The End of Gender on NPR

It’s not exactly philosophy, but at least NPR’s website considers the changes in gender as an organizing category of human social life.  The coverage reminds me of my gender-studies students’ intrigued but puzzled reactions to reading Anne Fausto-Sterling’s arguments, in Sexing the Body, that gender tyranny can be reduced by public conversation, social activism, and the organized efforts of the “gender lobby.”  “Are we in the lobby?” a young woman asked me.  Maybe not yet, but they were certainly part of a public conversation.

As Fausto-Sterling says, “my vision is utopian, but I believe in its possibility” (114)!  And note, before you post a comment that we cannot get rid of gender, that neither NPR nor  Fausto-Sterling call for the disappearance of difference; they note the reduction of tyrannical rigidity, which is surely something else.

Bird Study Suggests Effects of Childhood Bullying Don’t Last

An article by Sundya N. Bhanoo in the NY Times seems to advance the startling idea that one bird study might revise our ideas about the effects of childhood bullying across biology.  Or perhaps we are seeing the influence of grant-application speak..

What also comes out that is far more interesting is the horrendous tale of the blue-footed Booby family:

Boobies are marine birds that typically lay two eggs that hatch four days apart. During a four-month nesting period, the senior sibling is known to peck and attack its junior sibling incessantly until the younger bird becomes habitually submissive.

Senior chicks end up gaining an advantage in terms of size, strength and motor coordination over their younger siblings.

The Booby Nest

There is no mention of what the mother or main chick-carer is doing about all this.  In any case, here’s the bottom line:

Mr. Sánchez-Macouzet and his co-authors studied adult boobies between the ages of 5 and 13 off the Pacific Coast of Mexico. As adults raised chicks of their own, the researchers presented them with a stand-up cardboard model of an intruder held about 35 inches away.

All boobies, regardless of birth order, instantly responded with aggressive displays.

The study suggests that aggressiveness in vertebrates might not be affected by early childhood bullying, as many biologists and psychologists generally assumed, Mr. Sánchez-Macouzet said.

This last comment is quite possibly part of the next grant proposal.

More women make teams more intelligent

There are lots of reasons to worry about intelligence tests, but they probably do measure *something* and that something as a property of groups seems to increase as the groups get more women. (Note that they say it’s not diversity that helps: it’s women.)

The finding: There’s little correlation between a group’s collective intelligence and the IQs of its individual members. But if a group includes more women, its collective intelligence rises.

The research: Professors Woolley and Malone, along with Christopher Chabris, Sandy Pentland, and Nada Hashmi, gave subjects aged 18 to 60 standard intelligence tests and assigned them randomly to teams. Each team was asked to complete several tasks—including brainstorming, decision making, and visual puzzles—and to solve one complex problem. Teams were given intelligence scores based on their performance. Though the teams that had members with higher IQs didn’t earn much higher scores, those that had more women did.

Not sure what to make of it, but it’s interesting. More here. (Thanks, S!)

Do women submit papers to conferences less often than men do?

And, if that’s right, what should we do about? Catarina is wondering.

perhaps women are more cautious when submitting papers to conferences than men? This week I wrote a blog post over at M-Phi on how women often seem to be a lot less confident concerning job applications than men: they set themselves much higher thresholds, and often think they do not fit a job description sufficiently when in fact they do.

Go join in the discussion!