It will come as no surprise to you that one of the most requested articles at the website How Stuff Works is — you guessed it — “How Women Work.”
How Stuff Works, which purports to expose the intricacies of such eternal mysteries as How Restaurant Pagers Work, How Becoming a Roadie Works, and How to Use Vinegar in Your Laundry, at last reveals the simple but hitherto unknowable truth of that mystifying sex machine, women.
“But Twisty,” you say, having thumbed through the article and noticed that it actually sort of debunks some popular myths about the weaker sex. Possibly you have even noticed that there is also an article entitled “How Men Work,” showing that the website doesn’t even single women out as explicable ‘stuff’. “What’s the beef?”
I’ll tell you. It isn’t just this one article. What chaps the Twisty hide is that men and women are always cast as separate, opposing entities, and that nobody thinks this is weird at all. That this is the case is the direct result of enduring, but bogus, patriarchal constructs. Such as the one that goes “biology is destiny.”
Like all articles “explaining” women, “How Women Work” mostly just enumerates the physiological differences between men and women. Compared to men, women are different. Different chromosomes. Different hormones. Different stature. Different naughty bits. That’s because women may only be understood in terms of deviation from the recognized absolute: men. Even as they refute a stereotype or two, articles such as “How Women Work” only emphasize these minute and essentially irrelevant differences. The tired old focus on reproduction, with the little chromosome diagrams and cutesy animated fallopian tube cartoons, seems to put scientific weight behind the idea that sex bias is a legitimate bias.
When it’s not sex, it’s brains.
The section “Women: Brains, Bodies and Barbies,” I’m not even kidding, sums up in a couple of paragraphs all of female experience (as it relates to how women “work” in terms of men), which is apparently limited to the gripping question of whether or not we are genetically indisposed toward math.
Ah, math, the traditional purview of dudes, they of the 6.5 times more math-o-centric gray matter [see below]; the “hard” subject the apprehension of which determines whether a person may be taken seriously in a man’s world. I’m so sick of this math thing. Math! Who sits around doing math? Men? Come on. Men sit around looking at porn.
But still: can women really do math? The world awaits the mind-blowing answer:
“A large-scale analysis of data […] suggests that there’s very little difference between men and women’s abilities in math.”
Apparently there is this thing called “stereotype threat” which just might play a part in standardized test scores when women are tested on math in the presence of dudes. The article does not discuss possible origins of the stereotype threat. We are left to draw our own conclusions concerning the deleterious effects of a dominant class on an oppressed one.
How Stuff Works throws women another bone with this stunning revelation:
Sex hormones can affect a woman’s emotions and physiology throughout most of her life. But contrary to some people’s perceptions, they’re not responsible for every facet of her behavior.
No shit? Women aren’t insensate slaves to their primordial ladyparts, tearing through their lives on menses-stained runaway hormone roller coasters? Who would’ve thought that so many “people’s perceptions” could have gone so far awry? What in the world could have contributed to the pervasive idea that women are gossipy shoe-obsessed flakes whereas men are large and in charge, when clearly the facts show otherwise?
The only real, appreciable “difference” between men and women is the fact that one group is privileged over the other. Physiology, biology, chemistry — none of these things is as absolute as women’s oppression. Take me for example. As a result of primitive cancer treatments, I possess very few of the most popular woman-specific attributes. No boobs. No estrogen. No uterus. No ovaries. My “difference” from men has been drastically reduced. I fucking look like a dude. That I am still considered a woman has nothing to do with “How Women Work.” It has to do with how patriarchy works.
Incidentally, I found this “How Women Work” article through this dude’s blog. He is ecstatic to have discovered it. “It’s like,” he pants, “a combination of Women for Dummies, Everything You Wanted to Know About Women But Was Afraid to ask [sic], and Women, The Missing Manual.” Blogger dude’s “favorite factoid”?
Men have 6.5 times more gray matter in their brains than women do. Women have 10 times more white matter. Gray matter creates processing centers in the brain, and white matter creates the connections between them. In other words, men have lots of areas for processing concrete data — like mathematical equations — and women have lots of connections that allow them to see and process patterns.
“Everyone,” opines blogger dude, “who wants to stay married or market stuff to women should read this.”
Blogger dudes sure like it when internet “science” articles “prove” that misogynist bigotry is reasonable. And profitable.