Friday, April 20, 2007

A Very Masculine Blog Post

I've been having some fun this morning with this little internet doodad - The Gender Genie.

You paste in a sample of your writing, and it predicts whether you are male or female. When I used blog entries it almost always correctly identified me as female. However, when I used reports or letters I wrote for work, it assumed I was male. That's particularly interesting to me because the organization I work for is 100% staffed by females, and we write for a female audience. However, the more formal style still read as "male."

The algorithm the website uses to make its predictions is based on a scientific study, which you can download from the web page. In calculating the results, use of the word "be", for example, is considered female. Whereas, using the word "is" is male. "Where" is female, but "what" is male. The keywords seemed very arbitrary.

The Gender Genie gives me a segue to make a point I've been intending to bring up. Recently, I had a brief and frustrating debate with a friend of mine about whether or not some particular thing he said was respectful towards women or not. I realized that we were making different assumptions about a key point of our disagreement. He takes for granted that men and women have innate differences, and I do not.

Studies like the one on which the Gender Genie is based seem to support the innate differences position. However, there are also studies that show that from the time we are newborn infants the way that people interact with us and respond to us is based on their perceptions of our gender. Those early interactions with other human beings are what determine how a disorganized infant brain develops. Societal notions of gender begin to program us down to the level of our neurons from the day we are born. Without the existence of gender constructs, who knows how men and women would be the same or different. There are no control groups.

Assertions that men are a certain way and women are a certain way are just observations about how people respond to conditioning and pressure to conform to societal norms. These insights can be helpful only insofar as we use them to explore and explode the roles that we are all placed in - men and women - because of our biological sex, roles which constrain us and do not respect our individuality and our humanity.

P.S. According to The Gender Genie, this post was written by a man.


chumly said...

I wonder what the result would be on someone who had a sex change?

Dave-o-ramA said...

Hmm, we seem to be finding out who wears the pants in the Dolly family.


SerenitySprings said...

9 times out of 10 I'm a dude.

9 times out of 10 David is a girl.

So there you have it.

I know that most of the "differences" that most people claim exist between women and men are due to socialization not biology. I could cite some studies so that you could see the data but I'm tired so maybe later. :)

UnrulyDuckling said...

Well, Dave, from what we hear from Traivor, it's definitely not you. :)

Anonymous said...

I'm curious about what you might think about this particular innate difference that rings true for me and my significant other and if you find it rings true. It is this: that women think in parallel (multiple things at once) and men think in serial (things one at a time/one after the other). --This tends to strike me as a purely biological difference, but I'd be curious to hear about other opinions or contradictory studies (I heard this from a relative).

UnrulyDuckling said...

Anonymous - When I think of my SO, as well as other men and women I've known in my life, I find that there's a huge amount of diversity in the way that people think. The same person may think in different ways depending on the situation or the subject matter, so I'm definitely not comfortable with making sex-based generalizations about the use of parallel vs. serial thought processes.

The point I was making in the post is that any studies claiming to "prove" that men and women display innate behavior differences are tainted by the fact that we've all been conditioned to behave in ways dictated by our gender from the time we are born. Even if you found results showing that women think in parallel and men think serially, how would you know if that was the consequence of biology or the result of social conditioning?

Anonymous said...

Allow me to take your last remark and alter it a smidge:

"Even if you found results showing [X] how would you know if that was the consequence of biology or the result of social conditioning?"

Could this line of thought be a broader nature vs. nuture debate?