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Monday, September 07, 2009


I don't believe there's any difference between the male mind and the female mind. The obvious differences between the behavior of men and the behavior of women can all be explained by the discrepancy between how society treats men and how society treats women. If you look like a boy, everyone (parents included) expects you to be tough, and if you look like a girl, everyone expects you to be fragile. So boys grow up to be very different from women, yes, but that's not because of anything intrinsic to gender.

I think I first came to this realization when skimming through the bestselling book "Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus" a few years ago. I'd heard that it was a really perceptive and enlightening book, so I was curious to see what it said. What it said was ridiculous. It presented a clear dichotomy, where all men think one way and all women think one way. But then it acknowledged that sometimes men act like women, and sometimes women act like men. It's like my gamistic concept of "secondary content", where sometimes a platformer doesn't act like a platformer. But the reason that such platformers exist is that the division between Forms in gamism is arbitrary! The only reason a game is a platformer to begin with is that when the gamist starts, he says, "I'm going to make this game into a platformer."! So if he wants to make something less typical, all he's rebelling against is convention, not nature!

And in the same way, if you say that the qualities you attribute to women are also present in men and vice versa, that means that you're not talking about the natural way of things. You're talking about an arbitrary classification system, like my "Garden" posts. Fundamentally, the male mind is exactly the same as the female mind until society gets its hands and its arbitrary classifications on them.

And where do these social expectations come from? They come from an outdated, sexist mode of thought. The man goes out and works to support his wife and kids, so he needs to be tough. He needs to aggressive. He needs to be able to go through miserable work and put up with it, so that his family can survive. And the woman sits at home with the kids, so she needs to be compassionate and passive. An aggressive mother would be a ticking time bomb when stuck with a bunch of wild kids, so any aggression in a woman is unacceptable. And how are the genders supposed to relate to each other? After long hours of thankless, the man needs to be needed at home or he'll feel like he's not worth anything, so the woman should be unable to cope with her own problems. That way, the man can step in and be chivalrous, and feel good about himself.

You'd think we would've gotten past that thinking by now, now that women are working more and men are taking care of kids more. But no. Girls are encouraged to cry when they want something, because crying creates opportunities for chivalry. Boys are encouraged to bottle up their feelings, because it gets you farther in business. When a girl has a problem, you bail her out. But a boy has to solve his own problems. You want to know why there are so few women in power anywhere? So few women in difficult business positions? It's because parents are sexist. They go easy on the girls, because in the back of their minds they've still got the idea that women need to be fragile. So the daughters grow up not having any willpower. As soon as they reach an obstacle that seems too hard, they give up, start crying, and wait for someone to bail them out.

I was mentioning this perception I have of modern women to the Amitais, and Mrs. Amitai pointed out that my mother really doesn't fit that model at all. And she was right -I should have noticed that. My mother has more willpower than anyone. She holds the whole community on her shoulders. She bottles up her feelings and just keeps working. Every minute of the day that she's not making money, she's doing something to help people out. And even if no one helps her, even if it turns out to be much harder than she thought, she keeps working. I never really thought about it, but I guess my mother is a really unusual woman. And when I think about it, it makes perfect sense. Every time she ever told us a story from her childhood, I got the sense that she grew up in a Roald Dahl book. Her parents made her do things just because she didn't like doing them. They pushed her to be the best in school, they pushed her to be a lawyer. I guess the one good thing I can say about my grandmother was that she made every effort to not let my mother end up like her. My mother was never expected to act her gender.

But make no mistake- most girls are. You probably think the feminist movement did away with the inequality, but the feminists have done more harm than good. They create groups and political parties that only serve women, thus helping to propagate the myth that women need more help than men. If they really believed in equality, they'd be saying "Women shouldn't be treated as well as we were treated, they should learn to deal with their problems for themselves.". But they don't believe in equality. They believe that women are inferior, but they want women to be treated as though they're superior. They want to cry for sympathy, but they also want to appear self-reliant. In short, they're hypocrites. And all they're selling is a more complicated brand of sexism.

You could reasonably ask me why I'm so radically indignant about gender equality. And my answer is very simple: I'm jealous. That's where this is all coming from. When I spend my day playing videogames and avoiding work and making myself feel better with music, I feel guilty. I'm not supposed to sit and be passive, I'm supposed to pursue my work with stubborn persistence. I'm supposed to bottle up what I feel about the work and get through it, because that's what men do. I know that if I were a girl, I'd be almost exactly the same person, but I wouldn't have that guilt. I'd never accomplish anything in my life, and I'd be totally okay with that. And I want to know why it is that girls are allowed to live like that, but not me. I want to know why it is that my sister Miriam gets to abandon everything that demands even the tiniest bit of effort, and I have to stick with things. If I'm supposed to live in the real world, why does half the world get to avoid it?



Richie Sevrinsky, who I see at Game Nights, said he'd comment here. But then he didn't get a chance to, so he told me in person what he was going to write. There were three things he said which bothered me: First, that it's scientifically proven that women's brains don't function like men's brains. Second, that there were studies of boys raised as girls which found that they acted like boys. Third, that in his personal experience no women are as "childish" (in his words) as most men.

The physical difference in the brains I can deal with. Women have very different bodies to men, which function differently and have extra functions that need brain-supervision. That can account for the brain differences. The hormones are also different, but it may very well be that those hormones are necessary for giving birth and some of the changes in the brain negate the effects of those hormones because they'd otherwise get in the way of rational thought. The flipside of this hypothesis is that the hormones men have are necessary for reproduction as well, and some of what the male brain does is to negate the effects of those hormones. If this is true (It may or may not be.), then after all adjustments the thought process could be almost identical between men and women.

The study bothered me more, though Richie obviously didn't have the data on him. I've checked Google and have found what he's talking about. It was a common practice for decades that when a boy is born without a penis (This actually happens.) he should be raised as a girl. So the kid is being told he's a girl, he doesn't have male reproductive organs, and he's being treated like a girl wherever he goes, but he's not a girl. What the study found was that most of them were "acting like boys" regardless. The articles I saw were not detailed, so I can't be entirely sure what that means. But I saw the example of participating in sports. Some of these kids decided on their own (and early on in life) to refer to themselves as boys, and many decided to be boys when they were told what their situation was. I think there are two components to the story that can explain this phenomenon. First off, a boy with or without his sex organs is likely to be physically stronger than a girl. So he'd be capable of keeping up with the boys at sports. It's not like girls don't play sports, they just play sports which require less strength: hopscotch, jump rope. Similarly, a boy might be more likely to get into a fight because he feels more confident in his strength. So maybe these behaviors still are because of physical, rather than mental differences. The second component to the story which I'm going to latch onto is that these kids seem to have always known there was something wrong with them, but didn't know what. There was one article which mentioned one such boy who wasn't allowed in either the boys' bathroom or the girls' bathroom. That suggests that they understood a lot more than we expect them to have understood. Trying to switch genders may very well have been a reaction to this sense of being an outcast. You're not wanted where you are, so you switch to the other side. So I can still say that men and women are not psychologically different.

Finally, the childishness thing. Richie admitted himself that this may be because women are expected to be homemakers. You need to run the house, so you need to be an adult. So it could be a social effect. Women don't have fun because they think they're not supposed to have fun.

I'd like to use a metaphor to illustrate my point about the brain differences.

Let's say you're making a game for several consoles. Each one needs to be programmed very differently, since the hardware is very different. One will have more RAM, one will have a faster GPU, each one has certain strengths and shortcomings that need to be taken into account. So what is really simple to do on one may take ingenious workarounds to do on the other. Finally you finish the game. Anyone who looks at the two source codes will be amazed at how little they resemble each other. They're not even written in the same language. But the game is the game, and if you're playing it it barely makes any difference at all which system it's on. One will have a bit of slowdown, one will have some glitches, and that'll be the entire difference. The radical differences in coding are necessary to compensate for different hardware and create the exact same end result.

This is what I'm saying about men and women. The physical differences are so vast that the brains need to be wired very differently to compensate. But human thought is human thought; in the end we're all running the same program. Sometimes physical limitations pop up and effect the brain, but for the most part this is kept to a minimum.

We've already had most of this discussion, but just in case I neglected to mention any of this:

The main physical difference between men and women, besides the sexual organs, is that men are pumped full of tesosterone, and women with estrogens. Wikipedia seems to dispute this, but traditionally testosterone has been associated with aggression and lust. Perhaps I'm not researching rigourisly enough, but estrogens don't appear to be particularly linked to anything psychological.

So far so good. What I don't really understand about your point is how quickly you link aggression to toughness. I'll agree that men are still far more aggressive than women, but I don't think the same can be said of toughness, and I've rarely seen a grown woman cry because a task was too difficult for her. Even when that does happen, usually she'd get herself together and get on with what she was doing. I have not encountered this "fragile" woman of which you speak.

I think the equivalent male response in this kind of situation would usually be to punch someone or swear at the world or something similarly idiotic. When people feel helpless, they usually go for some emotional release. Or they don't, and then the feeling sticks around longer and they become bitter. The typical female response seems to me to be both healthier and more useful. I think it's more a question of men being less able to respond that way, because of that misconception of strength that you mentioned earlier.

I think what the feminists are talking about, when they ask for affirmative action or create advocacy groups that focus exclusively on women, is a perceived psychological, non-deliberate discrimination that arises from remaining preconceptions about women when compared to men.

My superficial take on this is that women seem to be expected to [i]achieve[/i] less, as opposed to being less able to meet the basic standards. That is to say, they are not expected to be able to climb as high independently as men are. I think that, in a nutshell, is what the feminists are fighting against. And yes, I think it is very likely that this affects girls growing up, but it's not about doing what you need to - more about doing what you want to - and competing. The glass ceiling, in a word. Here's some wikipedia if you are unfamiliar with it (how do you do those in-post links?):

I rhink there's more to say about sexism and feminism, actually, but this I think is immediately relevant.


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