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May 17 2009

Today’s lesson: men and women ARE different

Since we’re talking a bit about gender norms and sexist behaviour lately, here’s a fascinating study Jodi pointed out to me yesterday regarding what people perceive as sexist.

Jodi has reservations with some of the questions asked, feeling as though if there’s not a preexisting stereotype regarding the behaviour in the question, it’s not really sexism, or it might not be perceived as sexism. The example she gave me was that if someone were to see me typing madly away at my keyboard and say “wow, he’s good with computers, too bad he probably sucks at fishing,” while it does follow logically that heavy computer users might not get as much outdoor activity as others, the fact that there’s no preexisting stereotype suggesting that computer users are bad at fishing means that the statement is not a prejudice so much as a logical deduction. If someone were to see me and say “my, what a good looking man, too bad he must be bad at fishing”, if there was a pre-existing prejudice against hot men regarding fishing ability (like the example used of intelligence), then that would be a sexist comment.

One of the more surprising results to me is the fact that more women than men find misandry to be sexist. I suppose it’s not surprising that they’d be more attuned to sexism since the women’s liberation movement is probably still fresh in most women’s minds, but it’s quite surprising that men ignore sexism against them as often as they ignore sexism against women.

Wait, is it sexist to say that men are predisposed to turning a blind eye toward sexism as a whole? Studying this stuff always feels like you’re walking into a trap.

3 comments

  1. 1
    Dan J

    That’s a very interesting study. One thing that jumped out at me:
    There was also a positive correlation (r = .21) between age and sexism against women ratings: the older you are, the more likely you are to rate a scenario as sexist.”
    That raises a question in my mind: Is the difference in response by the subject’s age related to their experience, or is it a generational difference?
    In my experience, men and women often have rather different ways of interpreting certain experiences. Neither is necessarily better than the other; they’re just different. I’m not a neuropsychologist, so I can’t hope to explain it, but I can make note of my observations. I still think that most women are better communicators than most men. I think they have a better grasp of subtleties and nuances of language that go right over the heads of the average male.

  2. 2
    Jason Thibeault

    Oh, I agree about the difference between men and women communicating.  Just look at that rambling paragraph above where I tried to paraphrase Jodi’s argument.  We already know there are quantifiable differences between men and women, differences that often have little or no correlation to the gender stereotypes that have been built over the years.

    I have to wonder about how much older “older” happens to be in this particular study.  It could very well be a generational difference — women who lived through the womens’ lib movement might pass on their ideals to their children, but the children won’t see it as being as prevalent as it was “in mom’s day”, so there’s a dampening effect on their perceptions.

    It also occurs to me I need to brush up on statistics.

  3. 3
    Jason Thibeault

    Jodi has reservations with some of the questions asked, feeling as though if there’s not a preexisting stereotype regarding the behaviour in the question, it’s not really sexism, or it might not be perceived as sexism.

    I just said this to you in person but I feel the need to clarify the above quote for my own rep lol I wasn’t actually stating that that was my position on the whole thing. I was, in fact, just putting the question out there of “Is it still sexism if the comment being made doesn’t have a pre-existing stereotype attached to it?”. I honestly haven’t made up my mind either way. Sexism in general seems to be a highly complicated subject that most days I just can’t wrap my brain around.

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