Fairness, not sameness

8 12 2016

What if all humans are alike? In looks, behaviors, and thoughts? It would be a dull and boring world. Isn’t it? Diversity is what makes life interesting. Of course, from a big picture perspective  we are more similar than different. Keeping this thought aside, we can safely say that each one of us is different and unique in myriad small ways. Despite our differences – in capabilities, attitudes, behaviors etc., we expect to be treated equally aka with fairness. We don’t like to be subjected to any prejudice.

This applies to racial discrimination too. There are obviously differences among different races in regards to certain aspects (just like people within the same race are different in certain other aspects). Nevertheless, we agree and aspire to treat everyone equally and with fairness.

Shouldn’t the same thing be extended to gender discrimination as well? Men and women are obviously not same. (I touched upon some aspects of how and why in my earlier post – Are men and women equal?) They possess different sets of strengths and weaknesses. Despite the dissemblance, we ought to treat them with fairness. Feminism should argue for fairness, not sameness. As Helena Cronin, an eminent Darwinian philosopher, puts it, gender equality doesn’t and shouldn’t suggest “sameness”, but rather only fairness.

We should celebrate all the differences and rejoice the diversity. Diversity is what makes the world much stronger, more interesting, more exciting, and more creative.





Are men and women equal?

27 11 2016

Are men’s and women’s brains different? In other words, are the differences in how men and women think rooted in biology?

It is an 18th century question, according to Gina Rippon, an eminent neuroscientist. When I posed the same question to my 9 year old, just for the fun of it, he basically mirrored the above sentiment. He thought that the question is absurd. When I pressed him further on whether could there be a scientific and objective evidence that there’s indeed some difference, he refused to take the bait. He stood his ground and refused to consider the question because he reasoned, the question “are men and women equal?” in itself suggests that they may not and hence lead to discrimination, which is by all means an undesirable and an incorrect behavior. In other words, he treats it as a leading question. Oh boy!  What Gina means by her comment is that several advancements have happened since 18th century that effectively and conclusively answered that question in negative.

Regardless of any insinuations and despite our need to be politically right, I think it’s still an interesting and relevant question to think about even in this century. Among the many differences we commonly observe, some are myths, some are culturally driven, while some are rooted in biology and/or evolution. Take for example, the notion that women are more emotional than men. It’s not exactly true because what’s different is more expression of an emotion rather than the emotion itself. The observed difference could well have been only a result of cultural and social stereotyping. I guess more or less similar reasoning can be given to most of the stuff you find in the gospel – Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus. :). But some differences do exist.

With all the advancements in neuroscience and biology, we have greater insights into human brain now than ever. In fact, today’s neuroscience sees little difference in how women and men are fundamentally capable of thinking. Whatever stereotypes we have going around are just that – stereotypes largely based on deep cultural notions and the resulting psychological impact of acting on those stereotypes. For example, take a typical belief that women are  not (or cannot be) as good at math as men. In fact, time and again the test scores reveal the same. But capability is not at the root of this trend. When the cultural expectation is for boys to outperform girls in math, and the girls believe it as everyone else, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. It’s the attitude towards competition and the anxiety induced resulted from cultural stereotypes that causes girls/women to under perform in certain areas (Study).

But some argue that nature and evolution cannot be overruled.  Historically, men had always been specialized in competing for mates, and women in caring for the offspring. According to Helena Cronin, a Darwinian philosopher, the different reproductive strategies of two sexes with completely different sets of associated costs and benefits, lie at the root of all gender differences between men and women. This survival tendency has clearly established different patterns of behavior and thereby nurtured disparate strengths in men and women.

And of course, one should not rule out the role of biology. The male hormone of testosterone is clearly associated with competitiveness, aggressiveness, dominance, assertiveness etc., while estrogen promotes stable mood, sense of well-being, improved cognition etc. (An interesting tidbit is that humans are naturally female and testosterone masculinizes boys in the womb.) As per Cambridge psychologist Simon Baron-Cohen, who has done extensive research on autism observes that “higher levels of fetal testosterone could explain increased prevalence of autism spectrum disorders in males”, following the theory that “the male brain is programmed to systemize and the female brain to empathize”.  Is this why women are considered more adept at social thinking and interactions compared to men. Testosterone is also strongly associated with violent and anti-social behavior. Hmm! Women also have testosterone, but men of course are characterized by much higher levels (10 times compared to that in women).

Another perception is that men tend to be more analytical than women or women tend to be more intuitive than men, hence the notion that men are largely left-brained and women are right-brained. Studies suggest that male brains may be optimized for motor skills while female brains may be optimized for combining analytical and intuitive thinking. Men also perceived to be laser focused while women are multi-taskers. Women tend to absorb more and store it all in their brains compared to men. Could these differences be explained by the hunter-gatherer theory, the sexual division of labor, where men normally pursued risk taking activities of hunting, while women were relegated low-risk task of gathering rich calorie for nurturing? Or do they have true biological causes? There are a lot of contradictory arguments and lot of conflicting “evidence”.

Neuroplasticity is perhaps the most important and fascinating discoveries in recent times. There is nothing static about ourselves – not our bodies, which regenerates itself with new cells every 6 months or so, to our brains, defined by the interconnections among neurons that can strengthen or weaken depending on the experiences and behavior thereby redefining them constantly. Isn’t it amazing? Change is indeed the only constant. 🙂 As our brains are getting continuously rewired, based on external stimulation, nature and nurture are so strongly intertwined that I think it’s difficult to disentangle them and say for sure where one ends and the other starts.

From the evolutionary perspective, we still have the same basic instincts as our primal ancestors. The gender differences (some if not all) too are rooted in them. But in today’s world, many of them maybe are irrelevant. We are not living in wild and are not facing the same kind of survival problems. Mankind’s development happened so rapidly that evolution and nature needs time to catch up. Am damn curious to know as to what the next evolutionary changes for us would be – what our basic instincts would be. Sometime in future when physical strength and all other evolutionary differences between men and women become less and less relevant for survival, can we achieve a gender neutral society? A society where no gender has an advantage over the other. Well, is it a good thing? It certainly sounds like it is. But who knows!





Say it with ‘touch’

3 10 2014

To touch is to give life  – Michaelangelo

Indeed, studies have shown that premature babies who were held at regular intervals gained significantly more weight than those who weren’t held.

It boosts immune system, trust, cooperativeness and bonding. We can also communicate through touch. An experiment conducted in Dacher’s lab had people to guess the emotion conveyed by the touch. While most of the emotions – compassion, anger, fear, anxiety, gratitude,love – have been guessed for about more than 50%-60% (the percentage by chance is only 8%), there are a couple of interesting and amusing findings that emerged:

  • When a woman tried to communicate anger to a man, he had no clue.
  • When a man tried to communicate compassion to a woman, she had no idea what’s going on.

Lol!

Part 5 of Science of Happiness series.

Part 1    Part 2    Part 3    Part 4





Effect of male stereotypes on women

18 04 2013

Everytime I think about the stereotypes that burden women, I also wonder about male stereotypes and how they would feel trapped by them unconsciously. But due to lack of any more insights into the male psyche, I would often leave that train of thought at that. In the following video, Tony Porter talks about just that and points out that trying to fit into the “manbox” (the bundle of male stereotypes) is what makes men act violently against women. This reinforces the fact that “violence against women” is a soceital issue, not just concerned with the isolated perpetrators.

(Credits: I came across this video on Amit varma’s India Uncut)

Another thoughtful post on the same theme by a parent of a 2-year old boy is here.

It’s heartening to see that many parents of boys are realizing this root cause and are acting and raising their voices to change the status quo.





Women’s safety

26 03 2013

Women's safety

A good start! 🙂

Image source: itimes (17th March, 2013)





Happiness vs women

23 03 2013

Recently, I came across a post on Facebook, which ran as follows:

HOW TO MAKE A MAN HAPPY 

  1. Feed him
  2. Sleep with him
  3. Leave him with peace
  4. Don’t check his phone (Msgs)
  5. Don’t bother him with his movements

So whats so hard about that ?

HOW TO MAKE A WOMAN HAPPY

It’s really not too difficult but…. To make a woman happy, a man only needs to be: 

  1. a friend
  2. a companion
  3. a lover
  4. a brother
  5. a father
  6. a master
  7. a chef
  8. an electrician
  9. a plumber
  10. a mechanic
  11. a carpenter
  12. a decorator
  13. a stylist
  14. a sexologist
  15. a gynecologist
  16. a psychologist
  17. a pest exterminator
  18. a psychiatrist
  19. a healer
  20. a good listener
  21. an organizer
  22. a good father
  23. very clean
  24. sympathetic
  25. athletic
  26. warm
  27. attentive
  28. gallant
  29. intelligent
  30. funny
  31. creative
  32. tender
  33. strong
  34. understanding
  35. tolerant
  36. prudent
  37. ambitious
  38. capable
  39. courageous
  40. determined
  41. true
  42. dependable
  43. passionate

WITHOUT FORGETTING TO:

  1. give her compliments regularly
  2. Go shopping with her
  3. be honest
  4. be very rich
  5. not stress her out
  6. not look at other girls

AND AT THE SAME TIME, YOU MUST ALSO:

  1. give her lots of attention
  2. give her lots of time, especially time for herself
  3. give her lots of space, never worrying about where she goes. 

BUT MOST OF ALL IT IS VERY IMPORTANT

never forget

  1. *birthdays
  2. *anniversaries
  3. *valentine
  4. *arrangements she makes. 

true or false?

Though it clearly is an exaggeration and mostly meant to be in jest, I felt there is a hint of truth about it. May be more than just a hint.

While women really don’t need all of the above to make them happy, I agree that their list would be definitely longer than men’s list. 🙂

It clearly can be deduced from the men’s list that they largely seek women for comfort and pleasure. I wonder  why and rather disappointed that  even “companionship” is left out of the list.

However, I feel that the list provided here of men’s needs (to make them happy) ought to include a few more things. Just off the top of my mind, men also want their women to be

  • Master chefs
  • Housekeepers – (spot clean house  and everything in order – cleaning, scrubbing, washing, ironing, dusting etc.)
  • Nurses
  • Caretakers of their parents
  • Above all, make them feel most  important; “worship” is even better 🙂

To be able to do all the above of course, a woman needs to be adept in planning and organizing, have lots of patience, be skilled, and nothing more. 😉

Doesn’t a man really care enough whether his woman is cheerful, honest, warm, passionate, loving, compassionate, understanding, and supportive ? May be these are only nice-to-haves. 🙂 Intelligent, capable, courageous, ambitious are perhaps undesirable or even unimaginable for many – out of syllabus stuff. Lol!

So, why do women want much more from their men, while men seem to want so little? It’s the most important advantage of being a man in this society. You don’t need another person to define yourself, to find meaning in your life. As a consequence you can view and seek another person only for pleasure, comfort and at best, companionship.

But this has not been the case with women for I’m not sure how long . They believe, in fact they are conditioned/ made to believe, that a woman is incomplete until she has a man in her life.  Marriage is the holy grail; husband is the essence of her existence and life.  So she seeks just that from her man – a one-stop solution to her problems, concerns, pleasures, desires, wishes, whatever.

So, girls have pity on our men and rise to the occasion. They are stifling under our dependence, expectations and needs. 🙂 Let’s not burden them any longer and free them;  view them only as sources of comfort and pleasure just like they view us. It’s not very difficult. We have only our centuries long conditioning – in the form of literature, media, culture, social norms – to fight off. Let’s define ourselves and find meaning and purpose in our lives independent of any other being. Let’s give them a lot easier way to make us happy. Let’s not give our men a reason to lament on these grounds again.  🙂

Note: This post is just meant to be in “jest” just as the original post on FB was meant to be. However it’s open to interpretation. 😉





Per Bande Ache Hai

8 03 2013

A sweet and touching ad that most of us can relate to. I truly appreciate the creative team behind this.

On the occasion of women’s day, I thank, on behalf of us lucky women, the men in our lives for being there for us; for being the reason for our smiles.