A sexual challenge

April 17, 1998

BOTH responses to Jennifer Davey's article about enabling women to get more firsts (THES, March 13) miss her point. Davey said that women would not be "made more equal" by fudging the criteria for judging students' performance but by challenging them to think more adventurously.

Women are not emotionally incontinent dimwits who cannot cope with the rigorous "masculine" intellectual studies. True, the sexes seem different when judged in terms of aptitudes, skills and application. One feature is that more men than women cluster at the extremes. That produces more male firsts, as well as more female students and passes. But even if this is sex-related and not the product of our upbringing, the fact that we describe certain traits, abilities and behaviours as "feminine" or "masculine" because of our perception does not make them female or male. I very much doubt if the two sexes have distinct ways of thinking.

Neither condescending to women by pretending we are doing well, nor confining us to pseudo-academic ghettoes, is the way to reduce inequalities between the sexes.

Penny Tucker. Hartley Wintney, Hampshire

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