Sex/gender differences</a>

Human Diversity: Sex and Gender

Contributions to a discussion:
Lincoln High School, Philadelphia, Fall, 2000

Karen Cohen, who teaches high school English at Lincoln High School in Philadelphia, and Paul Grobstein worked together in summer institutes at Bryn Mawr College during the summer of 2000. Grobstein was creating a freshman seminar course which would include a consideration of female/male differences, and Cohen was interested in further developing that topic for her English classes. Both felt it would be useful to try and connect the two efforts, and in so doing make available a sample of voices/perspectives which would valuably contribute to a broader discussion of this topic.

The following essays were contributed by juniors at Lincoln High School who were asked simply to describe their own feelings about differences between females and males (a comparable set of short comments by freshmen women at Bryn Mawr College will be made available). In reading them, it should be recognized that they are not intended as arguments for one position or another with regard to either the existence or significance of differences between females and males. They are simply responses to an invitation to talk freely about one's own feelings and experiences. As such, they have the same status as things elsewhere on Serendip. The reflect not an effort to "get it right", but rather an effort, engaged in both by authors and readers, to progressively and continuously get it "less wrong". Or, to put it in terms used by one of the Lincoln High students: " in the future we will understand each other more and then arguing about differences being superior or inferior will stop".

Diversity need not (indeed, must not) have, as an unspoken underpinning, a presumption of "superior or inferior". Hopefully, these essays can contribute to the kind of frank and open speaking and listening to one another out of which progressively increasing understanding and mutual respect emerges.

A later version of these essays is available here.


I'm writing to anyone who wants to listen to this. Earth is populated with a mixture of humans who are male and female. Although you could say that humans are all basically the same, they have distinct features which make them different from one another. Physically, males are the stronger, faster and more intelligent of the two genders. They are also more muscular. Females are generally built more petite, smaller boned, with fat deposits in chest and hip areas, and are weaker in tasks requiring strength. There are other very obvious physical differences, and it could be that the physical differences between males and females cause their traditional roles and social behavior to differ in many ways.

Males have always been dominant since the beginning of the human race. Men did the hunting and the gathering, while the females stayed at home cooking, cleaning and preparing clothes to wear. More recently in the Information Age, both males and females do the hunting, in a sense. Both want to establish themselves in society in the work they do. Even though they compete for the same careers and equal pay, socially they are still very different. For example, males have been known to be more physically aggressive, more inclined to fight, and more intolerant of others not like themselves. Males are very proud and don't like to be wrong. They also don't like to ask for help, or to look like they are relying on anyone else, especially females. However, men like to be pampered and kissed up to by females. It makes them feel important. Since men like to be at the top, if a woman in the workplace (or wherever) is in a higher position than him, the guy feels threatened.

Females, on the other hand, like to rely on a man. They want to find a man who is trustworthy. Yet, when she finds one and he commits to her, he can't do the things he wants to do--like hang out with the guys. Automatically, the female wants to hold on tight, and like an instinct, the female thinks her man is out getting around when he is not with her. It's very tricky trying to understand a female. Everything they say they really mean the opposite. Also, females always argue with you. You can't talk to a girl without her talking back. Even worse, females, being emotional, always want to talk to you, making them annoying and likely to blame you for things. The worst is that they are always in your business.

I'm going to stop here before I go crazy. These are just some of the things that distinguish men from women.

I'm writing to anyone who wants to listen to this. Earth is populated with a mixture of humans who are male and female. Although you could say that humans are all basically the same, they have distinct features which make them different from one anothteacher

Iím writing to anyone who wants to listen to this. Earth is populated with a mixture of humans who are male and female. Although you could say that humans are all basically the same many men who actually want their mate to be their friend and companion. That doesnít mean that the sexual inequality issue isnít still floating around out there, because it is; it is still a very big issue especially in the lives of young adults trying to make their way through life, and wanting to set values and goals that make them feel important and equal to men. Too many men are still dictating the way women should behave sexually, while keeping the freedom of sexual variety for themselves. Carldin Laventure


I think that there are many differences in men and women; most are plain to see. I'm not even going to mention the fact that we have to urinate in different positions and that we are a little different below the equator. I want to point out the differences in behavior, reactions to different situations, and differences in sense of humor. Let's first talk about sense of humor.

To me, women have a poor sense of humor--well, most do, I should say. They forget about what was funny to them back when they were little, things that got them cracking up when they were young, things like snot, boogies, poop, poo, doo doo, farts, loud burping and other of the finer yhings in life. See, men never get out of touch with their childhood humor. That stuff is just as funny when you are 40 as it was when you were five. Do you want an example? Well, my dad rarely laughs. You could show him something that is funny to any normal human being and he won't crack a smile. One day I put a lighter to my backside and lit a fart. I never saw him laugh harder. I mean, he was almost dying laughing. Now, you do that in the presence of a girl and what is the reaction? "Ewww, that's sick. That's gross! Don't do that in front of me." My point is proven!!! Girls are no longer connected to that child that lives inside of them. This also might prove that men are too easily amused, but who cares? We are not as uptight as girls.

Now, another problem I have with women's sense of humor is that most of the time they don't find dirty jokes as funny as men do. I know some girls who will get offended and won't even want to hear any of a "dirty hooker" joke. I guess that they think I'm talking about them or something. The only girls who get a good chuckle out of a good dirty hooker joke are girls who happen to be dirty hookers.

Which brings me to my next point. GIRLS ARE CONFUSING!! Men are not as complicated as women. It makes me laugh when you are sitting with your girlfriend and the man is just staring into space. Then the woman asks, "What are you thinking?" And the man always replies with, "Nothing." Do you know why men say that? Well, I can tell you. It is the truth that there is NOTHING going on up there. I don't even know where I am half the time, and women think that I have brain activity going on. This is an appropriate time to make a comparison. If you were to ask the question, "What are you thinking?" to a girl, well you'd better not have any plan is to go anywhere for the next four to six hours! Which proves that girls don't know when to shut up sometimes. Yeah, the last sentence is harsh, but true. Very, very true.

I may have covered this subject a little differently than most people, but it is what I thought of the subject. There is so much more that I would like to say, but it would take up a whole book. So, in conclusion, men are children and women are freaks. That sums it up for me.

Jason DeRosier


The only word I can think of to describe the main difference between men and women is: discrimination. Women are the ones who get discriminated against in many ways. It goes as far back as I can remember, in what I have seen and heard growing up. It has always been a "man's world", so women have had to accept the bad attitudes and behavior of men, or do without them.

Physically, men are built differently than women; it is known that they are physically stronger, have larger muscles so they can obtain jobs that call for greater strength and endurance. However, many women are starting to do these jobs, like construction, police work, military, sports and even weight lifting. Men are intimidated by this because they feel that women are stepping into their territory and on their manhood and their pride. There are leaders who are still against women fighting in the military. They believe it is fine for women to do desk work or behind the scenes activities, but not to serve on the front line, or be placed in a dangerous position, such as on the USS Cole, the ship that was bombed in the Middle East recently. It's as if these men think that women are not capable of defending themselves or our country, or are too "soft" to serve.

Men are less interested in material things and appearances than women are. Women are known for their love of "shopping" and wanting to look good. These are positive things. We're interested in clothes, jewelry, shoes, and dozens of other accessories. It's not that men are not materialistic. They are concerned about cars and sports, and things like that, things that don't make them look better. Women are definitely more concerned with their appearance. Many men don't care how they look. This can be very annoying, especially when a woman goes out of her way to dress nicely for her man, and the man shows up wearing dirty jeans and a stained sweater or shirt and worn-out sneakers.

Behaviorally, men aren't very compassionate or sensitive. They are certainly not as emotional as women. In fact, they are not very good at dealing with their feelings, period. That's why they are not so good with relationships. Somehow thinking that they are less emotional makes men believe that they are superior to women, that thinking with less emotion makes them stronger. They don't realize that not showing emotion is a weakness. Men think differently in other ways too. Many don't think things through logically. They just act on first instinct, for the moment, without being conscious of the consequences of their actions. They also think with their private parts which makes them very often dumb and selfish.

Women, on the other hand, are naturally delicate, sensitive, and compassionate ("soft", but in a good way). Part of the reason that women are different from men emotionally is because their bodies go through so many changes in life, from our puberty experience and menstruation, to giving birth and motherhood. Because of this, we were always considered the "baby-makers", stay at home, cook and clean, "good for nothing else" housewives. Somehow this got defined as an inferior role. The role of the servant wife still exists in some cultures and in some relationships in our own country, but much has changed over time. In recent years so many women have gone out and proved themselves to be skilled, hard-working, and capable of doing many of the same jobs men do, for the same pay. We have proved that not only can we be sweet, soft, and understanding, we can also be strong, independent, hard-working, single mothers. We can go to school now and work at the same jobs as some of these sexist men. Now many of the women I know happen to be more sophisticated and more intelligent than their men because of the skills and experience they have obtained in the outside world.

Right now women still have to fight the idea that men think of them as being unequal. It will take time, but in the future we will understand each other more and the arguing about differences being superior or inferior will stop. Basically men wouldn't know what to do without us, and we wouldn't know what to do without them, so we need to understand each other.

Stephanie Cain


The roles of men and women have definitely changed over the past hundred years or so, since Seneca Falls and the Women's Sufferage movement at the turn of the 20th century gave women the right to vote. The Civil Rights and Women's Rights movements of the 1960's and 1970's also gave women greater opportunities, especially in their choice of colleges, professional training and employment. In the 1970's women also got abortion rights, giving them the freedom to decide if they wanted to bring a life into the world. Now that women can vote, hold government office, own property, work in the same positions men do, decide to give birth or not to give birth, we are moving on up! However, even though we enjoy the same civil rights and freedoms, there is one freedom in which women get an "unfair shake". In matters of sexuality, women are clearly not equal to men.

Sexual freedom is an area that bothers me about the society I live in. I know that I am young, and therefore should not be worried about things of this sort; but I am female, and we worry! For example, let's compare one sixteen year old male with a sixteen year old female. Each of them has slept with several partners; for argument's sake, let's say they both have had sex with seven partners. Well, who is likely to be considered a "skank", or "easy"? The female, of course! I suppose this has to do with the traditional roles that females were expected to carry out many years ago. A female, back then, would marry one man, usually for money or support, or, as a last resort, for love (if she were poor), but she was expected to remain faithful to her one mate. However, her husband would often have lovers or mistresses, with the knowledge of friends, family, even his wife!

It looks like "old habits die hard." Unfortunately, the "double standard" is still very much alive, and it is one of the few areas left that prevents women from being equal to men. Why is it that men get praised for all kinds of sexual activities and adventures, yet females get looked down on? I suppose it has something to do with men thinking they are superior to women, and all these years being able to get away with setting rules for us that we were foolish enough to listen to and believe in, because we needed them, this making us their slaves in a way. We've grown up with the idea that we should have one man, one love, one sexual partner, while they are allowed and even expected to have mistresses, lovers, and in some cultures, many wives and concubines. Of course, not all men think like this, and not all of them want their wives to be their slaves. There are men who actually want their mate to be their friend and companion. That doesn't mean that the sexual inequality issue isn't still "floating around" out there, because it is; it is still a very big issue, especially in the lives of young adults trying to make their way through life and wanting to set values and goals that make them feel important and equal to men. Too many men are still dictating the way women should behave sexually, while keeping the freedom of sexual variety for themselves.

Even though society today still finds ways to put females down, I still would rather be a female than a male, at any time in history, past or present. I happen to think that females are beautiful creatures. We just need to work out our last remaining differences with men. I agree with a recent story I read about women and men. When the first woman on earth asked why she was made after man, the answer was simple: "Even God needs to make rough drafts for a masterpiece."

Jennifer Shaw


Girls and guys are a study of opposites. In my mind they are very different animals. Guys are more to themselves, and girls are more sociable. Guys tend to be sloppy; girls are very neat and organized. Many girls have "attitudes", and can be bitchy about things. Guys are "laid back", and are often lazy. Most girls are very sensitive, and most guys think they are "macho" men. Most men think about sex most of the time; girls may not think about it nearly as often (but they are not as innocent as people think they are). Many girls don't have confidence in themselves; most guys have too much confidence in themselves. Girls are likely to study more; guys are more careless and less caring about their studies; most men think they are right about everything; most girls don't care if they are right or wrong, they'll even take the blame for something that wasn't their fault! Most girls read often; most guys glance through a book as quickly as possible. Most girls think that they are fat and shouldn't eat much; most guys like it if they are husky. Most girls like to look in the mirror, every mirror they pass; guys glance at the mirror every once in a while. Most guys drive in a normal way; girls like to drive slow and scared. Many girls go through stress and worry about every little thing; most guys go through a little pain sometimes. Girls live longer than guys; guys don't take care of themselves. Yes, guys and girls are very different.

Hector Cosme


Men and women have so many differences that it's hard to just mention a few. Besides having physical differences, they are also different in the way they view life and how they react to certain things. For instance, women are more emotional than men, taking things more personally. In comparison, men have a difficult time showing how they truly feel. I personally don't have a hard time expressing my emotions to anyone, but I've noticed from experience that men tend to keep their feelings inside. Then they try to go on with whatever they have to do, keeping all of their problems locked up inside themselves and not seeking help when they need it.

Another big difference between men and women is social behavior. Men keep more to themselves and don't gossip as much as women. I've noticed that the majority of women like to gossip, talk about each other, and judge other women. In fact, women like to talk about anything, and that's why we women get ourselves into trouble with arguments about silly, "he said, she said" stuff. Maybe men are more advanced than we are in this way. They don't try to stir up trouble between themselves and their friends. If they don't like someone, they just stop talking to that person, or they might physically fight a person who is threatening them in some way. In general, they don't look for trouble like women do.

There seems to be a natural tendency for men to be sloppy. Apparently neatness is not a big issue in their lives. There are men out there who are neat and clean, but it has been my experience that they are few and far between; maybe one out of ten men is neat. Most women I know are neat and like to organize things and keep things in order. Also, women are far more neat and clean when it comes to appearance. We have to use many products for good hygiene that men don't have to use because they don't have the same needs that we do. Maybe we are more conscientious about these things because if we allowed ourselves to be sloppy or unclean, we might find ourselves home alone instead of out and popular.

My feeling is that over time much has changed in society but I don't think the behavior of men and women has or will change dramatically. In the future I think men will still do the things that men do now, and I think women will still gossip to their friends, will still spend much of time on their appearance, and will still react emotionally to things. There are no big changes that I can foresee between the two sexes that will make their behavior or their relationships with one another noticeably different.

Catherine Espinola


In our society, women are more equal to men than they have ever been before. However, we are still looked at as the "weaker" gender, in more ways than one. In this short essay I will look upon the differences between males and females and question whether these differences are the reason for women being considered "weaker".

Women are very emotional people, caring more about family and friends than men. If something dramatic happens, a girl's world may just fall apart. In this situation, most men manage to have a tough front on. Often they will not let us know if something is bothering them. If they do let us know, they reveal their feelings with embarrassment and humiliation. Their friends may even refer to them as "gay" for showing emotion. I think this is ridiculous. Even when something dramatic is not going on, men don't talk about their feelings the way women do. If I have a problem, I discuss it with just about the whole world, just to get a sampling of other people's opinions on the matter. This makes the problem easier to solve for me. A man would rather keep the problem to himself, either solving it alone or pushing it completely out of his mind.

Teen sex is a subject that receives everyone's attention. Males always come out on top in this--their reputations, that is. Men are given praise if they have sex with many girls, especially if a condom is not involved. They are looked upon as if they are a god or a master of the "game". Yes, most teen guys look at all girls as a game. On the flip side, if a girl has had sex with even one guy, she is a "slut" automatically. If you are female you NEVER discuss your sex life, because you do not want to be looked upon as a "hoe". If you are a woman, this makes things difficult. You never know if a boy likes you or if he only wants sex. Experience has revealed that since most boys are only after sex, girls end up with broken hearts, and males move on only to create suffering in the lives of other girls.

In conclusion, I am proud to be a woman, even though we have to put up with things that men don't have to, and we have to put up with the things that men do to us. I am glad that I express my feelings freely because it helps me to settle conflicts and move on with my life. I don't think that makes me weaker. I think it makes me stronger. One day we will prove all men wrong about being the "weaker" gender if we keep working at making ourselves strong and confident. In a relationship, no man can tell me that he is better than me. I feel equal to any man, if not close to perfection.

Jamie Carroll


Sentimental, compatible, giving, able to be loved and trusted, are some characteristics of both males and females. You can see I am not here to say men are evil and women are good, but of course there are differences that are easy to point out. Although I can only speak for myself, females to me are some of the world's most beautiful creatures. We can love and be loved, hate and be hated, do something wrong and accept blame, be wronged and forgive. Males hate to be done wrong. They have to live with the fellas, do what the fellas do and say. Sometimes they are so concerned about what their friends do and say that they don't control their own minds; they aren't good decision makers.

Women are better at making decisions, controlling things and keeping things together: organization is one of the key factors to a woman's personality. Women are also shrewd and resourceful: they can get out of any situation, sometimes without thinking twice. Women are also appreciative and creative. Men should be the appreciators (of women), but lack the depth to appreciate brains and beauty. Occasionally men come up with creative solutions and decisions. Love is an area of big differences. Men can love a couple of women at one time, whereas a woman usually loves only one man at a time.

I wish I could say more about the male mind, but I have yet to learn all of the twists and turns I need to figure it out. Right now I want to think that we are more alike than we are different, and that even if we do see some things differently, that we can both show love and respect for one another.

Tasha Taylor


If I had to explain the roles of males and females in our society, I would have to say that men are from Mars and women are from Venus. However, here on Earth males cannot live without females, and females cannot live without males. Therefore we have some problems right from the start in dealing with the fact that we need each other, but that we don't always get along very well. My focus is on changes that have occurred in the domestic life of men and women and how this may or may not bring them closer together.

Thirty to forty years ago males were the main providers to the household. They brought in the income. They were the ones in charge. Most females stayed at home and cooked, cleaned, cared for the children, and saw to the family needs in general. Today males and females are both providers to the household. They both bring in needed income to run the household. Both share in the cooking, cleaning, child rearing and other domestic activities. In addition, forty years ago men and women did not divorce very often. Today a little over fifty percent of married couples will separate or divorce one another, sometimes early on in the marriage.

In some ways the roles of men and women have gotten more similar. Outside the home they can both be nurses, police officers, or teachers. Inside the home they can both d@o the role of the former "housewife". This situation should create greater understanding and respect between a man and woman. However, the divorce rate is higher than it has ever been, so it seems that having the same jobs in and out of the home does not solve the "Mars, Venus" problem. No matter what the problem is, it's a shame that we need each other, but often end up not being able to like each other long enough to stay together in the household.

Amanda Blassingame


If I had to explain the differences between men and women, I would have to start with the practical, every day things. For example, men don't care where they're at most of the time. They can use a public restroom or go outside. Women like to wait until they're home. They won't use a public restroom if the bathroom isn't right. When women go out they want their hair done; they want to get all lotioned up and make sure nothing is wrong with their outfit. Men would go out with no lotion on, wearing the same underwear they had on the day before. Women don't like their environment being dirty. Their house or room has to be neat. Men are lazy and don't like to clean. Men don't care about their environment; it doesn't matter as long as they can find their stuff. Women are picky with their food and always watch what they eat. Men don't care as long as the food tastes good. Men can go for a long time without a new pair of sneakers or boots. Women want to have a different pair every two weeks. Women ask for too much money, even if they only clean and cook. They don't work as hard as men. Men work hard for themselves and then spend their money on girls and bills. I guess that's okay because after all, men only need to spend money on themselves for things like an occasional haircut and something to eat. Who needs money when all you ever do is eat, sleep and watch TV?

Vito Hatchell