Women Are Not Logical?

April 30, 2010

I actually had an old guy tell me that recently. He seems to be still living in a Harry Enfield type of 1950’s world.

His evidence? Women make up almost none of the world’s top 100 chess players. Chess is a game of logic and strategy. Therefore men are better at logic and strategy and women are lacking in this area.

To add insult to injury he added that women are better bridge players than men. Bridge requires cunning and manipulation. Therefore women are cunning and manipulative.

He told me this a the local club as we were having a drink after a nice game of bowls. He told me this in an almost confrontational manner. I thought he was actually quite rude, but like a person who jumps a queue right in front of you it seemed to be difficult to believe he could be that rude at the time. Or was it that a queue jumper would be called out more quickly and insulting women for simply being female is an acceptable sport?

So I looked up women and chess online to see what explanations I could find, to look into this further. I discovered that there are many and varied reasons for women not being represented amongst top chess players in proportion to their numbers in the population.

Chess is not seen as a female game to play. At least not competitively. Parents, teachers, friends and family may think a girl who wants to play chess at a high level as odd.

If girls do show promise as competitive chess players they must invest a lot of time into the game with many trips away from home for competition. What parent would let their teenage daughter go away from home repeatedly for competition with a group of teenage boys and chaperoned most likely by a man they don’t know? Seriously? If the girl is still keen she’s up against some very heavy resistance right there. She also may feel somewhat uncomfortable with the situation.

These seemed to be the most logical explanations I found for the dearth of women amongst the worlds top chess players.

If we follow the old guy’s logic then we must also conclude that people with brown skin in my country; Maori and PI mostly, are less capable academically because ┬áproportional to their numbers in our population they achieve less high school passes than Pakeha. To say such a stupid thing is obviously racist, and uses the same faulty logic.

I must use logic to do what I do professionally. I have a science degree. When this was pointed out to him he replied with a very patronising “I’m sure you think so dear”. Oh well. I guess I’ll just realise I’m actually not logical enough to do what I do and leave it alone.

You may wonder why I bother blogging about this seemingly irrelevant incident. I write about it because it is a small illustration of the idiotic and offensive attitudes women must face still today. It’s a small example of sexism alive and kicking and illustrates the kind of dumb attitudes and rude behaviour we all need to open our eyes to and publicly challenge if we are to move to a friendlier and more just society. I love Harry Enfield and I think this clip uses humour to illustrate my point nicely. Being on the receiving end of public rudeness however is not funny (okay, maybe a little in retrospect).

So if you see a woman on the receiving end of such stupid rudeness go to her aid. She’s probably feeling very uncomfortable and may only come up with the right words of reply several hours later. I think it’s a shared community effort that’s required to confront and eliminate such horrible attitudes.