Thinking Together About Female/Male Differences:
Do They Exist? What Are They? Does It Matter?

Lincoln High School - Bryn Mawr College
March 2001

Welcome to Serendip ... a place in cyberspace intended to make it easy for people to get together, talk together, and think together about things that matter. Browse around a bit if you like, but then come back here. Ms Cohen and I (Paul Grobstein) would like to see if people at Bryn Mawr College (where I am) and at Lincoln High School can usefully do some thinking together about femaleness and maleness.

In Ms Cohen's classes last semester, students wrote short essays describing their feeings about differences between females and males. A similar discussion took place in a freshman seminar class I taught last semester at Bryn Mawr College. Curious about what was said? Well, we'll get there but ...

Getting started
First, let's each of you do a little writing about your current feelings about female/male differneces, so we can see where everyone is starting from. There's an on line forum area where you can leave your thoughts so others can see them. Think a few minutes, and then go there and do some writing. Don't worry too much about being polished. Treat it sort of like your were talking to someone ... just a few sentences are fine. However much it takes to get your thoughts out where others can know what they are. And, no, of course, there's no "right" answer or "right" thoughts. What YOU think is what matters here.

Step two
Done it? Curious about what other people had to say? Fine. Go back to the on line forum area and read what others in your class have just said. Then, have a look at what people said last semester

Interesting, no? So, how about let's go to the on line forum area again. This time, write a little about what your reactions to what other people had to say, and how they did or didn't change your own thoughts.

Another step
Let's test some of our thoughts by doing an experiment. If females and males are pretty much the same, then if you show both of them the same thing, they should see pretty much the same thing, right? If they're different, then maybe they would see different things when you show them the same thing, right? Let's try it.

In a minute, you're going to look at a picture. As soon as you see it, write down what it is. Don't wait, write the first thing that comes to mind. Then look at the picture some more, and write down what you see after looking for a while. Ready? LOOK (click the Back button to come back here).

Now ... go back to the on line forum area

And on ....
I'm going to visit next week, and we can talk then about your predictions, and how they came out. And about the picture too, and some of the reasons why people have funny experiences with it. That has a lot to do with the brain, and how it works. Maybe the brain has something to do with females and males and differences/similarities between them? We can perhaps talk about that too, if you like.

In the meanwhile, if you're curious, the picture is called "All Is Vanity" and its by Charles Allan Gilbert (1873-1929). As you'll discover if you click here, the picture was an important part of the life of Lyndon Baines Johnson, a President of the United States. And there are some more interesting pictures here and here.