Re. stereotypes, more on

SLF notmyaddress at
Mon Nov 6 10:31:22 EST 2000

Sorry for the loss of threading;  it doesn't work for my browser
when I access the group through the web.

B. Martin's response to my story of long ago chemistry class

> > But it's all in how you respond. When I was a college student
> > (at Berkeley inthe early 80s), the instructor in charge of chemistry
> > 1 lab told us flat out that the women would
> > do worse than the men. Ironically, the instructor was herself a
> > woman. Her comment made me furious, so I took considerable
> > pleasure in beating all the men in my section to prove her wrong.
> Exactly. And thus, without the appropriate controls the cited study
> provides little substance to evaluate male/female differences in
> responses.
> B. Martin

Different people respond to those sorts of challenges differently.
Admittedly, I am a stubborn person who relishes proving others
wrong.  But I certainly knew women
in the class who became defeatist in the face of the instructor's
comment, which I suspect was a more common response.

As I see it the problem is  that women receive so MANY
of these discouraging signals that they really do internalize
and start to believe them, especially with regard to science and
math.  We are told over and over that there is something
unfeminine or abnormal about us if we are competitive in
technical fields.

Men  do not get this feedback about math and science;  they
DO get it about the arts. Thus, I'd expect  a man who does ballet
probably can relate to the woman who does science, both
constantly  having to stand up to negative cultural pressures.

However I suspect that  the negative reinforcement in the arts is
largely from society-at-large, and that ballet is less "unfriendly"
as a subculture to its male participants than science is to its female.
After all, ballet requires male dancers, and except for some recent
interesting gender-bending interpretations of the classics,
generally the women dance women's roles and the men dance
men's.   Whereas many scientists continue to be unwelcoming to

isn't the point not whether one sex responds differently to
negative reinforcement, but really how to eliminate it
in the classroom, and to strengthen the
ability of the student to withstand it from the outside,
so that the accomplishment is judged on objective

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S L Forsburg, PhD  Associate Professor
Molecular Biology and Virology Lab
The Salk Institute, La Jolla CA
forsburg at

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