Male Brain in Female Body?

As an adolescent, I used to fear that I had a male brain stuck inside a female body. And, no, I know where all your minds are going, but I have never once struggled with my sexual orientation. Au contraire, I was cheerfully pursuing boys from age six—but that’s another story. Rather, I felt (and still feel) that my way of problem solving and relating to others is somewhat more like a typical male than a typical female. After reading "The Male Condition" in my favorite liberal newspaper (reg. required), I am wondering if there isn’t some solid biology behind my suspicions.

The article summarizes some recent research on the differences between male and female brain structures. Taken as averages, the male brain is measurably different from the female brain. For example, males have a 9% larger cerebrum (perhaps facilitating analysis), while females have a thicker corpus callosum (perhaps facilitating interaction between the two hemispheres of the brain). But, taken as individuals, there is considerable variation within each gender. The author suggests that it may be possible for a male to have a more typically female brain structure and visa versa. The variation may result from the levels of testosterone present in the womb during fetal brain development. Again, this has nothing to do with sexual orientation, or women’s roles, or gender confusion. Rather, it is a difference of being oriented towards systematizing or empathizing.

I am naturally oriented towards systematizing and that I tend to be weaker in my empathizing skills. Not that I am a total insensitive jerk, I just am less expressive of my emotions than average. My best friend once told me that I am the least emotional women that she knows. When I saw the INTJ personality described as appearing “unemotional, cold, and dispassionate” I thought, “That’s me!” Not to put it too strongly, but I’m not really a people person. Now that I am a wife and the mother of a small child, I am trying to figure out the best way to use the personality and skills God has given me. The situation I am in now forces me to draw on my weaknesses more than my strengths.

So, I going to pull a Freud and look back at my past. Introspection is my spiritual gift!

On my 7th birthday, I got a big yellow notebook. Last year, I took out my battered notebook and looked at the products of my childhood mind. There were no pretty pictures of pretty ladies or of dolls or children. Rather, there were pages and pages of codes and alphabets which I had invented and numerous of complex geometric figures composed of amalgamations of dozens of tiny triangles or squares.

As a budding cryptographer, I had an obsession for making and using codes and also learning non-Roman alphabets. Japanese held a particular fascination. At age seven, I attempted to learn Japanese hiragana and katakana with a book from the library. (Not surprising that I live in Korea now, is it?)

My father studied engineering physics and worked at Hanford Nuclear Facility (which produced the plutonium for the world’s first atomic explosion in New Mexico and also for the bomb dropped in Nagasaki, Japan and is now a major clean-up site) before he became a Christian, went to Multnomah Bible College, and become the pastor of a rural church in Eastern Washington State. While pastoring, he maintained his scientific interests with a computer hobby and passed some of that interest on to me. I cut my teeth on 5 ½” floppies. I read Computer Shopper and PC Magazine almost as faithfully as I read my Bible. I learned to use MS-DOS and a small amount of BASIC too, and I think my early exposure to computer programming languages has (if nothing else) helped me to be even more obsessive in my editing of my blog’s template. I also loved computer games, especially the KROZ series. Tetras was and is my favorite Nintendo game.

I was good at math as a child and I think I would still be if I decided to study further. For all the talk of homeschooled children not being good at math, I managed to score in the top 1-2% of all US children throughout elementary school. I loathed writing so much that I stubbornly refused to do any formal writing though my entire homeschooling career. My mother was a very soft-hearted ESFP, and she was no match for my hard-headed INTJ arguments. So, although I read voraciously, I did not really write anything formally until I went to college and had to do research papers. Oh, and it’s not that I was incapable of writing well—I just didn’t see the point in it. If I don’t see the point in an activity, I tend to avoid doing it even upon the pain of death. :)

So, here I am now, writing something for my seminary studies everyday and blogging as much as I can. This time in my life is stretching me to develop my weak areas, especially as I seek to make friends with other mothers. In my humanness, I would rather be working or studying than staying at home with a small child or trying to make friends with people I never would have looked at twice a few years ago. I generally have had difficultly relating to most females, but I am trying to learn to understand other women.

NOTE: The dozen or so links I painstakingly added to this post have all disappeared. Arghhhh!!!

1 comment:

  1. -sorry about your lost links- that is a most frustrating thing to happen!

    I relate very much to what you are saying about the feeling of having a male brain... as INTP I felt something very similar through most of my life and in the early internet, when we mostly went by handles instead of names I found that poeple tended to tag me as a male through my manner of communicating,etc. I wonder though if some of that isn't gender construct, although the science of it ( as you wrote of it here) is very interesting and worth considering.

    On a related note, I think the old nature vs nurture controversy enters in. I believe in both, and found that although it might not be easy to express certain parts of ourselves we can learn to be more empathetic or whatever weak areas. a circumstance such as having a child impresses on us our need to develop something that didn't seem "us".

    But what is "me" or "us"? Our core person can learn to find interests that wouldn't have occurred in other conditions... do we bind ourselves to old views of who we are? You are exceptional in wonderful ways, Hannah.