I have recently said some things about males and females. Reason magazine has an article on just this subject which points out that when we say “Women do this…” or “Guys do that…”, what we mean is “Women do this more often than men” or “Guys do that more often than girls.” The differences in reports of behavior are not that great; studies of male and female attitudes often show numbers like 71% to 62%, not 99% to 5%. Even in quantifiable studies such as brain scan research, female brains show typical male patterns about 35% of the time. So we ought not to say, “Guys throw mattresses out of their dorm windows.” Rather, we should say, for example, “17% of guys throw mattresses out of their windows, while only 8% of girls do.”
Getting accurate would be the hard part here. I don’t know what percentage of girls climb onto the roof and lie in wait for their brothers. Or what percentage of boys do this, either. Mayflower shared a picture of dorm hijinks, and it does not surprise me that it is a boy running down the hall with his pants falling down — but apparently there was also a girl running topless. How would we get a good count on the proportion of guys and girls who run down the dorm hallways scantily clad? It seems like a guy thing to me, but without proper scientific calculation, who knows?
Now, I can tell you that more men are knitting these days than did when I was a girl. And yet, knitting was done by men in its early days. Shepherds and sailors, we are told, kept their knitting handy to work on during their downtime. The medieval knitter’s guilds were for men. Later, entire families knitted together to support themselves. As machines began to supplant hand knitters, knitting became less valuable — and it became “women’s work.” Whether it is that work is less valued when women do it (just as women are cooks and men are chefs), or that women end up getting the less-valued work assigned to them, this seems to be a common pattern in history. Being a secretary was much grander when it was a man’s job.
What it comes down to, though, is that trends and generalities shouldn’t keep individuals from making their own choices. I won’t say I would exactly encourage girls to lurk on roofs or throw mattresses out the window, but I would encourage them to be bold. And to be chefs if that is their heart’s desire. And I would encourage men to knit.