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Some thoughts on sexism (it's probably not what you think).

Discussion in 'Chit Chat' started by Canterpiece, Oct 19, 2017.

  1. Canterpiece

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    Part of me says I shouldn't even be making this thread. These days if you even bring up the word sexism, people tend to jump to the assumption that you're going to write about hating men or whatever. This isn't what this thread is about. It really isn't.

    I just want to write about some thoughts that have been circling my mind for awhile, because if I don't then I'll probably start feeling quite crappy. So please, just hear me out.

    Throughout my life I've heard things that have made me feeling pretty shitty about being a woman. The thing about my brain is that when I get stuck on a subject, I am often compelled to explore it and sometimes that can backfire on me when I can't seem to move on from a negative thought.

    People have said things like "Of course women are less intelligent, they have smaller brains", and at first statements like these are easy to laugh off. But when you hear something enough times, you start to wonder about the validity of the statement. So you spend time researching, and obviously I have some cognitive bias here because clearly I want a particular answer to my query. I want the Internet to reassure me that "those idiots were just talking nonsense, women aren't less intelligent", because generally no one wants to be considered less intelligent.

    What I've found is that like with a lot of subjects, many sources show varied answers. With some clearly favouring men, a few favouring women, and others trying to have a more equal stance. Quite a few that I saw vouched for "men are usually either geniuses or idiots, and women tend to be just average at life". The implication there being that women are just mediocre beings, and that female geniuses are just incredibly rare exceptions compared to male geniuses.

    I even saw some articles titled "Women can't be geniuses", which claimed that genius was inherently male. Some argued this was mainly because of culture, as historically women were disadvantaged when it came to getting into certain fields.

    The film "Big eyes" covers the true story of Margret Keane, a female painter whose husband, Walter Keane, claims ownership of her work as the paintings were only signed "Keane". Her paintings prove to be popular. After Walter almost sets their house on fire, Margret asks for a divorce but Walter blackmails her that he'll only sign the divorce papers if she makes a 100 more paintings and signs off the rights to the artwork to him.

    Thankfully, she manages to sue him in court by proving that she created the artwork. But, this isn't the only time in history where men have claimed the work of women for themselves. Just look at various examples in the scientific community.

    Despite articles that had a clear bias towards male intelligence, there's also the flip side. Around Facebook I've seen this meme called "Why women live longer than men", and it tends to feature a video of men doing stupid stunts. Now, obviously this isn't the actual reason that women tend to live longer, as the meme is just there as a means of comedy.

    With the large amount of variety out there, people build up their own dramatic stances on the issue. Misandrists and misogynists both cherry pick out information that confirms their own biases whilst ignoring everything else.

    It can be hard not to be biased on an issue, as our experiences often mould our expectations and make us desire a certain outcome out of research. Sometimes I read articles, and the conclusion they write seems to contradict the entire article, as if they wrote the conclusion before any of the research was done but that they are too stubborn to change it to make it accurate, and they know that the majority of people are too lazy to read the entire article, and will most likely just skip to the end to read the conclusion anyway.

    When you consider handedness, it complicates the topic even more. Statistically, left handers are more likely to be male than female. However, there are still female left handers out there (I should know, I'm one of them!). Now, for a moment let's consider the stance that some articles have, the stance that "genius is inherently male". Let's also consider the fact that some articles link slightly greater intelligence to left-handedness.

    By this logic, I guess you would expect a lot of left-handed male geniuses. But what about female left-handers? What does this stance make them? Better than average, but still pretty mediocre individuals?

    When looking into articles on the subject, I couldn't help but notice that pregnancy was often brought up, with some articles even referring to pregnant women as "partly brain dead illogical zombies full of hormones", and others speculated that there were less female geniuses because women were more likely to desire a more equal "work and life balance".

    But...what about the men? Surely men also desire a good work and life balance, and what about the women who want to put their career first? Somehow I doubt that every man out there only cares about his work and neglects his family and home life.

    Generally, this topic tends to bring up more questions than answers for me. But, I still ponder about it at times. As a society, we tend to value STEM subjects above all else. People often argue about why there aren't many women in STEM, with some pointing to unfair treatment, whilst others believe that women are just biologically disposed to be less interested in these subjects.

    I know I've had my fair share of bad experiences with STEM, in particular with a teacher I had for engineering. He made it clear to me that he didn't believe that females should be in his class. When I entered the room he told everyone to make a pair, "Even you" he singled out to me. The way he singled out me like that made me feel horrible, I felt like I was in the wrong for even being there. Even though it was never directly said that he singled me out for being female, I feel like it was implied because what other reason would there be? Everyone else in the class was male, and they didn't get singled out like me. It clearly wasn't for my blonde hair or something else, since there were other people with blond hair in that class.

    In the end I ended up leaving that class because I got sick of the teacher's comments towards me, so I stormed out and joined another subject. Sometimes I wish that I'd stayed in that class just as a massive "fuck you" to that teacher, but oh well.

    As you grow up, you slowly learn that the world isn't a fair place. It also isn't the most understanding either. I remember in school when people would find out I was left handed, some people just seemed so amazed at that fact and couldn't fathom how I wrote like that. People would ask "But, how do you write like that? Isn't it just easier to write with your right? Why are you making it harder for yourself?".

    When you think about it, their questions make sense. To them, me writing with my left is confusing because it feels natural for them to write with their right. It's what they're used to. So when they see someone writing with their left, it seems bizarre to them. They assume that I am also inclined to my right hand side, as we often assume that everyone is in the majority because a great deal are so that assumption is often correct. That, are we tend to assume that other people are like us.

    Similarly, some individuals assume that gay people are just rebellious straight people who gave up heterosexuality and chose to be gay. They assume that because they are straight, that everyone is straight and anyone who says they aren't straight is clearly a liar.

    In school, people would stop me and ask me to write with my right, so then they could show me just how much "easier" it is. Although they had good intentions (believing that it would make my life easier if I dropped the left-handed tendencies) I always found it annoying because it would slow me down when I just wanted to write some notes down, so to get them off my case I would humour them a bit and write down my name with my right hand and watch them gawp at my atrocious handwriting, and with that they would often comment "Well, perhaps you really should stick with your left then" and usually at that point they'd leave me alone to write my notes.

    Anyway, I seem to have sidetracked here. I should probably stop my post as it's already quite long. Hopefully some of you will take the time to read it though, and for that- thank you. :slight_smile: Any thoughts on the matter? (Aside from "You should get out more, Canterpiece"). :stuck_out_tongue_closed_eyes:
     
    #1 Canterpiece, Oct 19, 2017
    Last edited: Oct 19, 2017
  2. Secrets5

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    "Misandrists and misogynists both cherry pick out information that confirms their own biases whilst ignoring everything else."

    You can swap 'misandrists and misogynists' for people/researchers and it'll read the same. People all have a confirmation bias. Studies have shown that we are more likely to remember information we like/agree with. Some people might do this intentionally and others unintentionally. That's why we have to accept others finding different evidence and criticism because they might have a different view, which we're equally free to criticize.

    Larger brains are correlated with higher IQ. However, correlation is not causation. Furthermore, IQ is simply how quick one is at working out problems. It is possible that a person with a larger brain and/or high IQ doesn't utalise their genetic IQ/skills and thus don't reach their full potential.

    A study by some feminist sociologist (Gillborn and Mirza, perhaps) showed that women are more likely to take expressive subjects that they are interested in, whilst men are more likely to take instrumental subjects that provide more money. In regards to why as many women aren't in STEM, I would suggest that many women are passionate about breaking gender-norms and take up subjects like gender studies, at the expense of actually having another woman in science. Other women, despite having an interest in STEM might just not be smart enough to do it (like me - although I do social sciences).

    Despite it's comical wording "illogical brainless hormonal zombies'' is probably a less scientific explanation of the way hormones make a woman more emotional during pregnancy. During pregnancy, the father (or other male frequently around her)'s testosterone levels lower so he is less hormonally aggressive. In regards to the illogical part, women are more empathetic whilst men are more problem-solving. By that, I mean women spend longer focusing on understanding, whilst men switch over quickly to start solving the problem. There are obviously variations in every individual and social factors will have influence, but this is general the way the different genders work. I would say both are equally good, and a balance is best.

    Women probably live longer than men as historically men have had very dangerous jobs (mining, for example) and thus are more likely to die at work or face health problems from work and die sooner. Since these jobs have declined, and more women taking up work, these might average out. Unless there's another reason I'm not aware of.

    We all use the world around us to determine how the world is. I would think that men don't desire a good work/home life balance because that's what I've always seen, my dad is like that. Due to my dad's influence, I definitely put a stronger emphasis on work than having a home life.
     
  3. Loves books

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    Men are used to being the dominant gender. They were on top for so long it's hard for some of them to except the world is changing. I am studying History, Celtic Civilization and Greek and Roman Civilization and sexism was alve and well in the very distant past and it's depressing more than 2000 years later it still exists. It's different now because it's a different world but most men believe women just aren't as smart as them. And most men wouldn't want to date a girl smarter than them. Studies prove that boys do better in a mixed school but girls do better in single sex schools making me wonder do some girls make themselves look dumb for a boys attention. Maybe we have to wait until the future when boys were not raised being taught that men are better than women, for the generation raised in the time where these issues are highly visible. Hope when these boys grow up they believe women are just as good as they are. In my opinion the movie Mulan got it right. The men depended on strength but she won with her brain.
     
  4. virginia

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    Ignorant people have this tendency to treat those that aren't like them like some other species. It must be some kind of a part of human nature, but the way I see it the only way that's dissolved is with learning. We all have our separate perspectives, so to us someone doing things differently can seem to alien. As a female, I have experienced people being sexist to me so I may wonder, "What could a man possibly have to complain about in regards to sexism? They've had all the power in the past, so men's rights issues are non-existent!" Then I learn that men are given longer prison sentences than women for the same crimes, they're automatically less likely to receive custody of their children, there are hardly any male domestic abuse shelters despite them being around 40% of domestic violence victims, etc. It's all about learning the experiences of others, and being empathetic.

    There are so many different sides to stories, we are all individuals. That's why I really despise groups that try and compartmentalize people into their groups the way they see fit. No group as a whole is one thing, because individual people are not the groups they belong to. I would never claim to speak for all women, all gay people, all white people. Many people will assume that any issue that they perceive to affect their "group" and their "group" alone (because a lot of the time it's not even a fact that the issues are disproportionate) must have to do with some intentional discrimination. Like, you mentioned, women in STEM fields. Everyone has the power to choose for themselves, yet many will act as though this has to do with some sexism setting us back and we need more women in these fields....why? There is nothing wrong with a majority of certain people tending toward something, as long as you're not bashing the people who don't fit the status quo.

    I just feel as though the identity politics stuff really ought to stop. So many people are so eager to divide each other. Wouldn't it be much smarter for us all to view each other as people and come together if we see injustices rather than back into our separate corners and hiss about our supposed differences?
     
  5. Pret Allez

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    I don't really know what we're talking about here but I believe that basically sexism exists, asymmetrical power structures exist, interconnectedness of marginalizations is important to understand, women suffer (not sure how that happens really), and that we need space to talk about that to reduce harm for everyone.

    Also I don't really know what "identity politics" is, other than it's a loaded term that basically seems to mean "white supremacy sucks" or "historically marginalized people need to stop behaving like victims" depending on who the speaker is. So I guess I'm going to need some clarification there.
     
  6. Absurd

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    A common fallacy is to make an ought out of an is; one makes something that was merely a coincidence of (in this case) biology into a necessity. Biological differences are not the problem, the creation of a greater normative structure from that difference is. Social reality is malleable and is in some ways arbitrary; there is no universal desired outcome other than that which we make.
     
  7. virginia

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    You articulated something I have been thinking for a long time but never could describe. I really feel like these desired outcomes depend on different views and shouldn't be worried about as much as they are. Equal opportunity will probably never result in equal outcome, and that's okay!
     
  8. GalleyGirl

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    It's a relief to read this, honestly I think so far the equality for the sexes scene is getting horribly labelled 'feminazis'. I get why this term came about, as there are some feminists out there who do take things a bit too far. But I feel like it's now becoming a too easy way to dismiss real concerns about equality for the sexes.
    I remember a friend of mine who when the teacher asked if anyone was a feminist, my friend was the only one who put her hand up and the class laughed. Not meanly, but it was 'of course you are', 'that's headstrong (her name) for you', they just didn't take it seriously, nor seem to understand why it was a serious issue my friend was supporting. There are plenty of women around the world still being forced into arranged marriages, being told their periods make them 'unpure', and denied education.
    Similarly, there are actually also problems for men as well, according to the law only a man can commit 'rape', if it's vice versa it has to be specifically termed as 'male rape'. Considerably fewer men than women will report rape, it's estimated only 1 in 21- most won't even consider what happened rape despite that fact the trauma is the same- what is this if not sexism pressuring people to be unable to recognize men can be just as vulnerable as women, and deserve just as much support?
    So for me it's frustrating when I feel worried about making these arguments because I know, that even some of my friends, will just switch off when they hear the word feminism or even equality of the sexes, feeling they've heard it all before and it's just not an issue in the modern day world.
    Sorry for the rant, but it's hard to find a place to discuss equality of the sexes issues, which isn't all about how women are better than men, or branding people 'feminazis'.