9 thoughts on “From the Web

  1. Steersman

    That’s mostly over my head, and mostly only reminds me of “Men are from Mars, Women from Venus”: frequently, two entirely different languages and ways of looking at things.

    But it also reminds me of something I saw from the Wikipedia page on Gloria Steinem. While some of her stuff causes me to at least raise an eyebrow, this seems both apropos, and quite sensible:

    Steinem has repeatedly voiced her disapproval of the obscurantism and abstractions some claim to be prevalent in feminist academic theorizing. She said, “Nobody cares about feminist academic writing. That’s careerism. These poor women in academia have to talk this silly language that nobody can understand in order to be accepted…

    More particularly, and somewhat ironically, it looks like the gal is the straight-shooter while the conversations of the guys have been totally corrupted by “the obscurantism and abstractions … of feminist theorizing”.

  2. Marijke Vonk Post author

    I’m not sure I understand what you’re talking about. How does this remind you of Mars/Venus?

  3. Steersman

    Been awhile since I read Mars/Venus but my impression or recollection was that its premise was that men and women tend to speak different languages – not in the sense of, say, Russian versus German, but more in sense of different interpretations of the same one. Which the cartoon seems to illustrate: gal with straight-forward statement, guys with a whole bunch of feminist obscurantism – at least that’s the way it seems to me.

    But it reminds me also of an old movie though a classic (I think), Woody Allen’s Annie Hall There’s a scene where they’re both at their shrinks and, in split screen, each is asked how often they have sex. And he says, “Hardly ever – about 3 times a week”. And she says, “All the time – about 3 times a week”. Mars and Venus.

    BTW, enjoyed your previous post on allies.

  4. Steersman

    Bit of a quick follow-up as I’ll have to call it a day soon – 2:00 A.M here on the wet west coast of Canada,

    But I should clarify that I think that tendency to different interpretations isn’t unique to men and women – Maggie McNeill had a recent post that discussed that in the context of viewing housewives as similar to whores:

    You’re speaking in Prostitute, and doing so very eloquently, but the problem is that people are listening in Repressive Christian Archetype.

    I think it’s similar, or has the same causes as what occurs in illusions such as the spinning dancer.

    But, out of curiousity, how do you interpret the cartoon?

  5. Marijke Vonk Post author

    That the first comment from the girl was sexist/sexnegative. Also, I think the whole Mars/Venus thing is profound bullshit.

  6. Steersman

    That the first comment from the girl was sexist/sexnegative.

    Maybe. Though while I’m not sure of the precise definition of “sexnegative”, I rather doubt that it is any sort of a crime: different strokes and all that.

    However, I would think that if anyone is guilty of being sexist, it’s the guy as he started the conversation with a comment that suggests that he thought the woman was sufficiently “indiscriminate in her choice of bed partners” – i.e., was a slut – to fall all over herself in responding to his expression of sexual interest (“looking hella fine forreal” – “baby”). Seems to me that she merely disabused him of that notion by suggesting she “wasn’t [entirely, “just”] that kind of girl” – without making any moral judgements about them.

    Also, I think the whole Mars/Venus thing is profound bullshit.

    Yea, well, you might have at least a bit of a point there as Gray’s credentials are looking a little flaky around the edges. However, the basic principle of his book seems to have some merit: “… that most of common relationship problems between men and women are a result of fundamental psychological differences between the genders”. Maybe he’s gone overboard in insisting that some stereotypes – which in general tend to have some truth in them – which are applicable to some small segments of the male and female populations are, in fact, applicable to all segments. But I still think there’s some merit in asking ourselves how large those segments might be, to what degree they’re applicable to the larger populations, and what it says about the nature-nurture concept.

    Or maybe you entirely reject any innate, biologically determined or heavily influenced differences in the psychology of men and women? I expect you’ve read Pinker’s The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature (highly recommend if not), but this section (from Chapter 18 on Gender, available online at pasadena.edu) sure seems to support the hypothesis:

    So men are not from Mars, nor are women from Venus. …. Men and women have all the same genes except for a handful on the Y chromosome, and their brains are so similar that it takes an eagle-eyed neuroanatomist to find the small differences between them. Their average levels of general intelligence are the same, according to the best psychometric estimates, and they use language and think about the physical and living world in the same general way. ….

    But of course the minds of men and women are not identical, and recent reviews of sex differences have converged on some reliable differences. Sometimes the differences are large, with only slight overlap in the bell curves. Men have a much stronger taste for no-strings sex with multiple or anonymous partners, as we see in the almost all-male consumer base for prostitution and visual pornography. Men are far more likely to compete violently, sometimes lethally, with one another over stakes great and small ….

    Considering the impact that those sex differences have in issues such as sexism of one sort or another – bit of a hot topic these days – I would think there might be some benefits in understanding their roots.

  7. Marijke Vonk Post author

    “Or maybe you entirely reject any innate, biologically determined or heavily influenced differences in the psychology of men and women?”
    Not completely, no. But I highly doubt “that most of common relationship problems between men and women are a result of fundamental psychological differences between the genders”. And I do not believe that asking someone if they are interested in having sex with you is assuming they are “indiscriminate in [their] choice of bed partners”. I reject the concept of a ‘slut’.

  8. Steersman

    Not completely, no.

    Well, that’s at least a start on some common ground. 🙂

    But I highly doubt “that most of common relationship problems between men and women are a result of fundamental psychological differences between the genders”.

    Ok, I’ll agree that “most” is probably a stretch – which was sort of my point in saying “some merit”, and in saying that “Maybe [Gray has] gone overboard in insisting that some stereotypes … that are applicable to some small segments of the male and female populations are, in fact, applicable to all segments.” But if we agree that “most” is untenable, then would you say that the percentage of “relationship problems between men and women that are due to fundamental psychological differences – i.e., those based on genetic causes” is 10%? 40%? 70%?

    And I do not believe that asking someone if they are interested in having sex with you is assuming they are “indiscriminate in [their] choice of bed partners”.

    Yea, I’d probably agree with you there too, at least generally. But that seems to depend rather heavily on context. And that of the joke or cartoon seemed to be that the mere expression of desire, and the indication that the woman was sexually attractive, would be sufficient to elicit a response from the gal that would lead to the satisfaction of the guy’s desire. Which looks tantamount to the assumption, the stereotype, that the gal would have no other criteria on which to base her decision to embark on that particular course of action – i.e., that she was “indiscriminate in her choice of bed partners”, that she was a “slut”.

    I reject the concept of a ‘slut’.

    Seems to me that you’re reading into the term something that isn’t really there, at least by some definitions. You might note that the definition of the word generally says nothing in the way of a moral judgment about the people, mainly women, referred to, only the frequency with which they engage in sex:

    Slut: 1.a A person, especially a woman, considered sexually promiscuous.

    And promiscuous is, in turn, defined as:

    Promiscuous: 1. Having casual sexual relations frequently with different partners; indiscriminate in the choice of sexual partners.

    Bit of a moot point how “frequently” might be quantified, but if 75% of women, presumably unmarried ones, have sex once a week, for example, with the same partner, and some other women have sex twice a week with different partners then it would seem that they are, ipso facto, “sluts” – without that necessarily implying any moral judgement, only that “frequently” is a very subjective and idiosyncratic term. No doubt some make that type of judgement, but many others don’t – presumably or apparently the basis for various “Slutwalks” to redeem the word – somewhat analogous to sex workers attempting to redeem words such as “whore” and “prostitute”.

    Seems to me that you’re rejecting the moral judgement, and I would agree with you there. But the term also seems to have some common and frequent utility outside of that judgement that you seem to be somewhat averse to considering.

  9. Marijke Vonk Post author

    Sex, gender, genetics, learning, social influences and all these things make questions such as “would you say that [a] percentage of relationship problems between men and women that are due to fundamental psychological differences – i.e., those based on genetic causes” useless. I’m sure that our cultural stereotypes of men and women cause relationship problems, and perhaps the very small difference between cis-gendered male-bodied heterosexual men and cis-gendered female-bodied heterosexual women play a role if you take a large enough sample of the population (any effect becomes significant when your sample is big enough) but it’s all meaningless in the real world. Relationship problems between cis-gendered heterosexuals are not different from relationship problems between trans/queer/homosexual/lesbian relationship problems.

    “Which looks tantamount to the assumption, the stereotype, that the gal would have no other criteria on which to base her decision to embark on that particular course of action – i.e., that she was “indiscriminate in her choice of bed partners”, that she was a “slut”.”

    Nah, he wanted to know if she wanted to have sex with him. “No” would have been a sufficient answer.

    And nobody is indiscriminate in their choice of sexual partners.

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