He said, she said

How are men and women like airstrips and country roads? Or are they? Table Talkers weigh in on gender, sex, and unfortunate analogies.

Published August 11, 2006 8:45AM (EDT)

Private Life

The Male/Female Question Box: Show Me Yours and I'll Show You Mine

Macdaffy - 03:38 pm Pacific Time - Aug 7, 2006 - #285 of 425

Is this thing on?

Here is an article on the differences between the male and female brain:

(Louanne Brizendine says) "Women have an eight-lane superhighway for processing emotion, while men have a small country road," she writes. Men, however, "have O'Hare Airport as a hub for processing thoughts about sex, where women have the airfield nearby that lands small and private planes."


mschmidt - 03:44 pm Pacific Time - Aug 7, 2006 - #286 of 425

Well, Louanne likes metaphors. We know that much.

canoodle75 - 04:13 pm Pacific Time - Aug 7, 2006 - #288 of 425

My eight-lane superhighway adjoins an international airport.

Macdaffy - 04:19 pm Pacific Time - Aug 7, 2006 - #289 of 425

My country road leads to a small, secluded airstrip south of Honaunau Bay.

MacGuffin - 04:23 pm Pacific Time - Aug 7, 2006 - #290 of 425

My emotions are like the Big Dig.

Huge, but hidden. Shoddily maintained. May cause harm.

hedy - 04:28 pm Pacific Time - Aug 7, 2006 - #292 of 425

did someone say landing strip? i prefer the brazilian.

Robert Chariot - 04:31 pm Pacific Time - Aug 7, 2006 - #294 of 425

M. Chariot flies a tiny Victorian kite at the end of a quaint, cobblestoned lane bedecked with bookshops, florists and a munitions dump.

Andrea Doria - 04:33 pm Pacific Time - Aug 7, 2006 - #296 of 425

My sign reads "Road closed due to landslide."

ivy - 04:35 pm Pacific Time - Aug 7, 2006 - #298 of 425

I travel on a deserted goatpath to a remote crag from which I launch paper airplanes.

Robert Chariot - 04:39 pm Pacific Time - Aug 7, 2006 - #299 of 425

I snatched one of those paper airplanes from the eye of a glimmery summer storm and discovered an exquisite Victorian valentine with the words, "Shut Up" written in a feminine hand.

ivy - 06:21 pm Pacific Time - Aug 7, 2006 - #305 of 425

If it was written in India ink, scented with lilies, and soaked in ether, yes, it was mine.

Sir Realist - 04:58 pm Pacific Time - Aug 7, 2006 - #300 of 425

I'm at the end of a big, deserted airstrip, with weeds growing through the pavement, and no power for the landing lights.

MacGuffin - 05:05 pm Pacific Time - Aug 7, 2006 - #301 of 425

Someday, it will be needed for an emergency landing.

schroeder - 06:08 pm Pacific Time - Aug 7, 2006 - #302 of 425

"Women have an eight-lane superhighway for processing emotion..."

Which part of the brain processes mindless broad generalizations?

BurstOfLethargy - 06:11 pm Pacific Time - Aug 7, 2006 - #303 of 425

I don't often start waving my doctorate in neuroscience around as if it were a big cock, but-- I gotta say that that Louanne Brizendine thing looks like exceedingly poor science.

Macdaffy - 06:25 pm Pacific Time - Aug 7, 2006 - #306 of 425

I'm waving my big cock around as if it were a doctorate in neuroscience.

BurstOfLethargy - 06:37 pm Pacific Time - Aug 7, 2006 - #309 of 425

I have to admit that I only skimmed the linked material, but it seemed like a reckless exaggeration of what little we know about sex differences in the human brain. And your examples are all great illustrations of differences that could be cultural.

Of the known anatomical differences between men's and women's brains, very few have been detected in young children or infants. So how and why they arise is anyone's guess.

The differences are far outweighed by the similarities anyway, and are generally only detectable when groups of brains are compared. In that sense, it's more like the sex difference in height than like the sex difference in genitals--we're talking about differences in averages, with lots of overlaps.

Sir Realist - 07:34 pm Pacific Time - Aug 7, 2006 - #317 of 425

Men recognize emotions. But they want to avoid them.

David Giltinan - 04:53 am Pacific Time - Aug 8, 2006 - #324 of 425

I'm curious about the measuring technique used in any study of frequency of thoughts about sex. Self-reporting? Little electrode thingies attached with some kind of hideous glop to a shaved area of the skull (which process in itself might affect the result of interest). Functional MRI? Generalizations from observing rodents? What about cultural factors?

I was getting kind of bogged down in that extended metaphor - circling the runway, if you will, but I think my Broca's area resembles nothing so much as the cockpit of a plane trying to land at Shannon which has been infested with poisonous snakes and where Samuel L Jackson and Bruce Willis are battling for the right to be the hero in the picture, Back in first class, there's a goat, frolicking with a kite, trying not to give in to the lethal ether-fumes of a caprine billet-doux. And Chuck Lawhorn is trying to divert the snakes with an assortment of desperate puns, but with little success.

David Lettvin - 05:47 am Pacific Time - Aug 8, 2006 - #325 of 425

I have read the article but not the book. Based on the article, that's as far as it will go.

So far as I'm concerned this is just another attempt to make us feel better and give us excuses for social gaffes by claiming that we have no control over our own behavior. It is another case of creeping compartmentalization, which is one of those things that the computer should be damned for enabling.

There is something in us that makes us want to define, to establish limits, to separate. Male characteristics vs female, right brain, left brain, analytical, intuitive ... we've got Myers-Briggs and IQ and EQ and Enneagrams ... what a farce. All of it is so that we can place people in categories so that we can quickly decide whether or not we care about them or their opinions or their lives.

The facile sorting that some of these psychologists do is sheer laziness on their part. It lets them dismiss entire groups of people by using any shared characteristic as a tag. We are no longer individuals with our own quirks, we are part of a huge amorphous mass of people who may or may not have something in common.

And the use of generalities irritates the hell out of me. Men have "little country roads" ... can you get much more dismissive.

I know that many people like to join groups. They show that they are part of a group by the clothes they wear, the language they affect, etc. But they have chosen to be a part of the group, and they can leave at any time. But what this woman is saying is that she has assigned me to a group and the characteristics of that group are mine and I am no longer myself but merely a differently shaped representative of those that she has decided are similar to me.

As my father once famously said to another psychologist, "BULLSHIT!"

Posts of the week is an ongoing feature of Table Talk, Salon's vibrant community forum. Older posts of the week may be found here in TT. Want to join the discussion? Sign up here.

By Salon Staff

MORE FROM Salon Staff

Related Topics ------------------------------------------