Is 17 gendered?

Scientific American has an article (poorly titled) on the role of gender in thought. Much of it I knew before, but I hadn’t known that there is a widespread tendency to consider odd numbers masculine and even ones feminine. (And it shocked me, partly because I realised to my astonishment that I was absolutely certain odd numbers were female! Especially 17! And despite claims that it is Julius Caesar.)

Thanks, Mr Jender!

10 thoughts on “Is 17 gendered?

  1. Isn’t “17” the name of some teenage girls magazine? (Maybe this is part of the joke, but I’m not sure from the post itself.) I don’t spend a lot of time at magazine racks these days, but I seem to recall that. That sort of thing could certainly have an influence. (I tend to think these “what gender is number X?” studies are a bit phony. I’ve taken a few, by accident [I didn’t know what they’d be when I agreed], and answered randomly, because I don’t associate gender with numbers. Why would I? I strongly suspect the results are garbage, or at least not consistent between populations and time.)

  2. didn’t Pythagoras think even numbers were female? and odd ones male? am I misremembering this?

  3. I don’t know what Pythagoras thought, but Plato (he might have picked this up from Pythagoras) believed that odd numbers are more perfect than even ones, since the sum of the first n odd numbers is n^2, where as the sum of the first n even numbers is n(n+1).

  4. MM, you’re right about Pythagoras:

    Interestingly, although the Greeks do seem to have thought that odd numbers were evocative of masculinity, odd-numbered female groups turn up commonly in their mythology: three Moirae, three Charites, three Gorgons, three Sirens, three Orai, five Hyades, five Hecaterides, seven Pleiades, nine Muses …

  5. Do odd and even numbers traditionally fall on different sides of the Yin/Yang divide in Taoism? I feel like I vaguely remember learning that, years ago, though I am about as ignorant as it is possible to be of the general subject.

  6. The article’s claim that we see the world as gendered, whether it really is or not, just reinforces my belief that we need to get people used to thinking of philosophy as something that women (as well as men) do. Three cheers for the gendered conference campaign, and for any other way we can get people to stop associating philosophy with maleness alone. (Philosophy is number 2!)

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