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Gender - biological or social? (Ladybrain)

(50 Posts)
Littleladywilly Sun 11-Feb-18 00:50:14

Do you believe gender is biological or a social construct? Personally I believe the latter but any credible links backing up either side of the argument are hugely appreciated. Apparently male baby monkeys gravitate towards “masculine” toys... anyone heard this?

MaidOfStars Sun 11-Feb-18 01:15:01

There is no evidence that brains are innately gendered.

There are lots of data to show that brains are freaking amazing and will remodel according to specific cues and behaviours. Although not so much that we can predict anything about said brains.

Religious people tend to XYZ. Psychopaths tend to ABC. And so on.

So. No ladybrain.

Seeingadistance Sun 11-Feb-18 02:45:14

Apparently the only behaviours which are strongly associated with males are propensities for sexual fetishes and violence.

Other than that, I firmly believe that gender is socially constructed. What are deemed masculine and feminine vary across time, place, culture, social status etc.

And now that parents can find out the sex of their child before he or she is born, babies are being socialised masculine or feminine right from the very start of their lives.

IWearPurple Sun 11-Feb-18 04:12:00

How is a toy masculine?

RemainOptimistic Sun 11-Feb-18 04:51:10

Straw man argument.

It's both hmm

IamNotDarling Sun 11-Feb-18 07:14:49

Read ‘Delusions of Gender’ by Cordelia Fine.

A great book they smashes through all the bollocks.

FrancinePefko Sun 11-Feb-18 07:21:43

The latest research says there is very little difference structurally between male and female brains. However, the presence and impact of different levels and different hormones have a massive impact on functionality. There were some very interesting experiments on the male brain functionality immediately before and immediately after ejaculation.

Surprise surprise hormones have a a massive impact.

TERFousBreakdown Sun 11-Feb-18 07:26:48

While some minor differences might be naturally occurring, gender - and especially ladybrain' are clearly social contracts.

If not, then I'm intellectually hyper-masculine. I've been outperforming and being promoted over my male peers for years (in a classically male profession that women are supposedly a bit crap at). And, no, no brownie points to be had for being a token - I must quite simply be better at gentlemenbraining than men. Or, of course, there are no such brains. hmm

The baby-toy one, I'm sceptical about. Much more likely that babies react to subtle differences in the faces and demeanour of testers. Remember that toys are often child friendly representations of real-life objects. So, in order for a baby(!!!) to prefer, e.g. the toy battle tank because it's a boy toy babies would have to also somehow grasp its significance as a model of a male coded real-life thing. I doubt babies abstract that well

IfyouseeRitaMoreno Sun 11-Feb-18 07:30:56

OP, I don't mean to derail but there was an almost identical thread yesterday in AIBU which discusses in depth quite a lot of the issues (including the monkey one). You might want to read that first if you're interested.

www.mumsnet.com/Talk/am_i_being_unreasonable/3164099-Feminism-on-MN-confuses-gender-equality-with-men-and-women-being-the-same?pg=5

hazeyjane Sun 11-Feb-18 07:32:26

What MaidOfStars said

(I have just realised what a fab name, MaidOfStars is)

IfyouseeRitaMoreno Sun 11-Feb-18 07:47:02

* I must quite simply be better at gentlemenbraining than men. Or, of course, there are no such brains.*

Studies show that there are some differences in the layout of boys and girls brain although scientists aren't able to reliably identify the sex of a brain at birth.

I've also read recently that the male brain tends to be intra-connected, whilst the female brain tends to be inter=connected. But female brains are slightly smaller than males (due to body mass) so it wouldn't be surprising if it were compensating for that in some way.

HOWEVER there's a lot of inference going on if you go from that to "no wonder there's few women in STEM" or " women enjoy housework" without looking seriously at all the socialization that gets in the way and that always seems to result in women getting paid less

Scientists are not exempt from bias here and ever since Darwin have attempted to infer current social and political inequalities between men and women from their biology.

FrancinePefko Sun 11-Feb-18 07:57:44

Oxytocin is positively correlated with maternal behaviours, social recognition, social contact, sexual behaviour and pair bonding. Oxytocin appears at higher levels in women than in men. Vasopressin on the other hand is more present in men and mediates sexual behavior, aggression and other social functions.

So yes, there are biological differences

grasspigeons Sun 11-Feb-18 08:02:21

I believe that gender is a social construct just because we are such an adaptable species that lives in all different environments and there are so many different cultures now and at different times in history.

However ... I am not as extreme as some people in that I am aware of my own hormones impacting on how I respond to things (when I had established breastfeeding it did feel different than when I switched to bottle feeding - not better or worse but oxytocin has an impact) and I think the way I tackle things and find solutions reflects not being able to just pick a heavy object up or 'hit it with a bigger hammer' as my DH says.

TERFousBreakdown Sun 11-Feb-18 08:09:11

It makes every sense in the world that female brains and male brains don't work in exactly the same way, seeing as they manage bodies that are also only nearly identical.

HOWEVER there's a lot of inference going on if you go from that to "no wonder there's few women in STEM" or " women enjoy housework" without looking seriously at all the socialization that gets in the way and that always seems to result in women getting paid less

This crap makes me go apeshit, though. Not your post but the attitudes it describes.

As a young grad, I once had a professional trainer muse to us (his graduate scheme class, twenty men and three women) whether women were in fact better at STEM because all his female trainees tended to easily outclass the men.

No, you fuckwit! It's because in your capacity as a corporate scheme trainer you only ever get to see the women who are either light years smarter than everyone else or tougher than a batallion of special forces. Everyone else was rooted out at some point between girls being herded towards modern languages and our very own HR dept. applying it's own biases.

OvaHere Sun 11-Feb-18 08:19:46

I'm no science bod so apologies if I'm wrong but it appears that most observe differences are due to the influence various hormones have on the brain. Similar to the recent discovery of what causes 'baby brain'.

None of this fits into the 'born in the wrong body' ideology because in a male body hormones would still be working in a male way.

FrancinePefko Sun 11-Feb-18 08:20:21

There are some great papers on the topic of
Sex differences in the brain. Implications for exploring Autism.

Each individual is different, however as classes, male and female brains do differ at the biological level (less about structure, more about the relative abundance of certain hormones).

One area of difference - males tend to have more of a focus on things (systematising), female brains tend to have more of a focus on relationships and empathising.

OvaHere Sun 11-Feb-18 08:24:06

One area of difference - males tend to have more of a focus on things (systematising), female brains tend to have more of a focus on relationships and empathising.

Is there not the suggestion that this is, at least in part, due to socialisation? The way girls are taught to communicate from as tiny babies onwards.

TERFousBreakdown Sun 11-Feb-18 08:32:01

One area of difference - males tend to have more of a focus on things (systematising), female brains tend to have more of a focus on relationships and empathising.

See, this part I personally very much suspect is actually nurture rather than nature. While realising fully that the plural of anecdote isn't data, my personal observations very much suggest that this is a tendency that's rather easily 'trained out' of people if and when circumstances demand the opposite skill set.

What's extremely problematic about this: I've always been a great systemiser (lots of potential reasons to be found in my biography, but that's irrelevant to the point). It generally makes people view me as a highly intelligent person IRL. In other words, what we consider clever and what we tend to code 'masculine' thinking just so happens to co-incide. I wonder why ...

Missymoo100 Sun 11-Feb-18 08:33:19

Both- I can't understand why it needs to be an either-or- argument. I think shoehorn human behaviours into one or the other is the miss half the picture.

Missymoo100 Sun 11-Feb-18 08:37:11

And while yes we are socially adaptable- some things, such as reproductive factors are constants,

TheCatsPaws Sun 11-Feb-18 08:38:19

According to the Male/female brain test someone mentioned above, I have a “male” brain. Every time, I come out with a male brain.

My opinion is individuals are individuals but most are socialised from childhood to be a certain way. I luckily was not socialised in a typically feminine way and so...no girl brain.

53rdWay Sun 11-Feb-18 08:39:54

Agreed TERFous. We forget how plastic brains are. If London taxi driver’s brains can change in ways you can detect on an MRI after they learn The Knowkedge, then what’s it going to do to our children’s brains being pushed in different directions of play since babyhood?

Allthecoolkids Sun 11-Feb-18 08:41:43

Structural differences in the physical brain tissue at birth are minor. But the effects of the different hormones acting on different areas of the brain are massive, long established, widely replicable and DO correlate with “traditionally” male or female sex organs. So males born with penises almost universally have higher levels of testosterone etc. We ARE born male or female and always have been (actual sex organ conditions like hermaphroditism excepted). This current movement is looking to rewrite science as well as history.

IfyouseeRitaMoreno Sun 11-Feb-18 08:42:20

One area of difference - males tend to have more of a focus on things (systematising), female brains tend to have more of a focus on relationships and empathising.

You see that's the thing. Simon Baron-Cohen came out with this idea (male brain = systematizing/female brain = empathizing) and I remember reading that even he regretted using the descriptors male and female because they hid the nuances and the distribution and didn't like the way people latched onto it to prove that Boys are X whilst girls are Z.

Anyway he based it on a mass survey he conducted which is, if you look at it, you can see it's full of holes.

I'll see if I can dig it out.

Of course the first problem is that the survey was on grown-up socialized adults. The second problem is the bias in the questions:
stuff like "do you read the football scores / FTSE" either as real or primer questions these point the respondent towards the socialized aspect of gender.

Interestingly Simon Baron-Cohen who invented the idea of the Autism = Extreme Male Brain has been on a lot of papers recently investigating females and autism and arguing that this area has been overlooked. Go figure.

IfyouseeRitaMoreno Sun 11-Feb-18 08:48:31

This current movement is looking to rewrite science as well as history

Actually I'd say the current movement (which really is a reaction against the also current movement of seeking out brain differences) is looking to get a more accurate picture of the truth.

You imply that science from its outset has been objective with regards to the sexes. It's been nothing of the sort. And why would it be? Women weren't even allowed to study science at the time of its inception. Do you really believe that men are 100% impartial and rational creatures? Especially with all those hormones coursing through their bodies wink

Look at Darwin. He firmly believed women to be inferior and looked to evolutionary science to prove it. No one is immune from bias.

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