With Kevin [starting here (this link may go away since the blog is being closed soon, my apologies, and good luck NonStampCollector)], there are two separate issues:

1) Are the terms “feminine” and “masculine” justifiable descriptors that increase communication when discussing “rationality and consciousness”, or are they unnecessarily charged terms whose implication is the inherent devaluation of women and serve to inject a circular argument whose conclusion is:

2) Women *currently*, and in history, are on average less rational and conscious than men.

I looked around, very briefly, at Weininger – you know, just a few quotes and a short bio.

I suspect that his ideas (however a product of his time and him probably being a bit disturbed), could easily be re-framed as feminist.

In his world, “female life is consumed with the sexual function: both with the act, as a prostitute, and the product, as a mother.”

Most women certainly didn’t do much else – at least in his experience. The average woman was constantly pregnant and taking care of children and was provided precious little, in any, help from her husband. If she didn’t want to have children, she had few resources or choices (including saying “no”) in order to end her child rearing. Similarly, you have the specter of the bored-to-tears housewife in the 50′s – doing drugs just to pass the time and being consumed with domestic affairs.

Those are not the only women in history; and certainly was not impossible for women – even given these responsibilities and treated the way they were (sometimes to the point of acquiring mental illness due to mistreatment and lack of social support against the mistreatment) – some women certainly were able to express their rational selves and develop intellectually. [Even those with several children can remain great thinkers – pregnancy does not (contrary to popular theory) make your brain die. It is the temporary lack of sleep and large hormone changes, especially for their first baby, that tend to be problematic. Of course, the experience of giving birth might just give a woman a unique philosophical insight into life, the universe, and everything – but let’s not get crazy. / sarcasm]

The lie inherent in Kevin’s framing – using the term “feminine” for this – is that the fault of a woman’s potential being suppressed is placed on her. It is her “feminine” quality that is to blame. She must become “like a man” in order to be considered as valuable as a rational being as a man is valued.

I’ve gone down that road – being a female in male-dominated spaces (physics, for example, but I seem to seek them out, so it’s not the only one). This is not new, nor is it some sort of ancient history. To be respected, it is expected to become “one of the guys” and take on male-typical socialization. For example, asserting dominance through teasing/being witty, having a male-typical gender expression (not wearing make-up, skirts, flower prints), not discussing children or family, being aggressive, etc. If you act ways associated with the feminine, you are not taken seriously, regardless of the quality of your work. You are also expected to be exceptional – and any imperfection is viewed as a negative comment on your gender; while simultaneously any minor success is considered a triumph for your gender as you are dismissed as some sort of second-rate curiosity. (It’s bizarre really.)

When a society values women – they thrive within intellectual/academic circles – as well as, if not better than, men. This is routinely *hand-waved* away as academia lowing it’s standards – a blatantly misogynistic assumption. We have evidence of the opposite, as I said, that women within academic groups tend to increase group-intelligence and quality of work within university student groups. (I wish I could send you to an article for that, but the research I’m thinking about is being done by colleagues and I don’t think they have published it yet.) By contrast, within high-school and middle-school groups, the presence of boys has been shown to decrease the academic success of girls due to girls feeling obligated to downplay their own strengths to avoid making the boys feel threatened. This is the main impetus for a resurgence in single-gender classrooms. It was NEVER about giving less rigor to the girls – but allowing them not to be bogged down by the boys – who have been socialized (within some groups) to see a smart girl as less attractive. Boys also tend to socially mature slower than girls; talk later; all of that jazz. (So I’m not accused of cherry-picking – if you are interested just Google-scholar “separate gender education” or something like that and you’ll get an ear full.)

[Just to be clear, I think that concerns surrounding pushing a gender-binary supersede the gains for single-gender education; at least for most groups. Also, I apologize for emphasizing education, but it is a field that I am knowledgeable about.]

Again, the problem is not with pointing to the sexism that threatens to relegate women to “non-rational” beings; but essentially the victim-blaming nature of the framing of this observation.

It’s like beating the shit out of someone and then calling them weak for crying. It’s repulsive really.

This whole conversation reminds me of [the poet from Saudi Arabia who appeared in a poetry competition].

If you watch this and say – that it is the fault of “femininity” that women are seldom great and *honored* poets in Saudi Arabia – I would think you are not being “rational”.