Monday, May 12, 2008

Women as Creduloids

First, let me give credit to, er, someone at the Straight Dope Message Board for introducing me to the term "creduloid." Brilliant, brilliant word. As you may have gathered, it refers to a person who believes in pseudoscience, magic, psychics, alien abductions, or anything of that stripe.

In my experience, women seem more likely to be creduloids than men. As a group, I find men to tend toward practicality - while they may not all be razor-minded skeptics, they often don't bother with supernatural/paranormal garbage because it doesn't do anything appreciable for them. Women seem to be more likely to be searching for something ethereal to latch onto. Of course these are major generalizations - plenty of women are skeptics, plenty of men are devotees of woo. I'm just talking about average trends.

This phenomenon makes participation in woman-centered groups trying at times. My cloth-diapering message board strays into vaccination hysteria and off-topic stories of hauntings. My breastfeeding group discusses the latest studies and their scientific worth at one moment, then people advocate homeopathy and cranio-sacral therapy the next. Discussions of pregnancy inevitably incorporate talk of astrology and old wives' tales for determining gender.

Then of course there is the issue of religion. While churches are often patriarchal in official structure, I'd say it's often the mothers and wives in the congregations who make sure their families attend and participate in church functions. On the flip side, there is a notorious dearth of female atheists, much to the chagrin of single male unbelievers.

So what's up with this? Are my observations horribly flawed? I'm open to that possibility! Do women tend to be wired for belief more than men? Is it linked somehow to our different approaches to social interaction? I don't pretend to have the answers. All I have is a lot of frustration and embarrassment when I see so many women happily embrace all manner of claptrap.

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