Reader Query: “The Science of Sex Appeal”

A reader writes:

Has anyone seen the documentary “The Science of Sex Appeal,” and if so, could you please recommend academic sources that counter the claims made by this video?” While Cordelia Fine’s book is great for arguing against this evolutionary psychology bullshit more generally (sorry; maybe it isn’t all bullshit, but THIS stuff is), I’d really like to be able to point to specific claims made in the video and offer specific, scientifically supported claims to the contrary. I haven’t found anything through database searches.


UPDATE: This post has been a nightmare to moderate.  Do to many requests, I tried to confine comments to ones that really address the reader’s query, rather than dealing in big generalisations about whether feminists hate evolutionary psychology, etc. I’m now closing comments.

 

FURTHER UPDATE: This is being briefly re-opened.

Why not vote for some feminist-friendly Lego?

Back when I were a lad, Lego figures were more or less androgynous. About the only indicator of gender was the occasional (removable, transferable) haircut, and the astronauts and racing drivers could have anything under their suits. Since I were a lad, things have moved on somewhat, and Lego figures now have all sorts of gendered elements, not least an impressively extensive and detailed array of facial furniture.

Which is all well and good, but it does raise the possibility that a previously gender-neutral toy might become rather less so, and there are some indications that this is the case; see, for example, the faintly depressing spectacle of Lego’s attempt to create a product range appealing specifically to girls (though it’s only fair to note that one of these apparent simpering stereotypes in fact has a nice sideline in robot design and aspires to be ‘a scientist or an engineer‘).

Anyway, as something of a corrective to this, a reader has come up with a way to propose a rather more feminist-friendly set of figures, via Lego’s new mechanism for public suggestions. You can vote for the idea there, and if it gets lots of attention, there’s a chance that the company will end up producing female engineers, scientists, and so forth. In the meantime, there’s always magic markers.

I blame my brother.

Apparently, those with sisters grow up to be happier than those with brothers.

“Sisters appear to encourage more open communication and cohesion in families. “However, brothers seemed to have the alternative effect.

So I guess Jender-Brother (or J-Bro, as I like to call him*) had an easy time thanks to my lovely influence. But it didn’t stop him from messing me up. Or maybe we canceled each other out– there I was, trying to encourage emotional expression, and there he was stamping it out at every turn! The article contains no reflection on families with only children, and gives no indication of whether those under discussion came from families with children all of one sex. Also little reflection on the pernicious effect it might have to tell parents or expectant parents that their boys can be expected to make family life less happy. Whee! Thanks(?) Jender-Mom, for sending that one on!

*I think it helps with the bonding. I’m like that.

The Doc Marten Vote (masculinity & feminism)

“I know that I don’t look like everybody else on television,” she recently told The Washington Post. “Women on television are over-the-top beauty-pageant gorgeous. That’s not the grounds on which I am competing.” – Rachel Maddow (pictured below)

Originally I was going to write about this older article in which MSNBC and Air America pundit Rachel Maddow talks about surrendering to wearing “lady clothes.” But in doing a Google search today on her, I came across another article, “The High Heel Vote,” in The Independent on how the US election is is “really all about women.” (The connection is the quote at the top, to which I’ll get in a moment.)Read More »

Big Heads: The New Feminine

As many of you may know, it’s been very well-confirmed that people react to newborns very differently based on their perceived sex. Stick ’em in pink and they’re all tiny and delicate. Stick ’em in blue and they’re strong and alert. Yesterday, Mr Jender took a phone call from a baby group friend, letting us know that his wife had just had a baby girl. She is, apparently, very large: over 9 pounds. And she has a huge head, far above the average. This was immediately followed by “She’s so delicate, so feminine!” Just more proof that anything at all counts as feminine, if you really want to think so. (New father went on to explain that he was feeling utterly baffled at how to deal with this new baby, because he knows how boys think, but not how girls think. Mr J politely tried to reassure him that it probably wouldn’t be all that different for quite a long time.)

Have you had similar experiences? Please do tell us about them in comments– these sorts of stories are always very useful for teaching!

(Typo edited– thanks Sally!)