Some observations on sex and gender:
* Yes, there are two different sexes in the human species; and they differ by the presence or absence of entire complex adaptations. Just as men lack uteruses and women lack testicles, so too, there are differences of psychological machinery as well.
* Defns: "Sex" is the biological difference. "Gender" is a meme, a cultural concept of sex.
* A good deal (perhaps a majority) of what we think of as "manly" or "womanly" is gender rather than sex, just because it is so much easier to create and transmit cultural information than biological information. A man in Saudi Arabia may have a very different concept of what it means to be male than a man in New Zealand.
* Gender concepts are built around sex differences - not faithfully reporting them, but accreted around them. You couldn't just swap the "man" and "woman" concepts in Saudi Arabia, or New Zealand either, and end up with a stable meme. For more on this see John Tooby and Leda Cosmides's "The Psychological Foundations of Culture".
* Understanding the opposite sex is hard. Not as hard as understanding an AI, but it's still attempting empathy across a brainware gap: trying to use your brain to understand something that is not like your brain.
* Despite everything I've read on evolutionary psychology, and despite having set out to build an AI, and despite every fictional novel I'd read that tried to put me into the life-experience of a woman, when I tried to use that "knowledge" to guide my interactions with my girlfriend, it still didn't work right.
* Maybe that's just my incompetence... but I am skeptical that any man fully understands women or vice versa. That includes male pickup artists who think they've got women all figured out; I am skeptical that any of them could write Jacqueline Carey's Kushiel series as well as Jacqueline Carey did. I know that I couldn't come close. Likewise with any women who think that they've got men all figured out, but don't seem sympathetic or impressed; you don't understand at all what it's like to be us, if you think there's no grace in being male.
* A common pattern in failed attempts to cross the gap of sex and gender, is men who see women as defective men, or women who see men as defective women. For example, if you think that women don't take the initiative enough in sex, or that men are afraid of intimacy, then you think that your own brainware is the law of the universe and that anything which departs from it is a disturbance in that essential ghost. The human species has two sexes, a male sex and a female sex. Not a right sex and a wrong sex.
* This antipattern is exacerbated by attempts to insist that men and women are just the same psychologically. Then your own psyche must surely be normal, for there is only one normality; and it follows that [wo]men are simply behaving very oddly - they must have been raised wrong, or be trying to deliberately annoy you.
* Men look at other men and see people of various sorts and types; when they look at women they see women of various sorts and types. Likewise women looking at women and men. I think that's just part of being a sexual species - if you look at something that has the same brainware as you, it's going to seem more of a blank canvas for individual differences, than something that has different brainware.
* Occasionally I read speculations that in the Future, men and women will go off into separate holodecks, the men with harems of synthetic sex slaves, and the women with romantic sensitive robots. This strikes me as a sad path, and a refusal of a meaningful challenge. I would like to see each sex come to terms with its complement, rather than giving up.
* That doesn't mean all diversity is to be celebrated merely because it is diverse. There is not a different form of Bayes's Theorem for men than for women.
* Still, I'm glad that different minds exist; I wouldn't want to have sex with men. No offense to homosexuals, I just don't swing that way.
* When I read Robin Hanson's post "Is Overcoming Bias Male?", I got the impression of someone writing about strange alien creatures, wondering how they work and why more of them weren't reading his blog. I was initially disturbed that Hanson's aliens seemed so unsympathetic, so much the Other... until I had a second realization: rather a lot of women talk about men as if we were unsympathetic aliens. And if you went back a century or two, most men would talk about women as alien creatures. In modern 21st-century First World culture, there is a special and unusual cultural taboo against men speaking of women as a stereotyped class... but not the converse taboo for women. Robin Hanson is honest, and not too scared of our civilization's special taboos, and so when he writes about women, it's not surprising that his writing sounds so... normal. Is Hanson supposed to pretend that he understands?
* One can try to cross the gap and not think of the opposite sex as alien invaders - to think of yourself as a sex and not the sex - but it takes a special additional effort, and knowledge.
* We seem to have an influx of angry commenters on Overcoming Bias, offended by Robin Hanson's posts on gender. Indeed, many of them seem to have decided that Robin Hanson is a faceless representative of some evil class of Men. Ah well, but most people don't see the overwhelming irony of their lives; and very few humans of either sex make the effort to cross the gap.
* I know I grew up much too late to appreciate the efforts of feminists: nobody has ever tried to sell my sister, my mother has always been able to vote, and Hillary Clinton running for President didn't strike me as the slightest departure from what I think of as a normal universe.
* But still, Robin Hanson committed no sin greater than openly talking about women as if they were a strange incomprehensible unsympathetic Other that he was trying to figure out. Which is just the same way that most women talk about men, and the way that most men think about women. This breaks no pockets, picks no legs, sells no wives and mutilates no genitalia, so I have to question whether this is womankind's most urgent problem. If you want to do better than you think Hanson did, then make an effort to see through Hanson's eyes and understand why a sympathetic male character - not an invading alien - might write the way Hanson does.