It’s like looking for a needle that no one ever lost in a haystack that never was

In Melanie’s latest Share Your World, she asks – Do you think there is such a thing as a ‘gendered’ brain?

Human Brain in a jar, photo by Gaetan Lee

That question was inspired by another blogger, so I followed the link in Melanie’s post (which is where you’ll have to go if you want the link) to his post on his blog which was inspired by a book – The Gendered Brain: The New Neuroscience That Shatters The Myth Of The Female Brain by Gina Rippon.

A tangent – A while ago that same blogger wrote a post about women never admitting they snore – I snore, I also grind my teeth and drool partly due to having to wear a mouthguard because of the grinding, and wake up swimming in my own sweat when I sleep. There really is no point in informing you and admitting to of any of that, is there? And that’s why people, not just women, don’t tend to share that information.

After reading his post, I did a search for Gina Rippon and her book.

Do you have a female brain or a male brain?
Or is that the wrong question?

Reading maps or reading emotions? Barbie or Lego? We live in a gendered world where we are bombarded with messages about sex and gender. On a daily basis we face deeply ingrained beliefs that your sex determines your skills and preferences, from toys and colours to career choice and salaries. But what does this constant gendering mean for our thoughts, decisions and behaviour? And what does it mean for our brains?

Drawing on her work as a professor of cognitive neuroimaging, Gina Rippon unpacks the stereotypes that bombard us from our earliest moments and shows how these messages mould our ideas of ourselves and even shape our brains.

Taking us back through centuries of sexism, The Gendered Brain reveals how science has been misinterpreted or misused to ask the wrong questions. Instead of challenging the status quo, we are still bound by outdated stereotypes and assumptions. However, by exploring new, cutting-edge neuroscience, Rippon urges us to move beyond a binary view of our brains and instead to see these complex organs as highly individualised, profoundly adaptable and full of unbounded potential.”

– excerpt from the goodreads page for The Gendered Brain: The New Neuroscience That Shatters the Myth of the Female Brain by Gina Rippon

She and her book sound rather awesome, and go very well with Pride Month…

Celebrating Pride Month with WordPress.com by Anne McCarthy

I played with both Barbies and Lego as a child. Part of my Lego collection included a build-a-car set. I never built a car with it, but I did use the wheels once I’d assembled them onto metal sticks to dip into a Nutella jar and make a Nutella lollipop.

I also played with Weebles – they may never fall down but they can plummet into a trap in the sandpit, get buried and forgotten. They should never have challenged the Lego men to a battle of supremacy.

I dressed up as a Fantasia elephanterina and drove the downstairs neighbours to drink with my ballet (I had a pink and a blue tutu, a tiara with sparkly sequins, and several gossamer veils).

I also ran around like a child raised by wolves, eating dirt (my favourite dessert was one which reminded me of eating sand), plants, climbing everything and hanging upside down whenever possible.

As for reading maps and emotions… I can do both fairly well (not just according to me), and one helps with the other since emotions tend to follow a route from A to Z, and it’s best to know the emotional state of the driver you’re map-reading for and their preferences for the trip – short route or long route, on the motorway, A-roads, B-roads or off the beaten path?

I do get into trouble with the whole left/right/the other left/the other right issue because of my dyslexia when it comes to reading maps.

And reading emotions can also be troublesome as people are often trying to hide what they’re feeling behind something else which is what they’d like to be feeling or have others believe that they’re feeling.

“All sciences begin with attempts to define.
Nothing ever has been defined.
Because there is nothing to define.

It is not possible to define.
Nothing has ever been finally found out.
Because there is nothing final to find out.
It’s like looking for a needle that no one ever lost in a haystack that never was”

– excerpt from The Book of the Damned by Charles Fort

A couple of years ago I took one of those online – What sex is your brain – tests. I think it was the one on the BBC Science and whatever site. I wrote a post about it – Emotionally Unstable? Thinking Too Much? Is it You or Your Brain? – in which I babbled about masculine and feminine and… I can’t be bothered to reread it beyond a cursory glance because it’s making my brain hurt to do so.

I did mention in that post that my mind was frazzled at the time of writing… and I also mentioned that the – What sex is your brain – test result said I was “gender balanced”.

In other words the test concluded that my brain was both male and female in equal measure. So my brain is gender non-conforming, genderqueer, gender variant or perhaps it is gender neutral.

excerpt from Itspronouncedmetrosexual: Comprehensive* List of LGBTQ+ Vocabulary Definitions

Let’s try another test…

If I put an excerpt of my writing (I took a chunk from the recent post where I related a dream about being a 50 year old woman playing with a Barbie doll) into – I Write Like – it tells me that I write like Cory Doctorow.

I’ve played with that site before and I always get a male writer as my result…. perhaps they don’t have female writers in their database? Yes, they do, although their list of authors is short.

I don’t think I’ve read anything by Cory Doctorow. But I have just recently read the beginning of a book – The Book of the Damned by Charles Fort – an author who is considered to be an Anomalist, and his style of writing appeals to my brain, making the synapses crackle, snap and pop.

I ended up at that book after reading an interesting article – Astrodienst: Tuning into the Zeitgeist by Ray Grasse – wherein the writer said:

And among other things, it’s prompted me to wonder about the true nature of thoughts. What are they, really? And where do they come from? Are they simply generated by our brains, as most scientists claim? Or do we pick them up out of the ethers, almost like radio waves captured by a receiver?

While still a teenager, I came across this intriguing quote attributed to anomalist Charles Fort (though its exact source is debated); it resonated with me then, and still does now:
       “… ours is an organic existence, and…our thoughts are the phenomena of its eras, quite as its rocks and trees and forms of life are.”

– excerpt from Astrodienst: Tuning into the Zeitgeist by Ray Grasse

So do I personally think there’s such a thing as ‘gendered’ brain?

Hmmm… I got my period yesterday. Yes, it’s relevant. My body is female. The brain runs the body. So there must be a section in the brain which runs the bits and bobs that are specific to the body’s gender, which keeps things like periods, and everything which needs to happen for that to happen, ticking along in their rhythmic manner.

Other than that… does the brain need to be genderised? Only if it wants to be…

It’s also worth considering that any studies of the brain are conducted by the brain…

9 comments

  1. I started to comment and something blew me out of my browser. So I’ll begin again. I’m sorry that WordPress ate your homework…(and is that a great title for a possible post? I think so! 😉 ) but the portion of Share Your World that you DID answer was awesome and so well thought out, just like all your writing! 🙂 Thanks Ursula for Sharing Your World!

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    • Thank you very much, Melanie 🙂

      I agree that’s a fun title for a post! I was just trying to come up with a title for my next post wherein I plan to answer the rest of the SYW questions, maybe I’ll use that 😀

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  2. I love your title from Book of the Dead. (Interesting. Autocorrect keeps changing “book” to “boom.” Boom of the Dead. Not sure why I find that intetesting.) I know I’m gender balanced. I loved playing with dinky toys when I was a kid and I built whole towns with buildings and roads for the dinkies to drive on. I had lots of little dolls to people them too. Then I would enact stories that ran along the lines of some sort of heroic action on my part as I inhabited one of the dolls. I haven’t thought much about that for many years now.
    I enjoyed your post. 🙂

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    • Thank you very much, Lynette 🙂

      Autocorrect is very amusing, sometimes I think it’s a Zen master offering crazy wisdom in the form of riddles. My dyslexia does something similar to autocorrect.

      It’s intriguing to review the games we played when we were children, it gives us insight into our psyche, not just then but also now since many of the things we do now grew out of what we did then. There are times when it is startling to realise just how sharply we understood the world as children.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I also snore, drool and sweat buckets. The only reason I don’t grind my teeth is that I have full dentures and prefer to sleep without them.
    My body is my body and my brain does its best to run it. I don’t feel like my brain or my body are really ME. Whether we call it soul, spirit, essence, thoughts…whatever… I think that’s the part that truly is who we are. I’m just Angie. No gender, though my body is X chromosome. I played with whatever toys I wanted to, I wore whatever clothes I wanted to, I dated whoever I wanted to.
    It’s society gender roles that have everyone questioning everything. If we’d forget about all of that, I think a lot of, maybe most, people would be happier.
    Have you ever read the book about the 100th monkey effect? There’s a wiki if you’re not familiar with it. Interesting ideas about thought.💌

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    • Thank you very much, Angie 🙂

      I love the 100dth Monkey theory! It’s fascinating to observe the connections in how humans and other species evolve, develop, progress separately yet together across the width and breadth of the planet. I also love the idea of the collective unconscious. There was an intriguing observation which Carl Jung made while he was studying dreams, he noticed a shift in the dream symbolism of his patients and connected it to a movement which was going on in modern society, particularly in the arts, and theorised that it showed a shift from religious-based thinking to scientific-based thinking in the individual and collective psyche.

      We’re living in very interesting times at the moment, there is a strong current moving us all along whether we’re willing to move with it or not. Another shift in the individual and collective psyche is happening. It seems to be highlighting issues connected to duality. For so long we’ve lived with either/or, black or white, right or wrong, yes or no, male or female, but now we’re perceiving how much more there is in the way of options. There’s not just male or female, there’s all these other genders. We don’t have to pick between one or the other, we can create our own option, one which suits us, which allows us to be who we are rather than us trying to fit in to a limited one thing or the other. The clothes should fit us, not the other way around 😉

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  4. Great title, Ursula. I had to read it twice, though, before realization dawned with a chuckle. When I was a kid, I played with girl and boy toys such as Barbie dolls and Lincoln Logs. I climbed trees, built things, wandered picking up bugs, lizards, and toads. I enjoyed dressing up girlie and wearing pants with shirts o go fishing with my dad. I hadn’t thought about gendering a brain or mine. For me, the brain is just a phenomenal, human being tool without sexual identity. I surely enjoyed your writing, and as always, thought provoking. Hi!

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    • Thank you very much, Anna 🙂

      Haha! The title is a bit of a fun riddle, when I read that line in the Book of the Damned I had to reread it several times to make sure it said what I thought it said. I’m never sure if I’m reading things correctly because of my dyslexia.

      It’s lovely to hear from you ❤

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