It’s not that monkeys with toys aren’t cute…

Hey, I’m the first in line to read about monkeys.  But seriously, how many times to researchers have to see if genders really do prefer different toys? 

As previously demonstrated, there are small differences, according to the New Scientist:

Wallen’s team looked at 11 male and 23 female rhesus monkeys. In general the males preferred to play with wheeled toys, such as dumper trucks, over plush dolls, while female monkeys played with both kinds of toys.

This conclusion may upset those psychologists who insist that sex differences – for example the tendency of boys to favour toy soldiers and girls to prefer dolls – depend on social factors, not innate differences.

Are there still psychologists who would describe themselves this way?  No matter.  Actually, what really chafes me about this story is that the study doesn’t mention the presence of faces on one set of toys and not the other.  Is it helpful to determine that a whopping eleven male monkeys “in general” naturally love trucks?  Or is this not the issue; is it rather possibly the case that at very young ages, different genders display slightly different degrees of eye contact, facial recognition, and facial expressions, studies of which Anne Fausto-Sterling so ably surveys in Sexing the Body.  Small differences early on get exacerbated even in the first few days of nursing, so that separating the “innate” from the “social” seems, at this stage, quaint.  A few comments on the story are of the “I knew it” variety, and I groan to imagine that feeding this bizarre interest in the toy question will lend some of my students to celebrating dualism.  Happily, most readers seem to notice complexity in the results!  But seriously, dear readers, what’s up with the repeated toy-preference research?  (And if this is what gets grant money, how do I get in on this?)

Thanks to Christine Daigle for the heads-up!

Survival Strategies 1

Reader SK sent us a lovely letter (thanks, SK!) in which she made a great suggestion.  Her thought was that we should pool resources, and discuss effective ways to respond to claims like:

the grrl got the job I so richly deserved (and therefore the grrlz get all the jobs), evolutionary psychological mumbo-jumbo about how women and/or people of colour just aren’t “hard-wired” to do philosophy, and the typical conservative/troll tactic of screaming that anyone who disagrees with you is merely being “politically correct.”

More generally, it would be great to discuss survival strategies for women and others who are in the minority in philosophy; and strategies for those who want to work to fix the problems that women and other minorities in philosophy face.

But right now, let’s start by discussing how to respond to people who make the 3 claims SK cited. Share your strategies in comments! All strategies welcome– quick ones, long range ones, ways of changing minds, ways of laughing things off, ways of reassuring yourself after the fact when you realise you didn’t manage to say the right thing on the spot, etc. Let’s get together and put this stuff in one place. And if you have other survival issues you’d like us to discuss, let us know– we’ll post, and solicit advice.