It's true, I bowl like a girl but at least I have the same opportunity as a boy. Today, while I bowl with my own pretty blue marbelized ball with drilled holes to fit my fingers, I remember what it was like to bowl when I was five-years-old with a big black clunky ball.
Fifty-years or so ago when my feminist “sisters,” were burning their bras and rightfully chanting and marching for equal rights I was a hormone raging pre-teen. I always teetered between being strong and a go-getter type of woman, and the female in distress who needed to be saved. Now, that I am a post menopausal woman who can and who has done everything I have wanted to, I don’t care about the hormonal differences; I just want peace.
I believe, as I look back at feminists like Gloria Steinem and Betty Friedan in the early 1960’s as they were leading us to where women and men are now … I can dress up like Barbie or not, men can choose softer colors to wear, add makeup and get their hair colored too, but the most important thing that came out of the movement was a change in the consciousness for an equal opportunity and equal money for the same job performance. Ok, I like that. A thoughtful distribution of power and education is the way it should have always been. And even though we have a longer way to go what I also think about now as I reflect back and float on the clouds of my non baby producing years is that the pendulum was swinging at the time, as it had to, and depending on where you live is where the pendulum will feel right for women. Now before I go any further, I will say, two things…I don’t like the references to the verbiage of the “opposite sex”…because that implies that men or women are the main sex; and I don’t like the word sex unless we are referring to the act. I prefer, gender, and sexual orientation. How do parents of a new born boy know his sex…it’s his gender they are observing. His preference will rear its head later on.
“It’s no secret that boys and girls are different—very different. The differences between genders, however, extend beyond what the eye can see. Research reveals major distinguishers between male and female brains,” writes Gregory L. Jantz, Ph.D. in Psychology Today’s February 24th 2014 issue.
Before I entered the first grade my Uncle Johnny would take me to the bowling lanes in Glendale, New York. Like learning a language early in life, he showed me the steps the swing of the ball, and how to throw it. It was cute. I was tiny and the men at the bar on black plastic bar stools would smoke and drink and laugh. When I finished there was a coke and bag of potato chips on the black table waiting for me. It was different but my uncle didn’t think so. He gave me the opportunity to do what he did…he was a 300 bowler many times over. A star of sorts in the downstairs bar that darkened even with the red lights that tried to shine in the summer nights.
Dr. Jantz continues to write that, “Scientists generally study four primary areas of difference in male and female brains: processing, chemistry, structure, and activity. The differences between male and female brains in these areas show up all over the world, but scientists also have discovered exceptions to every so-called gender rule. You may know some boys who are very sensitive, immensely talkative about feelings, and just generally don’t seem to fit the “boy” way of doing things. As with all gender differences, no one way of doing things is better or worse. The differences listed below are simply generalized differences in typical brain functioning, and it is important to remember that all differences have advantages and disadvantages”.
I know that Betty and Gloria wanted the lives for women all over to be enhanced and they did a passionate job of getting the word out. We all wriggled a bit in the transition of gender roles and are still figuring out a lot of the important stuff like equal parenting so both parents can be fulfilled.
Here are the four areas of the brain that that Dr. Jantz shares in his article and indeed it may encourage more peace in our relating styles between the genders other than time and maturity.
Male brains utilize nearly seven times more gray matter for activity while female brains utilize nearly ten times more white matter. What does this mean?
Gray matter areas of the brain are localized. They are information- and action-processing centers in specific splotches in a specific area of the brain. This can translate to a kind of tunnel vision when they are doing something. Once they are deeply engaged in a task or game, they may not demonstrate much sensitivity to other people or their surroundings.
White matter is the networking grid that connects the brain’s gray matter and other processing centers with one another. This profound brain-processing difference is probably one reason you may have noticed that girls tend to more quickly transition between tasks than boys do. The gray-white matter difference may explain why, in adulthood, females are great multi-taskers, while men excel in highly task-focused projects.
Male and female brains process the same neurochemicals but to different degrees and through gender-specific body-brain connections. Some dominant neurochemicals are serotonin, which, among other things, helps us sit still; testosterone, our sex and aggression chemical; estrogen, a female growth and reproductive chemical; and oxytocin, a bonding-relationship chemical.
In part, because of differences in processing these chemicals, males on average tend to be less inclined to sit still for as long as females and tend to be more physically impulsive and aggressive. Additionally, males process less of the bonding chemical oxytocin than females. Overall, a major takeaway of chemistry differences is to realize that our boys at times need different strategies for stress release than our girls.
A number of structural elements in the human brain differ between males and females. “Structural” refers to actual parts of the brain and the way they are built, including their size and/or mass.
Females often have a larger hippocampus, our human memory center. Females also often have a higher density of neural connections into the hippocampus. As a result, girls and women tend to input or absorb more sensorial and emotive information than males do. By “sensorial” we mean information to and from all five senses. If you note your observations over the next months of boys and girls and women and men, you will find that females tend to sense a lot more of what is going on around them throughout the day, and they retain that sensorial information more than men.
Additionally, before boys or girls are born, their brains developed with different hemispheric divisions of labor. The right and left hemispheres of the male and female brains are not set up exactly the same way. For instance, females tend to have verbal centers on both sides of the brain, while males tend to have verbal centers on only the left hemisphere. This is a significant difference. Girls tend to use more words when discussing or describing incidence, story, person, object, feeling, or place. Males not only have fewer verbal centers in general but also, often, have less connectivity between their word centers and their memories or feelings. When it comes to discussing feelings and emotions and senses together, girls tend to have an advantage, and they tend to have more interest in talking about these things.
Blood Flow and Brain Activity
While we are on the subject of emotional processing, another difference worth looking closely at is the activity difference between male and female brains. The female brain, in part thanks to far more natural blood flow throughout the brain at any given moment (more white matter processing), and because of a higher degree of blood flow in aconcentration part of the brain called the cingulate gyrus, will often ruminate on and revisit emotional memories more than the male brain.
Males, in general, are designed a bit differently. Males tend, after reflecting more briefly on an emotive memory, to analyze it somewhat, then move onto the next task. During this process, they may also choose to change course and do something active and unrelated to feelings rather than analyze their feelings at all. Thus, observers may mistakenly believe that boys avoid feelings in comparison to girls or move to problem-solving too quickly.
These four, natural design differences listed above are just a sample of how males and females think differently. Scientists have discovered approximately 100 gender differences in the brain, and the importance of these differences cannot be overstated. Understanding gender differences from a neurological perspective not only opens the door to greater appreciation of the different genders, it also calls into question how we parent, educate, and support our children from a young age.
Today, I am married to a man who has bowled over fifty-years of his life…so now I have the opportunity to do what I let go of a long time ago. The opportunity was there then and it is still rolling into my life.
Maybe I don’t bowl like a girl…I bowled a 158 game the other day; or perhaps I am one of those girls with boy tendencies. I bowl like a bowler with female chemistry and Bill bowls like a bowler with male chemistry and both are good.