From Serendip

The Nature of Inquiry:
Story Telling and Retelling in the Sciences and Humanities

Forum Archive 4
More on female/male differences

Name: Paul Grobstein
Subject: Contribution to male/female discussion
Date: Wed Oct 25 16:14:09 EDT 2000
Forwarded From: Sarah Derber (Rachel's mother):

An English teacher was explaining to his students the concept of gender association in the English language. He stated how hurricanes at one time were given feminine names and how ships and planes were usually referred to as "she." One of the students raised their hand and asked, "What 'gender" is a computer"? The teacher wasn't certain which it was, so he divided the class into two groups, males in one, females in the other and asked them to decide if a computer should be masculine or feminine. Both groups were asked to give four reasons for their recommendation.

The group of women concluded that computers should be referred to in the masculine gender because:

  1. In order to get their attention, you have to turn them on.
  2. They have a lot of data but are still clueless.
  3. They are supposed to help you solve your problems, but half the time they ARE the problem.
  4. As soon as you commit to one, you realize that, if you had waited a little longer, you could have had a better model.

The men, on the other hand, decided that computers should definitely be referred to in the feminine gender because:

  1. No one but their creator understands their internal logic.
  2. The native language they use to communicate with other computers is incomprehensible to everyone else.
  3. Even your smallest mistakes are stored in long-term memory for later retrieval.
  4. As soon as you make a commitment to one, you find yourself spending half your paycheck on accessories for it.

Name: Paul Grobstein
Subject: Story ... and more
Date: Thu Oct 26 11:15:28 EDT 2000
VERY interesting conversation (as usual) Tuesday, many thanks for letting me be a part of it. Consensus seems to be that males/females are, as a population, different (with equally strong consensus that those differences may or may not be the same in individual cases). And that the differences are in part caused/encouraged by culture, in part "innate". The differences themselves? Pretty good consensus that females are more concerned with/aware of interpersonal interactions, yes? And that males are more physically aggressive, right? And some interesting thoughts about females competing among themselves for male attention .... with (unlike males competing for females?) some conflict because of a reluctance to be seen by other females as engaged in that? Had a few additional thoughts of my own about that one, and, partly from the NY Times article as well, about how to think about the bases of sexual identity (more thanks for the conversation). Anyhow, looking forward to talking more about what one actually means by "male" and "female", and how it comes to be that way (and how one might choose to better "retell" that story).

So .... along those lines ... when learning to walk and first dealing with curbs at street corners, one of a pair of opposite sex twins (Rachel and Jed) uses the strategy of carefully measuring/balancing/stepping while the other jumps, falls, tries again. Which twin used which strategy? Explain why you think so.

Name: crystal
Date: Thu Oct 26 11:38:32 EDT 2000
I think Rachel was the cautious one and Jed just flung himself right off the curb onto his face. In my own experience, men tend to have less common sense in atacking obstacles, they just plow right over then (or off them) to solve the problem. Women tend to think about the obstacle, approach it cautiously, and reason out the best way to overcome it (preferably without injury). thank you and good night
Name: Rachel Derber
Subject: the curb
Date: Thu Oct 26 11:44:16 EDT 2000
I think that Rachel was the one who carefully measured her steps and balancing because most young girls are really not willing to keep hurting themselves over and over by making the mistake of falling off the curb. Further most girls are more cautious than little boys, again because they don't really enjoy falling down and then doing it again. Jed was the more who went flying off the curb, because most young boys enjoy doing activties that seem adventurous and daring and don't really think things out before they do them. They don't mind if they hurt themselves because to them flying off the curb was really fun and they want to do it
Name: anonymous
Subject: Cassandra P-S
Date: Thu Oct 26 11:44:29 EDT 2000
I think that Jed was the cautious one, and Rachel jumped off the curb - from babysitting little kids I have discovered that when young, it is the girls who are more implusive and the boys may be afraid to fall down and skin their knees, or something. I think society teaches women to become more cautious as they age, both in social and physical situati
Name: Katie DiFelice
Subject: Jed and Rachel
Date: Thu Oct 26 11:45:27 EDT 2000
I think that my prediction based on the story is the same one that I'd expect everyone in the room to make, and I certainly hope that every single one of us is not wrong. Because then we'd look kind of foolish. But I'm going to say that Rachel stepped and Jed jumped. In young children, it seems basically always true that the little boys are eager and fearless, while girls are more cautius. I've seen basically the same situation at a pool, where my cousin Michael leapt, yelling into the pool, while Lauren would not go in without someone holding on to her. As a generalization that will apply to older males and females, women tend more to rationalize and consider the risks and consequences of everything, where men are more comfortable basing actions on intuition.
Name: Paige
Username: pcunning
Subject: Look before you leap
Date: Thu Oct 26 11:45:56 EDT 2000
I think Rachel was the one who carefully tried to step off the curb, while Jed jumped. This makes sense to me, because females are usually more careful than males are, thinking more about the consequence of their actions. A guys tend to take more risks at an earlier age. While girls are also daredevils, they are usually less likely the use their common sense. Girls are more sensible. And less likely to do something that will involve the falling flat on their faces.
Name: sonam
Subject: curb jumping
Date: Thu Oct 26 11:49:46 EDT 2000
I do think that Jed took that jump while Rachel carefully measured the steps. I think this is a pretty good guess although it took me awhile to think about my answer. Again, it's very difficult to tell since individual differences in experiences, influences (environmental) could play a big role but i do think men seem to have more of an innate nature to try things out, take risks without feeling the need to really think too much about it, unlike women.
Name: Jessi
Subject: The curb monster
Date: Thu Oct 26 11:50:23 EDT 2000
If I were to give an honest guess, I would say it was the daughter who was most cautious. In my childhood I would have tested the waters first. So as a female I must infer that she did the same. However, I feel this is a trick question, purposed in a manner to throw the group off, and play to our feministic motivations. Therefore, I would say that it was the boy who was cautious. I really have no idea.
Name: Katie Kaczmarek
Subject: curb hopping
Date: Thu Oct 26 11:50:31 EDT 2000
I think that Jed was the cautious one; I don't know why. I think it is mostly based on my observations of my little brother. He was often very "clingy", so I think that it's not impossible for little boys to be cautious. That leaves Rachel to be the agressive one.