Are most programmers male?

James J. Besemer jb at
Thu Aug 15 11:45:42 CEST 2002

Aahz wrote:

> <snort>  And just how did you remove the societal bias?  Tell ya what:
> rear a kid as the opposite gender from physical sex, making sure that
> *nobody* knows this fact, and maybe, just maybe I'll start to believe
> you.  But before you start, make sure to read _As Nature Made Him_, by
> John Colapinto; it's pretty clear from that book that it can be at least
> somewhat difficult to erase that knowledge, and we therefore know too
> damn little about the nature/nurture debate to make *any* statements
> about it.

My reply is in three parts.  First I address your reference to David Reimer's
ordeal.  Second, I elaborate on by earlier comments.  Third, I raise a new
argument -- "what about gays?"




1. I am acquainted with this rather infamous story.  I rather think it strongly
supports MY view that much sexual stereotypical behavior is genetic rather
than societal.  In this true story the infant's maleness ultimately prevails
despite concerted efforts by his parents and erstwhile prestigious members
of the medical community (including top sexual orientation authorities at
The Johns Hopkins U. in Baltimore) to turn him into a girl.

Rather than showing how "difficult it is to erase the knowledge" I think
instead it shows how hard-wired and irrepressible sexual orientation actually is.

2. For people unacquainted with the story, here's a couple excellent summaries
and excerpts:

        Dr. Money believed that a baby's gender was malleable enough
        that, with the help of hormones and surgery, any girl could be
        turned into a boy and vice versa.

        For fourteen years David Reimer's family, along with Dr. Money
        and several other physicians, struggled to convince David that -- in
        body, mind, and soul -- he was girl. It is through the lens of this
        extraordinarily painful experience that John Colapinto tells [...]
        a heartrending account of living with an unwanted sex role, of
        loneliness, of stigmatization, of soul searching, and finally, of
        astounding courage [to reverse it all].

3. The "failed theory" alluded to in the review is that sexual orientation
(and sex itself! (except for reproduction)) can be molded with knives
and drugs and concerted behavior shaping.

In this case, nobody in "society" knew he wasn't a girl and his parents
diligently tried to raise him as a girl, per doctors orders.

Jeeze, not only do they dress him as a girl and buy him girl toys but
they cut off his penis pump him full of hormones so he grows breasts.
At 14 he threatens suicide to derail plans to construct a vagina.  And
this all is before he himself realizes he's not a girl!

If all these extraordinary measures cannot overcome a person's
inherent sex role, then how can the stereotypes possibly be the
result of some subtle, unconscious shaping by parents or society?

4. I gather your interpretation is that, despite all the other radical
efforts to the contrary, the parents somehow, unwillingly, perhaps
unconsciously, imprinted male stereotypes.

To this I can only say, "<snort>".


1. Citing my personal experience and observations in the matter
was but one point in my overall argument.

2. I did not claim to remove all bias.  Nobody could.  I only said that we
tried to be conscientious about avoiding it best we could.

     E.g., our son when he was little had a jewelry collection and enjoyed
     wearing woman's jewelry and clothing.  Color schemes in room
     decoration and clothing were neutral not the stereotypical pink and
     blue.  My son liked to pretend to cook with his dad so when he was
     around 5 we got him a set of play kitchen appliances and cookware.
     Until they were much older and expressed specific preferences of their
     own, both children had the same assortment of toys at their disposal.

     Nevertheless, from his earliest days, my son liked building things
     with blocks.  He also liked to assemble toys and toy animals into
     complicated configurations, about which there always was a deep
     story, with roles and dialog for each animal.  My daughter didn't
     care much for blocks or the plastic animals and didn't act out the
     elaborate scenes.  But loved cuddling with the stuffed animals
     (most of which were originally Michael's, though he never paid
     any attention to them).

3. My conclusion is that the differentiation that naturally arose and
arose consistently in virtually all the children I had occasion to observe
in this time frame cannot be explained by external influences.  Everybody
I know who has had children agrees, though they all, like I, once believed
(as you evidently still do) that the differences are entirely or mostly
environmental.  The data is so compelling that I can't believe that
anybody who actually raised children of both sexes who also is
sensitive to this issue doesn't agree.

4. Actually, if you have any experience with little children there isn't
a lot of occasion for sexual stereotypes to enter into the situation.
Sure, if you WANT to glorify the differences, you can do a lot of
things but if you try to be neutral, and let kids pretty much pursue
their own interests, the issue doesn't really present itself.

5. I realize my own observations are merely anecdotal but I nevertheless
believe they're significant.  Seeing kids raised first-hand shattered many
of my naive preconceptions about human behavior.

If you've raised kids and observed markedly different results, I'd be
interested to hear about it.

If you haven't raised kids then I respectfully submit you're necessarily
missing compelling, relevant data.

"You can lead a swine to pearls...."


I failed to mention this previously because I didn't think of it.  I'm not
sure I believe it myself but I'll throw it out for argument's sake...

Most gays claim that their sexuality is ingrained and absolutely not at
all the result of environment.  You often hear testimony that they knew
they were in the wrong bodies since their earliest memories.

Of the gays I know, some definitely fit this mold.  One guy I knew was
straight when I met him  but he was one of those people I am surprised
to learn is NOT gay.  Then, after a failed marriage, he realizes he IS gay
and lives happily ever after.

If they're right, it would be further evidence that sexual orientation
is genetic or hard-wired, even if it does not correlate in all cases with
a person's actual sex.

Whadda y'all think?

James J. Besemer  503-280-0838 voice  503-280-0375 fax
mailto:jb at

More information about the Python-list mailing list