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Getting Married or Engaged ...

Any topics that are primarily about humanism or other non-religious life stances fit in here.
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Gottard
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Re: Getting Married or Engaged ...

#21 Post by Gottard » May 10th, 2010, 10:41 am

Latest post of the previous page:

peneasy wrote:I rate the geographical area where I live (Ticino to North Lombardia) as the worst place for single men, or if you prefer, the best for a single women. ... The custom here goes that women never pay if drinking/eating out and, if she's really kind to you, you can have a drink (rarely a lunch) offered at her place ...
I don't necessarily agree Peneasy. It seems that if you're a gay man you'd have an unbelievably wild time, but if you're a Lesbian woman you wouldn't. But perhaps you would behind the closed doors of your own home, (if you bought your own drinks of course). Is that some kind of conspiracy to keep Lesbian women off the streets?[/quote]

I can't grasp the clue!? Wouldn't be fairer that friends of any sexes share the bill?!
At any rate, yes this area is rather hostile to gay/lesbian attitudes ....but slowly evolving.
The only thing I fear of death is regret if I couldn’t complete my learning experience

Kaoru
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Re: Getting Married or Engaged ...

#22 Post by Kaoru » May 10th, 2010, 12:39 pm

I was just commenting on something you said Peneasy.

You said that where you live is a bad place for single men because the custom is that women don't pay if eating out.

So, I was suggesting that it probably wasn't sch a bad place for all the single men because not all of them would be heterosexual and therefore want to dine with a woman.

And you suggested that it was a good place for a single woman because she doesn't have to pay, but what if two Lesbian women went to dinner?

It's the same concept as suggesting that a place that has 20 men to every 100 women must be a good place to be a man. But I suggest that's an awfully heteronormative way of looking at things.

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jaywhat
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Re: Getting Married or Engaged ...

#23 Post by jaywhat » May 10th, 2010, 1:59 pm

Sod the custom; just do what you want. Life is too short anyway....

Marian
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Re: Getting Married or Engaged ...

#24 Post by Marian » May 10th, 2010, 6:50 pm

Kaoru wrote:There's a lot of pressure on trans women to conform and to "prove" themselves to other women... Many of them believe they'll be able to shake off their background and any old ways completely and be totally accepted by mainstream women as their exact equals.
Why do you figure there is this pressure in the first place? There seems to be some measure of desperation in both sides of the issue. One group wants to be accepted and the other wants things to stay as they are. Is it a throw-back to hunter-gatherer type societies where it was often a life or death decision if one didn't conform? Or something else entirely.
Kaoru wrote:The unfortunate truth is that many in mainstream society don't let you into their little club and if you find yourself in a world where that is important, i.e. anywhere outside the diverse or free-thinking communities, and you're also denying your background to yourself, then you're going to go around the twist.
The sad side effect of this little push-pull game-playing is the amount of energy that's spent engaging in a useless activity. How people spend their precious little time and huge amounts of money in this endeavour would be far better spent on helping improve the state of the world and its inhabitants. Ah, but I digress.
Kaoru wrote:After years of aspiring to this myself I now realise that I have to embrace my background. I understand that I'm a woman, born with a feminine mind that was corrupted for about thirty years of male socialisation and therefore I just can't ever be the same as other women in mainstream society. Anyway, I'm getting way off track here.
Glad you were able to find your way out of the maze. You talked about your feminine mind being corrupted by male socialization. Does this refer to how you were raised? Cause if it's not, then I think we all may have been corrupted by that... LOL!!!

Re: 8 houses with 8 heteronormative families. I love the term heteronormative; it's very similar to people on the autistic spectrum calling 'normal' people, NT (neurotypical). Which makes me wonder if all this focus on conformity/social norms is a convoluted exercise in escaping fear. Fear of the unknown, fear of differences, fear of themselves.
Kaoru wrote: Not all of these things are bad in reality, in fact most aren't, but in conservative neighbourhoods, the fear of not being seen to conform is compounded, and kept in check by the fact that they talk behind backs - to keep everyone in their community the same, predictable, cozy etc.
And the real kicker is that they will be talked about no matter what they do. No matter how much they try to hide reality, it's always going to squeeze out the edges.

Kaoru wrote:Would you agree with this analogy, and would you think that this can lead to the women in this community (mostly the women, but often the men too), not wanting to appear to be different from their neighbours... (incidentally this dynamic is extremely harmful to truly diverse children), and to not only hide reality but to appear to be happy when your daughter announces their engagement, because it means that they are conforming and making your family look more normal.
I think your analogy is spot on and that families often hyper-focus on the so-called 'normal' siblings in an attempt to be seen as 'normal'. Trouble is that 'normal' just doesn't exist in a concrete definable way although the media tries to reinforce the idea that there is such a creature.
I am in 100% agreement that this dynamic of pretend is extremely harmful of diverse and sensitive children. With diverse, I am referring to both sexuality and differences in thought-processing/sensitivity. I would also add that religiosity is part and parcel of the same phenomenon; it's about pretend as well.
Kaoru wrote:Wasn't the pre-Victorian era quite debaucherous? I can't remember, but I thought it was the Victorian Era that changed all that. I'll have to look it up and ask my partner.
I think debauchery existed both before, during and after the Victorian era but I think I was trying to say that the elite classes already had a head start on that pretend game. They had the money and the time to create illusions about what was really going on at home.
Transformative fire...

Nick
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Re: Getting Married or Engaged ...

#25 Post by Nick » May 10th, 2010, 7:36 pm

Sorry not to contribute anything serious just now, but years ago, in the days of LP's there was a classic "photo" on an LP cover (if my memory serves me right, possibly from Private Eye?) of Prince Andrew and Fergie, at the time of their betrothal, in front of one of those old fashioned brass fittings one found on loo-doors, which the princely sum of 1d would unlock, with the caption:

Vacant and Engaged


:laughter:

Kaoru
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Re: Getting Married or Engaged ...

#26 Post by Kaoru » May 11th, 2010, 3:51 am

Why do you figure there is this pressure in the first place? There seems to be some measure of desperation in both sides of the issue. One group wants to be accepted and the other wants things to stay as they are. Is it a throw-back to hunter-gatherer type societies where it was often a life or death decision if one didn't conform? Or something else entirely.
I've not really thought about it in that respect. All that I've come to realise is that both were aspiring to needless expectations. But in saying that I guess that the instinctual need to belong, which is so strong in humans, has come from the hunter-gatherer days.
Glad you were able to find your way out of the maze. You talked about your feminine mind being corrupted by male socialization. Does this refer to how you were raised? Cause if it's not, then I think we all may have been corrupted by that... LOL!!!
Yes I meant by how I was raised. But there are so many very, very subtle ways that girls experience things and are encouraged in different ways to boys that would make it just so impossible for all, including the youngest transitioner to completely be on equal terms with other women.
Re: 8 houses with 8 heteronormative families. I love the term heteronormative; it's very similar to people on the autistic spectrum calling 'normal' people, NT (neurotypical). Which makes me wonder if all this focus on conformity/social norms is a convoluted exercise in escaping fear. Fear of the unknown, fear of differences, fear of themselves.
Remember my other thread about my theory that we are all innately bisexual? I still believe that, even though you guys have raised some things that I hadn't previously thought about. All I can say is that there's an awful lot of people out there that aren't comfortable with themselves, even when it seems they've got it all or conformed with everything.

You mention the media and it's role in presenting everyone conforming, well, we probably all understand what a huge responsibility they have, and how they let us down so often.
I am in 100% agreement that this dynamic of pretend is extremely harmful of diverse and sensitive children. With diverse, I am referring to both sexuality and differences in thought-processing/sensitivity. I would also add that religiosity is part and parcel of the same phenomenon; it's about pretend as well.
The more insular the society, it seems that the more specific the details of what is "normal" becomes.

Marian
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Re: Getting Married or Engaged ...

#27 Post by Marian » May 14th, 2010, 2:16 pm

Kaoru wrote: But there are so many very, very subtle ways that girls experience things and are encouraged in different ways to boys that would make it just so impossible for all, including the youngest transitioner to completely be on equal terms with other women.
Thanks for sharing that vid. I didn't respond right away because I ended up watching the whole series. Fascinating and heartbreaking at times for both the parents and the children. Yet hopeful.
Kaoru wrote:Remember my other thread about my theory that we are all innately bisexual? I still believe that, even though you guys have raised some things that I hadn't previously thought about. All I can say is that there's an awful lot of people out there that aren't comfortable with themselves, even when it seems they've got it all or conformed with everything.
Yes, I remember your theory. After watching the video, I would have to say that I'm not sure about that. If that were the case, how could the children know so clearly that they were a boy or a girl? Although, if you are referring to the amount of gender-specific socialization that goes on, I'd say that has a huge impact. Isn't this the difference between gender identity and gender role?

ATST, I would agree that many people aren't comfortable with themselves and their sexuality. Over here, our culture seems too busy with material acquistion and instant gratification to even look closely at the issue, unless it's staring you in the face. Sad really. Of course, you also have the religious folk who like to terrify or shame people out of who they are.

Healthy sexual exploration between consenting people has some advantages but socialization and life experience may interfere with that. Besides, it's easier to just conform. Personally, I think I'd have made a great guy. Minus certain body parts. :wink: I think differently than most women I know. I've always liked 'guy' things ie. Building model ships, cars etc, enjoying motorcycles and wanting to get into repairing them. Even as a little kid, I wanted to be a truck driver- 18 wheeler. I remember my mother being up in arms because I absolutely refused to wear a dress. Pants for me! Still like that :D
Kaoru wrote:You mention the media and it's role in presenting everyone conforming, well, we probably all understand what a huge responsibility they have, and how they let us down so often.
I wonder just how many of the media giants think of themselves as having any kind of social responsibility. It just seems like making a buck is more important...uh oh, my cynicism is leaking out around the edges. Perhaps this is why I dislike television so much and the only shows I can stand to watch are documentaries or science stuff. If anything the media spends an inordinate amount of time encouraging conformity, lack of critical thinking and stereotyping. I doubt things have changed all that much since I last watched TV.
Kaoru wrote:The more insular the society, it seems that the more specific the details of what is "normal" becomes.
The problem is that insular societies offer a relative kind of safety in conformity and the pull to conform is stronger than the acceptance of differences. It takes a very brave soul to question and refuse to give in to that mindless conformity.
Transformative fire...

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Val
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Re: Getting Married or Engaged ...

#28 Post by Val » May 14th, 2010, 9:41 pm

I have stopped watching these vids because I am now going to save them until next week . My best friend is a transwoman and she will be visiting me next week for a LGBT group here in the Highlands of Scotland. She does not have a computor and is a technophobe so the only way she will see it is via my pc. I will be interested to find out if anyone else in our group has seen this series. We are called The Higland Rainbow Folk, a group combining Age Scotland and THT. We perform the LGBT Experience as a training aid for care workers and the like.

Would this be better as a separate topic, what does big mamma think?

Nick
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Re: Getting Married or Engaged ...

#29 Post by Nick » May 14th, 2010, 11:49 pm

Sorry, Val. THT? Sounds like a Scottish explosive..... :shrug:

Marian
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Re: Getting Married or Engaged ...

#30 Post by Marian » May 15th, 2010, 2:21 am

Val wrote: She does not have a computor and is a technophobe so the only way she will see it is via my pc. I will be interested to find out if anyone else in our group has seen this series.
It's a pity she doesn't like computers as they can be such a wonderful source of support if you find the right venue. I'd be really interested in hearing her perspective on the videos.
Transformative fire...

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Val
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Re: Getting Married or Engaged ...

#31 Post by Val » May 15th, 2010, 8:51 pm

Sorry Nick I should not assume that everyone knows the acronyms. THT is Terence Higgins Trust a charity set up in the name of an early victim of Aids..It is
British not Scottish and does some very good work in regard to sexual health.

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Val
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Re: Getting Married or Engaged ...

#32 Post by Val » May 15th, 2010, 8:54 pm

Marian I will tell you what she thinks about the videos. Re her being technophobe, she has to have her ex girlfriend come round to change lightbulbs for her. At the age of 72 I don't think she is going to change much. She was an archeologist so is not stupid, in fact she has a very good brain just not for modern technology.

Nick
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Re: Getting Married or Engaged ...

#33 Post by Nick » May 15th, 2010, 9:29 pm

Val wrote:Sorry Nick I should not assume that everyone knows the acronyms. THT is Terence Higgins Trust a charity set up in the name of an early victim of Aids..It is
British not Scottish and does some very good work in regard to sexual health.
Thanks Val. I've heard of the Terence Higgins Trust, of course.

All the same, I'm a tad disappointed it isn't a Scottish explosive..... :wink:

Kaoru
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Re: Getting Married or Engaged ...

#34 Post by Kaoru » May 23rd, 2010, 10:43 am

Marian wrote:
Kaoru wrote:Remember my other thread about my theory that we are all innately bisexual? I still believe that, even though you guys have raised some things that I hadn't previously thought about. All I can say is that there's an awful lot of people out there that aren't comfortable with themselves, even when it seems they've got it all or conformed with everything.
Yes, I remember your theory. After watching the video, I would have to say that I'm not sure about that. If that were the case, how could the children know so clearly that they were a boy or a girl? Although, if you are referring to the amount of gender-specific socialization that goes on, I'd say that has a huge impact. Isn't this the difference between gender identity and gender role?
Sorry for the extensive delay in responding folks.

I was talking to a social worker the other day that works in the organisation that I used to and we were comparing notes about the types of clients they are seeing now as opposed to back then. It turns out that many more young people are disclosing their transsexuality nowadays which is great, but among the things that she was saying she told me a story that really typifies this issue (and the ones in that video)

A mother had called this particular service because she had caught her young son (not sure what age, but young okay, I gathered 5 or 6 years old), about to cut his penis off with a knife.

Upon reflection, this mother realised that her son had insisted many times up until then that he was a girl. Her response had often been to tell him that he was a boy, and that he had a penis where girls didn't.

That's not necessarily socialisation, but it is a result of an assumption that who we are and all the associated expectations come from either having a penis or pussy.

There's a million examples and other theories etc. that I could mention around this topic but I just haven't the time.

We as individuals know who we are, we know whether we have feminine minds, masculine minds or anywhere in between, it's society that I think is to blame for assigning labels, roles and the like that force us into a box that we don't belong.

thundril
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Re: Getting Married or Engaged ...

#35 Post by thundril » May 23rd, 2010, 5:36 pm

My partner and I have been together for 17 years. A few years ago, at an end-of-tour party, we got 'married' in the circus tent, with the musical director officiating. It was a good laugh.
We have once or twice considered getting officially married, for reasons like, 'what if one of us is in a permanent vegetative state or some such?' Would the other partner have any 'next of kin' rights? Also, although neither of us has any money, I suppose inheritance rights would be a good reason to get married, for couples who do have significant property.
Does anyone know if a couple can become legally 'next of kin' without an official ceremony?

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Emma Woolgatherer
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Re: Getting Married or Engaged ...

#36 Post by Emma Woolgatherer » May 24th, 2010, 8:54 pm

thundril wrote:Does anyone know if a couple can become legally 'next of kin' without an official ceremony?
Yes, one can appoint anyone to be one's "next of kin", though not "legally", because it's not necessary. The phrase is not actually defined by law, and increasingly hospitals in the UK are recognising cohabiting partners as "next of kin". But to be on the safe side you should carry a NoK card. In fact, it's probably a good idea for everyone, whatever their status. Cardboard ones are free; plastic ones cost a pound. I've been meaning to do it ever since my mum died, and you've just reminded me.

Emma

P.S. You can also download an NHS leaflet about it here, which includes a card you can print out.

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Emma Woolgatherer
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Re: Getting Married or Engaged ...

#37 Post by Emma Woolgatherer » May 24th, 2010, 9:05 pm

Kaoru wrote:We as individuals know who we are, we know whether we have feminine minds, masculine minds or anywhere in between ...
Do we? I don't think of my mind as gendered at all. I mean, I don't think that I "think like a woman" any more than I "think like a man", or even a mixture of the two. I'm not sure I know what that would mean. There are so many things about people's personalities, characters, tastes, beliefs, ways of thinking, of speaking and of acting that have nothing to do with gender, and my perception is that those things are more significant than the things that do have something to do with gender. In any case, I am very uncomfortable with gender-based generalisations, even though I can't resist making them myself from time to time! When they're true, they're only ever true on average, and often for particular populations, and although that ought to be clear it often isn't. And most of the time it's very difficult to determine whether they're true or not. The claim that "women are generally more conservative than men", for instance, is not one that is supported by research. Some research in some places suggests the opposite [---][/---] for example, this Gallup survey for the USA:

Image

But it's much more complicated than that, in any case (see, for example, this Stanford news release).
Kaoru wrote: ... it's society that I think is to blame for assigning labels, roles and the like that force us into a box that we don't belong.
Well, yes, perhaps, but "society" is a hard thing to pin down, isn't it? It's more than the sum of its parts, but it's not an entity, a single agent in itself, capable of forcing anyone to do anything, or worthy of blame. It's a collection of individual people, but it's also tradition and legislation and standard practice and received wisdom. I think we can forgive individual people for a common tendency to use boxes and labels and assign roles. We're all guilty of it to some extent. Sometimes we do it to ourselves. But as adults, we can step out of boxes, we can unpin labels, and we can step away from roles. As long as we strive to remember, and to remind others, that these things are not fixed and discrete, that people have multiple and often shifting identities, and that children's identities are only partially formed. It becomes more difficult when the boxes and labels are more culturally embedded. Then you get a kind of positive feedback loop, with cultural norms influencing individuals' behaviour, which in turn reinforces cultural norms. I'm inclined to think that making generalisations about gender difference is part of this process. Such generalisations might even become self-fulfilling prophecies. If everyone believes that women are more conservative, or more religious, or less rational than men, or that men are more promiscuous, or more aggressive, or less empathic than women, say, then might that become a part of our cultural baggage in a way that makes such things become just a little bit more true?

Emma

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Re: Getting Married or Engaged ...

#38 Post by Kaoru » May 25th, 2010, 12:14 am

Good post Emma, but maybe I could clarify some things?

Can I suggest that the "I think like a woman", "I think like a man" thing is flawed? The continuum that is our mind is "masculine" or "feminine" or anywhere in between. Woman and Man aren't states of mind. But I do understand that most people don't ever think of this. Perhaps that is because most masculine minds are in male bodied people and most feminine minds are in female people. And I think of course that this has evolved since caveman times.

Mostly, women are capable of childbirth, men are not. So, women give birth while the men with their strong upper body do the hunting. This has given rise to many associated traits that mostly are not actually gender specific. But, over the many thousands of years one or two simple facts have given rise to assumptions that men are "this" and women are "that".

For instance, men while hunting probably developed an acute sense of direction and distance. Nowadays it's commonly touted that women can't read maps, could this be why it became common for men to do the driving?

But the thing is that masculine minds can be in female bodies and vice versa. We mightn't think about it much because mostly feminine minds coincide with female bodies, and it's far easier for people to label according to visible differences.
There are so many things about people's personalities, characters, tastes, beliefs, ways of thinking, of speaking and of acting that have nothing to do with gender
Well I believe that there are so many things about people's true personalities that have nothing to do with gender, but mostly they've been twisted by societal attitudes and expectations so much that people don't even realise that they're not truly being themselves. Everything starts from the pink and blue thing at birth, and everyone is subject to it.

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Emma Woolgatherer
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Re: Getting Married or Engaged ...

#39 Post by Emma Woolgatherer » May 25th, 2010, 11:55 am

Kaoru wrote:Can I suggest that the "I think like a woman", "I think like a man" thing is flawed? The continuum that is our mind is "masculine" or "feminine" or anywhere in between. Woman and Man aren't states of mind. But I do understand that most people don't ever think of this. Perhaps that is because most masculine minds are in male bodied people and most feminine minds are in female people.
I'm still not convinced that there is such a thing as a masculine mind or a feminine mind or something anywhere in between. I certainly accept that people can have a gendered sense of identity. That it is possible for a boy, or a child with male genitalia, to believe or feel that he is a girl, or vice versa, and that those of us born with a sense of identity that matches our genitalia don't necessarily think about it in that way, because it doesn't occur to us. But to conflate that sense of identity with a gendered "mind" or way of thinking is, in my view, problematical.
Kaoru wrote:And I think of course that this has evolved since caveman times.

Mostly, women are capable of childbirth, men are not. So, women give birth while the men with their strong upper body do the hunting. This has given rise to many associated traits that mostly are not actually gender specific. But, over the many thousands of years one or two simple facts have given rise to assumptions that men are "this" and women are "that".

For instance, men while hunting probably developed an acute sense of direction and distance. Nowadays it's commonly touted that women can't read maps, could this be why it became common for men to do the driving?
:laughter: If it were true that women can't read maps, wouldn't it be better for women to do the driving and men to navigate?!

But your example is precisely the sort of thing I balk against. You're not talking about sense of self or identity here, but about psychological characteristics. The hunting hypothesis is a particular bugbear of mine. Have you been reading Robert Ardrey or Lionel Tiger or Michael Gurian or Barbara and Alan Pease? If so, or even if not, I suggest you read Same Difference: How Gender Myths Are Hurting Our Relationships, Our Children, and Our Jobs, by Rosalind Barnett and Caryl Rivers. There's a chapter entitled "Man (and Woman) the Hunter" that tackles this particular myth. The idea that our earliest male ancestors went out hunting while the females stayed at "home" producing and nurturing children is not, in fact, a convincing one. Apparently, the palaeoanthropological evidence suggests that it is much more likely that, for most of the time, these nomadic men and women went scavenging together. There is also evidence that both sexes hunted small game, like hares and birds, with nets as well as with bows and arrows. They all moved about a lot, so an ability to find their way around was vital for both sexes. Big game hunting came later in our evolutionary history, and was an occasional thing, and not something on which humans depended for food, so it is unlikely to have had a huge impact on our psychology
Kaoru wrote:But the thing is that masculine minds can be in female bodies and vice versa. We mightn't think about it much because mostly feminine minds coincide with female bodies, and it's far easier for people to label according to visible differences.
I'm with you on this, except I would still prefer to talk about male and female identities or senses of self, rather than masculine and feminine minds. I think it is risky to conflate the two. If people born apparently one sex believe themselves to be the other sex, if perhaps they have some incredibly powerful gut feeling about it, then that's one thing. It's not something I fully understand, of course, because I haven't experienced it, but I kind of get it. If people believe themselves to have a "mind" that is characteristic of the other sex, simply because they are gentle and empathic, or logical and competitive, or they like things like cooking and flower-arranging and don't like cars or football, or vice versa, then that suggests that they have been strongly influenced by the gender stereotypes that abound in our culture, and there is a possibility, I suspect, that this could cloud their judgement.
kaoru wrote:I believe that there are so many things about people's true personalities that have nothing to do with gender, but mostly they've been twisted by societal attitudes and expectations so much that people don't even realise that they're not truly being themselves. Everything starts from the pink and blue thing at birth, and everyone is subject to it.
Yes, again I agree with you here. Even when people try hard not to do it, it is impossible to avoid. Many parents eschew the pink and blue thing, and try not to buy their children obviously gendered toys and clothes. I spent my toddlerhood in red and blue dungarees, and I played with wooden building blocks and Lego rather than with dolls. But by the time I was five, I was asking for a pink frilly dress and a Sindy doll. (Fortunately I'd grown out of both by the time I was six.) There are plenty of other influences that are just as strong or stronger than parental steering, peer pressure and advertising being obvious ones. I don't know how I would have coped if I'd had a child of either sex. But at the risk of sounding preachy here, I do think that all of us, parents or not, have a responsibility to do our best to resist those stereotypes and not inadvertently reinforce them.

Emma

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Paolo
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Re: Getting Married or Engaged ...

#40 Post by Paolo » May 25th, 2010, 4:48 pm

Emma Woolgatherer wrote:Big game hunting came later in our evolutionary history, and was an occasional thing, and not something on which humans depended for food, so it is unlikely to have had a huge impact on our psychology
Not entirely conviced by this - we've been hunting some pretty big game since long before we were Homo sapiens. Chimpanzees engage in hunting activities for pretty big prey in relation to their body size - at least equivalent to humans hunting Thompson's gazelle. Only the males do this. In hunter-getherer societies there is a clear division of labour when it comes to hunting - the men do it. This suggests that there is some underlying reason for men to be the hunters - that reason is probably simply that men are usually bigger and stronger than women.

The reason men are bigger and stronger is (mostly) due to the anabolic steroid testosterone, which builds muscle and bone and is directly associated with increased levels of aggression. Women have testosterone too, but at much lower levels than most men (about ten times less). Testosterone is important to the whole question of gender, since testosterone is also partly responsible for the development of male sexual and secondary sexual characteristics, there is also evidence that it plays a role in determining sexuality and gender identity during development (Hines 2006 - pdf), although this does not account for all gender influenced cognitive behaviour, so obviously the issue is more complex than can be explained by looking at one hormone.

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Emma Woolgatherer
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Re: Getting Married or Engaged ...

#41 Post by Emma Woolgatherer » May 25th, 2010, 5:38 pm

Paolo wrote:we've been hunting some pretty big game since long before we were Homo sapiens. Chimpanzees engage in hunting activities for pretty big prey in relation to their body size - at least equivalent to humans hunting Thompson's gazelle. Only the males do this. In hunter-getherer societies there is a clear division of labour when it comes to hunting - the men do it. This suggests that there is some underlying reason for men to be the hunters - that reason is probably simply that men are usually bigger and stronger than women.
I'm not convinced. From what I've read there is considerable variation in this. In some societies the men do all the hunting; in others it's partly shared, though certain tools or animals are often assigned to a particular gender. Even in hunter-gatherer societies in which women don't generally hunt, like the !Kung, they may contribute to hunting by bringing information to the men about animal tracks and direction of movement. So, thinking about the "women can't read maps" stereotype, they would need to have a pretty good sense of direction, spatial awareness, etc. See the page on Sexual Division of Labor in the Hunter-Gatherer Wiki of Ohio State Universities Department of Anthropology. I think that the variation suggests that the reasons for the way labour is divided are to a significant extent geographical, and not entirely biological. And I think Kaoru's suggestion that women don't hunt (or hunt less) because of their childcare responsibilities is more plausible than your suggestion that "the reason is simply that men are usually bigger and stronger than women".
Paolo wrote:The reason men are bigger and stronger is (mostly) due to the anabolic steroid testosterone, which builds muscle and bone and is directly associated with increased levels of aggression. Women have testosterone too, but at much lower levels than most men (about ten times less). Testosterone is important to the whole question of gender, since testosterone is also partly responsible for the development of male sexual and secondary sexual characteristics, there is also evidence that it plays a role in determining sexuality and gender identity during development (Hines 2006 - pdf), although this does not account for all gender influenced cognitive behaviour, so obviously the issue is more complex than can be explained by looking at one hormone.
Quite. And testosterone is itself a much misunderstood hormone. It's relationship with aggression is far from clear. There was an interesting article about it in Nature last year: "Testosterone link to aggression may be all in the mind". I think the conclusion of the research cited in this article makes my case for me very well. What people believe about gender difference has a huge impact on how they behave.

Emma

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