What makes a woman? New documentary seeks answers

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2018/05/25/what-makes-a-woman-new-docume.html


BREAKING: biologists have discovered that many girls do indeed contain measurable quantities of snips, snails, and even puppydog tails.


Science is so not here for gender essentialist nonsense. They are not welcome in science club.


and other things…


Here is a question:

In a recent article researchers claim that people with gender dysphoria when having their brain scanned, show “structures” that link to their identified gender.

Analysis of around 160 participants showed that biological males with gender dysphoria… had a brain structure and neurological patterns similar to biological females, and vice versa.

So, can someone explain what, exactly, that means?

I thought brain wise the difference between sexes were close to nil, and the differences one can measure in cognitive abilities and other measurements were very small. That the PERCEIVED differences (i.e. men have better spatial skills etc) are exaggerated and leading to false stereotypes.

So I am curious what structures/neurological patterns are different between the sexes, and to what degree. Evidently it is large enough to lead these scientists to claim this may be true (note they say they need more studies, like anything).


Eh I’m sorry, I apologize, I was trying to no-true-scotsman away the shittos but what can you do.


Yep, there’s no keeping away those who are so massively endowed with “commonsense.”

Thanks for trying though!


My experience in neuroscience is that no one, anywhere, can explain what exactly that means. I know the brain differences between sex are pretty small, but there are some sex (or gender, as this study would indicate) differences. What’s critical to note is that while you can see variation between groups, there’s more variation inside groups. Cognitive aging (my field) is a good example of this sort of thing. If you look at the average, older adults have worse memory than younger adults. Individual variance is extremely large, however, and it’s very easy to find individual older adults with better or equal memory to younger adults. Sex/Gender differences are, I believe, similar.

I haven’t really looked at this study, but usually what these findings boil down to are that if you look at brain scans and run a bunch of analyses, you get some gender correlations that don’t necessarily link to biological sex. Which is kinda neat, but usually it’s hard to say more than “These things correlate, and we don’t know what it means.”

ETA: I am not a neuroscientist, but I work in the cognition and neuroscience department, and have taken a couple grad level neuro courses, so anyone who knows more than me here (which would be literally anyone who actually works in neuroscience, and a lot of others besides) please correct me.


I watched the documentary last week on Channel 4 here in the UK.
I thought it a little unbalanced; not biased, but it tried to cover a lot of ground rather than really go for details. It also made for some uncomfortable viewing, for many reasons, some visual (surgery) and some hate-speech related. I recommend watching it but in my opinion it raised more questions than it gave answers, not that I am saying that is necessarily a bad thing. There are many conversations on and around this subject that need to be had.


“What makes a woman?”

The 8-year old me would have said “boobies”, but that was before I saw my uncle with his shirt off.

Joking aside, if a woman has a hysterectomy do you suddenly consider her a man? Nope. Would you consider someone who was born with androgen insensitivity syndrome a male because of their chromosomes? Probably not. So why is someone who willfully changes their gender such an issue?


Because it fucks with many people’s own skewed sense of identity on a primitive level, and that scares them. The ‘lizard brain’ part of us craves safety, conformity and that which is familiar - which is problematic, because real life just isn’t static like that; it’s ever-changing.


This would be even more interesting if we spoke a gendered language, like French.


Ha! In my family that was my grandpa. I can see him now at a family beach picnic, slouched-over at the picnic table eating corn on the cob with his droopy knockers swaying to and fro.


Perhaps we could have Florida Man explain it to us both at the top of his lungs and some playground equipment?


They fear the “What if?”

For example, I’ve got say, in all honesty, I wouldn’t be interested in dating someone transgender. I’m cool with them being themselves, but I should be able to set the criteria for who I date. BTW, I dumped a girl because she didn’t like spicy food, another because she was married. Call me picky. Dating can be tough enough, so I can understand if people are nervous.

It’s going to take a while to sort out a new system of mores and manners. Expect people to be freaked until then.

True story. The one time I ate a raw snail, it was because I was having lunch with a bunch of old ladies who were eating them without comment. So I just went with it.

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Worth reading. The relevance may not seem obvious at first, but stick with it.



I don’t think anyone’s ever suggested otherwise.




Because the world - or at least the important bits - is neatly categorized into carefully defined, separated boxes. When those boxes get mixed up or the separations between those boxes get blurred, people freak out. The problem is, of course, that those boxes never actually existed in the first place, and some people have a harder time handling that fact than others.