All posts by Gary Wood

About Gary Wood

Social Psychologist, Solution Focused Life Coach, Author & Broadcaster, Dr Gary Wood combines a solid academic background with an engaging style to communicate psychological insights about all aspects of human social life. He runs his own coaching and research practice, specializing in translating evidence-based psychology into workable solutions. Gary is regularly features in the press and on radio and television. His PsyCentral Blog offers a psychological perspective on human social life including current affairs; sex, gender & relationships plus learning, development and coaching insights and tips. . . the odd acerbic comment and the occasional rant. He is author of 'Don't Wait For Your Ship to Come In. . . Swim Out to Meet It!' and 'Unlock Your Confidence', 'The Psychology of Gender' and 'Letters to a New Student'. He is based in the UK in Birmingham and Edinburgh. In his spare time he eats, sleeps, reads.. . and occasionally sings. Not Gary Wood the actor, the footballer or the Dr Gary Wood who 'died, went to heaven and came back again'. Not Gary Woods either. The other one.

Writer’s Block & the Psychology of Gender

A few thoughts running up to the publication of The Psychology of Gender.

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It’s been a quiet year on the blogging front for me in 2017. Most of my writing efforts have gone into breaking through a pretty stubborn bout of writers’ block.  How I overcame it also has strong parallels with life’s roadblocks.

Losing Motivation and Other People

Writing is a strange process. It requires hours of solitary confinement, a period of collaboration and compromise and then a period of handing over the finished project to fate, or a fate worse than death – other people who ‘play the numbers game’ and treat your creative efforts as numbers on a spreadsheet. The whole project becomes a team effort without shared accountability.  Ultimately, even if as an author you do everything for the book, by the book, if anyone in the team doesn’t do their bit the book can sink without. An important lesson I learned was that no matter who screws up…

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Why We Are All Trans-(binary)-gender and the Myth of Cisgender

On a discussion during a training course, someone referred to me as cisgender, and I challenged it. I’m not. Instead of accepting my declaration of gender, I was lectured on hegemonic masculinity by someone who proclaimed they ‘knew a lot about gender’ – assuming I didn’t know anything academically and more importantly that I didn’t know anything about my own gender.

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In many ways, this post seems at odds with recent psychology and coaching posts. However it’s really just a piece about how we think about the world and our inherent need to classify. Over the past few years I’ve noticed the word cisgender (and its variants used) and for a while have thought how deeply unhelpful it is. It is a flow of consciousness and no doubt will change over time. Constructive comments and insights are most welcome.

Defining cisgender

Cisgender offers a complement to transgender. It refers to people whose gender assigned at birth matches their own experience and sense of identity. The problem with cisgender is that it introduces yet another binary into how we think about sex and gender. It should also be noted that gender is not assigned at birth. A peek at the genitals is not gender. It’s a biological classification. It’s sex…

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Gender Stereotypes and Confidence

I wrote this post in support of my approach to confidence building, outlined in my book ‘Unlock Your Confidence’. Although often linked with stereotypical masculinity, I argue that true confidence is not very boisterous at all.

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Confidence & Media Myths

Our concept of what it means to be confident is sometimes distorted by gender stereotypes. Confidence is often seen as a masculine type trait. This is partly because we confuse confidence with bravado. Some self-help gurus don’t help this assumption. Often the proof that someone has gained confidence is the ability to engage in daredevil stunts. However, stunts such as walking on hot coals or bungee jumping have more to with recklessness than confidence. Reality TV shows are also all about contestants putting on a show. Being brash and ‘making an entrance’ is often equated with confidence. Nothing could be further from the truth.

True, inner confidence

True, inner confidence is more about being comfortable in your own skin. It’s a lot quieter than the over-the-top displays we associate with the traditional ‘blokey’ stereotype. In fact, confidence begins from a position of relaxation. It’s rooted…

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Was Little Boy Blue a Gender Stereotype or a Gender Bender?

If it’s supposed to be blue for a boy and pink for a girl, how come Little Boy Blue, isn’t very traditionally boyish at all?

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The poem Little Boy Blue (from around 1744)  is sometimes offered as evidence for early gender colour-coding of ‘blue for a boy’ but a close reading of the text shows that it’s exactly the opposite! Until the early 20th Century blue was deemed a delicate, feminine colour and that’s what the poem demonstrates.

Picture: Little Boy Blue Little Boy Blue being not particularly ‘boyish’

Little Boy Blue,
Come blow your horn,
The sheep’s in the meadow,
The cow’s in the corn;
Where is that boy
Who looks after the sheep?

Under the haystack
Fast asleep.
Will you wake him?
Oh no, not I,
For if I do

He will surely cry.

Little Boy Blue appears to have a rather delicate constitution. He doesn’t have the strength to blow on his horn, he’s  sleeping on the job and easily prone to bouts of hysteria! This is not behaviour typical of the male gender stereotype. So…

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Sex and Gender are NOT the Same Thing! All Gender is a Drag!

I wrote this post after the media discussions of the athlete Caster Semenya, and how even the quality press seemed to think that there was such a thing as a test for gender.

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Subscribe to Dr Gary Wood's psychology and coaching blogOne of the things to emerge from the Caster Semenya controversy (in the 2009 World Championships) is the misconception that the terms sex and gender mean the same thing. They do not. Numerous sources, including ones that should know better, have been waffling on about ‘gender tests’ when what they actually mean is biological sex tests.  Sex as a categorization is a biological designation. It refers to the physiological characteristics that differentiate males and females.

Gender is the social interpretation of biological sex. It refers to socially constructed roles in the form of behaviours, activities and other social attributes that any particular culture or society considers appropriate for women and men. So, “male” and “female” are sex categories, while “masculine” and “feminine” are gender categories. Now there are also wide gender variations with any culture. For instance, do rugby players have the same gender as librarians, stamp collectors…

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Who Says So? Gender and the Social Construction of the Sewing Machine (and other power tools).

This post highlights how we use incidents in our lives to tell the story of our gender, and in my case how the story can be retold using the same episodes. In Chapter Five of The Psychology of Gender, I cover the topic of storytelling, and how by asking ‘better; questions we can tell ‘better’, more inclusive non-binary stories.

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All attempts at theorizing social life are, at the same time, works of autobiography

– William Simon, 1996

As we read a text. . . we produce something different, another text which is a translation

– Ian Parker, 1999

Pic: Sewing Machine - GO FASTER! GO FASTER! Pic: Sewing Machine – GO FASTER! GO FASTER!

I was watching a re-run of the Australian version of Changing Rooms, one of the many home improvement shows conveniently gathered together on one Cable channel. An ‘expert’ was initiating his acolyte into the mysteries of the jig-saw. The expert explained ‘It’s like a sewing machine only a bit more manly’. I was immediately struck by the similarity of the sewing machine and the ‘more manly’ jigsaw. However, both are essentially power tools.

Thinking about the arbitrary nature of gender labels I recalled two questions from performance artist Laurie Anderson‘s film of her show Home of the Brave. In it…

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The Clitoris, the Penis, Political Correctness and Biological ‘Factness’

One of the most popular blog posts I have written. It was based on a section from my book Sex, Lies and Stereotypes. An updated, moderate’ version also appears in The Psychology of Gender. It’s an example of how something as supposedly factual as biology is reported and discussed from a male perspective.

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In my previous post, The Myth-Busting Sexual Anatomy Quiz, one of the answers in particular prompted comments and questions. I stated that the clitoris is not a mini-penis as it is often described but rather, biologically speaking, the penis is an enlarged clitoris? But how can this be and does it really matter?

Book Cover: The Psychology of Gender by Dr Gary WoodFirst, describing the clitoris as a ‘mini-penis’ assumes the primacy of the penis. It assumes the penis comes first (pause for sniggering). There’s also the not-so-subtle suggestion that the clitoris is an underdeveloped penis and therefore an inferior organ. These assumptions are biologically incorrect.

Male development requires hormones to suppress female development and further hormones to enhance male development. This makes female anatomy the platform for male development and so technically the penis is an enlarged clitoris. Of course, this sounds provocative because it goes against the ‘received wisdom’ or ‘gender spin’ that gives primacy to…

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Myth Busting Human Sexual Anatomy Quiz

Over the years, my tongue-in-cheek Myth Busting Human Sexual Anatomy has ruffled some feathers. Yes, it’s full of misandry but mainly as a rhetorical device.

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Pic: Dr Gary Wood - Author of Sex, Lies & StereoypesWe have many taken-for-granted assumptions about the biology of men and women. So, I offer this, provocative, human anatomy quiz to help explore and unpack some of those assumptions.

The Questions:

  1. True of false? Women are biologically the weaker sex.
  2. True or false? Men have male hormones and women have female hormones.
  3. True of false? Women have testosterone.
  4. True of false? The anus has an erotic capacity for both men and women.
  5. True of false? The anus has an erotic capacity irrespective of sexual orientation.
  6. True or false? The correct name for the female genitals is the vagina.
  7. True of false? A clitoris is like a tiny penis.
  8. True or false? The clitoris is the only organ in the human body with the sole function of sexual pleasure.
  9. True of false? The ovaries and the testes are formed from the same embryonic tissue.
  10. True or false? Biologically, the…

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An “Alpha Male’s” Right to Reply

Following my post about the Alpha Male Delusion, I received a comment from a so-called ‘alpha male’ that only served to support the original post.

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Sometimes a comment on a post cannot be allowed to nestle in the nether regions of a blog but deserves due prominence. So, when a certain Mr John Doe, fronted up and called me a wimp, I knew I had to be man enough to let his voice be heard. . . or at least be read! So, Mr John Doe, self-proclaimed alpha male. . . this is for you fella!

Who's yer daddy? Who’s yer daddy?

The post that so offended Mr Doe, was The Great ‘Typical Alpha Male’ Delusion in which I criticized lazy journalists spouting the usual meaningless  psychobabble. The journalist described President Obama, during his visit to Britain, as ‘the typical alpha male, laid back and relaxed’.  I pointed out that if we look to the animal kingdom, where we have ‘borrowed’ the term ‘alpha male’, we find that they are anything but laid-back and relaxed!…

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The Great ‘Typical Alpha Male’ Delusion

The phrase ‘alpha male’ is often used as code to justify bad behaviour and stereotypical toxic masculinity. Here’s a blog post I wrote to counter the argument that Barack Obama was the typical alpha male.

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Commenting on Barack Obama‘s trip to the UK, it was interesting to hear a journalist refer to the President Obama as ‘the typical alpha male, laid back and relaxed’ which is exactly not what an alpha male is supposed to be!

The alpha male (in animal groupings) usually has to fight off aggressively his ‘young-buck’ challengers so that he can continue to shag anything that moves. Er. . . I’m not sure that this President would be too pleased with that assessment.  Also, imagine the alpha male in an animal grouping saying to the young aggressive contenders ‘Chill out! Relax’ before getting his head or antlers torn off.

Mr Obama may well be the most powerful man on the planet, politically, but thankfully he possess none of the typical alpha male qualities. When we use the term ‘alpha male’ to refer to ‘powerful men’ we are more or…

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