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So what ARE these differences between men and women?

(112 Posts)
Lottapianos Tue 16-Oct-12 13:17:14

Yes yes, I'm aware of several obvious differences for those of you sniggering at the back! wink

On several threads recently I have seen posters talk about how men and women are different but equal and lots of reference to the 'inherent' or 'inbuilt' differences between men and women. I'm a bit mystified because as far as I'm aware, the only inherent
differences between men and women relate to anatomy, physical skills (speed and strength), getting pregnant, giving birth and breastfeeding.

What else do you consider an inbuilt, innate difference between men and women? Or feel free to agree with me that the only differences are biological and all other differences are socially constructed smile

InSPsFanjoNoOneHearsYouScream Tue 16-Oct-12 13:21:29

They have willies and we have fanjos.

We carry babies for 9 month and have boobs.

We get hairier as we get older, they lose hair grin

HecateLarpo Tue 16-Oct-12 13:23:14

If you subscribe to the caveman theory then women are better at spotting stuff and that's the extent of my understanding. Women can spot berries and this translates into seeing dirt and stuff. Apparently. Women are more social cos of the staying in small groups while the men went off hunting. Men can, erm, something. hit a buffalo from half a mile away or something. Women can do more than one thing at a time better than men, are more communicative (same as social I suppose)

I don't know. I read about it once. No idea if it's got any merit.

googlyeyes Tue 16-Oct-12 13:25:59

Do you really feel that our brains are not inherently different? And that we evolved to have different strengths in order to help the development and progress of the human race? Surely oestrogen and testosterone play their part in significant differences too.

Fwiw I don't believe gender can be used as an 'excuse' for a lot of negative behaviour typically attributed to either men or women but i do believe that the male brain and the female brain are different, and it's wonderful that they are. For example I did not feel attracted to DH just because of his different anatomy!

MsAnnTeak Tue 16-Oct-12 13:26:42

Aren't females supposed to have better peripheral vision, or is that just a myth ?

Lottapianos Tue 16-Oct-12 13:28:43

'Do you really feel that our brains are not inherently different? And that we evolved to have different strengths in order to help the development and progress of the human race?'

What sort of different strengths are you thinking of googlyeyes? No I really don't think our brains are inherently different based on our biological sex. I think there is huge variation between individual people but that it's not down to our sex.

MooncupGoddess Tue 16-Oct-12 13:29:45

I read somewhere that men (as a class) have slightly better spatial/3D awareness than women (as a class), but that there is no good scientific evidence yet for any other differences. Of course it is hard to do research in this area because brains are plastic and respond to cultures and behaviours around them - so we would need to live in a culture with zero gender stereotypes to do any serious research on the issue.

It is very clear however that differences within sexes are much, much greater than differences between sexes.

freerangelady Tue 16-Oct-12 13:30:23

Physical strength. In our family farm my father and husband can just lift so much more than me.

googlyeyes Tue 16-Oct-12 13:30:35

Btw is it not fact that our brains are different? As in literally, biologically, objectively different? Women have more connections between the left and right hand sides of their brains, for example, hence find it easier to communicate and multi-task. And male brains are bigger. Not better, just bigger smile

HecateLarpo Tue 16-Oct-12 13:30:38

Apparently men are supposed to have a better sense of direction. Again - finding your way back after time away hunting.

I really don't know how it's possible to prove any of it.

MooncupGoddess Tue 16-Oct-12 13:34:50

Do you have any references for that, googlyeyes? It sounds pretty dubious to me but I am not a neuroscientist!

MoreBeta Tue 16-Oct-12 13:35:36

I have this theory about the way men and women shop.

Men know they need a pair of trousers, they decide they want 'black trousers' before they go, they go to the shops looking only for black trousers, they see some, buy them and go home. Women often go on 'shopping trips' with other women to 'browse' and come back with things that catch their eye. Its a social activity for women but for men it is purely utilitarian.

My theory is that the way men and women shop goes all the way back to hunter gatherer behaviour. Men went to kill a known animal. It was risky and once done you get back to cave ASAP. Women went in social groups to browse berries, plants, fungi.

MoreBeta Tue 16-Oct-12 13:37:07

That said, I like shopping and routinely get lost in my own town.

<blows theory out of water>

googlyeyes Tue 16-Oct-12 13:38:06

Different strengths such as men having better spatial
awareness, being much better able to focus on one task at a time to the exclusion of other things and women being better able to communicate and multi-task. Just as some examples off the top of my head. I know they sound like cliches but it's clear that these different strengths, yin and yang, if you like, have served society pretty well since caveman days.

How about the studies showing that even as newborns (ie before social conditioning can get them) male and female babies have differences in their sharpness of hearing and sight?

Can I throw a question back at you? Do you feel people are
attracted to either sex simply because of their physiology?

googlyeyes Tue 16-Oct-12 13:40:19

I can't offer specific references right now but at university we were definitely shown X-rays of male and female brains and they were noticeably different.

Miggsie Tue 16-Oct-12 13:40:47

A lot of these differences are based on very dubious science and in the case of the cavemen thing, that is all based on evolutionary psychology theory which is about the same as explaining thunder by saying it's a God riding his chariot across the sky.

There is even a biological issue with determining gender - the biological markers are not obvious - and there is a huge variance so there is a "range" of maleness and femaleness biologically. Hence people with dual sex hormones and characteristics and hermaphrodite conditions. At birth there are issues with identifying sex organs protruding from the body as male even though the person then becomes female in puberty.

Then you get nature vv nurture where genes are shown to contribute a maximum of 50% of personality, so as your genes determine whether you are male or female that leaves at least 50 % to be determined by nurture and upbringing so it is likely there is a huge over lap between male and female here as well - except you then need to factor in societal treatment of male vv female children.

Brain scanning currently is inconclusive as there again appears to be a range and quite a large overlap of the sexes.

My view is that there are really more similarities than differences but society seems obsessed with generating differences - and also there is the male issue with defining themselves as "not girls" which starts at school with the whole "girls subjects" stuff.

Lottapianos Tue 16-Oct-12 13:42:04

'Of course it is hard to do research in this area because brains are plastic and respond to cultures and behaviours around them - so we would need to live in a culture with zero gender stereotypes to do any serious research on the issue'

Absolutely - it's impossible to exclude gender stereotypes because we are so immersed in it from birth, so many people are not even aware of their own gendered view of the world.

'Women have more connections between the left and right hand sides of their brains, for example, hence find it easier to communicate and multi-task'

I would argue plasticity here googlyeyes. The more opportunities you have to practice something the better your brain becomes at doing it and processing the information involved. But again, there is such variation within sexes. I know men who could talk the hind legs off a donkey,and women who are so painfully shy that they couldn't make social chit-chat if their lives depended on it!

MooncupGoddess Tue 16-Oct-12 13:43:04

Well, I hate shopping and always go alone, MoreBeta smile

Honestly, googlyeyes, it is really hard to discuss this in more detail without seeing some proper scientific references. So many of these popular beliefs are just 'folk science', ie not science at all.

Speaking for myself (which is all I can do), I am attracted to people by a combination of looks and character, and find stereotypically masculine characteristics an utter turn-off. I'm not sure that means anything, really!

chibi Tue 16-Oct-12 13:44:38

i would respectfully disagree morebeta

i come from a country which has animals people hunt to eat, animals which will eat you, and berries (it's fantastic grin)

they are all sort of mixed up together - you might go out all browsy browsy for berries, but there is no reason why you wouldn't also encounter the animals which will eat you. they don't self segregate.

having said that i read a v interesting book once which suggested that early humans weren't so much hunters as scavengers at the kills of larger prey animals

Lottapianos Tue 16-Oct-12 13:47:17

'Can I throw a question back at you? Do you feel people are
attracted to either sex simply because of their physiology?'

Sometimes! You could find someone physically attractive enough to have a fling with but not find their personality remotely interesting. I take your point about not only being attracted to your partner because of his anatomy (!) - I feel the same about my partner. But I don't think the parts of his mind and personality that I love are 'male' - his kindness and sense of humour are traits that you could find in anyone, male or female.

googlyeyes Tue 16-Oct-12 13:47:52

And sorry but just one more (very genuine) question. What is the evidence that men and women AREN'T inherently different, short of anecdotal evidence that some girls like cars and trains etc and some boys aren't sporty and like pink? On, and Cordelia Fine of course...

maybenow Tue 16-Oct-12 13:48:24

I don't believe we are born with any differences except the basic biology, I think that hormones cause some differences after puberty - testosterone, oestrogen and progesterone all have different effects on mood and emotion.

And I think pregnancy and childbirth has a bigger effect on women than just them being incubators. While it is possible to give birth and then bottle-feed and not be primary-carer, I think that hormones related to birth and breast feeding (oxytocin for example) have a big effect on the way women care for infants in a way that a man don't have to the same extent.

googlyeyes Tue 16-Oct-12 13:52:47

How about 'Pulitzer Prize-winning Deborah Blum, 'Sex on the Brain: the biological differences between men and women'. Interesting read whatever your views!

Lottapianos Tue 16-Oct-12 13:53:03

Shopping is also accepted in our culture as a stereotypically 'female' thing to do. I hate shopping too and my FIL for example cannot get his head around this because in his mind, all women love shopping hmm

Agree with Miggsie that boys and men are expected to shun female or 'girly' things and assert themselves as manly instead. I would argue that the shopping example is a really good example of social conditioning - lots of men avoid it because it's something that is associated with women.

TheDoctrineOfSnatch Tue 16-Oct-12 14:03:16

What evidence is there that men hunted and women gathered, rather than mixed groups doing both?

I seem to remember that gathering was the most important food source Becuase it was more predictable.

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