Female only maths/chess competitions WTF?

(145 Posts)
Annie11111 Mon 04-Aug-14 08:50:10

I recently saw a thread on another forum on how there are female only chess competitions and even female only maths olympiads. There are also women only chess titles (international master, grandmaster etc) which require a much lower score or ranking than the default ones that any gender can earn. To me as a feminist this is a fucking insult and just goes in line with the rest of the usual ''like a girl'' bs.

It also said that boys/men make up about 99% of top chess players and maths olympiad winners in the ''proper'', mixed competitions. I didn't know if the poster was trolling but after checking it looks like he was right. It's bad enough that we have to hear about how much better men are at sports and how the best female football teams in the world lose by huge margins to half-decent teenage boys, but this isn't even sports, it's ''brainy'' stuff. I think any ''girl titles'' or competitions of this sort should be banned. How else will we ever stop thinking about girls as second best when they need to have ''special'' competitions in order to win anything? ''Sorry, hun, you can't compete with the boys in the ''proper'' leagues but here's one just for you, let's see if you're good enough for a girl!'' Unfuckingreal.

End rant, sorry!

Most of the maths olympiad winners seem to come from all male private schools many of which seem to have special classes or clubs for the olympiads. The only reason I think it can possibly be useful is to try and draw more girls out into trying these competitions, if they feel they can get somewhere and perhaps to encourage the all girls schools to become competitive.

Now where this leaves comprehensive kids who are for the most part nowhere to be seen in the top scores.... Its rather disheartening.

Annie11111 Mon 04-Aug-14 09:34:05

Hi BadKitten,

Well China wins the IMO (International Mathematical Olympiad) pretty much every year and their team rarely has a female member even though asian cultures have huge numbers of girls going into maths or science degrees, the same with communist cultures. China has 40% female engineers while the USSR had almost 60% !!!! UK has 7% in 2014 !!!! Maths is not just for boys in those places.

Yet when it comes to top competitions or achievements the women are almost nowhere to be found. No woman has ever won a Fields medal or an Abel prize (the most prestigious awards in mathematics) and the last time a woman won the Physics Nobel prize Churchill was still alive!! I don't know why that happens even when women are equally (and sometimes over) represented in science the top achievers are still, almost without exception, men confused . That still doesn't make me want female only competitions though, they are demeaning.

I dont understand it either, though in the uk in my experience, in subjects such as physics and engineering women are wildly unrepresented.

I dont like the idea of female only comps, it is distasteful but if its a way of pulling girls and women up to the higher levels, with the idea that they also compete in the full olympiads then I guess its a means to an end.

TheSameBoat Mon 04-Aug-14 10:58:47

I'm kind of torn. If women/girls have any hope of getting to the top of these braniac competitions they will have to start off as a minority which leads to intense stereotype threat. Everyone looking at your performance to be indicative of all women.

I have no doubt that girls have the same mathematical ability as boys but they are not generally brought up to be as competitive, to act under pressure or to put themselves forward, especially in a male dominated space where they carry the burden of all women.

Add to that the fact that boys have a wealth of famous precedents in history that girls do not, I can easily see the reason behind giving girls a less pressured environment to flourish and feel comfortable in.

Annie11111 Mon 04-Aug-14 11:00:39

Indeed, but they are designed for women who can't compete with the men and who couldn't qualify for the mixes competitions . So participating in their own gender's events won't improve their chances.

What is more sad is that women are proud of these ''second class'' achievements , for example the female chess players never lose a chance to parade their women only titles or wins. The only one I know who never bothers with female only tournaments is Judit Polgar, the best female chess player of all time and the only woman in top 100. She despises anything female only and never takes part.

ABlandAndDeadlyCourtesy Mon 04-Aug-14 13:14:19

Annie, I'd be proud to have won a title , even if the competitors were restricted. It's more the norm than the exception that competitions are split by sex. So to berate them for parading their second class titles seems a bit unfair.

It may be possible for those women (who live off prize money etc) to earn a living in the women's game where they wouldn't reach living wage levels in the men's game.

shinysparklythings Mon 04-Aug-14 13:20:25

I am a maths teacher in a comp state school. I find than when trying to put teams together for comps the girls are not particularly interested. My team this year had 3 boys and 1 girl. I have other girls that are fantastic but don't want to do the competitions and I am not going to force them into it.

PetulaGordino Mon 04-Aug-14 13:52:23

i did a couple of intermediate maths olympiad days when i was at secondary school. i was capable (when i look back) and interested but i wasn't very self-confident and it felt like a very lonely day similar to going to an entrance exam for an intimidating school. it was very male-dominated and i already felt like i didn't fit in, so that didn't help. i stopped doing them

this may well just be personality though, and had i been a different sort i might have got more out of the days.

would female-only competitions have helped? i don't know, it may just not have been the right set-up for me. but on the other hand, it might have been a way for me to get used to the competition environment in a situation where i felt less different, before moving on to mixed-sex ones. so i wouldn't rule out single-sex competitions

I know nothing about chess tournaments but I do know that the girls olympiad is not for those who can't qualify for the mixed (and actually there isnt really a direct equlvilent to qualify for) You get into the general olympiads by entering the maths challenges and qualifying is about raw score.

scallopsrgreat Mon 04-Aug-14 14:06:28

"So participating in their own gender's events won't improve their chances." Don't see how that equates. Could give the participants confidence; get more girls interested; increase the pool of talent; increase the participants skills; increase in revenue too for this under-represented group (which is probably quite important!). Happens all the time in sport when you focus on a particular group of people.

PetulaGordino Mon 04-Aug-14 14:07:59

yes to be clear, anything single-sex should be of equal value/difficulty

ABlandAndDeadlyCourtesy Mon 04-Aug-14 14:11:35

OP, I don't think you were around a couple of months ago when this link was posted about snooker - another competition where physical strength isn't the key factor - you might be interested in it:


I dunno about you but if men make up 99% of competitors in the 'proper' mixed competition, those competitions don't sound very mixed!

startwig1982 Mon 04-Aug-14 14:17:45

The girls only Olympiad is a fairly new thin and I think the idea is to promote maths to girls who otherwise may not be interested. For what it's worth, in the school that I teach at generally the boys do better in the maths competitions and the girls are far less competitive. However, we have a few of our more senior girls wanting to enter the girls only Olympiad.

AbortionFairyGodmother Mon 04-Aug-14 17:01:12

Women in competitions where men have traditionally been dominant often experience stereotype threat when playing against men (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stereotype_threat), which can significantly impact performance. Perhaps competitions done without an opponent across from oneself, in which a person would not know the sex of the opponent, would be fairer.

Branleuse Mon 04-Aug-14 17:08:30

i think its a great idea to try and encourage girls to compete in these areas.
You cant ignore the facts that there is a very low uptake for girls in certain subjects which has no bearing on ability.
Female only competitions may feel less intimidating

weatherall Mon 04-Aug-14 17:39:42

I don't see the difference from women's golf/snooker/darts/shooting etc.

Annie11111 Mon 04-Aug-14 17:47:06

Girls in other countries, regimes or cultures (asian, communists etc) are very much into maths and science and no social stereotype is stopping them. As I said in my other post, female engineers in China and USSR are/were 40 to 60% of all engineers. Even countries like Iran have huge numbers of women in STEM, I believe in Iran 70% of STEM students are female while the most progressive and feminists countries on earth (nordic countries and others) can't even boast with half that number sad . Not to mention Sweden has one of the highest rates for women working part time in the world! Sweden, the bloody gold standard for gender equality in the known universe! In fact, it seems the more you give women choice the more they tend to go for ''feminine'' college degrees , careers or lifestyle choices.

And whether it's the US , China, Romania or USSR, whether it's 1964 or 2014, whether it's a new space ship being designed, a 300 year old maths problem being solved or a new internet start up being sold to Google or FB for 10 billion it is almost literally almost always the men who are the ones behind it. I was checking the biggest online sites across the internet and the first 25- 30 or so did not have a single woman as a founder, not a single one!!! I gave up looking any further because it was too depressing sad. And most of these are 20 yo guys who changed the world started one of the biggest industries in the world from their parents garages or with an idea scribbled on a piece of paper. Girls were getting almost 40% of all comp science degrees in the US in the mid 80's , why couldn't any of them do that? Sometimes I ask myself why can't we do the things men do and just feel like crying.......... I'm just tired of feeling like a lower class human.

Annie11111 Mon 04-Aug-14 17:52:58

I don't see the difference from women's golf/snooker/darts/shooting etc.

The ''theory'' behind that is that men have better spatial visualization ability which is obv pseudoscience bs. Golf also requires strength to some extent. As for shooting, I think women are as good as men but I'm not sure where I read that.

ABlandAndDeadlyCourtesy Mon 04-Aug-14 18:10:06

There are mixed teams in Olympic horse riding events, if that helps, Annie.

Regarding starting a business: companies started by women tend to ask for less by way of funding, if they ask for any at all. Thus female founded businesses may grow more slowly and not be the 20 biggest businesses that you just googled.

It is partly about the technological strength of any idea but also massively about the strength of any team, go to market plan etc. If the group of people who might provide the finance are looking for an experienced chair to lead the young whizz kids - their networks will throw up mostly men. And the group of people who might provide the finance will also be mostly men.

TheSameBoat Mon 04-Aug-14 18:20:34

To join Annie in her depression, I know lots of girls in the yr 6/7 age group who are so bright and often blow boys their age out of the water.

So what happens? Puberty? The subconscious knowledge that acting clever won't get them a boyfriend? The beauty thing?

That's depressing! The potential girls have doesn't translate into self confidence.

BranchingOut Mon 04-Aug-14 18:46:02

I say don't succumb to depression yet - it is still, in terms of the centuries of patriarchy, relatively early days for women's equality....smile

If women's competitions get women into competing in Maths and Chess Olympiads, then surely that is the first step?

xena26 Mon 04-Aug-14 19:04:05

Would love to see more mixed sporting events

A women won one of the biggest horse riding events yesterday. Even though equestrian sports are mixed women are very much dominant phelpssports.com/viewarticle.php?id=10010410

sausageeggbacon11 Mon 04-Aug-14 19:20:15

If you are wondering why the largest businesses seem to be male it is to do with the willingness to take risks. Men are prone to take bigger risks and when successful it pays big time. However many businesses fail and remembering the higher suicide rate amongst men there seems to be a much big price of failure than I would be prepared to take.

Interestingly looking at the figures for female employment in the western world women seem to focus more on industry like law rather than STEM focused.

I have watched men and women's sports and those that are supposedly suitable for mixed it is still rare to see even competition. I saw snooker in the late 80s and early 90s and there was only one women that even came close to competing with the men would not make it past the warm up event for the world championships. Strangely she moved to America and competes in womens pool and earns a good living from it.

ABlandAndDeadlyCourtesy Mon 04-Aug-14 19:24:02

The other thing to remember is that where competitions are already segregated - men's and women's snooker, for example - in most cases, the men's sport will get higher prize money and better sponsorship deals, meaning better coaches can be hired, more time can be spent practising and less in a second job that pays the bills, thereby entrenching divisions.

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