A trio of biologists, Liam Dougherty, Emily Burdfield-Steel and David Shuker from the U.K.’s University of St Andrews, School of Biology, have found that when researchers write papers that are published in scientific journals, they tend to use gender biased terminology to describe acts of sexual cannibalism. In their paper, published in the journal Animal Behavior, they suggest that gender stereotypical word choices can cloud study results and lead to inaccurate results. Ads by Google Free
When authors use words like “rapacious,” “predatory,” “voracious,” or even “aggressive” to describe the behavior of a female spider when she eats a male – before, during or after sex – the team says, it adds an ingredient to an observation that might not actually exist. In a similar vein, describing the male in such a scenario as “willing to sacrifice himself” implies a degree of nobility that may or not actually be the case. There is no way to know what either spider is feeling or if it’s feeling anything at all – a necessary ingredient for ascribing emotional actions to any living creature. In most cases, it appears likely both genders are simply behaving in ways that are most conducive to the carrying on of their species. To come to these conclusions, the researchers poured over 47 published research papers that covered sexual cannibalism, highlighting every instance of words that described the behavior of the male or female. Next, they focused most particularly on the use of active/reactive words in such descriptions and contrasted the different ways that the behavior of the two genders was described. They found that authors overwhelmingly represented the behavior of females in active terms, while describing the males using mostly reactive words. The overall impression authors give, they say, is of dominant females terrorizing males culminating sometimes, in an act of cannibalism.
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