Critical thinking and gender stereotypes

Elbow’s paragraph below (source) seems believable until I start to ask how to move beyond it. Then I doubt that the implication that men should strive for more believing activities and women for more doubting activities.

The doubting game promotes ways of using the mind and being with others that have been associated in our culture with masculinity: arguing, resisting, saying no, pushing away, competing, being aggressive. The believing game promotes mental and social activity that has been associated in our culture with femininity: being compliant, listening, absorbing, swallowing, accepting, saying yes, not arguing back, not sticking up for own view. When women function as the doubting game invites–arguing, disagreeing, and debating–they are often seen as less feminine. When men function as the believing game invites–not arguing back, accepting, trying to help the other person’s point of view–they are often seen as less masculine.

Instead, I look at the list of activities from the end of my article on “Journeying to develop critical thinking.” I can imagine a study that assessed how much and how well these activities were pursued by people who identified as men and people who identified as women. I can imagine that there would be differences in the averages, but not that men and women clustered separately, let alone fit stereotypes. That leaves me believing the post-gender view that we just need to promote the activities and stop thinking about gender stereotypes. But I want to doubt that view as well, given that it keeps us from paying attention to the specific and unequal gendered life histories that people have.

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About Peter J. Taylor
Peter Taylor is a Professor at the University of Massachusetts Boston where he teaches and directs undergraduate and graduate programs on critical thinking, reflective practice, and science-in-society. His research and writing focuses on the complexity of environmental and health sciences in their social context, incl. Unruly Complexity: Ecology, Interpretation, Engagement (U. Chicago Press, 2005) and Nature-nurture? No (2014, http://bit.ly/NNN2014). On reflective practice, see Taking Yourself Seriously: Processes of Research & Engagement (with J. Szteiter, 2012, http://bit.ly/TYS2012).

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