Po! (not Tinky-Winky)

Andrea asks, in that endearingly direct way she has, whether my recent strictures in respect of men apply to those who are merely male-brained, or those with a willy.

i think the preferred answer here would be “po”.

(not a friend of Edward de Bono)

Not a friend of Edward de Bono

No. Not the telly-tubby: but the convention put forward by Edward de Bono (he of Lateral Thinking fame) as a means of puncturing Aristotelian thought processes. Huh? I hear you ask. In a nutshell, Aristotle came up with the rule of the excluded middle, which states that a thing may be A or not-A – and nothing else.

Since then, mathematicians – perverse buggers – have argued for logical systems in which a thing may be both A and not-A (which is an approach I have long adopted) or neither.

(it also gave rise to the very interesting sci-fi novel, with distinctive anarchist overtones, by A E Van Vogt: The World of Null-A)

In this case, her simple question touches on issues of essentialism, and where one starts a definition. Is it that men, as a group – possibly defined almost exclusively by the presence of a minor appendage – tend to possess a certain cluster of behavioural characteristics (and follow-on question: is this biologically or socially determined).

Or do we decide to label as “male” a particular cluster of behaviours and behavioural characteristics.

The conundrum, of course, is the same one that lies at the heart of gender identity and, I’d say, the answer is “po”.

Or perhaps yes – to both.

I do think that men, as biological gender, tend to aggregate a number of characteristics: that this phenomenon is observable as statistical fact; and that the more interesting questions lie around the extent to which that aggregation is social.

At the same time, it can hardly be news that society as a whole does tend toward using models that feature either male types or male traits. Type or trait? That’s another old chesnut from my days of doing psychology and there, I think, my response is that the answer may well be as much an artefact of the analytical tool used as anything else.

Still, we do use those concepts, and I think they help. Oh. Not in any definitional sense. I cringe when people talk about STEREO-typing: but then, I am enough of a statistician to understand that trends and averages are no more, no less than analytical tools, saying very little about the individuals behind the façade.

They are useable as long as they are useful: and should cease to be used the moment they add more chaos than light to any debate.

Back then to the original question. I’d define the term male-brained as closely correlated with those people who don’t tend to connect with actions, emotions or consequences. Is that a slur? No: I don’t think so. Because there is also a positive there. The plus-side of not connecting is detachment and ability to act, sometimes, when others are panicking all around you.

And I’d say that I know more male-brained blokes than female-brained ones – and vice-versa. That doesn’t preclude blokes from being female-brained, or from having a set of attitudes, approaches and competences that are very different from average. It does shine a spotlight on a particular difference, which is all it is ever intended to do.



3 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    andrea said,

    I’m male brained and this whole discussion is just making me think about fluffy white kittens….come back from the dark side my love and put your pinny on 🙂

  2. 3

    sophia said,

    Actually I use your example of those two logic systems as quite a lot but in terms of differentiating between genders. That men tend to be more drawn to things that enable deductive/ladder of abstraction thinking.
    Tend to see connection similarly. Far more female, though I’d see it very much to do with the greater use of inductive logical processes, as well as, possibly, fluffy white kittens.

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