Category Archives: Gender

The mind-boggling science of gender

We’ve come a long way from the recent time when scientists insisted they had hard evidence that boys were smarter than girls and that science knew why girls liked dolls and boys liked trucks and women could never be soldiers or businesspeople.

Gender and sex difference are hotly debated both in the body politic and in academia, helped along by an increasingly vocal and defiant trans community and its supporters.

The physical sex-related differences in the brain, when corrected for a body mass ratio — a two percent difference in the gray matter to white matter ratio, for example — are thought to be not totally insignificant, but also not convincing evidence of an all-important dimorphic brain difference between men and women.

Yet some differences exist which are still a mystery.  Early onset neurological disorders — autism spectrum, attention deficit, etc. — are more common in boys. Primarily late onset diseases — including depression and anxiety — are seen more in girls.

Adding to the social mix are trans people and their advocates, some of whom insist that gender (as opposed to sex) is a totally made-up construct which should be done away with entirely — including the pronouns long used to identify gender for boys and girls, women and men.

Into this fray steps the venerable magazine Scientific American with a special issue for September devoted to research into sex and gender.

I finally got around to reading mine today and it blew me away. Anyone not steeped in this research already who reads this issue with an open mind will come away having learned something.

Topics include:

The New Science of Sex and Gender
Why the new science of sex & gender matters for everyone

Promiscuous Men, Chaste Women and Other Gender Myths
The notion that behavioral differences between the sexes are innate and immutable does not hold up under scrutiny

Is There a “Female” Brain?
The debate over whether men and women have meaningfully different brains could have profound implications for health and personal identity

When Sex and Gender Collide
Studies of transgender kids are revealing fascinating insights about gender in the brain

Beyond XX and XY: The Extraordinary Complexity of Sex Determination
A host of factors figure into whether someone is female, male or somewhere in between

Doctors Must Dig into Gender Difference to Improve Women’s Health Care
Researchers and doctors must dig deeper into gender differences before they can provide women with better treatments

Lessons from before Abortion Was Legal
Before 1973, abortion in the U.S. was severely restricted. More than 40 years later Roe v. Wade is under attack, and access increasingly depends on a woman’s income or zip code

The Brilliance Paradox: What Really Keeps Women and Minorities from Excelling in Academia
How a misplaced emphasis on genius subtly discourages women and African-Americans from certain academic fields

Coding for Gender Equality
Early intervention is crucial to close the gender gap in computer science

Rewriting the History of Women in Science
Turning online harassment into a force for good

How to Close the Gender Gap in the Labor Force
As more women contribute to the economy, life gets better for everyone. Why are the barriers to opportunity so hard to change?

The Persistent Problem of Gender Inequality
The gender gap remains a global phenomenon

Why Girls Are Coming Back in Some Asian Countries after Neglect
Traditions that favor sons in Asia—resulting in millions of dead or neglected girls—have started to change.

Neuroscientist Dr. Daphna Joel, a researcher at Tel Aviv University, says her work suggests that there are not so much male and female brains as there are some combination of both depending on the person.

Whether these differences she found are hereditary, due to normal genetic variability or affected by outside social forces is anyone’s guess at this point, along with what they mean.

Some researchers disagree with her findings — in the way scientists disagree with one another, not in the way people fight in comments sections online — saying her research is skewed. Yet even among some who say her methods need to be refined to be more scientifically rigorous, there is some agreement that she may be onto something.

Another article, on the latest research into trans kids, reinforces the notion that, instead of learning to think they are trans — the “poisoning the minds of little kids with trans ideas” concept — tiny children can begin showing important and lasting cross-gender behaviors without family members ever pushing them to like “girl things” or “boy things.” Sometimes in spite of parents pushing mightily to prevent their small sons from wanting to go as a princess for Halloween.

Unfortunately, the magazine is behind a paywall. (Good magazines are like that.) To read it you need either a subscription  or to buy the single issue on the newsstand (or online here).

As a writer I’m not ready to give up my gender pronouns, and I’m not sure I ever will be. There is too much that is important in works of non-fiction and fiction that can be transmitted by their use. I also think it is too soon and politically self-defeating to push this issue too far in the public’s consciousness. 

Nonetheless, I think most people with open minds will find the magazine worth the time and effort to shell out a few bucks for the single issue.

These numbers matter

Not just for equality’s sake, which is reason enough. But women can be competent professionally AND take into account relevant issues that don’t come first to most men’s minds.

The look on his face is the best part


This list is just a beginning


Emotional self defense for straight women


You go and get your girlie wizard on, oh wise, powerful and fierce one


Getting a ticket dismissed in Massachusetts

If you get a traffic ticket or a civil infraction of any kind in Massachusetts that requires a trip to the courthouse to appeal the citation, your first stop is to a clerk magistrate — a step below an actual judge, but a person who has as much power as a judge when it comes to dismissing (or making you pay) your citation.

In my case it was a $100 ticket for a “marked lane violation,” which means on my scooter I cut to the right of the cars stopped for a traffic light to get to the front of the line. I was guilty of that, but I had an excuse that was pretty involved in terms of my explanation. Suffice it to say I flipped off a cop in his personal car after he made a three-point U-turn suddenly in front of me in front of the police substation in my neighborhood. I did not know it was a cop in his personal car until after I flipped him off. BabyHeadCryingManBody

Big mistake. Suddenly his manhood was at stake. Boy, was he pissed. Pissed enough to start chasing me in his personal car up the main drag in my  neighborhood. To get away from crazy cop in his personal car, I decided to bypass the line of cars in front of me at a traffic light. But two blocks after I made my left turn at that light, five cops in three marked cruisers appeared and I had no choice but to stop. They kept me there for a half hour while they smirked at one another and finally gave me a citation. Five cops for little old me? I was flattered and amused.

How did I come to suspect it was retaliatory? Two reasons, 1) the cops weren’t at the intersection where I committed the infraction and 2) as the officer handed me the ticket he got a smart ass smile on his face and said, “Next time maybe you’ll think twice before flipping off cops in front of the police station.”

This morning I had my hearing before a clerk magistrate. I was hoping to get a young-ish female clerk magistrate who might be more amenable to my tale of a male cop with a tiny dick and a giant testosterone-induced chip on his soldier chasing me into breaking a traffic law.

Instead, I got this grizzled old guy with a heavy Boston accent. Uh-oh. He’s likely one of the Good Old Boys I had hoped to rail about in my mea culpa(ish). Making the police the culprit was likely not the best way to go.

A shift in strategy was in order.

I thought: What makes old (presumably) straight guys uncomfortable? Women crying. What makes them even more uncomfortable? Guys crying, especially guys with a goatee and muscles.

So, I stood there explaining how sorry I was about the infraction and how some guy was chasing me on my scooter and what was I supposed to do, and I was in fear for my personal safety — all while seeming as if I could break into gender-inappropriate crying at any time.

I wasn’t whimpering. That would have been too much. Call it a plaintive whine with a slight break every so often to make it seem as if I was really emotional.

It worked. He couldn’t get me out of there fast enough. Ticket dismissed.

Was this dishonest as to the charges? No. I did not lie.

I merely told the truth in a way that was tailored to the clerk magistrate in front of me.

Was this playing the system? Of course it was. Rich people play the court system all the time with money. Those of us without money have to try using other tools within our reach.

And the best part about it is my insurance will not go up.


(CORRECTION: It was pointed out to me that clerk magistrates do not have as much power as judges in these cases because if the clerk magistrate denies your appeal, you can get a “de novo” hearing before a judge to appeal the clerk magistrate’s decision.)

Gurl, you can’t call Superman a bitch