seeing the world from both sides

This article from the San Jose Mercury News, Seeing the World from Both Sides, is worth a read:

When a Stanford University neurobiologist made a case this week that discrimination, not genetics, keeps women out of science, his comments carried more weight than usual.

Ben A. Barres spent most of his life — and his career as an accomplished scientist — as a woman. Only nine years ago did he complete the process of changing into a man; only recently, he says, did he begin to realize how bias holds women back.

Oddly enough, I just had a conversation about this with Bryan Monroe from work.  One point I’ve heard before that this article doesn’t make: girls in science classes often give up on further science if they don’t excel, while boys are encouraged to continue even if they do poorly.  That seemed telling to me, because it’s less about a specific person discriminating and more about internalized cultural bias.

4 thoughts on “seeing the world from both sides

  1. I’m not sure what to say about this. It’s scary how true it feels. I also wonder how many people have the experience of a friend of mine, whose dissertation advisor mined her for work for years without encouraging her to move forward and finish her degree. So he ended up with several articles with his name on them, while she did the work. (Finally she wrote the dissertation without any guidance, slapped it on his desk, and said, “Here it is. Do I graduate?”)

    The comment you made about girls who give up if they don’t excel vs. boys who continue even if they do poorly hit me. It seems that girls who are interested in science are supposed to focus with a mind on a certain standard of excellence, a certain will to achieve, whereas boys are encouraged to be interested in science for science’s sake. I can’t tell you how many guy friends I had in high school who were avid experimenters but who couldn’t do an equation to save their lives, but were considered “science guys”–but I, who was uncertain of my abilities but got A’s in chemistry, was not, so I didn’t pursue it. So the feedback loop is interesting, too.

  2. First of all, it is important to remember that the “gender” of the brain does not necessarily correspond to the biological sex of a person; at least, some people think of themselves that way. Barnes’ insight came from this non-overlap.

    But most people don’t seem to realize that in many social science and history classes, female students overgeneralize the historical correlation between male leadership and destruction, such as war and exploitation. They accuse all men of evil, even those who subjectively feel that they are really women. How do you think that makes them feel? Feel like begoming a Fascist, that’s how.
    This is not “blaming women” but recognizing that it is the relationship between men and women that created the current sexist dispensation, not the activity of powerful figures.

    Here is the real reason women are discouraged from becoming scientists:
    1. When food became generally available to all through the advancement of agriculture, food could no longer easily be withheld as a punishment. Therefore sexual access became the reward for loyalty to the system, women were recruited to work as the reward system of capitalism.
    2. The sexual liberation that of the 1960s temporarily disabled the sexual reward system, and therefore it was no longer necessary for inequality to exist. The only reward left after food and sex were generaly available at little or no cost was the recognition of one’s peers. Recognition is not a zero-sum game, it is the more the merrier.
    3. Problem is, many men seek the recognition of their peers after rejecting participation in the old system of sexual rewards in Capitalism. So scientific scholarship was a refuge, like a monastery.
    4. With the coming of AIDS, and the Feminist movement evolved–when women no longer sought to be like men but were re-asserting their sexual power. THAT IS THE GREAT BETRAYAL OF FEMINIST MEN. The system of sexual reward returned with a vengeance, but because more women were working, getting monetary rewards, there were fewer men being rewarded, although they had to work harder and harder.
    5. So now, women try to secure equal access to institutions of power, at the same time that they (when they are young) plug into sources of wealth that are due them by the old system of sexism. Women keep sexism going by their dating and marriage behavior, and then complain about the sexism–they often focus their academic careers on complaining. Men in science see this hypocracy, and they simply start to ignore women in order to get things done–incredibly useful things.
    So, if women want to become scientists, presidents, and preachers, they should stop rewarding scientists, presidents and war profiteers with sexual access, and they should start making love to their mechanics, their gardeners, and the guy who fixes their refregerator. Only then will all people have dignity, only then will humiliation cease to generate hatred of women.

  3. Jesse, that has got to be the most absurd collection of specious reasoning I have ever read. I doubt you have studied Locke, Capitalism or sat in on a feminist studies class for that matter. I call “shenanigans!”

  4. Wow. I’m as lonely and bitter as the next geek, but I find it pretty hard to regard “sexual access” as something that is owed to me or anyone else, or should be regarded as a reward.

    Thanks, Jesse, for pointing out that “feminist men” were really only in it for the nookie after all!

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