You have a remarkable inability to focus. You quoted from a Pew study that said that 41% of women and 50% of women in STEM are sexually harassed. I then linked you 3 stories that confirm that extreme levels of sexual harassment drive women from STEM, sometimes even before they’ve gotten into careers and while they are still in school.

I did not say that Muslim countries have more gender equality. I said that Muslim countries have more female leaders, which points to a nuanced rather than a direct correlation between internal bias and discrimination and external factors.

As for the rest, you can read about it below. Here are some of the highlights:

The desire to put men and women into genderized boxes is a function of patriarchy. It doesn’t serve any positive purpose and it doesn’t reflect what other cultures, both in the present and the past, indicate about the flexibility of gender roles and norms.

The other day I wrote a story about the Na of China who have about as fundamentally different a culture from the West as is possible. It’s a society where family is centered around a matriarch, and everyone lives in the house of their mother or grandmother along with their brothers and sisters, as well as the children of the women. There is functionally no such thing as a father or a husband.

In this culture, women do the farming and a lot of the heavy physical work. Men build houses and tend to livestock. They are quite involved with childcare, although men help to raise their siblings, and the children of their sisters and cousins, rather than the ones they have a biological connection to. If the Na were studied using the same parameters (as the study you linked me), I’m going to bet that the results would come in quite differently. In that culture, men are geared towards animals, as well as people to a much higher degree than is perhaps common in the West.

As late as the 4th c BC many women in Egypt were the heads of their households, took part in business transactions, including contracts and litigation (sometimes against their own fathers or husbands). Men were reported to have stayed home to do the weaving. The goddess Isis, a central figure in the Egyptian religion of the time, was considered not only the inventor of agriculture, but also as a great physician, and the one who first established the laws of justice. This strongly influenced the way that women were perceived in that culture until patriarchy began to take hold.

Once again, an entirely different culture, with different power structures and roles for men and women would undoubtedly produce a different result from the research study that concluded that men like objects and women like living things.

In a 2005 meta-analysis of 46 studies conducted over the past 20 years, Janet Shibley Hyde, PhD concluded that males and females are more alike than different. “Furthermore, Hyde found that gender differences seem to depend on the context in which they were measured. In studies designed to eliminate gender norms, researchers demonstrated that gender roles and social context strongly determined a person’s actions. For example, after participants in one experiment were told that they would not be identified as male or female, nor did they wear any identification, none conformed to stereotypes about their sex when given the chance to be aggressive. In fact, they did the opposite of what would be expected — women were more aggressive and men were more passive.”

What is considered acceptable and desirable for men and women to do is highly variable between cultures and meta-analysis says there are no real differences between males and females in personality, cognition, leadership, etc. Differences exist between individuals, not between genders as a whole.

It’s entirely possible that there are more men interested in STEM than women, but we’ll never know for sure because cultural narratives keep many women from even considering it, and when they do, they are harassed in huge numbers and many leave or never complete that career path in the first place. We don’t know for sure the exact dynamic, but it sure as hell isn’t something as reductive as men like objects and women like living things!

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Dispelling cultural myths with research-driven stories. My favorite word is “specious.” Not fragile like a flower; fragile like a bomb! Twitter @ElleBeau

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