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Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Mild irk

I don't think sports is necessarily a guy-thing, though that's how I was raised: Dad and Brother watched televised sports at every opportunity, and Mrs Dad and I read books. I didn't get into sports until I was a grown-up (well, 18), and I'm still not really a big sports-head. I'll watch football, soccer, rugby, basketball or ice hockey anytime they're on, but that's about it. And I just watch, I don't memorize, or even bother to understand, the statistics part. And I was reminded recently (argh, where?) of a point Noam Chomsky made in Manufacturing Consent, how men's ability to memorize sports statistics, and women's ability to keep track of their calorie intake, show that ordinary people can certainly grasp complex ideas and keep track of many tiny details, thus suggesting that economics/politics/globalization/all that crap is not really over our heads, as Those In Charge prefer to pretend.

Anyway. A small digression there. I agree with the overall point, but I brought it up because I wanted to look at this side point: men, sports statistics; women, food statistics? Is this a fair generalization? I mean, some men count calories and some women follow league tables, but as a general rule, do these things tend to shake down along gender lines? Because I'm confronted with an assumption, by a guy, that I should know this stuff, and I'm wondering if he assumes too much or if my knowledge is really deficient.

To clarify: yet again, a (male) database teacher has assigned some kind of sports-database, clearly assuming that all his students will know enough about sports statistics to do this, because he hasn't provided any supplemental information - they never do. And I'm fairly certain a female database teacher wouldn't assign an E-R diagram for cataloging lipstick or tracking a shoe collection, at least not without some clarification on the sort of information she would expect to be stored. So once again, I am annoyed that the default setting is "guy" and that I am some kind of special interest, and am expected to adapt to someone else's definition of normal.

Of course I realize I am a member of more default-groups than special groups, and it is equally thoughtless to assume everyone is straight, white, and computer-literate, to name the first few things that leap to mind. I tend not to notice those assumptions as quickly, because they don't trip me up, but I still recognize that they are unfair and create a kind of pressure that can get really old really fast.

I also realize that this is a trivial problem - the sports-database thing, not the bossy-dominant-culture thing. I'm just taking a moment to be annoyed at how often guys insist on controlling the dialog without even knowing that they're doing it. (Which of course they would say absolves them from all responsibility - after all, they're not doing it on purpose, so they should be allowed to ignore its effects ... and we should continue to accommodate them.)

Yes, lots and lots of stuff is going into this post, some of it trivial and some quite profound, but I've already gone on for too long. I'll do the assignment and all, but I will be peeved about it. Because it's my blog, and I can.

Song du jour of the day: Don't Call Me Baby, by Voice of the Beehive.


Kelly said...

Well, I could be wrong, but I don't think that there really is a gender line here (at least not want perpetuated deliberately by your presumably male teacher). I think its really just an interest thing, and also just generally the way your brain is synced.

A person like me, for example, can't keep track of her calories or sports stats. I just don't have the brain necessary for it.

Whereas my husband can do both with ease- he keeps numbers for sports stats (primarily football and baseball) in his head easily- and he does the same for calories, or any other numbers.

Now, are men more programmed to enjor sports? I would say yes, but I think that's becoming less true (Thank you Title 9 and Go Terps!). Do I think they are more competitive and aggressive by nature than women, and therefore more likely to follow sports and sports stats? Yes. And do I think women care more about their weight than men, and therefore spend more of their brain power on counting calories? Yes.

The biggest difference between the two is the complication- calories are simple, sports stats much less so. So the database teacher is just trying to give you a more complicated database task, that has more than one variable- which is all the calories in would be.

Or did I completely miss the point here because I am pre-coffee?

alala said...

No, you have some very valid points, and I had several things I was trying to work out at the same time, so it was a confusing post. I should have been clearer.

I started off irked because the teacher simply assumed that we would be able to make sense of a list of words that seems fairly random if you don't know (and he didn't tell us) that they relate to Track & Field. He didn't provide enough information to make sense of the assignment, and I was annoyed by that. But I was also questioning my own assumption that sports is a guy-thing.

And I was also peeved about how men tend to control the dialog, which came in from some other issues. Generally I try to work these questions out by talking to DrBob, but he is a master at steering the conversation in the direction he wants it to go, so he would have interpreted that as an attack. So I put it here instead.

I was garbled and incoherent, because it was late and I was tired, but also because I wanted to tackle several big and somewhat intertangled issues and still keep my word-count low.

I don't think that a head for stats is a gender-specific thing, but I do think that how a person chooses to use that talent might be affected by cultural assumptions about gender.

Kevin Smith said...

Hmmm...I'm not sure that the choice on how to use the talent is based as much on cultural assumptions so much as cultural conditioning - both of which, I agree, can influence how someone uses their talents. Both are also constructs that can be and are transcended by exceptional individuals on a regular basis - ie; Lisa Olsen as a sports writer, Madame Curie (not sure if I spelled that right), both women who have succeded in male dominated professions.