Thursday, November 30, 2006

Mate selection differences

There are several theories to explain the differences men and women have in selecting a mate. reviewed 3 types of these: sociobiological, sociological, and psychological. None of these theories provide a complete model, unfortunately, and Epstein and Guttman recommend a multivariate approach. focus specifically on evolutionary theories in their review.

Experimental data show that there do tend to be differences in the criteria men and women use. finds that women are more likely to focus on non-physical characteristics such as socioeconomic status and ambition. found that women's (but not men's) selectivity varies depending on group size; that is, women become pickier the more options they are presented with. Kamenica and Simonson also found that women placed more emphasis on race than men did, however this may have been confounded with perceived socioeconomic status.

For much of my adult life, I've been so concerned with making an equal contribution to my relationships that I've probably overshot. I'd have a much easier time living with being a sugar daddy than a kept man, or at least I like to tell myself so. However, there was one autumn when I threw pride to the wind and took advantage of mate-selection differences, and I'm not particularly proud of it. In the fall of 1996, I ended up flat broke, due to an uninsured car accident. Personal ads for women are generally free, so I placed an ad and went on 2-3 dates per week, letting men pick up the tab for most of my eating. I had no intention of seeing these guys again, and I didn't really represent my personality in the ads, because I wanted the type of man who would pick up the check, not the type I'd actually date. After a month or two I got really disgusted with myself and stopped, but I don't think I've ever really forgiven myself for it.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Upper Body strength

The author's puny
muscles, c. 2004
gives the unreferenced estimate that women's upper body strength is about 40-50% lower than men's. found that the women they tested were 52% as strong as the men they tested. concluded that the difference in strength was related to a genetic difference in the number of muscle fibers between men and women, noting that male bodybuilders did not have substantially more muscle fibers than untrained males, while females had fewer than both groups.

The conclusions made by all of the papers above correlate muscle size and fiber number with strength. However, this may not constitute the entire picture. found that a training regimen gave men a slight edge in relative muscle size increase, but women substantially outpaced men in relative strength increase.

I'm self-conscious about my upper body strength. For one thing, I think it used to be better, when I worked a more physically demanding job, and spent a lot of time carrying things and climbing ladders. But largely, I'm self-conscious about the change in my perceived relative strength. As a woman, I was regularly told I was "surprisingly strong;" I don't know any women who aren't told that, so it's a meaningless compliment. My upper body muscle mass has definitely increased, thanks to testosterone injections, but instead of making me strong for a woman, I'm now weak for a man. My partner (a non-transgendered man) gets frustrated with the difference in our response to exercise, because he's not on steroids, and I am, so I get more obvious improvement. It all balances out in the end, and I'll arm-wrestle anyone who says differently.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

The power of choice

brought down a rain of criticism with their assertion this month that differences in promotion and tenure between male and female scientists were "entirely explained by fertility decisions." However, they follow up by stating that "children make it less likely that women in science will advance ... while both marriage and children increase men's likelihood of advancing." agrees that it is "responsibilities outside of their academic work" that are the major cause of difficulty for women in science. Interestingly, report that, in the humanities, children made women more likely to be promoted.

Okay, so I understand that people who have parallel priorities are going to have trouble competing with people who don't. That makes sense to me. However, that doesn't seem to be the way it's working -- or if it is, it's because fathers have fewer outside interests than non-fathers. Is it possible that being a father makes a man more committed to his work? It's a line of inquiry I haven't seen addressed, and that I haven't explored at all. Sadly, given my outside responsibilities, I don't have time to explore it now. My partner and I are moving, and I've taken the bulk of the organizational work, partially due to job fliexibility, and partially due to talent/inclination. We both really hate dealing with this kind of stuff, but I seem to hate it less than he does.

Monday, November 27, 2006

A Driven Man

An article in the UK's claims that "there will be fewer differences between the sexes in the future." The article is part of a series ( ) inspired by , whose study of 1995 vs. 2003 attitudes towards speed cameras found substantial gender differences, leading the authors to conclude that "it may not always be appropriate to 'drivers' en masse...[when] stating what drivers feel." The Times' assertion that gender differences are decreasing seems to be based on the study's finding that both sexes are finding ways to manipulate the speed camera system (such as slowing down as approaching a camera, and speeding up afterward).

Despite the Times series frequent assertions that women are stereotyped as poor drivers, found that most drivers felt young males were the least competent drivers, and most likely to get in an accident, confirming similar results found by . A statistical review by suggests that the difference between male and female accident rates has remained fairly steady despite changes in society, which Evans calls support for a biological cause.

I've been lucky enough not to trip over the Times before, and with any luck, I won't find anything worth covering there again. The oh-so-precious "women driver" jokes permeated all the articles they published on this topic, and finding the sources for their claims was less than intuitive. I suppose it's useful for me to be reminded that sexism is still rampant in huge swathes of society. Then again, I conveniently forget how much I used to indulge in that sort of humor, and I'm probably "forgetting" doing it more recently. I used to wear a man's hat and sunglasses when I drove, in the hope that other driver's wouldn't see me at the wheel and classify me as a "woman driver." I've never been confident about my driving ability, and I didn't want to contribute to the stereotype. Of course, my motives for not wanting to be seen as a woman were probably more complicated, but I wasn't aware of it at the time.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Connection Controversy

"The Corpus Callosum (Fig. 733) is the great
transverse commissure which unites the
cerebral hemispheres and roofs in the lateral
ventricles."-- .
The debate over sexual dimorphism in the corpus callosum, the largest connection between the left and right hemispheres of the human brain, went on for years, and in fact is still debated to greater and lesser degrees.

Credit for beginning this argument seems to belong with who reported that the splenium (or posterior part) of the corpus callosum was more bulbous in women than in men. They suggested that this difference might be related to suggested sex differences in lateralization (specialization to one side) of visuospatial function.

However, DeLacoste-Utamsing and Holloway's paper was attacked for its small sample size, and failures in appropriately age-matching subjects. suggested that they did not accurately match for sex(!) and in their computer modeled study, did not find sex differences in the splenium. did not find differences in children, and confirmed the lack of differentiation in children. Interestingly, claimed to find differences in newborns. examined the types of statistical analyses used to study this debate, and concludes that a difference, while small, does exist.

Personally, I find it incredibly amusing that a debate the size and shape of an object can go on for 20 years. I could think of no better way to leave off before the holiday. Of course, if my family were debating it, by this time, the splenium of the corpus callosum would be twenty feet high, hung with twinkle-lights, and have somehow insulted my aunt. I'll be taking tomorrow and Friday off for the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday. See you on Monday.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Never forget a face

Who remembers faces better? suspected it would be women, because of their "greater interpersonal orientation", and in the five experiments they ran, women did score better. There seemed to be a tendency for both men and women to more accurately recall a woman's appearance, but this was not statistically significant in all cases.

meta-analysis of facial recognition studies found no difference in gender. Judith A. Hall's 1984 book, , says that her meta-analysis does find a female advantage in this area. reported that women performed better on facial recognition, but in 2006, clarified that this only applied to women's faces, and that these effects were magnified by an own-ethnicity bias.

To be honest, I have no idea whether or not I'm good with faces. I certainly don't feel like I am, but I can't tell you if that's another case of my unreasonable personal expectations or not. However, I find it fascinating that women, who tend not to be as visually focused as men, should score as well or better on a visual task like facial recognition. Faces are special. There's even a special word for being unable to recognize faces: . People dedicate their entire careers to facial recognition, and I can't do it justice in a couple of sentences. We'll be coming back to this topic again.

Monday, November 20, 2006

The question defines the answer, pt 1

Andrea Doucet's , released this week, makes the startling observation that stay-at-home dads are different from stay-at-home moms, according to a review in the . While Doucet's interviews with 120 Canadian fathers did seem to reveal some patterns of behavior and attitude in men, it is unclear what female data she used for comparison. suggests that women are not spending considerably less time with their children, while men are spending more time, leading to a net gain in parental-time.

The main difference that Doucet seems to be highlighting is the men's desire to retain their masculinity. "Some women revel in those social and networking aspects, whereas this is less the case for men. So I think for them they need to find interests that keep them in touch with their own sense of what it means to be a man" Doucet told the Ottawa Citizen. suggests that parental social networks are predictors of parental involvement, but Sheldon's study specifically excluded fathers.

Are there differences between fathers and mothers? Certainly. Are these more a factor of social pressures or differences in interests and desires? Can those be differentiated? The quotes given from Doucet's book point again and again to men carving out their own space -- being able to spend time with and nurture their kids without feeling that they're "giving up" their masculinity. It seems to me that the question itself puts men on the defensive. Questioning why a man would choose to stay at home is the opposite of progress.

Friday, November 17, 2006

From the keyboards of babes

put preadolescent children into a MUD (online game) with other children they did not know, and studied their interactions. The children's gender was apparent by their character in the game, so while the children did not know each other, they knew the gender of the other child they were interacting with. Girl-girl pairs tended to interact through written dialogue, while boy-boy pairs interacted more through action. In mixed pairs, girls increased their actions and boys increased the amount they wrote. Calvert et al conclude that in late childhood, children begin to moderate their behavior patterns in interactions with the opposite sex.

This split between action and verbal communication, if valid, suggests that males would tend to dominate an action-oriented environment such as online games, while females would tend to dominate a verbal-oriented environment such as blogs. Online gaming surveys seem to confirm the first part of this assumption; found that 85% of online gamers were male and 's 2004 survey reported 90% males. However, cite several studies that find that bloggers are evenly split between males and females, although their sampling method provided nearly twice as many female subjects as male. It is suggested that the "teen" group of bloggers is skewed female. Huffaker and Calvert also found high rates of expressed homosexuality among teen male bloggers (14%) but not among teen female bloggers (3%). Sexuality demographics for online gamers was not available.

The only online game I've ever really taken big part in was , which called "highly successful" with women. However, I've noticed even on this friendly game that outing yourself as queer is usually a poor idea. In an online game, you have very little control over the feedback you get based on the information you provide. In a blog, you can disable or moderate comments, picking and choosing what reactions you'll receive. I think that the ability to exercise control over feedback may be an important part of the online/gender puzzle, but I'm not sure how it fits in.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Factors in defining sexual harassment

Studies consistently find that women see more sexual harassment in the workplace than do men (see review by ). Some suggest that this may be due to differences in how sexual harassment is defined by these two groups. However, factors other than observer gender seem to play a role in whether a specific interaction is deemed to be harassment have been studied.

found that the power dynamic in a relationship was a major factor in whether an interaction was deemed harassment. found that men and women tend to define sexual harassment differently, but that personality masculinity plays a greater role than sex. found that the gender of the harasser played a large role for both male and female viewers. found that age also played a large role in how sexual harassment was defined. found a correlation between personal attractiveness and a discrepancy between actual and perceived sexual harassment.

I am notoriously blind to harassment of most kinds. I very rarely see any enmity directed towards me as being due to what I may represent; I tend to assume (even if I'm being called by a slur) that the person is just looking for ways to hurt me personally, and not really directing their anger towards everyone of my gender/sexuality/race/etc. However, I'm also very aware of the ways in which I end up being a poster boy. For a lot of people, I am the first [choose label] they've had a conversation with, and I find myself speaking in generalities, trying to represent the diverse experiences of [label] instead of making an honest representation of my own experiences.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Mortality rates in heart attack

Last month, we looked briefly at some of the differences between men and women in the presentation of heart attack symptoms (). Results reported by yesterday shed light on some of the gender differences in outcomes from heart failure. The Duke study, which combined data from five clinical trials, included nearly 2,800 women. As previously noted (see ), one of the great shortcomings in women's health care is the low inclusion rates of women in medical studies. Camille Frazier, who presented the findings to the American Heart Association's annual session, said "our data demonstrated that women had better survival rates than men." In contrast, a Norwegian study by found that women were more likely to die in case of a heart attack. Both studies found higher rates of hypertension and diabetes in their female subjects, who had been chosen for their heart-failure risk.

I tend to divide families, in my head, into "cancer families" and "heart families." While there is a certain amount of heart failure in my family history, the last few deaths have been from various cancers, and it tends to be the health risk I think about. However, I've noticed since transition that people -- including doctors -- don't talk to me about cancer risks as much as they used to. Now, when I go to the doctor, "blood pressure," "cholesterol," and "cardiovascular" are mentioned far more often. While my personal blood pressure and cholesterol have gone up slightly since beginning hormones, they're still well within normal levels, but my family history is still rife with cancers. It makes me wonder how much gender influences the assessment of my risks. On the other hand, prior to transition, I was less aware of how much cancer was in my family, so perhaps I'm listening for it more.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

She does like cocaine, apparently.

state that women are at greater risk for cocaine addiction. Hu et al used a rat model to examine gender differences in cocaine sensitization and addiction. They found that there were both hormonal and structural components to the female propensity towards cocaine self-administration in rats. studied cocaine effects in human subjects, and found that (given a weight-dependent dose) men had higher plasma cocaine levels and reported more intense subjective effects. However, women and men had similar heart-rate response. Plasma levels in women were distinctly affected by menstrual cycle. suggests that women are more vulnerable than men to several phases of the drug-abuse cycle: acquisition, maintenance, escalation, and relapse.

Once again, we trip over a subject with which I have little to no personal experience. I'm a very competitive person, and I always feel the need to "keep up" with the people that I'm around -- I've made myself ill keeping up on coffee, on cigarettes, and on alcohol. That being the case, I've kept the less legal recreationals largely out of my life, because I didn't trust myself to know when to stop. The studies above suggest that although women aren't feeling as great a subjective reward for their drug use, they're more driven to continue, which makes me realize exactly how little I know about the process of addiction.

Monday, November 13, 2006

B.S.: Benevolent Sexism

propose that sexism can largely be differentiated into three types: benevolent, ambivalent, and hostile. Benevolent sexism tends to be complementary or protective. found that complementary sexist stereotypes (stereotypes that suggest that women and men have complementary strengths and weaknesses) tend to lead to a sense that the status quo is more fair. In a cross-cultural study, found that both hostile and benevolent sexism were predictors of gender inequality, and usually both attitudes existed within the same person. However, found that most people found it difficult to believe that benevolent and hostile sexist statements could come from the same person.

Glick and Fiske looked specifically at protective benevolent sexism in their 2001 study (which they associated with chivalry). Although Glick and Fiske found that these attitudes were usually found in conjunction with hostile sexism in their cross-cultural 2001 sample, did not find that chivalrous attitudes correlated with hostile sexism in their group of British university students.

It's possible that this entire blog is an exercise in Benevolent Sexism (hereafter BS). I do make a distinct point of attempting to cover strengths and weaknesses about both men and women. I know that certain parts of a BS system are pretty deeply ingrained in me. While my father was one of the most staunch feminists (of any gender) that I've ever known, I find myself cringing at imagined criticism from him if I allow a woman to suffer, but not a man. The chivalrous instinct is ingrained. I also find myself buying into a complementary BS model: I constantly find myself comparing women and men using a independence/interdependence dichotomy, and only rarely do I question its inherent worth. However, the BS attitudes held by other women was one of the main launching points for my exploration of my own gender -- the BS seems to be a huge part of women's communal identity. Who am I to question it?

Friday, November 10, 2006

This man's army

In the United States, women have been able to enlist in the military since , when the U.S. Naval Reserves "conspicuously" omitted gender as a qualification for service. This was the first time women had served in the U.S. Military in non-nurse capacities, although the first and only woman to receive the Medal of Honor was , a surgeon during the U.S. Civil War.

There are currently at least that conscript women for mandatory military service. In the United States at present, both women and men can voluntarily enlist, although their duties in service are still a matter of significant debate. Women are not allowed in ground combat roles as a matter of national policy. In May 2005, the reported that the House Armed Services committee was pushing a provision to keep women out of support companies "exposed to hostile fire."

Women who do choose to join the U.S. Military are subject to a number of challenges not experienced by their male counterparts. found that stress related to "being a woman in the military" was linked to smoking and illicit drug use in active-duty recruits. reported that smoking rates were higher among active-duty women than among active-duty men or civilians of either gender. Sadler et al surveyed 537 women who had served between Vietnam and 2000. They found that during their service, , and that these rates were consistent across eras of service. For comparison, reported that 6.5%-16.5% of male veterans applying for PTSD benefits reported a sexual assault that took place during or after their military service.

Note to self: Send in selective service exemption form. I can't believe I keep forgetting it. See, in 2005, when I finally completed the paperwork that changed my legal status to male, suddenly I was a man over 18 who had never registered with the Selective Service. Other ftms I know have told me that they eventually received notices from the selective service saying that they had to register, but I wanted to preempt that by sending it in on my own. I just haven't gotten around to it. There is, luckily enough, a standard form that says "I am a transsexual" and gets you a letter of exemption (which I'm told does not disclose your transsexual status). Actually, never mind. I just checked the , and because I was over 26 when I became a man, I believe the point is moot.

Thursday, November 9, 2006

Sexual segregation and the wage gap.

In , we looked at how differences in priorities led women to accept less pay for similar jobs, in exchange for more flexibility in hours or more time off. An alternative theory, such as that proposed by suggests that "sexual segregation", or the tendency for certain lower-paying fields to be female-dominated, was the primary reason for the wage gap. However, many recent studies suggest that this theory holds little promise.

concluded that even within female-dominated fields, women still tended to be paid less than men in the same jobs. also confirmed the conclusion that women earned about 73% as much as men in the same fields, and that this gap was consistent across fields and levels of education. However, Ryan notes that women's labor force experience is more variable than men's within fields, and that the variability in women's earnings is partially explained by this, which points back to the "greater time away from work" hypothesis.

Even before I was ready to admit to myself that I needed to live as a man to be happy, I joked that "if I had been born a man, I'd probably be a nurse or a teacher." I find it fairly amusing that in the same year that I transitioned from female to male, I also transitioned from a male-dominated job (theatre technician) to a female-dominated one (administrative assistant). My mother often insisted that I had a strong desire to be in the minority. I hope there's more to it than that.

Wednesday, November 8, 2006

Cortisol and memory

tested how the relationship between stress-induced cortisol levels affected healthy adult men and women. While they found that higher cortisol levels correlated with lower memory performance in men, there was no such relationship for women. In an elderly population, which showed a greater relationship between memory performance and cortisol levels for women than men. experimented with cortisol levels in healthy adults, and also found reversible decreases in memory function that were dose-dependent, but did not report significant gender differences.

found that stress-induced cortisol levels increased stimulus-related learning in men, but not in women. They postulate that estrogen may affect cortisol receptors. This theory is supported by animal studies, such as where female rats did not show differential response after ovariectomy. This may explain some of the differences between post-menopausal results for women vs. the results for younger women.

So, if suppressing estrogen (as I've done in my body since August 2003) increases the tendency of increased cortisol levels to enhance learning, I should be having an easier time cramming for exams, right? I can't actually report any specific changes in my learning style, because of the many changes in situation I've already listed, but I certainly don't feel like I have an easier time focusing under pressure than I used to have. In fact, on a recent test, I made the kind of pressure-related "stupid" mistakes that I hardly ever made in college (such as confusing gray and white matter in a spinal cord diagram). The confounds (age, time away from school, familiarity with subject matter) in my case render this observation worse than useless, but I find it interesting to think about.

Tuesday, November 7, 2006

His and Hers Handwashing

A by Daniel DeNoon states "no new technology, drug or vaccine is capable of preventing more infections than the simple act of washing one's hands." However, studies consistently find that a lot of people skip handwashing after using the restroom, men more often than women. While anatomical differences may explain some of this, in situations where the genital areas are not involved, women are still more frequent hand-washers. For example, found that nurses tended to wash their hands more frequently than physicians after patient contact. They also found higher rates of handwashing for women than men, between and within professional groups.

also found that nurses and women tended to have higher rates of handwashing than physicians and men respectively. In Mensah et al's study of a glaucoma clinic, they observed handwashing rates before and after a handwashing intervention. Interestingly, women's handwashing rates improved post-intervention, and men's did not, but physician's rates improved while nurses did not.

Mea culpa. I don't wash my hands well enough. I run them under water every time I use the restroom, but I often fail to make sure that I actually get soap out of the soap dispenser. Usually I give it a cursory push, to see if there's actually soap in there this time, but if there isn't, I don't look for a full dispenser. I don't know whether the studies listed above counted insufficient handwashing as washing or not-washing.

One of the things I had to get used to when I started using the men's room was people leaving without washing their hands. I experienced sort of a curve with it. At first, I was so nervous about being in there at all that I left without thinking about it. When I got used to the idea of using the men's room, I realized I was touching the same handle as all these guys who had brushed by me at the sinks, and that kind of grossed me out. Now I just sort of accept that pretty much everything I touch probably has some trace amount of urine on it, and get on with my life.

Monday, November 6, 2006

Anorexia and Sex Roles

Until recently, it was thought that eating disorders affected almost almost exclusively women. However, a growing body of research is examining the ways that men are affected. studied the cases of 135 men treated for eating disorders at Massachusetts General Hospital between 1980 and 1994. Although they found that the male patients were similar to female patients in many ways, one striking difference they found was a correlation between sexual orientation and diagnostic type. Among those patients suffering from bulimia, 42% were bisexual or homosexual; the anorexic patients were 58% asexual. confirms that men with eating disorders have many similarities to women with eating disorders, especially in terms of psychosocial comorbidity. suggest that femininity, rather than homosexuality, may be the specific risk factor for male eating disorders.

In chronological order, the research of male eating disorders reads like a history of the gay rights movement. In 1984, you get terms like . By the 1990's, the studies seem to be searching for ways to help "the gay community" fight its myriad health issues. Recent articles start to differentiate lifestyle and sexual preference. Something I've noticed when doing safer sex outreach is the way that the "gay lifestyle" is simplified to a short checklist of risk factors: drug use, eating disorders, smoking, and sex. From a public health perspective, looking at the factors that are most likely to cause problems makes a certain amount of sense. That doesn't stop it from feeling exclusionary and dehumanizing when you don't fit the list.

Friday, November 3, 2006

A man of leisure

collected "time diaries" to compare the amount of leisure time available to men and women. They found that men tended to have more free time than women, and that marriage and children tended to exacerbate these effects, despite the fact that men and women reported spending similar amounts of time with their children. On average, they found that an American man tended to have about half an hour more free time daily than an American woman. They also found that men seemed to receive greater benefit (in terms of reduced feelings of being rushed) from their free time, which they suggest may be due to feelings of guilt experienced by women about unfinished work. In contrast, found that men and women had equal amounts of free time, but again found a gap in satisfaction, which they attributed to the quality of the leisure time. Their results from an Australian survey suggest that women's leisure time is more interrupted by household duties, so that while the total amount of time may be similar, the pressure felt never really has time to die down.

In a more recent study, suggest that leisure time is becoming even less useful to women over time, comparing data from 1975 and 1998. They found that while free time reduced the feeling of "time pressure" in women in the earlier study, in 1998, these feelings of pressure were no longer reduced.

On more than one occasion in the past couple years, I've had to examine my own relationship with leisure time. I find that I need a lot of it, a concept which has puzzled my mother in frequent conversations, and led to not inconsiderable friction. Not only women remark on my need for uninterrupted "down time.": male friends have also remarked that my leisure activities must be really unrewarding, if I need so much of them to feel refreshed. My own feeling is that I push against my natural introversion a lot of the time. I'm very social, and at work, I'm in a high-interpersonal-contact position. However, I have a hard time being around people, so I need a lot of time in near-silent surroundings in order to recover from pushing my own boundaries of interaction. However, I refuse to discount the possibility that I'm just really lazy.

Thursday, November 2, 2006


compared thee FBI reports on over 200,000 murders in the United States taking place between 1976-1987. They found that while men were much more likely to be killed than women, women were more likely to be killed by someone they knew. Over two thirds of the female victims in the cases they examined were shot by their husbands on an "intimate acquaintance." Women were also more likely to kill someone close to them than men, although they committed only 14.7% of the overall murders studied.

also examined FBI data to analyze murders of women in comparison to four socioeconomic factors: economic deprivation, population size, divorce rate, and the sex ratio. Of these, Titterington only found the greatest correlation between murders of women and divorce rates; the higher the divorce rate, the more women were being murdered.

I've been very lucky in my exposure to violence. I haven't been in a physical fight since I was a teenager. I do wonder, though, how the change in how I'm perceived affects my chances of being attacked. Like most people (see ), I find it hard to believe that my close friends or partners would physically attack me. I suffer from the same biases as most other people, thinking that it's less likely to happen to me, because I choose my intimate associates well. However, if I look at Kellermann and Mercy's data, it seems that I am now more likely to be killed by a stranger than I was when I was a woman (and honestly, I was more afraid of it then). My physical size and ability to defend myself aren't significantly altered, so I have wonder what social or evolutionary programming makes me so much less afraid in dark alleys.

Wednesday, November 1, 2006

Does Size Matter?

As explored previously (see and ), physical differences between men and women are often treated as simply being a matter of scale. Women are, generally speaking, smaller than men. According to the National Health and Nutritional Examination Survey (), the average height of an American adult woman is 64 inches and the average height of an American adult man is 69 inches. However, even when adjusting for height, some differences remain. In this article, we will focus on differences in the brain.

found several sex differences in the volumes of the pons and the cerebellum. Men tended to have larger brain volumes in these areas, even after adjusting for height. Differences were most pronounced in the cerebellar hemispheres and vermis, and least pronounced in the lobules VI-VII. found that the primary auditory cortex, relative to total brain size, was larger in women than in men. found that as a proportion of total brain volume, women tended to have more grey matter whereas men tended to have more white matter and cerebrospinal fluid. Gur et al. suggest that the difference may be to compensate for "smaller intracranial space in women," allowing for the same computational power with less volume.

I'm fascinated by the sex differences in the brain, and yet I find that I'm terrified to write about them. Apparently, in the currently popular "Borat" movie, which I haven't seen, Borat expresses to a self-described feminist that women have smaller brains than men, which she responds is "demeaning." However, it's also demonstrably true. It doesn't seem to make women any less capable or intelligent than men, but size differences do exist. What these differences mean seems to be the core of the gender debate. I don't think I ever discussed relative differences in brain structure when I was a woman, and I can't recall ever having my intelligence called into question on account of my gender. I was lucky. However, I often wonder whether I'm arguing to treat people as I wish they were, rather than as they are.