Archive for May, 2008

This weekend was commencement weekend at the university I work for, and since I work in the Registrar’s Office, I had to work the ceremony all weekend long. Because of this, there will be no entry this week. Sorry.

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This entry is the second part of a two part entry written in response to a blog entry written by Jonathan Tweet on the subject of evolutionary psychology, and the effect that gendered behavior has on gaming. In the first entry, my discussion was focused on understanding some of the fundamental principles of evolutionary psychology, namely the Baldwin Effect. In this second entry, I will be responding more directly to Tweet’s comments regarding gendered behavior, and the effects it has on gaming.

On the Evolution of Warfare, Team Sports, Ice Skating, and Makeup

One of the difficulties in responding to Tweet’s comments is that many of his statements about gendered behavior are vague, and open-ended, leaving the reader with the difficulty of trying to determine exactly what is or is not being said. For example, Tweet claims that LARPing largely appeals to women because “it’s more about personalities, relationships, clothing, and make-up.” However, because he never explicitly states why he thinks these factors should appeal to female gamers, one could reasonably argue that he is implying one of two things: 1) That these preferences are the result of genetically inherited traits, 2) That these preferences are the result of factors that are heretofore unmentioned. It should also be noted that since Tweet describes no mechanism to account for these purported preferences, it is left to the reader to determine what mechanism or mechanisms he thinks are in effect.

Because of these difficulties, I am forced to make an assumption regarding Tweet’s intended meaning. In this case, I am assuming that Tweet believes that all of the behaviors described (from love of hunting and warfare in men, to preference for clothing and makeup in women) are the result of ontogenetic adaptations that have evolved into genetic traits as a result of the Baldwin Effect (for more information on these concepts, please see my previous entry). With this assumption in mind, I will begin this discussion by first determining whether or not Tweet’s comments have any scientific validity, and if not, what behaviors the scientific community believes might be considered genetically inherited.

First the validity of Tweet’s comments. Unfortunately, in all of the reading that I have done, I have not found anything- either from proponents of evolutionary psychology, or from its critics- which support Tweet’s claims. Granted, I have only read a handful of books on the subject, and it’s possible that there are researchers out there who have made claims regarding the genetic inheritance of hunting, warfare, group behavior and/or love of ice skating. However, I find the probability very unlikely, since what little I’ve read on the subject suggests that there is remarkable consistency in the scientific community regarding what behaviors might be considered gender based. For example, in Eleanor Macoby’s, and Carol Nagy Jacklin’s book, The Psychology of Sex Differences (see summary below), the researchers concluded that out of nineteen claims made by various researchers regarding sex differences, eight had been satisfactorily disproved, seven were too open to interpretation to warrant any conclusions, and only four- verbal ability, visual-spatial ability, mathematical ability, and aggressive behavior- were considered fairly well established.1 Granted, evolutionary psychologists routinely use the more open questions of difference as evidence to support their theories. However, given that I am not an expert on the subject of gendered behavior- nor, do I imagine, are many of my readers- I think it is best to limit this discussion to the sex differences that are considered fairly well established by the scientific community, and to see if they might have any effect on the number of women who participate in gaming.

Unfounded Beliefs About Sex Differences

Open Questions of Difference

Fairly Well Established Sex Differences

Girls are more social than boys Tactile sensitivity Girls have greater verbal ability
Girls are more suggestible than boys Fear, timidity, and anxiety Boys excel in visual-spatial ability
Girls have lower self-esteem than boys Activity level Boys excel in mathematical ability
Girls are better at rote learning and simple repetitive tasks; boys are better at higher level cognitive processing Competitiveness Boys are more aggressive
Boys are more analytic than girls Dominance
Girls are more affected by heredity; boys are more affected by environment Compliance
Girls lack achievement motivation Nurturance and “maternal” behavior
Girls are more inclined toward the auditory

Verbal Ability

If verbal ability is genetically inherited, and if the difference in verbal ability between men and women is a statistically significant factor, then it shouldn’t have a negative impact on the number of women who play games. On the contrary, greater verbal ability in women could be seen as advantageous in roleplaying games and board games, which rely heavily on both verbal skills and social interaction from players. In fact, one might argue that it’s this difference between men and women which accounts for the purportedly high percentage of women gamers who enjoy LARPing. However, before we can conclude that greater verbal ability is genetically inherited, and that it plays a significant role in the number of female gamers who participate in gaming activities, there are several questions that we must ask. First, why have women supposedly evolved a greater verbal ability? Second, what mechanism might be used to account for this genetic inheritance? Third, even if the evolution of such characteristics can be accounted for, do they play a meaningful role in reality, and if so, how meaningful is it? I will examine these questions and determine what role, if any, verbal ability might play in both evolution and gaming.

It is difficult to imagine what role greater verbal ability in women might play in evolutionary psychology. Nevertheless, there are theories which try to explain how such a behavior might be considered beneficial to women. For example, psychologist and anthropologist, David C. Geary, believes that greater verbal ability in women evolved in order to compete for the resources they need in order to raise their children successfully. As he puts it, “Girls and women… compete by attempting to disrupt the social relationships of their competitors, and this competition is largely expressed through language.” He goes on to say that, “language is also an important means for the establishment and maintenance of the intimate and reciprocal relationships that are important to girls and women,” and to “provide a means to control the dynamics of their relationships with larger and potentially aggressive men.”2 As far as what mechanism might account for the greater verbal ability of women, Geary refers to several studies that suggest that estrogen might be a contributing factor to the development, and use of verbal skills.3

So is it true that women have greater verbal ability than men, and if so, how significant is the difference? In the past, researchers have tried to determine the significance of these differences by administering tests of verbal ability to students, and based on these scores, the averages for boys and girls were calculated. This method, known as the hypothesis-testing approach, is the method used for all of the studies listed in Jacklin and Macoby’s aforementioned book, The Psychology of Sex Differences. Since then, Jacklin and Macoby have tried a new approach, that asks the following questions: if all you know about a person is what score they received on a test for verbal ability, how reliably can you guess the person’s gender? Conversely, if all you know about a person is their gender, how reliably can you guess what their score is on a test for verbal ability? If the difference in verbal ability is truly meaningful, one should be able to reliably determine the gender of a person based on nothing but their test score, and/or vice-versa. This method of determining the meaningfulness of a statistically significant result is what is known as meta-analysis. When this method is applied to the differences in verbal ability between men and women, the differences become statistically meaningless. One study using meta-analysis finds that gender differences can only account for approximately 1% of variance in verbal ability between men and women; a difference that is so miniscule, it can safely be considered statistically insignificant.4 As a result, it calls into question the validity of Geary’s claims regarding the role that verbal ability might play in the reproductive success of women. It also calls into question any claims one might make regarding the effect that greater verbal ability might have on the number of female gamers who enjoy LARPing and other roleplaying activities.

Visual-Spatial Perception

Many board games, roleplaying, and collectible miniature games rely heavily on a player’s ability to visualize where their pieces are in relation to various obstacles, opponents, etc. Perhaps the quintessential example of a game that relies heavily on visual-spatial ability is Robo Rally. Here, players must not only use random cards to move their pieces forward, back, or rotate them 45°-90°, they must also maneuver their character across a board filled with moving conveyor belts, rotating gears, and other robots in a maddening race to be the first to touch all of several flag checkpoints. Granted, most roleplaying games are not nearly as taxing as Robo Rally in terms of visual-spatial ability. However, one could argue that tactical strategies, such as flanking, might benefit from a greater visual-spatial ability, which could account for the lack of female gamers in a game as tactically complex as Dungeons & Dragons. However, like verbal ability we must determine whether visual-spatial ability is genetically inherited, what mechanism might account for its genetic inheritance primarily in men, and finally, we must determine if it has a meaningful impact on the number of female gamers participating in roleplaying games. As before, I will examine these questions each in turn, starting with the view of evolutionary psychologists.

According to Geary, greater visual-spatial ability in men has been sexually selected for two reasons. First, because male-male competition often involves the use projectiles, such as stones, spears, or arrows, men have evolved not only a greater throwing accuracy, but also a greater ability to block, or avoid incoming projectiles. Second, because men have traditionally had to wander farther from their home in search of prey, resources, and other mates, they have developed a better ability to visualize their terrain and accurately determine distance, as well as spatial relations between objects. In order to bolster his claims, Geary uses studies by Schiff & Oldak which demonstrate that 3 out of 4 men are better than women at being able to both judge the velocity of a moving tennis ball, and better at being able to block or avoid a tennis ball being fired at them. He also relies on studies Vandenberg & Kuse that show that men are better able to mentally rotate three dimensional objects. Finally, like greater verbal ability in women, Geary believes that the mechanism responsible for greater visual-spatial ability in men is prenatal exposure to sex hormones; in this case, testosterone.5 Nevertheless, it could certainly be argued that other factors- such as the presence of X-linked or Y-linked genes- might be able to account for this effect as well (more on this subject later).

So how likely is it that greater visual-spatial ability in men is genetically inherited? In this case, a statement by Geary himself actually calls the likelihood of this possibility into question. In reference to one of Schiff & Oldak’s studies, Geary states that “in one of the studies… it was found that practice and feedback (i.e. telling the participants if their choice was correct after every trial) improved the performance of both men and women, but the magnitude of the men’s advantage did not change.”6 [my emphasis] Why is this statement telling? Because in a study testing for visual-spatial ability in first-graders, it was found that boys do somewhat better than girls on simple, embedded figures and block tests when neither have seen such tests before, but when allowed to practice, it was found that girls were quickly able to catch up to the scores of their male counterparts, while the scores of the boys changed very little. Similarly, a study involving teenage students enrolled in a drafting course showed that while women were initially less capable than men at rotating three dimensional objects at the beginning of the class, by the end of the six-week session, these differences in ability disappeared.7 In other words, both of these tests- which involve skills that conceivably require much less practice than being able to judge the velocity of, and/or dodge a moving object- suggest that it is practice, and not genetic inheritance, which accounts for greater visual-spatial ability in men. Of course, what might account for the difference in practice of these skills between men and women is still open to speculation. However, the differences in gender-based play and activities, from childhood on into adulthood, might provide a potential explanation for such differences.

In any event, even if visual-spatial ability is genetically inherited, Macoby and Jacklin point out that, just like verbal ability, gender differences in visual-spatial ability account for no more than 5% of the variance, which would not account for the wide disparity between male and female gamers in roleplaying games.8

Mathematical Ability

In a game like Dungeons & Dragons, which routinely requires players to multiply decimals to determine average hit points, multiply ratios in order to determine 1 ½ Strength damage for two-handed weapons, and complicated addition for determining the effect of a 20th level fireball, it is certainly possible that a greater propensity for mathematical ability in men might account for the disparity between male and female gamers. It might also account for why there is a larger percentage of women participating in LARPing; an activity which involves fewer mathematical skills. Nevertheless, before we can determine if mathematical ability is a significant factor in the number of women participating in roleplaying games, we must ask the same questions that we asked previously about verbal, and visual-spatial ability.

It may seem surprising to many to learn that when we look at the studies of evolutionary psychologists, it appears that there is very little evidence to suggest that mathematical ability in women would account for any disparity in the number of female gamers participating in roleplaying games. For example, Geary points out that while boys and men often outperform girls and women in certain areas of math, girls and women typically outperform boys and men in areas involving complex arithmetic.9 Assuming that Geary is correct, and that women are better at performing complex arithmetic than men, it would seem that women, rather than being disadvantaged, would actually have an advantage over men in roleplaying games, since the math required typically takes the form of arithmetical functions. Therefore, it seems that there is very little evidence, even amongst evolutionary psychologists, to account for the lack of female gamers participating in roleplaying games.

Entertaining the idea for the moment that men are better than women in all areas of mathematics, what mechanism might account for this greater, genetically inherited ability? There are actually several possibilities that might account for this. The first is the favored theory of Geary, which is that genetically inherited behaviors are the result of prenatal exposure to sex hormones. Another possibility is that the genes involved are linked to the Y chromosome, which is only inherited by men. However, assuming that mathematical ability is genetically inherited, neither of these theories is able to account for why some women, who are otherwise normally developed, might also have a highly developed mathematical ability. To account for this, we must turn to a third theory, which is that mathematical ability is actually X-linked. For example, in a paper written by Dr. Robert Lehrke, entitled “A Theory of X-Linkage of Major Intellectual Traits,” he argued that many of the genes associated with mathematical ability might be X-linked, and that if such were the case, that any variability in these X-linked genes would most likely benefit (or conversely, harm) men.

In order to understand the theory of X-linkage, and how it affects genetic inheritance in men, it is important to understand some of the details regarding the genetic differences between men and women. It is fairly common knowledge that in addition to having twenty-two pairs of chromosomes, called autosomes, women have two additional chromosomes known as X chromosomes, while men have both an X and Y chromosome. Because of this difference, genes that are linked to the Y chromosome are only inherited by men. However, there are examples of metabolic diseases which are X-linked that primarily affect men. For example, the gene responsible for blood clotting resides on the X chromosome. However, in the case of hemophilia, this gene is mutated, and therefore cannot aid in blood clotting. In women, who inherit both an X chromosome from their mother and father, the mutant gene must be present on both chromosomes in order for hemophilia to manifest. Otherwise, the normal gene for blood clotting takes over. In the case of men, only one X chromosome is inherited. As a result, if the X chromosome inherited contains the mutant gene for blood clotting, there is nothing to prevent the gene’s manifestation. Therefore, if one assumes that greater mathematical ability is actually the result of a mutant gene residing on the X chromosome, women would actually need two of the mutant genes, while men would only need one. Conversely, mutant genes that code for a lesser mathematical ability would also disproportionately affect men.

What’s interesting is that this theory lends support to an earlier study done by Thorndike and Cattell in 1903, which demonstrates that men have more variability in mathematical ability than women do. In other words, while men and women, by and large, have the same average ability in mathematics, men score both lower and higher than the lowest and highest scores for women in mathematical ability.10

While Lehrke’s theories, and Thorndike’s and Cattell’s findings might be interesting, ultimately, they are unable to account for the lack of female gamers in roleplaying games. Because while their findings may account for greater genetic variability regarding mathematical ability in men, they admit that, by and large, men and women both have the same average ability in mathematics.11 Granted, the math involved in roleplaying games is often more complex than the math required for other games. However, I think few would argue that the math is so complex, that a person of average intelligence wouldn’t be capable of doing it. Therefore, while there may be some evidence to suggest that there may be more mathematical variability in men than women, this evidence cannot be used to account for the disproportionately low number of women currently participating in roleplaying games.


One of the problems with attributing aggressive behavior to humans, is that evolutionary psychologists seem to use the term indiscriminately to describe any number of behaviors that could only generously be called causally related. Wilson, for example, in his aforementioned chapter on aggression, makes some incredible leaps in logic, saying first that “territoriality is one of the variants of aggressive behavior,” and later, that “the biological formula of territorialism translates easily into the rituals of modern property ownership.”12 By this definition, the act of owning a house would be considered a form of aggressive behavior, thus rendering the term meaningless. Therefore, before we can begin discussing the subject of aggressive behavior, we must come up with a meaningful definition of the term. For purposes, of this discussion, I will be defining aggressive behavior as any sort of violent behavior directed at another individual, or organism that may result in injury, and/or death. Granted, such a definition is still quite broad, and can be used to describe any number of behaviors that might only be loosely called aggressive (the act of slaughtering animals for food comes to mind), but again this is the difficulty in trying to apply the term to human behavior.

If men, by and large, are more prone to aggressive behavior than women, then it seems plausible that a combat oriented game, like Dungeons & Dragons, might disproportionately appeal to men. The same might be said for other combat oriented games, like Magic: The Gathering, and the Star Wars miniatures game. Similarly, if women are less prone to aggressive behavior, it might explain why more women are interested in LARPing, an activity that is purportedly less focused on combat. Of course, this depends on your definition, since typically, when I think of LARPing, I imagine people running around in the forest, beating each other with padded swords. However, I do concede that there are many systems that are far less aggressive, and that these systems may attract more women in general.

So what mechanism might account for the greater inheritance of aggressive behavior in men? While some studies have tried to suggest a genetic link to aggressive behavior (more on this later), the most popular theory used to account for the difference is prenatal exposure to the sex hormone testosterone. So far, the best evidence to support this theory involves carefully constructed experiments, involving male rats and mice who have been exposed to testosterone. These studies confirm that when exposed to extremely stressful situations (situations, I might add, that are often more stressful than the creature’s normal environment), male rats are more likely to engage in aggressive behavior than rats who have not been exposed to the hormone. Similarly, rats who have been castrated are less likely to engage in aggressive behavior, unless exposed to the hormone, at which point aggressive behavior again increases.13 However, evidence for similar patterns in humans, or even primates, is flimsy at best, and given the fact that behavior of rats and mice differ significantly from that of humans, many ethologists find it unreasonable to conclude that a higher level of testosterone in human males would necessarily account for a similar increase in aggressive behavior.

Assuming, for the moment, that testosterone does play a role in aggressive behavior, it is not necessarily the only determining factor. As was stated, the rats in the experiment were exposed to extremely stressful situations, suggesting that environment may have just as much of an impact on the development of behavior as biology. There is also strong evidence to suggest that psychological factors can have an effect. For example, violent prisoners often progress through four distinct stages before becoming violent. First, the person- usually a young male- is exposed to extreme abuse in childhood, usually within the family unit. Second, after brooding about the abuse, the person decides to attack the person originally responsible for the abuse. Third, the person carries out the attack, and if the person’s abuser surrenders, or concedes, the person feels invincible. Fourth, feeling invincible as a result of their victory, the person attempts to solve all of their problems through violence.14

Meanwhile, there are cultural factors that can also have an effect on aggressive behavior. For example, in a community in Kenya, where men typically engage in more aggressive behavior than women, and where villagers regularly make distinctions between both ‘feminine’ and ‘masculine’ tasks, there is good evidence to suggest that when young men from families without girls are expected to perform tasks typically assigned to young women, their frequency of aggressive behavior decreases by 60%.15 Conversely, in Cameroon, female gangs routinely assault young men, steal their money, and beat them if they try to resist.16 Taken together, all of these examples seem to strongly suggest that, even if testosterone is a contributing factor to aggressive behavior, it is not the only factor, and that many other factors can have an enormous impact on the development of aggressive behavior in both men and women.

So where does that leave us in terms of roleplaying games? Well first, even if roleplaying games appeal largely to people with an inclination for aggressive behavior, and even if the people in our culture that are most prone to aggressive behavior are men, it does not necessarily follow that this aggressive behavior is entirely genetic, but may also be affected by psychological, behavioral, or cultural factors. Second, if roleplaying games do, in fact, appeal to people with a higher inclination for aggressive behavior, then one would expect to see a much higher percentage of people playing roleplaying games convicted of violent crimes. Granted, I don’t have any hard evidence to suggest that this isn’t the case, but common sense tells me that there most likely isn’t any connection between gaming and a propensity to engage in aggressive behavior. If anything, I would say that the reverse is more likely true.

Evidence for Genetic Inheritance of Gendered Behaviors

So far, this discussion has largely been hypothetical, assuming first that the gendered behaviors described above are genetically inherited before determining what impact they are likely to have on the male and female demographics in gaming. Having examined these behaviors in depth, we now turn to the scientific evidence to support the plausibility that such behaviors are, in fact, genetic.

Unfortunately for the believers, the evidence to support these claims is ultimately pretty sparse. The best evidence I have found for genetic inheritance of gendered behaviors involves a study of one family from the Netherlands, with a purportedly high number of males prone to aggressive behavior. After carefully studying the family, researchers discovered a mutant gene on the X chromosome for monoamine oxidase type A (MAOA), an enzyme used for breaking down certain neurotransmitters in the brain, that had been inherited by all of the men prone to aggressive behavior. Based on this evidence, the researchers hypothesized that an accumulation of these neurotransmitters might account for an increase in aggressive behavior within the family. Nevertheless, the researchers were cautious in reporting their findings, since one individual in the family with the mutant gene had no purported history of aggressive behavior. This anomaly, combined with further studies that concluded the single gene could not account for an increase in aggressive behavior by itself, ultimately led the scientific community to dismiss the initial, promising findings of the study.17

Because of this lack of evidence, it seems highly unreasonable to conclude definitively that gendered behaviors are solely the result of genetic inheritance. It also seems unreasonable, given the insignificant role that sex differences have been shown to have on behavior, to suggest that these behaviors could have any meaningful impact on the demographics of male and female gamers participating in roleplaying games.

Historical Context

Having thoroughly examined the effect that gendered behaviors might have on the number of women participating in roleplaying games, I think it important to place this discussion into a historical context. Because this is not the first time that questionable, open-ended, and/or inconclusive research, done in the name of science, has been used to try and explain theoretical differences in behavior between men and women in terms of biology. It also isn’t the first time that this research has been used in order to explain the absence of women from certain areas of society. For example, in Charles Darwin’s Descent of Man, he writes on the absence of women in the areas of the arts and sciences.

“If two lists were made of the most eminent men and women in poetry, painting, sculpture, music (inclusive both of composition and performance), history, science, and philosophy, with half-a-dozen names under each subject, the two lists would not bear comparison. We may also infer, from the law of the deviation from averages, so well illustrated by Mr. Galton, in his work on Hereditary Genius, that if men are capable of a decided pre-eminence over women in many subjects, the average of mental power in man must be above that of woman.”

In other words, Darwin is suggesting that the lack of women in the arts and sciences is a sign of their lack of intelligence. He then turns to biology in order to try and account for this difference.

“It is a remarkable circumstance, that the difference between the sexes, as regards the cranial cavity, increases with the development of the race, so that the male European excels much more the female.”18

This belief, that women are intellectually inferior because of their smaller brain size, is one that was common during Darwin’s time, and it was often used to try and discourage women from engaging in intellectual pursuits. After all, if women are intellectually incapable of contributing to the arts and sciences, then there’s not much point in educating them.

Now this may all seem very amusing to us, and it may be seen as an example of how far we’ve come. However, keep in mind that these sorts of scientifically supported ‘demonstrations’ of male, biological superiority appear again and again, and always for the same reason. Take, for example, the book Sex in Education; or, a Fair Chance for the Girls, written by Dr. Edward Clarke in 1874, which tried to demonstrate that education itself can have a serious and debilitating effect on a woman’s reproductive system. In his book, he cites seven case studies- the most prominent of which may have been entirely fictional- of women pursuing medical studies that had developed severe menstrual cramping, and ultimately became sterile. This paper was written during a time when women began demanding to be allowed into the medical field, a trend that was seen as disturbing by many men in the medical profession.19 Meanwhile, the study written by Thorndike & Cattell, that I mentioned earlier on the subject of variability of mathematical ability in men, was written at a time when women were beginning to outnumber men as students at large universities, and was used to support an argument for the separate, vocational education of men and women- with federal aid being used to fund industrial arts programs for boys, and home economics courses for girls. This campaign was part of a deliberate effort to funnel women into lower-paying occupations such as nursing, and administrative assistant work.20 Bearing all of this in mind, it seems prudent that we should exercise the most cautious skepticism when approaching the subject of genetic inheritance of gendered behavior, because so often, we’ve seen science abused in order to support the premise that men are biologically superior to women, and that their behavior is a reflection of this biological superiority.

What About David Reimer?

Late in the conversation, Tweet brings up the subject of David Reimer, stating that it was this case that made him reconsider his previous beliefs on the subject of genetically inherited, gendered behavior. While I can respect the fact that this case caused him to reconsider his beliefs, I think there is another way of looking at the example of David Reimer in light of what has been discussed here.

For those of you who are unaware, David Reimer, whose original name was Bruce, is the twin brother of Brian Reimer. As a result of a freak accident involving an unorthodox circumcision procedure, David’s penis was excised. In consultation with physicians, and at the urging of a medical psychologist named Dr. John Money, the parents requested that the child undergo hormone therapy and to have constructive surgery done to reassign him as a girl, named Brenda.

This case, known as the John/Joan case, was touted for many years as a success story in gender reassignment. However, in mid-March 1997, a radio report revealed that the procedure had not been a success, and that after many years of struggling with her identity as a girl, Brenda’s parents finally decided to tell her the truth about her original gender and Brenda decided to once again undergo constructive surgery, to be reassigned as a male named David.

Sadly, the story doesn’t end there. When David’s story was released to the public, it was amidst allegations that Dr. Money had abused both Brenda and Brian as children, asking them to strip and to have their photos taken in various sexual poses. Dr. Money denies the allegations and insists that the pictures were taken purely for research purposes. Nevertheless, both David, and his brother Brian, were insistent that this was not the case.

Soon after the release of the report, David’s brother, Brian, was diagnosed with schizophrenia and eventually died either as a result of suicide, or as a result of accidental overdose. A few years later, after several bad investment choices, and prolonged unemployment, David’s wife decided to leave him, resulting in David deciding to take his own life by shooting himself in the head with a sawn off rifle.21

Tweet mentioned that he first heard about David Reimer’s story in college. I too first heard about his story in college, in my Perspectives on Gender class. Like Tweet, I was forced to reexamine my beliefs about the subject of gendered behavior in light of what I had learned. However, in addition to getting us to reconsider our beliefs, I think the David Reimer story should also serve as a reminder of the dangers of using science to impose our definitions of gendered behavior onto society, particularly when our knowledge of the mechanisms involved are so imperfect. Because we don’t know how much of gender is cultural. We don’t know how much of it is biological. Given that this is the case, I think it’s important that we take the time to consider the many complexities of gendered behavior, and not be so quick to impose our own beliefs about gender on others, lest we become guilty of repeating the mistakes of those that have come before us.


I stated in my first entry on this subject that the ultimate purpose of this discussion is to determine if either Tweet’s or my conclusions regarding evolutionary psychology are skewed. Having come to the end of this discussion, I have decided that this was ultimately a selfish, and foolish goal. Instead, I think the ultimate goal of this discussion has been to raise awareness about the complexities of gender issues, both in gaming and in other areas of our lives. I hope that if Jonathan, or anyone else from Wizards of the Coast, is reading this, that they will take a moment to consider these complexities, and will take them to heart as they move forward in their efforts to bring more women into the game.

Further Reading

The following is a list of books on the subject of evolutionary psychology and other subjects, both from critics and opponents, that I think are worth reading in light of this discussion.

As Nature Made Him: The Boy Who Was Raised as a Girl, by John Calapinto. New York: HarperCollins Publishers Inc., 2000

Biological Woman – The Convenient Myth, edited by Ruth Hubbard, Mary Sue Henifin, and Barbara Fried. Massachusetts: Schenkman Publishing Company, Inc., 1982.

Love of Shopping is Not a Gene, by Anne Innis Dagg. New York: Black Rose Books, 2005.

Male, Female, by David C. Geary. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association, 1998.

Myths of Gender, by Anne Fausto-Sterling. New York: BasicBooks, 1992.

On Human Nature, by Edward O. Wilson. Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1978.

Why Men Don’t Ask for Directions, by Richard C. Francis. New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 2004.

1. Fausto-Sterling, AnneMyths of Gender, p. 25. New York: BasicBooks, 1992.

2. Geary, David C. Male, Female, p. 288-290. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association, 1998.

3. Geary, David C. Male, Female, p. 262-265. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association, 1998.

4. Fausto-Sterling, Anne Myths of Gender, p. 30. New York: BasicBooks, 1992.

5. Geary, David C. Male, Female, p. 284-301. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association, 1998.

6. Geary, David C. Male, Female, p. 284. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association, 1998.

7. Fausto-Sterling, Anne Myths of Gender, p. 34. New York: BasicBooks, 1992.

8. Fausto-Sterling, Anne Myths of Gender, p. 32. New York: BasicBooks, 1992.

9. Geary, David C. Male, Female, p. 312. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association, 1998.

10. Fausto-Sterling, Anne Myths of Gender, p. 18-19. New York: BasicBooks, 1992.

11. Fausto-Sterling, Anne Myths of Gender, p. 15-16. New York: BasicBooks, 1992.

12. Wilson, Edward O. On Human Nature, p. 107-109. Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1978.

13. Fausto-Sterling, Anne Myths of Gender, p. 147. New York: BasicBooks, 1992.

14. Dagg, Anne Innis Love of Shopping is Not a Gene, p. 34. New York: Back Rose Books, 2005.

15. Fausto-Sterling, Anne Myths of Gender, p. 152. New York: BasicBooks, 1992.

16. 14. Dagg, Anne Innis Love of Shopping is Not a Gene, p. 34. New York: Back Rose Books, 2005.

17. 14. Dagg, Anne Innis Love of Shopping is Not a Gene, p. 35-36. New York: Back Rose Books, 2005.

18. Darwin, Charles Descent of Man, Chapter XIX.

19. Walsh, Mary Roth “The Quirls of a Woman’s Brain” Biological Woman – The Convenient Myth, p. 254. Hubbard, Ruth, Mary Sue Henifin and Barbara Fried. Massachusetts: Schenkman Publishing Company, Inc., 1982.

20. Fausto-Sterling, Anne Myths of Gender, p. 17-18. New York: BasicBooks, 1992.

21. Sloop, John M. Disciplining Gender, p. 25-49. Massachusetts: University of Massachusetts Press, 2004.

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