influenced by parents, it is looked for by girls on their own. They start reading much more and much earlier, on their own. Start to influence the reading pattern of a boy and you will be surprised how hard that is. A girl will live with her books in her bed and a boy will live with his radio and other technical "wizardries" under his bed.

5. Girls also start seriously playing with "science" (plant collection, doing "research" with a microscope, gathering and breeding insects etc. They don't play with "technology". They actually like Math quite often and are often interested in medicine, biology and chemistry, already in highschool. Boys at the same time get interested in cars, motors, maschines and physics etc.

6. Someone said girls play with dolls, because they are fascinated being homemakers. I think that's true and because it makes them happy and focussed there is NOTHING to complain about them doing so, if they start doing so all by themselves. Women need to be homemakers, that's hard wired. So, for heaven's sake let them do what they need to do.

7. Go in poor countries, where children don't have toys. You will see they build their toys themselves and you will see that girls make themselves dolls and start cooking for their dolls and boys start constructing something like a mini scooter or a car. Believe me noone over there tells these kids what kind of toy they should make for themselves.

8. To think there is something inately "intelligent" about boys preferring to play with electronic toys is a smart invention of young geeks. Some not so smart fathers even support them in it. Let them. It's stupid. :-)

9. I don't know why that is a recurring issue here in the U.S. I am glad that there are differences. I have never understood why people want to enforce women and men being the same. They aren't. Live with it. Actually I regret that people here seem to think it's important for girls doing the same stuff boys do. To me it's somewhat forced and somewhat fake. You see women already "discriminated" before they really are. The only thing where I think one should really support girls is in women's team port like basket ball and soccer.

10. As for a good way to let women study technical fields like engineering and computer technology in early age is simply to instruct them separately from boys. In that regards gender based girl's school have proven to produce many more and much more confident women, who will choose science or technical fields as their careers, than co-ed schools.

Look to history (2.50 / 2) (#55)
by greenrd on Tue Sep 25, 2001 at 08:45:05 AM EST

I have never understood why people want to enforce women and men being the same. They aren't. Live with it.

I think if you look at history you get a better idea of where this drive for equality comes from. Back in the days of the Sufragettes women were thought to be too stupid to vote, or it was "not their place", or something like that. This was basically a soically irrational policy. Back when wives were treated as property, a notch above slaves perhaps, the roles expected of women were so encultured it was almost impossible to see the biologically determined nature of women (if there is such a thing) behind the huge mass of environmental influences. So you had a lot of these socially irrational, highly oppressive policies and widely held opinions, so at some point it became a natural mistake to jump to the conclusion that basically all views about women being in any way unsuitable for any task were unjustified, socially constructed contingencies.

As a computer programming educator I personally have a hunch that the male population has a higher proportion of people who are genetically predisposed to have the potential to be good programmers, than the female population. In fact I've never met a really good female programmer - although then again that's not saying much because I haven't got to know many other programmers at all. I don't have much hard evidence for this feeling, but I can't shake it off.


"Capitalism is the absurd belief that the worst of men, for the worst of reasons, will somehow work for the benefit of us all." -- John Maynard Keynes
[ Parent ]

Of course (none / 0) (#83)
by mami on Tue Sep 25, 2001 at 09:48:32 PM EST

but I thought we don't live in the dark ages anymore. If the old arguments still play a role in your upbringing of girls, then we can forget the discussion. I assumed that parents today wouldn't resort to those unjustified, socially constructed contingencies any more. Oh, well, may be not...

Your observations and feelings have certainly something to it, but I don't think they have any special meaning. I think the choices women make and the aptitudes they seem to have or not to have for programming (I actually don't believe that, but I do believe they have for some inhibition to go into electrical engineering and electronics - the hardware side) are mainly a matter of subconsciously chosen priorities, driven and determined for the most part by their genetic make-up.




[ Parent ]
RE: oh well, here we go again (none / 0) (#61)
by dbc001 on Tue Sep 25, 2001 at 12:09:13 PM EST

1...I think it's even an insult to girls to "judge" how they play and draw a conclusion about their "intelligence" from their playing pattern.

Actually the major function of play is learning and hardening the soft pathways of the brain ("myelinization"). If we play with construction and deconstruction toys, we learn to approach the world differently than if we simply use dolls to reenact a set of standard scenarios. Legos promote a deep understanding of one's creation, dolls promote mimicking one's surroundings. Modern definitions of intelligence require an in depth understanding of the world. Ability to understand social situations (traditionally a woman's skill, possibly learned through replaying social situations with dolls, is not considered "intelligence" by most definitions.

3. Differences start when the "construct something" games become serious, like radio, electronic or serious woodworking etc. Boys do it on their own and they stick with it. Girls start doing other things...

There are significant social pressures that drive girls to stray from boys' toys and vice versa, even if they prefer those kinds of activities. Go select 10 women at random and find out the percentage who were tomboys. The percentage will be low.

4. That usually is not influenced by parents, it is looked for by girls on their own.

Someone else already mentioned that experiments have shown that parents interpret childrens' emotions and desires based on their perception of the child's sex. A baby with no clear signs of gender will be described as "strong" if people are told it is a male and "sweet" and "pretty" when told that the child is female.

5. Girls also start seriously playing with "science"

Women are treated differently in class. If a teacher asks a question and 2 students raise their hands - one male and one female - the male is usually the one who is called upon. This rewards the male and the female is left unrewarded. This type of conditioning leads the female student to pursue other interests.

6. Someone said girls play with dolls, because they are fascinated being homemakers.

Again, this can be attributed largely to social pressures. An eight year old girl wants to play soccer at recess. She approaches a group of four girls who are playing with dolls. This pressures her to abandon her desire to play soccer and to instead play dolls with the other girls to fit in.

7. Go in poor countries,

I have no information on non-Western gender roles but I can assure you that whatever happens to girls who make their own toys in third world countries has little relevance to American gender role socialization.

email me at brittonATsocketDOTnet if you want sources - i dont have them here at work.

-dbc

[ Parent ]
School Myths? (5.00 / 2) (#66)
by sonovel on Tue Sep 25, 2001 at 01:45:15 PM EST

Women do better in almost all subject (if not all) in grade schools, high school, etc.

Women make up more than 50% of people going to college in the U.S.

Women are far less likely to get in trouble at school, drop out, use drugs, go to jail, etc.

So which sex is in trouble?

Which one needs the most help?

Why are the answers to the above question different than what you normally hear in the media?

Call me a contrarian, but girls get all the press about how schools are "unfair" to them, but it is boys who are really messed up.



[ Parent ]
School Myths. (none / 0) (#67)
by dbc001 on Tue Sep 25, 2001 at 02:08:17 PM EST

Women do better in almost all subject (if not all) in grade schools, high school, etc.

I would attribute this to social pressures on females to conform, fit in, etc. Boys are taught to be loud and to be leaders, while girls must be demure and just get along. At the same time I would guess that parents tend to encourage girls to focus more on schoolwork (that's just a guess though!). This doesnt mean that they are getting the better education though, nor does it mean that girls are more intelligent.

So which sex is in trouble?
Which one needs the most help?


I personally think they're both in trouble - I beileve that prescribed gender roles ("asymmetric gender-role socialization") cause a great deal of emotional and psychological damage to both sexes. Unfortunately, I dont think there is really a simple solution to the problem. I think that intellectual and social evolution are greatly hindered by outdated gender-role requirements.

As far as questioning the media - the point is that even though women get better grades may outperform men on certain tests, less women are employed, women are underpaid for the same positions as men (the "glass ceiling"), and it is still assumed that women are less capable of doing a man's work.

[ Parent ]
illogic, and more myths (none / 0) (#102)
by sonovel on Fri Sep 28, 2001 at 07:16:44 PM EST

So more women going to college than men shows a failure of our educational system to educate women?

uh huh, right.


You have more of a point with the glass ceiling stuff, but I was talking about schools. I think the glass ceiling starts to vanish now that more women than men are in college.

The disparity in salaries between men and women is a bit less than is made out by some, according to some things I've seen (sorry no cites). When controlled for _experience_, the gap narrows.

As far as the gender role thing goes, many people have tried this. Read the threads here. Apparently there is a difference between girls and boys!

[ Parent ]
Umm (4.00 / 1) (#73)
by Ken Arromdee on Tue Sep 25, 2001 at 03:53:42 PM EST

Women are treated differently in class. If a teacher asks a question and 2 students raise their hands - one male and one female - the male is usually the one who is called upon. This rewards the male and the female is left unrewarded. This type of conditioning leads the female student to pursue other interests.

See here. Short summary: No.

[ Parent ]

I am not convinced (4.00 / 2) (#84)
by mami on Tue Sep 25, 2001 at 11:29:57 PM EST

Someone else already mentioned that experiments have shown that parents interpret childrens' emotions and desires based on their perception of the child's sex. A baby with no clear signs of gender will be described as "strong" if people are told it is a male and "sweet" and "pretty" when told that the child is female.

I remember what convinced me to doubt the theory that pressures of a gender based socialization is stronger than genetically based gender differerences. It was a documentary about the fate of hermaphrodite babies.

Babies born with two complete sets of external and internal female and male sexual organs most often undergo surgical procedures to attribute them with only one set of organs and one sex. Mostly this is defined by doctors and parents follow their medical advice as to what sex the child should get and be raised in.

Several lifestories of these sexually manipulated children reveal that the strongest oppression and social pressure one can imagine, surgical procedure to create out of hermaphrodite baby a child with only one sex, raising that child in the gender role, did create absolute horror in these children as adult. Often the sex, the doctors and parents had chosen, didn't match the "feelings" that these growing children develop about who and what they are and which sex they actually feel within themselves. If the sex they got from their parents through the surgical procedure didn't match the sex the child or young adult feels in himself, then that results in one tragic, emotional horror stories in the adults.

There was a woman, who absolutely didn't feel like a woman at all and wanted desperately to live in a man's role. She didn't know that she was born as a hermaphrodite and found out only in her early twenties. The choice to transform her sexual organs to that of a woman, when being born as a hermaphrodite baby, were simply the wrong decision. NO social oppression (and can you imagine a stronger one than artificially being made into a woman) could prevent her seeking, what we would call typical male activities. That should be proof enough that social pressures are not stronger than how you are genetically defined by nature and develop your own personal aptitude and attitude fingerprints.

Another story was told about a hermophrodite baby transformed into a male, who desperately wanted to live like a woman as an adult. He changed his sex back to a woman. When I listened to those lifestories, my doubts about the environmental socialization of girls being oppressive and the defining factor in their development, seem to have been proven. I do believe that other factors were much stronger at play than I would have believed. I admit, when I was in my twenties and early thirties, I would have rejected that too. I too was a strong believer in the "environmental socialization" theory. I changed my mind about it allowing myself an "honest" look at what I perceive as realities.

I think that, in watching your child, you just keep an open mind and look where it falls into under the bell curve. You could have a very feminine boy and a very boyish girl. Why don't you just look and wait and accept whatever you got in your child ?

Of course, I agree with you, in your point 5. Your point 7 I don't quite understand. I can't quite believe that American gender role socialization is more oppressive than those of girls in some Third World countries. Nevertheless you will find quite some strong women born in such environments, who become successful scientists, politicians and even engineers.

[ Parent ]

Discrimination in the workplace is rampant. (2.83 / 6) (#50)
by Tezcatlipoca on Tue Sep 25, 2001 at 05:53:16 AM EST

I have seen first hand how women in technology positions are completely sidelined ian a shameful way.

Most men just can't bear to have female bosses, males in management positions regard traits of character considered as "female" to be counterproductive for carreer advancement (i.e. no women can go into management) and in general many companies still behave disregarding the fact that women have babies.

THere is more awarness than 10 or 15 years ago, but the mindset of males in the work place requires a lot of education to change prevalent ridiculous attitudes.


------------------------------------
"They only think of me as a Mexican,
an Indian or a Mafia don"
Mexican born actor Anthony Quinn on
Hol
I think some people missed the point (3.83 / 6) (#51)
by 50volts on Tue Sep 25, 2001 at 06:30:15 AM EST

After reading atomic's post and ten reading the comments that followed I think some people missed the point of what she was saying. To me it seemed to boil down to "Don't blame men for women not being in technology fields, blame culture." Personally I can't say why there is not more women in technology being neither a women nor some sort of cultural analyst. What I do know is that it is definetly something more than just male chauvanism and toys. Women who don't want to be involved in technology run if I mention the word RAM. To me it seems almost like a fear.

Yes... and no. (4.00 / 1) (#105)
by BlueGlass on Sun Sep 30, 2001 at 02:35:18 AM EST

A few more datapoints for consideration.
Datapoint One: My wife is the type who runs from the word RAM, certainly. Over time, and observing her (and her sisters) interacting with her family, it has become obvious that her father is patience itself if I, or her brother, are helping with some "male" household task. For example, installing brackets for some hanging plants.

But let my wife/any female attempt to do the exact same task, and he is crabby and impatient with them. Were I treated the same, I, too, would quickly back off . For the record, my wife is more competent than myself at installing said brackets.

End result? All of the female siblings feel inadequate when it comes to doing the traditional male "work around the house." Their brother, who is observedly inferior to them at such work, nevertheless is more confident and comfortable engaging in such work. He botches it all the time, but that doesn't stop him.

Datapoint Two: My niece. Now 3 years old. Mom, in theory, doesn't wish to force gender roles upon her. In reality, ten minutes of watching reveals a not-very-subtle amount of disapproval when niece is roughhousing, approval when she is sitting quietly playing with stuffed toys. So embarked upon some experiments, not very scientific, but enlightening (I think).

First, I showed my niece how to build towers out of blocks. I only needed to show her once, and she had it (FWIW, this is at age 2, pre-WTC). Then I showed her how to knock them over. Cool! She couldn't get enough of this! Build some, knock 'em over, repeat. Did this for an hour.

Niece's mom finally came in the room, talking on the phone. She walked over, stopped my niece from knocking things down, shoved the blocks away, and plunked her daughter down in front of her stuffed animals. (My wife was in the room observing this too).

When asked why she did this, niece's mom, claimed she didn't. When we insisted she had, she believed us, sort of, but clearly didn't remember this.

Since then, we've done similar things, my niece now knows when we come over, she can haul us off and pull out the blocks and lego. When mom comes in the room, she drops the blocks and pulls a stuffed animal over. (OK, so we've screwed up my niece for the rest of her life. It wasn't on purpose!). When mom leaves, animal is put down, we resume playing with blocks, or whatever.

Kids are very sensitive to the subtle social signals they get from family and peers, far more than they are to words and reason. They quickly adjust their behaviour to suit the people/group they're with. If this continues for their first ten years, what girl is going to be interested in technology? Only one with an unusually strong and stubborn personality, coupled with intense curiosity.

I'm sure similar things are true with male kids, but I won't have a nephew until March. :)

[ Parent ]

Veterinarians (3.33 / 3) (#52)
by Scrymarch on Tue Sep 25, 2001 at 07:11:36 AM EST

When I started at UQ, Brisbane, in 1995, the gender disparity in the CS labs was as male-skewed as ever. But in another course - vets - the split was violently the other way, 70% female, and the trend has since continued.

I speculate that though society is encouraging women to take up professions and science, it is also encouraging them to be caring homemaker types. Vets are seen as filling both these roles. My veterinarian wife has been unconvinced by this speculation.

Anyone noticed a gender split elsewhere?

biology and biochem versus physics and chemistry (none / 0) (#72)
by demi on Tue Sep 25, 2001 at 03:24:49 PM EST

At the school I attended for undergrad, I majored in biochemistry and chemistry. I had many classes in both areas. In the chemistry and chemical engineering majors, it must have been 70-80% male. On the biology side, the gender disparity was reversed. Women seemed to be much more inclined towards the biology, zoology, and physiology side of the sciences in my experience. In graduate school, the trend was basically the same, although it seemed like there were fewer women overall.
<P>
Most universities in the US are majority female now I think. If you walk into a lecture hall for psychology, sociology, or anthropology, it seems like it's 90% women. But in the senior undergrad engineering classes, it is the reverse. Certainly with all of the biological differences between men and women, there are some manifestations in what fields they choose to study. I don't think there would be such a social problem with all of this were it not for the fact that engineers make a lot more money and get better jobs than people with masters degrees in psychology.
<P>
That being said, there is no shortage of female pre-med majors at any university as far as I know. But when it comes to devoting your life to science or technology it is a different story.
<P>
<P>


[ Parent ]
The problem I had with BioChem was.... (none / 0) (#86)
by Rande on Wed Sep 26, 2001 at 08:26:55 AM EST

That they started out with chlorophyll and proteins and complex strings of carbon, where I really wanted to start with atoms, and build up from there, and understand _why_ chlorophyll reacted with sunlight from that point rather than just accept that 'haemoglobin does X with Oxygen'.

[ Parent ]
Experimental Data (4.66 / 6) (#53)
by Paul Johnson on Tue Sep 25, 2001 at 07:53:32 AM EST

A TV series has been running over here (UK) about child development. Sorry I don't recall the title, but its fronted by Robert Winston, who also happens to be a world authority on reproductive medicine and an active member of the House of Lords (UK parliament upper house).

Anyway, they did a programme on sex roles which included an experiment where parents were observed looking after someone elses child aged 2-4. They were given a child and told a name, and both clothes and name strongly indicated either "boy" or "girl". However underneath the clothes the child might or might not be the same sex as the name and clothing.

The response of the children and parents was consistent and revealing.

  • Girls preferred traditional girls toys. Boys preferred traditional boys toys.
  • Parents offered girls toys to apparent girls and boys toys to apparent boys.
  • Parents permitted apparent girls to play with boys toys if they insisted, but strongly discouraged apparent boys from playing with girls toys.

It would be very interesting to travel back in time 30 years and repeat the experiment. Would girls have been permitted to play with boys toys then?

All of which may present me with an interesting dilemma. I have a 4-month old son. If in a few years time he wants to play house with dolls then what do I do? I find the idea troubling for reasons I can't quite pin down, but which mostly have to do with social pressure to conform to masculine stereotypes. On the other hand if I had a daughter I would definitely be pushing her towards construction sets regardless.

Paul.
You are lost in a twisty maze of little standards, all different.

Girls play with boys toys (4.00 / 4) (#57)
by murklamannen on Tue Sep 25, 2001 at 10:18:17 AM EST

As mentionned in replies above, girls play a lot with boys toys. Sadly, boys don't play at all with girl toys. And girls who do things like play soccer are seen as quite cool while boys who dance ballet are seen as dorky.

The feminist movment is deeply sexist. Since most feminists are women they tend to almost only bring attention to girls and womens problems. There is a lot of effort trying to get girls interested in science but very little effort trying to get boys interested in such things as art and music.
This is bad. There should be more men in the feminist movment and women feminists should really begin to bring problems that man face into light too.

Are you implying that the fact that... (none / 0) (#65)
by SIGFPE on Tue Sep 25, 2001 at 01:12:33 PM EST

...boys don't play with 'girls' toys is a problem? Why is it a problem?
SIGFPE
[ Parent ]
Kasreyn (none / 0) (#80)
by Kasreyn on Tue Sep 25, 2001 at 07:49:14 PM EST

"Sadly, boys don't play at all with girl toys."

I'm confused. Please explain why it is sad that boys do not play with toys that the article writer just got done informing us teach one not to think. I don't see any real benefit to little girls OR little boys wearing princess costumes and having fake tea parties with stuffed animals. I suppose they'd make great Geishas when they grow up, but there's little demand for Geishas these days. My kids, girl and boy, will get Lego, books, and computers as toys. =)

I agree that the feminist movement (depending on what you mean by that) needs more men interested in equality for women. However, I refuse to support the extreme, revisionist feminists, whose apparent goal is to punish men for the "crimes" of their fathers, and make men inferior to men.

If women prove they can be fair and calm about these things even in the face of the injustice they(r mothers) have suffered, then I'm all for their movement. If all they want to do is swing the pendulum the other way, count me out.


-Kasreyn


"Extenuating circumstance to be mentioned on Judgement Day:
We never asked to be born in the first place."

R.I.P. Kurt. You will be missed.
[ Parent ]
Oops! Corrections aplenty. (none / 0) (#81)
by Kasreyn on Tue Sep 25, 2001 at 07:58:03 PM EST

Egad, that was a bad one. Mental note: preview TWICE in future.

Comment title was supposed to be: "And this is bad why?". Another (public) forum where I post frequently, has the name field first. This explains that goof.

"...However, I refuse to support the extreme, revisionist feminists, whose apparent goal is to punish men for the "crimes" of their fathers, and make men inferior to men."

That should be, "make men inferior to WOmen." This was embarrassing. =P


-Kasreyn

P.S. there's also my old Transformers for any future spawn of my loins to play with. They may be rather like dolls but I like to think the transformations teach manual skill and spacial awareness! Or so I kid myself.


"Extenuating circumstance to be mentioned on Judgement Day:
We never asked to be born in the first place."

R.I.P. Kurt. You will be missed.
[ Parent ]
A few studies (2.75 / 4) (#58)
by dbc001 on Tue Sep 25, 2001 at 11:44:13 AM EST

here is a list of studies that should be available at any large university library:
psycinfo

I've actually done some significant research on the subject (although I cant remember a lot of specifics at the moment). One of the more interesting things that I discovered is that although I personally dislike prescribed gender roles (and I think that they should probably be changed), there is no way in hell I will let my male kid play with dolls (assuming that i have one at some point).

There is also a large body of evidence (i will try to post references later when i find them) that prescribed gender roles do serious damage to the male psyche and can cause serious emotional problems. Every American guy knows that there are certain subjects that you have to be approach carefully or everyone will think you are weak or a homosexual.

Stereotypes are always misleading (3.50 / 2) (#71)
by anewc2 on Tue Sep 25, 2001 at 02:51:54 PM EST

My daughter, age 12, hauls 40-lb bales of hay, shovels manure, steers 1000-lb animals over jumps and occasionally gets tossed off onto her ass in pursuit of the overwhelmingly "girl's thing" of horseback riding. She is tender and loving with her horse, and also whacks him with her crop when he won't do what she asks. My sister, when she was young, did the same. They learn, and learned, at the same place, run then, as now, by women.

My daughter loved Barbies -- always wanting more and more -- but had the same deconstructionist philosophy about playing with them that Karmakaze had. (Thanks, Karmakaze, for the funniest thing I've read today.) Now it's Breyer horses (plastic models), and creating jumping courses around the dining room table for herself to take on all fours.


Someone did once tell me to get a life, but due to a typo, I got a file instead.

I don't see where's the difference (4.50 / 2) (#77)
by vadim on Tue Sep 25, 2001 at 06:03:46 PM EST

I see some people here claiming there's some difference boys and girls (Just in case my name's confusing I'm male), and I've to disagree. I remember when I was much younger I saw nothing wrong with playing with my mother's old doll, although I liked technology too. I really don't get this instinct argument. If that's true, then somebody please explain me why I spent 2 months playing just one game: Creatures. After that I got Creatures 2, Creatures 3 and later downloaded Docking Station (ds.creatures.net, it's free). The game is about raising virtual creatures. Having spent a quite long time in some forums and newsgroups trying to prove they're alive doesn't make me a typical boy, I think. At school I never had many male friends either. At least where I live now the typical male prototype is somebody who loves soccer, sports and is quite stupid. Being a techy guy who spends all the day with the computer I'm largely ignored by them. IRL I have few female friends, mainly because I'm shy and few people are interested in computers here, but it's often a much greater friendship than what usually happens with other boys.

Online, almost all my friends are girls (I met almost all my friends in Creatures forums and chats) and most of them like using computers for other things besides chatting. Many of them write programs, and I convinced several of them to try Linux :-) One of my friends showed me some code she had written. I have to admit it looked much better than what I usually do, and it was commented rather obsessively, while I often write large blocks of code without any comments at all. Her website is really awesome. It looks great, uses a database (php and MySQL) and has an administration page for things like updating the news. Take a look, http://www.frimlin.co.nz/helen

I mostly think girls are less insterested in tech because of a lack of confidence. Schools are highly social environments, remember. It's hard to be accepted there if you aren't like the rest, although that's exactly the kind of people I like :-) It's natural that girls want boys to like them, and maybe that's why they avoid "male" stuff. I've heard more girls choose IT and tech-related subjects in girls only schools.

In my school, girls are *much* smarter than boys, including for tech-related subjects. The class seems to be divided in two. Most girls have great or good marks in all the subjects, and even the most careless ones don't create a lot of problems. The boys get much worse marks, make a lot of noise in class, have no respect for the teachers... The previous year we had a group of 6 of them who managed to create an awesome havoc with the teachers that don't have much authority.

Our IT class is *abosolutely* boring. Using M$ Office during almost all the year won't help anybody like it, male or female. I, being the local 'wizard' (even though I'm very far from that) managed to get teacher's permission to install Linux on my computer :-D

Somebody said there's something genetic in this because in poor countries girls make dolls for themselves and nobody asks them to. Wrong. The society does. Many poor countries have a strong religion with strong views on how should men and women behave, and children aren't dumb. They see how society works and learn that behavior.

I don't think there's any need to classify tasks as 'male' or 'female', I think that everybody has a part of one and another. I take care of virtual creatures, and my father does almost all the domestic tasks. I don't cook, but just because I can avoid it. Many girls don't like it either. If I'm alone I don't have many problems to prepare something simple. If I go to live on my own, I surely will learn to do it better.
--
<@chani> I *cannot* remember names. but I did memorize 214 digits of pi once.
A paper, and boys said to be too "girly" (4.00 / 3) (#78)
by ToastyKen on Tue Sep 25, 2001 at 06:13:10 PM EST

Firstly, here's a good paper on the causes of the lack of women in computer science.

Now I'd just like to point out that, just as girls are discouraged from playing with trucks and stuff, boys are discouraged from being nice and sensitive and stuff because it's "girly" and/or "gay". I feel that, as we get older, men tend not to be as prepared for dealing our emotions. We tend not to be able to talk about them with fellow men, and we aren't as trained to talk about them even with women or men who are willing to talk. This leads to a lot of emotionally distant men who don't even know why they're unhappy or why their relationships don't work out.

I don't advocate total gender equality, since we do have differences, but i think it's great to let children of either sex explore things which are tradionally the domain of the other sex and find the best of both worlds (while, of course, being practical enough not to be seen as a total social outcast).

eh? (none / 0) (#109)
by discodeathrace on Sun Sep 30, 2001 at 10:59:32 PM EST

what are emotions?
Life is too short to be me.
[ Parent ]
Question of blame (3.00 / 1) (#88)
by weirdling on Wed Sep 26, 2001 at 12:27:32 PM EST

Since I can't remember where I read it and I have no link, I doubt anyone will believe this, but a recent study has shown that it is young girls in a peer group that enforce gender distinctions. Actually, it is a certain type of young girl.

I have two sisters. One didn't know she wasn't a boy and hardly ever played with dolls. We are very close. She has a doctorate in mathematics now and is a passable programmer. The other is one of these gender enforcers, just failed on my sister and I because we are so unconventional (I can sew, knit, etc.), and is very much female, with a stay-at-home attitude. How can it be that the same family that produced the one also produced the other?

I recently had the opportunity to watch the child of this girl I'm dating playing with a friend of mine's child. The young male has been raised pretty much by women since inception, and, while if this relationship continues, I intend to teach him about masculine values such as protection and the proper role of violence, he has not received such instruction as of yet.

However, this young girl proceeded to forbid him to play with the toy cooking utensils, insisted on feeding him and keeping house (in play), and set a tea party that he was deathly bored in. He behaved in a predictably male fashion: when sufficiently bored, he started throwing things and complaining. She immediately caved to his demands. It was quite enlightening.

While it would be nice to blame males for this sort of behavior, I think it is disingenuous. Feminism has done a lot to drive a wedge between men and women, and this is not good. Men, frankly, don't understand what they have done, because they are not in a sacred cabal that holds women down, yet the failure of women to achieve is blamed on them.

As always, I guess, think before you blame...

I'm not doing this again; last time no one believed it.
A look into the mind of a Geek Girl (3.50 / 2) (#89)
by d0rkchic on Wed Sep 26, 2001 at 01:29:13 PM EST

Taking a look at a different perspective is very important to this argument. I wrote this for all the guys out there, but not as an advertisement.

My stats:
I am a 22 year old female with blonde hair and blue eyes.

Location:
Northwestern Ohio (farmland)

My Family:
My parents were never married (back in 1979, this was a big deal), so I was single handedly raised by my mother. My mother, who did a very good job of raising me.. might I add, was an educated oil refinery worker. She was the first woman in the United States to be a knock motor engineer. To give you a little inside about my Mom, she started working at the refinery because when she interviewed they told her that she wouldn't last longer than 3 days because she was a woman. She's been working in refineries (recently relocated to New Orleans, but in a similar refinery) for almost 30 years now. Needless to say she is an independant and intelligent woman. Fortunately, I've inherited a lot of this from her.

My History:
As I was growing up, I was introduced to a lot of different toys. Of course I had my barbies, dolls, and stuffed animals. I also had legos, building blocks, matchbox cars, ninja turtles, and science/tech toys (microscope set, electric set). My favorites were the ataris, later nintendos, and especially the Commodore 64 (pitfall and print shop were my personal favorites), the Apple IIGS (space quest, oh yeah) and then finally the 486 DX 50. Mom and I used to bond playing pong or super mario (there was the time that I unplugged the system when she was at bowzer's castle... I was grounded for a few weeks for that one). All in all, I think I had a very well rounded upbringing despite the fact that I really had no male figure in my life (aside from my grandfather, who also worked at the refinery and farmed a 200 acre farm).

Math n' Science:
I have always done really well in science. However, math was an issue for me in high school. My H.S. math department consisted of the athletic department. Being the female artsy fartsy band nerd that I was, I didn't do so well. I had algebra from the basketball coach, geometry from the football coach, and algebra II from the tennis coach (who were all male). I didn't dare take any math beyond that because I could only manage C's in high school. When I came to college I took Algebra, Trig, Discrete, CalcI (I'm in Calc II right now) and 2 courses of Statistics. In all of these classes I had at least a few female prof's (calc and trig)and recieved at least a B or above.

What do I do now?:
Oddly enough, my life has become really dichotomos. I am a psychology (soft science, predominantly female) and computer science double major. I keep the psych degree because I put a lot of work into it before I realized that I'd much rather play with computers. I've only been programming (minus those programs I used to enter in from the back of the 3-2-1 contact magazine) for two years, and I do a fairly good job of it. I'm right equal with a lot of my male CS colleagues who have been programming much longer.

Why am I telling you all of this?:

I get a lot of smack.

Most of my friends are guys, as I can't "geek out" with too many girls. A lot of girls don't like the things that I do, like Anime, hardware, alternative OS's and whatnot. In turn, a lot of my male friends cannot identify with my more feminine hobbies like interior design, shopping, arts and crafts, singing, et al.
I was in a sorority and I go to a campus that is predominantly female(BGSU is one of the top schools in the nation for education majors). In my sorority (my sorority had an emphasis on individuality as stated in the chapter motto, "Always individuals, forever sisters"), even though I had a good time and made a lot of friends, I was more or less the technical support. I didn't find that doing traditionally girly things like spending hours of my time doing hair or putting on makeup was worthy of my precious time. With this ideology, I found that it was hard for me to bond with my sisters. Instead, I made a chapter website. Unfortunately it hasn't been updated since I went to alumnae status.

My male friends are more accepting however. I do get a certain amount of esteem as a female Geek, which is nice. However, I notice that when I'm being assertive or expressing my expertise, I'm noted as being "bitchy" or "showing-off." I also find that most of my male geek friends have a HUGE masoginistic point of view. I find it hard to laugh off their comments about dumb chicks and porn girls all the time. When I assert an opinion about such topics, I get an odd opinion in return. They don't look at me like a woman when I'm geeking with them, I'm a counterpart. I'm "different." When I deviate from my normal uniform of t-shirt and jeans and throw on a short skirt, some makeup, and do my hair, I get a completely different attitude. Regardless of what I look like at the time being, there's an underlying essence of sexism there.

Similarly, (but obviously not the same) I feel like a multi racial kid might feel (according to an American Culture Studies Prof). The white kids won't play with her because she's not white enough and the black kids won't play with her because she's not black enough. In my example, the boys won't play with me because I'm not man enough and the girls won't play with me because I'm not girly enough.

I don't fit into the mold that many of my female friends have glided right into. Take my roomate for example. She is a special education major and is completely ready to marry her boyfriend and pop out a few kids. Although I love my boyfriend, there is no way that I'm going to get married before I have a settled career and especially no kids before that time. I'm not in college to get an MRS degree (in college in order to meet a man to marry... get it.. Mrs. MRS degree.. anyway). I'm here to learn.

Unfortunately, my personality and my way of life has made me an outcast.




Do you chat to your mother with those fingers?

Is this normal? (none / 0) (#97)
by Obvious Pseudonym on Fri Sep 28, 2001 at 03:38:16 AM EST

My male friends are more accepting however. I do get a certain amount of esteem as a female Geek, which is nice. However, I notice that when I'm being assertive or expressing my expertise, I'm noted as being "bitchy" or "showing-off." I also find that most of my male geek friends have a HUGE masoginistic point of view. I find it hard to laugh off their comments about dumb chicks and porn girls all the time. When I assert an opinion about such topics, I get an odd opinion in return. They don't look at me like a woman when I'm geeking with them, I'm a counterpart. I'm "different." When I deviate from my normal uniform of t-shirt and jeans and throw on a short skirt, some makeup, and do my hair, I get a completely different attitude. Regardless of what I look like at the time being, there's an underlying essence of sexism there.

I find this quite alien from my experience. I don't know if you have an unusual group of friends, or I do, or if it us just a cultural difference between the US and Britain (although I suspect the latter).

I also studied psychology and computing (as well as biology) at university. I was also in the Role-Playing/Computers/Sci-Fi category ,although they didn't call us 'geeks' back then, at least not in this country. (That makes me feel old - although I'm only 32..)

My circle of friends from university onwards has always included both males and females (I am male myself). I don't remember any sexism or misogyny in the group whatsoever though. It generally didn't matter what sex you were as long as you shared the same interests. The misogyny was all done by the 'trendy' people and rugby players (sort of like your 'Jocks').

From my experience, the female members of the group were treated like 'big sisters' and asked for advice about women and relationships. Similarly, they asked us for advice about men. Actually, thinking about that, it probably contributed greatly to the lack of sexism. Instead of getting men's highly inaccurate 'locker room talk' about women that encourages sexism and misogyny, we got a much more realistic view (and, of course, the women got a more realistic view of us men).

I do, however, agree with you about female geeks being treated as 'one of the guys', at least partially. I clearly remember on one occasion someone outside the group asked a couple of us about one of the women in the group and whether either of us had made a pass at her. This was greeted with incredulity as if someone had asked if we had made a pass at our sister or something.

Still, the 'incest taboo' couldn't have been that strong. It didn't stop me marrying one of the women in the group in the end...

Obvious Pseudonym

I am obviously right, and as you disagree with me, then logically you must be wrong.
[ Parent ]

Hi! What the fuck are "Legos"? (1.75 / 4) (#92)
by spiralx on Thu Sep 27, 2001 at 03:53:32 PM EST

I'm honestly curious, what is this "Legos" you talk about? I don't know of any such children's toys. Maybe you actually mean the plural of LEGO the popular toy composed of interconnecting plastic bricks, but the plural of that is either "LEGO" or more properly "LEGO bricks". And you wouldn't be that ignorant would you?

You're doomed, I'm doomed, we're all doomed for ice cream. - Bob Aboey

Legos ... (3.50 / 2) (#95)
by Dlugar on Thu Sep 27, 2001 at 11:06:11 PM EST

Hello, welcome to English, where we get to make up whatever the heck words we want to and whichever ones happen to be in common use become "correct". If you don't like it, move somewhere else.

Thank you, have a nice day.

Dlugar

[ Parent ]
No, not really (4.00 / 1) (#98)
by spiralx on Fri Sep 28, 2001 at 06:53:13 AM EST

Hello, welcome to English, where we get to make up whatever the heck words we want to and whichever ones happen to be in common use become "correct". If you don't like it, move somewhere else.

Since Lego is already a proper noun and has its own plural defined as part of the trademark, then making up imaginary words is quite simply wrong.

Sorry.

You're doomed, I'm doomed, we're all doomed for ice cream. - Bob Aboey
[ Parent ]

Right, (none / 0) (#103)
by Dlugar on Sat Sep 29, 2001 at 12:20:47 AM EST

like that ever stopped the English^W American language before. Believe you me, "incorrect" usage gets to be correct usage pretty darn fast, even if there's a proper noun and trademark and everything. But if you're anal enough to get worked up every time somebody says "Legos," then I think you've got bigger problems than language shift.

Dlugar

[ Parent ]
That auld chestnut... (none / 0) (#100)
by Mr Tom on Fri Sep 28, 2001 at 07:53:02 AM EST

Hello, welcome to English, where we get to make up whatever the heck words we want to and whichever ones happen to be in common use become "correct". If you don't like it, move somewhere else.
</quote>

s/English/American.

That is all.

-- Mr_Tom<at>gmx.co.uk

I am a consultant. My job is to make your job redundant.
[ Parent ]

Thanks! (none / 0) (#99)
by codemonkey_uk on Fri Sep 28, 2001 at 07:46:40 AM EST

I was going to say that, but now I don't have to take the inevitable karma hit... :)
---
Thad
"The most savage controversies are those about matters as to which there is no good evidence either way." - Bertrand Russell
[ Parent ]
It's time for a more considered viewpoint. (4.33 / 3) (#93)
by Bear Cub on Thu Sep 27, 2001 at 08:39:23 PM EST

I'm getting tired of hearing about how girls are forced into 'accepted female roles', and how we should be raising them to be more like boys.

Implicit in this idea is the notion that 'masculine' personality traits are more desirable than 'feminine' tendencies. This is crap.

The idea that girls shouldn't be so girly any more is just as evil and repressive as the notion that they should remain barefoot and pregnant; you're just trading one set of imposed values for another.

Feminists have not been seeking a world where women are just like men. Rather, what we really need is a world where women and men are held in equal esteem, and where anyone (male or female) can be whoever they want to be. Neither forcing Legos and computers on girls, nor forcing dolls and dress-up costumes on boys is going to bring this about.

Before we go forcing our children into newer, more modern molds, we need to re-evaluate the value system that tells us that a successful career woman is healthier and more fulfilled than a mother, that a man must be strong and forceful instead of warm and nurturing. We need to quit making judgements, and raise our kids with the confidence and freedom to be who they want to be.

------------------------------------- Bear Cub now posts as Christopher.

my son (none / 0) (#106)
by geos on Sun Sep 30, 2001 at 12:12:10 PM EST

I am a grad. student in mathematics (male I might add) with a 18 month old son. I'm sure these personal details will color what I want to say.

All of these sorts of discussion seem to rest on the implicit assumption that there are universal male and female gender roles in our society. I would argue that it is impossible to seperate gender roles in our society from its structure of social classes and levels of status. Simply put, the expectations for a non-college educated girl of non-middle class background are very different from those expectations for someone else. It is of course, peoples expectations that we are really talking about.

Now that being said you can probably accept or reject that point of view as you wish. But the idea that you can change a persons response to the expectations of the people around them by giving them 'boy toys' or 'girl toys' is a little over-reaching. On the other hand, if this change were to occur in say a girl after being given "LEGO bricks," I think she would appear very alien to her parents and peers. Of course, this sort of 'alienation' occurs all the time for various reasons and alot of those aliens go on to technical and scientific pursuits regardless of their class and gender. But, I would argue that this is really transfer of the alien from one societal class to another where they fit in better.

What is my overall point? You can't argue about gender roles without really saying every boy or every girl ought to have certain expectations of them from their peers and family. Now different people have very different ideas of what universal expectations ought to be had... but I would argue that it is more important that we argue about how to have a society that accomodates differing expectations and makes sure that universal expectations are not forced from the top down...

my own experiance (none / 0) (#110)
by Jenny on Tue Oct 02, 2001 at 07:18:45 PM EST

Growing up was a bit strange for me. Being born a boy, my parents gave me things like legos and stuff like that. Actually I never considered legos to be a 'boy' thing. My cousins (girls) had both barbies, legos AND video games. I think just about every female cousin of mine was into video games at some point.

Anyways, back to the point. Growing up, my parents gave me mostly boy stuff. (Although I LOVED stuffed dolls... I had a TON of them.) I also used to play a lot with either my cousins or my friends (mostly female, or atleast used to be while growing up) toys.

So reguardless of the fact that I had all these 'boy' toys while growing up... I am finding my self prefering domestic type stuff more than anything else. For example, I am going to my moms house after work to cook dinner...


I think the end result really depends on who you are. A big part of this would be your 'gender'. (Your mental sex.) Girls and boys just find different things facinating.

Although I am currently a computer programmer... I spent a few years baby sitting. I LOVED doing that, unfortunatly... the money sucked.

If I was offered 11 dollars an hour to babysit 8 hours a day (under the table of course) I would not think twice about dropping my job. (I figure 11 an hour, 40 hous a week ... under the table... would be the min I need to afford my apt/car/etc)

So what does this all mean? Ahh heck I don't know :)

I guess I am just trying to show that even though I was treated as a boy growing up... because Im mentally a girl (GID, read up on it :P) I still prefered 'girl' type things... (shrug)

Legos vs. Dolls | 110 comments (98 topical, 12 editorial, 0 hidden)
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