Gender Differences 2 Essay, Research Paper
Ability in nothing without opportunity -Napoleon
A little boy sits in a corner, carefully engineering his transformer toy; meanwhile, his twin sister carefully swaddles her baby doll in its blankets. What will the future hold for these two children? Who will be fashioned as a leader–fashioned to take charge in a man s world? Are their lives predestined by their genetics or can they be molded to suit the standards which society wishes to impose upon them?
Daily news reports communicate that people are blaming their faults and shortcomings on genetics. Similarly, society is rather fond of using the I can t help it excuse. History has repeatedly proven that many character traits and skills are learned, not inherited. If that same little girl who is playing with her baby doll is given the opportunity, tools, and encouragement to be an active contributer to her society, it is very likely that she will become just that. If her twin brother is reprimanded for and discouraged from all aspects of aggressive behavior, he will probably grow to be a meek and unchallenging individual.
Deborah Tannen states this very point in her essay entitled, Women and Men Talking on the Job. Instead of two children, she uses two managers of a company to illustrate the effects of what happens when children, who are raised to conform to a
certain norm, reach adulthood and interact in the workplace. Tannen emphasizes that raising girls to be submissive hinders their ability to display confidence and their chances to develop strong negotiating and communication skills (553). The CEO of a corporation supports Tannen s argument. He explains that when making a decision as to whether or not to support an employee on a venture, if they seem confident, I call it a go. If they seem unsure, I figure it s too risky and nix it (qtd. in Tannen 552). Tannen also stresses this point because it can affect a woman s chances at being promoted, receiving raises/recognition, as well as simply being hired (554).
Furthermore, Tannen performs an in-depth analysis as to how and why women are made to be submissive. In her quest to define and explain this problem, she turns to anthropologist Majorie Harness Goodwin. Goodwin gives an example of how girls are chastised at a young age for showing any signs of self-confidence (553-54). Tannen even draws attention to the distinct line between the social organizations of men and women (553). She clearly identifies that standards of behavior applied to women are based on roles that do not include being boss (553). This is demonstrated every time women (in the workplace), who are headstrong and ambitious, are referred to as bossy or in some cases a bitch (553-54). It is very obvious that this dilemma has little or nothing to do with genetics.
In another essay, How Men and Women Think, Nicholas Wade attempts to counter this argument with science. The basis for his position centers around genetics. He believes that the inheritance of dominant traits are indicated in the way men are superior in some subjects while women are in others (Wade 556-57). Wade strongly implies that the human brain comes in two varieties, one being male and one female (557). He further proposes that the same characteristics which Tannen discusses are developed in the genetics of a baby before it is ever born (Wade 557). He shuns the idea that culture, society, and child-rearing practices have an impact on these traits (Wade 557).
Authors, Robert Pool, Anne Moir, and David Jessel, have all written books supporting Wade s theories. Some evidence from experiments regarding this school of thought have proven positive on rats. However, tests performed on humans remain unconfirmed (Wade 557). Wade concludes his essay with the thought that when all unfair barriers to women have fallen, there will not necessarily be equal outcomes (558). These disparate outcomes, according to him, are because women will never be genetically capable of making them equal (Wade 558).
Both of these essays contain some unsubstantiated points. The structure of Tannen s essay is hard to follow. Splitting her work into two separate pieces, on covering gender differences and one describing ways for to enhance their communication skills, would have further clarified her essay. Wade s, though easily understood, could have contained more support. Both essays refer to other opinions on their topics and provide numerous examples, hoping to effectively present their ideas. Some of Wade s examples, such as his mention of sex studies being misinterpreted, involving prejudice, and even being concocted, seem to weaken and even disprove his argument. In addition, he contradicts himself by conveying that boys are genetically endowed with better skills in math than girls, and that Japanese girls score even higher than American boys. These aspects detract from the credibility of Wade s essay.
Like many women of the 90s, I have been provided the opportunity to choose my destiny. To be confronted with the idea that I am genetically incapable of doing such is preposterous. Like that little girl, I too played with my baby dolls. Yet, when I put down my doll, I picked up the tools laid before me. These tools were the basis with which I could build my leadership skills, people skills, and self-confidence. Realizing that I am living proof of Tannen s thesis, it is impossible for me to support Wade s ideas. Yet, I do find them amusing and worth reading. In the end, the reality remains, that the fate of an individual s future has always been, is still, and forever will be in his/her own hands.
Tannen, Deborah. Women and Men Talking on the Job. The Bedford Guide for College Writers with Reader, Research Manual, and Handbook. Eds. X.J. Kennedy, Dorothy M. Kennedy, and Sylvia A. Holladay. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin s, 1999. 550-555.
Wade, Nicholas. How Men and Women Think. The Bedford Guide forCollege Writers with Reader, Research Manual, and Handbook. Eds. X.J. Kennedy, Dorothy M. Kennedy, and Sylvia A. Holladay. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin s, 1999. 556-558.