Some odd remarks on social constructivism about gender

Alice Dreger writes:

 People who think gender identities, gender roles, and sexual orientations are all socially constructed are the most naive biological determinists I’ve ever seen. They think all human brains are completely without structure when it comes to these things; we all have empty slates in our skulls at birth. No, we don’t! Really!

She also remarks:

There’s some pretty good evidence that across almost every (if not every) culture, there is some consistency in gender role expectations. Boys across cultures are expected to—and do—play with toys meant to represent weapons. Girls across cultures are expected to—and do—play with toys that represent cooking and parenting. This doesn’t mean all children meet these expectations (we know they don’t), it just means all cultures seem to share some basic gender expectations.

I’d be surprised if social constructivists all endorse Lockean tabula rasa theories of mind (at least when it comes to behaviors we interpret as gendered). And even if they did, you’d be hard pressed demonstrate the falsity of this by appealing to cross-cultural analogies between gender preferences for toys. So I’ll admit to finding this piece puzzling.

Dance break

If you need an end-of-the-week-fun-video-break, this gender-norm-bending video is for you. From dancer and choreographer Yanis Marshall, who according to his website is “one of the few men in France to dance and offer dance classes in heels, both for girls and boys. And when he is asked ‘Why the heels?’ He replies simply, ‘Why not?'”


Gender-Inclusive Conferences Session

Update: Now with John Protevi’s talk: 2013 APA Eastern session final draft

Another bit of the APA I was sad to miss was the session on Gender-Inclusive Conferences, which featured Kate Norlock, John Protevi and Jason Stanley.  (It was organised by Nancy Bauer.)  It sounds awesome– standing room only and really great papers and discussion.  I’m very pleased, though, to be able to post Kate’s powerpoints, the draft talks that Jason and John presented.

Here’s Kate’s talk: Why and How to Organize a Gender-balanced Conference

Here’s Jason’s talk: apacomments


Cordelia Fine on neurosexism

Cordelia Fine has written a stunning takedown of the much-reported latest findings about brains and gender.

To give a sense of the huge overlap in behaviour between males and females, of the twenty-six possible comparisons, eleven sex differences were either non-existent, or so small that if you were to select a boy and girl at random and compare their scores on a task, the “right” sex would be superior less than 53% of the time.

Even the much-vaunted female advantage in social cognition, and male advantage in spatial processing, was so modest that a randomly chosen boy would outscore a randomly chosen girl on social cognition – and the girl would outscore the boy on spatial processing – over 40% of the time.

As for map-reading and remembering conversations, these weren’t measured at all.

Yet the authors describe these differences as “pronounced” and as reflecting “behavioural complementarity” – scientific jargon-speak for “men are from Mars, women are from Venus”. Rather than drawing on their impressively rich data-set to empirically test questions about how brain connectivity characteristics relate to behaviour, the authors instead offer untested stereotype-based speculation. Even though, with such considerable overlap in male/female distributions, biological sex is a dismal guide to psychological ability.

Transforming Gender Relations in Agriculture in Sub-Saharan Africa

The book “Transforming Gender Relations in Agriculture in Sub-Saharan Africa” is now available. The book is by Cathy Farnworth, Melinda-Fones Sundell, Akinyi Nzioki, Violet Shivutse, and Marion Davis.

Click here for a low-res PDF of the entire book – the PDF file size is 3 MB.

Click here for a high-res PDF of the entire book – the PDF file size is 43 MB.

“This book distills lessons learned about integrating gender equality into agricultural development initiatives in Africa, with case studies of efforts at all levels, from households to national government.

“The authors start from the premise that empowered women and men are better, more successful farmers who can make the most of the opportunities around them. They argue that there is a causal relation between more equal gender relations in the household and in the community, and better agricultural outcomes: the one underpins the other.

“This is a radical thing to say, because it means that the standard development interventions – more extension services, better information, more fertilizer, better machinery – will not fully achieve their goals unless women and men are on equal footing, able to make rational economic decisions unhindered by gender norms that limit what is “appropriate” for women or for men to do, or to be.

“Empowering women as decision-makers in all areas of their lives is challenging and exciting. It is a key to poverty reduction. Transforming gender relations will help to make smallholder agriculture and associated development efforts more effective and efficient, with knock-on effects for a variety of development outcomes…”

See the link below for more on these matters:

Recognizing the African woman farmer

How women dress on TV.

A spokesman for the AKP, the leading party in Turkey, spoke on TV about the party’s attitude to women’s dress: they don’t wish to regulate how women dress, of course, but there was this presenter on a tv show saturday, and her outfit was ‘unacceptable’. It seems that the woman in question, Gözde Kansu, is no longer presenting that show.

Here is the interview with the spokesman Hüseyin Çelik, together with a clip from Kansu’s show, in Turkish.

The idea seems to be that no matter how tolerant you are, some outfits are simply unacceptable, such as those that show off part of breasts, and legs above the knees. So one might surmise that his (and the party’s?) tolerance stops at allowing modestly dressed women who don’t cover their heads to be out and about or on tv.

I wonder how he feels about Miley Cyrus.


Thanks to Lucas, who posted this on Facebook.


Creepy White Guys

The Tumblr. I don’t know that you can ever be ready for this, but, try and mentally prepare yourself for some serious racism and sexism before you click. (And, apparently, avoid OkCupid, Match, and POF because they seem to be regular sources for material.)