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anti-lemming

The endocrine glands of men pump a lot of testosterone into their bloodstreams. Testosterone makes people feel more confident and hence more apt to take risks; it also makes them anger faster, act out with more violent, and have greater sexual drives. High levels of testosterone are also linked to deeper voices, squarer jaws, and greater willingness to assume leadership.

Some men have so much testosterone in their blood that one might say, in a sense, that their brains are testosterone intoxicated. Just ask the parents of teenaged boys. Testosterone intoxicated men are more likely to be very proud, take violent or unconsidered action, and take greater risks. Depending on their reasoning ability, skills, self-discipline, ethics, and values, men may take risks toward achieving admirable goals (say, becoming entrepreneurs or Olympic finalists or tenured professors), or bad goals (say, commit crimes or drive too fast in public roads).
The ancient Greeks had a term for behavior revealing testosterone intoxication on the part of leaders –– hubris.

I think that someone such as Larry Summers, who is skilled and respected in many areas, nonetheless is overconfident in his ability to comment tactfully, respectfully, and skillfully in this area where he has devoted less time and depth of study than would be ideal. It is an area very important to leadership and support among all his audiences.

Has he read Stephen Jay Gould's book, The Mismeasure of Man? Is he willing to encourage men who have extremely talented assistant professor-wives to assume the major burden of cooking, cleaning, and rearing families, so these wives can devote themselves to fully developing their scientific and engineering potential? Professor Summers also needs to determine why many women are not willing to sacrifice their families for their careers and the reasons behind this. Does society consider it sheer arrogance for a woman to foist the family duties onto their men the way many men foist family duties on their talented wives? (Possibly. There is considerable knee-jerk disapproval regarding “emasculating” men.) Are there glass walls and mirrors of disapproval with regard to delegating the job of mothering? (Possibly.) Do women anticipate and rely on societal approval of their actions moreso than men? (Good question.) While Professor Summers put in his 80-hour workweeks at the Department of Treasury, was his wife gladly neglecting her own career and if so, why did he allow her to do this? Many a high-achieving woman routinely puts in a punishing 80-hour work week –– all or a great portion of this time lavished on their growing families.

I believe there needs to be considerable energy devoted to the serious study of approval and disapproval, specific expectations or lack of expectations, motivation and de-motivation, and their powerful influences on behavior. That may hold the some keys to the power and effectiveness of discrimination –– when it does or does not become a glass ceiling or a self-fulfilling prophecy.

dru

The male/female white/nonwhite distinction is interesting, and needs more analysis. If socialization can account for differences in prosecution (not necessarily behaviour) in skin color, then it can at least hypothetically account for it in sex differences.

While studying genetic predispositions is interesting, we do everyone a disservice by creating two conceptual sets, nature and nurture, and implying that they are roughly equal in influence and size.

I don't think we'll get anywhere unless we analyze genetics as an extremely nebulous set of conditions in the context of which all kind of complex developmental variables are played out.

In any particular situation where a difference is found between the sexes, then, we need to ask a full range of questions:

What are the genetic differences?

What are the differing developmental variables?

What kinds of socialization might account for the differences?

What are the differences in power?

How might the criteria used to establish the difference in the first place skew the results?

If the goal of science is to *understand* differences (in math achievement, in incarceration, or whatever), the analysis has to try to account for the full range of conceptual tools available, and account for the full range of plausible answers to *why* a fact exists.

Simply ascribing a cause to genetics because a statistical correlation is found in studies of the end result of an unfathomably complex process of socialization, development, and power relations (to name a few) doesn't really help that process along.

The data is obviously useful, but the short-circuit explanations that scientists regularly use to account for their results are not, I think, to be taken seriously without serious reflection.

alChandler

I don't suppose anybody has floated the idea that women are better at planning their violent psychopathic acts and so aren't caught as often?

Jen Larson

Anti lemming. Most breakthrough mathematical work is done at a very young age. In this society at this age, bright people of both sexes tend to be in the university or some other research institute with plenty of time to focus.

Thus if we take this subset (elite mathematical work) of numbers based careers your examples of why women are blocked becomes questionable.

If the limiting factor is going to be society, then why don't we look at teenage culture. And possible influences, these include the choices girls encourage others to make, math is not proper!

While discrimination by teachers might be a factor, given the fact that texts are objective it is more overcomeable than in other cases.

Also before patronizing an individual while somewhat paradoxically coming up with a simple biological explanation of male violence; look at the logic. It was thus:

- Male tests on mathematics show greater extremes including more (not all) members near both top and bottom.

- Scores near the top do roughly correlate with success in these fields.

Once again your logic is flawed. We are not measuring social factors such as men changing diapers for fully grown women, if this were the issue the test results would be similar. We are looking at factors that occur at a young age, an age when girls on average do better than boys on most subjects and indeed on average do fairly well in math.

So the question becomes why do they (as a group) get that b plus in algebra, but not the a plus and or less likely to devour books on topography on the side?

Prejudice from math teachers? A desire to please boys by not venturing into their domains even though they are routinely venturing into once male subjects like medicine (50%) and law? A desire to fit in with the other girls.

Genetic?

I can't answer, but I can use logic to show that your explanation that the reason the 18 year girl isn't majoring in engineering is because hubby doesn't do his fair share of diaper changing at 35 shows that whatever sex you are, you don't have the capacity for critical thinking and should be hesitant to judge anyone elses.

E

I don't think that women who are put on trial for a criminal offense are less likely to be put in prison that men, for equal crimes. Yet, it does seem like less women are given tenure for their academic work, even though their contributions are at the same level as their male colleagues.

Kelly

I think that there is a flaw in saying that the discrimination of men being incarcerated is a bigger injustice than women getting paid less. While, it is certainly an alarming statistic, the proportion of total men who go to prison is considerably less than the proportion of total women who get screwed over at thier job. I would argue that by being a more widespread problem, women getting paid on average a quarter less than men do is in fact a larger problem.

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