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Jill has been blogging for Feministe since 2005.
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70 Responses

  1. Jordan S
    Jordan S May 16, 2012 at 2:33 pm |

    Thanks. I’ve always hated hearing any arguments like this that states a difference between the sexes. Sadly, where I’m from it’s all too common.

  2. Milquetoast
    Milquetoast May 16, 2012 at 2:47 pm |

    Women know things like that. Dogs understand humans by closely observing us. They follow our eyeliners, and discover what interests us. Women understand men in the same way

    For a piece that aims to praise women, I find the decision to compare them to dogs to be beyond tone-deaf. This is the type of pandering, back-handed crap that hides insults in infantilizing stream of saccharin goo. Also, God forbid, that they’re might be women who use their innate canine-like powers of observation to attract non-males. What happens then?

    Plus, the guy hated Brasil, I love that movie, so blerg!.

  3. Sarah
    Sarah May 16, 2012 at 2:49 pm |

    Maybe if he had said, “The character traits which are lauded and socially enforced in women are more beneficial to society than the character traits which are lauded and socially enforced with men.” That I could agree with. Even, -maybe-, if he had said, “Social enforcement of certain traits because of gender role conditioning has made women, in general, statistically more likely to be positive leaders and less likely to engage in needlessly aggressive behavior.” I _might_ agree with that.

    But trying to link it somehow to “omg men hunted teh mammoth so they r totes competitive” is just ridiculous. Boo on you, Ebert.

  4. SunlessNick
    SunlessNick May 16, 2012 at 3:10 pm |

    Aside from anything else, I strongly suspect hunting mammoths was a cooperative effort.

  5. fanshawe
    fanshawe May 16, 2012 at 3:16 pm |

    Well this is the same Ebert who claimed that 3D would always suck because humans had evolved to avoid cars driving towards us on the prehistoric savannahs, so…

  6. igglanova
    igglanova May 16, 2012 at 3:27 pm |

    Roger Ebert, nooooooo…

    I always hate it when people write articles of total gender fail, but somehow it always stings way worse when the author’s heart was in the right place. I don’t want to be put on a pedestal. I don’t want to be earnestly compared to a dog, even though I love dogs and I think they’re wonderful. I want to be a person. Is that so much to ask?

  7. Jennifer
    Jennifer May 16, 2012 at 3:39 pm |

    I suspect most beliefs about sex differences are based on claptrap like this rather than actual evidence, but I don’t actually have evidence for this :)

  8. Kara
    Kara May 16, 2012 at 3:49 pm |

    This whole article reminded me of one of my favorite Kipling poems…

    “For the female of the species is more deadly than the male.”

  9. Dominique
    Dominique May 16, 2012 at 5:01 pm |

    The truth of the matter is, those with less power have no choice but to be “nicer”, more “cooperative”, etc. Very convenient… for the master class. The same traits that are lauded in women are the kind of traits desirable in good domestic servants, slaves, and yes, dogs. Only the powerful have the option of being assholes and not paying for it. It’s better for society for everyone to be nice, of course; but in the end, it isn’t necessarily a choice. Anger in women, especially, is punished much more than in men.

  10. number9
    number9 May 16, 2012 at 5:03 pm |

    Well how positively Victorian of him. Angel of the hearth-type bullshit, with the extra-special dog comparison. And, by the way, has it even crossed his mind that perhaps women are expected and conditioned to pay attention to men’s body language and non-verbal signals with a dog-like focus because our survival can often depend on reading them accurately? But of course, it’s just one of those innate skills we have, amirite ladies?

    Ebert, I am disappoint. I thought you were slightly better than that.

  11. Niall
    Niall May 16, 2012 at 5:06 pm |

    And this is exactly the reason why I wrote off Michael Moore as well as the Dalai Lama a few years back as being one of those faux-progressive guys, who – when it comes to feminism and gender issues – doesn’t quite seem to get it. Now I can add Roger Ebert to that list. But the list of dudes on the quasi or non-celebrity list is even longer.

    Someone, like a progressive columnist or blogger ought to write an op ed on these guys – something like an ‘open letter’ explaining to them why they’re not being the great feminist allies they think they are when they talk out of their collective asses like this; that they’re basically buying into and reinforcing the same damn gender stereotyping narrative that’s made things so fucked up in the first place.

    Some of them MIGHT actually pay attention and actually end up getting it. That is if they’re as great allies as they claim to be.

  12. Kristen J.
    Kristen J. May 16, 2012 at 5:12 pm |

    But the more important conclusion from evo psych is that dogs are better that humans.

  13. DonnaL
    DonnaL May 16, 2012 at 5:21 pm |

    After 12 years of taking estrogen, I would say that my canine super-powers have definitely gotten stronger. The downside is the need to resist the impulse to dig for bones.

  14. D
    D May 16, 2012 at 6:08 pm |

    2 somethings way up-
    (there……)

  15. Miguel Bloomfontosis
    Miguel Bloomfontosis May 16, 2012 at 6:16 pm |

    “This is a big piece of crap.”
    And how.
    I’m surprised that Roger Ebert came up with this idiotic twaddle. Here’s the thing: When a man makes a big show of putting down “us men” it’s often a status signal. It’s peacocking. It’s thinly disguised bragging. “Look how awful those other men are.” I think that’s something feminists pick up when they say a male ally “smell’s off.”

    Our culture is immersed in Ebert’s way of thinking re gender, and it really limits men’s sense of who they’re capable of being.

  16. Miguel Bloomfontosis
    Miguel Bloomfontosis May 16, 2012 at 6:24 pm |

    “smells off”

  17. Colin Reid
    Colin Reid May 16, 2012 at 6:42 pm |

    You can certainly argue that in practice, women are better-behaved than men because of the damage done to men’s psyches by the patriarchy (including being ‘spoiled’ by privilege). Power corrupts and all that.

    What makes me sad is not Ebert’s article, but the number of comments that blithely accept the ‘innate strengths and weaknesses’ view, even if they disagree on which sex is ‘better’. Bonus points for commenters who think Ebert’s remarks are an example of feminism!

  18. Robert
    Robert May 16, 2012 at 7:13 pm |

    Ebert may not make a useful contribution to the debate, but “because Evolution” as a catch-all to ridicule arguments about social behavior from biology is a terrible strategy for arguing about social behavior against “evolutionary psychology”/”sociobiology”.

    Jill, the opposition between “hard-wired” and “influenced” that you pose above is a false one. We can be “hard-wired” to like or dislike some things, to behave in some ways and not others, and yet overcome those hard-wired dispositions through learning, acculturation, etc. When those who find sociologists’ explanations for behavior somewhat more compelling than biologists’ explanations try to take all explanatory power away from the biologists, they end up sounding ridiculous before they even begin to set out their own positions.

    The especially ardent evolutionary psychologists who claim that *all* human behavior can be explained in biological terms set themselves an absurd burden of proof that, as far as I have seen, they never even attempt to answer in detail. But they are right to say that all biological traits (including the hot-button ones ones like intelligence) are evolved, and if different human groups have experienced different selective pressures on a particular trait over a long enough time (and – crucially – not mingled in reproduction), we certainly should expect that they will have evolved differently – this seems to me like the right meaning of something that is “hard-wired” but not totally deterministic.
    What does this matter for the difference between men and women? I don’t know, but I bet it matters somehow, and I bet it matters in an extremely complex way with important implications for policy. “Because Evolution” is not the argument from biology in it’s best form, but not is it helpful as a reductio ad absurdum response.

    (I hope the general comments are not out of line – evolutionary psychology is a frequent and lively topic on the blog, and I often feel compelled to argue something like the above when I read the posts and comments.)

  19. The Wrong Kid
    The Wrong Kid May 16, 2012 at 8:16 pm |

    Meh…like it or not, the best evidence we have is that higher serum testosterone levels are correlated with higher levels of violence, aggression, and other anti-social stuff.

  20. Milquetoast
    Milquetoast May 16, 2012 at 8:19 pm |

    Robert, you do realize that Jill is responding to Ebert’s piece? It’s Ebert’s piece in the quote marks. It is toward him that you should address your concerns, not Jill.

  21. the_leanover
    the_leanover May 16, 2012 at 8:24 pm |

    Oh dear. This reads like a parody of what MRAs think feminism is, huh.

    @Robert: I don’t think using ‘because evolution’ as a reductio ad absurdum means ‘trying to take all explanatory power away from biologists’; it’s mocking the type of nonsense that really does pretty much use ‘because evolution’ as its whole explanatory argument, usually (as in this example) by people who clearly have absolutely no grounding in the complexities of either evolutionary theory or gender sociology, but do have a lot of vague half-baked lay ideas about gender roles that are just, like, obvious, because evolution! When I mock misapplications of scientific theory by tagging on a sarcastic ‘because SCIENCE!’, I’m not rejecting science.

    And oh god, this article is really, truly dreadful. I mean, he’s not even trying to put forward any kind of scientifically supported argument for this shit (y’know, with studies and stuff); he’s just taking it for granted that it doesn’t really have to be argued for, because everybody knows evolution means men hunt and war and women nurture and stuff, it’s just common sense. That’s precisely why it’s important to attack simplistic, reductionist misuses of ‘evolution’: because for most people, this isn’t a contested academic debate about the relative importance and interplay of different social and biological factors. It’s just accepted common sense: men are this way, women are this way, because evolution. That way of thinking really, really needs to be dismantled.

  22. Robert
    Robert May 16, 2012 at 9:10 pm |

    @leanover: Your point is well-taken that sometimes mockery is the right response to nonsense (and that Jill and others could surely mount a more serious response to smart sociobiologists who discount the social too strongly).
    Still, I don’t think mocking the same little piece of nonsense in a venue that no one who believes it is likely to read it, is an especially powerful strategy – even if very many people in the general population hold by it. Presumably we should talk to them about Ebert (“the general population,” whoever they are) directly, or talk amongst ourselves such that we’ll actually learn something new. (Of course I am making some assumptions about the Feministe readership here, but they are at least somewhat supported by reading through comments.)

    For all the posts dealing with sociobiology on this blog (including this one), I can only remember one where the rejoinder was about the subtle interplay of nature and culture rather than about how stupid and wholly discountable some people’s arguments are.
    More generally, take a look at just how many blog posts here are tagged “are you serious?” and (merely) take aim at intellectually absurd positions – even if they are voiced by real people, often with real political power or influence. Is it really worth so much effort to assure ourselves that they are wrong?

  23. LC
    LC May 16, 2012 at 11:17 pm |

    The truth of the matter is, those with less power have no choice but to be “nicer”, more “cooperative”, etc. Very convenient… for the master class. The same traits that are lauded in women are the kind of traits desirable in good domestic servants, slaves, and yes, dogs. Only the powerful have the option of being assholes and not paying for it.

    Indeed. I actually think that a huge amount of the “being a man is being a jerk” stuff that gets tossed around in the culture is based on an understanding of this, even if it is rarely articulated.

    I remember seeing a language study that showed the majority and minority parties in parliament (I think Scottish?) showed stereotypically “male” and “female” speech patterns which reversed when an election reversed their position, showing that many of these linguistic behaviours are about social position.

  24. Unree
    Unree May 17, 2012 at 12:17 am |

    Big disappointment from a very good guy. John Stuart Mill called it back in the mid-19th century: We have no idea what women can do, because women haven’t enjoyed the freedom that men have enjoyed.

    A more current version of the same point, responding to the claim that women’s language is different from men’s: “Take your foot off our necks,” said Catharine MacKinnon, “then we will hear in what tongue women speak.”

  25. Travis
    Travis May 17, 2012 at 7:12 am |

    And this is exactly the reason why I wrote off Michael Moore as well as the Dalai Lama a few years back as being one of those faux-progressive guys, who – when it comes to feminism and gender issues – doesn’t quite seem to get it. Now I can add Roger Ebert to that list. But the list of dudes on the quasi or non-celebrity list is even longer.

    Someone, like a progressive columnist or blogger ought to write an op ed on these guys – something like an ‘open letter’ explaining to them why they’re not being the great feminist allies they think they are when they talk out of their collective asses like this; that they’re basically buying into and reinforcing the same damn gender stereotyping narrative that’s made things so fucked up in the first place.

    Some of them MIGHT actually pay attention and actually end up getting it. That is if they’re as great allies as they claim to be.

    Any man who prattles on about the superiority of women over men is after (at least) one of only two things: a) sex, or b) a wider audience.

    It’s a bit sad really to see how many women fall for it. Kudos to you for seeing through it. Any male of the species worth his intellectual or philosophical salt will not pander or suck up to you — as a matter of fact he’ll treat you like he’d treat another man.

    Because, after all, isn’t that the whole point?

  26. anon male
    anon male May 17, 2012 at 2:31 pm |

    I thought aggressiveness was linked to testosterone levels. I am I wrong?

    1. Jordan S
      Jordan S May 17, 2012 at 2:42 pm |

      As to whether testosterone means more aggression, I am not sure about. Also correlation isn’t necessarily causation.
      The main point I want to address is that each person’s, regardless of gender, testosterone levels are different. Although men tend to have higher levels of testosterone, not all men have the same level of testosterone. Also, the issue here is aggressiveness, not testosterone. I would postulate that any male aggressiveness is more the result of society viewing aggression as more acceptable for men than women, and the patriarchal society.
      I would personally like to compare the aggressiveness by gender in a matriarchal society compared to a patriarchal society.

  27. Jordan Taylor
    Jordan Taylor May 17, 2012 at 4:29 pm |

    Evolutionary psychologists’ views are extremely convenient for a particular sub-set of powerful people: the “old boys’ club” that dominates business, politics, and the mass media. Perhaps that is why the opinions of evolutionary psychologists and their supporters receive so much press. As Cordelia Fine so eloquently stated:

    “Gender Equality 2.0, a revised version of equality in which men and women are not equal, but equally free to express their essentially different natures [...] justifies a status quo in which politics, wealth, science, technology, and artistic achievement continue to lie primarily in the hands of (white) men. [...] When a child clings on to a highly desirable toy and claims that his companion ‘doesn’t want to play with it,’ I have found that it is wise to be suspicious. The same skepticism can be usefully applied here.”

    - Delusions of Gender, 2010, p. 90-91

  28. Mxe354
    Mxe354 May 17, 2012 at 5:33 pm |

    Testosterone is only associated with aggression and other masculine behaviors. No causal link has been discovered. Same goes for any other sex hormone; no one has established that they causally affect behavior.

    Also, the fact that gender roles in hunter-gatherer societies were nearly non-existent (there were differences in hunting and gathering, but they were very small on average – many societies didn’t even have small differences) proves to me that gender is decidedly a social construct.

  29. Blogging Has Been Outsourced | No, Seriously, What About Teh Menz?

    [...] Roger Ebert said some stupid shit about women being better than men. I agree with Jill from Feministe: Most people have the capacity to be wonderful, non-violent, nurturing and loving. Most people also [...]

  30. pinkie pie
    pinkie pie May 18, 2012 at 3:45 am |

    hm, kinda makes me wonder whats going to happen to guys once patriarchy substantially subsides further. So far all the positive argument’s I’ve seen for traditionally masculine traits are only positive because they help one succeed within a patriarchy. Are there any positive traits that are traditionally masculine without a patriarchy to operate in?

  31. LC
    LC May 18, 2012 at 10:06 am |

    Just about every positive trait ever has been assigned as “traditionally masculine”. They’ll survive just fine in a world without patriarchy.

    Are you thinking of a current set of “traditionally masculine” traits? Because the active set changes a fair amount over time.

  32. pinkie pie
    pinkie pie May 18, 2012 at 2:59 pm |

    Are you thinking of a current set of “traditionally masculine” traits? Because the active set changes a fair amount over time.

    I’ve only herd traits like aggression and stoicism referred to in the negative, sighting that the silencing of emotional responses other than force hinders intuition and nurturing behavior. What traits do you normally hear associated with masculinity?

  33. Milquetoast
    Milquetoast May 18, 2012 at 3:41 pm |

    I often hear stuff like “problem-solving,” “decisive decision making,” and “stronger analytical skills” connected to traditional masculinity, though I might be skewed since my last position was in Engineer heaven. Many of the male engineering students had some entrenched views on why women just “weren’t all that great at engineering.” And pretty much all of their views were based in some “Men, naturally, do X and women, of course, do Y” BS.

  34. Mxe354
    Mxe354 May 18, 2012 at 5:09 pm |

    I think the salient masculine traits include (but possibly not limited to) the following:
    -Rationality
    -Stoicism (in the positive sense)
    -Abstract principles of justice
    -Impartiality
    -Resilience
    -Responsibility
    -Assertiveness
    -Domination
    -Self-sufficiency
    -Self-respect
    -Egoism
    -Aggression
    -Sophistication (because femininity is commonly regarded as inferior)
    -Activity

  35. Donna L
    Donna L May 18, 2012 at 5:23 pm |

    Loyalty and honesty. (Because women, of course, are duplicitous lying weasels.)

  36. EG
    EG May 18, 2012 at 5:41 pm |

    Honor and virtue. For a man, they’re abstract ideals involving righteous behavior. For a woman, they describe the state of her hymen.

  37. Mxe354
    Mxe354 May 18, 2012 at 5:42 pm |

    Competition, humor, and perhaps even creativity are some other masculine traits.

  38. Mxe354
    Mxe354 May 18, 2012 at 5:52 pm |

    @EG

    Honor and virtue. For a man, they’re abstract ideals involving righteous behavior. For a woman, they describe the state of her hymen.

    Women are also honored for virtuous behavior. Like being chaste and obeying men. Because there’s nothing worse than an insubordinate woman who isn’t sexually repressed!

  39. LC
    LC May 18, 2012 at 8:54 pm |

    I see a bunch of people have chimed in with the sort of thing I was thinking of. Thanks. Been a busy day.

  40. cherrybomb
    cherrybomb May 18, 2012 at 9:37 pm |

    Ebert said :

    In the U.S. the odds are that 80% of the single parents will be women; having given birth, they stick around to raise children, while men are more likely to be missing.

    Because there are, like, NO social factors that contribute to this phenomenon. *eyeroll*

  41. An Open Letter to Roger Ebert, Or: Women are Not Better than Men « Culturally Disoriented

    [...] thanks to feministe, which pointed me in the direction of Roger Ebert's original blog post, and helped clarify why I [...]

  42. pinkie pie
    pinkie pie May 18, 2012 at 11:23 pm |

    -Rationality
    -Stoicism (in the positive sense)
    -Abstract principles of justice
    -Impartiality
    -Resilience
    -Responsibility
    -Assertiveness
    -Domination
    -Self-sufficiency
    -Self-respect
    -Egoism
    -Aggression
    -Sophistication (because femininity is commonly regarded as inferior)
    -Activity

    Apparently I’ve been hiding under a rock, pretty much all of those traits have always been attributed to women when I’ve herd them with the exceptions of ones like aggression and dominance but those aren’t really ever “good” things (at least I never hear them described as good)

    and I KNOW I have NEVER herd men as a general group referred too as sophisticated. I always thought “men are simple creatures, women are complex” was the rule?

    Loyalty and honesty. (Because women, of course, are duplicitous lying weasels.)

    Again, I’ve always been told the reverse.

    Competition, humor, and perhaps even creativity are some other masculine traits.

    Humor I’ve herd is typically a “guy” thing but competition I have never herd referenced as a positive. I guess I’m just totally in the dark of what society expects most dudes to be other than part of the problem (whatever that problem may be).

  43. Mxe354
    Mxe354 May 19, 2012 at 12:07 am |

    Apparently I’ve been hiding under a rock, pretty much all of those traits have always been attributed to women when I’ve herd them with the exceptions of ones like aggression and dominance but those aren’t really ever “good” things (at least I never hear them described as good)

    Women are commonly perceived to be emotional, sensitive, and partisan at the expense of rationality, impartiality, and adherence to abstract principles of justice.

    Men are commonly told to “be men”, which means that they should be more resilient, responsible for their actions, assertive, self-sufficient, or have more self-respect. Also, masculinity is often associated with activity rather than passivity, which is feminine.

    and I KNOW I have NEVER herd men as a general group referred too as sophisticated. I always thought “men are simple creatures, women are complex” was the rule?

    “Sophisticated” may be the wrong word here, but macho men have a strong fear of femininity and a lot of things that are considered feminine are typicaly devalued because they’re regarded as a waste of time to manly men. Moreover, this goes back to the saying “Be a man!”

    Humor I’ve herd is typically a “guy” thing but competition I have never herd referenced as a positive. I guess I’m just totally in the dark of what society expects most dudes to be other than part of the problem (whatever that problem may be).

    …What? Competition is definitely esteemed by many.

  44. LC
    LC May 19, 2012 at 12:50 am |

    Pinkie pie, the basic rule has been that if it is male it is a good trait, and female a bad one – even if it is, at heart, the same trait. (Personally I cannot think of a single positive or negative trait that is exclusively assigned to one or the other gender.)

    The exact mix of which ones are primarily perceived of as good and masculine change with time and culture, of course. The whole anti-intellectual thing going on these days casting men as simple, for instance. (Of course, even that isn’t really true, because it is only bad smarts like pretentious intellectual stuff that men shouldn’t have. Important smarts like technology are very masculine still.)

  45. Mxe354
    Mxe354 May 19, 2012 at 3:25 pm |

    Pinkie pie, the basic rule has been that if it is male it is a good trait, and female a bad one – even if it is, at heart, the same trait.

    I agree. A good example of this is the idea assertive female leaders are often referred to with terms like “bitch”, and assertive male leaders are instead esteemed relatively speaking.

    Also, a lot of female figures in popular culture are seen as independent, strong, etc. only to a certain extent; usually in order to please the masses, countless shows, comics, etc. eventually introduce character development twists like the heroine ending up being soft, nurturing, or yearning for a man in her life necessarily because she’s female.

    Regarding dishonesty, this trait is often manifest in cases of abuse; women are often dismissed as being liars in the spirit of victim blaming and so on. Moreover, there is still the stereotype that women who dress up provocatively are just want to meet a man to have sex with. And women who deny that they dress for that reason only are branded as liars as well.

    In any case, the primary masculine trait within patriarchy is activity, and the primary feminine trait is passivity. And those two traits give rise to a myriad (if not all) of other traits assigned to the sexes within patriarchy. This means that there is a tiny amount of cultural variation in gender norms, but the underlying passivity/activity dichotomy is ubiquitous.

    Finally, think about the phrase “Be a man!” It has a decidedly masculine connotation that serves to other women by suggesting that to “be a woman” is unimportant or even reprehensible if you’re male.

  46. peter
    peter May 20, 2012 at 9:13 am |

    This is a case of being right, but for the wrong reasons.

    Women are not better than men because of some caricature about their nurturing nature. That is condescending, and fact-free blather.

    It is a deminstrable and empirically measurable fact that countries and societies that have a relatively reasonable level of political and social equality between the genders, typically have better outcomes. That is just a measurable fact, but it doesn’t have anything to do with women being kinder to children and puppy dogs. It has everything to do with the fact that when everyone’s interest are taken into account and given a seat at the table, the outcomes for a society are generally better. Sorry Mr. Ebert, this isn’t exactly a well-guarded secret.

  47. Someone
    Someone May 20, 2012 at 10:41 pm |

    Agree with Jill. The only difference is that men will tend to channel aggression/violence in overt and/or physical ways and women will tend to channel it in underhanded, manipulative and verbal or psychological ways. Other than that, people are people.

    And culture matters, too. Chicago and the Midwest must be gratefully shielded from the sort of desperate social climbing that is all too often practiced on the East coast and L.A. Anyone who’s lived or spent time in either of those places would laugh in Ebert’s face over the suggestion that women are immune from gleefully pushing perceived competitors out of their way and onto their faces when trying to make their way up the elaborate pecking order that is clambered over there.

    The violence that women practice, when they do, is a sort of subtle, social violence. The fact that it’s not physical doesn’t mean it’s “nice”. And the aggression that fuels it is everywhere, but especially in economically powerful, glamorous cities.

  48. Abby Spice
    Abby Spice May 21, 2012 at 2:41 am |

    Just popped over to share one of the delightful comments. I stopped reading after a few, because I didn’t want to go insane, but:

    Peter Hoffman:
    Feminism has to evolve from granting women equal rights to listening to women.

    “Learn to enjoy losing.” – William S Burroughs

    Can man transcend our primitive competitive edge? I think we can. We must.

  49. PrettyAmiable
    PrettyAmiable May 21, 2012 at 6:27 am |

    Pinkie pie, the basic rule has been that if it is male it is a good trait, and female a bad one – even if it is, at heart, the same trait.

    I agree. A good example of this is the idea assertive female leaders are often referred to with terms like “bitch”, and assertive male leaders are instead esteemed relatively speaking.

    When I get angry at work, I’m emotional. My coworkers are passionate.

  50. Samantha
    Samantha May 21, 2012 at 7:50 am |

    I’d be interested to hear what you have to say about Hannah Rosin’s article, “The End of Men.” She also seems to argue that each gender has a specific set of traits: women–by virtue of being women either ‘socially’ or ‘naturally’ constructed (it doesn’t matter which one, honestly, both explanations are reductionistic)–have the good traits, and men have the bad ones. Her article, I think, compliments Ebert’s essay quite nicely.

    What do you think about her article in relation to Ebert’s? Do you think we’ll see many more of these kinds of articles?

  51. LJC
    LJC May 22, 2012 at 1:46 pm |

    Regarding the “testosterone causes aggression” meme, it actually isn’t very clearly substantiated. About half of studies find a link, and about half don’t. A clearer link is between changes in testosterone levels and aggression. It’s likely that most people become accustomed to their baseline testosterone levels and are only more aggressive when these levels are artificially increased. Wright J, Ellis L, Beaver K (2009). Handbook of crime correlates. San Diego: Academic Press.

    Also, high testosterone isn’t exclusively a male thing. If you were to line up everyone on Earth from most testosterone to least, while it’s pretty likely that you’d have a man on one end and a woman on the other, the middle would be pretty evenly mixed. If you did the same with demonstrated aggressive tendencies, it would be even more mixed.

    Hormones are a lot more complicated than pop psychology makes them out to be.

  52. LC
    LC May 22, 2012 at 2:34 pm |

    A clearer link is between changes in testosterone levels and aggression. It’s likely that most people become accustomed to their baseline testosterone levels and are only more aggressive when these levels are artificially increased. Wright J, Ellis L, Beaver K (2009). Handbook of crime correlates. San Diego: Academic Press.

    LJC, thanks so much for that link! I’ve had a vague memory for evidence that it was the change in level that was important for a while, but didn’t have the cite. Hopefully I can pull that paper at work so I can read it properly.

  53. EG
    EG May 22, 2012 at 2:37 pm |

    That explains a lot to me about why so many teenagers, including myself at that age, are so unpleasant to be around–their bodies have been completely thrown for a loop by the new hormone-level changes. It’s not that those hormone levels go back down after adolescence; it’s that our bodies get used to them.

    This was probably obvious to everyone but me already.

  54. LC
    LC May 22, 2012 at 3:17 pm |

    This was probably obvious to everyone but me already.

    Considering how many people insist it is level that is important, probably not obvious to everyone but you. :)

  55. Donna L
    Donna L May 22, 2012 at 3:25 pm |

    A clearer link is between changes in testosterone levels and aggression. It’s likely that most people become accustomed to their baseline testosterone levels and are only more aggressive when these levels are artificially increased.

    Perhaps that’s why trans men beginning to take T sometimes report increased aggression levels (and horniness too, of course).

    I believe that the average woman has a lot more testosterone under ordinary circumstances than the average man has estrogen. If I recall correctly, the adrenal glands produce testosterone in everyone. So for trans women, genital surgery doesn’t eliminate testosterone production entirely, and calling testosterone the “male” hormone is something of a misnomer.

  56. Donna L
    Donna L May 22, 2012 at 3:32 pm |

    Conversely, although I hate to promote gender stereotyping, it happens to be the case that for the first year or so after I began taking estrogen and anti-androgens, I found myself alarmingly prone to bursting into tears at the least provocation, with great frequency, something I rarely, if ever, had done since early childhood. (It’s a commonly-reported phenomenon.) Yes, I was under a great deal of stress about being separated from my then-10 year old son except on weekends, when I had previously seen him every single day of his life, but I don’t think that explains it entirely.

  57. EG
    EG May 22, 2012 at 3:44 pm |

    That makes sense to me, Donna. I know that sometimes–not every time, but sometimes–I do feel otherwise inexplicably sad and weepy in the days before my period. And I’m sure that men have hormonal fluctuations that correspond to their moods as well–but of course, since they’re “normal,” nobody bothers to label or dismiss or study them!

  58. Caperton
    Caperton May 22, 2012 at 4:56 pm | *

    I definitely get weepier around my period. And I have to recount a recent car trip I took with a friend who’s on medication to decrease testosterone metabolism.

    “It’s actually pretty nice. I feel like I’ve had more energy lately, and at work I’ve been JESUS CHRIST, LEARN HOW TO GODDAMN DRIVE. … So there have been some downsides…”

  59. randomized
    randomized May 23, 2012 at 5:38 am |

    I can’t say I experience mood shifts tied to any other biological events or time’s of year. (cis dude)

  60. EG
    EG May 23, 2012 at 10:03 pm |

    Without an external sign like menstruation, though, how would you know?

  61. Henry
    Henry May 24, 2012 at 1:38 am |

    #24 I suspect is right. Here’s some data, the number of violent crimes committed by women has increased over the years (and this coincides with women achieving more autonomy in society during the same period – though I don’t have analysis handy to say the 2 are linked (that is does more autonomy result in an increase in aggressive behavior?) I use crime here because it is something we tabulate annually and thus can easily get stats – substitute signs of socially accepted positive aggressive behavior here also (e.g. female CEOs, business owners, police officers etc. the numbers of which I assume have increased) if you can find data.

    https://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles/femof.pdf

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/crime/6402187/Violent-crime-by-women-on-the-increase.html

    So when Ebert meets a female violent offender, will he finally give up on his women = nurture = better human theory? I still don’t necessarily buy the whole testoterone = violence argument, excessive testosterone does cause violent symptoms (look at the steroid rage cases if you doubt, and those cases were caused by steriods chemically altered to reduce the ragey effects). But at whatever range is normative for males, I don’t see anything that says “aha at those normal levels you are just barely under the line of becoming some sort of throat ripping werewolf.”

  62. randomized
    randomized May 24, 2012 at 4:30 pm |

    @EG I probably wouldn’t any more than a woman notices stuff about herself, but I always got the impression that women don’t exactly need to “check their own oil” to see if their recent mood swings or outbursts are “aunt flow” related, they just kinda “knew” when “that thing” was doing it and things weren’t just business as usual (even without using the cramps as an indicator, some women don’t even get them right?).

    Is this true? I’m not a woman so I realize that analysis is built totally on speculation.

  63. Blogging Has Been Outsourced — The Good Men Project

    [...] Roger Ebert said some stupid shit about women being better than men. I agree with Jill from Feministe: Most people have the capacity to be wonderful, non-violent, nurturing and loving. Most people also [...]

  64. Anonymous
    Anonymous June 5, 2012 at 1:47 pm |

    Perhaps that’s why trans men beginning to take T sometimes report increased aggression levels (and horniness too, of course).

    Conversely, although I hate to promote gender stereotyping, it happens to be the case that for the first year or so after I began taking estrogen and anti-androgens, I found myself alarmingly prone to bursting into tears at the least provocation, with great frequency, something I rarely, if ever, had done since early childhood.

    That makes sense to me, Donna. I know that sometimes–not every time, but sometimes–I do feel otherwise inexplicably sad and weepy in the days before my period.

    I think in cases like these many forget to take psycological things into account. People’s body will sometime react to their own beliefs. I once read in a gynecologist book that PMS is mainly, if not completely a psycological thing.

    People constantly go on about how women are extra emotional around on on their period. I have seen this in real life all too often. I never PMS or have a change of emotions around or during my period because I never believed that was true I even began keeping track of my emotions to makesure I wasn’t just in denial. If I’m upset when im on my period it’s because someone has pissed me off or made me sad, it would be no different any other time of the month.

    Meanwhile I noticed that women that talk about PMS the most and complain about their period experiance the most results. I know a girl that’s basically proud of it she uses it as an excuse to be bitchy. (Not saying that all girls do this to justify bad behaivor mind you.)

    I think it is the case with people taking hormones. They expect changes so the brain reacts in such a manner.

    And while this may not always be the case, I do think it is important to consider mind and body cooperation. There are many factors that contribute to an individual’s behavior other than just hormones like some scientist will have you believe.

  65. EG
    EG June 6, 2012 at 4:36 pm |

    I always got the impression that women don’t exactly need to “check their own oil” to see if their recent mood swings or outbursts are “aunt flow” related, they just kinda “knew” when “that thing” was doing it and things weren’t just business as usual (even without using the cramps as an indicator, some women don’t even get them right?).

    Answering very late, randomized, but that’s certainly not true for me. What’ll happen with me when it happens is that I’ll be grumpy or cranky or weepy and physically uncomfortable for no real reason that I can figure out and whine and complain all day to my best friend, until she says “EG, sweetie, don’t you think you might be PMS-ing a little?” And I say “NO! I just GOT my period, for pete’s sake,” and she says “No, hon, you got almost a month ago, remember?” and I say “No! I just GOT it, and I was all weepy and cranky and achey for a few days before it, and you said it was because I was going to get my period” and then she says “Yes, EG. That was a month ago.” And then I say “Oh. Really? Are you sure?”

    Nah, I don’t just know.

  66. EG
    EG June 6, 2012 at 4:39 pm |

    Meanwhile I noticed that women that talk about PMS the most and complain about their period experiance the most results.

    So from this you infer that the causality is from the belief? You don’t see how this exact same result would make perfect sense with the causality the other way round? Like, if you experience massive symptoms surrounding your menstrual cycle…you’re probably more likely to talk and complain about it than somebody who doesn’t?

    Doctors do have a history of telling women that our problems are all in our heads. I’m skeptical.

  67. Donna L
    Donna L June 6, 2012 at 5:06 pm |

    I think it is the case with people taking hormones. They expect changes so the brain reacts in such a manner.

    Baloney. You have no idea. I *never* expected any emotional changes, let alone the crying. I thought the idea was ridiculous. And I’ve spoken to trans men who were surprised at some of the effects of testosterone. Do you really think that mind and body are so strictly separate that it’s implausible that something having such strong effects on one’s body might also have some effect on one’s emotional state, at least when it greatly increases?

  68. Chiara
    Chiara June 6, 2012 at 6:15 pm |

    Yeah that’s bs. Having mood swings when your on your period is nothing to be ashamed about and we dont need to deny it and say its just a psychological thing. If someone wants to use pms as proof that women suck or whatever, then fuck them. Simple as that.

  69. Anonymous
    Anonymous June 8, 2012 at 11:43 pm |

    Yeah that’s bs. Having mood swings when your on your period is nothing to be ashamed about and we dont need to deny it and say its just a psychological thing. If someone wants to use pms as proof that women suck or whatever, then fuck them. Simple as that.

    I never said that women suck or anything close to implying that. Way to jump to conclusion. People will deny up in down that something doesn’t effect them when it indeed does. I also feel that I have the right to deny something I do not beleive I personally suffer from. I do not think I’m better than a women that does suffer from it mind you.

    I just don’t give into the idea that women are naturally emotionally weak creatures that can’t control their emotions like men are naturally horney dogs that can’t control their bodies when they are both capable.

    Baloney. You have no idea. I *never* expected any emotional changes, let alone the crying. I thought the idea was ridiculous. And I’ve spoken to trans men who were surprised at some of the effects of testosterone. Do you really think that mind and body are so strictly separate that it’s implausible that something having such strong effects on one’s body might also have some effect on one’s emotional state, at least when it greatly increases?

    I said the mind effect was not always the case, but if it was it could be subconcious like I said before. People grow up hearing that women are emotional and men are easy to arouse and it sticks inside their heads. I’m not pretending to know what exactly happend with you and the trans people you have talked to. I simply formed a conclusion with the information provided.

    So from this you infer that the causality is from the belief? You don’t see how this exact same result would make perfect sense with the causality the other way round? Like, if you experience massive symptoms surrounding your menstrual cycle…you’re probably more likely to talk and complain about it than somebody who doesn’t?

    I am not saying that if someone is suffering from something it is ALWAYS in their heads. I’m saying that sometimes if someone is welcoming an effect or sickness by believing such is inevitable for them (Before it happends)they may just experience it. But as I said in my first post and over again, it is not always the case.

    Surely we’ve all had that senario where we have gotten a cut or a bruise and did not even feel pain untill you noticed it was there. I have and I know many other people that have.

    I am just giving my two cents on the subject, I believe the mind works with the body under many circumstances. (Notice the men in tribal documentaries arn’t walking around with boners and constantly staring at boobs dispite the “fact” that men are “naturally” suppose to be aroused at the site of bare breast and the women of many villages are completely topless.)

    I don’t want to spend days on the internet arguing about this, I just hope some of you at least look into this instead of just calling a hoax on me I do not benefit whether you choose to believe me or not just trying to enlighten people on something that people seem to rarely give thought to when discussing scientific “facts” especially when it comes to pyschology and gender studies.

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