Oh no! Racist Twitter is mocking me!


They’re all amused that I don’t understand biology, as evidence by my criticisms of Boghossian’s blatant biases. Would you believe Jordan Peterson chimed in, too? Oh, how I tremble in terror and shame. I have roused a loud army of dumbasses (get used to it, Trump generation).

Except…I’m reasonably confident in my knowledge, and my opponents seem to be grossly ignorant and pandering to the twin trickster gods of prejudice and common sense. Never trust those guys. So I’ll keep it simple. They don’t understand that distinction between brute fact and social knowledge.

Here’s a brute fact: John produces sperm. Jennifer produces ova, sometimes. There’s no denying these simple, measurable observations. Further, we’ll stipulate that these are healthy eggs and sperm, and that I can extract these cell types in the lab and combine them in a dish and create a healthy, growing diploid zygote, that I could then implant in an individual who has a uterus and grow to adulthood. In fact, if I wanted to engineer a master race, I could go through the population and segregate out the individuals who make sperm and those who make ova and begin doing all kinds of interesting biological experiments.

Now, here are some social facts: John is a man. Jennifer is a woman. And Racist Twitter is saying, “Of course!” Except that that has taken a simple brute fact, the presence of organs that produce gametes, and extrapolated it into the socially loaded gender terms that carry huge amounts of baggage and imply lots of details in our heads that aren’t necessarily true. For example, you might then imagine John is a bit larger and physically stronger than Jennifer, which, on average, is probably true, but not necessarily so.

Or you might assume John would be a better scientist than Jennifer, which is not at all true.

In their study, Moss-Racusin and her colleagues created a fictitious resume of an applicant for a lab manager position. Two versions of the resume were produced that varied in only one, very significant, detail: the name at the top. One applicant was named Jennifer and the other John. Moss-Racusin and her colleagues then asked STEM professors from across the country to assess the resume. Over one hundred biologists, chemists, and physicists at academic institutions agreed to do so. Each scientist was randomly assigned to review either Jennifer or John’s resume.

The results were surprising—they show that the decision makers did not evaluate the resume purely on its merits. Despite having the exact same qualifications and experience as John, Jennifer was perceived as significantly less competent. As a result, Jenifer experienced a number of disadvantages that would have hindered her career advancement if she were a real applicant. Because they perceived the female candidate as less competent, the scientists in the study were less willing to mentor Jennifer or to hire her as a lab manager. They also recommended paying her a lower salary. Jennifer was offered, on average, $4,000 per year (13%) less than John.

Having functional testes is not a requirement for a lab manager, yet our society as a whole has this mental shortcut that categorizes the suitability of individuals to particular jobs on the basis of a raft of irrelevant, but usually easily detectable, characters. This is a reality that those who want to reduce people to a definition based on sex are ignoring. Even when a social fact is turned into a brute fact by social scientists like Moss-Racusin, they deny. It’s kind of depressing.

Furthermore, I snuck in another social fact in that paragraph introducing John and Jennifer. Did you notice?

Why is the sperm-producing person named “John”, and the ovum-producing person named “Jennifer”? These are arbitrary signifiers that we associate with a gender, and then to their roles in culture, and to traits like their qualities as lab managers. Imagine if I’d started that paragraph “Jennifer produces sperm. John produces ova, sometimes.” Many people would be confused. They’d think I’d made a mistake. I’d created a conflict between their social assumptions and the brute fact of biology. But there are people named John who have ovaries.

Hmm. I wonder how good they are at lab management?

By the way, allow me to introduce Jessie*. Jessie doesn’t produce sperm or ova, or maybe they do, but their behavior intentionally prevents reproduction. They do not dress in a socially conventional way for either gender. They do not engage in any of the standard courtship and mating customs of their culture. They ask you to use the non-gendered plural pronouns when addressing them.

But…but…there are only two sexes! We will struggle internally to fit Jessie into one of the two gender boxes convention allows. We must. We need to find some indication to help us accommodate our stereotypes.

Then we learn that Jessie is employed as a lab manager, and we are relieved. Jessie must be a “man”, then. We’ll be polite and continue to use the non-gendered pronouns, though. Or perhaps we’re an asshole like Jordan Peterson, and we’ll insist on forcing them into our biased pigeonholes.

And thus do we close the loop in our stereotypes and maintain the fiction of a binary reality, despite all the complicating evidence otherwise.


*Note that I snuck in yet another social fact for you to deal with: I chose what we consider a gender-neutral or ambiguous name for this person. But it can also be that someone named Jane or Joe chooses to defy those gender stereotypes, and then what happens? Everyone assumes Jane is female, of course. Even if Jane has testes hidden away under their school uniform. Because the gender binary must be served.

P.S. I forgot to mention the other criticism they’re shouting at me: “Myers is all ideological!” They’re completely oblivious to the fact that their position is blatantly ideological, too.

I admit to it. My ideology is to consider all of the evidence, even the stuff that makes my understanding of a situation more complicated.

Their ideology is to always make the evidence conform to their prior assumptions.

Comments

  1. rietpluim says

    Except that that has taken a simple brute fact, the presence of organs that produce gametes, and extrapolated it into the socially loaded gender terms that carry huge amounts of baggage and imply lots of details in our heads that aren’t necessarily true.

    I think this is the key point of your argument. It’s quite simple really, but the sexists just don’t get it, or don’t want to get it. If “woman” merely meant “born with an uterus” or something similar, than no trans man in the world would object to being called a woman. However that is not the case. For some it is very difficult to see that “biological trait” is very different from “gender”.

  2. Hj Hornbeck says

    Forgive me for tooting my own horn, but it’s in the same key. “Sex” is a statistical classification system that aims to simplify something quite complex. As the OP points out, humans have a tendency to impose our classifications on reality, when it should be the other way around. If it was true that human beings were partitioned X ways, we should be able to point to N things which definitively partition it.

    No-one can, and in fact different people point to different things. Many of those things are myths anyway, like chromosomes or the SRY gene.

  3. =8)-DX says

    You can also add all the social facts surrounding the importance people place on having functioning gamete-producing organs, their decisions whether or not to reproduce, the social status of us breeders and the normalisation of certain correct ways to go about breeding and raising offspring. And add to that all the social facts surrounding the size, shape, efficiency and side-effects of those reproductive organs and their use. There is literally no part of sex that is just a “brute fact” which isn’t simultaneously laden with so much baggage we have to hook up an extra baggage car to our train of thought every time we try to think about it.

  4. slithey tove (twas brillig (stevem)) says

    yeah I know the following is an overused trope, yet it hasn’t been mentioned yet so here goes:

    A doctor refuses a particular emergency trauma patient patient claiming “he’s my brother”, the patient, when asked, says “I have no brother”.
    Q: Which one is lying?
    A: No one. The doctor is the patient’s sister !! !ha ha!.

  5. davidnangle says

    I’d like to see such a study done with police officers, short situation paragraphs for them to offer judgments, and only the names varying. Not because I want to see that black people are treated differently, but to see if it’s done even as an intellectual exercise.

  6. cartomancer says

    I think it’s very important that we challenge these assumptions – not just for trans people, though they would obviously be the biggest beneficiaries – but for everyone else too. They’re so easy to overlook! I like to think of myself as someone who can see when social conventions like this are in force and respond appropriately, but recently I realised (after much anxiety and soul-searching) that even I had been unduly influenced by social conventions without realising it. In my case it was commonplace ideas about what a fulfilling sex life for a gay man entails, and I think I was so uncritical about that because sexuality has always been an awkward and confusing thing for me, so I naturally latched on to any messages about it that seemed to give some kind of road map to how it works (and I don’t really have anyone I can talk to about it, to gain perspective). After many years of finding casual sex with strangers awkward, terror-inducing and unpleasant, and circumstance thwarting me from being with and marrying the man I love, I have only in the last few weeks realised that the best approach for me is to keep sex as a solo effort. Which is, of course, something that society tends to label as a sign of failure or inadequacy for men, especially for gay men. Having reached this conclusion I now realise quite how pervasive and silently damaging these kinds of assumptions are.

  7. magistramarla says

    My grandson got me into reading Rick Riordan’s books about mythology for young readers. As a former Latin teacher, those books have delighted me. I’m currently reading his new series about Norse gods. I was delighted to find that one of the major characters in this series is a gender fluid person. (Another one is a bad-ass Muslim girl, too!)
    Since the books are aimed at teens, I think that it is wonderful that the author is tackling the sensitive issues of how to deal with people who are different from familiar social norms in ways that young people can relate to.
    I’m delighted that my teen-aged grandson loves these books, and I’m now working on getting my 11 year-old grandson into reading them.

  8. Mark Dowd says

    An amazing and thorough post that is irrefutable. Nobody can really argue against any of these points, they could only try to avoid them.

  9. ikanreed says

    You know, I believe myself to be biologically and culturally male, on substantively reliable evidence.

    But I’ve never, even once, been genotyped. Nor have I examined my semen under a microscope for the presence of sperm. I can’t be sure now. Which according to their strict rules, makes me uncertain of my “real” gender. Which makes me *gasp* non-binary, even in their “highly scientific” worldview.

    Fuck em. Bio-determinism is dumb, and they’re dumb for buying into it.

  10. says

    The results were surprising

    Only if this is the very first time you’re hearing about a so-called “paper people study”, because that result is completely consistent with all the other studies.
    Moar fun: ad in a child. The social assumptions about motherhood and fatherhood boost John through the roof and blast Jennifer into the basement.
    Another one* was done with two variables: Gendered name and a crucial difference: one candidate has experience, the other one formal education. One group was given resumes where JOhn had training and Jennifer experience, the other one resumes where Jennifer had experience and JOhn training. Both groups chose John, explaining that for that particular job it was just that John’s qualifications were more important than Jennifer’s

    *Cordelia Fine, Delusions of Gender. It’s in there somewhere but I have no idea where I put that book.

  11. davidrichardson says

    I work a lot in Second Life (still …) and I’ve created an avatar called ‘Jez Whelan’. which could be Jeremy or it could be Jessica (for example). I lend Jez out to people who want to experience SL as a different gender than the one they think they are (by clicking a couple of buttons and turning ‘Jez’ into the opposite sex). It’s a really interesting experience for a lot of people.

    A colleague of mine once created an experiment using voice morphing (like this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tyXlT3cNHRk). The experiment was about applying for a job, where the subjects were the interviewers. A series of candidates came along, some of whom looked like smartly dressed young men speaking immaculate British English and others of whom looked like all sorts of ages, sexes, nationalities, dress senses … The candidates, of course, were all the same ‘real’ person, but guess who was treated more sympathetically …

  12. peptron says

    My main question about gender fluidity is how to deal with that using a language like French, which is ultra-gendered with no neutral. A person or a thing (ALL the things) is either Male OR Female, and the entire sentence structure is based on said gender. And there is no escape hatch like in german where attributes are invariable. All adjectives inflect based on gender, it doesn’t matter if it’s before or after the substantive.

    It seems somewhat easy to deal with in English, but that’s really the exception, not the rule. European languages love their genders and inflectings all the things based on it.

  13. slithey tove (twas brillig (stevem)) says

    pepton@14:

    European languages love their genders and inflectings all the things based on it.

    yes. part of the bafflement of the whole sex/gender identity stuff, was one side arguing “gender is only a property of words, people are ‘sex’ed, not ‘gender’ed”.
    Learning French, the part about that each object’s word has a specific gender, was incomprehensible to this American speaker where everything is neutral, only people pronouns indicate gender, ie he, she, him, her, etc. Our only neutral personal pronoun was previously plural, “they”. Which is now being argued to return as a neutral gendered singular. [NB “return”, meaning it once was]
    gee, all I wanted to share swishhhh

  14. rietpluim says

    @slithey tove #4 – To be honest, I fell for that joke the first time I heard it. To my defense, I was very young and female doctors were an oddity.

  15. =8)-DX says

    @davidrichardson #13

    smartly dressed young men speaking immaculate British English

    Personally I see that, I think “wanker” and “toff” (especially because “smartly dressed” always seems to imply suits, which I hate and are terrible).

  16. peptron says

    @15 slithey tove

    Even worse. English was once gendered all the way through, being part of the germanic branch of european languages, but got rid of it. I really wonder how that can happen. I don’t see that happening soon with german for example.

    Learning other gendered languages in the same branch as yours (ie: italic / germanic / hellenic / etc) is not too bad, because they tend to agree on the genders of things. But going to another branch, like french to german or vice-versa, really brings home the arbitrary nature of linguistic genders. Sometime it fits, but sometimes it feels like someone was pulling a prank. Like what I call the franco-german war on the gender of celestial objects. Sun = male in french, female in german, moon = f in f, m in g, planet = f in f, m in g, star = f in f, m in g, Astre/Gestirn (no word for that in English…) = m in f, neutral in g.

  17. unclefrogy says

    One group was given resumes where JOhn had training and Jennifer experience, the other one resumes where Jennifer had experience and JOhn training.

    I am not sure if that is what you meant as both groups seem to be the same only the order is different
    uncle frogy

  18. says

    Ow, fuck, thanks for pointing this out, entirely my fault.
    Uhm, no, it’s not what I meant.
    Group 1: John has experience and Jennifer training
    Group 2: John has training and Jennifer experience
    Both groups favour John, claiming that it was just that his particular advantage was more important for the job than Jennifer’s.

  19. blf says

    peptron@19, OE (Old English) was not only gendered, but also had numerous inflexions (and if memory serves me correct, multiple plural forms, depending on the number of persons / whatever being referred (two different from three different from “many” and so on)). The usual explanation for the effective loss of all that nonsense is a mixture of benign neglect under Norman rule, plus the influence of the Vikings (Old Norse, according to Ye Pffft! of All Knowledge).

    Broadly (this is mostly from memory, so reader beware), with the rulers speaking Norman French (initially, later often after obvious translation from the English of the day), and scholars (monks, mostly) using “Latin”, English was mostly used by the unschooled, and by the people engaged in practical matters. And especially in the north of the UK, people with frequent contact with “Viking” invaders or settlers. None of these people, broadly speaking, would be to bother by the differences between the “proper” wording for three young girls or two trained horses, they would be more interested in hiring farmworkers or renting a working plough. Possibly from neighbors with a different grasp of OE. So all that nonsense would up being jettisoned as an impediment to understanding, which it was.

    The process still took several centuries.

  20. blf says

    There are multiple in offerings to Typos in me@22, in part because of tonight’s vin (a lovely Viognier I found in a dusty corner of the local shop), but mostly due to me accidentally clicking Post instead of the intended Preview. Modulo the effects of my vin, and both mine and your reading comprehension, I think it’s all reasonably clear, and hopefully not-too-misleading…

  21. says

    @peptron #19

    But going to another branch,…

    …is a nightmare. To this day I confuse grammatical genders in German, because they do not aligh with grammatical genders for the same words in Czech.

    I can also attest to the fact that Slavic languages are so heavily gendered, that they essentially force people to choose their gender from binary. In Czech it is nearly* impossible to write a narrative without the main protagonists gender being revealed.

    And language extremely strongly influences how people think.

    *and that is just as a precaution against being too definitive, because I am reasonably well read yet I do not know such narrative in Czech and I cannot imagine how it would be written.

  22. peptron says

    @24 Charly :
    An advice I received to learn new languages is to never translate, and try to make it so the flow of your thoughts never transit through your mother language. Like, when learning a new German word, try to pretend you don’t know the Czech word so that it doesn’t enter awareness. To go from the word to its meaning directly, without a translation.

    In French too, I don’t think you can write a story without revealing genders. Which brings me back to my original problem : in French, without the gender of the person you talk to, you simply cannot talk. The structure of the language doesn’t allow it.

    But then, where I live is often seen as one of the most trans friendly location on the planet, and the problem doesn’t really emerge. People would simply ask to have a certain gender assigned to them and then French would work once again.

  23. Silentbob says

    There’s a great line people use to get this concept across, “the map in not the territory”.

    Everyone understands a map of the United States with it’s labels and borders is not the physical reality of the actual landmass, but a way of thinking about it socially.

    Suddenly, when it comes to, “women menstuate, men don’t”, people insist that’s just biological reality and can’t seem to get it through their heads they’re describing the map (and a rather outdated one), not the territory.

  24. millssg99 says

    For example, you might then imagine John is a bit larger and physically stronger than Jennifer, which, on average, is probably true, but not necessarily so.

    *On average* is *probably* true?

    I admit confusion. I thought on average this is actually true. Are you meaning some specific populations where it isn’t true? I get that there is massive overlap, I’m just confused about “on average” and “probably”.

  25. Jessie Harban says

    @1, rietplum:

    If “woman” merely meant “born with an uterus” or something similar, than no trans man in the world would object to being called a woman. However that is not the case. For some it is very difficult to see that “biological trait” is very different from “gender”.

    Exactly. Unfortunately, it’s a bit more smushed together than all that; from experience, most people seem to see it as: “Biological trait causes (or justifies) gender baggage; one piece of gender baggage is evidence for biological trait which in turn justifies more gender baggage.”

    Which means that explanations of gender can easily confuse people. Saying: “Women can produce sperm” sounds like a contradiction because to many people, “woman” does simply mean “born with a uterus” and all the gender baggage is simply assumed to be caused by that fact. So if called upon to explain the concept to a well-meaning but highly ignorant person, I would probably start by severing the connection between biological trait and gender while still using “man” and “woman” to refer to the biological trait and, once they understood the distinction, then add that “man” and “woman” are more properly used for the gender than the biological trait.

    @2, HJ Hornbeck:

    “Sex” is a statistical classification system that aims to simplify something quite complex.

    Plenty of things are; “species” is just as arbitrary a classification as “sex.”

    As the OP points out, humans have a tendency to impose our classifications on reality, when it should be the other way around. If it was true that human beings were partitioned X ways, we should be able to point to N things which definitively partition it.

    No-one can, and in fact different people point to different things. Many of those things are myths anyway, like chromosomes or the SRY gene.

    It’s not like the distinction is completely arbitrary; nearly every definition has wiggle room at the edges, but if it’s useful to us to make the distinction, there’s no reason not to.

    “Sex” is a useful classification system, as evidenced by the number of times PZ Myers references it with regard to animal breeding or with regard to sex-linked traits in various species including humans. That it’s based on a number of factors which produce wiggle room at the edges (or even that it means different things depending on context) is not reason to declare it arbitrary and pointless.

    Gender, on the other hand, is an arbitrary and pointless distinction that should be scrapped entirely (not that we actually will).

    Sometimes, I feel like the denigration of sex as a meaningless arbitrary system of categorization is the product of the exact same conflation of sex and gender that give rise to the assumption that Jennifer definitely has a uterus and isn’t a very good lab manager— it’s kind of the contrapositive of it. Instead of saying: “Sex is a biological fact, therefore gender is a biological fact,” it goes: “Gender is a meaningless and arbitrary classification scheme of no real value, therefore sex is a meaningless and arbitrary classification scheme of no real value.”

    Incidentally, in what sense are chromosomes or the SRY gene myths?

    @3 =8)-DX:

    There is literally no part of sex that is just a “brute fact” which isn’t simultaneously laden with so much baggage we have to hook up an extra baggage car to our train of thought every time we try to think about it.

    Worse yet, there are no words that refer specifically to the “brute facts” that don’t also refer to the baggage.

    While it’s a stretch to say that our language simply determines our beliefs, a language that makes it easy to communicate one concept and difficult to communicate another will naturally promote the former over the latter simply by making it easier to learn and teach. My own efforts to learn about gender were often stymied simply by the difficulty of describing it.

    @6, cartomancer:

    I like to think of myself as someone who can see when social conventions like this are in force and respond appropriately, but recently I realised (after much anxiety and soul-searching) that even I had been unduly influenced by social conventions without realising it.

    You and me both.

    In my case, all social conventions (not just gender-related ones) were basically arbitrary rules to me that, during childhood, I had to manually keep track of and follow just so people wouldn’t get mad. I figured since they were all completely made-up rules that I had to actively remember to follow, I could simply drop the pretense (with relief) as soon as it was socially acceptable to do so.

    But apparently, after so many years of obeying arbitrary rules out of social necessity, I became so good at it that the alternative feels weird. What started as an arbitrary convention I needed to actively work at obeying became The Way Things Are that I’d need to actively work at noticing and breaking.

    —-

    Also, guess which post finally convinced me to change my posting name on FTB? The Autism Bird is still pecking at me and chirping: “This is a change which is new and different and therefore bad,” but it’ll probably go away in time. Now that I’ve spent the spoons to actually make the change, I’ve already done 96% of the work.

  26. cartomancer says

    Strangely enough Latin, which is where the Romance languages get their gendered structures from, has a surprisingly easy to manage system of grammatical gender. About the only thing you really need to learn the genders of words for is making sure an adjective agrees with the gender of its noun, and it is often possible to work that out from context or word order when reading (which is generally all people do with dead languages anyway). Latin has no articles you see – the ones in French, Spanish and Italian descend from Latin’s gendered pronouns. Furthermore four out of the five declensions of nouns (mostly, with one or two exceptions) have a usual gender – first declension nouns are almost all feminine for instance, with the few exceptions being traditionally male jobs in the Roman world, such as farmers, poets or sailors. Even the third declension – the one where nouns are a mixture of genders – has certain usual conventions. Abstract nouns ending in -atio, for instance (renovatio, aemulatio, etc.) are feminine, as are the names of trees. So you can generally have a good idea of what a word’s gender is from just looking at its endings.

    In fact, Latin’s grammatical genders are mostly used to denote the actual genders of things that have them – a male wolf is lupus, for instance, where a female wolf is lupa (and you could, theoretically, have a neuter wolf with lupum, though I can’t recall a single instance where I’ve ever seen that in a historical Latin text).

    As for talking to or about other people, and notrevealing their gender, you do have to avoid using adjectives or making the one whose gender you’re concealing the object of the sentence, but it is possible. Because the subject a verb refers to is reflected in its endings (but not their gender) you don’t need to use a giveaway gendered pronoun – “te amo” works just as well for anyone of any gender addressing anyone of any other gender, and “lignum fert” means that someone is carrying the wood, but that someone could be of any gender. One could, I suppose, stick to neuter pronouns and adjectives entirely, but that would sound rather dehumanising – just like calling a person “it” does in English.

  27. Hj Hornbeck says

    Jessie Harban @28:

    Plenty of things are; “species” is just as arbitrary a classification as “sex.”

    Damn straight. Which makes it all the more strange that people flail so much when this fuzziness is pointed out, yet just shrug when someone says “the definition of ‘species’ is pretty fuzzy.”

    Incidentally, in what sense are chromosomes or the SRY gene myths?

    It’s a myth that chromosomes and/or TDF are the dividing line between “male” and “female.”

  28. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    The PBS series The Nine Months That Made You (a three one-hour series) has a show or two about developmental abnormalities, including homosexual and transgender people. The chromosomes can be overridden by the developmental process, resulting in homosexuality and transgender babies.
    Which is why those who claim chromosomes are the defining thing about gender/sexuality are full of shit.

  29. Brian English says

    @blt, I thought it was pre-Norman. The Danelaw areas had Norse and old English speakers, and inflections were lost for the sake of communication. That could be a just-so story. The old English we have is from Wessex, which didn’t influence modern English as much as the dialects that came into contact with the Norse.

    @cartomancer, I know you’re a latin master, so this is probably wrong, but couldn’t you say ‘Persona cuius nomina Bill formosa est’ and be talking about a male, even though the gender of persona is feminie. I know persona, ment ‘role’ or ‘mask’ at some stage in Latin is probably the wrong example, and I’m sure the declensions are wrong, but you get the idea.

    In Spanish, ‘La persona cuya nombre es Bill es hermosa’ might almost work too.

  30. Silentbob says

    @ 28 Jessie Harban

    “Sex” is a useful classification system, as evidenced by the number of times PZ Myers references it with regard to animal breeding or with regard to sex-linked traits in various species including humans. That it’s based on a number of factors which produce wiggle room at the edges (or even that it means different things depending on context) is not reason to declare it arbitrary and pointless.

    Gender, on the other hand, is an arbitrary and pointless distinction that should be scrapped entirely (not that we actually will).

    No. *headdesk*

    Don’t you understand this idea that sex is real and useful, while gender is phony and pointless and must be done away with has lead to untold misery. The problem is there are such things as trans people. According to your ideology they either shouldn’t exist, or are delusional. In fact, we know trans people do exist and are not delusional, so there is a problem with your ideology.

    A more sophisticated analysis holds that both sex and gender are social constructs, and both are useful. Gender stereotyping (like any stereotyping), or external gender imposition, are harmful, but not gender per se.

  31. mostlymarvelous says

    millssg9

    I get that there is massive overlap, I’m just confused about “on average” and “probably”.

    It’s a boilerplate way of guaranteeing that some smart aleck clever clogs doesn’t raise the issue of the average height of Dutch women (from the tallest population in the world) compared to the average height of Tibetan men – from not-the-tallest population in the world.

  32. says

    @HJ

    Ya, try to be careful, because “chromosomes are myths” is literally what the Boghossians of the world think feminists (or whoever) literally believe. ;)

    @33, Silentbob

    The problem is there are such things as trans people. According to your ideology they either shouldn’t exist, or are delusional.

    True, but trans people aren’t special in this regard. Cis people also exist, and are presumably not merely delusional either. :P

  33. Holms says

    Now, here are some social facts: John is a man. Jennifer is a woman. And Racist Twitter is saying, “Of course!” Except that that has taken a simple brute fact, the presence of organs that produce gametes, and extrapolated it into the socially loaded gender terms that carry huge amounts of baggage and imply lots of details in our heads that aren’t necessarily true.

    I would actually take a different approach, by simply granting for the sake of the argument that man / woman are biological terms equivalent to adult male / female (and boy / girl = juvenile same). This shifts the conversation away from worrying about terminology, and instead moves straight to the heart of the matter, i.e. questioning why people make assumptions about a person’s faculties, personality traits and the like based solely on physiology.

    For example, a person might say something like ‘but height and musculature are linked to men more strongly than women’ as a way of arguing that generalisations can be made from sex. The question of whether man / woman map well to male / female and XY / XX chromosomes does not address that argument in a meaningful way. Instead, delve into why that generalisation is a more reasonable one than something like ‘logical thought is a guy things’. By making the conversation about underlying concepts rather than terminology, we more quickly get to the difference in quality between those two generalisations: one is a physiological link, with a robust body of medical literature backing it up, while the other is only very tenously suggested by studies with dubious assumptions. Terminology is a relative side issue.

  34. chigau (ever-elliptical) says

    ova (large, not very mobile) are female
    sperm (tiny, highly mobile) are male

  35. Holms says

    #27 millssg99

    For example, you might then imagine John is a bit larger and physically stronger than Jennifer, which, on average, is probably true, but not necessarily so.

    *On average* is *probably* true?

    I admit confusion. I thought on average this is actually true. Are you meaning some specific populations where it isn’t true? I get that there is massive overlap, I’m just confused about “on average” and “probably”.

    A slight revision of language makes it clear.
    “For example, you might then imagine John is a bit larger and physically stronger than Jennifer, which, based on local averages is probably true, but not necessarily so.”
    Easy.

    #33 Silentbob
    Don’t you understand this idea that sex is real and useful, while gender is phony and pointless and must be done away with has lead to untold misery. The problem is there are such things as trans people. According to your ideology they either shouldn’t exist, or are delusional.

    It implies no such thing that I can see.

  36. wzrd1 says

    Personally, I have little concern of the gender orientation of anyone who I am interacting with, beyond that which they prefer to be addressed as.
    Sexual organs, the only real concern I have is health related. When the gonads go through menopause, the bones begin to decalcify (a bit overbroad and oversimplified there, for the sake of brevity).
    That said, my only concern really is, in regards to gonads, my own and my wife and both of our health. So, I’m concerned over her very early menopause, courtesy of PCOS and her current osteoporosis, which prevents surgery for a herniated L5-S1 disc and her entire cervical disc group failure, with spinal stenosis.
    The only way that I’d be concerned with the condition of others is if they bring it to my attention and as I’m not a physician and have retired from military medicine, is utterly unlikely (well, save for our children, who do still consult with me over their health, one of whom is an RN).

    I’ve also been in the position of reviewing resumes for position applicants, frankly, I never read the name at the top. I don’t care about the name until I have to figure out which resume that gets top of pile for secondary review and potential interview.
    Telephone and in person interviews, if there was a way to remove gender, while still seeing body language and vocal intonations, I’d go for it in a New York minute, just to be sure there is no possibility for skewing by biological sex. We’re a highly technical field, we care about minds and attitudes (we don’t need team destroyers, we need good, flexible and fast thinking, analytical minds (and believe it or not, I was chosen over a group of hundreds for my position and still earmarked for lead positions and potential management (the latter just ain’t gonna happen, I prefer the technical to management tasks)).

    I do differ from one thing trumpeted from the mountaintops in this land; I don’t believe that respect is earned, respect is granted each individual, disrespect is earned and must be hard earned.

  37. blf says

    Brian English@32, I presume the process started pre-Norman, probably, as we’ve both said, in part due to contact with other OE dialects and with (Old?) Norse speakers and the need to communicate. However, pre-Norman, there would be a number of influences serving to slowdown the process: As an example, pre-Norman, OE would be spoken by the ruling and religious figures, which would tend to put a brake on such changes — you also need to be able to communicate with such notoriously “conservative” peoples.

    The Norman invasion changed all that. Suddenly, Norman French and “Latin” were the languages which mattered, this English thing was for the masses. The brake was removed. (It should be said the Normans were never hostile to the English language of the day, there was no attempt to suppress or control it.)

    Ye Pfffft! of All Knowledge dates the loss of gender in English to mostly post-Norman times, and includes other drivers for the loss.

  38. cartomancer says

    Brian English, #32

    Apart from a missing “est” and the plura nomina instead of the singular nomen (“persona cuius nomen est Bill formosa est”) that does make grammatical sense. Sounds rather odd though – usually you would use the past participle in this context – “persona Bill nominata formosa est”. But the meaning is ambiguous in Latin – you could translate it as “the person named Bill is beautiful (i.e. a beautiful person)” or equally as “the person named Bill is a beautiful woman” (here “formosa” is taken not as a qualifying adjective to “persona” but as a substantive predicate noun in its own right). Indeed, the second interpretation would be a more natural one as the first sounds about as weird in Latin as the literal “the person named Bill is beautiful” does in English. You could get around that with a shuffle in the word order though – “est persona formosa, Bill nominata” (there is a beautiful person, called Bill).

  39. cartomancer says

    As you also note, though, “persona” is quite a strange way to refer to an actual person in Classical Latin (it becomes increasingly less strange in Medieval Latin, and eventually turns into our “person”). Though it could quite naturally refer to a character in a book or play, or a traditional social role.

  40. says

    There are some aspects of gender which are obvious arbitrary social constructs (pink=feminine, blue=masculine), but I also think that other aspects of gender are tied to biological sex. We’re a sexually dimorphic species, so it makes sense that, in general, biological males and biological females are going to behave differently.

  41. wzrd1 says

    @Brian Pansky,

    It’s the psychological functions that relate to sexual dimorphism/polymorphism and such, plus our memetics to further those psychological functions.

    Erm, odd, the history and behavior tends to reinforce the fact that the converse is true.
    That said, the observations are those from a sexual dimorphic individual. ;)

  42. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    @Jessie Foster:

    We’re a sexually dimorphic species, so it makes sense that, in general, biological males and biological females are going to behave differently.

    EXACTLY!!!!! Just like we’re a species that is ear-lobe-ially dimorphic, so it makes sense that, in general, people with attached ear lobes and people with unattached earlobes are going to behave differently.

    MOREOVER, we’re a melatonin-ially dimorphic species, so it makes sense that, in general, Blacks and Whites are going to behave differently. What could possibly make more sense than that????? This biological determinism tool is AWESOME. We should base our decisions about who gets to reject pipeline routes, who gets less expensive home loans, who gets free food and steel-barred lodging for possessing a gram of weed, and even who gets to be a legitimate presidential candidate at least in significant part on whether someone is dimorphically Black or dimorphically White.

    Great Goodly Eyes of Meat, I see everything so clearly now: THANK YOU, JESSIE FOSTER!!!

    @Brian Pansky

    Maybe that’s what I can say when someone asks the question “what is gender?“:
    It’s the psychological functions that relate to sexual dimorphism/polymorphism and such, plus our memetics to further those psychological functions.

    Something like that?

    I’m going to dial down the snark, because I feel it has a history of not only not working well with you for communicating my intended meaning, but that it actually has caused you hurt and/or distress – which is something I don’t want to do.

    I think this definition is a bad definition. For a number of reasons.
    1: To the extent that people want to justify a belief in the biological basis for a behavior, they generally point not to genes responsible for tendencies in the creation of neurological connections (which, mind, can also be the product of repeated exposure to similar inputs even when genes responsible for neurological development vary), nor to mechanisms by which hormone levels cause specific behaviors, nor even to how or why “behavioral adaptations” or “psychological adaptations” related to threat might apply in a wi-fi-linked shopping mall when the presumed environment of selection is a savannah and the threats applying selection are ones that make a difference to the survival and reproductive success of a non-technological animal who spent almost no time whatsoever reproducing in wi-fi-linked shopping malls.

    2: To the extent that people want to justify a belief in the biological basis for a behavior, they generally DO point to perceived behavioral similarities across species. We may or may not be “dimorphic” as a species, but it’s sure as hell true that the shape (“morph”) of a female human has more in common with that of a male human than either is likely to have with a female narwhal or a male bighorn sheep.

    Therefore, to the extent that the psychological tendencies of broad populations of humans have “evolved” or “adapted” to our “morphs,” male humans should always be better behavioral models to predict the tendencies in actions, choices, preferences, and thoughts of broad groups of female humans than narwhals or bighorn sheep could ever be.

    3: the appeals to other species behavior relies on an understanding of the intent of individual members of that species. Lions are a favorite model of those who appeal to other species in order to support an argument of psychological adaptation to dimorphism. Male lions fight it out to dominate, and the survivor of multiple male-on-male confrontations deserves to be able to mate, has proven itself not merely fit, but the fittest of its species. Females engage in aggressive confrontation much less often and typically stand aside completely from male-on-male confrontations. They are less daring, preferring to live with other females than take the opportunity to prove themselves more fit. Thus, the females actually become less fit because they are exposed to fewer opportunities to either be killed directly or be driven from the community that could otherwise sustain them in times of sickness, food shortages, etc. and thus be killed indirectly. Ultimately this all leads to a single, fit male lion dominating a group and multiple, less fit female lions living as reproductive vehicles for the fittest lion’s genetic progeny.
    …Thus, the argument concludes, male humans will compete in aggressive confrontations and the males who prosper under these conditions are among the fittest of their species and deserve any political and economic power they manage to accrue. Moreover, the creation of spaces where male humans congregate effectively equates to the creation of spaces of enhanced competition, thus enhanced selection. We want male humans to interact with as many other male humans as possible, and by the simple expedient of sex-segregated workplaces we can turn what would have been male/female interactions into male/male interactions that have a greater potential to benefit the entire species. The segregation and exclusion of female humans from public life is therefore logical and beneficial.

    But the exact same facts can be used to massively undercut the ultimate conclusion. With a different view of the intentions and goals of individual lions, we have a massively different view of what lions have to say about di-/poly-morphic views of human psychology.

    If you will…
    …Female lions cooperate more and expose themselves to fewer risks when compared to male lions. This tendency to better anticipate the risks of aggressive confrontation and then avoid confrontation in favor of cooperation indicates that nearly all female lions are more fit than male lions. However, to pass on their own genes, each female lion needs a male lion’s sperm. However, the female lions – already intellectually superior to the male lions – have made the realization needing a male lion’s sperm is not at all to say that a given female lion needs a different/unique male lion’s sperm. Therefore, communities of female lions are willing to keep one or more male lions around, for breeding purposes only, mind, but once the number of male lions available for breeding exceeds zero, the female lions don’t care about growing that number. The tendency of female lions to keep a distance between adult male lions and themselves is further evidence that male lions are merely tolerated as barely worthy of inclusion in the community whatsoever.

    Male lions engage in conflict that is absolutely unnecessary, given that female lions would happily produce more litters and litters resulting from sex with different male lions. This proves the male lions stupidly irrational and nearly always among the least fit of their species. The more confrontations a male lion survives, the more evidence exists that this lion takes excessive risks and, in fact, is less fit than other members of its species. Moreover, the worst behaviors of male lions – infanticides – only prove that maleness is inherently cowardly (afraid of future conflict which a given male might lose) and bad for the community. While female lions might be willing, in theory, to tolerate the presence of more than one male lion, the costs to lion society (needs for food, housing, etc.) go up linearly with each additional male lion while the benefits lag behind – and, with too much competition, may asymptotically approach a maximum. It is thus unsurprising that female lions are willing to allow these low-fitness male lions to kill each other until there exists only the minimum necessary (typically one) in the local area to fulfill the sexual, breeding, and other needs of the female-lion dominated community.

    …therefore, human society should be organized such that male humans that compete with others politically and/or economically and/or violently should have any benefits accrued from such conflict taken away from them (to reduce external incentives for undesirable behaviors that already receive too much internal encouragement). Male humans should be viewed as inherently less rational than female humans. Male humans should be viewed as inherently cowardly. Only female humans should have economic or political power because every male/male human interaction that becomes a female/female human interaction gains an incrementally greater chance for cooperation for the benefit of all humans rather than competition that can only harm the majority of humans.

    Unfortunately, it is only logical that human society should be organized such that we should not only segregate and exclude male humans from public life, but, considering linearly increasing costs and their relationship to capped benefits, male humans not content to live in the new matriarchy should be exiled – to kill each other or aid each other as best as their poor psychological adaptations allow.

    Therefore, 4: the evidence supporting a gender definition equating gender to “psychological functions that relate to sexual dimorphism/polymorphism” is compromised by important contradictions with the evidence, even and especially when we focus on the evidence as given by proponents of theories of psychological-adaptation-to-sexual-di(or poly)morphism.

    The fact is that to use animals as models of human psychology, we must understand the psychology of the animals used as models. Without communication with those animals, we cannot help but project our psychology upon them.

    Since we perform research and analysis as individuals – even if we later share data and ideas and remodel our conclusions as a result – at the level of how animal models operate,
    First, a single individual projects that individual’s psychology onto an animal sample. (Perhaps the sample is a discrete number of animals in a lab, perhaps a group defined by combined membership in a population *and* a particular sex, or perhaps the sample is an entire species or genus or family or class!)
    Second, the newly “discovered” psychology of the sample is projected back onto all of homo sapiens, all members of homo sapiens that have been assigned to a specific race, or even (but rarely less than) all members of homo sapiens that have been assigned to a specific race and also assigned to a specific sex.
    Third, the group psychology is now taken to equal or approximate the psychology of the animal model which equals the psychology of (at worst) one individual to (at best) a small group of research associates – who select themselves to work within that research group in part based on compatible psychology. Taking this group psychology as a given, it is used as a premise in making arguments about public policies of societies and/or governments and/or other discrete organizations.
    Fourth, the researcher has successfully and effectively multiplied the power of the researcher’s own preferences by the total number of members of the human group – up to 7 billion!

    It may seem that a researcher would then always want to project an animal model’s perceived traits onto all of homo sapiens, but by projecting onto only a subset of humans, one can be more specific about traits. The racist doesn’t want to associate positive traits with people of color, but wants to associate positive traits with human beings, therefore one creates a model that is said to only capture the psychology of white people and, voila, positive traits can be specified.

    Repeat ad nauseam.

    But moreover, 5: we humans are massively cooperative. It’s not even remotely funny how cooperative we are compared to other species. As a result, a human’s tendency towards reproductive success rises or falls with that of her community generally. And yet, once born, unless a body is deliberately injured/maimed/disfigured, human bodies take their shapes one individual at a time.
    Thus, for all humans regardless of variations in body shape or even gamete production, success is likely more dependent upon playing well with others than on whether or not a man happens to be a slut. This is a very powerful reason why the genus Homo should be expected to have evolved in an environment where the greatest predictors of differential success should be the same across all morphs of humans: traits that better favored cooperation would enhance reproductive success for female humans, yes, but also for male humans.

    Gender cannot be said to be equal to “psychological functions that relate to sexual dimorphism/polymorphism and such*1” if we either don’t have or have not yet identified heritable psychological traits that have been established to promote reproductive success differently in human females and human males.

    Even if we had such traits, we couldn’t identify gender that way unless we prove that such traits have, in fact, existed and have, in fact, exerted selective pressure (pressure that differs for the group of female humans as compared with the group of male humans) over geologic time!.

    Only at that point could we say that the psychological traits are in fact “related to” sexual dimorphism.

    More later…
    ==============================
    *1: whatever “and such” would mean

  43. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    @wzrd:

    the observations are those from a sexual dimorphic individual. ;)

    a sexually dimorphic individual?

    Jeez, [fluffs shirt to get air moving] is it hot in here, or is it just me wzrd?

  44. wzrd1 says

    Crip Dyke @ 47, that was intended as levity. Alas, you couldn’t see my face.
    Which makes you quite fortunate.

    Still, physical characteristics are not psychological characteristics.
    One common trait in humans is anthropomorphism and projection, which as you did well illustrate above, creates problems both in science if we don’t guard against that and in society.
    Still, some of my best friends are humans. ;)

  45. says

    Ah sorry Crip Dyke I’ve been at work all day but I was planning on coming back to basically scratch my head at my own thinking and give props to wzrd1. Maybe I could have saved you some effort if I had done so sooner!

  46. says

    Also, Crip Dyke, I don’t know what you’re going on about species and whatnot. I wasn’t talking about other species, nor was I assuming human psychology is very much like that of a Lion. I don’t really have time or interest to read all of that to figure out what you’re trying to say.

    Anyways, not sure why my speculative hypothesis (in the form of an ultimate underlying psychological origin thing) seemed so plausible to me last night. It’s all a bit murky now…

  47. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    I wasn’t talking about other species, nor was I assuming human psychology is very much like that of a Lion.

    No! I didn’t think you were.

    I was just saying that I disagreed the psychology was related in any provable way to dimorphic sex characteristics, and then elaborating that the people most prominently/strongly argue that provable relationships exist between psychological traits and dimorphic gender are typically a little too into evo-psych theories that rely on animal models. Lions are a favorite, but animal models generally are entirely unreliable for evo-psych studies and yet much beloved by evo-psych proponents.

  48. Saad says

    Jessie Foster, #43

    There are some aspects of gender which are obvious arbitrary social constructs (pink=feminine, blue=masculine), but I also think that other aspects of gender are tied to biological sex.

    Interesting that you provide an example of the arbitrary ones but not the “real” differences.

    In order for you to say there are aspects of gender that are tied to sex, you must be able to furnish at least one example.

  49. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    But… Saad!?

    don’t you agree that pink=feminine is an arbitrary social construct? I thought that we had established we were all on the same page by setting out the controversial pink-may-not-actually-be-a-biologically-hard-wired-preference-of-all-females assertion so that once we weeded out all the non-feminists who disagree we could get straight to agreeing with all my other premises about unspecified “other aspects of gender”.

    If it turns out that you’re in disagreement with me, then you must be a horrible sexist since I said that pink=feminine is an arbitrary social construct! You’re not a horrible sexist, are you? I really thought you were better than that.

  50. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Let’s make it real simple. Do you believe that testosterone exists?

    Now, please show how that testosterone effects the in utero development of the gonads/sexual organs, and the brain, and the timing thereof, and what effects happens if the timing/amount/lack of response is wrong in either place.
    Then you can have an intelligent discussion about testosterone and gender.

  51. says

    1. Testosterone is significantly more prevalent in biological males than in biological females.
    2. Testosterone is observed to have effects on mood and behavior.

    Put 1 and 2 together.

  52. says

    @Hj

    That sex did not affect the relationship between testosterone and aggression attests to universality. Just because females have less testosterone and exhibit less aggressive behavior does not mean that the relationship does not exist. In fact, the correspondence of low testosterone and low aggression fits with the proposed relationship. It is higher levels of testosterone that lead to more aggressive behavior.

    Book, Angela S., Katherine B. Starzyk, and Vernon L. Quinsey. “The relationship between testosterone and aggression: A meta-analysis.”

    I’m going to read the critique now, if I can find it.

  53. says

    @Hj

    “Instead of a mean weighted correlation of r=.14, reanalysis produced a considerable smaller value (r=.08), although this was still significantly different from zero in the same direction.”
    Archer, John, Nicola Graham-Kevan, and Michelle Davies. “Testosterone and aggression: A reanalysis of Book, Starzyk, and Quinsey’s (2001) study.” Aggression and Violent Behavior 10.2 (2005): 241-261.

  54. Artor says

    One of my close friends in college was a girl named Jonnie, and my sister’s first name on her birth certificate is Jimmie.

  55. Hj Hornbeck says

    Jessie Foster @59:

    I’m going to read the critique now, if I can find it.

    That was a waste of time; you may have read it, but you did not comprehend my point.

    Look, let’s make this simple. Here’s fifteen random datasets, grouped into columns. One of those columns has been skewed by the same correlation found by Book [2001]; one has been skewed by Archer [2005]; and one has been left alone. Can you tell me which is which? Bear in mind, these datapoints were selected randomly and thus started out with some non-zero correlation by mere chance.

    The simple fact is that “statistical significance” is not the same as “personal significance,” nor does it line up with “true effect.” We know effects this big can be created by social factors or publication bias; I mentioned that ego depletion may be due to publication bias, and a 2010 meta-analysis found r ~= 0.28, but another example is math ability and gender (r ~= 0.14). This creates the possibility that the correlation between testosterone and aggression is due to social factors/publication bias.

    What changes that from “possibility” to “likely” is… well, you. You waltzed in here convinced there was a correlation between testosterone and behavior: what evidence did you have for that? I think it’s safe to say you didn’t find it in the primary literature. Instead, you must have relied on the assertions of other people. This means that, somewhere down the line, someone noticed a potential correlation, analyzed it, and declared it to be true.

    But how could they notice a correlation, when subsequent research demonstrates any correlation must be too subtle to notice? That original observation must have been unjustified, based on bias instead of fact. This is quite common in science, sadly; the field of psychology is littered with assertions about behavior and sex that were later refuted. Haverlock Ellis proposed that men varied more than women back in 1894; by 1914, Helen Woolley thought he’d been strongly refuted. Women have a greater verbal skills? That’s been proposed and refuted multiple times in the last century. Spatial skills was supposed to be a “guy thing,” but repeated studies have shown no major difference except in a sub-category labelled “mental rotation.” But then a funny thing happened: over the span of decades, “spatial skills” and “mental rotation” became synonymous in the literature!

    Researchers have clung so strongly to a belief in innate sex difference that they change word meanings and revive dead theories in order to preserve their beliefs. This greatly reduces the background priors on believing in any sex difference. So I’m going to need a helluva lot more from you than regurgitating quotes I’ve already read.

  56. Saad says

    Jessie Foster, #54

    Aggression and risk-taking behavior.

    Now make your case that those aspects of gender are tied to “biological sex”.

  57. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    Jessie Foster:

    We’re a sexually dimorphic species, so it makes sense that, in general, biological males and biological females are going to behave differently.

    Me:

    EXACTLY!!!!! Just like we’re a species that is ear-lobe-ially dimorphic, so it makes sense that, in general, people with attached ear lobes and people with unattached earlobes are going to behave differently.

    MOREOVER, we’re a melatonin-ially dimorphic species, so it makes sense that, in general, Blacks and Whites are going to behave differently. What could possibly make more sense than that?????

    Jessie Foster:

    Lmfao.
    Let’s make it real simple. Do you believe that testosterone exists?

    If the totality of Jessie Foster’s evidence that humans are “sexually dimorphic” was to mastubate in front of a webcam right now, there’s not a human voyeur of any sex that would notice.

    Hell, if the entire mass of Jessie Foster’s mere understanding of others’ statements on this issue were to stomp on the JWST’s secondary mirror, not a single adaptive-optics actuator would attempt a curvature correction.

  58. says

    @Crip Dyke

    “Dimorphism is one of the only anatomical traits that is directly causally related to social behavior”

    Plavcan, J. Michael. “Body size, size variation, and sexual size dimorphism in early Homo.” Current Anthropology 53.S6 (2012): S409-S423.

  59. Hj Hornbeck says

    Jessie Foster @66:

    Dimorphism is one of the only anatomical traits that is directly causally related to social behavior

    First off, you’re missing critical context there. Emphasis mine:

    The issue of estimating the magnitude of dimorphism is important because dimorphism constitutes critical evidence of behavior and life history in extinct species and thus has weighed heavily in discussions of the evolution of hominin behavior (e.g., DeSilva 2011; Gordon 2006a; Lovejoy 1981, 2009; Martin, Willner, and Dettling 1994; McHenry 1994; Moore 1996; Plavcan and van Schaik 1997a). Dimorphism is one of the only anatomical traits that is directly causally related to social behavior that is preserved in the fossil record (Plavcan 2004a). But dimorphism is a complex phenomenon, and a simple one-to-one correspondence between behavior and the magnitude of dimorphism does not exist (Plavcan 2000a). Dimorphism reflects separate causal factors influencing male and female traits whose expression is potentially limited by the genetic correlation between males and females (Gordon 2006a, 2006b; Greenfield 1992; Lande 1980; Leigh 1992; Lindenfors 2002; Martin, Willner, and Dettling 1994; Plavcan 2011; Plavcan, van Schaik, and Kappeler 1995).

    And since you seem so hell-bent on that one-sentence summary of a citation, here’s what the article says in the conclusion:

    That anthropod sexual dimorphism is a function of sexual selection at some level seems not to be an issue. However, comparative analyses attempting to evaluate whether the magnitude of dimorphism corresponds to the intensity of sexual selection pressure are hindered by limitations in estimates of sexual selection, and the fact that dimorphism must be evaluated as both a relative difference between male and female traits and a consequence of separate factors affecting the expression of male and female traits. Further analyses should strive to understand the relationships between sexual selection, patterns of male and female life history and behavior, mating systems and dimorphism. Lacking a direct measure of male reproductive skew, we cannot progress further than we have by relying on a single surrogate measure of sexual selection. Instead, we need to tease apart carefully relationships among different measures of sexual selection and dimorphism as a function of male and female traits.

    Plavcan, J. Michael. “13• Sexual selection, measures of sexual selection, and sexual dimorphism in primates.” Sexual selection in primates: New and comparative perspectives (2004): 230.

  60. Hj Hornbeck says

    Whoops, I see Jessie Foster’s quote mine is a bit worse than I thought. I’ve bolded the part they missed out:

    Dimorphism is one of the only anatomical traits that is directly causally related to social behavior that is preserved in the fossil record (Plavcan 2004a).

  61. Jessie Harban says

    @30, HJ Hornbeck:

    It’s a myth that chromosomes and/or TDF are the dividing line between “male” and “female.”

    Except that the exact definition of “male” and “female” changes depending on what you consider important in that context.

    I vaguely recall a post in which PZ talked about cells detaching from a fetus and joining the various microbes in the mother’s body (stated more coherently, of course). In that post, he talked about various ways of isolating single fetal cells and mentioned that if they’re male then it’s easier because you can differentiate them from the mother’s cells by their Y chromosome.

    In that context, the presence of a Y chromosome was the defining trait of maleness; that the fetus may have ultimately grown into a girl despite the Y chromosome (or that the mother may have a Y chromosome) is possible, but not really relevant to the question of isolating remnant fetal cells amongst the assortment of bacteria and other microbes that normally live in a person’s body.

    In a different context, sex might be defined differently. After all, a chicken farmer has to differentiate between which birds can lay eggs and which ones can’t even though none of them have a Y chromosome.

    @33, Silent Bob:

    Don’t you understand this idea that sex is real and useful, while gender is phony and pointless and must be done away with has lead to untold misery.

    How so?

    The problem is there are such things as trans people.

    Yes, I am aware of my own existence.

    According to your ideology they either shouldn’t exist, or are delusional. In fact, we know trans people do exist and are not delusional, so there is a problem with your ideology.

    OK, how did you get there from what I posted?

    A more sophisticated analysis holds that both sex and gender are social constructs, and both are useful.

    How is sex a social construct? How is gender useful?

    Gender stereotyping (like any stereotyping), or external gender imposition, are harmful, but not gender per se.

    I think this might just be a difference of definitions rather than beliefs. What do you mean by “sex,” “gender” and “gender stereotyping?”

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