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November 10, 2009 ginginbonbon

I don’t really volunteer in mental health anymore, since I’ve been too busy trying to live my life for the last 6 months or so, and also I’m not planning on having a career in the field anymore and I’m totally selfish like that. I am going to keep this blog to post my verbal diarrhea, tho. I leave little squirts of comment all over the internet (Gin Gin Bon Bon on dog blogs, the Stranger articles and Slog posts), but I want a place to put down actual articles, other than my OKCupid profile I mean.

I had one of those annoying conversations with an old friend where he was all harping on the “but men and women are so different on a fundamental level” thing. This really chaps my ass, but it took me months to lay out the reasons why. Here they are.

First of all, when someone says that men and women have behavioural/psychological differences that are rooted in biology, it does seem kind of like a common sense concept. Thing is, people often use that “argument” to partially explain pathologies, too, like how the vast majority of rapists are dudes, and it’s because they have these urges to contend with that women just don’t. That’s a whole nother angry post for me–I’ll need a couple more years to elaborate.

Anyway. When biological differences are pointed to, I’m going to pretend it isn’t some bullshit evolutionary psychology crap and what’s actually being referred to is innate behaviours and not the learned ones. When men and women grow up with the same opportunities and are subjected to the same expectations, then we can talk about that, but for the time being you are just gonna make me really mad. So yeah, let’s say we can put the nurture part of it aside and deal with actual biological differences: that men and women have different drives, their brains work differently, they have different ways of processing information, which translates into different ways of going about their business and expressing all those things. That says that men tend to do it in ways that are particular to men, and women, in their own ways. That’s statistics, right? Studying populations, not individuals. Because on an individual level, all of that breaks down. What about men who are more like what you’d expect a woman to be like, and vice-versa? HOW INCONVENIENT!!! People who don’t fit aren’t likely to be very enthusiastic about this fascinating population study, because you’re marginalizing them. (And why are you doing that? Read on, readers.) What you’d really be saying is, some men and women aren’t like the generalizations you have come up with. Fine. And people who do fit the stereotype might not really give a shit about all this, but it’s not because what you’re saying has any value, it’s because they’ve got the privilege or the will to be as intellectually lazy about gender politics as you do.

So what is the point again? The only time anyone’s going to be having this kind of conversation, where a guy quips “but men and women are different,” is when people are hashing it out, in person or over the internets. They’re all going to be individuals. No one participating in the discussion is a population or group. No one is even going to be representing a group, unless all of the members of that group have asked to be represented (hint: it’s not going to be “all the men/women in the world”), or unless maybe you are a giant fucking misanthrope. When you interact with humans you are not dealing with statistics or populations or groups, you are dealing with individuals, who might like to be treated as such.

It’s interesting that some people feel targeted during conversations about gender, and try to explain behaviour using scientific research they might not know that much about. Conversely, I don’t think I’ve ever heard a girl say “WHAAAAAT, I’m less of a logical thinker than you because I’m female! That’s why I don’t get it! It’s biology!” Awfully convenient, isn’t it, that all these “biological” differences make men the more practical, funner sex to be, while at the same time TOTALLY ‘SPLAININ WHY SOMETIMES THEY DO BAD THINGS. Hm. Wonder why that is.

Also, I’ve (momentarily! I am human!) had all these questions brushed aside by being told that I’m exceptional. Yes, blush, I am, but really, are you still referring to that faceless mass of women, all over-emotional-like and who can’t be trusted with management positions?? Still sexist. Sorry. I’m glad you can make the distinction between “Gin Gin Bon Bon” and “women”. The same thing can be done for every single other woman out there. See how that works?

People scoff at feminism as the radical notion that women are people, but the same people can simultaneously believe one or ten or a thousand women to be an acceptable representation of all women, or at least all the women that count when they’re trying to get their warped little point across. Still begs the question, what is the purpose of saying that men and women are different? Could it be to reinforce the opinion you already have about men and women being a certain way? How on earth could that even be remotely linked to promoting a sexist agenda?… It certainly does make it easier to continue treating them differently, because according to your research they have different needs and tolerances that can be neatly divided along gender lines (except when they can’t, but I guess we never resolved that, did we). It’s very useful, actually: it means you can continue to be a sexist moron, because science is on your side.

I would really like to hear about a positive use for this idea of “women” that we’ve all made up in our heads. I’m a feminist, so I’m a pessimist you see. Someone still needs to tell me what’s actually good about bringing up the fact that men and women are so naturally different, as opposed to why it makes us feel good to say so. TIA.

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6 Comments Add your own

  • 1. cindy&hellip  | 

    this is it

  • 2. lina&hellip  | 

    i went to feminism school. they gave me a BA!

  • 3. ginginbonbon&hellip  | 

    teh lezbians and teh feminists!! LOL!!@@@@JK!!@@@WISSARD

  • 4. ginginbonbon&hellip  | 

    I love my friends.

  • 5. morgan&hellip  | 

    Ummm,

    What about same sex classes in elementary school? I always thought that the idea seemed terrible but I guess one of the arguments in favor of the practice is that after boys reach adolescence most classroom management time is devoted to controlling their need for attention.

    Boys act out, make fun of people, fight, dominate conversations, and so on in an attempt to get others to look favorably upon them. Segregating classes based on sex is supposed to be a way for girls to get a little more attention. Otherwise, they get ignored by default.

    I’m not saying that all girls are well behaved and that there isn’t all kinds of gender socialization going on from birth that leads to this behavior, but sex segregated classrooms are supposed to be a practical way of providing more equity and equal treatment to girls.

    • 6. ginginbonbon&hellip  | 

      Ummm,

      That’s a good point, and interesting. I think that being able to address disruptive behaviours should probably be part of the learning process for both boys and girls, ie we aren’t doing kids any favours by attempting to shelter them from the possible effects of puberty, or their socialization… which is basically real life. Sex segregation is practical only so far as kids aren’t being educated about gender at all. On top of that they still face a lot of acting up, ridicule and fighting in other environments.

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