The Elements of Style essay

1. Do you agree that men and women observe things differently? Yes, men and women observe things differently, likely due to gender differences. In other words the formation of gender identity encourages men and women to form a sense of recognition with things in different ways. As Gilligan postulates, women are taught to form the sort of perspective which will allow them to fulfill roles stipulated by society as mother, wife, and essentially non-male.

Take for example the typical 1950s sitcom in which women, as mothers, are concerned with the motivation behind children’s disciplinary issues while men, as fathers, focus upon the child’s infraction and a suitable punishment. 2. What is the importance of Gilligan’s observations about The Elements of Style (see para. 4)? According to Gilligan The Elements of Style is guilty of bias which treats women in terms of being non-men as opposed to being entities in and of themselves, with their own defining characteristics.

The importance of her observations concerning the work is that they illustrate the often systemic nature of society’s views of women. Even a text used to teach English grammar is endowed with a masculine perspective which unconsciously reinforces images of women as creatures in need of instruction or caretakers. It is as Gilligan states; the work reflects “an observational bias… [by] implicitly adopting the male life as the norm, [where] they have tried to fashion women out of a masculine cloth” (Gilligan, Carol, 1982, page 802).

3. What does it mean that “developmental theorists…project a masculine image” (para. 6)? The phrase “projection of a masculine image” returns to the idea of “fashioning women out of a masculine cloth”. In essence, theories developed by developmental theorists, such as Sigmund Freud, were concerned solely with the psychological development of males. When such theories were found less than holistically applicable to females such theorists decided that women did not develop normally or as completely as males.

Freud for example, “struggled to resolve the contradictions posed for his theory by the differences in female anatomy and the different configuration of the young girl’s early family relationships (Gilligan, Carol, 1982, page 802). The resolution of his theory was to “acknowledge, in the strength and persistence of women’s pre-Oedipal attachments to their mother’s, a developmental difference…responsible for what he saw as women’s developmental failure” (Gilligan, Carol, 1982, page 802). 4. Why did Freud think women “show less sense of justice than men” (para. 7)?

In short, Freud thought women were too emotional to make truly impartial decisions and thereby illustrate a developed sense of moral awareness. He blamed this on women’s failure to develop an Oedipus complex and their consequently compromised superegos. 5. Do you agree that “mothers tend to experience their daughters as more like, and continuous with themselves” (para. 9)? Yes, it does not seem implausible as mother’s and daughters do share the same gender distinctions; are subject to similar treatment based on gender and would understandably develop an empathetic relationship based upon gender identity.

In essence, Chodorow’s analysis and Stoller’s studies are very credible to the extent that mothers and daughters never essentially think of themselves as separate in a manner that mothers and sons must acknowledge. 6. Does your experience validate the conclusion that women express more empathy than men? To some extent my experiences illustrate that society’s general perception is that women are more empathetic than men, but I think such a conclusion is invalidated by my experience that men are taught to hide strong emotional reactions.

I know men who cry in the same situations that similarly affect women so I ultimately think while both sexes may feel empathetic males are taught there is no benefit in displaying emotion. For example, men avoid watching what they term “chick flicks” but likely for the above reason, as some of these movies oblige a strong emotional response from viewers, usually the tears men are urged to shed in private. 7. What differences do you see between the games boys play and the games girls play?

The largest difference does seem to involve the element of competition, just as Kohlberg indicates. That is to say, until the 1970s and the women’s rights movement, women were not traditionally encouraged to play games where elaborate rules allowed turns to be forcibly taken, and in such a manner that constituted one’s socialization. As Gilligan points out, the image of men playing basketball illustrates the above as does women playing hopscotch where the former forces players to compete for a turn while the latter has the built in assurance of a turn.

In other words the moral lessons women and men take from playing games seem to differ, in my opinion, more so than their choice of sport. Men learn that they must fight for advantages to the exclusion of empathy for fellow players. Meanwhile women demonstrate an awareness of the importance of maintaining relationships to the exclusion of proving one’s competitive edge over other players.

Works Cited

Gilligan, Carol. “Woman’s Place in Man’s Life Cycle”. Feminism. 1982: 797-818.