“The formula for understanding women”

a blackboard in a lecture hall is filled with a formula/calculationThat’s the meat of the punchline for a joke posted at LP in the intent of kickstarting a discussion on gender differences. Some of us already have a good idea of the inevitable evopsychobabble lines that are going to crop up in comments (anyone for bingo?), and although I don’t think that author Brian intended for that to be the outcome, my gigantic surprise if it ends any other way will be so enormous as to be visible from space.

I hate that joke, because it’s just another variation of the “but what do women want?” groan/moan that implies that, unlike the man speaking (who of course is fully entitled to hold and change his individual preferences as an autonomous adult) and the men listening to him, a woman should apparently not ever have different preferences and priorities from other women, and certainly should not ever adjust her preferences and priorities at any time according to changes in knowledge and/or circumstances. And if she does, oh woe!  How ineffable, mysterious and inconceivably inscrutable that woman (and therefore all women) must be!

Or, you know, a man could actually ask a woman for a bit of background on her current preferences and priorities, while assuming as a matter of course that she does actually act from paradigms that are at least as rational as he thinks his own are (seeing as people actually are not nearly as rational as we believe ourselves to be).

Just a thought.

The formula for understanding women is just as “simple” as the formula for understanding men. Everybody is complicated, and nobody has the right to marginalise another person’s complex views and wants as if they are a hivemind simply because that would make it easier for them to conceptualise the world.



Categories: ethics & philosophy, gender & feminism, relationships

Tags: ,

16 replies

  1. I have two for the bingo card already – Humour Deficient and Get a Life. Both from SATP, naturally! :-/
    That XKCD cartoon which one commenter linked to is the perfect riposte. If I ever get this joke as an email forward I’ll link to that and hit “Reply All”.

  2. I go my grump thoroughly on when I saw that post.

  3. Just to add, my immediate thought is when I see those jokes is that the implication is that women are hard to understand, because, you know, they are hysterical – those hormones, hah! Just when you think you understand them – it’s that time of the month!

  4. Is it me, or my computer, or did that thread just disappear from LP?

  5. If it’s just you, hd, then it’s me too. The thread is no longer on LP…

  6. Ta Deborah.

    Interesting.

  7. When writing on gender, the author proposed that somehow, the written language cannot bear it eh? Oh please. Language does not come apart on its own. I tell you what can’t bear it. The sexist notions in the writing that feminist analysis cracks open. And so it just had to disappear. It could not be borne, this feminist analysis.
    Now what I said over there was, and you can’t erase it here, is that the little joke you posted was coming from a taxonomy of tropes, characteristics and attributes that range from the whimsical to the mysterious, to the irrational to the mad and that these are characteristics attributed to women (and to black people and to children and to the disabled). This taxonomy has a long history and is used to control and to demean women and to keep them out of the order of the rational and the law and world of the logos, which belongs to men, which is what that scribble on the blackboard represents, which is why there is a man there. Regardless of where that picture came from, it was used to form a narrative which borrows from this taxonomy of which I speak.
    The joke was a sexist one and I’m rather pissed the post was removed. I don’t think it’s the words that can bear it, don’t you?.

    • I’ve just discovered that the thread was deleted. I don’t think that was the best response. I don’t feel I can say much more though.

  8. I’m bewildered (wasn’t watching the thread). Could someone describe to me what happened?

    • Casey’s comment is directed towards Brian rather than me, for a start, even though he isn’t engaging here.
      Brian’s post was rambly and ill-thought-through, and he tried to say later that what he meant was how differently everybody’s brains are, so that what he wanted to discuss was genetics vs culture in brain function generally, and not just gender and he’d rather we left gender out of it. However, starting the thread off with a gender-stereotype forwarded-email joke made it impossible for gender not to be the primary lens of the discussion, didn’t it?
      Apart from puerile contributions from SATP and UteMan the thread didn’t actually go where I expected, which was indeed a pleasant surprise. However, engaging with criticism of the decision to post the joke in the first place just didn’t happen. And then the thread got deleted.

  9. There is nothing worse than generalizations, like that “all men” think the way you have portrayed them to think.
    Equality is a two way street and it’s a shame that progress for either side is hindered by generalized comments and deep seated prejudices.
    Women shouldn’t be pigeon holed any more than men, but ALL moody, irrational behavior by both genders should be called and deemed indefensible.
    Treat others as you wish to be treated!

    • I’m curious as to where you are seeing any generalisations about “all men” in either the post or the comments, AJ. Care to be more specific?

  10. Sure thing…..
    a woman should apparently not ever have different preferences and priorities from other women
    You imply what men think, by making assumptions about the way men perceive women’s priorities.
    “man could actually ask a woman for a bit of background on her current preferences and priorities”
    You make a generalization that men don’t – As a male I could make a sweeping statement such as “Women could stop talking and listen to their husband’s wants and needs for a change” – That would be met with rightful debate and condemnation of prejudice.

    • AJ, you do understand that I am commenting on this particular image used in this particular joke, don’t you?
      I am not making a comment on all male assumptions everywhere, I am only commenting on the assumptions that form the pre-conditions for this particular punch-line.
      Do you have a different explanation for what assumptions are supposed to be being made by the target audience for this specific “joke”?

      • Seeing as the LP post has now been deleted, here’s another version of the same image that was used:

        Tagline of the original email-forwarded “joke”: “And thus, dear students, we have arrived at the formula for understanding women.”

  11. Oh ho ho! My sides! My sides!

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