Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Bad Gender Science alert

It's my birthday today and what a gift The Telegraph have sent! Two of my least favourite things wrapped up in one. Bad science being used to justify sexism!

Apparently, we're told, men need nights out with the lads. Not someone's opinion or the advice of their in-house agony aunt, no. This is SCIENCE, we're told.

The subtitle reads "Researchers in Germany found it was good for a man's health to be allowed time to bond with fellow males".

But read the article and they found nothing of the sort. They found it was good for a male Barbary macaque's health. They add "a type of ape which exhibits remarkably human-like social behaviour" so presumably it spends half the morning nursing a hangover while playing Angry Birds and then writing about how it "really needs to get more organised" on Facebook?

The tenuousness of the link is made even more apparent when they try to compare men "watching each other's backs" with Barbary macaques picking ticks and fleas off each other. Hmm, alerting your mate to someone looking at him aggressively in the queue for a kebab doesn't strike me as obviously analogous to combing his back hair for him if he can't reach.

The only reason to assume that what applies to Barbary macaques will also apply to humans would be if humans and macaques shared a common ancestor who also exhibited this behaviour. Not so.

Humans are much more closely related to bonobos. Do you know what bonobos do to relieve stress? They wank off members of their own family. Really they do. Who wants to write a piece in The Telegraph about the health benefits of familial mutual masturbation? No me either.

The reality is that the only reason this piece got published at all was because they know perfectly well that guys out there wanting to shirk other commitments and responsibilities and go out drinking will latch onto it. Well sorry, not fooled.

Look at the all-male groups in most pubs and clubs night after night. Look at the crowd at football matches across the country. Believe me, if all-male socialising was the key to male health you'd all be immortal by now! Instead your life expectancy is considerably shorter than ours.

I'd bet the exact opposite is true in humans - all male groups are likely to drink more, smoke more, get in more fights, eat more fast food, do more dangerous activities. I'd bet all-male socialising is linked to to poorer health in human men. But no-one's going to publish that in The Telegraph are they?

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