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Anonymous asked in Social ScienceGender Studies · 1 decade ago

"Ideally, gender should be as eye color or blood type: completely without social implication." True or false?

Personally, I would be fine with a world where knowing someone's gender would be like knowing the color of their eyes or their blood type - perhaps an interesting bit of personal trivia, but irrelevant in most non-medical practical respects.

But some argue that "femininity" and "masculinity," sets of ideas that prescribe what's "appropriate" for men and women in terms of clothing, interests, and certain behaviors, should be preserved for cultural reasons.

It is, of course, these cultural concepts which are to blame for much of the non-equality between the genders that exists right now. For instance, while a small glass ceiling still exists in science and engineering, most of the disparity in the number of male to female physicists comes from girls thinking that a career in science is "unladylike."

So, would an ideal world in terms of gender equality still have concepts of what is "masculine" and "feminine," or not?


ProfessorC, speaking as someone who works closely with research concerning the disparity between the genders in collegiate science and engineering, I have to disagree with your general statement.

Disparities in each field are different, and it is true that the medical fields are now predominantly female. But medicine is the only large field in science and engineering in which this is the case. Less than 15% of freshmen in electrical engineering in the country are female. Barely 2% of professional physicists are female. There is certainly still a problem.

Update 2:

PhillipK - I consider myself a fairly fit, even muscular, male. Yet I have a bodybuilding aunt who actually was a firefighter for a time, and could certainly best me at her prior job, as well as most physical tasks. While it may be true that the average woman has difficulty becoming physically competitive in comparison to the average man, there are certainly women out there who are more fit for any physically demanding position than almost any man.

Update 3:

ProfessorC, I am not implying anything about you, and perhaps "unladylike" is not the best word to describe it.

To be more precise, adolescent girls are in general much more concerned with social compatibility than adolescent boys ('popularity' being a major concern for young girls, and less for young boys). Interest in technical fields (physics, computer engineering, mechanical design, et cetera) is seen as 'nerdish' for both genders, but for some reason, adolescent males are much more willing to risk being seen as 'nerds' for their interests than adolescent females.

Thus, adolescent females, despite actually outperforming males in academia at the high school level, do not enter fields such as science and engineering in college in competitive numbers. Remove the disparity in girls who are willing to risk 'nerdish' interests, and you remove the problem.

14 Answers

  • 1 decade ago
    Favorite Answer

    That would be nice.

    However this ""most of the disparity in the number of male to female physicists comes from girls thinking that a career in science is "unladylike"" is completely off base. There are plenty of women in science. Nearly 50% of the med school placements are female now.

    I am female, I don't think its 'unladylike'. I don't care for the term or how you would get valid research by asking about it using that term. The term lady has many different connotations.

    For example, being a nurse and wiping someone's butt is 'ladylike'?

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  • Fex
    Lv 6
    1 decade ago

    Very good question. This is how I see it. It's ok to say something is masculine or feminine as long as you don't judge that person - pretty much in the same way I can say Oprah is Black without any judgement.

    The unladylike part is just laziness of the mind. Women who think that obviously have already let society or ... whomever... decide for them what is or isn't ladylike.

    I work in construction, and on occasion, I can swear like a sailor, but I am 100% "lady" when I want to be. I find most people are uncomfortable with certain facets of themselves and have a hard time accepting who they are. They're sort of afraid to look inside in the first place. They play a role. Yawn.... How boring.

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  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    You are completely right about teenage girls choosing not to go into 'nerdish' professions. I recently had a conversation with a mother about her 12 year old daughter who loves science. But since she has started hanging out with a new group of girls she has become afraid to admit to this. Peer pressure is a horrible thing. I really hope she'll continue to do well and doesn't get put off by being seen as a 'nerd'.

    Speaking for myself, I was definitely 'steered' more towards the humanities when I was choosing options for A levels. This despite the fact that I had slightly better results in the sciences. I ended up dropping out of sixth form and returning a few years later, to study what I should have been encouraged to do all along. Choosing what path to pursue in life is confusing enough for some people (especially indecisive people like me :-)) and it doesn't make it any easier when teachers have set ideas for what they think certain kids SHOULD be doing.

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  • 1 decade ago

    The question you need to ask is WHY do people have certain expectations of how men and women will behave? The answer, I think, is that expectations are based on observations of what people are actually like.

    You want to explain away the lack of female interest in science and engineering by suggesting that women don't go into these fields because they think they are unladylike, but I think a much likelier explanatation is simply that science and engineering appeal to fewer women than men, hence the perception that science and engineering are masculine occupations. I can't seriously believe that any woman in this day and age who REALLY wants to pursue a career in science or engineering is going to be put off it by thinking that it is 'unladylike' for her to go into those fields. When you have removed the barriers that prevent women entering certain careers (that is, when they are no longer deliberately and legally excluded from following certain jobs) and yet they STILL are not showing any great eagerness to enter them, then you have to look at the possibility that gender differences may have something to do with their lack of interest.

    Look, in the past it was considered 'unladylike' for women to be doctors, but they still broke into the profession in large numbers from the 1850s onwards in the USA. The perception of 'unladylikeness' didn't put off any women who seriously wanted to be doctors. And I don't believe that it would put off any women who seriously wanted to be scientists or engineers. If women are not flocking into these professions in large numbers, then maybe it is because there really aren't that many women who are interested in doing those things.

    You are never going to eliminate the differences between the sexes. The idea that gender could ever be as unimportant as eye or hair colour is absurd, given the supreme importance that gender has in our lives when it comes to selecting a mate for instance. The differences between men and women are of far greater social significance than that of hair or eye colour, and there's no sense in imagining that gender could ever be reduced to the same degree of insignificance.

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  • 1 decade ago

    This would be impossible without eliminating sexuality and the desire to have children. A person looking for a partner of the opposite sex will always look differently on a woman than a man because the nature of thier potential relationship is different.

    You could never treat gender as such a basic, meaningless personal trait

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  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    As you said, what's considered "feminine" and "masculine" are defined by the society. Testosterone and brain chemistry can account for aggression and physical strength, but only to a certain degree. Then you look at other cultures where two men dancing together or men wearing dresses and jewellry is socially acceptable and you see cultural influence plays a very large role.

    And I also agree with you in regards to the disparity in the fields of science and engineering, especially when it comes to certain "studies" that supposedly indicate men are better suited for the math and science fields. The only thing those studies indicate are differences in spacial thinking, and the results of those studies were construde to make all sorts of erroneous claims. (And before anyone claims all of the greatest scientists were male, consider the fact that women weren't even allowed to attend college until the 20th century).

    Okay so to answer your question, removing femininity and masculinity from the equation would obviously lead to less gender inequity. But then you take a look at some of history's genocides and you'll find that people will always find a way to seperate themselves into other catagories. Blue eyes saved you during the holocaust.

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  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    Yes exactly, and feminine and masculine attributes are just stated by society, which we can see when we examine other cultures which are different to ours.

    But you will always get people with inferiorty complexes that want to swuash someone down to boost their own ego, whether it's toward sex or race.

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  • 1 decade ago

    Green eyes, brown eyes and blue eyes all perform the same function. Males and females do not. I don't think it is possible for gender to be without social implication. Gender roles may be another story. Since they are almost entirly socially and culturally determined, they can also (in theory) be changed or abandoned. However, in my ideal world, the masculine and the feminine are both highly valued and acknowledged as being delightfully complimentary.

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  • 5 years ago

    No, gender is complex and unlike the comparisons given

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  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    not unless you tamper with DNA to ensure that all physical attributes are equal.

    The reality is that we have some gender roles for the good of the populace.

    Generally speaking Men are stronger then women, so men can perform many tasks better than women.

    Women have better balance and this allows them to perform many tasks better than men.

    I can go back and forth about strengths and weaknesses but I think most normal people already figured that out by the age of 14.

    Suffice to say women will never be as good at being a firefighter as men. Ignoring gender traits places the entire species at risk.

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