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AIBU to think that the emphasis on "gender neutral" smacks of desperation

(150 Posts)
Sakura Mon 22-Nov-10 01:33:03

<feel free to ignore as I've just read it back and it's quite an essay, but I just had to get it down>

I'm halfway through Delusions of Gender and lots of things have begun to niggle me.

I get the feeling that the need for women to prove their brains are the same as mens is just as absurd as the mad patriarchal obsession with finding differences is male and female brains.

Neuroscience, evolutionary psychology are the most recent "proofs" that the system has conjured up in order to justify oppression and subordination of women

But the idea that we now have to prove male and female brains are the same, and that if girls and boys were just raised in a neutral environment then sexism would just dissappear, doesn't make sense to me. It would rather be like a black man writing a book proving that he is not, in fact, black. And that him not being actually black means that he should't be discriminated against.

But, well... racism was only invented in order to justify slavery. The trade along the Silk Road (Europe to China) proves that for centuries many races and religions lived side by side and traded equally. There was no inherent racism until it became necessary to justify slavery. That, you could say, was the root of the concept of race.

And it's the same with female oppression. The oppression and subordination comes first, the justifications come afterwards. Dispel the brain myths and they'll only think up another reason why women should be disenfranchised in economics and politics.
MEanwhile women have to expend lots of energy proving they are "just as good as men" or "can be just like men"

The truth is, from what i have seen, there is no evidence, one way or another, about how brains work, but even if there were dramatic differences between male and female brains, on what basis would that be a justification for patriarchy? The truth is, there is no justification, and feminists should bear that in mind.

I think women giving up make-up and beauty practices en masse would do a lot for equality, and in the way women are perceived by society (but it'd have to be a mass movement, because it'd be very difficult to do alone- I am not brave enough, that's for sure)

I also think another 'solution for the revolution' would be for women to simply stop working, like the women in FInland did 50 years ago. The country ground to a halt for a day and men were forced to sit up and listen to their demands. NO cleaners, no carers, no bum-wipers, no supermarket check-outs, no Macdonalds cashiers...

Also, one of her chapters is incorrect AFAICS. SHe talks of female children who were of ambiguous sex at birth who are then raised as girls, but continue to show an interest in boys' toys. She doesn't mention the chromozomes. If the children are chromozomally male, then that could be why they are interested in boys' toys, which disproves her own hypothesis.

Either way, I personally don't think any of this matters. men are always going to find reasons to keep women down and 'brain differences' is just the latest in a long line of justifications.

Saltatrix Mon 22-Nov-10 05:01:09

Racism has always existed in one form or another, it was not 'invented' it is based on ignorance, ignorance which is able to be taught so that children obtain the same prejudice as their parents, although everyone is capable of deciding for themselves that there is no reason for such prejudice. It's because of differences, people see someone different (either the way they look or way they live) which they do not like they attribute anything about that race in a negative manner mainly because they refuse to understand them. Slavery was the result of racism (and capitalism) not the other way around.

I think your right however about how there seems to be a view that 'typical' male pursuits are better and that women/girls should aim to achieve in such areas. Which makes me think then why should women need to give up make up etc. If they like using those products why should they feel less because men don't do it (as much). There are more and more men using such products these days think of the term 'metrosexual'. And there have been many cultures where 'make up' was commonly used by men.

Behaviour is not solely determined by chromosomes (if you mean directly ofc) you have hormone levels, external stimulus personality etc. Hormones are a very big factor for example high levels of testosrone are attributed with higher levels of aggressiveness as males have higher levels of that hormone it only makes sense why males are more aggressive 'typically'(this also applies to virtually all known mammal species as well which we are a part of).

I really do believe that there are 'general' differences meaning that it will be common for males/females to do something more than the other gender. Rather than continually trying to find ways of saying everyone's the same, it should be accepted that people will like different things and just because they are different does not make ones worth any less.

Sakura Mon 22-Nov-10 09:14:33

Thanks, an iNteresting post.

I think, for many women, make up is not a choice, it's survival. MAny women have breast implants because they feel as though they're freaks without them. THat's hardly a choice. Same goes for make-up. Women who make themselves look beautiful receive lots of kudos, patronage and attention from men, so it makes sense to do so. It's hard to give up. Again, that doesn't make it a choice. WOmen who don't shave their legs, pubes or armpit hair to go swimming are regarded as disgusting. SO again, it's not a choice when she gets out the razor before going to the beach. IT's a socially prescribed duty.
THis is why heterosexual women get a better time of it- because they can appeal to men by looking feminine and beautiful this can lessen the discrimination they might otherwise come up against for being women.

I agree with you that slavery was the result of capitalism (and that was the main reason it ended- because keeping slaves was no longer economical) but I personally don'T believe slavery the result of racism. Racism was invented to justify slavery, in order to categorize black people.
Slaves haven't always been black. The celts were slaves, taken to Iceland by the vikings. How do you think the Egyptians built the pyramids? Slaves
So slavery has always existed,but it seems that in the past few centures there needed to be a justification for it when there didn'T need to be in previous eras. Racism, i.e chategorizing a group of people as inferior based on some external characteristics, served this purpose. It happened to be skin colour, but it could just as easily have been size of nose,anything, really. Same goes for women

Sakura Mon 22-Nov-10 09:18:34

I read that male and female testosterone levels are raised when they're in certain environments, so football matches, that type of environment. Alcohol raise both male and female's testosterone levels.
Obviously men have got more testosterone than women, and they don't have any oestrogen AFAIK, but I wonder how much the testosterone they do have is down to environment and masculinity. IN other words, I think men can be raised to be calmer than they are. What do you think?

sarah293 Mon 22-Nov-10 09:21:38

Message withdrawn

Prolesworth Mon 22-Nov-10 09:34:00

Message withdrawn

Beachcomber Mon 22-Nov-10 09:43:39

Interesting thread Sakura.

I agree with you - I don't think it matters whether men and women are intrinsically different or not (in terms of 'deserving' equality I mean).

I think an inbuilt element of the patriarchy is that men's actions will always be given higher status and value than women's.

Something that is inarguably natural, say childbirth or breastfeeding, illustrates this.

Breastfeeding is given lower status in this society than a man 'babysitting' his own kids from time to time. Women are not treated with enough respect a lot of the time when they are giving birth.

I definitely think that women will not achieve equality by trying to prove that they are as good at traditionally masculine things are men. I think we need the things that women do to be better valued, but that will only happen when women are better valued as a group by society.

Hence, for me, why I agree with radical feminism.

I do think women can be just as good politicans, CEOs, etc as men. I think women will probably do these roles differently though (whether that is cultural or innate I have no idea). This difference is to my mind a positive thing and would be embraced by an equal society.

Beachcomber Mon 22-Nov-10 09:47:14

This thread is making me think of Takver's Jacky Fleming cartoons thread.

I found this one to be pretty thought provoking;

redirectingat.com/?id=470X756&xs=1&url=http%3A%2F% 2Fwww.jackyfleming.co.uk%2Fcartoon.php%3Fgall%3D%2 6p%3D14&sref=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.mumsnet.com%2FTalk%2 Fwomens_rights%2F1088063-Jacky-Fleming-cartoons%2F AllOnOnePage%2322354931

Sakura Mon 22-Nov-10 09:51:01

DOne a google:

Wikipedia:
"It was common for a person to voluntarily sell oneself into slavery for a fixed period of time either to pay off debts or to get food and shelter"

So in the past, I suppose, it didn't matter who the slaves were, what they looked like, or where they came from. The revolutionary step was to acknowledge that slavery as an institution was wrong. Shame it hasn't extended to women, because so many women around the world work for their subsistence, for free, without a wage i.e wives

Sakura Mon 22-Nov-10 09:55:04

lol, love those cartoons

I do see what you mean, but largely disagree. There is evidence -- lots of it -- that there are very few differences between male and female brains, at least in childhood (brain plasticity means that it's all a bit more complicated in adulthood), and that those differences there are are normally very small (although there are a handful of more significant differences). Yet we are constantly getting the message of "Oh, if little girls want to dress in pink sparkly heels and paint their nails and cuddle kittens rather than climb trees or run around yelling or poke things with sticks it's nothing to do with upbringing or society or a wider cultural context, it's because their brains are wired differently and <shrugs> what can you do?".

If the message that male and female brains are, to almost all intents and purposes, the same, can be drummed home then that argument disappears. It doesn't make men and women exactly the same in all respects. It doesn't make sexism disappear overnight. But it does demolish the argument that there isn't really any sexism ingrained into society, it's just that girls (apart from a few outliers who we'll call, for the sake of convenience, "strident man-hating feminists" naturally like wearing pink and tottering about in high heels doing the bulk of the housework and being paid less than men, don't you know. It makes it clear that there are other factors at work in setting up the current socio-political balance.

I find the points about prenatal exposure to testosterone fascinating, for example. There is a widely-held belief (I've seen perfectly sensible posters put it forward on Mumsnet, for example) that girls exposed to higher levels of testosterone in utero are more likely to play with toy cars/balls/construction toys and to enjoy sports. But when research studies look at girls who are part of a girl-boy twin set (exposed to lots of testosterone) and girls who are part of a girl-girl twin set (exposed to much less testosterone) there is no statistically significant difference. But there is a really huge difference, statistically, between "girls raised with an older brother" (massively more likely to play with those toys and to enjoy sports) and "girls raised without an older brother".

Beachcomber Mon 22-Nov-10 10:01:33

This one is good too;

www.jackyfleming.co.uk/cartoon.php?gall=&p=9

Sakura Mon 22-Nov-10 10:05:18

BUt my point is, it doesn't matter either way, Professor Layton.

Why is anyone trying to demolish the idea that there isn't really any sexism grained into society?
Aren't we buying into these daft beliefs when we try to "prove" sexism is unnatural?

A waste of time and energy IMHO. We should focus our energies elsewhere. Men believe what they want to anyway. As soon as women "prove" neuroscience to be bollocks, we'll find a return to the hysterical womb theory, you mark my words.

Sakura Mon 22-Nov-10 10:08:46

Off the top of my head- why not focus on the beauty industry (more money is spent on the beauty in the US than on education ) . On how this massive industry robs women of their self esteem and money with the result that more sexism is created because the differences between the sexes is enhanced and emphasized a hundredfold

Sakura Mon 22-Nov-10 10:13:59

ProfessorLayton, sorry my reply was snippy blush Your post was really interesting. I just get rather 'excited' when this subject comes up

Beachcomber Mon 22-Nov-10 10:20:38

For me this is just like the 'man cannot work washing machine but can design a plane' type thing.

Men are supposed to be visual yet they seem unable to find cheese graters in cupboards.

Men are running the country yet they seem incapable of remembering that the potato peeler has been kept in the same drawer for 10 fucking years.

Men are CEO's yet they seem unable time manage getting children into bed at a decent hour.

It is just laughable.

(Disclaimer; huge generalisations of course, not all men. Am taking short cuts to make a point)

Sakura Mon 22-Nov-10 10:25:30

yes, it's laughable. I mean, it's nice that Cordelia Fine has written a witty book dispelling the myths, but it seems to me that a lot of women are taking the myths seriously, as if it really would be a terrible thing if male and female brains were found to be different, as if that somehow would justify male domination.

Well, it wouldn't. Men are stronger and yet they have never done the physical labour, and yet in the past they used the fact they're stronger to justify oppression.

Sakura Mon 22-Nov-10 10:27:07

And I've got two words for everyone on this thread. George "Brains" Bush. I mean, please. Do we need any more evidence than him that men get where they are because they're men, not because they're intelligent.

Sakura Mon 22-Nov-10 10:27:49

okay, that was three words

<frequently made mistake>

I'm not even (largely) talking about men. I'm talking about intelligent women on Mumsnet who post (words to the effect of) "well, I think girls and boys are just wired differently. My girls just love pink sparkly things and don't have any interest in getting muddy or sports, while my boys are fascinated by how things work and climbing trees. So it's perfectly reasonable to sell ]girls' globes' that are pink and twinkly/to divide up dressing-up clothes into 'girls' outfits' (nurses, beauticians) and 'boys' outfits' (doctors, police officers, firefighters)/to sell padded bikinis for seven-year-olds/to shrug that 'boys will be boys' and let them get away with shocking behaviour we wouldn't allow in our daughters".

If there is this obsession that girls and boys are "just wired differently" then it promotes a blindness to the cultural pressures that actually creating an unequal society.

It would be very easy for me to focus on the aspects of DD's behaviour and personality that are most "girly" and the aspects of DS's behaviour and personality that are most "boyish" and say "ah well, they are just wired differently because she's a girl and he's a boy", to reinforce those behaviours and create some kind of self-fulfilling prophecy. But I try to look further and to see that, for example, DD is far more interested in team sports or ball sports than DS was at her age (and she should probably be the one of the two signed up for mini-rugby when she gets to five), that DS was gripped by pink and the sparkly when he was DD's age, staged far more elaborate pretend tea parties than she does and would probably flourish in gymnastics far more than DD would. And partly I manage to do that because I know that, statistically, there is very little inbuilt difference between them and it would be extremely odd if some quirk of probability had presented me with stereotyped "boy" and "girl" children, so I look again and think again. But there is an almost constant pressure there from outside, from what other people choose to remark on about each of their behaviours, from what gets reinforced about "girls" and "boys" on television, from the kind of toys that they get given, from the kind of clothes that are marketed towards them, to not notice or ignore or at least downplay the "boy" in the girl and the "girl" in the boy. I'm conscious of sometimes drifting along with that myself, and I (a) know my children (b) am armed with the science to know that most of the "ingrained gender differences" are bollocks and (c) try to be vigilant. If I'd accepted the "just wired differently" idea at face value then there's no way I'd be doing even as well as I am in valuing them as individuals rather than subconsciously pushing them into gender roles.

Sakura Mon 22-Nov-10 10:44:10

yes, I see what you mean, about the "wired differently". I am guilty of saying that. I've only ever said it in reference to the fact that serial killers are men, on the whole, and the odd time a woman does murder, it's in self-defence.
It's not just the prevalence of male murderers, it's the style and nature of the killings, especially children.
It might be true that a culture of masculinity couple with child abuse has created these monsters (highly reasonable) but it might also be true that women are more likely to turn in on themselves as a result of abuse rather than lash out. Again, it could be cultural.
I just seriously can't ever see women committing serial murder to the extent that we see men doing today. perhaps I am wrong.

Sakura Mon 22-Nov-10 10:44:36

usually self defence. not always, of course.

VFemme Mon 22-Nov-10 10:46:38

I particularly liked Natasha Walter's take on this in Living Dolls.

Having had a "boyish" boy I must admit to having leant towards the "biological determinism" myself. But reading that book opened my eyes to the fact that boys and girls aren't inherently different, but that boys and boys are different, as are girls and girls.

Sakura Mon 22-Nov-10 10:47:42

I still maintain that the significance of whether males and females are different is overplayed. Because those differences (nature or nurture) are used to justify female subordination, that is why women want to prove they're not innate. But prove that, and something else will turn up.

Sakura Mon 22-Nov-10 10:51:24

Actually, I agree with all your last post Professor Layton. I think I'm arguing something slightly different here.

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