delusions-of-gender

In families with children in which both spouses work fulltime, women do about twice as much child care and housework as men – the notorious ‘second shift’ described by sociologist Arlie Hochschild in her classic book of that name.2 You might think that, even if this isn’t quite fair, it’s nonetheless rational. When one person earns more than the other then he (most likely) enjoys greater bargaining power at the trade union negotiations that, for some, become their marriage. Certainly, in line with this unromantic logic, as a woman’s financial contribution approaches that of her husband’s, her housework decreases. It doesn’t actually become equitable, you understand. Just less unequal. But only up to the point at which her earnings equal his. After that – when she starts to earn more than him – something very curious starts to happen. The more she earns, the more housework she does.3 In what sociologist Sampson Lee Blair has described as the ‘sadly comic data’ from his research, ‘where she has a job and he doesn’t … even then you find the wife doing the majority of the housework.’

… If you are somehow sceptical of the notion that high-earning women do more housework because of an internal drive to maintain the highest possible oxytocin levels, while unemployed husbands carefully protect their own physiological state by giving the laundry pile a wide berth, or are simply neurally less capable of sensing it, then sociologists have an alternative explanation that you may find more satisfying. They refer to this curious phenomenon as ‘gender deviance neutralisation’.7 Spouses work together to counteract the discomfort created when a woman breaks the traditional marital contract by taking on the primary breadwinning role. A fascinating interview study conducted by sociologist Veronica Tichenor revealed the psychological work that both husbands and their higher-earning wives perform to continue to ‘do gender’ more conventionally within their marriage, despite their unconventional situations. For example, as predicted by the quantitative surveys, most of the higher-earning wives also reported doing the ‘vast majority’ of both domestic labour and childrearing. Sometimes this was resented and a point of contention. But others seemed to ‘embrace domestic labour as a way of presenting themselves as good wives.’ As Tichenor points out, what this means is that ‘cultural expectations of what it means to be a good wife shape the domestic negotiations of unconventional earners and produce arrangements that privilege husbands and further burden wives.’

Tichenor also surmised that in decision making the women were deferring to their husbands in ‘very self-conscious ways’ because they didn’t want to be seen as powerful, dominating, or emasculating. The couples also redefined the meaning of ‘provider’ so that the men could still fall within the definition. While in the conventional couples the provider was the person who brought home the biggest paycheque, among the other couples the men’s management of the family finances, and other noneconomic contributions, were considered part of providing. Thus it was that Bonnie, earning $114,000 a year and married to a man earning $3000, could nonetheless argue that they were ‘both providers’. Interestingly, these women were often very aware that their greater income didn’t bring them the same power within the relationship as it would a man in a more conventional marriage.

—  Delusions of Gender by Cordelia Fine
Psychologists often find that parents treat baby girls and boys differently, despite an absence of any discernible differences in the babies’ behavior or abilities. One study, for example, found that mothers conversed and interacted more with girl babies and young toddlers, even when they were as young as six months old. This was despite the fact that boys were no less responsive to their mother’s speech and were no more likely to leave their mother’s side. As the authors suggest, this may help girls learn the higher level of social interaction expected of them, and boys the greater independence. Mothers are also more sensitive to changes in facial expressions of happiness when an unfamiliar six-month-old baby is labeled as a girl rather than a boy, suggesting that their gendered expectations affect their perception of babies’ emotions. Gendered expectations also seem to bias mothers’ perception of their infants’ physical abilities. Mothers were shown an adjustable sloping walkway, and asked to estimate the steepness of slope their crawling eleven-month-old child could manage and would attempt. Girls and boys differed in neither crawling ability nor risk taking when it came to testing them on the walkway. But mothers underestimated girls and overestimated boys–both in crawling ability and crawling attempts–meaning that in the real world they might often wrongly think their daughters incapable of performing or attempting some motor feats, and equally erroneously think their sons capable of others. As infants reach the toddler and preschool years, researchers find that mothers talk more to girls than to boys, and that they talk about emotions differently to the two sexes–and in a way that’s consistent with (and sometimes helps to create the truth of) the stereotyped belief that females are the emotion experts.
—  Cordelia Fine, Delusions of Gender: How Our Minds, Society, and Neurosexism Create Difference
When women display the necessary confidence in their skills and comfort with power, they run the risk of being regarded as “competent but cold”: the bitch, the ice queen, the iron maiden, the ballbuster, the battle axe, the dragon lady… The sheer numbers of synonyms is telling. Put bluntly, we don’t like the look of self-promotion and power on a woman. In experimental studies, women who behave in an agentic fashion experience backlash: they are rated less socially skilled, and thus less hirable for jobs that require people skills as well as competence than are men who behave in an identical fashion. And yet if women don’t show confidence, ambition, and competitiveness then evaluators may use gender stereotypes to fill in the gaps, and assume that these are important qualities she lacks. Thus, the alternative to being competent but cold is to be regarded as “nice but incompetent.” This catch-22 positions women who seek leadership roles on a “tightrope of impression management.”
—  Cordelia Fine, Delusions of Gender: How Our Minds, Society, and Neurosexism Create Difference

When a woman persists with a high-level math course or runs as a presidential candidate, or a father leaves work early to pick up the children from school, they are altering little by little, the implicit patterns of the minds around them. As society slowly changes, so too do the differences between male and female selves, abilities, emotions, values, interests, hormones, and brains- because each is inextricably intimate with the social context in which it developed and functions.

Where the convergence between female and male lives might end up is anybody’s guess. (A tip: the mistake is usually to undershoot.) But it is remarkable how similar the two sexes become, psychologically, when gender fades into the background. “Love, tenderness, nurturance; competition, ambition, assertion- these are human qualities, and all human beings- both women and men- should have equal access to them,“ argues Kimmel. Doesn’t that sound nice? But it is still the case today that gender inequalities, and the gender stereotypes they evoke, interact with our minds in ways that create inequality of access.

—  Cordelia Fine, Delusions of Gender: How Our Minds, Society, and Neurosexism Create Difference
In the seventeenth century, women were severely disadvantaged educationally; for example, in their political development they were hindered ‘through their lack of formal education in political rhetoric,their official exclusion from citizenship and government, the perception that women ought not to be involved in political affairs, and the view that it was immodest for a woman to write at all. Yet despite such – to our modern eyes – obvious impediments to women’s intellectual development, they were widely assumed to be naturally inferior by many. While, in retrospect, it might seem to go without saying that men’s apparently superior intellect and achievements might lie in sources other than natural neural endowments, at the time it did need saying. As one
seventeenth-century feminist put it: ‘For a Man ought no more to value himself upon being Wiser than a Woman, if he owe his Advantage to a better Education, and greater means of Information, then he ought to boast of his Courage, for beating a Man, when his Hands were bound.‘
—  Cordelia Fine - Delusions of Gender

Social psychologists are becoming rather brilliant at setting up these gender difference sleights of hand [to show that gender differences disappear in the absence of stereotype threat]. The examples are piling up in all sorts of domains–from social sensitivity to chess to negotiation–but the pièce de resistance is the visuospatial skill of mental rotation performance.

In the classic and most widely used test of this ability, the test taker is shown an unfamiliar three-dimensional shape made up of little cubes–the target–and four other similar shapes. Two of these are the same as the original but have been rotated in three-dimensional space, and two are mirror images. The task is to work out which two are the same as the target. Mental rotation performance is the largest and most reliable gender difference in cognition. In a typical sample, about 75 percent of people who score above average are male. Gender differences in mental rotation ability have even recently been seen in babies three to four and five months of age. While it’s easy to see that a high score on the mental rotation test would be a distinct advantage when it comes to playing Tetris, some also claim (although they’re often strongly disputed) that male superiority in this domain plays a significant role in explaining males’ better representation in science, engineering, and math.

People’s mental rotation ability is malleable; it can be greatly enhanced by training. But there are far quicker, easier ways to modulate mental rotation ability. By…manipulating the social context in such a way that it changes the mind that is performing the task. For example, you can feminize the task. When, in one study, participants were told that performance on mental rotation is probably linked with success on such tasks as “in-flight and carrier-based aviation engineering … nuclear propulsion engineering, undersea approach and evasion, [and] navigation,” the men came out well ahead. Yet when the same test was described as predicting facility for “clothing dress and design, interior decoration and interior design … decorative creative needlepoint, creative sewing and knitting, crocheting [and] flower arrangement,” this emasculating list of activities had a draining effect on male performance.

Alternatively, instead of changing the gender of the task, you can keep the task the same but push gender into the mental background. Matthew McGlone and Joshua Aronson, for example, measured mental rotation ability in students at a selective liberal arts college in the northeastern United States. One group was primed with gender, while another group was primed with their exclusive private-college identity. Women who had been induced to think of themselves as a student at a selective liberal arts college enjoyed a performance boost, scoring significantly higher than gender-primed women. Likewise, Markus Hausmann and colleagues found that although gender-stereotype-primed men outperformed gender-stereotype-primed women, men and women primed with an irrelevant (geographical region-based) stereotype performed similarly on the mental rotation task.

Another outrageous, but successful, approach was recently devised by Italian researcher Angelica Moè. She described the mental rotation test to her Italian high school student participants as a test of spatial abilities and told one group that “men perform better than women in this test, probably for genetic reasons.” The control group was given no information about gender. But a third group was presented with a downright lie. That group was told that “women perform better than men in this test, probably for genetic reasons.” So what effect did this have? In both the men-are-better and the control group, men outperformed women with the usual size of gender difference. But women in the women-are-better group, the recipients of the little white lie, performed just as well as the men.

—  Cordelia Fine, Delusions of Gender: How Our Minds, Society, and Neurosexism Create Difference

‘Yet even today, the evidence suggests that it would be a shrewd career move for a woman to disguise herself as a man. People who have transformed their identity in this way - namely, female to male transsexuals - report decidedly beneficial consequences in the workplace. Ben Barres is a professor of neurobiology at Stanford University and a female-to-male transsexual. In an article in Nature he recalls that ’[s]hortly after I changed sex, a faculty member was heard to say “Ben Barres gave a great seminar today, but then his work is much better than his sister’s.” Similar stories cropped up in a recent interview study of twenty-nine female-to-male transsexuals. Kirsten Schilt, a Research Fellow at Houston’s Rice University, interviewed the men about their work experiences both before and after their transition from women to men. Her study reveals that many immediately enjoyed greater recognition and respect. Thomas, an attorney, related how a colleague praised the boss for getting rid of Susan, whom he regarded as incompetent. He then added that the 'new guy’, Thomas, was 'just delightful’ - not realising, of course, that Thomas and Susan were one and the same.' 

- Cordelia Fine, Delusions of Gender, Chapter 5: The Glass Workplace

In one study, for example, a group of French high school students was asked to rate the truth of stereotypes about gender difference in talent in math and the arts before rating their own abilities in these domains. So, for these students, gender stereotypes were very salient as they rated their own ability. Next, they were asked to report their scores in math and the arts on a very important national standardized test taken about two years earlier. Unlike students in a control condition, those in the stereotype-salient group altered the memory of their own objective achievements to fit the well-known stereotype. The girls remembered doing better than they really had in the arts, while the boys inflated their marks in math. They gave themselves, on average, almost an extra 3 percent on their real score while the girls subtracted the same amount from their actual math score. This might not seem like a large effect, but it’s not impossible to imagine two young people considering different occupational paths when, with gender in mind, a boy sees himself as an A student while an equally successful girl thinks she’s only a B.
—  Cordelia Fine, Delusions of Gender: How Our Minds, Society, and Neurosexism Create Difference

the strange thing abt t**f approaches to trans women is that they honestly don’t even really track onto a valid feminist praxis even if you accept their general ideology.

So let’s say, for the sake of the argument, that trans women are in fact men who suffer from some sort of mental illness/delusion around their gender. Any oppression that they face is homophobia, which by some magical way can only come from men (I still don’t get this logical piece, but whatever). Dysphoria in more recent t**f ideology seems to possibly spring from either internalized homophobia or previous sexual abuse. Under this framework, basically all trans women would be bisexual, since the vast majority of trans women aren’t the sort who only dates cafab people.

So like, assuming that, I still think that their actions are unethical.

For example: is it an ethical feminist praxis to sexually harass a group of hypersexualized queer mentally ill men specifically based upon their mental illness/delusion? Either thru voyeuristic unwanted discussion of someone elses genitals, or like overt attacks on other people’s genitalia? Is it a reasonable feminist praxis to treat a subset of queer men specifically as filled with diseases and inherently rapists? I would hope not.

Is it a viable feminist praxis to suicide bait and verbally harass/emotionally abuse a group of queer men on the basis of their mental illness that is also comorbid with PTSD, depression, and other trauma based mental illnesses? Is it a good feminist praxis to try to create larger systems of institutionalization and conversion therapy, even when they don’t enact that for ex-gays? I don’t think it would be.

Is it a reasonable feminist praxis to hyperfocus politically on an economically marginalized group of mentally ill queer men on the basis of their mental illness to such an extent that it results in working with homophobic conservative Christian groups? Does it make sense to frame one’s entire feminist identity off of the rejection of one tiny group’s mental illness?

None of these things make any sense even from their own conceptual framework. It clearly just all comes from a certain, societally sanctioned hatred of trans women, rather than from a realistic appraisal of their own politics.

I’m going to write something more in depth about it at some point, but after a lot of thought and consideration, I think I am somewhere on the non-binary spectrum.

@erikadprice
has been invaluable for their insight and recommendations of learning materials, and with them I discussed a lot of things from my past that made sense through this new prism of thinking. I thought earlier as I was sat in towels with a floating head like I’m some computer character from a tv show in the 90s, that this made sense as a fitting image for my sentiment (I also only realised afterwards that the book Delusions of Gender was visible behind me, which I’d recommend everyone to read). I think I’m going to go by they/he pronouns for now, but this could be subject to change.

Jo ( @punkrockdorianpavus ) was the first non-binary person I met in person, that I’m aware of, so thank you to them for introducing me to the concept originally.

anonymous asked:

can you recommend some gender critical radfem texts to read? like preferably some recent stuff..

I am not the most well-read feminist out here, I must admit. Here are some books I have read:

Pornland by Gail Dines (on the realities of the porn industry. She makes the case that porn is to sex what fast food is to nourishment–cheap, addictive, bad for us, etc.)

Delusions of Gender by Cordelia Fine (on the scientific evidence that there are no compelling biological differences between men’s and women’s brains)

Woman Hating by Andrea Dworkin (lots of good information on the horrors women have gone through over time, simply for being women–the Chinese practice of footbinding and the witch hunts were the most chilling for me)

The Means of Reproduction by Michelle Goldberg (not necessarily radical feminist, but documents how women are oppressed all over the world because of their reproductive capability–from abortion access to forced marriage to FGM to dowry to sex-selective abortion)

Gender Hurts by Sheila Jeffreys (I haven’t read this yet but I have it on hold at the library. Seems like the main text for this point of view)

For the philosophy behind being gender critical, I’ve mostly gotten my information from websites. My favourites are the following:

Sex and Gender Intro by Rebecca Reilly-Cooper

The New Backlash (similar to above, with lots of screenshotted examples. A bit hyperbolic at times)

“Cisgender”? Cui Bono? (on the absurdity of cis privilege)

A critique of cisgender (similar to above)

What is a woman? (personal account of a feminist’s experiences with different trans women)

bbc.com
The complex circumstances that defined your gender
Scientists are only just getting to grips with the complicated interplay of genes, hormones and life experience that come to shape our identity.
By Linda Geddes / Pictures by Emma Leslie

Brain studies tend to be highly problematic, and this article takes pains to go through a few of them. 

So while you read that article, I highly recommend borrowing a copy from your local library of Delusions of Gender, by Cordelia Fine, which essentially debunks all of this neuro-pseudo-science.

  • tucute: but why would u be happy about mogai-archive being taken down???? it helped so many questioning queer and trans people uwu....
  • what i think: If by "helping" you mean leading naive teenagers into attention-seeking delusions, sure. Their genders, pronouns, and sexualities had nothing to do with actual gender or sexual preference, and more than anything it seemed like it was making fun of LGBT people. Like, not everyone gets to be LGBT and that's okay, stop trying to invade our safe spaces though. Also, don't even get me started on those fucking mental disorder genders (anxiegender, autisgender, etc). What the fuck was with that? Do they just love hurting less privileged people? The blog was run by shitty people who didn't actually review the genders and sexualities that were submitted, and they didn't even care who they were hurting. That's why it deserved to be taken down.
  • what I actually say: Because it was a bad blog.

[I]n one recent study more than 100 university psychologists were asked to rate the CVs of Dr. Karen Miller or Dr. Brian Miller, fictitious applicants for an academic tenure-track job. The CVs were identical, apart from the name. Yet strangely, the male Dr. Miller was perceived (by both male and female reviewers) to have better research, teaching, and service experience than the luckless female Dr. Miller.

Overall, about three-quarters of the psychologists thought that Dr. Brian was hireable, while only just under half had the same confidence in Dr. Karen. 

The same researchers also sent out applications for the position of tenured professor, again identical but for the male and female name at the top. This time, the application was so strong that most of the raters thought the tenure was deserved, regardless of sex. However, the endorsement of Karen’s application was four times more likely to be accompanied by cautionary caveats scrawled in the margins of the questionnaire: such as, “I would need to see evidence that she had gotten these grants and publications on her own” and “We would have to see her job talk.”

—  Cordelia Fine, Delusions of Gender: How Our Minds, Society, and Neurosexism Create Difference
Every person is a unique, multifaceted, sometimes even contradictory individual, and with such an astonishing range of personality traits within each sex, and across contexts, social class, age, experience, education level, sexuality, and ethnicity, it would be pointless and meaningless to attempt to pigeonhole such rich complexity and variability into two crude stereotypes.
—  Cordelia Fine, Delusions Of Gender: How Our Minds, Society, And Neurosexism Create Difference