If the Battle of the Sexes Were a Math Bowl, It'd Be a Tie


photo by Steam Pirate
Flipping through a recent Time magazine we came across the following tidbit. We weren’t sure what it had to do with sex and relationships but we just had to publicize it:

We’ve all heard it before: boys are simply better at math than girls are. But according to a new study published in Science, the math gender gap has vanished. Previous studies showed that boys start to outscore girls in math once they reach high school. Information gathered last year from the math tests of 7.2 million kids in Grades 2 to 11 in 10 states, however, revealed that there are no longer any significant differences between boys’ and girls’ average scores. Similarly, an equal number of both sexes were found to perform so well that they ranked among the highest mathematical achievers. Scientists say the results show that more girls are taking math courses and, most important, sticking with them as they get older.

But then we started thinking, maybe it does have something to do with sex and relationships. It certainly has something to do with gender roles, and those definitely affect sex and relationships. While differences between “Mars” and “Venus” should be studied, celebrated and respected, we always enjoy research that puts men and women on a more even playing field, research that contradicts traditional expectations of the way males and females are “supposed” to be. A year or so ago the media got moist over some evo psych research that tried to explain girls’ preference for pink; we loved the article which called it all a bunch of caca:

The Sunday Sentinel in 1914 told American mothers: “If you like the colour note on the little one’s garments, use pink for the boy and blue for the girl, if you are a follower of convention.” Some sources suggest it wasn’t until the 1940s that the modern gender associations of girly pink became universally accepted. Pink is, therefore, perhaps not biologically girly. Boys who were raised in pink frilly dresses went down mines and fought in the second world war. Clothing conventions change over time.

Everybody should feel free to develop their own tastes and preferences, likes and dislikes, skills and abilities, regardless of the expectations of their gender — whether it has to do with middle school math or how you eventually want to behave in an adult relationship: in other words, boys can make beautiful art projects, girls can win prizes at science fairs, men can cry, and women can be dominant in the bedroom. Despite the fact that the opposite sex can often seem like a creature from another planet (and despite our society taking endless delight in alien stories), we men and women would do well to remember we have more things in common than we don’t.


  1. Three cheers for this. I think it says so much about how culture DOES actually affect our abilities and differences. You can try and study things scientifically all you want, and of course that’s a valuable contribution to knowledge, but it’s no more so than attempting an understanding of culture.

    Ultimately men and women all exist in an extremely-overlapping bell curve. Thanks for pointing it out!

  2. Yeah, I’ve heard the same thing from friends who tried to go totally gender-neutral with toys. Their son started bashing the Tonka trucks around, and their daughter was much more particular with her toys, and had no interest in the trucks. They were actually a little bummed, as they hoped for no gender differences to crop up.

    But beyond anecdotal evidence, there are plenty of studies showing that, while men & women don’t necessarily do certain things *better* than one another, they do them *differently*. Everything from field dependence/independence to how we process stress neurochemically… there are pretty significant differences.

    These differences are something to celebrate, not something we should downplay or pretend like they don’t exist. People get all moist about the airy-fairy “we’re really just the same!” stuff, too… and it just ain’t reality. (Thankfully!)

  3. Boys and girls are different. You should watch my grandson playing with manic enthusiasm with the trucks I tried desperately to entice my daughter to play with to appreciate that. My daughter is too busy studying linear algebra to notice. Some differences are real; some are not.

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