Friday, 21 November 2008

The Gender Gap


Nurture or Nature? It is a question that has exercised the brains of psychologists and educationalists since political correctness was in nappies. Do children follow certain paths because of their inherent gender or their treatment during their formative years? I may have mentioned that my wife is a primary school teacher and it is her view after 20-odd years teaching the little brats...er dears, that in general, Nature usually wins, no matter what the trendy educationalists and the government will try to do to load the dice. In other words ‘Boys will be Boys’ and vice versa and there’s not much you can do about it, or should do about it except work with the fact.

Earlier this year, there was a news article dealing with a report from The Institute of Education on the subject of which musical instrument children chose to learn that tends to enforce the view that nature has taken a firm grip when it comes to Rock ‘n’ Roll. Looking at which instrument is favourite when it comes to individual choice, it seems that the boys rush to the guitar whilst the girls are picking up a flute or, gulp, the harp. Try getting that in the back of the car for home practice!

So, surprise surprise, whilst boys are fighting for the guitars, drums and brass instruments to make as much noise as possible, their feminine peers shut the door to get a bit of peace to practice that difficult D♭ arpeggio on their oboes and flutes. It must’ve made school a very confusing place for the likes of Joan Jett, June Millington, Nancy Wilson, Vicki Peterson and every other guitar totin’ woman. Or indeed, Ian Anderson, Thijs Van Leer and their flautist brothers.

Seems to me that actually, instruments pick you rather than the other way around. Looking at most bands, the drummer is always the mad restless one, the keyboards player is studious, the bass player laid back and the guitarist the extrovert. Each instrument then picks their player from across the sexes. Of course, more men than women are aggressive extroverts but more women than men are relaxed and socially inclusive. Note how many more female bass players there appear to be than raving lead guitarists.

Two fundamental truths arise here. One – men and women are, thankfully, different and there’s no use saying otherwise. They will always be drawn to different pursuits despite what any ‘expert’ may tell you. Two – there are always exceptions to any rule and holding back boys and girls who desire to be ‘different’ is as damaging as forcing them to act against their nature. Now, where did I leave my Bagpipes?

8 comments:

Jeff said...

My personality would probably fit the bass player but I play the guitar. When in elementary school I played the sax, and as you mentioned, all the guys like myself either ran for the brass instruments or the drums (no guitars in the school band.) All the girls went straight for either the flute or the clarient. There were always a few who deviated from the norm.

TR1-Guy said...

Well, I played the clarinet from 4th grade into my 2nd year in college. Along the way I picked up the bass (I am not laid back at all) and also the piano. But, your observations are right on the nose. Nickey Barclay of Fanny is intelligent and witty... I've yet to meet a drummer who isn't half-crazed (both in a good and bad way) and yes, all the lead guitarists of every band I was in were the true showmen of the act, which is why they played guitar.

I played the clarinet because my mother and one of my sisters played and that is the instrument we owned, so it was a matter of economics in 1966. But I did enjoy all the female company in the clarinet row!
:)

musicobsessive said...

Amazing how much talent there is around the place isn't it?

Jeff - I'm a bit like you. Bass player mentality but play the guitar anyway. Actually I quite like the bass but you can't really play it by yourself! The only other guitarist I can think of who isn't a raving extrovert is Steve Hackett and I like his style a lot.

TR1-Guy - Hmm, so that's the REAL reason for the clarinet. You sly old devil! Unfortunately, going to an all boys school meant that I never sat in any row that wasn't male. Damn! What was I missing out on?

TR1-Guy said...

RE: Playing a bass by yourself... Why do you think I played in rock bands? We bassists mostly played the same riffs at the rhythm guitarist, so practicing wasn't too bad. I even could play bar chords on my bass... toss in an overdrive and I made a lot of noise like a buzz saw.

Now, when I played in a Jazz Band in High School, that was another story, especially when I only had a chord chart and basically played whatever I felt like as long as it fit the song style. Now that would be boring...

At least I didn't have to pound on drums to practice! :)

Charlie said...

Martin, What you say is true but I still believe nurture plays a big role, especially with boys. Boys are conditioned to act like men by their peers more so than girls are conditioned by their peers to act like ladies. Therefore, I believe you will find it more likely that a girl will take up a "male" instrument such as the drums more often than you will find a boy playing oboe.

I also find it interesting that there are some gender neutral instruments. Piano and acoustic guitar are prime examples.

Interesting post. I never gave this topic much thought before.

musicobsessive said...

Good point Charlie! I think you have hit upon one social aspect that has changed over the past 50 years or so and that is that mothers encourage their daughters to widen their horizons rather more than fathers do with sons. Still, if it produces better music, so much the better.

Jennifer K said...

Interesting take on boys and girls, and which instruments they are drawn to. I have no idea what type of instrument I would want to play. I have no musical talent. I guess I'd want to be lead singer even though I don't even sing in the shower. Well, those who can, do. And those who can't, write blogs. Snerk.

musicobsessive said...

Hi Jen. Actually, listening to a few lead singers over the years leads me to suspect that you'd be fine! These days they even have whizzy machines in recording studios that correct all your slight pitch imperfections so even I could do it - who needs talent? Hmm...maybe that's another subject...