Monday, 14 May 2018

Just a thought on gender and MBTI

I recently read this great book:

I think it really summed up all the nonsense about gender differences in popularised science, and it improved my understanding about neuroscience and psychological research.

What seems to be the most popular idea about gender differences is the theory about the "systemizing" male brain and "empathizing" female brain. Or how women are naturally attuned to details, while men understand the big picture. The author of this book tries to show how little credible support these theories actually have in science, and since I already (I'll admit) found it hard to believe in these kinds of claims, everything in the book made perfect sense to me and reinforced the idea that people see these differences because they want to see them.

So, while I was reading this book, which does a really good job at debunking myths and showing what really goes on behind convincing looking test results, I couldn't help but think how much more scientists would have on the table if they could just stop and take MBTI (the Jung version) seriously for a minute.

I know many people have said this before me, so I'm not alone thinking like this. I have no reason to believe that "a male brain" sees the big picture and "a female brain" is focused on the details, because everything in my life so far disproves it. I've never heard a stereotype about how male and female brain works, looked around me, and said: "Hey, I really see it in people!". While the more I learn about cognitive functions the more people's patterns of behavior and thought processes make sense to me.

As for me, I'm an INFJ so as an Introverted Intuition -dominant type I am, for sure, much better with the large scale of things, long term planning, understanding abstract concepts, and other supposedly "male" things rather than minute details. And I definitely suffer from tunnel vision too, rather than from being short-sighted. (I also don't have any trouble reading maps, thank you very much, since I'm a visual learner.)

It just so happens, that my mother is an ENFJ and my father is an ISFJ, so... guess which one is the high-earning, pioneering, workaholic and which one is the nurturing empathizer. (I know, that's a stereotype too, just an MBTI one, and there's no reason why it couldn't be reversed in another ENFJ and ISFJ. I just pointed it out to further illustrate my point.)

Also my brother is an ESTP. Guess which one of us excelled in tasks like cleaning and cooking when we were little, and which one still plain doesn't see the trash at the door that needs to be taken out, when literally walking past it. (I've learned cooking and cleaning okay since then, though.)

While you're at it, guess who's better at math, my brother or my sister. (An ENFP. Not too bad with her Extroverted Thinking.)

Of course, there are things about me that are supposedly "feminine." Understanding of other people's viewpoints has always been my forte. (Again, not surprising for an INFJ.) And there definitely are things about my mom and dad that people could see and go: "Oh well, you're a woman after all" or "Men are so like that". Like the fact that my mom can't park the car very well into small spaces (She's not a visual or a kinesthetic person.) or that my dad often can't simultaneously listen while doing something else. (Something I've noticed in a lot of Si-users.) Also my brother is so much better at sports than me. (How shocking for an ESTP to beat an INFJ.)

But... what I see as the problem is when only the latter things get recognized. People go on and on about how "men are like this" and "you're like that because you're a woman"... while completely ignoring all the things about that man or woman that are thought of as belonging to the other sex. Seriously, they don't even see it. (My mom and dad are no exception to this by the way... I can't count how many times I've heard phrases like "female logic" from dad and men's "one-track mind" from mom.)

I think it's really curious how the stereotypical behavior only ever gets recognized when it's coming from the sex people expect it from. They are totally oblivious to any stereotypical "male" qualities in a woman and stereotypical "female" qualities in a man. (Unless they're looking to bully someone.)

I think the people in my family are pretty well-balanced individuals, and it wouldn't be hard to come up with an equal amount of so-called "feminine" and "masculine" qualities in each of us. I think this is the case with the majority of people. But for some reason, not that many people seem to like this idea.

I get it. It gets on their ego. (But that's kind of what makes it even more annoying to me.)

Some people, when they look at me, just always emphasize certain things about me, things like, my kindness, my warm understanding, the beauty and sensitivity of my writing (not my words), my patience with children, my compassion for other people, or my love for Jane Austen and fairy tales.

Because those things make sense in a woman in their eyes, right?...

And, what, my ambition, my originality, my compelling plots and my knack for suspense, my career-mindedness, my love for epic fantasy and Doctor Who, and my passionate debates about Sherlock Holmes get passed as... little feminine quirks?

Oh, and by the way, the fact that I dare to care about this, means I'm emotional and weak. (Eh, I actually didn't intend for this to turn into a rant...)

Naturally, I'm just talking about a certain group of people here.

I guess reading that book just got me thinking again, how it doesn't make any sense to be so decided about finding an innate difference that explains it all, in male and female brains. How it's just annoying when people in your life are so predisposed to see only certain things about you, that fit into their idea of a man or a woman.

And how ridiculous gender stereotypes seem in the light of MBTI, which has harmful stereotypes of it's own, but even the stereotypes of MBTI presents a more complex understanding of human nature than popularized neuroscience!

I guess that last bit was my point all along.

This isn't my most coherent day. :D

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