Saturday, 9 February 2008


I realise that my last lot of posts have really concentrated on the food side of things, and not so much on the thought - so I'll try and remedy that today.

Yesterday I taught an undergraduate class as part of a course I run on gender and psychology. This class is designed to examine the way in which science and politics intersect when studying gender - the way in which gender differences in status, our expectations and steroetypes about gender, and our own identities as men and women affect the way in which do science. As part of this discussion I got the class discussing examples of androcentrism in the 'real world' (as opposed to the 'fake' world of science) - this is the idea that men or the masculine point of view is prioritised and seen to represent people in general.

There are some simple examples that I raised. My favourite is quite an innocuous one: If you look at toilet signs it is clear what symbol represents men and which represents women - but if you look at 'neutral' signs, like emergency exit, elevator, or the person crossing the road, these are all represented by male symbols. The other, more widely known example is androcentric speech - the use of fireman, policeman, or chairman to refer to genderless positions.

It was interesting to see my students' reactions. Most of them are women and the most verabal of them in particular really weren't bothered about this at all - they argued that if they were a police officer or a fire fighter they wouldn't care about being referred to as a man - and that anyone that did was just being too precious and politically correct. I must say, I wasquite stunned by this sort of reaction - I am not sure whether it is just one of these cross-cultural differences, or whether it is a generational thing - but I can not imaging a single women in any of my classes as an undergraduate in Australia being OK with this sort of androcentric language... It will be interesting to see how they cope with the nature nurture debate next week.


Toffeeapple said...

I suspect that it will be to do with the age of your students. I most certainly was brought up to speak of policemen and policewomen. I think it all stems from some government decree that was about Political Correctness. The world gone mad.

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