The Sexual Paradox

In this book by Susan Pinker, she concludes that:

“.forty years of discounting biology have led us to a strange and
discomfiting place, one where women are afraid to own up to their desires
and men-despite their foibles-are seen as standard issue” (p. 254).

When I grew up, we were told that we, as women, could “achieve anything”.
We were told that by our teachers, and the atmosphere we grew up in promoted
it.

So, although I loved the typically “feminine” subjects; languages, art and
biology/genetics (women tend to veer towards the “life” sciences –
psychology is another subject women tend to choose),I decided to go for a
career where I would earn a decent salary, in order to better bring up a
family. And which areas are these? They are areas where mathematics, logic
and “systematic” thinking dominate; e.g., computing. Computing is what I
chose.

How do I compare with my mainly male co-workers? There is a huge difference.
Most of them are passionately interested in computers, hardware as well as
software, they buy lots of technical magazines (e.g. “PC World”-I’ve never
bought a “PC World” in my life, let alone read one). They talk endlessly
about the latest gadgets they have just bought or are thinking of buying.
Many of the most manic ones memorize the specifications and prices of a
multitude of different computers, mobile phones, satnavs, etc. etc. Most of
them do not read widely (some do); if they read it is usually not fiction
but, for example, books about the first or second world war (i.e., factual).
All read technical manuals, and not just at work! Very few read books that
probe relationships in depth. A high percentage of the men I have come
across in the computing industry have odd behaviours. One always used to
run everywhere when going out, some would blank you if they met you in the
street, in spite of having worked with you for ages and being nice and
helpful to you in the office. Some, although highly capable programmers,
would not have a clue about how to initiate a social conversation in a pub.
One, while being helpful and explaining a problem to me in depth, spent the
whole conversation not making eye contact once, but looking at the walls and
the ceiling!

I guess we’re back with Baron-Cohen’s “systemising” versus “empathy”
differences. Systematic thinking is very important in computing, of course,
and it’s been said more than once that there are a lot of people with
Asperger’s syndrome in the computer industry.(Baron-Cohen’s half-serious
quip being that most men are somewhere on the autistic spectrum).

Pinker takes issue with men being used as the “vanilla” gender, the standard
everyone should be measured against. She has a very good point.

She claims that, at least in the West, although there may still be glass
ceilings in place, women discard a lot of typical male career patterns out
of choice, not because of societal pressure (“the Standard Social Science
Model”).

The following review of the book is very good in my opinion, read it and see
what you think:

http://www.epjournal.net/filestore/EP08119121.pdf

[posted on behalf of Miel]

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