Gender

Political and/or empirical engagement therewith



The difficulty of getting along when we believe that configurations of genitalia are involved.

Statistics of gender

Do Men \(A\)? Are Women More Prone to \(B\)?

I am loath to touch questions like these. Not because I feel there is some risk of saying something controversial, but because there is so much work to do in disambiguating the vocabulary here, as with many arguments, that once we have identified what we are saying it often turns out we are saying nothing at all.

A pet peeve in this area is the problem of trying to address the basic statistics of binary flag (gender according to census, or hormone level over some threshhold, or possession of a penis, or possession of a penis at birth, or whatever) and the coupling of that binary flag to complicated multidimensional distributions over other noisily-measured traits we claim to care about but are also not very good at identifying and hoping to get a simple prescription. There is surely stuff going on with hormones and DNA and socialisation and social construction and fashion and power and economics and the intersection of these factors with other non-gender related ones etc, but it does not seem especially likely to generate instruction manuals for social relations.

Still! All those caveats aside, there is some interesting stuff going on with humans and gender. I will come back here at some point if something nifty comes up.

Gender identities

What is going on with gender identities? I have little insight except that I did enjoy Ozymandias’ Cis By Default wherein it posited that maybe why I might have little insight is explained by the following model: There are two types of people (ish)

  1. People who have a deeply held attachment to their gender, which had better match up to their physical sex and socially assigned role or they will be in distress
  2. People who don’t mind particularly and will run with the flow.

I cannot cheaply do an experiment to verify that I am in category 2, but I suspect that if I had sudden [surgery formerly known as gender reassignment], I would be distressed by the medical inconvenience and burdensome social explanations, but otherwise mostly indifferent. For practical, public, rhetorical purposes I am in group 2. I just do not care very hard about the details, certainly not enough to attempt to pay the medical overhead.

If this model holds, it would be an interesting explanation for some types of confusion with public discourse; an unarticulated divide lies between the active and inertia-based gender identities.

Public discourse

The manosphere

There seem to be as many flavours of Men’s Rights Activism as there are feminisms now. TODO: document each. TODO: Devise a knockout tournament between well-matched sub-movements?

I do not have anthropological-depth analyses of the various sub-flavours of MRA but the card-carrying Men’s Rights Activists that I do know provide anecdotal support that MRA groups structurally resemble a classic radicalisation pathway. I think we all know at least one young heterosexual man with poor social skills who probably could attain greater satisfaction if he learned a few conversational skills, but instead chose a path of blaming a shadowy conspiratorial gynocracy for ruining his life at the behest of an alt-right self-help guru? How representative of the dynamics of the movement is Young Man X?

Movement radicalising dissatisfied people by mobilising them against conspiracies are a staple of early-stage authoritarianism, nothing surprising there.

Exemplary incident

An exemplary incident was the 2017 Awkward Google James Damore Memo. It is a good example of the crowd dynamics and talking-past that happens in these things. The content is secondary, and indeed I think not so the best version of its type. e.g. I think it weak-mans diversity arguments — is it in fact true that the consensus amongst advocates for diversity is for 50/50 gender split in emlpoyees in software development? Not, rather, claiming that it would be closer to 50/50 after redressing historical biases? Also, the notion of what psychological safety is presumed to be could have done with some non-anecdote-based development, if the argument was to lean on research, which is a point that it advocates for. etc. Maybe those flaws are precisely what helped it get traction? Certainly it seems the usual suspects were triggered. However!

I do recommend reading it because there is an interesting phenomenon; a lot of the excerpts and quotes circulating are not actually from the document, or at least not the notional final version which you can just read. (I do not care enough to check earlier versions myself, because I am not a journalist reporting on this as a story but that should obviously be done if one were such). Which means that some fun parodies I had linked here were not actually parodying the memo itself, just erroneous quotes. Accordingly I have deleted those parodies from this page, which is sad, because they did bring me joy.

Which is to say, a mediocre argument was met by an off-point response, and that is how we engage with the deep and complicated tragedies of negotiating our trajectories as a society now I guess?

Some research

There are some lightly-inspected social psychology papers here of interest. Wait for replication before assuming they mean much.

A recent study published in Frontiers in Psychology (Moreno-Domínguez, Raposo, and Elipe 2019) explored the impact of body image on sexual satisfaction in heterosexual, bisexual, and lesbian women. While the three groups of women reported similar levels of body dissatisfaction, lesbian women uniquely showed no significant impact of body image on sexual satisfaction.

Women are 15 hours practice away from mentally rotating objects like men. Huh.

The web without male content is a ghost town. With certain exceptions.

Jacob Putanumonit did a survey on “dating assholes” and the results are entertaining and counterintuitive for certain lazy narratives.

References

Moreno-Domínguez, Silvia, Tania Raposo, and Paz Elipe. 2019. “Body Image and Sexual Dissatisfaction: Differences Among Heterosexual, Bisexual, and Lesbian Women.” Frontiers in Psychology 10. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2019.00903.
Schiebinger, Londa. 1996. “The Loves of the Plants.” Scientific American 274 (2): 110–15. http://www.jstor.org/stable/24989402.

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