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March 09, 2009


Bendy Girl

Interesting. I went to an all girl's school and IME the competitiveness comes from being in such a horrifically bitchy environment. You either learn how to compete successfully to avoid the endemic bullying or you don't survive it.


Clearly an argument for single sex schools- I wonder why they were generally abolished?


As far as I can tell, they did not study boys from single sex schools. Maybe the co-ed schools made everyone less competitive?

(And I am not sure I like this use of the word oppression. If there was a comparable effect on boys would this be symptomatic of mens oppression? "Oppression" is supposed to mean that someone is deliberately going after you.)


Another (meta)social construct.
In the bookshops, the section called 'Gender' is actually about women.


The selection effect may explain everything here. Girls that go to single sex schools are not necessarily representative of the population of women at large.


My sister went to an all-girls school (State). Then she joined with the boys' equivalent for an A-level course. She went from a motivated, academically successful person to a demotivated moderately successful one. I really got the feeling (I was at the boys' school she came to, often visiting her when she came, and I knew her teacher, and her classmates) that seeing the male academic drive (and folly) took the wind out of her sails. It was more or less her judgement that such antics were beneath her and beyond her. Nope, not got the constructionist fevah.

Peter Risdon

This research doesn't suggest what you say it does. Gender is not a social construct - time and again studies show this, even with other primates. The study you cite relates to the effects of single sex and co educational schooling. That's all.

It's interesting for all that, but it has nothing whatever to do with gender.

David Heigham

Surely it would be really, trully surprising if gender differnces were not partly nature and partly nurture?

All my life, and before I was born, it has been evident that there is a social and economic advantge to the common welfare of mankind from reducing, or reversing, the tendency to socialise women into un-natural submissiveness. I am 75. Achieving anything like a full elimination of that socialisation is incomplete after at least 4 generations, even in advanced societies. Damn it!


Stereotypical gender roles may be a social construct. But that's just a fancy way of saying that social constructs of gender roles are, er, social constructs. Gender, on the other hand, is a fact of biology.


Consider your goolies.

Laban Tall

As David Heigham and others point out, it's more or less, not either/or. And that's all the research proves. Are you aware of the sad case of the late David Reimer ?

Laban Tall



Gentlemen - I'm not claiming (and the data doesn't show) that gender is entirely a social construct. It's just that one element of traditional gender roles (female reluctance to compete with men)seems to be learned behaviour that arises from going to school alongside boys.
The claim that gender is partly nature, partly nurture is just empty handwaving until we gather empirical evidence of the sort I've described.
And no-one claims the correlation even here is 1.0; there are competitive girls from mixed schools and submissive ones from single-sex ones. For this reason, anecdotal evidence is not helpful.
(The David Reimer story is therefore doubly irrelevant to my post here, but it does weakly corroborate my prior that the scientific prowess of the medical profession is greatly over-rated.
It's unlikely that selection effects are greatly at work here, because 11 year-olds don't choose their own school.
Yes, the single-sex schoolgirls came from grammar schools, but the authors controlled for both the girls academic ability and their parents' ability, in an effort to mitigate this selection bias.

John Meredith

"Gender, on the other hand, is a fact of biology."

No it isn't. Gender is, by definition, a social construct. Sex is biological but gender is conventional. Any object can be denoted a gender (think French grammar) but not a sex.


Mind you, you could turn it about and worry that boys are being socialised into a harmful degree of competition and self-promotion. It's fairly clearly A Bad Thing for society if the brightest boys would rather go into banking than farming, or medicine or manufacturing. Even worse if the least bright boys would rather give up and pretend they're too cool to bother.


Chris, you have a worrying tendency to say that a paper 'shows' something when what it actually does is 'argue' something. Very little of what you claim is 'shown' could be claimed to have been empirically proven.


I have noticed this evil plot to suppress the competitive urge in females in the animal kingdom as well... surely someone should speak to David Attenborough (what a fabulous surname) about this discrimination?


"And they found that girls from single-sex schools were much more likely to want to compete against boys or other girls than were girls from mixed schools..."

Aren't boys better at puzzle-solving? So after the single-sex schoolgirls got beaten a few times by the boys did they eventually adopt the position taken by the majority of the co-ed girls at outset?


I've always found the distinction nurture-nature somehow artificial. Social institutions are the fruit of evolutionary optimization in the same way as genetics are. Of course gender is a "social construct" in the sense that it does not precede "society" since most of its manifestation only take place in a social context. But that something is a social construct does not mean that it we can engineer it or somehow change. Indeed, virtually all social constructs -from language to beauty- produce to inequality and unfreedom (since all of them generate winners and losers) but that does not mean that there is an "alternative" to that construction.

Joe Otten

So let me get this right. Socialism is the result of socialisation aimed at making us all girls, and capitalism the result of socialisation aimed at making us all boys.

Is that it?

omega watches

This is just one idea, and perhaps displays no more than my limited imagination. If there are better ideas out there, that amount to more than "implement something called "market socialism" and then - alacazam! - full employment!" then I'd love to hear them. http://www.watchgy.com/ mostly bank deposits, fell by £143.2bn in Q1. And of course there’s no guarantee such buying will continue.

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