Thursday, April 12, 2007

Maybe I'm just over-reading

But reading this article, something just struck me as off. I quote:

Desire between the sexes is not a matter of choice. Straight men, it seems, have neural circuits that prompt them to seek out women; gay men have those prompting them to seek other men. Women’s brains may be organized to select men who seem likely to provide for them and their children. The deal is sealed with other neural programs that induce a burst of romantic love, followed by long-term attachment.

Maybe it's that this is the second paragraph, and it's already giving men more options and more agency than women. The article, to be fair, does seem to back toward the end of page one, although I was a bit confused to the very end. Maybe I'm just tired from grading, teaching, and writing. Maybe I've been reading too much of the mystics. Or maybe I've been reading too much feminist criticism.

I know, intellectually, that grammar shouldn't matter -- the ideas are important, and often the manner of their transmittal is a secondary issue, including the phrasing and language. But -- still -- it just seems off, and as I have neither the time nor the energy to pursue it, I thought I'd float it out to the blogosphere. Does the phrasing of "scientific fact" matter? I'm curious what the rest of the world thinks of the article -- all I have is confusion.

And I'm off to a meeting, which appropriately enough -- is about mystics.


HeoCwaeth said...

I'm sure you're not so much over-reading as the NYT reporter is under-thinking. Which is typical of NYT reporters when discussing issues of sex/gender, actually.

I do have to quibble with you a bit on the language grammar/phrasing being more important than the ideas contained within. A change in phrasing changes the idea being transmitted, which in the paragraph you quoted is "women just sort of pick from whatever group of men is in front of them, the men having already done the work of seeking out." Women have minimal agency...and that lack is coded into their brains. And notice that there is no explanation for lesbians here; in this construction lesbians can't exist.

meg said...

I was pretty sure even before I clicked through to the article that it was written by Nicholas Wade. I have to say, he gets things wrong more often than any of their other science reporters (yay, Gina Kolata!). At various times I've noticed him botching it on causation vs. correlation, general probability, and even simple reading comprehension. More often than not, his articles just raise my blood pressure -- so I skip 'em.

Marina said...

I'm not sure you can ever read too much feminist criticism.

On a slightly more (but still not deeply) serious note - I'd say, trust your feminist-sense, when it makes the hackles rise, it's usually correct.

As an inspirational Aunt once said to her husband: "I'm not being bloody minded: the world is skewed to favour you, and give me a hard time."

Marina said...

oh - and to agree with hecowaeth -
I also found myself reading that and wondering where the lesbians were. I don't care who's hosting the 'my view of the world' party. If there aren't any lesbians, I'm not going.