We rely on advertising to keep the lights on.

Please consider adding us to your whitelist.



Advanced search

'We all have masculine/feminine behaviours - that's a fact'

(38 Posts)
Albadross Tue 29-Nov-16 10:06:26

Is it though? Doesn't that depend on us all agreeing on some universal idea of what is masculine/feminine?

Xenophile Tue 29-Nov-16 10:13:01

Yes. So called masculine versus feminine behaviours are a red herring if one is suggesting they are innate, there are however heavily socialised gender behavioural norms which are arbitrarily designated masculine or feminine, often due to the amount of power and social cachet they carry with them. Masculine behaviours tending to have the lions share of societally designated "positive" or "powerful" behaviours.

Albadross Tue 29-Nov-16 11:04:29

This is in the context of a workshop I was invited to about 'gender IQ'

I have suspected ASD so I always come out as androgynous, and am dutifully told I need to develop behaviours that I know I cannot in order to succeed. I find it extremely alienating and I just wanted to know if anyone else would find it a little bit annoying for things to be categorised in this way when we're meant to be challenging stereotypes...

almondpudding Tue 29-Nov-16 11:16:39

Well, masculine and feminine traits have been defined by psychologists, and they have demonstrated that people have both.

The problem seems to be that you are being asked to change your behaviour, not the acknowledgement that some traits are defined as masculine and some as feminine.

But I hope we do eventually move on from defining traits that way, and it becomes only a historical fact.

merrymouse Tue 29-Nov-16 11:18:28

To be honest, I think ASD workshops can be a little bit alienating.

I remember being told a story at an Early Bird workshop about an ASD child throwing stones at a squirrel because unlike all the other children, he didn't understand 'how the squirrel felt'.

More accurately, nobody knows how a squirrel 'feels', but I suspect NT children pick up more easily on what behaviour is acceptable within a particular group. Certainly, plenty of children throw stones at animals and they aren't all autistic.

Who knows which skills are masculine or feminine? To communicate well you need to be able to decode a lot of micro communication - tone of voice, small facial movements. Maybe women are better at this than men, but it's difficult to tell how much of that is nature and how much nature. Certainly I suspect it's difficult to focus on micro communications if you have a sensory processing disorder.

However, even if the whole thing is deeply irritating, it's probably best to take what you can out of the experience. It doesn't sound like a good venue for discussing gender theory, even if you are right.

KateInKorea Tue 29-Nov-16 11:20:04

Have you ever asked what traits they are and what makes them masculine/feminine, and how they will progress your career outside of your profession competence?

Are they actually suggesting that people should be MORE stereotypically masc/fem to succeed. Do they have evidence to back that up?

aginghippy Tue 29-Nov-16 11:25:39

Just asserting 'that's a fact' does not make it true.

I would find it more than annoying. Gender is designed to create a hierarchy with women and girls at the bottom. I want to get rid of that hierarchy.

What behaviours do they want you to develop? I'm an introvert and sometimes have been told that I need to change my behaviour to 'raise my profile' or something like that. It's just not realistically going to happen like that for me.

M0stlyHet Tue 29-Nov-16 11:27:03

Entirely on your side, Albadross. I'd find it more than a little bit annoying, I'd be very pissed off. (Was this a workshop through your workplace?) I agree with Xenophile that there are heavily socialised behaviour patterns which I would argue are "real" in the sense of having real-world impacts (usually detrimental to women, and to men who aren't "hyper-masculine"), but aren't "real" in the sense of natural or innate.

And you can certainly find a 101 books of the Lean In variety telling women how to adjust their (socialised) behaviour to get on better in a man's world. The trouble is that not only are these often slightly ridiculous (learn to speak with a lower-pitched voice) sometimes they become contradictory - for instance the issue of whether to negotiate hard for salaries. It's often said that women bring low salaries on themselves by not negotiating at entry to a job - but at the same time studies show that women are penalised as "pushy ball breakers" when they do negotiate. It's the classic double whammy - you're told that to get on you have to adopt masculine behaviours, then when you display them (often to a lesser extent than the average man) you're sidelined for being too aggressive.

It's like a professional version of the Daily Mail sidebar of shame - thigh gap = anorexic, normal body shape = fat. We will screw you over which ever side of the arbitrary line you fall on. So, lower your voice, but not too much or you become absurd. Don't dress "provocatively" (whatever that means), but you must still look feminine, but not too feminine (or you become too fluffy to take seriously). Negotiate hard, but magically know exactly where to stop (somewhere short of the normal behaviour of the average male salesperson or manager) or you become ball-breaking.

MephistophelesApprentice Tue 29-Nov-16 11:34:53

There are no such things as male/female behaviours, only behaviours to which a label has been attached, most likely as a form of social control.

ASD workshops are bloody irritating. I found amateur drama classes much more effective for learning neurotypical camouflage.

Albadross Tue 29-Nov-16 12:08:53

Sorry I wasn't clear - it's not an ASD workshop, it's for everyone. But my past experience of virtually any workshop I've been to that focuses on career development is that because I'm ASD the usual 'types' never fit and that can be very negative when you have it reinforced again and again.

Mephistopheles that's exactly what I was getting at - I don't know if I believe that behaviours ARE male/female, but they're simply Categorised that way because of stereotypes we should be trying to get rid of.

Previously I've been told that I'm a leader but because I don't 'play the game' I'll never make it up to the level where I can have big ideas and tell other people lower down to make them happen.

This comes off the back of a previous invite to a sessions about using makeup for success - that one really wound me up.

Xenophile Tue 29-Nov-16 13:26:30

Then no, there are no behaviours that are male or female. What there is is a hierarchy of beliefs and behaviours that have at various points in time been designated masculine and feminine. So, taking your "putting on make-up for success" thing -- which would make me want to bite people-- at various times in history it was a masculine trait to wear make up, whereas now it is seen as feminine, no doubt this will change again in the fullness of time.

The "people with ASD lack empathy" thing pisses me off, especially as many studies are now suggesting that they have more empathy than NT people but have to mask it because who wants to feel what others feel all the time?

LassWiTheDelicateAir Tue 29-Nov-16 13:29:34

I have suspected ASD so I always come out as androgynous, and am dutifully told I need to develop behaviours that I know I cannot in order to succeed

I don't begin to understand what androgynous means in this context.

On a purely work sense there are behaviours everyone needs to develop to succeed. In my field technical ability is a given to get anywhere but there are softer social skills which are also important if one has a client facing role, or indeed just getting on with colleagues and fellow professionals. These are not masculine or feminine matters.

Albadross Tue 29-Nov-16 14:57:37

Most women with ASD have a more equal balance of the traits that are seen as masculine or feminine, hence they can appear more androgynous generally. I've also had endless 'personality type' based training, which is also awkward because they seem to enjoy making everyone openly state their results and then putting you into whatever box matches up - I never match to any of them and it can be slightly intimidating to be suddenly discussing how you don't fit in in front of a room full of strangers.

I would imagine what they're going for on this gender IQ thing is to make people see that so-called 'feminine behaviours' are beneficial to business. It's not that I object to, it's more of the notion that traits are either masculine/feminine in the first place, and definitely that this is being touted as 'fact'.

Myrobalanna Tue 29-Nov-16 15:04:46

Who decides what's masculine or feminine behaviour and where a particular example falls on the continuum?


vesuvia Tue 29-Nov-16 15:07:19

almondpudding wrote - "masculine and feminine traits have been defined by psychologists".

For example: the Bem Sex Role Inventory

GetOutMyCar Tue 29-Nov-16 15:22:27

I have AS and I find the 'extreme male brain' concept really insulting. If logical, unemotional, organised thinking is a male brain does that mean irrational, emotional, chaotic thinking indicates a female brain? hmm

And if you can have a male brain and a female brain then what does that make women like me, biologically female body but with a male brain?

Albadross Tue 29-Nov-16 15:30:44

I have issues with something being stated as a 'fact' when it's so subjective.

A huge number of theories in psychology are hotly debated, and quite rightly so. The Bem test is self-reported, meaning it's likely to be heavily influenced by cultural background and stereotypes and varies between groups.

I personally don't think it's helpful to keep trying to categorise things in this way, since we're still so stuck in gender roles and expectations. Part of me thinks maybe the purpose of this workshop is to challenge - especially men's preconceptions - but that in doing so it simply adds weight to the whole male/female brain thing...

EvenTheWind Tue 29-Nov-16 17:08:33

How about "we all have a mixture of human behaviours - fact"

Not a useful fact, maybe, but true!

kua Tue 29-Nov-16 17:42:53

Exactly what I was about to say Even

IAmAmy Tue 29-Nov-16 17:51:05

A lot of us probably conform to behaviours/traits which have been declared "feminine" or "masculine" which I believe to both be terms created/fostered to entrench gender/sex roles (I'm not sure which of these is correct to use here as we all have a sex but "gender roles" is more often used generally). We're almost from birth pushed towards the one which is deemed appropriate for our sex in so many ways and it's difficult to shake them all off I think. These behaviours aren't specific to a girl or boy, woman or man, but as we're bombarded with the idea they are or we should conform to the appropriate one from such an early age it's easy to see how we fall into them.

It seems to me "feminine" behaviours are ones associated with a lack of power, submissive almost, deferential, while "masculine" behaviours tend to be associated with power, success, confidence (though they're not exclusively positive with others connected with aggression). They're all just human behaviours not intrinsic to women or men.

Apologies if I'm missing the point or going off in the wrong direction and explaining what I'm trying to say badly.

almondpudding Tue 29-Nov-16 18:00:13

I'm not sure what is going on here.

Presumably as feminists we accept that there are such things as gender roles and those things are socially constructed. As social constructs, they vary from society to society.

Factually, masculine and feminine behaviours have been defined in society by psychologists, and they have demonstrated that nobody has only one or the other.

I don't understand OP how you can be claiming as a fact that most women with ASD have an even balance of both masculine and feminine traits and then claiming not to believe those traits factually exist!

KickAssAngel Tue 29-Nov-16 18:01:17

Albadross - stop stating the blatantly obvious common sense idea that people are individuals who don't conform to neat stereotypes.

how else can those poor people running the workshop trade on those stereotypes to 'other' people, victim blame and make themselves some money?

It's just the work-place equivalent of those people who run workshops along the lines of 'give me hundreds of dollars and I will lecture to you about why you're doing it wrong, I'm right, and then we'll pretend that I've been so inspirational that after this evening you'll go home, change your life and end up a multi-gazillionaire'?

Sadly, capitalism is a pyramid system. It's a harsh economic truth that only a small number of people end up near the top, because they require others to be lower down the system. No amount of leaning in, male behaviors or make up will change economic fact.

almondpudding Tue 29-Nov-16 18:07:56

So we should stop talking about toxic masculinity in institutional environments then, in case it offends individuals?

Albadross Tue 29-Nov-16 18:25:51

IAmAmy yes that about summarises things I was trying and failing to say.

Almond no that's not what I mean - In general (not for all obviously) women with ASD tend to seem not feminine and not masculine either, going by the definitions most people would use. This is again a 'fact' that psychologists give rather than me claiming it's a fact.

I'm not saying there aren't gender roles, all I'm saying is that by constantly calling out to say 'ooh look - aren't female traits really great and you also have them guys!' we continue on the path that values people based on traits they may or may not ever be able to have.

I can't make sense of the fact that there needs to even be masculine/feminine traits if we all have all of them anyway? And as PP said, who gets to decide?

almondpudding Tue 29-Nov-16 18:35:43

I'm trying to think of an example. Let's say foot binding.

Foot binding isn't really a fact because it isn't culturally universal. There are loads of women who never bind their feet.

Foot binding isn't really a fact because the pain people (better not say women - that might suggest it is innate) who have their feet bound say they experience is a subjective experience anyway.

Foot binding is only a fact because we keep talking about it. If people just stopped mentioning it it would probably go away.

The fact that foot binding is simulataneously culturally enforced and the people (better not say women) who have it are viewed as lesser should be ignored, because it is only if stop talking about what is happening that the problem will go away.

Maybe not the best analogy, because feminine behaviours are actually essential to society, unlike foot binding, but hopefully it makes some sense.

Join the discussion

Join the discussion

Registering is free, easy, and means you can join in the discussion, get discounts, win prizes and lots more.

Register now