The Annals of Science: Are Numbers Gendered?

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Just a randomly chosen image with some numbers on it

According to a new study by Northwestern University psychologist Galen Bodenhausen and marketing Ph.D. student James Wilkie, the answer is apparently yes. The abstract from the Journal of Experimental Psychology reports:

We examined the possibility that nonsocial, highly generic concepts are gendered. Specifically, we investigated the gender connotations of Arabic numerals. Across several experiments, we show that the number 1 and other odd numbers are associated with masculinity, whereas the number 2 and other even numbers are associated with femininity, in ways that influence judgments of stimuli arbitrarily paired with numerical cues; specifically, babies' faces and foreign names were more likely to be judged as "male" when paired with odd versus even numbers. The power of logically irrelevant numerical stimuli to connote masculinity or femininity reflects the pervasiveness of gender as a social scaffolding for generating understandings of abstract concepts.

The numeral 1 I kind of get, but what is so masculine about the curves in the numeral 3?

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  1. 3 looks like emoticon balls.

    1. I came here to say this.

    2. 3 looks like the butt of a curvy woman represented by the heart symbol:

      1. The server squirrels censored this combo in the above post: a “

        1. Dammit, even that got censored. How about this: a heart emoticon composed of a bracket followed by a 3.

          1. The squirrels did not approve of your HTML skillz…

        2. <3

    3. Hmmm 3 looks like a man viewed from the top with an erect penis and his arms held wide.

      1. Darmok and Jalad, viewed from the top with an erect penis and his arms held wide.

        1. At Tanagra?

          1. At Viagra!

  2. Doh! You took my line.

    Turn 3 on its side and it looks like a ball-sack (with balls in it)

    1. It also looks like a pair of tits.

      1. Yeah, with no nipples. You sick bastard.

        1. How about this?

          ( . )( . )

          Compared to this?

          ( o )( o )

          (The top one represents two mellons and the bottom one two open peaches.)

          1. Or how about

            ( v )

            (That’s an insulated material hopper, in case you were wondering…)

          2. Younger ones:

            (?)(?)

              1. (-)(-)

                Pierced.

      2. Little Annie Fannie’s tits, you mean.

    2. 3s look like buns. or tits. totally a feminine number.

  3. However non-symmetrical numbers, like 5, 7, and 9, are all gay.

  4. babies’ faces and foreign names were more likely to be judged as “male” when paired with odd versus even numbers

    With all due respect, WTF?

  5. I believe Hendrix addressed this issue already.

    1. As did Marvin Gaye, who taught us that all of the numbers are sexy:

      1 fun
      2 you
      3 me
      4 more
      5 no jive
      6 no tricks 7
      we in heaven 8
      everything is straight
      9 FINE…..
      TEEEEEN! next week we’ll do it again! OWWWW!!!!!!!

      http://www.lyricsdepot.com/mar…..ation.html

      1. Not all numbers according to genesis (the band)NSFW ish

        “I got unexpected distress from my mistress,? get my money back from the book store right away.”

  6. 7 ate 9…So, I guess 9 is definitely a feminine shape, but does 7 strike anyone else as kinda dykish?

    1. The band L7 agrees.

    2. 7 is the power mullet of numbers.

  7. reflects the pervasiveness of gender as a social scaffolding for generating understandings of abstract concepts.

    Ok, as far as it goes, but he should make clear that it is probably innate – given that humans response innately to things that look like penises and boobs.

    It’s not really a social construct if your brain is just programmed that way.

    1. Social constructs program your brain too.

    2. I suppose it’s time for a comparison study in societies with non-Arabic numerals.

      1. How about… Arabic?

        Yeah, Arabic uses Indic numerals… Who knew?

      2. How about… Arabic?

        Yeah, Arabic uses Indic numerals… Who knew?

        1. Arabic is a place?

          1. That’s why they’re all called “Arabikkers”. Think it through, man.

      3. Oh yeah, cause roman numerals are less gendered.

        I suppose you could say that if only penises are represented there’s only one gender and hence no gender.

        Rome was a masculine society, though.

  8. but what is so masculine about the curves in the numeral 3?

    Look in a mirror lately, Bailey?

    I kid!

  9. 1 4 7 are masculine, 0 3 6 8 9 or feminine and 2 and 5 are gay. There, solved.

    And yes, that would make 69 a lesbian. Any objections?

    1. And Pi is….?

      1. Neverending bukkake

        1. I lol’d

            1. Me three

              1. Me, uh, 4 (wait — too feminine).

  10. 2’s company; 3’s a crowd. Guess which gender #3 usually is.

  11. all prime numbers cause a gay ol time!

  12. write the 3 by hand the old-fashioned more Arabic-looking way (angular top half) and you’ll see it

  13. This is one of things that always bothered me about romance languages–why does every object have to be a boy or girl, and who decides?

    Like in Spanishe, where a pen is “la pluma” and all feminine, while a pencil is “el lapiz” and butch.

    It’s like romance languages were invented by a Gender Studies faculty committee.

    1. It’s because Latin genderizes all words, though it had a neuter concept which was not carried over to its more primitive Romance language children.

    2. Romance languages are hardly unique in having gendered nouns. Most Indo-European languages, and many others, have gender. A better question would be why doesn’t English have gendered nouns.

      Also, gender is just a name that someone gave to the different classes of inflections or endings used in nouns in various languages. That doesn’t necessarily mean that a certain word having a certain gender has anything to do with natural, sex related gender.

      1. Also, gender is just a name that someone gave to the different classes of inflections or endings used in nouns in various languages. That doesn’t necessarily mean that a certain word having a certain gender has anything to do with natural, sex related gender.

        Not necessarily, but doesn’t a grammatical gender usually correspond to the same set of inflections used to describe a human of some particular gender? It’s not 1:1 or
        ‘d call that related.

        1. Oh god squirrels what have you done this time

        2. It does, and that is probably why the genders were assigned as they were. See also what OM says below.

      2. English and Swedish both formerly had gendered nouns, but both cultures realized how fucking retarded it was and ditched them.

        The Chinese still have us beat with their scorn towards even using articles in the first place.

        1. My single term of college Mandarin left me with the impression that the language has essentially no morphology. Great fun to learn, but made me wonder how anyone manages to communicate in it.

          I guess this must be how Germans feel about English.

          1. Your primitive language amuses my teutonic Uberbrain.

            1. German is merely a rudimentary proto-English.

    3. Re: Abdul,

      Like in Spanishe, where a pen is “la pluma” […] feminine, while a pencil is “el lapiz” [, masculine.]

      That’s because of how they sound. “El pluma” does not sound as melodious as “La pluma.” Languages do suffer changes stemming from every day use. The genderization in Spanish is mostly the result of normal usage and finding easier ways to say the words, not so much part of a conscious and devious plan to oppress pens and give advantages to pencils.

      1. El agua?

        1. Re: Pro Libertate,

          El agua?

          Yes. Try saying “La agua

          If you don’t get your tongue tied, you will never understand Spanish-speaking folk.

          1. The Kennedy’s just added an ‘r’ to any word that ended in a vowel.

            Cuber… Try it:

            Lar Agua

          2. It’s not so bad…in Portuguese it’s “a agua”

      2. Actually, it depends on which word you use for “pen.” In plenty of places and situations, a Spanish speaking person might use “el boligrafo” — the (ball-point) pen.

        1. Oops. Hit SUBMIT too early.

          “Pluma” also means “feather,” and that is its more long-established usage. So when a Spanish-speaker says “pluma” it is like an English-speaker saying “quill.” He could mean “feather” (or the needle of a porcupine or hedgehog), or he could mean (archaic, poetic) “pen”; Context is necessary to decide which, and of course, in the real world, the understood context of such an utterance usually resolves any ambiguity instantaneously.

    4. Our empire collapsed because we debased the money and spent it on bread, circuses, and tenured gender studies professors. Don’t make the same mistake! We warned you!

    5. In French a dick (penis) is “la bite” and it’s feminine. What could be more stupid?

      1. Re: grrizzly,

        What could be more stupid?

        Uh… The French?

    6. so what I’fe learned:

      1) it’s all because of Latin, except that gender endings occur in non-latin derived languages

      2) grammatical gender has nothing to do with sex, except that it always corresopons with the sexual part too.

      3) it has something to do with how much nicer “el lapiz” sounds compared to “la lapiz.” Except that it probably doesn’t.

      thanks for the clarification guys, but I’m still blaming the Indo-European Gender Studies and Multi-Cultural Awareness Department of 10,000 BCE.

    7. I just figured it was because, in the days before television, there was nothing better to do than sit around and debate whether this or that word should be masculine or feminine.

  14. Typical nonsense “study” produced by social science major. If an even number of angels can fit on the head of a pin, are more of the angels likely to be women? All that stands between us and the answer is a 100k grant.

  15. As a 1991 graduate of NU, I can confirm that my parents wasted their money.

  16. Who wants to bet federal funding was involved?

    1. You can bet this research was done with an odd number of millions in federal funding.

  17. So are they researching the gender of each of the infinite number of integers? Or is this just a digit thing?

  18. Wow, Psychology has now advanced so far that they now follow numerology. What next, reading chicken entrails?

    1. What next, reading chicken entrails?
      Given that one of the psuedo scientists conducting the ‘research’ was a Marketing PhD student, you can expect ad agencies to start referencing numbers that appeal to the target demographic gender. For instance- “Shaeffer: The beer to have when you are having more than 1” oh wait.

    2. The Romans lasted two thousand years reading entrails, so don’t knock it.

  19. We examined the possibility that nonsocial, highly generic concepts are gendered. Specifically, we investigated the gender connotations of Arabic numerals. Across several experiments, we show that the number 1 and other odd numbers are associated with masculinity, whereas the number 2 and other even numbers are associated with femininity.

    I am very sure these guys did not waste a single penny of their government-doled grant money. Very sure of that.

    1. Waste is a hermeneutic myth of the bourgeois hegemony.

      1. +1 for use of hermeneutic.

        1. It’s a moral imperative.

  20. Tits and balls.
    The number 3 is androgynous.

    1. More like a pre-op tranny.

  21. You just know the feminists will find a way to make this proof of endemic sexism. Or, as Matt Damon might posit, numbers are intrinsically paternalistic.

    1. Only if the claim is that all irrational numbers are female.

      1. I’m using that one. Stolen!

    2. Well, according to the Bible, God is a male, so sexism may be built into the very fabric of the universe.

  22. I’m allllll about the number 8. Yeah baby, you know that daddy likes curves on his Roman numerals.

    1. VIII?

      And China and its cultural subordinates already called “8”.

  23. Please, let’s give Ronald his due on the alt text.

    Well done, Mr. Bailey, well done.

  24. “The number of wheels on a big-rig truck…OK, the Roman Numerals! Now the number of tires on a big-rig truck divided by Pi!!”

    Heywood Banks for the winning numbers…

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4GhQWeZSg9U

  25. Imaginary numbers are gay.

    1. Complex numbers are military industrial

  26. I demand a Defense of Integers amendment!
    A compound number can only occur between two whole numbers!

  27. Sometimes I like to shove the numbers 7 and 3 up my ass… does that make me a fag?

    1. No, but that whole paying to suck cocks at the bus station thing certainly does

  28. Its so obvious now! The practice of ending prices in .99 is nothing but the Patriarchy asserting its dominance.

    1. Actually, it was to keep the clerks from pocketing the cash. If they had to give a penny back, then they almost always put the cash in the register.

  29. the number 1 and other odd numbers are associated with masculinity, whereas the number 2 and other even numbers are associated with femininity

    When I said something like that, eveyone called me a superstitious mystic.

    1. And here I was wondering to myself why these guys just didn’t do a little research instead of trying to jack your ideas.

  30. “the number 1 and other odd numbers are associated with masculinity, whereas the number 2 and other even numbers are associated with femininity”

    A 2 (even) is basically an upside down 5 (odd). As noted by Jimi (above) a 6 (even) is an upsidedown 9 (odd), which pretty much covers 40% of the numbers, rendering this study total bullshit.

  31. It would be interesting to see if this is still the case when eastern arabic (or Chunese) numerals are used.

  32. So let’s see… We all know that Man is 5, the Devil is 6 and God is 7. According to the study, that means that Man is male, the Devil is female, and God is male. The story checks out to me!

  33. So a professor of psychology and a PhD student in marketing walk into a bar…

  34. But the Feminists swear to me that gender is just a silly social construct and that any attempt to assert anything else is transaphobic!!!

    The feminists couldn’t have lied, could they?

  35. The numeral 1 I kind of get

    I found your problem.

    You are trying to “get” something that is complete and utter bullshit.

    I hope this helps.

    1. I think that sums it up nicely.

  36. Roman Opalka, a leading conceptual artist who, beginning with the numeral one in 1965, methodically painted consecutive numbers on canvas in a march toward infinity, died on Saturday near Rome. He was 79.

    The death was confirmed by Jean Poderos, his publisher. Agence France-Presse reported that Slawomir Boss, his agent, told Polish newspapers that Mr. Opalka had fallen ill while in Italy and died of a “generalized infection” at a hospital near Rome.

    Mr. Opalka, who had lived and worked in France since 1977, embarked on his quixotic project while working as an artist in Warsaw. Starting at the top left of a canvas measuring a little over four by six feet, and using acrylic paint, he used a fine brush (No. 0) to inscribe 20,000 to 30,000 white numerals on a black background in neat rows that ended at the bottom right corner. Each succeeding canvas, or “detail” as he called it, picked up where the previous one left off. As of July 2004, he had reached 5.5 million.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08……html?_r=1

    1. I’m vastly impressed if he got the rubes to buy these.

      I have a friend who is a tenured art professor. In one of his rare moments of lucidity, he made the comment that “art is whatever you can convince someone else is art and get them to buy”.

      1. This suggests that the only real “art” is performance art, and any so-called “work of art” is merely a souvenir of the occasion.

        If you found value in that observation, please print out a copy for yourself and send me a dollar. Thank you.

  37. So, is this study about our perception of the visual symbols — the lines, curves, etc. — or is it about some deeper perception of the numbers themselves?

    If the latter, I know what they’re getting at. Odd numbers (or let’s call them “odd counts” for clarity here) have always felt harder-edged to me, somehow. Like grayer and meaner. Whereas the even ones always seemed glowing and warm and “in place,” for lack of a better phrase. These sensations go back to childhood for me, though I certainly couldn’t have articulated it then (it’s hard enough to describe it now).

    But I do wonder if these divergent perceptions simply stem from the bias inherent in the words “even” and “odd,” rather than from the numbers or numerals themselves. Dunno.

    1. I get what you mean. I sort of “feel” the same way about odd and even numbers.

  38. So science confirms that Derek Jeter is a girl… makes sense to me.

    1. But will this skew the targeted lessons on Sesame Street? And the guy from The Jeffersons who goes around painting numbers on things, how does this affect him? And what about the baker who falls down the stairs after declaring how many baked goods he’s carrying?

  39. Specifically, we investigated the gender connotations of Arabic numerals. Across several experiments, we show that the number 1 and other odd numbers are associated with masculinity, whereas the number 2 and other even numbers are associated with femininity, in ways that influence judgments of stimuli arbitrarily paired with numerical cues; specifically, babies’ faces and foreign names were more likely to be judged as “male” when paired with odd versus even numbers ….

    The numeral 1 I kind of get, but what is so masculine about the curves in the numeral 3?

    Off-the-cuff speculation: they seem to be confusing “numbers” with “numerals” here: odd numbers masculine, even numbers feminine, regardless of whether the actual numerals [i.e. the symbols used to represent said numbers in writing] are straight or curvy: 14 is an even number, thus presumably feminine, although the two numerals used to write it tend to be pointy rather than curvy; 25 is an odd number, thus presumably male despite its curvaceous numerals.

    Maybe the “odd=male / even=female” association comes about because … hmm, I have the concept in my thoughts, but have difficulty explaining it … if you think about gender-specific body parts, where a female is an “innie” and a male is an “outie,” maybe the “female/even male/odd” comes about because even numbers can be neatly divided into a set of pairs looking “inward” to each other, whereas an odd number can’t be made into pairs because there’s always one odd man poking “out.”

    I don’t know if that’s enough for you guys to understand what I’m getting at.

    1. Dear Jen, that is not enough. Please go on.

    2. they seem to be confusing “numbers” with “numerals” here

      That’s what I was getting at above: It was unclear to me if this study is about the numbers as graphic symbols (pun not intended), or about the numbers per se.

      If it really is about the graphic representations, that seems pretty dumb, because as you and others have pointed out, there’s no real consistency to the shapes in each group.

    3. By the way, Jennifer, I think you’re sort of on the right track here. But if there is indeed an even/odd gender link at work in the human mind, I suspect it’s less about “body parts” explicitly (hee hee) than about more general gender conceptions.

      I just asked a friend of mine how she perceives odd and even numbers. (I didn’t mention this study). She said even numbers have a feeling of “balance” and “peace” to her. She also described them as “warm” — same word I used above in the thread.

      If that’s a common perception, and if those traits happen to be the same ones that humans ascribe to the female gender, then it’s pretty easy to see why there would be a mental link.

      1. So I guess we have to revert to binary code since it’s gender neutral?

        “Let’s 1000101” just doesn’t have the right sound.

  40. OK, so that deals with the odd and even integers.

    Where does that leave ? and e?

    1. Well, pi is obviously feminine. Some rock band even made a song about it, “…sweet cherry pi…”.

    2. They’re, like, transcendental.

      1. Some Old Hippie Caught Another Hippie Tripping On Acid

        (Chong voice) Trancendental FUNCTIONS, man!

  41. The thing about odd numbers is that they are difficult, they don’t neatly divide by two. The most difficult of all the odds are the primes. The primes are the alpha-males of all the numbers and are sure to send a woman into ovulation at first sight.

    1. No wonder I was scoring so much at age 23.

      1. I thought I was gonna wear it off at 17.

        1. And sadly, the primes get farther and farther apart…

          1. That’s life in a nutshell.

  42. Taking a piss is associated with being a man, while taking a big, gnarly, reeking deuce is associated with femmes. Sounds about right to me.

  43. Here, more people need to stick up for poor Pythagoras. That guy was famous or something.

    http://www.math.tamu.edu/~dall…..ythag.html

    1. interesting link, thanks!

  44. This is cutting-edge science. Just as AGW is much to complicated for the average person to understand, years of rigorous study and ultimately a PHD are required in order to understand the enormous implications of this report.

    Trust them. They are smarter than you. Don’t be a Gendered Number Denier.

  45. Across several experiments, we show that the number 1 and other odd numbers are associated with masculinity, whereas the number 2 and other even numbers are associated with femininity,

    A Medieval monk already proved this centuries ago. He looked at the domino pattern for numbers and noticed that all the odd numbers had an extra dot in the middle while all the even numbers had a hole in the middle.

  46. And here I was beginning to doubt the robustness of American thought and culture.

  47. There are only two worthwhile numbers, 1 and 0. And yes, they have a gender. I’ll leave it to you to guess which is which.

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