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Cultural nonsense about gender, and a hypothetical superhero story - Input Junkie
May 7th, 2014
09:16 am

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Cultural nonsense about gender, and a hypothetical superhero story
A study about biological similarity between men and women gets spun as evidence of difference.
The New York Times reported that scientists had discovered 12 genes on the Y chromosome that play “high-level roles in controlling the state of the genome and the activation of other genes.” They “may represent a fundamental difference in how the cells in men’s and women’s bodies read off the information in their genomes.” The Huffington Post quoted one of the studies’ authors as saying that these “special” genes “may play a large role in differences between males and females.”

Yet what the Nature articles actually show is the exact opposite. The 12 genes residing on the Y chromosome exist to ensure sexual similarity. The genes are “dosage-sensitive,” meaning that two copies are needed for them to function properly. We’ve long known that those 12 genes exist on X chromosomes. Females have the 12 genes active on both of their X chromosomes. If males, who have just one X, didn’t have them on the Y, they would not have a sufficient dosage of those genes. Now we know they do. Just like women.

And in general, even when an article reports a difference that's a difference, I strongly recommend not caring unless they tell you how large the difference is and give you a chart showing the size of the overlap. Maybe you shouldn't care anyway-- there's a lot of pressure to overhype scientific results-- but at least see whether they're giving you enough information that there might be a little truth in it.

How male action heroes get fantasy bodies in the movies I knew that body builders actually weaken themselves by dehydration in order to look strong, but I hadn't thought about how extreme looking right gets for the movies.
The last-minute pump comes right before the cameras roll. Philip Winchester, the hero of Cinemax's action series Strike Back, recalls seeing the technique for the first time on the set of Snatch: "Hundreds of extras were standing around," he recalls, "and Brad Pitt would drop down and do 25 push-ups before each scene. I thought, 'Why is he showing off?' " Then Winchester figured it out. "I realized he was just jacking himself up: getting blood flowing to the muscles. I'd always wondered, 'How do actors look so jacked all the time?' Well, they don't. Now we ask: Is it a push-up scene? When I shot that Strike Back poster, I was doing push-ups like a madman, saying, 'Take the picture now! Take it now!' "


The end of the article implies that women are doing most of the body policing of men. I have no idea whether that's true.

I think the second link is at least somewhat about gender-- part of how superhero movies are structured is that ideal male and female bodies are very different.*

I will lay down a small bet that when there's a Doctor Strange movie, he will be considerably bulked up compared to the original comic book character.

*I've just imagined a superhero pair where she's somewhat more muscular than he is. Her superpowers have to do with leverage. She's short and wide and has extraordinary abilities to know what direction to apply force in. Her martial art is judo. She helps out in natural disasters that involve moving heavy objects and not setting off another landslide. She probably has tools (an exo-skeleton?) which aren't always available because plot.

He's a telepath. He's somewhat athletic because he's in fights now and then, but since he can tell what his opponent is going to do, he mostly needs to be fast enough to not get hit. He can wear an opponent down with strikes to vulnerable points.

Next project: Optimize a supervillain for them. Possibly a villain with brainfog powers so the challenge is to get close enough to act effectively.

This entry was posted at http://nancylebov.dreamwidth.org/1047602.html. Comments are welcome here or there. comment count unavailable comments so far on that entry.

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From:whswhs
Date:May 7th, 2014 02:47 pm (UTC)
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Those final words of the article could also be read as addressed to gay men.
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From:metahacker
Date:May 8th, 2014 12:29 am (UTC)
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Plenty of body-shape pressure from ostensibly straight men on other ostensibly straight men. Visit a "serious" gym to see what I mean.

This isn't sexual; it's the same sort of shape-policing/shaming that gets done of overweight people, just at the opposite extreme.
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From:whswhs
Date:May 8th, 2014 12:35 am (UTC)
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I don't find that implausible. But the line in the article that I was referring to, and that nancylebov referred to previously, commented on what people were expecting or looking for in the men they dated. The population of straight men who date other straight men is almost surely lower than the population of either straight women or gay men who do so.
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From:metahacker
Date:May 8th, 2014 12:52 am (UTC)
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True. I guess my comment was a reaction as much to the article author as to you...

From:paulshandy
Date:May 8th, 2014 06:33 am (UTC)
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It might depend on what you mean by a "serious" gym, including your use of "".

The thing is, I prefer power lifting to body building, so while I will check myself out in a mirror from time to time, in the gyms I like, the weight you lift speaks for itself, not the size or definition of the muscles.

I have experienced some of the 'shaming' that overweight people do, since I've almost always been chubby. There's always a little core of resentment about it inside me, and I use it to feed my weight lifting.
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From:metahacker
Date:May 8th, 2014 02:55 pm (UTC)
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I purposely used sneer quotes there, yes.

I've spent time in gyms where there was a supportive environment toward self-improvement, and ones where I was basically left alone.

And ones where I witnessed a lot of, and experienced a little of, "you're not a SERIOUS lifter / you're doing it wrong because you're not huge / that's a pussy weight / if you're not grunting and throwing up, ... / people who aren't huge should STAY HOME / real ultimate power comes from abusing other people verbally". That's the sort of toxic environment I was alluding to.

BTW, even your comment about judging people on the size of the weight is indicative. People should lift what is in alignment with their goals, and what their bodies can handle that day. Neither of those is your call.
From:paulshandy
Date:May 12th, 2014 05:42 am (UTC)
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It is likely that my eye on how much I can lift is psychological compensation for having been teased about how much I weigh. Fortunately in the gyms I've been in, the bigger guys were the more supportive.

For the record, I do divide people at the gym into "serious" and "unserious" in my head (but it doesn't reach my lips) but I agree it's not just about the amount of weight. It also has to do with who shows up on bad weather days, how sweaty they are when they finish, and if they have a plan or if they just show up and fake it.
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From:metahacker
Date:May 12th, 2014 12:42 pm (UTC)
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who shows up on bad weather days

Oh, man, so true.

Sweaty was a funny one. I didn't really sweat until I started fighting in armor. ;) That'll teach you...

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From:harvey_rrit
Date:May 7th, 2014 06:30 pm (UTC)
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I immediately wanted to read about that duo.
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From:siliconshaman
Date:May 7th, 2014 08:30 pm (UTC)
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How about a technological super-villain? Some mad scientist who downloaded his brain into a mega-powered mecha, or a centralised brain-in-a-jar controlling a robot swarm. Telepathy isn't going to work with him/it/them at least, unless her partner can get close enough to the 'head'...and to do that requires her talents.
From:paulshandy
Date:May 8th, 2014 06:26 am (UTC)
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The biggest problem with casting the X-Men movies is that in the comics, Storm is one of the tallest and Wolverine one of the shortest. As hot as Halle Berry and Hugh Jackson are, it bugged me every time I saw them on the screen together. And they couldn't have come up with a better line for Storm when she kicked Toad's ass? Really.

As for women policing men's bodies, it might well be true for Hollywood, since you want to satisfy the female gaze, but there's also evidence that women tend to find average men in expensive suits more attractive than hot guys in cheap suits. But we also have to consider that male competition among ourselves is based upon physical capacity, not physical appearance. That great physical capacity usually leads to superior appearance is a nice coincidence.

And to be frank, I'm an average looking guy, if you concede that the average American is overweight, but there's enough muscle under my layer of fat that the best two girlfriends I had were the results of kicking their jerky ex-boyfriends' asses, thus women who observe a man's physical capacity are likely to overlook an inferior appearance.

The most unfortunate thing about all this is not allowing actresses to put on enough muscle to make me believe they really could do the fight scenes from those movies. Black Widow from the "Avengers" might be one of the coolest characters on the screen today, and the actress did find within the limitations of Hollywood, but she should look like a gymnast, not a model.
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