American Culture

My gender survey of the bios of S&R staff members – a theory

Scholars & RoguesSeveral weeks ago, I was asked to provide a biographical entry on myself for a staff profile on S&R. I put some thought into it, wrote it, submitted it.

It just so happened that at the same time, I was deeply into rereading Carol Gilligan’s “In a Different Voice,” which is an important work about which I will eventually write much more here. Bio written, I picked up Gilligan and was immediately struck by something. Expressed in various ways throughout the book, a primary theme was that women tend to define themselves primarily in terms of relationships they are in. Men, on the other hand, tend to define themselves as individual people before exploring themselves in-relation-with. My jaw pretty much dropped about a half hour after I’d submitted my S&R bio and was then was reading Gilligan, for there it was – the very first sentence I’d composed when asked to write a paragraph on myself was the all-important fact that I have a wonderful adult daughter and an awesome boyfriend. Only after that had I written about my educational background, some schools of thought that influence me, and then my personal interests / hobbies. It had been, for me, the most natural thing in the world to explain myself first, most importantly, in-relation-with. I got really interested in how the men of S & R had done their bios – would it be the case that they had described themselves first before describing any relationships they might be in?

So, I’ve been very interested in this for several weeks but then, you know, life…Anyway, this morning I finally got around to poking around in the bios on other staff members and I think, generally, my theory, based on Gilligan’s research, holds up.

From what I can tell, there are two other women staff members. One gives no relationships. One describes herself first as a “Renaissance woman,” tells a bit about where she lives, then mentions her husband before she gets into her educational background and occupation.

The men, on the other hand, with just one exception, all give info that is truly about themselves before they mention themselves in-relation, if they ever do at all. The one exception does mention his wife in his second sentence or so.

So, there it is, theory in action. I think what I did there, describing myself in-relation first and foremost, was a very gender typical thing. It is definitely reflected in the way I think – it IS much more a part of myself that I adore my boyfriend and daughter than that I have formal education and theories and interests.

So, quite interesting to me, but then I’m pretty much a student of gender, so your mileage may vary. Thoughts?

5 replies »

    • Right, Dan, you did…but after you had told a number of other quite interesting things about yourself, so you still fit the theory.

      I am actually thinking that the men’s way is probably healthier.

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