Category Archives: Gender

Gender Stereotyping Strikes Again

avid reader

avid reader (Photo credit: sekihan)

The New Yorker ran an article by Joan Acocella on 10/15/12 titled “Turning the Page: How women became readers,” in which she reviews “The Woman Reader,” by Belinda Jack. (See link below.)

I’ve been reading for enjoyment, information, and edification ever since I learned how to translate letters into words and words into meaning; it’s something I’ve always take for granted.

But for centuries women were widely forbidden to read. Thank Gutenberg for making books so easy to get that men gave up trying to keep women away from them. But there were still a few obstacles remaining before women gained free access to books. One of them was the 19th Century belief that women were prone to hysteria as a result of their “strong emotions.”

One London doctor wrote that female patients might be allowed fiction but should be carefully watched. If a novel seemed to worsen a woman’s condition, it should be taken away and replaced by “a book upon some practical subject; such, for instance, as beekeeping.”

However, the 19th Century is also when novels became hugely popular–and some of them were even written by women!

All well and good (and I highly recommend the article), but what does any of this have to do with the Enneagram? One paragraph in Acocella’s piece describes a 2004 study of 800 educated British adolescents, who were “asked to name their ‘watershed books,’ books that sustained them ‘through key moments of transition or crisis in their lives.'”

The results of the study purport to reveal how boys’ and girls’ reading choices differ in “stereotypical ways.”

The boys chose The Stranger, One Hundred Years of Solitudeand The Catcher in the Rye. The girls chose Jane Eyre, Pride and Prejudice, and Anna Karenina. (Acocella adds: “lest anyone doubt that women prefer tales of love and marriage.”)

Really? Really?

I don’t prefer tales of love and marriage. I’ve read all of those books, and I’m firmly in the boys’ camp as far as which ones had more of an influence on me. In fact One Hundred Years of Solitude is my favorite novel of all time.

Admittedly Enneagram type 3 or 8 women and Myers-Briggs type ENTJ women do not constitute the majority of women. But we do exist. And we do not conform to the stereotypes the psychologists and scientists and–now–writers keep trying to shove down our throats. The same goes for Enneagram type 2 or 4 men, who also exist and who also do not conform to gender stereotype.

Individual temperament–meaning personality type–is usually a more accurate indicator of a person’s habits and proclivities than whether that person is male or female. But gender stereotyping is easy. Understanding temperament is quite a bit more complex.

What book or books influenced you as a young reader?

Gender Stereotyping: Who Controls the Remote?

When it comes to the brain, clichés are never true.

                                                                                      Jonah Lehrer

Wielding control of the TV remote is one of the most recognizable cliché examples of male (dominance) behavior. But my partner of 30 years, who died in 2005, was a 4w5—a Withdrawing type with a Withdrawing wing—and since I’m an 8w7—an Aggressive type with an Aggressive wing—I was always the one firmly in control of the TV remote.

Our relationship never fit that Mars/Venus stereotyping that’s still popular in some circles. Withdrawing types tend to nurture the past in one way or another, and as a result, RC had much greater and more detailed recall about the events of our relationship than I did. He would wander off on verbal reveries about something or other we once did—or used to do regularly—assuming I shared those memories. But since I often had zero recall, I learned to keep my mouth shut or nod abstractedly. If I strained hard enough, I was sometimes able to bring up a fragment of the past that had been lost to me, which was always a huge surprise and slightly unnerving.

On the domestic front, I’m erratic at best. I enjoy decorating, but I hate cleaning, am indifferent about cooking, and find grocery shopping and doing dishes useless wastes of time. While RC wasn’t crazy about cleaning, either, he pulled his own weight. And he did the lion’s share of all those other tasks. He was an excellent cook, and he really enjoyed it. I’ve never prepared a Thanksgiving dinner in my life. But we had roasted turkey and all the trimmings every year we were together.

He once threatened to get me a T-shirt that said “I am not the nice lady”—and he meant it as a compliment. Continue reading