No, we will not pardon your sexism.

Posted at 11:27 AM Jul 17, 2009

By Andrea Grimes

Pardon the racism, but why are black people so black?

Can you imagine a mainstream news outlet opening a story with that line? Of course not. But sexism! Sexism is totes cool. Time's John Cloud got away with this sweet cherry of a lead for an article on female friendships: "Pardon the sexism, but why are girls so girly?"


Blatant idiocy aside, the article covers an interesting research study that seems to show teen girls are more interested in one-on-one interaction than group activities, whereas boys experience the reverse. They showed teens photos of other kids, asking them to rate which ones they'd like to chat with online. Then, they conducted MRI scans when the teens were anticipating talking to their potential chat partners:

The results suggest that as girls progress from early puberty to late adolescence, certain regions of their brains become more active when they face a potential social interaction. Specifically, when an older girl anticipates meeting someone new -- someone whom she believes will be interested in her -- her nucleus accumbens (which is associated with reward and motivation), hypothalamus (which is associated with hormone secretion), hippocampus (which is associated with social learning) and insula (which is associated with subjective feelings) all become more active. By contrast, boys in the same situation show no such increase in these areas. In fact, the activity in their insula actually declines.
Cloud takes it upon himself to explain to us exactly what this means:

Perhaps it's evidence that evolution has programmed boys to compete within large groups, so they can learn to eliminate rivals for women -- and that girls have been programmed to judge, one-on-one, who would be the most protective father for offspring.
'Cept that the scientists who conducted the study say that overly simplistic, generalizing conclusions are bad: "The authors of the study are reluctant to draw such broad conclusions about the gender disparities." Lame-o! Pardon my sexism, but who doesn't love drawing broad conclusions about broads?


amarygma said:

I would imagine it relates to a study I read once (dunno where) on how male friendship is built by amassing a particular amount of time together while female friendship is based upon the depth of that time. We might form a tight allegiance with a fellow fem who's just spilled her guts to us, while a guy would stick up for his buddy of X years.

This further provides insight as to why women tend to be more likely to elevate the status of a relationship after intimacy while for a man it isn't so.

So for a woman to make friends, having one-on-one conversations is more productive at building a friendship, while for men being with a large group is more productive because they're building more friendships for the price of one (a private conversation would build a friendship with that person just as quickly as with that group, so there is no added benefit).

Susan said:

But isn't the point here that "women" don't make friends any one way and neither do men? And that often the reason we engage in the kinds of social interactions we engage in has more to do with cultural expectations than anything biological? And even within those cultural expectations that there is some sway among individuals? I don't know that referencing another study is actually helpful.

Edward Virtually said:

you forgot to mention the his closing line, which proves at least he's an equal opportunity sexist: "In other words, it may be that boys are cads because they're not wired to be any other way."

sexual stereotyping is wrong. the abuse of the new fMRI technology as pseudo-science is too. his article is extra lame because he makes exactly the kind of extrapolations the researcher says *not* to make.

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