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Unlocking the Clubhouse I - Accretions

Fata Morgana
2003-11-19 20:33
Unlocking the Clubhouse I
Public
gratefulgrateful
computers, deconstruction, feminism, politics
I'm rereading Unlocking the Clubhouse and realizing how much my parents countered gender paradigms. The book cites interesting studies that find that parents give girls girl-themed toys and boys boy-themed toys, even if they set out to make their toys gender-neutral, because parents are more likely to react to boys' excitement with, say, Legos than to girls'. Additionally, parents call their daughters back more often than their sons when their kids are playing on playgrounds, resulting in girls covering less ground and being trained to more cautious. People are more likely to label a boy baby's cry as anger and a girl baby's cry as fear. Men and boys are more likely to be seen as a family's technology experts, while women and girls (especially mothers) are often seen by other family members as clueless or techno-phobic. Boys are much more likely to be labeled "computer whizzes" and given special treatment than girls with similar capabilities, at school and at home. And parents are more likely to allow boys to monopolize a computer (often even putting it in their room) than girls. Regardless of the "nature" arguments, there are definite "nurture" arguments to why few girls are in science. Most men AND women majoring in computer science have at least one parent who is technically-inclined, but most women report growing up on the "technology sidelines," not allowed or not able to explore much on a computer by themselves.

Not much of this sounds familiar to me. Sure I had dolls (though my mom forbade Barbies for a long time), but I also had my Legos and transformers and micro-machines and lots of homemade clay. My sister and I played outside all the time, and for several years our best friend was a next-door boy my sister's age, who was one of the only kids in the neighborhood. Both of my parents worked, but my dad had a much more flexible schedule and was often the one driving us to school, picking us up, tending us, or taking us with him on landscaping jobs where we'd play in the sand and sod piles; my mom would spend time with us too, but she was the "breadwinner" with the fixed schedule. Though neither of my parents are technically-inclined, my mom used computers first for her master's degree and then for her work, but my dad has never used computers much. I had no brother to hog the computer. Still, I didn't learn more than basic DOS commands, probably because I had no one to teach me. By high school, the computer classes were definitely boys' territory, and several geeky acquaintances went out of their way to make CS sound incredibly complicated (surely to make themselves look smarter :~)).
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janviere
2003-11-19 21:22 (UTC)
(no subject)
Oh, I had a ridiculous number of Barbies when I was a kid. I dressed almost exclusively in dresses, I hated the color black, all of my good friends were female and we played house and dress-up for fun, and when I was 8 I asked my parents to paint my room pink.

My parents assured me later, however, that the inordinate number of Barbies was actually because people just kept buying them for me every birthday party and Christmas once I had a few, and not because I showed exceptional interest in them. Phew.

I'm definitely with you on the nurture side of this argument, though I think I'm more inclined to put the blame later in childhood. Something went on at the end of high school that turned every single one of my previously all-around smart and happy female friends against technical things. I think it has to do with arrogance and self-consciousness and taking criticism personally.

On the nature side, what's the prevalence of autism and OCD between the sexes?
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Fata Morgana
chimerically
2003-11-20 11:49 (UTC)
(no subject)
This article says that more than 80 percent of autistics are male.

I don't like the article's characterization of "male" and "female" intelligence though. That's just reinforcing the paradigm that it's just not natural for women to be in the sciences: sure it's okay for some abnormal, er, "exceptional" women, but not the majority - thus, it's okay that the sciences are dominated by men. My contention with "male" and "female" intelligence is that while on average women may be by NATURE slightly better at social/language skills and men at spatial/reasoning skills, the spread within the groups is much greater than the spread between the groups, making the NATURE distinction statistically invalid. NURTURE accounts for the majority of the division, and that is entirely society's fault.

Besides, the disorder on the "female" side of intelligence that the article mentions, Williams Syndrome, occurs just as often in males as females.

Here's an article that talks about autism in engineering:
    "Specifically, 12.5% of fathers of children with autism spectrum conditions were engineers, compared with about 5% in the other groups. ... There was a small but statistically significant link between autism and engineering."

And here's another that states that "... It is very likely that many of the best programmers have either Asperger's syndrome or some of its traits," but doesn't give any justification.

As far as OCD goes, this abstract says that the rates of occurrence are equal.
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janviere
2003-11-20 16:42 (UTC)
(no subject)
Wow, thanks for all the information.

Yeah, the article's characterization of Autism as "male" and Williams as "female" is terrible.

There's a certain kind of single-mindedness that I associate mostly with teenage boys, but I guess it extends to men of all ages, according to the first article. I wish I could have spent my teenage years obsessed with Quake. Anyways, I'm willing to accept that the extreme side of the amazing focus and lack of social skills spectrum is dominated by men and that it's some sort of gender statistic thing that I can't do anything about.

But a lot more than that is involved in being good at math or science or programming, and by the time you're old enough to tell, nurture's messed around with everything.
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pr0lix
2003-11-19 21:30 (UTC)
Whereas my family . . .
. . .meets this description perfectly. I was the one with the computer in the room. Whenever I tried to teach the women in my family electrical/computery things, I'd always run into this wall. Either my sister was 'so not interested' or my mom would tell me to 'just fix it, Adam.'

But when I came back from college one summer, they were all hardcore gadget/computer users. I wasn't there for my sister whenever she needed her stereo/tv/vcr set up, and so she became the 'in-house expert'. She also got really into AIM, ICQ, text messaging her friends on her cell phone, and all the other super-social electronic uses that have popped up over the past decade. My mom pirates . . . I mean, mixes . . . CDs with her friends. I even taught her to use some simple desktop publishing software to make stuff for work. But it took a long time before they were comfortable with this stuff -- my mom didn't grow up with all this technology, and my sister was probably consciously trying to be 'not like Adam'.

On a separate note, [sw] has the best story concerning 'male toys' and 'female toys'. Apparently he knew some parents who went out of their way to raise their kids, not in a gender neutral world, but in a gender reversed world. The girls were forced to play with dump trucks, and the boys were given dolls. Of course, the girls just invited their trucks to tea-time, and the boys ripped the heads of the dolls, so I don't know what it proved. I don't remember how the kids turned out. I just love this story because it reminds me of the time my sister told me that she wanted to play with my Legos, and the next thing I know, there is a melted pot of Legos on top of the fireplace. Apparently she was playing house, and the Legos were her food.

She melted all my good pieces, too . . .
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Fata Morgana
chimerically
2003-11-19 23:38 (UTC)
Re: Whereas my family . . .
Hmm ... I ripped the head off of the one Barbie I had, too. :~)
Speaking of Barbies, my sister had one Barbie also, but we wanted a Ken. Our mom didn't like the fact that we already had one Barbie each and wouldn't buy more, though, so we cut my sister's Barbie's hair short to make her into a Ken. We didn't know about "butch" back then. :~)

I think my Barbie ended up buried in the back yard, for some reason. I remember the dog digging it up later.
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Ping
zestyping
2003-11-20 04:27 (UTC)
Re: Whereas my family . . .
That might just be the coolest story about playing with a Barbie i've heard.
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Becca
rebbyribs
2003-11-20 01:24 (UTC)
Gender-toys
I would use my brothers' Legos to build dollhouses.
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Olego
olego
2003-11-19 23:27 (UTC)
(no subject)
I played with dolls and hung out with girls and jumped the jump-rope (a girlie game) and played house. And I think I turned out all right. *giggles*
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jillB
jilflirt
2003-11-20 12:39 (UTC)
(no subject)
I don't know how much of my bother's turning to math and cs, while I took the humanities was biologically predetermined and how much was environmental. I tend to be very girly, as those of you who know me know. I do know that every time I got accepted into a good school (starting with my prep school), my parents would say "Oh, you just charmed them into admitting you," which used to mightily piss me off. I was never rejected from any school I applied to, but each time that was the response. Finally, when I transfered to Yale without an interview, they had to shut up.
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jillB
jilflirt
2003-11-20 12:47 (UTC)
(no subject)
Actually, thinking back, they started with the "charming" myself into schools comment *before* prep school. It started with my acceptance into my very first school at age 2.
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jacobiwan
2003-11-20 23:00 (UTC)
My experience
My parents countered a lot of those stereotypical roles too. I was homeschooled by my Dad, who was retired already, and my Mom worked full time. I played outside and had toy cars, but I also collected pretty things and cooked a lot. My theory is that I was already gay and just didn't know it, but you never know. In any case, I think having a diverse childhood that avoids following too many gender roles too early is important to becoming a well rounded person.
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Kris
anemone
2003-11-21 19:20 (UTC)
(no subject)
As a kid, I didn't play with dolls except because of peer-pressure. (That is, when everyone liked doll X, I wanted it too, and when I played with my doll-loving friends, I played with dolls.)

My half-sister, with whom I didn't grow up, didn't like dolls either. Her quote was "Barbies were for running over with trucks."

So...I wonder if we were somehow both genetical predisposed not to like dolls.
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Fata Morgana
chimerically
2003-11-21 23:20 (UTC)
(no subject)
Actually, I was much the same - although my sister and I would occasionally play dolls as well.
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