Do women actually do better when they downplay gender differences? – Part 1


Outrageous! Are we telling women to not fight for their femininity? Women benefit when they downplay their gender, according to (incoming) assistant professor at Stanford, Ashley Martin and Kathrine Phillips, a professor at Columbia.

They asked woman to rate how much they agree with statements on the importance of gender difference. The results?

“Women who focused on gender similarities (Gender Blindness) felt more confidence and power than the women who advocated gender awareness (Gender Distinctiveness).

Okay but what does that mean?

Most people will say that it means that this means there is no difference between the sexes and that we should be treated equally. Which is a great statement, equality should definitely be striven for; we can achieve this by two strategies; Gender Blindness and Gender Awareness.

Gender Blindness is in a sense, being ignorant to the differences between the two sexes and instead, celebrating their similarities. A good example of this would be “men and women can both produce the same output for most jobs“. This theory takes the argument that men and women are in fact fairly similar, we are the same species and so on.

Gender Distinctiveness is advocacy for the differences in gender, why life is unfair being born male or female (trust me ladies, men don’t have it easy either). To put this theory into perspective, think of the many feminists advocacy movements in the past (Free Bleeding, #NoTamponTax etc.). This argument takes the idea that we do have differences in gender and it’s unfair to be born x.

So which is better, gender blindness or gender distinctiveness? Well it turns out that they both are best in certain contexts. They both need to be applied very carefully, and in certain situations. What I get from the article was that “Gender Blindness” reigned supreme.

“Our (Martin and Phillips) findings suggest…. [Gender] Blindness takes away the male connotations from traits such as assertiveness, competitiveness and risk-taking, which are all necessary to get ahead at work. “Ungendering” these qualities make women more likely to identify them in themselves and feel more confident.”

Now it should be clearer what gender blindness means, and how it doesn’t equate to gender ignorance. We are taught to celebrate the differences in gender, yet at the same time we are told that there really isn’t a difference between the sexes. It’s a confusing debate, and now you know why most people avoid it; it’s a useless debate.

There is this feeling of inauthenticity that both “Gender Blindness”(GB) and “Gender Awareness”(GA) have the possibility of promoting. GB has the possibility of downplaying certain qualities that each gender has that are in fact different (think of the olympics and if it were just based on pure athleticism, how many women would win medals?). GA is equally as disastrous by promoting differences between the gender as being an absolute defining characteristics (feminists play on this when asking other women if they are a feminist, and they happen to say they do not support modern feminism, then the typical feminist will respond “how could you call yourself a woman?”).


So how did they come to this conclusion? Well they ran a study of course! I just requested a full-text pdf of the study from Ms. Martin/Dr. Martin (I assume she has the credentials, I’m just not really sure). So it part 2 of this post, whenever I get the article, I will dissect the study and lay out it’s findings.


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